The city of Hierapolis is located in Pamukkale. within the provincial borders of Denizli in south-western Anatolia. Hierapolis was founded on a crossroads, connecting the inner region of Anatolia to the Aegean Sea on the west, to Smyrna (Izmir) on the north through Tripolis, Philadelphia (Alaşehir) and Sardes, and to Attaleia (Antalya) on the south, since ancient times. The city ruins are situated 350 m above sea level, up on a limestone plateau with plentiful water resources, to the north of the valley where the River Lykos (Çürüksu, one of the tributaries of Büyük Menderes River (The Meander or Maiandros). Which rises from Mount Cadmus (Honaz), flows by. The Persian Royal Road to the Mediterranean, and a part of the route used in Medieval times by the Crusaders to reach the “Holy Land”, meet at this road junction, too. The powers who wanted to dominate the region also reached western Anatolia through these roads, which passed by valleys, river beds and mountain passes. The valley and the plain, through which the River Lykos (or Lycus) flows, are surrounded by the volcanic Mount Cadmus (Honaz) on the southeast, Mount Salbacos (Babadağı, 2308 m) on the south, Mount Buldan Sazak (1143 m) on the west, and Mount Çökelez (1805 m) on the north. Strabo, a famous geographer of Antiquity, stated that the River Lykos flows underground in several places, and he attributed the frequency of earthquakes in the region to these underground cavities. The Lykos Valley is located at a transition point of the Mediterranean climate and the continental climate. Wheat and corn are grown in the plain in addition to the cultivation of cotton. Moreover, cherries and grapes are among the region’s well-known products. The existence of fertile farmlands in the valley, and the location of the region at the junction of ancient roads, caused the region to witness populous settlements before Antiquity. The earliest concrete data unearthed around the Lykos Valley is a skull found in a travertine quarry on the outskirts of Mount Çökelez. Scientists have dated this skull, which belongs to a “Homo Erectus”, back to 1.1 million years. The finds in the valley and surrounding settlements contain traces of settlement from the Late Neolithic period to the present.
There are many ancient cities, temples and village settlements in the immediate surroundings of Hierapolis. These include Laodicea. Apollonia Saibace. Sebastapolis, Heraclea Saibace. Heraclea Hieron on the south; Colossae, mentioned in Herodotus, on the outskirts of Mount Cadmus (Honaz) on the southeast; Aphrodisias, Attouda and Trapezopolis, founded on the outskirts of Mount Salbacos (Babadağı), on the southwest; Tripolis, founded where the River Lykos (Çürüksu) meets the Meander (River Menderes), on the northwest, and Temple of Apollo Lairbenos, Mound (Höyük) of Beycesultan and Eumeneia on the northeast. The area where the Hierapolis settlement was located has been controversial since Antiquity because that area was set between the borders of Caria, Lydia and Phrygia. It was mostly accepted from ancient times to present Hierapolis as located at the westernmost end of Phrygia, and it was declared as the metropolis (capital city) of Phrygia Pacatiana Secunda (Second Phrygia; the regions encompassing the southern part of Afyon province and the northern part of Denizli province) in 535 AD.
The settlement of Hierapolis was located adjacent to the north of the modern settlement of Pamukkale, home of the famous travertine waterfalls I pools, which have occurred as a result of natural formations. The hot spring water emerging at temperatures between 35-56oC from the outskirts of the hill on which the city abuts, reaches the plain after passing through channels in the city, and flowing by the high hillsides in the southern and western parts. Emerging from the source at a rate of 250 litres per second, the hot water releases Carbon dioxide due to the pressure drop. The water, depositing Calcium Carbonate, has created a natural formation of unique beauty in the area where the ancient city is located. A 3 cm-thick white layer builds up every year as a result of the sedimentation of calcium carbonate in the flowing thermal water. These formations, lasting for thousands of years, still continue over an area of 10 square kilometres today. The magnificent travertine waterfalls I pools have occurred as a result of these formations. Ancient writers conveyed that the channels, through which the thermal springs flow, formed boundaries between vineyards and orchards. The region is named Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) due to the resemblance of the natural formation of the travertines to the flowers of the cotton plant. After the abandonment of the ancient city, the thermal water springs spread randomly across the settlement and covered the structures with 2m to 4m-thick travertine layers. Out of the 86 hectares of archaeological site in the city, 21 hectares are covered by the necropolis, while the remaining 65 hectares were suitable for settlement. Also, an area of 25 hectares has been covered with a travertine layer formed by the hot spring deposits. A part of this travertine area in Hierapolis was broken with compressors under difficult conditions so that a number of structures could be uncovered.
The city of Hierapolis is thought to be have probably been founded by the Seleucids, one of the successors of Alexander the Great, in the 3rd century BC. Some tribe names belonging to the Seleucids are engraved on the steps of the theatre. There is limited data concerning the period before the foundation of the city. In addition to the pieces of obsidian found in the city, scientists have claimed that a cult area was developed around the Plutonium Cave, and there had been a settlement, probably named Kydara (?), in this area prior to the establishment.
