Laodicea, Colosse, Hierapolis

The Lycus River Valley in Asia Minor

by David Padfield

In western Turkey, about 100 miles east of Ephesus, in a valley where the Lycus River flows into the Maeander River, there once stood three important cities: Laodicea, Colosse and Hierapolis. Originally they had been Phrygian cities, but in the New Testament age they were part of the Roman Province of Asia.

Hierapolis and Laodicea stood six miles apart on opposite sides of a valley with the Lycus River flowing between them. Colosse was located a few miles up river, on the same side as Laodicea.

map of laodicea, turkey


The area around these cities was very wealthy. The land was fertile and the pastures produced great flocks of sheep. The area was a great center for the wool industry and the associated trade of the dyeing of woolen garments. The wealthy city of Laodicea was the financial headquarters for the whole area and the political center for the district. Thousands of people visited Hierapolis to bathe in the spas and drink the water due to the claims that the water had medicinal benefits. Even though Colosse was at one time as important as both Laodicea and Hierapolis, by the time Paul wrote to Colosse it was a small, fairly insignificant town.

When Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Colosse, he instructed the brethren to pass the letter along to the brethren at Laodicea, "and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16).

Into the area of Lydia and Phrygia Antiochus the Great had sent 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon and Mesopotamia. These Jews prospered more than the Gentiles who lived in the area. Eventually, Jews from Palestine moved into the region for "the wines and baths of Phrygia." It has been estimated that in the year 62 B.C. the Jewish population was as high as 50,000 (William Barclay, Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, p. 93).

"At the end of the 1st century Christianity under the Roman Empire in western Anatolia was an illegal sect. Its members acknowledged the sole sovereignty of God. This put them in conflict with the sovereign claims of the State and the cult of emperor worship. Christians were critical of the status quo and rejected the popular mores and customs. They were required by the state to conform to the laws, but they held that their religious standards superseded state law. Therefore the government considered them traitors and, when they persisted in their defiance, punished them with death." (Edmonds, Turkey's Religious Sites, p. 62).

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