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Wednesday, August 14: Day 114 – Water and Laodicea

Heiropolis means holy city. Outside the entrance to the city is the large cemetery called Necropolis or City of the Dead. It was common to have the dead greet someone entering the city. Over 2,000 graves are here which is the largest in the ancient world.

Heiropolis is high on a mountain. There are mineral hot springs of which Cleopatra frequented. Today people still do.

This was a place for retirement. People would live out their last days here. People who had attained great wealth. There were health spas and even an eye specialty treatment center here.

There were individual sarcophaguses elaborately decorated. Family tombs existed with a sarcophagus on top for the head of the family. Inside the tomb were slabs to place the dead. Then a stone was rolled over the entrance. (That sure sounds familiar.)

A tumulus was another type of burial place. It is round with earth on top. This was made to blend in with the mountains so that treasure buried within was safe from view.

In Greek times, a coin was placed in the mouth of the dead for him to pay the toll to cross the river Styx. In case you couldn’t find the boatman, the lid to the sarcophagus was shaped like an inverted boat and you could try to cross on your own.

Also, when you died, any tears that were shed were collected in tear jars and put in the tomb with you.

The more tears collected, the more loved. In fact, some women were professional cryers that could be paid to come to the funeral and cry.

Poems were read and songs were sung about the deceased. Gladiator fights took place in cemetery to honor dead. It was an honor to shed blood and die. These were his slaves.

Gladiators were buried here as well. If a gladiator had won many battles, he was often made a teacher at a gladiator school. Gladiator winners get a pine branch and their school gets money. The gladiator school takes are of them.

We saw the grave of the gladiator teacher who was described on the fintel.

Always treasure was buried with the dead. Most all had been looted by the Byzantian era. However, about 20 years ago, a man found treasure buried UNDER the tomb.

The person who opened the sarcophagus would die. They called it a curse but the fumes of the decomposing body were found to be poisonous.

The Roman baths here did not need to be heated in this region. There are natural hot springs.

There was a lake between Heiropolis and Laodicea. Today it is dried up and is fertile farmland. They have found many letters written about fishing rights.

We learn a lot from the inscriptions of the tombs. There is a name, job, and important milestones … or what he should be remembered for.

One olive oil merchant in Asia Minor made 62 boat trips from Ephesus to Rome.

Philip the Apostle died in Heiropolis. His burial tomb is outside the city. It is a pilgrimage for Christians.

An octagonal church was built near Philip’s burial place which contained over 28 rooms. The placard said that it was a place of incubation. As a microbiologist, I was intrigued. Further investigation revealed that this is a religious practice where one sleeps with the remains of a saint expecting either healing or visions. Like a hospital?

This was built on the Temple of Aslepdius. The Greeks did not have a god for healing so they made Aslepdius a pagan saint. The first healing center was started by Asclepius in Epidaurus.

When you had an ailment, you brought an image of it to the temple: nose, ear, etc.

Prior to entering, you had a check-up. If you were determined to have a fatal illness or were pregnant, you were not allowed to enter. (It would be bad for business if you could not be healed. Many women died in childbirth.)

The admitting doctor knew all about your condition. After a sacrifice, blood was put on the forehead in such a way that it would alert the next doctor.

The physicians used herbs and also realized that half of all illnesses are psychological. They would send the patients to the theatre, a type of music therapy.

Today the city is called Pamukkale which means Cotton Castle.

We hiked barefoot down through a series of small, connected lakes in Pamukkale. In some spots it was painful to walk on the sharp rocks. Other areas were smooth and white. Since this is the Eid holiday time, so many people were here.

They would give the patients hallucinating herbs and while in this sleep-like state, they would whisper something and upon waking, they would tell you your vision. Often, they would tell many people the same story so that they would “share”the same vision and feel visited by the gods.

Gladiator injuries were an opportunity to study the human body.

A man came here shaking and in great pain from a poisonous snake bite. There were snakes everywhere in the temples. Snakes love milk so they would set bowls out for them to drink from. The resulting milk would have poison in it. This would be what people would drink to commit suicide.

However, when this man drank this milk to commit suicide because he was in so much pain, two days later he was healed and started to walk again. They claimed that the gods had healed him. This is considered the first type of antivenom.

The doctors’ methods were all intertwined with the gods so that when they no longer believe in the gods and choose to follow Christ, it leaves a void. What are they to do when they get sick? Maybe this is why medical missionaries are so important.

I love this picture. On the right is the path of many visitors to the showpiece, the theatre. To the left, we follow Ertunga who shows even greater and little known treasures.