The Seleucid King, Anthiochus III (the Great) was defeated by the Roman ally King Eumenes II of Pergamon in 190 BC. Consequently, Hierapolis came under the sovereignty of the Pergamon Kingdom after the Peace Treaty of Apameia, concluded in 188 BC. In 133 BC, King Attalus III of Pergamon bequeathed the lands of the kingdom to Rome.
In the Hellenistic Period, the city was established according to the grid plan, called Hippodamos; the insulae (structure islands), measuring 30m x 75m, were surrounded by 3m-wide narrow streets, and these streets extended perpendicularly to the main street (Frontinus Street), running in a north-south direction. Some of the public buildings spread over several islands on the side of the main street, extending in a north-south direction. The tumulus funeral monuments also started to be built, as well as the tombs carved into the rocks in the Necropolis on the side of the main street running towards the north of the city, in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Some stoneware (pottery) fragments, dated to the Hellenistic period, were unearthed in excavations conducted in this area.
The abundance of thermal springs in Hierapolis led to the construction of many baths in the city. These baths used to be gathering places. The spring waters, which were believed to have healing properties, supplied hot water for the baths. The Great Bath, located on the southwest of the Agora, consists of the gymnasion (gymnasium) and bath sections. The palaistra (palaestra) is located to the east, and the courtyard belonging to the gymnasion is located to the southwest of the structure, dating to the 2nd century AD. The other great bath of the city is located to the north of the Frontinus Gate. This bath building was converted to a church in the Early Christian Period. Thermal springs of Hierapolis formed a pool on the west of the theatre, containing the Ionian columns of a collapsed portico. According to research conducted, it is thought that there had been a square with portico in this submerged section. This square was probably the “Civil Agora”. The area was converted into a thermal pool to be enjoyed by travellers visiting Pamukkale.
Hierapolis was destroyed by severe earthquakes in the year 60 AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. However the city plan was preserved after the destruction. Several monumental buildings were constructed in the city during the reigns of Hadrianus and Severus between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. It is quite possible that the Emperor Hadrianus visited Hierapolis in 129 AD and then started the construction of the monumental theatre, Agora, financed by the tributes paid by the city. He published two letters, awarding the city with certain privileges such as the right of sanctuary, exemption from taxes (tithes) and autonomy. A number of shops were built on both sides, and two ostentatious gates were also built at the two ends of the main street running in the north-south direction. The triple-arched gate with cylindrical twin towers on the northwest end of the street was built by Julius Frontinus, Proconsul of Asia, and then dedicated to Emperor Domitian. This street extends to Laodicea and Colossae in the Lykos Valley, after joining up with the ancient road extending from the Valley of Meander (Menderes). The bath building and the city’s second theatre were built I during this period, too. Another significant structure built / developed in the city, expanding northward during the reign of Domitian, is the Agora. 280 metres long and 170 metres wide, the Agora was surrounded on three sides by lonic-style stoas. On its east side was a two-story Basilica-Sfoa, which was 4 metres above the level of the square. Its marble façade is dated to the reign of Antoninus Pius. The Agora square was then made available for gladiatorial combats and games. A bust dedicated to the god Serapis, and a 2m high Attis statue next to it, was found on the south-western corner of the Stoa. The Attis, leaning her head onto her right hand, is wearing a Phrygian cap.
A high-quality infrastructure was established in the city of Hierapolis. The drinking and potable water brought to the water house from two separate sources were distributed to the city through terracotta pipes. Waste water was taken out of the city after passing under the alleys and the main street. It is believed that natural disasters such as floods weren’t experienced in the city thanks to this excellent infrastructure. Two monumental nymphaeums (fountain structures) were built in the same period.
Different types of funeral monuments were built in the Northern Necropolis, which can be visited today. It is known that the plain sarcophagi (lahids) in the Necropolis were built by the local craftsmen, while the decorated sarcophagi were imported from j Aphrodisias. In addition to the tumulus and the heroon type tombs, it is ascertained that there are more than 2,000 sarcophagi in the Necropolis. On the inscription of a tomb monument of the local merchant Flavius Zeuxis near the Necropolis, dated to the 1st century AD, he is proud that he had returned 72 times to Cape Malea in the south of the Peloponnese. It is understood from this inscription that Zeuxis travelled to Italy for trade purposes by sea. A sarcophagus made of travertine in the Necropolis is also notable for its depiction of a hydraulic cutting tool used in stonecutting. The likes of this stonecutting tool, dated to the 3rd century AD, was seen in cities like Ephesus (Efes) 300 years later, in the 6th century AD.
