Hierapolis (Pamukkale)

Hierapolis is an ancient Phrygian city located in Pamukkale, within the provincial borders of Denizli in south-western Turkey, about 10 km north of the ruins of Laodicea. The city was probably established by Eumenes II of Pergamon in 190 BC on a crossroad connecting the inner region of Anatolia to the Aegean Sea on the west. Founded at the site of an ancient cult, Hierapolis became a sacred city (hieron) and was dedicated to Apollo Lairbenos. Its chief religious festival was the Letoia, named after the goddess Leto. Hierapolis was famed for its sacred hot springs whose vapors were associated with Pluto, god of the underworld. Hierapolis was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 and has become a popular tourist destination due to its extraordinary landscape formed by calcite-laden waters.

Coordinates: 37° 55′ 30″ N, 29° 7′ 33″ E

Usually said to be founded by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, Hierapolis may actually have been established earlier in the 3rd century BC by the Seleucid dynasty. Two theories exist regarding its name. According to Stephanus of Byzantium, the name Hierapolis, meaning “holy city”, was chosen because of the religious traditions that developped in the area. The second theory suggests that the town was named for Hiera, wife of Telephus, the mythical founder of Pergamum.

Set high on a terrace formed by cascades of white travertine pools, its hot springs were believed to have healing properties and people came to the city to bathe in the rich mineral waters in order to cure various ailments. Ceded to Rome in 133 BC, the Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman town and became one of the richest cities in Asia Minor. After being destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD, the city was extensively rebuilt and subsequently reached its peak of importance in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

In the 1st century AD Hierapolis was characterized by an intense construction activity, mainly pursued by the emperors of the Flavian dynasty. In the 2nd century the theatre and the monumental Agora was built. In 129 AD, Hierapolis was probably visited by Hadrian who, as a sign of generosity, had earlier returned the “aurum coronarium”, a large sum of money offered by the city to celebrate his accession to the throne. Under Septimius Severus, the city continued to grow and to thrive and it received its first (and only) neocoria (a grant to build temples to the Emperor and various administrative privileges) under Caracalla who visited the city in 215 AD.

Visualisation of Hierapolis in the 3rd century AD (Prof. Francesco D'Andria).
Visualisation of Hierapolis in the 3rd century AD (Prof. Francesco D’Andria).

Hierapolis city had a significant Jewish population, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd century AD, which facilitated the early spread of Christianity. According to tradition, the apostle Philip’s martyrdom occurred in Hierapolis in 80 AD and a church dedicated to him was built in the 5th century. With its several churches, Hierapolis became an important religious centre in the Byzantine years.

Hierapolis was first excavated towards the late 19th century and systematic excavations were started in 1957 by the Italian Archaeological Mission which is still carrying out research, as well as maintenance and restoration works on the archaeological site. The Museum of Hierapolis opened in 1970 in the Roman baths in order to accommodate the findings. The remains of Hierapolis extend over a large area and are particularly impressive. The remains include baths, temples, a monumental arch, nymphaea, necropolises and a theatre.

