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The city of Hierapolis, which was founded on this site in the 2nd century B.C., differs from all other ancient cities in being located, not on earth or rock, but on solid limestone layers formed by limestone water that flowed for centuries over this raised level plateau.
"Hierapolis" can mean "sacred city", and according to Stephanus of Byzantium the city was given this name because of the large number of temples it contained.
Up to the reign of Augustus the city was officially described on coins as Hierapolis, the city of temples, but it seems reasonable to assume that this was not the original meaning of the name.
The founder of the city was Eumenes II, King of Pergamon, and it was the custom for Hellenistic kings to name the cities they founded after members of their own families. It thus seems much more likely that the city was named after Hiera or Hiero, the wife of Telesphorus, the legendary founder of the Pergamene dynasty.We have no definite records concerning the foundation of Hierapolis, but the tradition that it was founded by the Pergamenes would appear to be reliable. In the middle of the 2nd century B.C. the Seleucians founded the city of Laodicea and, as it would seem extremely unlikely that they would found a second city in such close proximity to an already existing one, it seems reasonable to suppose that Hierapolis was not then in existence and that it was founded at a later date, probably in the first quarter of the 2nd century B.C. The region became subject to the Pergamenes after the battle of Magnesia in 190 B.C. There is no definite proof of the existence of a settlement on this site in more ancient times, but it seems u unlikely that such a remarkable site should have been left uninhabited.The historian Herodotus (5th century B.C.) speaks of a city named Cydrara in the vicinity.We know that a city named Hydreia, or "rich in waters", synonymous with the name of the modern town Denizli, existed until as late as the Roman period. By that time Cydrara had already disappeared. The written history of Hierapolis begins with the Roman period.As a result of the transfer of the Kingdom of Pergamon to Rome in accordance with the terms of the will left by Attalos III, Hierapolis came under Roman rule in 129 B.C. as part of the province of Asia. Later records are chiefly concerned with a series of earthquakes.The city was devastated by an earthquake which took place in 17 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius, but the most severe of all the earthquakes occurred in 60 A.D. during the reign of Nero. The present appearance of the city probably results from the reconstruction after this earthquake carried out with the financial assistance of the Emperor.No events of note are recorded in the subsequent period apart from visits to the city made by the Emperor Hadrian in 129 A.D., the Emperor Caracalla in 215 and the Emperor Valens in 370.The city received the much coveted title of Neocoros from the Emperor Caracalla. This accorded the city certain administrative privileges as well as the right of sanctuary.There were a number of Jewish colonies in Hierapolis with their own more or less independent organizations.As in the cities of Laodicea and Colossea, Christianity began here at a very early date. The Apostle Philip spent the last years of his life here with his daughter, and was finally buried here.In the 6th century, the Bishop of Hierapolis was raised by the Emperor Justinian to the rank of metropolitan.Almost all the names of the city notables to be found on the various inscriptions are Greek or Roman.The city assembly was composed of Greeks, but the names of the tribes are Phrygian. Religion displayed a powerful Anatolian influence. Most of the Greek gods were worshipped here, but these were usually fused with local deities, providing evidence of the persistence of the cultural and religious influence of the Anatolian peoples who had inhabited the area for thousands of years. Although the Greeks founded a number of colonies along the coast, Hellenic culture penetrated into Anatolia only centuries later following the victories of Alexander the Great and his generals. Both the Greeks and the Romans, who later took over the administration of the region, adopted the traditions of the local population, moulding them into a new form by combining gods with more or less similar functions.
This syncretistic process was by no means unique to Hierapolis. The same o'vas to be found all over Anatolia. Of the gods and goddesses whose statues have survived, the Ephesian Artemis and the Aphrodisian Aphrodite are the finest and most typical examples of this syncretism. In the case of these goddesses, the influence of Anatolia is clearly manifested in their attributes and the various local features they display.
Apollo, the chief god of Hierapolis, was identified with the Phrygian sun god Lairbenus, whose temple was to be found 30 km north-east of the city.Leto, the mother of Apollo, has been compared to Kybele, the Anatolian mother goddess and, in the same way, Zeus was given the cognomen Bozius or Troius,neither of which is Greek in character. The many deities and temples in the city included a number of temples to foreign deities such as the Ephesian Artemis, while representations of Men, a sun god of Anatolian origin, are to be found on their coins.Of the purely Greek gods the most important were Poseidon, who was responsible for earthquakes, and Pluto/Hades, the god of the underworld. The importance in which these gods were held can be explained by the frequency of earthquakes in the region and the underground gas and water containing various minerals and compounds which were a characteristic of the region.
It was through these features that Hierapolis won fame in ancient times. various writers of the period dwelt on the interesting phenomenon known as the Plutonium. Strabo writes as follows:
"The Plutonium is a fissure wide enough for a person to enter. It is very deep. An area of some 30 ft in width surrounded by a fence is covered by a thick mist which makes it impossible to see the actual place. The air outside the fence is quite clear, and when no wind is blowing there is no danger in approaching it, but any living creature who enters dies on the spot.Large animals that enter the fissure immediately collapse and are brought out as corpses.We sent birds in as an experiment and saw them drop dead immediately on entering. Only the eunuchs of the temple of Kybele are able to spend a short time within the cavern without being affected."
Asclepiodotus, who visited the region in the fifth century, attempted to reach the source of the water by tying a bandage around his nose and mouth and making his way against the now of the stream, but a sudden increase in the depth of the water prevented him from proceeding beyond a certain point. In the 2nd century it was converted into a tourist centre where food and drink was sold to the visitors. Later, a temple was built here and the site of the Plutonium assumed its present-day appearance.
Various athletic and musical competitions were held in Hierapolis, as in other ancient cities.Under the Empire, crowds fnocked to Olympic, Phyrian and Actian games similar to those in Greece. Strangely enough, there is no trace of a stadium in the city, and it is generally thought that the stadium must have been located on the level plain below.Gladiatorial combats and wild beast shows were held in the theatre.
But Hierapolis was not only a centre of excursions and entertainment. The city's wealth and importance stemmed from the many and varied industrial establishments to be found there. The inscriptions refer not only to institutions such as the wool industry co-operative but also to guilds formed by the dyers, fullers, carpetweavers, nail manufacturers and coppersmaths.These were all associated with fully organized institutions that were also responsible for the care of their members' graves.Export goods included a type of marble unique to Hierapolis. The quality of this marble and the colour it displayed is said to have been due to the effect of the hot spring water on the marble deposits. with only one exception, this marble was never used in any of the buildings in the city itself.The best known of the city's many distinguished citizens was the sophist Antipater, who was chosen by Septimius Severus as tutor to the future Emperors Caracalla and Geta. The tomb of Antipater's family is located in the north of the necropolis, but his own has not been identified.The city enjoyed its most brilliant period in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and the presence of a Jewish community facilitated the early spread of Christianity. It was here that the Apostle Philip was martyred in 80 A.D. and the church dedicated to the saint was largely responsible for the increased importance of the city during the Byzantine period. Other important buildings in the city date from the Late Roman or Early Byzantine periods.The city recovered from a severe plague epidemic at the end of the 2nd century, and Constantine the Great later honoured the city by proclaiming it capital of the Phrygian region.For Hierapolis, as for other cities whose administration and commerce were adversely affected by the Crusades and the Mongol invasions, the 12th century was a period of rapid decline.It was never reconstructed after the devastating earthquake of 1219 and was gradually abandoned to the tender mercies of nature.
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