Hierapolis was famous for its textile products in and after Antiquity; the name of the city is frequently encountered in ancient sources and inscriptions for yarn making and dyeing. It is known that textile products were dyed for a cheaper price in the city, thanks to the red natural dye obtained from the “Madder Root”. Several craft guilds were founded in this field, and these guilds played important roles in social and economic life. Local products were sold in the shops on the main street (Frontinus Street) of Hierapolis. As well as textile production, some other branches of craft such as blacksmithing, bronze work and stonecutting were also developed in Hierapolis. Trades such as bakery, milling and horticulture also played a significant part in the economic life of the region. The grains, olives and grapes Droduced in the fertile wetlands of the city iad an important place among agricultural products. Olive oi production made a significant contribution to the economy. High quality olive oil was used in cooking, whereas the remaining olive oil was used in city lighting and in sports contests. There used to be a lake near the city, which does not exist today, and was discovered by means of satellite photos, where people could go fishing. It is known from the inscriptions that the city of Laodicea demanded high taxes from Hierapolis, and these conflicts were communicated to Rome. As a result of a complaint, Rome recognised Hierapolis as being in the right, and decided that Hierapolis would not pay any taxes.
Many social activities were organised in Hierapolis. Demonstrations, representations of poetry, and music and games were performed in several structures around the city. Buildings such as the Agora and theatres were the leading social venues. The public gathered in these venues during religious holidays, and for ceremonies held in honour of the gods and the members of the royal family. During the empire period, gladiatorial combats were also performed in the city. Arrangements were made in the city theatres to stage wild beast shows. Gladiators fought in combat with wild beasts brought from faraway countries. There were fan club members in the public, as ardent followers of these combats. Many reliefs depicting the shows and games were unearthed in the excavations. The reliefs of gladiators found in the Agora and the Necropolis are preserved in the museum.
The stagnation in the city during the 4th century AD was reflected in the living spaces. In the second half of the same century, large parts of the city were abandoned after the collapse of many buildings during the earthquake. The Agora was also among the abandoned buildings. The city was reinforced in the 4th and 5th centuries AD with new walls, which were constructed by using the materials collected from the old buildings of the city. During this period, two gates were built to the north and south of the city, and 24 towers were built on the city walls. Many monumental buildings lost their older features and functions as a result of changes made to the urban plan during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The abandoned Agora became a stoneware production centre, and several shops and houses were built on the monumental main street (Frontinus Street). Also, the theatre building lost its main function, and some parts of the theatre were converted into houses. Following this change and the destruction of the classical city, many churches were built and a recovery was witnessed thanks to the support of Constantinople, the capital city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Hierapolis became the suffragan bishoprics of Laodicea during the reign of Justinian in 535 AD, and the recovery in the city continued as it was declared the metropolis (capital city) of Phrygia Pacatiana Secunda in the same period.
By contrast, in Laodicea the decline and fall period began, followed by the abandonment of the city. Hierapolis, becoming an important centre of Christianity in this period, was notable for its religious buildings including the Bath-Basilica, Cathedral, Colonnaded Basilica and Martyrion of St Philip. A basilica including a funerary chapel dated to the Roman Period was uncovered in the south of the Martyrion during excavations made in recent years.
Another destructive earthquake devastated the city in the 1st half of the 7th century AD. The theatre, churches, and the Nymphaeum of Tritons were severely damaged, as well as the city walls. The city of Hierapolis, showered with praise in an inscription engraved on the diazoma of its theatre as “Sacred, golden city, Hierapolis! The foremost land of broad Asia; revered for the rills of the nymphs; adorned with splendour…’’ (Translated: T. Ritti), never recovered from the destruction. During the period until the 13th century AD, the older urban plan fell into disuse, and new irregular houses and small churches were built on the streets using materials collected from the old buildings in the destroyed city. The city could no longer withstand attacks coming after this destruction. The Seljuks, who defeated the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) armies in the Battle of Manzikert (Malazgirt) in 1071, rapidly spread across Anatolia. Hierapolis was abandoned after falling to the Seljuk Turks in the 1st half of the 13th century. Daily life then shifted to the Lykos plain after this date. The Seljuks built the Çardak Han Caravanserai along the trade routes in 1230, and the Akhan Caravanserai 15 km south of Hierapolis in 1253. It is stated in the church records of Hierapolis that the episcopacy was transferred to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Metropolis Episcopacy of Philadelphia (Alaşehir) in 1385.
Denizli and the surrounding area were under the control of the İnançoğulları Emirate in the early 13th century. The Germiyan Emirate, ruling around Malatya on the bank of the River Euphrates (Fırat), started to take control of the region in the early 14th century. Denizli and the surrounding area, ruled by the Germiyan Emirate until the early 15th century, fell under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire in 1428. The re-discovery of Hierapolis, which was forgotten after being abandoned, occurred in the 17th century. Between 1678 and 1699, J. Spoon, G. Wheeler and T. Smith mentioned the necropolis area of the city and the travertines. In 1755, Raymond Chandler visited Hierapolis for research. Carl Humann,
C. Cichorius, W. Judeich and F. Winter prepared the first scientific publication, “Die Altertümer von Hierapolis’’, giving detailed information about the city, after their trip in 1898. The research and analyses were started again in 1957 by Paolo Verzeone, who taught engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin (Politecnico di Torino). The Italian Archaeological Mission has continued to conduct research, excavations and restoration works from that date until today. The present day excavations in Hierapolis I Pamukkale, which was inducted into the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1988, are conducted with the cooperation of the Italian universities team included by the Italian Archaeological Mission, and the science team of the Republic of Turkey Pamukkale University.