Laodicea on the Lycus (Latin: Laodicea ad Lycum) is an ancient city in present-day western Turkey, near the modern town of Denizli. The city was founded in the 3rd century BC on the river Lycus by the Seleucid King Antiochus II in honour of his wife, Laodice. The city became one of the most important and flourishing commercial centres of Asia Minor on the trade route from the East, famous for its woollen and cotton cloths. Laodicea was one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation (1.11, 3.14-22) as well as in Paul’s letter to the Colossians (4.16). The site was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List in 2013.
Coordinates: 37° 50′ 9″ N, 29° 6′ 27″ E
Laodicea was built on a high plateau overlooking the Lycus River Valley and covered more than five square kilometres. Excavations have shown that the town was settled continuously from the Chalcolithic Period (5500 BC) to the 7th century AD. The name of the settlement was, in turn, Rhoas (Asopos Hill), Diopolis (City of Zeus) and finally Laodicea (Laodikeia). In 188 BC the city became part of the Kingdom of Pergamon and later passed into Roman hands in 133 BC when the last King of Pergamon, Attalus III, left the whole of his empire to Rome. Cicero, the famous Roman orator and statesman, served as governor of the province, residing mostly in Laodicea. In 60 BC during the reign of Nero, the city was levelled by a powerful earthquake but was later rebuilt entirely. The city lived its hey-days again at the beginning of 2nd century AD and in the 3rd century AD, during the reigns of Roman emperors Hadrian and Caracalla.
Laodicea became an important commercial centre thanks to its location on the crossroads of major trade routes: north-south between Sardis and Perga and east-west from the Euphrates to Ephesus. The most important trade was textiles. Besides, marble, grain and livestock commerce also provided an essential income to the city. The land was fertile, and the pastures produced great flocks of sheep.
The city gained prominence as a Christian centre and as a place of religious pilgrimage in the Early Byzantine Period. Extant churches among the ruins date from the 4th-7th centuries AD. A well-preserved Church built during the reign Constantine the Great was discovered in 2010 using ground-penetrating radar. The excavations and restorations of this large basilica structure have been almost completed in the past two years. By the end of the 5th century AD, another powerful earthquake destroyed Laodicea, and the city lost its importance. It was never rebuilt, and its inhabitants moved to nearby cities such as Denizli.
Today, Laodicea boasts impressive remains of the ancient city including two theatres, the biggest stadium of Anatolia, four bath complexes, five agoras, five nymphaea, temples, churches and monumental colonnaded streets. In the last seven years, excavation work in the ancient city has unearthed some 2,300 artefacts as well as the Laodicean Church, the monumental columns of the Sacred Agora, and a “water law” marble block dating back to AD 114. Restoration work of the western (Hellenistic) theatre is currently being conducted and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Finally, a three-metre-high statue of Trajan was unearthed in 2019. The statue depicts the emperor dressed in full military regalia towering over a much smaller figure of a prisoner.