Saturday, April 28, 2012

3 Biblical Cities (Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse) and One Unbiblical One (Aphrodisias)

Today was a day that doesn't happen too often in a person's life. I was able to visit three cities mentioned in the Bible and especially Laodicea whose location and water system I have often spoken about but have never seen. Now I have.
This morning I started with touring Hierapolis (mentioned in Colossians 4:13) an amazing city that is quite large. I spent two hours here. The theater is breathtaking as well as the temples, the agora, the gates and the 1 1/4 mile long necropolis (cemetery with 4 types of stone tombs). But flowing out right from the middle of the city are thermal springs with a high level of dissolved calcium carbonate. As this mineral content mixes with oxygen it forms a white "stone" that has the appearance of flowing down the hills (this area now goes by the name Pamukkale and these are famous as the Pools of Pamukkale). It was famous for the cures it could give (but notice the looooong cemetery so obviously it didn't always work!). It was said to be good for kidney disease so I took off my shoes and went for a walk in it! I personally think this was the "hot" water that John may have referred to as he wrote the church at Laodicea. That city is just across the river and I got great pictures of the "white cotton" hills from the 12,000 seat theater at Laodicea.
The drive to Laodicea (mentioned not only in Revelation but in Colossians 4:13, 15, 16) was not long (no wonder Paul wanted the letter to the Colossians to be read by these nearby cities) but the wait for me has been years! Finally, this was one of the reasons I had made this quick trip to Turkey. I had heard there was not much here but the archeologists have been working and I saw two theaters, temples, churches, agora, gates, streets, a stadium, and finally after walking for about 1/2 mile through fields and through an Arab cemetery I saw what I had come for, stone water pipes that had brought water a great distance to this city (no doubt lukewarm by the time it got here). The "pipes" were about 4 foot square with a round hole cut through the middle. Most of them still had mineral deposits that had decreased the size of the hole and no doubt reduced the flow of the water. I just couldn't get over that I was actually standing in Laodicea and then to read Revelation 3:14-22 was a very unique experience that I will not soon forget.

The Book of Colossians was written to the church at a place called Colosse. I visited that site this afternoon. I was told there was not much there and there wasn't! A hill, an indent at the side of the hill where presumably the theater was located and a few tops of pillars and large stones sticking up through the grass in the surrounding fields. Not much but I was standing in the place where Philemon and slave Onesimus had once lived and where Christians had proclaimed the name of Jesus. What a thrill just to be here.
By now it was 3 pm and I decided that to arrive at my hotel by 5:30 pm was something a man didn't want to do when there were things to see. I had heard/read that one of the most renowned schools of sculpture and art in the Hellenistic world was nearby (OK, so it was an hour and a quarter away but not in the direction of my hotel but it wasn't in the opposite direction either). It also had a well preserved stadium (270 meters long!) and a museum that held a tremendous number of statues. This ancient site is known as Aphrodisias (and no snide comments need to be made about my motives at this time!). It was another amazing site. In American we'd put this whole thing under a huge building but just to walk around the site and to realize, that this site, like all the others, still have hundreds of years of digging to do if they ever wanted to uncover the entire city.

I stayed until closing and then made the 2 1/2 hour drive north towards the biblical cities of Philadelphia, and Sardis, and  . . . (see my blog tomorrow for what I was able to accomplish. I have just one more full day here and so I'll be up early and stay out to late!

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