Hierapolis Ancient City

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History of Hierapolis Ancient City

Hierapolis Ancient City was founded in the second century BC by the king of the Pergamon Empire, Eumenes the Second. According to ancient sources, the city, which is famous for its metal and stone craftsmanship, embroideries, and woven fabrics, was the capital of the Phrygia region during the period of Constantine the Great. Hierapolis became the episcopal center during the Byzantine period. Thanks to all its greatness, today Hierapolis is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hierapolis Ancient City
Hierapolis Ancient City

There is no information in ancient sources regarding the name of the ancient city of Hierapolis before the Hellenistic Period which starts with Alexander the Great’s arrival to Anatolia. Because of the Mother Goddess cult, we can understand that there was life in the city before it was named Hierapolis. Although the information about the foundation of the city is limited.

Pamukkale is one of the places where nature plays the role of an artist, and it is located in the ancient city of Hierapolis. The terrace-shaped pools where the white travertines formed as a result of the contact of the thermal waters with the air form gradual shapes like frozen waterfalls in Pamukkale. The discovery of Pamukkale’s charm and it is becoming a touristic attraction goes back to the Roman Empire Era.

Location of Hierapolis during the Roman Empire Era
Colonnaded Streets of Hierapolis During an Evening Tour

The fact that Hierapolis Ancient City, located 17 kilometers north of Denizli, is called the “Holy City” in the Archeology literature is due to the existence of many known temples and other religious artifacts in the city. According to the information provided by the ancient geographers Strabo and Ptolemy, Hierapolis is thought to be a Phrygia city with its proximity to the cities of Laodicea and Tripolis on the Meander, which is bordering the Caria region.

Hierapolis city, which has been an important treatment center throughout history due to its proximity to the healing spring waters of Pamukkale, preserved its original Hellenistic texture until the great earthquake (60 years after Christ) which happened during the era of the Roman emperor Nero. However, after the big earthquake, it was completely renovated and transformed into a typical Roman city. Hierapolis has become a very important center of pilgrimage visits after Saint Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus, was crucified here in 80 AD. A mausoleum was built in Saint Philip’s name, and it can be visited today.

The excavation and restoration works were initiated by Italian archaeologists in the ancient city of Hierapolis in the 1950s. Today all archeological works in Hierapolis are carried out by a team from the Italian University of Salento. The task team is close to 100 experts from various countries, primarily from Italy and Turkey. Ancient Theater, Necropolis, Hot Springs, Great Church, Saint Philip’s Mausoleum, Frontinus Gate, Gymnasium, Temple of Apollo, and Plutonium are among the most important works unearthed in Hierapolis so far.

Restoration of the stage building of the ancient theater, which is one of the best examples of Roman theaters and was built about 1,800 years ago, has been completed. The theater building of Hierapolis ancient city has been used for cultural and arts events. The Theater of Hierapolis can hold up to 12,000 people. Today, especially on summer nights, concerts are held in the theater of the ancient city of Hierapolis. In addition, some big-budget Hollywood productions such as “Ghost Rider” were shot at the Hierapolis theater.

Hierapolis in the Roman Empire

Inscriptions and Roman records obtained from the excavations show that the city of Hierapolis (Pamukkale today) was visited by Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD, Emperor Caracalla in 215 AD, and Emperor Valens in 370 AD. Between 138-144 AD, Bishop Papias and Apollinarius made an effort to spread Christianity in the city of Hierapolis. Also on these dates, numerous Jewish people settled in Hierapolis too.

Philip the Apostle Martyrdom in Hierapolis

During the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus between 193-211 AD, the city started to show significant economic development. The noble and rich citizens of Hierapolis city organized various games and international competitions in the name of the god Apollo, who was the chief god of Hierapolis. During the reign of Emperor Elagabal, the city was given the title of “Neokoros” (a title given to the cities which are allowed to build a temple in the name of the Roman Emperor). Being a Neokoros city helped Hierapolis to reduce the taxes they have to pay to the empire.

With the earthquake that occurred in the second half of the fourth century, the city collapsed again and most of the buildings were damaged. During Emperor Theodosius’ reign, city walls with two gates on the north and south were built. After another earthquake in the second half of the seventh century, the city became uninhabitable and residents of Hierapolis decided to abandon the settlement by moving to the nearby modern Denizli city of Turkey today.

Exhibits in Hierapolis Museum

Hierapolis in Christianity

Hierapolis was a very important religious center during the Roman and Byzantine eras. This is because; It is here that Philip the Apostle, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, who came to the city to spread Christianity, was killed here in the year 80 AD. Philip the Apostle is an important figure for Christians. After his death, Hierapolis had become one of the pilgrimage centers of Christians.

