Laodicea and Lycum
Laodicea ad Lycum is an ancient city located in Denizli. It was founded in the 3rd century B.C. by Antiochus II, the king of the Seleucid Empire in honor of his wife, Laodice. Being one of the seven cities of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation and housing a large population of Jews since the reign of Antiochus III, it has a huge significance in the history of religions.
There has been a large excavation work in the area conducted by Pamukkale University in Denizli since 2002 and in 2013 it was inscribed in the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites in Turkey.
It is known that before the foundation of this city, there was another city known as Diospolis earlier, later as Rhodas. As the king Antiochus II founded this city on the site of the older town and named it after his own wife, Laodice, along with many other cities, it was called Laodicea ad Lycum to distinguish it from the others. Lycus is the ancient name of a nearby river which is called Çürüksu today.
The city was also an important center for the Jews of Asia Minor as 2,000 Jewish families were brought from Babylonia by the king Antiochus III the Great in the 3rd century B.C. This is proved by the notes of Cicero, a Roman scholar of the 1st century B.C., who states that 20 talents of Jewish gold destined for the Temple of Jerusalem were confiscated by a consul named L.V. Flaccus in Laodicea in 61-60 B.C. Also, the city was a huge center of the trade of the black wool, and as the Jews held an important role in trade, it is known that they were given some privileges.
The tangible evidence of the Jewish community in the city is the menorah graffiti with a cross on top on the lower colonnade in the two-storeyed ‘Nymphaeum A’ on the north side of the Syrian Road, which was the main avenue of the city. An inscription on the architrave suggests that the nymphaeum was dedicated to the emperor Septimius Severus and it is known that it was repaired during the reign of Diocletian and was destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 5th century A.D.
On the column there is a menorah in the part below, above is a deeply incised globe and a cross, finally a palm frond and an angular horn on both sides. It is known that the menorah was incised first and it was followed respectively by the palm frond, the horn and the cross with a globe below. On top of each tip of the menorah are a circle and three lines which are suggested to be rays of light. This particular style of menorah, the palm frond and the horn can also be seen in the necropolis of the nearby Hierapolis.
- What does Laodicea mean?
Laodicea was founded by the king Antiochus II in the name of his own wife, Laodice.
- How did the Jews start to live in Laodicea?
As stated by Cicero, the King Antiochus III brought them from Babylonia in the 3rd century BC.
- How is Laodicea significant in Christianity?
It is mentioned as one of the seven churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation in the Bible.