Exploring Laodikeia: A Visitor's Guide

Written by Jess Lee
May 6, 2019

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The amazing ruins of Laodikeia
The amazing ruins of Laodikeia

The sprawling ruins of this city are where Cicero once called home. Laodikeia often gets missed by tourists on the rush from the coast to Pamukkale to view the world-famous white terraces, but the remnants of this once grand Roman city, about five kilometers north of Denizli and eight kilometers from Pamukkale, are well worth spending the night in Pamukkale for.

One of the major bonuses of rambling through the ruins here is the lack of crowds. Unlike Ephesus or Pamukkale's Hierapolis, Laodikeia is much less known, so a visit here makes for a very tranquil sightseeing experience.

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Referred to as Eskihisar (Old Castle) by locals, the ruined site of ancient Laodikeia (or Laodicea) was built on the site of an earlier settlement known originally as Diospolis and later as Rhoas. Laodikeia was founded by Antiochos II of Syria (261-246 BC), who named it after his wife, Laodice. Part of the kingdom of Pergamum after the Treaty of Apameia in 188 BC, the city subsequently passed into Roman hands. Its commercial activities and especially its wool and textile industries made it one of the wealthiest cities in Asia Minor, and after a devastating earthquake in AD 60, the wealthy citizens were able to rebuild the city out of their own resources.

Laodikeia was home to one of the Roman Empire's oldest Christian communities and ranked among the Seven Churches of Asia (as stated in Revelations 1:11; 3:14; Colossians 4:13ff). After its conquest by the Seljuks in the late 11th century, the city fell into decay, and in the 13th century, the remaining inhabitants abandoned the site and moved to Ladik (modern-day Denizli).

The Site

Sunset at Laodikeia
Sunset at Laodikeia

The scanty remains of Laodikeia are scattered over an undulating plateau (one square kilometer), which is dissected by the road from Eskihisar to Goncali. Three gates allowed entry through the walls, and the ruins of an ancient bridge are visible below the northwest gate. This gate to Ephesus, triple arched and flanked by towers, was devoted to the Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96).

On the southwest side of the site are a number of buildings constructed under the Emperor Vespasian (AD 69-79) including a stadium (350 x 60 meters) and a large building known as the Palati, which was either a gymnasium or a bathhouse. An aqueduct bringing water from the spring of Baspinar (beside the old administrative offices in Denizli) ended in a five-meter-high water tower, where water was distributed to the various parts of the city. A short distance beyond the city walls is the necropolis.

To the northeast, an odeon stands on a hillside terrace. In the middle of the hill to the left lie the remains of a Roman nymphaeum, which was excavated in 1962/63 by French archaeologists. A square water pool, with a semi-circular fountain and a number of chambers, is flanked on two sides by pillars. The complex was later used as a chapel.

Close by, the remains of a larger Ionic temple can be seen, and on the northeastern edge of the plateau lie the rubble of a large theater. Farther north is a smaller and better preserved theater. The acropolis at the northern tip is relatively small.

Ruins at Laodikeia
Ruins at Laodikeia

Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Laodikeia

  • Tours from Kusadasi : The Private Laodikeia and Aphrodisias Day Trip is a great option if you're based in Kusadasi and want to add a slice of history into your beach break. With a full day, you've got enough time to explore both of these classical cities. If you've already visited Ephesus on your holiday, this tour gives you more insight into this region's Greco-Roman period. You'll visit both of these ancient city sites with a specialist history guide and have lunch at a local restaurant. Entrance fees; lunch; and all transport, including pickup and drop-off from your hotel, are included.
  • Tours from Izmir: The Seven Churches of Asia Minor Small-Group Tour is an in-depth trip through the Classical and Byzantine sites of this region. Over five days, departing Izmir, you'll visit the spectacular remains of the historic Greco-Roman cities, which continued to thrive during the Byzantine era as important centers of Christianity.

    The itinerary covers visits to Izmir (Ancient Smyrna), the hilltop remains of Pergamum, Laodikeia and Hierapolis, Philadelphia, and Ephesus, with plenty of time to explore each site and a specialist guide focused on each site's Biblical relevance. All transport, accommodation, and site entrances are included, as well as all breakfasts and dinners.

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imageMore Classical Ruins: The most famous ruins in the area are Ephesus, renowned for its state of excellent preservation, which allows you to really get a feel for Roman life. The remnants of Hierapolis atop the summit of Pamukkale's white terraces are also wonderful to explore and are easily combined with a Laodikeia trip. Heading north, don't miss Pergamum, with its theater and acropolis perched on the hilltop overlooking the modern town of Bergama below. Back on the coast, Fethiye makes a good base for day trips to the cities of the Lycian League that thrived during the Roman era.

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