OR, A WHITE MOUNTAIN OF CALCIFIED MINERALS
Well, finally this old bird got to swim in Cleopatra’s pool!
Going to Pamukkale from Tire requires a three-hour drive. I was drained and bone weary from the ghastly band and its thumping bass keeping me awake till two in the morning. The weather was shit and I was a reluctant passenger at the beginning. However once on the road, I was reinvigorated and regained my energy and adventure lust.
The countryside is spectacular. Valleys, mountains, lakes, rivers, deciduous woods, coniferous forests and the eternal olive groves are everywhere. I saw places of poverty as well as more affluent communities. The arrival vista at Hieropolis is, however, another thing even in the grey misty weather.
It stretches over a mountain top, glistening white like a huge, white snowy blanket of an ancient giant, thrown casually down landing atop a mountain full of bubbling hot thermal springs. It has a secret bonus, the ruins of the major Greek ‘Holy City’, Hierapolis.
Set in the Menderes Valley, this originally was a Phrygian cult centre of the Anatolian mother goddess of Cybele then later Hierapolis. Known as Pamukkale, or Cotton Castle, this site has replenished the spirit and body of many a weary traveller with its hot sulphurous springs.
Arriving at three there was an urgency to mount the side of the white mountain like the little ant people we saw from a distance before it got any darker. Upon arrival at the gate, they sell you a ticket and further on they demand you remove your shoes to walk to the top. Typical UNESCO idiots ruining the walk-up for many as it can be quite sharp in places underfoot. I have tough feet and prefer to walk unencumbered by shoes but these rules seem excessive on a path that many have trod for millennia. They also seem to be diverting the streams on a constant basis which I find disconcerting. Nature should be left just that, natural. I however found no problem and was fleet as a mountain goat ascending to escape the bloody tourists taking their eternal selfies, the vain egocentric beasts.
I went into the famous health-giving water with trepidation. It had been bigged up and I’m a little snooty about these things. I had been told that the water fizzes as it’s naturally carbonated. I couldn’t afford to buy a swimming costume so went in with my knickers and sports bra with a long-sleeved T-shirt as if I was demure.
The first section was really only lukewarm and well, flat, but once you swim over a couple of old columns and under a separating rope you get into the hot fizzy stuff. My top billowed up around me and I looked like a sumo jellyfish but by god, it was good to be the strange buoyant creature floating along.
The bubbles are fine and coat your skin with a furry fuzz. When you stroke them away it’s as if you are peeling off a layer of your skin. I borrowed a pair of goggles from a lovely chap to investigate what was beyond a strange metal grill that went all twenty feet or so down. There are just cavey bits and the pool stops. Not quite sure why except it seems to be where people chuck money in. Some coins look old but who knows.
Getting out after forty minutes or so proved to be more challenging. It had grown decidedly nippy and I appeared to have been in a bedraggled wet T-shirt contest. Struggling to retain my modesty by the lockers I dragged on my jumper and trousers over my still-damp skin. Teeth chattering I sat in a small pocket of sunshine until I warmed a little then proceeded to the ruins.
Looking up I saw a snake of people going up to an already crowded amphitheatre so gave it a miss.
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I didn’t go up to the amphitheatre having visited the Ephesus one already (and countless other ones) but chose the route to the main entrance gate to their main street that would have welcomed the traveller after them having cleansed themselves at the baths before going in. After that is the massive Necropolis. I didn’t have time as it’s two and a half kilometres of rambling mountainous tombs of all sorts. You need to get there earlier if you want a good old soak in the limpid waters of the baths and go around the whole gaffe. So here are the bits I saw with fewer tourists and more interesting. I TRIED TO TIDY UP THE LITERATURE ON THE SIGNS BUT SOME SECTIONS OF IT ARE STILL GARBLED!
So here we go from the signs (They go very random in places) :
HIERAPOLIS (GREEK: IEPAПOAIE ‘SACRED CITY’)
Under Justinian, in 535, Hierapolis which was originally in the region Phrygia Pacatiana secunda, when the province suffragan bishopric of Laodicea, was nominated metropolis divided into two periods for the whole of Asia Minor, including the ancient city The first half of the seventh century was a very turbulent of Hierapolis: from 602, the beginning of the reign of Phocas, up to 623, after their defeat under Heraclius, the Persians waged war against Byzantium and invaded a large part of Asia Minor in 616. Some archaeologists argue that, in fact, a few layers of destruction identified in the ruins of Aphrodisias must be connected to the battles against the Persians, and the same reasons have been suggested for destruction at Ephesus and Sardis.