When men came to perform the pilgrimage, after shaving their hair and beard, they could enter the city and perform their pilgrimage. They made their visits to the tomb church built next to Philip the Apostle’s tomb. The church was also used as a religious and spiritual healing center. Today, it is celebrated with the name “Philip the Apostle Day” and a ritual is held in Hiearapolis or Pamukkale today.

Apostle Philip Martyrium in Hierapolis

Things to See in Hiearapolis Ancient City

Philip the Apostle Martyrdom in Hierapolis

In addition to seeing the unique thermal waters of Hierapolis Ancient City as a source of healing, it was regarded as a holy city in both Pagan and Christian times. The reason for this is that Philip the Apostle, one of the 12 apostles of Christ, who came to Hierapolis to spread Christianity 80 years after Christ, was killed by crucifixion here. After Christianity became the official religion in the fourth century AD, martyrdom was held in the place where he was killed in the name of Philip the Apostle.

The building, which was built as a religious and spiritual treatment center, has an octagonal plan. There is also the tomb of Philip the Apostle in the marble-covered area in the middle. Today, this center, which is outside the walls of Hierapolis, is reached by wide and long stairs. There are small chapels in the building for prayers.

Hierapolis Theater

It is a large building built in the style of the Greek Theater. After an earthquake, construction started in the Flavian period. Although the reliefs are usually inspired by mythological elements, different styles are seen because decorations of Hierapolis theater were made by different masters of different times. In terms of decoration, it is similar to the ancient theaters of Side of Pamphylia and Perge of Lycia ancient cities.

In addition, it is thought that gladiator fights were organized in the theater due to its design. Gladiatorial fights were held in the ancient theaters, there is a height of about one meter between the under-stage and the seating area which is a very clear sign of this incident. The aim here is to protect the audience from the attacks of wild animals. In theaters where there are no fights, this does not matter and the seating areas of the audience start from the level where the stage is.

Hierapolis Ancient Theater

Necropolis of Hierapolis

The necropolis area is one of the largest areas that can be seen in the city. The tomb owners wrote various curses on the tomb pediments to scare people and prevent them from entering the grave. Some tombs were surrounded by travertines that have disappeared over time.

There are necropolis areas outside the city walls and in all directions. These are mostly located on both sides of the northern road to Sardes direction and the southern road to Laodicea direction. Limestone and marble were used in the graves and sarcophagi. The use of marble is only seen in sarcophagus types.

It is of particular importance when it comes to naming the city as the Holy City on the religious structures revealed in the research. By looking at the structures of these cemeteries, it can be understood from which layer they belong.

Necropolis of Hierapolis

Temple of Apollo in Hierapolis

It is the oldest religious center of the Hierapolis city and according to common belief, God Apollo met Cybele, the local goddess, here. The present temple was built in the Plutonium cave, known as the ancient and religious cave. In this place, which is the oldest religious center of the indigenous people of Hierapolis, Apollo met with the main Goddess of the region, Cybele. Ancient sources report that the Mother Goddess Cybele priest descended into this cave and was not affected by poisonous gas. Although the remains of the main structure in the Temple of Apollo do not go back to the third century BC, the foundations date back to the Late Hellenistic Period.

Apollo Temple in Hierapolis

The 70-meter-long Temple, known for its marble entrance steps, is located in the sanctuary surrounded by the fortification wall. The fortification wall leaned against the partially excavated portico in the south, west, and north. The grooved half-columns of the marble portico in the Doric order bear column heads decorated with rows of eggs. Apart from the marble stairs from the Temple of Apollo, a podium covered with marble plates and molded cornices can be seen. Its facade is decorated with two columns. The temple can be dated to the third century AD according to the architectural decorations.

On the staircase behind the temple, there is an area filled with pieces from the Temple of Apollo, column bodies, column capitals, and pedestals. In this area, a statue of a noblewoman in a curvaceous dress that renewed the sculpture schemes of the fourth century BC was found

Hireapolis Ancient Pool (Cleopatra Pool)

This pool, which was known as a healing center in ancient times and where thousands of people recovered by swimming, is one of the most important symbols of the city today. The water of this pool, which was formed as a result of an earthquake, is good for patients with health problems such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatism, paralysis, heart diseases, and rickets.

Ancient Pool which is also known as Cleopatra Pool in Hierapolis

Hierapolis Museum

The Roman Bath, one of the largest buildings of Hierapolis City, has been serving as the Hierapolis Archeology Museum since 1984. In the museum, there are artifacts from the cities of Laodicea, Colossae, and Tripolis in addition to the artifacts recovered during the Hierapolis excavations. In addition, the works obtained from Beycesultan Mound, which give the best examples of the Bronze Age, constitute an important part of the museum. The works exhibited in the open area exhibition are mostly marble and stone works.

