Laodicea is located just north of Denizli, near the river Lycus. It is an easy 15 minute trip from Denizli by coach and is often thought to be a great day trip destination.
Laodicea's History and the Last Church of the Revelation
Laodicea, a Hellenistic city, was established in 263 BC by King Antiochus II in honor of his wife Laodikea. There is archaeological evidence showing that the site was occupied as far back as 5500 BC, but there are ancient records suggesting that Antiochus II founded the city on top of an older town.
This location rose to fame and importance when gladiator fights became popular here, boasting visits from the famous orator Cicero and Roman Emporer Hadrian. The city was bustling with its gladiator stadium (the largest in Asia Minor), two huge gateways, four bathhouses, and temples. The city was located on trade routes that connected cities Smyrna, Sardis and Ephesus and was a very wealthy location.
Laodicea is also a very famous location of one of the Seven Churches, the last church, mentioned in the Revelations Book in the Bible. The church is called "lukewarm" in the Book of Revelations, which suggests that the Christians in the city wavered in their faith. This is understandable because Christianity was in its very early stages.
This important historical site for the Christian world has become a pilgrimage location for those that want to visit the sacred site. The church was built in the 4th century and is believed to have been founded by Epaphras who built the church at Colossae, which is a close neighbor of Laodicea. The last church is of a formidable size, encompassing the area of a city block.
It continued to develop as a prominent Christian location. Through excavation, archaeologists have found about 20 additional churches and chapels at the site. Unfortunately, sometime in the seventh century CE, an earthquake struck the area and the church of Laodicea suffered a devastating amount of damages and the area was unfortunately abandoned.
Sights to See While Visiting
Aside from the church, there are many other sites to see while you are visiting the city:
1. The Gladiator Stadium and Gymnasium
Located on the southwest side of the city are the gladiator stadium and training gymnasium. The stadium was completed in 79 AD and is quite large, boasting 24 rows of seating for the attendees to watch the games. Near the stadium is the gym where archaeologists found an inscription carved into the wall announcing that it was built by the proconsul Antonius Gargilius and his wife Sabina. Gargilius built the structure in honor of Emperor Hadrian.
2. Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre was originally built by the Greeks and was expanded during Nero's reign. Nero famously funded many of the Roman theaters' expansions during his time and the Grand Theatre reached about 20,000 seats. This expansion made it the second largest theater of the region, second to the amphitheater of Ephesus.
Currently, the area where the tragedies were performed, known as the skene, has completely collapsed but the area of the spectators' seats, the cavea, and the orchestra is still up and standing in fairly good condition. Not only were performances and plays watched here, but the city would also have celebrations and festivals on the grounds. The theater dates back 2000 years, and archaeological teams are still working on excavating and restoring the site.
3. Small Theater
Located about 1000 feet northwest of the Grand Theatre is a smaller theater, meant to house smaller showings and events. The fact that it had two theaters really shows the amount of wealth the city had. Although the skene is no longer standing you can still see the cavea and orchestral areas.
4. The Monumental Fountain and Water Reservoir
The Romans are well known for their architecture and public access structures. In Laodicea, they created a structure to deliver water to the public freely, after realizing that this city had a constant shortage of water. To celebrate their accomplishment they built a monumental fountain to mark their achievement as well as creating a reservoir to store extra water.
5. The Temple
Thought to be built around the 3rd century AD is the Zeus Temple. When the city was founded it was dedicated to the Olympian Zeus, the king of the Gods. In connection to the temple grew the study of medicine, because here at this time they followed the teachings of Herophilus who would create tinctures and mixtures to provide to those suffering from ailments. It was his belief that compound diseases required compound medicines, and so the school of medicine was created and began here. The temple is located near the fountain and small theater.
6. The Senate House
In the southwest sector of the city is the Senate House. The politicians and rich merchants of the time would gather here to listen to the political discussions and also participate in the decisions of the day.
A Wonderful Place in History
Laodecia remained a prominent ancient city until it was hit by an earthquake that caused such destruction the community was not able to restore it and decided to abandon the city. Since the citizens left it all behind there are many historically significant pieces still being discovered daily.
It is a rich and wonderful historical place to visit. With so many structures being excavated and discovered, there is constant growth in what to see when you take a trip to this archaeological location. If you are ready to make a trip to Turkey, add this to your itinerary, you will not be disappointed in the rich history and beautiful landscape.
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