Hierapolis was an ancient Greek city located on hot springs in classical Phrygia in southwestern Anatolia. Its ruins are adjacent to modern Pamukkale in Turkey and currently comprise an archaeological museum designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has the Tomb of Philip the Apostle.
The hot springs have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC, with many patrons retiring or dying there. The large necropolis is filled with sarcophagi, most famously that of Marcus Aurelius Ammianos, which bears a relief depicting the earliest known example of a crank and rod
The great baths were constructed with huge stone blocks without the use
of cement and consisted of various closed or open sections linked
together. There are deep niches in the inner section, including the bath, library, and gymnasium.
There are only a few historical facts known about the origin of the city. No traces of the presence of Hittites or Persians have been found. The Phrygians
built a temple, probably in the first half of the 7th century BC. This
temple, originally used by the citizens of the nearby town of Laodicea, would later form the centre of Hierapolis.
Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC within the sphere of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus the Great sent 2,000 Jewish families to Lydia and Phrygia from Babylon and Mesopotamia, later joined by more from Judea. The Jewish congregation grew in Hierapolis and has been estimated as high as 50,000 in 62 BC.
The city was expanded with the booty from the 190 BC Battle of Magnesia where Antiochus the Great was defeated by the Roman ally Eumenes II. Following the Treaty of Apamea ending the Syrian War, Eumenes annexed much of Asia Minor, including Hierapolis.
Hierapolis became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. The city began minting bronze coins in the 2nd century BC. These coins give the name Hieropolis. It remains unclear whether this name referred to the original temple (ἱερόν, hieron) or honoured Hiera, the wife of Telephus, son of Heracles and the Mysian princess Auge, the supposed founder of Pergamon's Attalid dynasty. This name eventually changed into Hierapolis ("holy city"), according to the Byzantine geographer Stephanus on account of its large number of temples.
In 133 BC, when Attalus III died, he bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. Hierapolis thus became part of the Roman province of Asia. In AD 17, during the rule of the emperor Tiberius, a major earthquake destroyed the city.
Through the influence of the Christian apostle Paul, a church was founded here while he was at Ephesus. The Christian apostle Philip spent the last years of his life here. The town's Martyrium was alleged to have been built upon the spot where Philip was crucified in AD 80. His daughters were also said to have acted as prophetesses in the region.
In the year 60, during the rule of Nero, an even more severe earthquake left the city completely in ruins. Afterwards, the city was rebuilt in the Roman style with imperial financial support. It was during this period that the city attained its present form. The theatre was built in 129 for a visit by the emperor Hadrian. It was renovated under Septimius Severus (193–211). When Caracalla visited the town in 215, he bestowed the much-coveted title of neocoros upon it, according the city certain privileges and the right of sanctuary. This was the golden age of Hierapolis. Thousands of people came to benefit from the medicinal properties of the hot springs. New building projects were started: two Roman baths, a gymnasium, several temples, a main street with a colonnade, and a fountain at the hot spring. Hierapolis became one of the most prominent cities in the Roman Empire in the fields of the arts, philosophy, and trade. The town grew to 100,000 inhabitants and became wealthy. During his campaign against the Sassanid Shapur II in 370, the emperor Valens made the last-ever imperial visit to the city.
During the 4th century, the Christians filled Pluto's Gate (a ploutonion) with stones, suggesting that Christianity had become the dominant religion and begun displacing other faiths in the area. Originally a see of Phrygia Pacatiana, the Byzantine emperor Justinian raised the bishop of Hierapolis to the rank of metropolitan in 531. The Roman baths were transformed to a Christian basilica. During the Byzantine period, the city continued to flourish and also remained an important centre for Christianity.