PORTFOLIO

The nothern Necropolis of Hierapolis, one of the best preserved cemeteries of Asia Minor. It was also one of the biggest ones, since more than 1,200 graves have been excavated in an area larger than 2 km.
The northern Necropolis of Hierapolis, one of the best preserved cemeteries of Asia Minor. It was also one of the biggest ones with more than 1,200 graves excavated in an area larger than 2 km.
The oldest tombs date from the Hellenistic period (1st-2nd c. BC). They are tumuli, whose vaulted burial room was founded on a circular wall at the bottom; they sometimes had a separate entrance. The vault of the roof was covered with soil.
The oldest tombs date from the Hellenistic period (1st-2nd century BC). They are tumuli whose vaulted burial room was founded on a circular wall with a roof covered with soil.
The funerary architecture of the necropolis of Hierapolis had variety of burial architecture
The Northern necropolis had an exceptional variety of burial architecture: from the simple sarcophagus to the mortuary chapel with a gabled roof or even structures imitating houses.
Northern acropolis, Tomb No. 166 (Tomb of the Gladiators). The tomb takes its name from from the travertine slab above the entrance bearing images linked to gladiatorial combat: an amphora for the oil offered as prize to the victor, a trident for combat, a circular shield.
Tomb No. 166 (Tomb of the Gladiators). The tomb takes its name from from the travertine slab above the entrance bearing images linked to gladiatorial combat: an amphora for the oil offered as prize to the victor, a trident for combat, a circular shield. (2nd-3rd centuries AD)
Relief with gladiatorial scenes, beginning of the 3rd century AD, from the Northern Necropolis of Hierapolis, Hierapolis Archaeology Museum, Turkey
Relief with gladiatorial scenes, beginning of the 3rd century AD, from the Northern Necropolis. Hierapolis Archaeology Museum.
The monumental tomb N°. A18 set on a high staircase surrounded by buttresses. Dated to the Flavian era, it had two antechambers.
The monumental tomb N°. A18 set on a high staircase surrounded by buttresses. Dated to the Flavian era, it had two antechambers.
The Northern Necropolis, Tomb No. 176 with a distinct facade that recalls the appearance of a house with a row of windows, 2nd-3rd centuries AD.
The Northern Necropolis, Tomb No. 176 with a distinct facade that recalls the appearance of a house with a row of windows (2nd-3rd centuries AD).
The Northern Necropolis beyond the city walls of Hierapolis.
The Northern Necropolis beyond the city walls of Hierapolis.
The Bath - Basilica located at the northern entrance to the city, built as a bath complex in the 2nd century AD and coverted into a Basilica church in the 6th century AD.
The Bath – Basilica located at the northern entrance to the city, built as a bath complex in the 2nd century AD and converted into a Basilica church in the 6th century AD.
Frontinus Gate, the monumental entrance to the Roman city, dating to 84 or 86 AD on the basis of a dedication to Domitian on the gate's facade.
Frontinus Gate, the monumental entrance to the Roman city. It was built of daedalian travertine and had with three arches and two circular towers situated on its eastern and western sides.
dating to 84 or 86 AD on the basis of a dedication to Domitian on the gate's facade
The gate, dating towards the late 1st century AD, has a marble inscription dedicated by Sextus Julius Frontinus, proconsul of Asia in 84-86 AD to Emperor Domitian. Thus, the names of the monumental street and the gate are related to Frontinus and Domitian.
Frontinus Street extending in the north-south direction. Originally 14 metres wide, it was the main axis of the city.
Frontinus Street extending in the north-south direction. It was the main axis of the city.
The paved street was 14 m wide and had an elevated pavement. A long drain covered with monolithic slabs ran in the middle of the street. On both sides of the impressive street with the double colonnade there were houses and shops with continuous Doric facades.
The paved street was 14 m wide and had an elevated pavement. There were houses and shops with continuous Doric facades with a double colonnade on both sides of the Frontinus Street.
Immediately after the gate of Frontinus the public latrines were found, dating from the end of the 1st century AD
The public latrine along Frontinus Street. The room was divided longitudinally by a row of columns that supported a roof composed of travertine blocks.
The room had two wings divided by a row of monolithic Doric columns supporting the big roof from travertine slabs. A drain was connected with the conduit of Frontinus Street. The niches for the seats are still preserved peripherally on the walls.
The latrine, dating from the end of the 1st century AD, had two wings divided by a row of monolithic Doric columns supporting the roof.
The monumental North Byzantine Gate built in the late 4th century AD and early 5th century AD.
The monumental North Byzantine Gate built in the late 4th century AD and early 5th century AD. It formed part of the fortification system and the entrance to the Byzantine city.
The Nymphaeum of the Tritons, a monumental fountain built during the reign of Alexander Severus (222-235 AD) as the inscription on the architrave block attests.
The Nymphaeum of the Tritons, a monumental fountain built during the reign of Alexander Severus (222-235 AD) as the inscription on the architrave block attests.
The Nymphaeum of the Tritons included a reservoir 70 m long. xcavations at the monument started in 1993 and brought to light the marble architectural members and the figures of the relief decoration, such as the Tritons, Erotes and dolphins.
The Nymphaeum of the Tritons included a reservoir 70 m long. xcavations at the monument started in 1993
and brought to light the marble architectural members and the figures of the relief decoration, such as the Tritons, Erotes and dolphins.
The Roman theatre, built in the 2nd century AD under Hadrian on the ruins of an earlier theatre, later renovated under Septimius Severus.
The Roman Theatre was built in the 2nd century AD under Hadrian during a period of extensive rebuilding following a devastating earthquake in 60 AD. It was later renovated under Septimius Severus. The theatre has been the object of important restorations between 2004 and 2014.
The theatre was 91 m wide with its cavea of 50 rows of seats, one diazoma, a semicircular Royal Box, and a vomitorium on either side.
The theatre was 91 m wide and had forty-five rows of seats separated by two diazomata and a vomitorium on either side. A semicircular marble tribunalia reserved for priests, dignitaries and honored guests, dominates the centre of the lower cavea. The cavea could accommodate approximately 15,000 people.
During the reign of Severus at the beginning of the 3rd century, the old scaenae frons was replaced by a new, more monumental one, organized on three storeys and flanked by two imposing side entry buildings. Sculptural reliefs, displaying mythological subjects, were placed on the different storeys, while dedicatory inscriptions ran along the entablatures.
Emperor Septimus Severus in procession with his family and the gods, with an inscription and dedication.
Emperor Septimius Severus in procession with his family and the gods, with an inscription and dedication.
Detail of the stage building with a statue placed between the niche and relief depicting a hunting scene from the Artemis cycle frieze.
Detail of the stage building with a statue placed between the niche and relief depicting a hunting scene from the Artemis cycle frieze.
Statues of Artemis, Leto and Apollo, from the Roman theatre, end of 2nd century AD.
Statues of Artemis, Leto and Apollo, from the Roman theatre, end of 2nd century AD.
The west-side of the Agora built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Hadrian.
The western side of the Agora, built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Hadrian. It was the commercial centre of the city. The Agora was surrounded by marble porticoes with Ionic columns at the front and Corinthian columns in its interior.
The eastern basilica-stoa of the Agora built in the 2nd century AD, it was a two-story structure and had a two-story Ionic facade.
The eastern basilica-stoa of the Agora. It was a two-story structure with a Ionic facade.
The Temple of Apollo built in the 3rd century AD using stone blocks from the older temple.
The Temple of Apollo built in the 3rd century AD using stone blocks from the older temple. The front, approached by a flight of steps, stood on a podium about 2 m high. It contained a pronaos and cella, and had a row of columns, probably six, on the front only.
The Plutonium (Pluto's Gate), a sacred cave believed to be an entrance to the underworld and the oldest local sanctuary.
Adjoining the Temple of Apollo is the Plutonium (Pluto’s Gate), a sacred cave believed to be an entrance to the underworld. It is the oldest local sanctuary and the site was fully functional until the 4th century AD, but remained a place of sporadic visitation by visitors for the next two centuries.

