Hierapolis (Ancient Greek: Ἱεράπολις, lit. "Holy City") was an ancient city located on hot springs in classical Phrygia in southwestern Anatolia. Its ruins are adjacent to modern Pamukkale in Turkey and currently comprise an archaeological museum designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The hot springs have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC, with many patrons retiring or dying there. The large necropolis is filled with sarcophagi, most famously that of Marcus Aurelius Ammianos, which bears the earliest known example of a crank and rod mechanism.
Part of the archeological site of Hierapolis
The great baths were constructed with huge stone blocks without the use of cement and consisted of various closed or open sections linked together. There are deep niches in the inner section,[clarification needed] including the bath, library, and gymnasium.
There are only a few historical facts known about the origin of the city. No traces of the presence of Hittites or Persians have been found. The Phrygians built a temple, probably in the first half of the 3rd century BC. This temple, originally used by the citizens of the nearby town of Laodicea, would later form the centre of Hierapolis.
Coin of Eumenes II
Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC within the sphere of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus the Great sent 2,000 Jewish families to Lydia and Phrygia from Babylon and Mesopotamia, later joined by more from Judea. The Jewish congregation grew in Hierapolis and has been estimated as high as 50,000 in 62 BC.
The city was expanded with the booty from the 190 BC Battle of Magnesia where Antiochus the Great was defeated by the Roman ally Eumenes II. Following the Treaty of Apamea ending the Syrian War, Eumenes annexed much of Asia Minor, including Hierapolis.
Hierapolis became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. The city began minting bronze coins in the 2nd century BC. These coins give the name Hieropolis. It remains unclear whether this name referred to the original temple (ἱερόν, hieron) or honoured Hiera, the wife of Telephus, son of Heracles and the Mysian princess Auge, the supposed founder of Pergamon's Attalid dynasty. This name eventually changed into Hierapolis ("holy city"), according to the Byzantine geographer Stephanus on account of its large number of temples.
The first theatre was constructed to the northeast above the northern gate when the ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17. After the earthquake of AD 60, a new theatre was constructed during the reign of the emperor Vespasian. This second theatre was hollowed out of the slope of the hill further to the east using the remains and the seats of the first. There were alterations during the reigns of Hadrian and Septimius Severus. There is an inscription in the theatre that relates to the emperor Hadrian. Septimius Severus is portrayed in a relief together with his wife Julia Domna, his two sons Caracalla and Geta, and the god Jupiter. In 352, the theatre underwent a thorough restoration and was adapted for water shows.
There were four entrances to the theatre, each with six statues in niches flanked by marble columns. The auditorium consisted of stacked seating with a capacity of 15,000 and was bisected by a horizontal corridor. It featured an imperial box. The lower part originally had twenty rows and the upper part twenty five, but only thirty rows altogether have survived. The auditorium is segmented into nine aisles by means of eight vertical passageways with steps. The proscenium consisted of two stories with ornately decorated niches to the sides. Several statues, reliefs (including depictions of Apollo, Dionysus, and Diana), and decorative elements have been excavated by the Italian archaeological team and can be seen in the local museum.
The theatre is now under restoration. Many reliefs and statues depicting mythological figures have been excavated from the site.
Temple of Apollo
A temple was raised to Apollo Lairbenos, the town's principal god during the Hellenistic period. This Apollo was linked to the ancient Anatolian sun god Lairbenos and the god of oracles Kareios. The site also included temples or shrines to Cybele, Artemis, Pluto, and Poseidon. Now only the foundations of the Hellenistic temple remain. The temple stood within a peribolos (15 by 20 metres (49 by 66 ft)) in Doric style. As the back of the temple was built against the hill, the peribolos was surrounded on three sides by marble Doric order columns. The new temple was reconstructed in the 3rd century in Roman fashion, recycling the stone blocks from the older temple. The reconstruction had a smaller area and now only its marble floor remains.
The temple of Apollo was deliberately been built over an active fault. Temples dedicated to Apollo were often built over geologically-active sites, including his most famous, the temple at Delphi.
When the Christian faith was granted official primacy in the 4th century, this temple underwent a number of desecrations. Part of the peribolos was also dismantled to make room for a large Nympheum.