History of the city
Ancient texts related to Hierapolis are quite few, but the tomb of the Apostle Philip, who like John at Ephesus, is a pilgrimage destination for the whole Christian world. The beginning of which the city is named Ophiorhyme, the “City of the Snakes”, in the fifth century are written the apocryphal Acts of Philip in relation to the cult of the Viper that the apostle had defeated converting people to the Gospel. At this stage, they are abandoned buildings like the theatre in favour of the construction of new churches such as the Cathedral of St. Philip and Martyrion. Archaeological evidence allows us to describe an in-
depth history of the city and the surrounding area.
Probably founded by one of the successors of Alexander the Great, to pass into the hands of the kings of Pergamon in 188 BC with the peace of Apamea, Hierapolis became one of the richest cities in Asia Minor in Roman times, as indeed shown by its monumental remains.
Before the foundation, the plateau was affected by rare traces of prehistoric occupation witnessed by the discovery of fragments of obsidian, and the likely development of a place of worship around the cave of Plutonium. The very name of the city, Hierapolis, means “the holy city” because
of the religious traditions that arose around this sacred cave. In 133 BC the king of Pergamum Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans including Hierapolis, which was assigned to the district capital with a legal Cibyra.
From the second century BC up to the first century AD we are witnessing an intense development of industrial activities especially those related to the production of wool and the dyeing of fabrics. The same Strabo reports that the hot water had the power to fix the colour of wool.
In the first two centuries of the Christian era, Hierapolis was transforming itself from a city of stone on marble (mostly locally sourced). This period is characterized by an increase in construction activity, mainly wanted by the emperors of the Flavian dynasty, with the construction of monumental gates, the route of Frontinus, a theatre and a gymnasium. The importance of Hierapolis can certainly be read even from the graves, as the “Beautiful Tomb” and the remarkable Flavius Zeuxis whose inscription records how this merchant has circumnavigated the Cape Malea, the southern tip of the Peloponnese, 72 times, certainly travelling to Italy for commercial reasons; this is a demonstration of how the city had not closed in on itself but open to the external relationships and consists of a cosmopolitan civic body, whose citizens had come from a wide area. Hierapolis, such as the nearby Laodicea, is also home to influential
Not long after the invasion of 616 Phrygia was struck by a violent earthquake; the impressive archaeological discoveries in Hierapolis show the downfall of many imposing monuments such as the Nymphaeum of the Tritons, which seems to agree much better with strong ground motions rather than events war. Most of these monuments will not be rebuilt; this can be viewed as a sign that the city was no longer able to recover.
For all the Vill to over X centuries, a phenomenon of ‘ruralization’ of the city is recognizable: it is shown by the construction of houses on the ruins and small chapels in the places of the ancient churches. It should be said that the historical data concerning Hierapolis through this entire period have a void that archaeology is gradually filling. The city continues to be attested in the documents as a diocese (the presence of the bishops mentioned in the Acts of the community of Jews and of Christians from the first century Councils), and archaeology seems to show, after the maximum depression of these centuries, a gradual Also in the second century Hierapolis probably economic recovery site witnessed imported ceramics
Here I had to erase a section of their blurb as it seems the translator must have been drunk
Under Emperor Septimius Severus, the city continues to grow and thrive; many cities of Asia Minor took part in the prestigious games – “ecumenical”- in honour of Apollon held by the sophist Antipater, a member of an In Hierapolis. aristocratic family of Hierapolis acquires great influence at the imperial court as an instructor of the princes and secretary of the chancery court for the cities of the Greek language.
It is difficult to establish exactly when Hierapolis was finally lost to Byzantium since, as it did for other cities of Phrygia and Lydia, it may have survived for some time as a Byzantine island in the sea Turkmen. It is certain that gradually in the first half of the thirteenth century, Hierapolis and the surrounding area became a permanent part of the Seljuk domains, and the city was transformed into a veritable fortress by building towers and caravanserais
At the beginning of the fourth century AD, Emperor Constantine the Great took two crucial initiatives that changed the course of history. Putting an end to the persecution, allowed Christianity to spread through the classical world and beyond it, he created also what was to become the future Byzantine Empire in 324 AD by changing the name of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium to Constantinople, his new capital of the East Hierapolis became permanently a Christian city and gained enormously
Castle on the western margin of the plateau. Hierapolis was gradually abandoned, and as early as the fifteenth century at the time of the Ottoman expansion – was a city of the past, no longer mentioned in the documents, and only occasional residence of farmers and shepherds. It was rediscovered by western travellers during the seventeenth century, first of all, Raymond Chandler, who visited the ruins in 1765
THE FRONTINUS STREET
The principal street (plateia), 14 metres wide, was conceived as a part of a unitary project together with the gate in the 1st century A.D. It is paved and has pavements. In its centre runs the main drain, covered with large stone blocks. Along the sides are a number of buildings including houses, shops and warehouses, unified by a travertine façade that is 170 metres long. A series of buildings of late date (5th-6th century A.D.) invades the road surface, in this period reduced to no more than eight metres in width. A thick calcareous deposit (about 2 metres thick), formed through the runoff of spring water, covered the road surface. The use of pneumatic compressors, which broke the calcareous formations into fragments, was the only way in which the street could be brought to light.
