From Laodicea sul Lycus to Denizli, from Greek to Turkish Anatolia

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The evolution of the ancient Laodicea on Lycus is fundamental to understand the history of Anatolia, a territory full of history, too often forgotten

The words of Ibn Battuta

Denizli
Pamukkale, near Denizli

“Magnificent and imposing with its seven Friday mosques, Laodicea possesses beautiful gardens, unquenchable waters, gushing fountains and beautiful markets. As for the artisans, almost all Byzantine women, they produce an exceptional gold brocade cotton fabric, called by the name of the city, which lasts a long time thanks to the quality and strength of the yarn. “

Ibn Battuta

Origins

The territory around the city was inhabited since 6000 BC. where a first settlement arose initially called Diospolis “The city of Zeus” and then Rhoas. It will only be in 253 BC. that the Seleucid king Antiochus II will actually found Laodicea on the Lycus, thus renaming that place as his consort. Initially it remained a small town of secondary importance but, with the cession of the Kingdom of Pergamum to the Romans and the subsequent political stabilization of Anatolia, it was able to take advantage of its position more than ever. The latter allowed it to quickly become one of the centers of all Anatolian trade.

Laodicea

Thanks to their incredible mercantile vein, the inhabitants of Laodicea were able to face countless earthquakes without imperial help, managing to return each time richer and more educated than before. Thanks to his extraordinary well-being, he developed a deep taste for Greek science, literature, art and medicine, so much so that for a long time his schools became among the most prestigious of all. Under the Romans, it was also considered a free city and was therefore allowed to mint coins, a privilege reserved forvery few inhabited centers.

Laodicea and Christianity

Antiochus had 2000 Jews from Babylon brought here and this greatly influenced the settlement, especially with the arrival of Christianity. Initially, in fact, this faith was seen as a current of Judaism and it is no coincidence that the first Christian centers were also those where the Jews were concentrated, finding fertile ground in Laodicea. The city is particularly famous in early Christian sacred literature, so much so that it is cited several times in the “Letter to the Colossians” by Paul of Tarsus, in some Greek versions of the “First Letter to Timothy” by the same author and even in the Apocalypse of John.

Laodicea

The center then became the seat of some of the first bishoprics ever, later even becoming a metropolitan archdiocese. From a theological point of view, the city’s maximum milestone was reached between 363 and 364, when the Council of Laodicea took place. The problems, however, arose in the Middle Ages, a period in which it found itself to be a borderland between the Turkish and Byzantine forces. The town will in fact be at the center of conquests over and over again and this will soon push it to depopulate; to date, only ruins remain of Laodicea sul Lycus.

Denizli, the new Laodicea

The Seljuks then pushed the inhabitants of this city and of Hieropolis to go to a nearby city, known today as Denizili, which means “marine”, by virtue of the many waters that surround it. This settlement was actually founded by the Greeks with the name of Attouda but, even in Roman times, it had remained in the shadow of its more famous sisters.

Denizli

With the union of the two great centers, Denizli managed to grow rapidly in wealth and well-being, so much so as to impress both Ibn Battuta and Evliya Çelebi for their splendor and grandeur. Its position will also allow it not to suffer particularly any conflict, managing to give the inhabitants the peace they had lost.

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