Hierapolis Agora

After the earthquake that occurred in 60 AD, Frontinus Street was organized as Hierapolis Trade Agora as a result of the change in a wide area between the slopes of the eastern hill after the earthquake. The trading activity in the city of Hierapolis was held in the agora. The most important trade elements of the city are textiles and marble.

Hierapolis Gymnasium

North and South Byzantine Gate in Hierapolis

North and South Byzantine gates were included in the city wall system of Hierapolis. These gates were dated to the end of the fourth century AD. They were made with travertine blocks and reused material, including marble.

Hierapolis Gymnasium

An inscribed fragment on the column array indicates that the building was a gymnasium. The Gymnasium was the building where the young boys of Hierapolis city received school education and military arts training.

Latrines of Hierapolis

Hierapolis Latrines

This building, which was destroyed in the earthquake, has reached the present day with all its parts in the form of ruins. There is a channel located on the base that carries the sewage water to the sewer system beneath the street. There is a bench with holes in it, built for sitting along the inner wall. A clean water channel for sanitary needs was built in front of the channel that carries wastewater. This latrine was free and used by the people of the city.

Hierapolis (Pamukkale) Travertines

Pamukkale Travertines, located in the ancient city of Hierapolis in Turkey’s Denizli town, is a natural structure that was formed by the pouring of thermal hot water sources from the fault lines formed as a result of geological events in the underground activities. Pamukkale travertines, which are completely naturally formed, contain 17 hot water springs that are a source of healing. Travertines, which are known not only in our country but all over the world, is heavily visited by tourists.

Famous Travertines of Pamukkale

Since the water from some sources is at a temperature that can burn the body, hotels that provide health services using these spring waters primarily keep the emerging water in cooling pools for some time. When it reaches a level that can’t hurt the human body, it is transferred to the natural pools where tourists and visitors enjoy bathing.

Pamukkale Travertines, which cover an area of ​​approximately 2200 meters in length and 160 meters in height, were formed by the hardening of the calcium carbonate accumulated in the ponds in layers. Due to its light and bright color, it can be seen with the naked eye even from a distance of 20 km.

South Necropolis Area of Hierapolis

Tour Guide to Hierapolis

Hierapolis and nearby Pamukkale Travertines have been one of the most visited five attractions in Turkey for many years. I have been leading tours in Hierapolis since I became a licensed tour guide and I gained vast experience when it comes to guiding in Hierapolis.

Contact me to learn more about Hierapolis Ancient City, Travertines of Pamukkale, Grand Theater of Hierapolis, Agora of Hierapolis, Necropolis of Hierapolis which is one of the biggest in the world!, Philip the Apostle Martyrdom in Hierapolis, and many more.

You can also use a contact form, email, or WhatsApp to contact me for hiring a licensed professional tour guide in Hierapolis Ancient City and nearby Pamukkale Travertines. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.

Try Paragliding Over the Travertines of Pamukkale

Before you visit Hierapolis Ancient City

Tourists in the travertine terraces of Pamukkale which is located nearby Hierapolis

Hierapolis on the UNESCO World Heritage List

With all its unique features, Hierapolis and the Pamukkale Travertines next to it are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Hierapolis entered the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.

Where is Hierapolis Ancient City Today?

Hierapolis Ancient City has located an average of 17 km north of Denizli town. It is possible to enter the Pamukkale road from the center of Denizli and reach the ancient city in approximately 20 minutes. It is possible to go to this ancient city by private vehicle or private tour.

Hierapolis Ancient City Entrance Fee

The entrance fee to Hierapolis Ancient City is 400 Turkish Lira per person and for the Pamukkale Ancient Pool (Cleopatra Pool) is 200 Turkish Lira at the time of this article creation.

Hierapolis Ancient City Visiting Hours

Hierapolis Ancient city visiting hours vary in summer and in the winter season. While it is possible to visit this ancient city between 06:30 and 23:00 in the summer season, it is possible to visit between 08:00 and 18:00 in the winter season.

Ancient Theater of Hierapolis

What to Wear During Hierapolis Tour

Hierapolis is a massive open-air attraction. Be prepared for the hot summers and cold winters of the Denizli region when you visit Hierapolis and Pamukkale. I strongly recommend dressing as lightly as possible in the summer and also doing the opposite in winter. You better to bring a swimming suit when you visit Hierapolis and Pamukkale Travertines since you can have a bath or swim in Ancient Pools of Pamukkale.

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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