This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground…[…] Any animal that passes inside meets instant death” Strabo (Geography 13.4.14)

This digital reconstruction of the Plutonium shows the entire site. Credit: Francesco D'Andria
This digital reconstruction of the Plutonium shows the entire site. Credit: Francesco D’Andria
The cave emitted poisonous vapors in ancient times, and still does! Behind the 3 square metres (32 sq ft) roofed chamber is a deep cleft in the rock, through which fast-flowing hot water passes while releasing a sharp-smelling gas.
The Temple Nymphaeum, a two-story fountain with a U-shaped plan and two wings enclosing the large basin, 3rd century AD.
The Temple Nymphaeum, built in the 3rd century AD, was a two-story fountain with a U-shaped plan and two wings enclosing the large basin. Statues filled the niches in the walls.
The ruins of the Cathedral, one of the principal buildings of the Christian city, 1st half of 6th century AD.
The ruins of the Cathedral, one of the principal buildings of the Christian city, 1st half of 6th century AD. The church consisted of three aisles, divided by two rows of columns surmounted by capitals.
The bridge and flight of stairs built in the late 4th century AD in order to reach the hill of the Sanctuary of St. Philip.
The bridge and flight of stairs built in the late 4th century AD in order to reach the hill of the Sanctuary of St. Philip.
The Martyrium of St. Philip, a church with an octagonal core built in the 5th century AD on the summit of the hill outside the walls by the northern part of the city. Philip is said to have been martyred in Hierapolis in 80 AD by being crucified upside-down or by being hung upside down by his ankles from a tree.
The Tomb of martyred apostle Philip dating to the 1st century AD, it has a facade made of travertine blocks. The remains of the apostle Philip are no longer in the tomb, however.
The Tomb of martyred apostle Philip dating to the 1st century AD, it has a facade made of travertine blocks. However the remains of the apostle Philip are no longer in the tomb.
The remains of the Church of the Sepulchre, a threenaved church brought to light in 2011.
The remains of the Church of the Sepulchre, a threenaved church brought to light in 2011.
The Roman Bath, one of the biggest buildings of Hierapolis antique city, has been used as the site of the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum since 1984.
The Roman Bath, one of the biggest buildings of Hierapolis antique city, has been used as the site of the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum since 1984.
The hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water.

Links:

Bibliography:

  • D’Andria, F . (2003): Hierapolis of Frigia. An archaeological guide. Istanbul
  • Erdal Yazıcı, Hierapolis Pamukkale Laodicea and City Surrounding (Uranus, 2014)

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