HISTORY OF LAODIKEIA

Laodikeia is a west Phrygian city located 6 km north of Denizli, within the borders of Eskihisar, Goncalı, Bozburun and Korucuk neighbourhoods (former villages) in the middle of the Lycus Plain. The city rises on a high platform surrounded with Lycus (Çürüksu) on the northeast, Kadmos (Gökpınar) on the southeast and Asopos (Gümüşçay, or Goncalı) Rivers on the southwest – west sides. The earliest data indicating a settlement go back to the Early Chalcolithic period (ca. 5500 BC) and were obtained at the Kandilkırı settlement to the west. Finds from Asopos Hill belong to the Late Chalcolithic (3500s BC), Early Bronze Age (3000-2500 BC) and the Classical period (fourth century BC onward). The Hellenistic Laodikeia was founded by the Seleucid King Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodike about the middle of the third century BC. Pliny writes that there was a village called Diospolis first, then Rhoas at the place of the city and the Hellenistic city was founded by Antiochus II (r. 261-247 BC). The first name means “the city of Zeus” and indicates the presence of an ancient and deep-rooted sanctuary here. Rhoas, on the other hand, is an ancient Anatolian name. The Lykos Valley was left to the Pergamene Kingdom following the Peace of Apamea in 188 BC signed following the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. Then, in 133 BC the region was bequeathed to the Romans with the last will of the last Pergamene King Attalus III.

During the Roman Imperial period Laodikeia paid her taxes regularly and was awarded the title of temple-keeper (
neokoros) by Commodus (r. 180-192) and Caracalla (r. 211-217), hence becoming tax-exempt. The title was retained during the reign of Alexander Severus (r. 222-235). Recent inscriptions uncovered in the course of excavations have shown that it was Hadrian (r. 117-138) who bestowed the title of neokoros for the first time upon Laodikeia.

Having advanced greatly in sports, arts, culture and commerce during the Roman Imperial period Laodikeia was the home of the sceptic philosophers Antiochus and Theiodus. Medical training was very important and there was a Herophilean medicine school established by Zeuxis at the time of Strabo.

The city of Laodikeia was razed to the ground by an earthquake in 494 and could not recover fully again. Another earthquake in the reign of Focas (r. 602-610) hit the city severely and the waterway from Başpınar spring was damaged. The city suffered security issues especially during the Sassanid and Arab raids and the site was abandoned for various locations at the foot of Babadağ (Mt Salbakos) easier to defend and to procure water. Laodikeia mentioned by the sources starting in the seventh century is actually the Kaleiçi of Denizli today. The region was conquered by Turks in the early thirteenth century (about 1206) and the name became Ladik.

The brightest period of Laodikeia was from the first to the third century and the second bright period was from the fourth to the sixth century AD. One of the Seven Churches of Anatolia the city became the seat of a metropolitan in the Early Byzantine period.

The foremost source of income was the commerce for the city was located at the crossroads. The leading source was the textile trade followed by marble, cereals, and livestock.

The city was laid on a grid (Hippodamic) plan of parallel streets intersecting at right angles. The site covers approximately an area of 5 sq. km. encompassing many monuments such as the biggest stadium of Anatolia, two theatres, four baths, five agoras, five fountains, two city gates, bouleuterion, temples, churches and monumental streets. The city is surrounded with necropoleis all around.

evastating Earthquakes in Laodikeia’s History

* Earthquake in 27 BC during the reign of Augustus (r. 27 BC – AD 14)

* Earthquake in AD 47 during the reign of Claudius (r. 41-54)

* Earthquake in AD 60 during the reign of Nero (r. 54-68) razed the city to the ground

* Earthquake during the reign of Antoninus Pius (r. 138-161)

* Earthquake in the third century

* Earthquake during the reign of Diocletian (r. 284-305)

* Earthquake in AD 494 razed the city to the ground

* Earthquake during the reign of Valens

* Earthquake during the reign of Focas (r. 602-10) caused the abandonment of the city and transfer to Kaleiçi and Hisarköy areas of Denizli.

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