Western Anatolia (Interior)Nearest town: DenizliSituation and LandscapeThe ancient site of Hierapolis, now known as Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) after the famous calcareous terraces, offers a superb view over the valley of the Büyük Menderes and the Aksu. It lies on the borders of Caria, Lydia and Phrygia some 20km/12mi north of Denizli on a plateau of chalky deposits nearly 3km/2mi long, up to 300m/330yds wide and about 160m/525ft above the Lykos valley. Gleaming white limestone deposits, flanked by oleanders as they cascade down the steep hillside like a petrified waterfall, the inviting warm water baths and the remains of the ancient city of Hierapolis combine to create one of Turkey's most fascinating sights. The first archeological investigation was carried out in 1887 under the leadership of Carl Humann. Further excavations were undertaken by an Italian team from 1957 onwards.
The calcareous deposits (travertine) come from a number of warm water springs (34-35°C/93-95°F) which contain large quantities of dissolved calcium bicarbonate. When the water reaches the surface, the calcium bicarbonate breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and calcium carbonate. The latter is deposited in the form of a hard grayish-white layer. These deposits gradually fill up, sometimes even raise the water channel, so that the water flow disperses in all directions and the deposits produce a series of fan-like formations with small dips and terraces. In the same way that stalactites form in limestone caves, the deposits grow on the steep slopes eventually taking on the appearance of cotton wool. Çalcareous deposits can be found wherever water emerges from karst rock, e.g. Lake Plitwitz in Croatia and near Antalya in Turkey. The thermal spring water, which in addition to chalk and carbon dioxide, contains sulfuric acid, sodium chloride, iron and magnesium, has long been valued for its healing powers and thus revered as a shrine.
Hot Spring Pool
The main outlet for the spring water today is near the Pamukkale Motel (no group tours) and a number of antique columns are submerged in the bathing pool where water at a temperature of 38°C/100°F circulates. The spring with a flow of 200-250liter/44-55gallons per second has covered the whole of the lower town with a chalky coating and numerous earthquakes have caused this layer to crack and split open.
A town was founded here by King Eumenes II of Pergamon soon after 190 B.C. Intended as a rival to Laodikeia, the new settlement was a fortified military colony. It may have been named after Hiera ("Hierapolis", city of Hiera), wife of Telephos, the mythical ancestor of the Pergamenes. The first town was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60 and now only the scanty ruins of a theater are visible. A new town was built on a site to the south. The city enjoyed its greatest prosperity around the second and third century but most of the ruins date from later. The existence of a large Jewish community in Hierapolis led to the early arrival of Christianity (Colossians 4:13). In A.D. 80 the Apostle Philip was martyred here and later a church, perhaps the basilica outside the north gate, was dedicated to him. Hierapolis became the see of a bishop and a metropolitan but its main function was as a spa. With the coming of the Seljuks (1094) it gradually decayed and was abandoned. A severe earthquake in 1354 also affected Laodikeia.ImportanceLike Laodikeia, Hierapolis owed its prosperity to various branches of the wool industry including shearers, spinners, weavers, dyers and dealers. Their products were exported as far afield as Italy. The city was also a much-frequented spa where dazzling festivals and games were held to entertain visitors.
Temple of Apollo (Plutonium)
The Plutonium, a cave beneath the Temple of Apollo, was a source of poisonous gas, probably carbon dioxide. The temple with a 20x15m/65x50ft podium and a flight of stairs to a pillared porch was built in the third century from plundered materials. An annex concealed the entrance to the underworld, the Plutonium. The priests of Cybele, who were venerated here long before Apollo, the city's principal god, were in charge of the cave and it was their practice to bring in birds and sometimes even bigger animals who were killed by the rising gas. The priests were unharmed, their heads being above the level of the gas. The cave is no longer in existence and the temple has collapsed.
The road which winds its way up from the plain to the plateau affords superb views of the terraces of calcareous deposits. Nearby are the remains of an 11th/12th century castle, whose name Pamukkale meaning Cotton Castle was extended to refer to the whole terrace and the site of ancient Hierapolis. There are fine views of the limestone terraces cascading down the steep slope.
The ruins of the Great Baths in Hierapolis, now a museum, stand further east and their marble-faced walls and vaultings are reminiscent of the great buildings of Rome. A large colonnaded courtyard used for exercises and games extends beyond the baths.
The remains of a colonnaded street in Hierapolis run parallel to the limestone terraces for a distance of about 1,200m/1,300yds. The street extends from the north gate past a Byzantine church and the barely recognizable site of the agora as far as the south gate. 13.5m/45ft wide, it was lined on both sides by 6m/20ft deep covered walks for shops to open off the street. The street extended outside the north and south gates for a distance of 160m/175yds in each direction as far as the round towers. The gates themselves which were only 3m/10ft wide and equipped with niches for statues were similar in form to the Roman gate in the northwest.
Necropolis (Town walls)
Beyond both the north and south gates of Hierapolis lie necropoles. The northern cemetery ranks as one of the largest and best-preserved examples in Anatolia with 1,200 tombs including Hellenistic tumuli, Roman sarcophagi, burial chambers, temples to the dead and complete burial grounds from Early Christian times. Over 300 inscriptions describe the cemetery's development and the origins of the dead.About 150m/165yds east of the theater substantial remains of the old town walls can be seen and behind them lie more burial grounds. Outside the walls stands a Roman cistern which supplied the town with drinking water via two aqueducts.
Martyrium of St Philip
On a sloping expanse of land 500m/550yds northeast of the theater in Hierapolis stands the octagonal martyrium of the Apostle Philip. It was built on the spot where the saint and his children were martyred. The 60x63m/65x69yd church dates from the fifth century and lies at the meeting point of several lines of guest rooms.
On a slope some 300m/330yds east of the spring in Hierapolis a little higher than the Temple of Apollo stands the theater. This well-preserved building has a facade over 100m/130yds long. The auditorium, entered by two broad vaulted passages, contained an Imperial box, two tiers of seating each with 26 rows separated halfway up by a gangway and was divided into sections by eight stairways. An Dionysos relief has been returned to its original position between the doors. The orchestra and two-story stage building which had five doors was a mass of rubble consisting of fragments and reliefs but it is undergoing restoration. The theater was built in the reign of Septimius Severus ca. 200 B.C.