This building was found in a state of collapse, caused by an earthquake, that has allowed its almost complete reconstruction. The building was reached by an entrance through the two side doors. The room is divided longitudinally by a row of columns that supported a roof composed of travertine blocks. Along the two long sides ran a drain sluicing the liquids into the cloaca beneath Frontinus Street. Along the perimeter walls may be seen the groove into which the seats with holes were fitted, and a small channel in which clean running water was available for hygiene. The paving is composed of travertine slabs that display heavy signs of wear. The construction of the building is dated to the end of the first century A.D. Its collapse is dated by the painted inscriptions found on the half-columns of its façade, which bear acclamations to the emperor Justinian.
This is the monumental entrance to the Roman city and leads onto the large plateia, 14 m wide, which crosses the whole settlement, exiting a gate at the opposite side, to connect with the road that goes to Laodicea on the Lykos and then Colossae.
It is worth admiring the well-preserved structure with three openings, in carefully squared travertine blocks, with elegant arches decorated with a simple cornice moulding, flanked by two round towers. On the two sides of the gate’s facade is a monumental marble inscription originally attributed to Caracalla though, following the research and partial restoration by the Italian Archaeological Mission, may now be dated to A.D. 84 on the basis of dedication to the emperor Domitian in the year of his fourth tribunician potestas (tribune magistrate) and twelfth consulate. The dedication is by the proconsul (Roman) governor) of Asia Minor, Sextus Julius Frontinus, famous Latin writer and author of the treatise on aqueducts.
TOMB A18 (1st century AD)
The building one of the most of a small representative and best conserved of the North Necropolis has the temple, built to a square plan with regular walls. The facade is framed by projecting pilasters; the roofing slabs rest on the two frontons and the lateral cornices. Beneath the base is a subterranean chamber partially carved out of the rock. The two chambers have sepulchral beds along the walls.
LARGE BUILDING-Roman Baths (1st century AD)
Many rooms on the western side of the baths are conserved, together with a large portico which stretches to the road known as Frontinus Street. The outer walls are built of large limestone blocks, while the internal structures are built of smaller blocks with an infill of earth and stones. The complex was badly damaged by an earthquake in the second half of the 4th century AD. In the 10th. century much of the area was occupied with houses, built to a very simple plan, arranged along a lane. Inside the building, between the 11th and 12th centuries, an olive press was in- stalled, remains of which include a large stone tank, a small tank adapted from a sarcophagus and the counterweight for the press.
THE BASILICA BATH
Bath Basilica complex was located on the north side of the city, out of the city gates. The bath was dated to the 3rd Century AD., but later in the 6th Century AD an apse was added to the central part and it was turned into a church. The back wall of the building was leaned during an earthquake. The consolidation works are continuing to protect this wall with all the traces of the earthquake. In ancient times purification and cleaning before entering the city were a common tradition in Anatolia, or they would not be accepted in the city. Therefore the bath buildings were generally located on the outskirts of the city. This was an important sign of the sensitivity of ancient Anatolian people about cleaning and protecting against epidemics.
HIERAPOLIS OF PHRYGIA
TOMB A6 (1st-2nd centuries AD)
The sepulchral building was built to a U-shaped plan with the sarcophagi laid out on the roof, in order to exalt the dead. The complex, which lies on the road opposite the Baths Basilica, is built over a subterranean structure divided into two chambers with funerary niches. The construction of the walls is typical of the 1st to 2nd centuries AD and has carefully constructed cornices and decorations. Outside, between the two wings, is a large ‘marble sarcophagus decorated with wreaths.
I tried my best to get the most I could out of a limited time but it was a very patchy day weather-wise. Always in the back of my mind was the long stagger back down in bare feet and I didn’t fancy my chances of avoiding an accident. The tourists are pushy and it’s always preferable to err on the safe side. The walk to get a taxi however meant seeing more goodies and unexplained rock cuttings.
The much-appreciated cab ride down meant I had beat the odds and seen everything there that I had on my brutally chopped list and even had a curry dinner that night, I’d eaten nothing since breakfast and was practically fainting with hunger.
It was really good and I nearly fell asleep into my dinner. However, my mellow feeling was crushed when two little monsters above me decide to thunder around shrieking till past midnight. Note to all. Remember to get top floor at hotels in future. At least you only get sideways noise then!!!
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