Exploring Laodikeia: A Visitor's Guide
About five kilometers north of Denizli and eight kilometers from Pamukkale, Laodikeia often gets missed by tourists rushing from the coast to Pamukkale to see the world-famous white terraces on a day trip. If you have a bit more time up your sleeve, though, a visit to this nearby sprawling ancient city, which Cicero once called home, is well worth spending the night in Pamukkale for. The fact that it is far less well known than Ephesus or Pamukkale's Hierapolis, means that this is one attraction that you won't have to share with the crowds, which makes for a very tranquil sightseeing experience.
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 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 built 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. Further north is a smaller and better preserved theater. The acropolis at the northern tip is relatively small.