The Nymphaeum is located inside the sacred area in front of the Apollo temple. It dates from the 2nd century AD. It was a shrine of the nymphs, a monumental fountain distributing water to the houses of the city via an ingenious network of pipes. The Nymphaeum was repaired in the 5th century during the Byzantine era. A retaining wall was built with elements from the peribolos of the Apollonian temple. By doing so, the early Christians cut off the view of the pagan temple. The Byzantine gate was constructed in the 6th century. Now only the back wall and the two side walls remain. The walls and the niches in the walls were decorated with statues. The Italian archaeological team has excavated two statues of priestesses, which now on display at the local museum.
The Nymphaeum has a U-shaped plan and sits on the continuation of the main colonnaded road. The stone pavement columns and other architectural remains mark a great part of the colonnaded road which ran through in a north-south direction. It has statues and shops around it, underneath which passed canals. The road had a base covered with stone blocks, now under the pool of the Private Administration. There are two huge doors which were constructed at the end of the 1st century AD and left outside the city walls.
Following the main colonnaded road and passing the outer baths (thermae extra muros), an extensive necropolis extends for over two kilometers on either side of the old road to Phrygian Tripolis and Sardis. The necropolis extends from the northern to the eastern and southern sections of the old city. Most of the tombs have been excavated. This necropolis is one of the best preserved in Turkey. Most of about the 1,200 tombs were constructed with local varieties of limestone.
Most tombs date from the late Hellenic period, but there are also a considerable number from the Roman and early Christian periods. People who came for medical treatment to Hierapolis in ancient times and the native people of the city buried their dead in tombs of several types according to their traditions and socio-economic status.
The tombs and funeral monuments can be divided into four types:
1. Simple graves for common people
2. Sarcophagi, some raised on a substructure and others hollowed out from the rock. Many are covered with a double-pitched roof. Most are constructed in marble and are decorated with reliefs and epitaphs showing the names and professions of the deceased and extolling their good deeds. These epitaphs have revealed much about the population. Most, however, have been plundered over the years.
3. Circular tumuli, sometimes hard to discern. These mounds each have a narrow passageway leading to a vaulted chamber inside.
4. Larger family graves, sometimes monumental and resembling small temples.
6. The St. Philip Martyrium stands on top of the hill outside the northeastern section of the city walls. It dates from the 5th century. It was said that Philip was buried in the center of the building and, though his tomb has recently been unearthed, the exact location has not yet been verified. The Martyrium burned down at the end of the 5th or early 6th century, as attested by fire marks on the columns. Philip is said to have been martyred in Hierapolis by being crucified upside-down or by being hung upside down by his ankles from a tree.
10. The martyrium is usually taken to have been named after the Christian apostle Philip but from early times there has been some dispute as to the actual identity of "Philip of Hierapolis". This confusion started with a report by Polycrates of Ephesus in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History (Hist. eccl., III., xxxi. 3, V., xxiv. 2). The original Philip may instead have been Philip the Evangelist, a later disciple who helped with administrative matters, had four virginal prophetess daughters, Early traditions say this Philip was martyred by hanging in Phrygia. and was also known as "Philip the Apostle".
11. The martyrium had a special design, probably executed by an architect of a Byzantine emperor. It has a central octagonal structure with a diameter of 20 metres (66 ft) under a wooden dome which is covered with lead. This is surrounded with eight rectangular rooms, each accessible via three arches. Four were used as entrances to the church, the other four as chapels. The space between the eight rooms was filled with heptagonal chapels with a triangular apse. The dome above the apse was decorated with mosaics. The whole structure was surrounded by an arcade with marble columns. All the walls were covered with marble panels.
12. In 2011, it was announced that Philip's gravesite may have been discovered about 40 metres (130 ft) from the Martyrium.[needs update]
This is the monumental entrance to the Roman city and leads onto the large plateia, 14 m wide, which crosses the whole settlement, exiting a gate at the opposite side, to connect with the road that goes to Laodicea on the Lykos and then Colossae. It is worth admiring the well preserved structure with three openings, in carefully squared travertine blocks, with elegant arches decorated with a simple cornice moulding, flanked by two round towers that recall Hellenistic city Gates such as that of the Pamphilian city of Perge, near Antalya.
North Byzantine Gate
The north gate forms part of a fortification system built at Hierapolis in Theodosian times (late 4th century) and is its monumental entrance, matched by a symmetrical gate to the south of the city. Built of reused material from the demolition of the Agora, it is flanked by two square towers, as in other nearby cities such as Blaundus. Four large marble brackets with heads of lions, of panther and of a Gorgon were found collapsed in front of the gate. They are quite expressive and, whilst belonging to antique buildings, were evidently reused as apotropaic elements on the two sides of the gate so as to ward off evil influence.