We eventually see the theatre with its magnificent view. The orchestra pit was sometimes filled with water for aquatic performances.

There is a relief of Dionysus. This is the only god who dies and is born again. Zeus never dies.


Laodicea is just across from Heiropolis. It was one day travel from Ephesus. On the map, the seven churches form a triangle.

Laodicea was founded in the 2nd century BC, built by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodice.
This city had the largest agora (market) in the ancient world and was a crossroads for travelers. Caravans of inland traders headed for the coast would stop here overnight.

Laodicea was very rich. In 68 AD, there was a big earthquake with lots of destruction. The Emperor wrote letters to all of the affected cities to see how much money was needed for repairs. Laodicea replied that they did not need any money.

They were active traders known for quality goods. One of their specialties was the wool of black sheep. There was a volcano nearby that produced warm mud packs. And people would come here for eye ailments.

Letter to Laodicea from the Bible with Commentary

14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen,…

So be it

…the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Of course this is another reference to Jesus, faithful and true and residing over creation.

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Many merchants were passing through and the Christians were not witnessing by word or deed the fact that they were Christians. Pagans came and were wanting to trade. Christian traders were acting like a pagan … to get the business.

16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Literally the word is vomit. Lukewarm water has no taste and serves no purpose. It is neither cool and refreshing nor hot and relaxing.

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Laodiceans refused help from the Emperor. They didn’t need the help of the Emperor. These people had everything that they needed. They were materially rich, but spiritually poor and sick.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Real richness can’t be bought. True wealth comes from God. Fire is used to purify gold. The impurities are burned away.

God’s pure white covering is the finest clothing.

God’s salve is the only remedy to really see, not the local eye clinic.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

Only children are disciplined. One loves their children and only wants the best for them. Think about these things and your life and turn around and go the other way.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

This is the most famous verse from the seven letters written to the churches. Jesus is wanting to come to those who invite him.

Even today, dining together fosters closeness. Jesus is always knocking. Our job is to hear. We are together like the last supper. God is in the house and here is space for me.

What does God want from us? Praying, fasting, studying? He wants to be WITH us. We are not alone. Open door is an invitation for fellowship for GOD.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

This is the assurance that we will be with Him in heaven. His victory was obedience until death. Our victory will be obedience until death.

22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Turkey is doing the archeological excavations. There is a university nearby.

The church building here is the first church building in Asia Minor. There may be others but this one is the earliest found to date. There is a home church nearby in which the early believers met.

After Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion in 313 in the Edict of Milan, it was now illegal to persecute Christians. (Constantine actually became a Christian himself on his deathbed.)

There was a need to set up guidelines of Christian matters. The first one was The Nicean Council which met in 325.

The Council of Laodicea met here some time between 341 and 381 to clarify issues on interpretations, rights, and church regulations. They had some weird guidelines. Number 1 of 60 said the priest could have multiple wives. Polygamists cite this source. Number 60 of 60 listed the books accepted in the Biblical cannon. The Revelation was not included. Hmmm. Maybe because it was not very complimentary of Laodicea.


Colossae was very near Heiropolis and Laodicea (They formed a tri-city.) but today there is just a big mound. It was destroyed by an earthquake.

Ertunga says that there is certainly an ancient city here but no one has excavated it. There was a group of American Christians who wanted to excavate but were not given permission.

Sidenote: There are so many earthquakes in Turkey. Now when I read the story of Paul and Silas in jail when an earthquake happened, I will think of Turkey and all of the ruins that we have seen. Acts 16:16-40

Colossae is important to the book of Philemon and Colossians, both written by Paul.

Onesimus was a slave of Philemon. Paul likely met him while in prison. Paul wrote to Philemon and asked him to not treat Onesimus as a slave who should be killed for running away. Instead, treat him as if he were me.

Bulant runs a store on the outskirts of the Laodicean ruins. The ice cream looked good on the way in but was a must buy on the way out after a hot day of walking. I also bought a set of seven bookmarks woven locally by women who make carpets. It is a special souvenir as we wrap up our tour of the seven churches.

All three of these churches are near the modern town of Denzili that is famous for a special breed of rooster. When these roosters crow, they continue until they are out of breath and will then sometimes faint. Here is a video.

Since we talked a lot about water today, it was only fitting that the hot, dry day would end with the blessing of a refreshing rain and a hotel on the oceanfront.

Fethiye is a charming seaside town. There are a lot of British tourists and many have property here. This city is at the place that the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea meet. Ertunga always comes to check our room because if he has paid for a view, there better be one.

There was a scale in the room. I had not seen one of those in a long time. Rob had lost 5 pounds and I am holding steady despite much walking.

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