Laodicea : The first tulip pattern was drawn there
The first cockfight in history took place here and the first tulip pattern was drawn there. It was the first city in the ancient world to export textile products, the first to use a system of prebooking for events at the city stadium. An important trade and textile hub of the Seleucid (Syrian) Empire, the ancient city of Laodicea, surfaces to the daylight and continues to amaze us with its impressive wealth.
The sun goes down, wrapped in a pinkorange veil, behind the columns newly awakened from their 2 thousand 300 years old sleep under the earth. A tiring but also rewarding day is ending for Prof. Dr. Celal Şimşek, the head of the excavation group and the members of his team. Pamukkale University professors, young archaeologists and workers are exchanging notes on the work achieved during the day, while sipping tea at the garden where the excavation team meets to rest. An expression of welldeserved pride and happiness appears on the faces of each one of them.
And rightfully so! This team has been working for years to extract from under several meters of earth, one of the most glorious ancient cities established on Anatolian soil, digging up inch by inch, progressing millimeter by millimeter and bringing to the daylight huge columns, tombs, agoras, streets, etc.
Subject matter is the ancient city of Laodicea situated near Pamukkale (Hierapolis) within the borders of the Denizli province. The excavations carried out since 2003 showed that this was one of the largest metropolitan cities of its time in Anatolia, thought to have been the greatest financial and commercial centre of Western Anatolia. Woven products made of the wool of a specific Laodicea grown raven coloured sheep type, occupied an important place in the textile manufacturing industry of their time.
Textile products produced in Laodicea
This traditional background is probably at the origin of Denizli’s growing into a major textile centre currently in modern Turkey. Textile products produced in Laodicea were taken to the port of Ephesus and shipped from there to Samos, Athens and even Italy. The best textile products of their time were woven in the region of the Lycos (Çürüksu) river valley where Laodicea is located and exported to the entire ancient world.
Excavations in Laodicea were initiated in 1961-1963, by researchers from the University of Laval in Quebec Canada, resulting in the discovery of an impressive fountain structure preserved in intact form.
Pamukkale University continues today the excavation work with great diligence and care. Laodicea with its large and small theatres,
its stadium, parliament building, agora, baths, basilica, its sewage systems, water distribution point, aqueducts, its monumental fountain and other structures is considered as one of the major residential areas of the Roman Period.
Laodicea was founded by Antiochus II Theos
King of Syria, in 261-253 BC, in honour of his wife Queen Laodice. The settlement area of the ancient city was earlier the location of a village originally called Diospolis, “City of Zeus”, and afterwards Rhoas. The name ‘City of Zeus’ indicates the presence here of a very old and deepseated holy place. In addition, the statue of a Priestess of Isis found in the ancient city is an indication of the presence of an Isis temple. Isis, a goddess of Egyptian origin, symbolizes the soil, the revival of nature, the seas and the undersoil. The likely presence of a temple of Isis in Laodicea can be explained with the Syrian origin of the founders of the ancient city.
Laodicea is a city which was greatly damaged as a result of earthquakes and wars. For example, it was almost completely destroyed during the ‘King of Pontus Mithridates Wars in 88-85 BC. However, thanks to its rich resources and the diligence of its people, the city used to quickly succeed in recovery. It reached the highest level of prosperity in the Roman and early Christian and late Byzantine period. Meanwhile, due to the therapeutic properties of the thermal water stemming from Hierapolis in its close vicinity, Laodicea also gained importance as a treatment centre.
Their legal system was also developed
At the beginning of 50 BC, the Governor of Cilicia, great Roman statesman Cicero worked here on the judiciary system for 10 weeks and provided for the preparation of the laws. The spread of Christianity was not spontaneous and easy in Laodicea, because of the fact that the population of the city was wealthy and had a distant approach to religion. However Laodicea was an important place also for Christianity, one of the seven oldest churches in Anatolia, the ‘Goncalı’ Church being located here.
Moreover, because St. Mary stayed here for a while to receive treatment on her way to Ephesus, the city became a holy place and pilgrimage centre for Christians. Now this city, including its two big and smalltheatres, temples, assembly hall, stadium, gymnasium and its church, was uncovered. The columns surrounding the city centre were reraised. A ceiling was built from glass plates, 50 kg carryresistant each, to allow the visitors to look down on Laodicea by walking on this glass ceiling and, to examine all this from a bird’s eye view.
Laodicea is one of the most splendid cities established on Anatolian soil. According to Prof. Dr. Celal Şimşek, the ancient city will reach a visitors’ number of 2 million by the year 2015 and will eventually be bestowed onto the future as a world heritage site. No doubt about it.
In this place, sports were important. A great variety of articles belonging to the athletes were found in excavations, such as training and cleaning supplies, makeup materials, jewellery and medals.
Also the medical science was quite advanced in Laodicea. There was even a medical school. Evidence has been found that successful brain surgery was performed in the ancient city two thousand years ago, actually healing patients.
Laodicea population’s nutrition was consisting mainly of dry foods. This is to deduct from the teeth corrosion observed on a great number of the skeletons found in the excavations.
The North Theatre presents a significant detail: unlike in other theatres of the same period, there are steps; hence seats, which were permanently reserved for the members of the city’s leading families as well as for members of trade guilds and manufacturing associations.
A two thousand year old cockfighting relief was found on one of the buildings. This relief from the Roman period is the oldest cockfighting relief found to date. This shows that cockfighting is a tradition that goes way back in history and that cock fights were quite common during the Roman period.