Hierapolis – A Sacred City Built on Thermal Springs

Hierapolis Was a Sacred City That Was Famous For Its Hot Springs:

Arch of Domitian - Hierapolis Follow Me on Pinterest

Arch of Domitian - Hierapolis

Just next to the very popular travertine terraces of Pamukkale is Hierapolis, known as a Sacred City because of the many temples and other religious buildings that existed here. Hierapolis was also famous for its hot springs in ancient times, with people coming to the thermal spas to soothe their illnesses. Even today, people come to Hierapolis to bathe in the rich mineral waters known for its therapeutic properties.

Origin of Hierapolis

Hierapolis’ history can be traced back to the Phrygians who built a temple here in the 3rd century BC. The city is believed to have been founded by Eumenes II, the king of Pergamon.

Hierapolis was ceded to Rome in 129 BC and under the Romans, the city prospered. After an
earthquake in 17 AD, many temples were erected and Hierapolis became known as a city of temples. A more severe earthquake in 60 AD left the Hellenistic city in total ruins and after this Hierapolis was rebuilt in Roman style, under the patronage of Emperor Nero. Most of what we see today are from the Roman era.

Hierapolis Ancient Ruins

If you’re visiting the very popular cotton castle of Pamukkale, Hierapolis is just next to it. We started our visit at the northern-most point of the site where there is a huge necropolis. This is the largest ancient graveyard in Anatolia and there are more than 1,200 tombs here of various types, some more elaborately built than others.

When Hierapolis became famous as a spa city and healing centre in the 2nd century BC, doctors used the hot thermal springs to treat their patients. As the city was not easily accessible, only the wealthy could afford to make the journey here. Many people came to stay near the spas to cure their illnesses, but it’s obvious that not all survived. The elaborate tombs that we see here belonged to the wealthy. One of the more visually beautiful sarcophagus is this very well-preserved one in the picture below. Submerged in a pool of travertine, it looks like it is sitting in snow.

Sarcophagus at Hierapolis Necropolis Follow Me on Pinterest

Sarcophagus at Hierapolis Necropolis

The main thoroughfare that once ran through the city from north to south was a colonnaded street and at each end there was a giant gateway. The Arch of Domitian was the northern entrance to the city. This three-arched gateway led into the main street of Hierapolis and during Roman times, the street contained shops and public buildings. Other huge structures in the extensive ruins of Hierapolis include the South Byzantine Gate with an epitaph dedicated to Emperor Domitian, the Basilica Bath, the Hierapolis theatre and the Martyrium of St. Philip. The apostle Philip is believed to have been crucified in Hierapolis and buried here.

If you are interested in more in-depth information about this archaeological site and Roman architecture here, pay a visit to the Hierapolis Museum. The highlights here are the statues and reliefs, but its collections also include coins and jewellery.

Cleopatra’s Pool

One of the more enjoyable complexes at Hierapolis is the Antique Pool. Surrounded by lush greenery and with fragments of ancient marble columns and stones in the pool, it looks idyllic. It is thought that the columns may have been from the Temple of Apollo and these collaped into the water during the earthquake. According to one of the legends, Cleopatra is believed to have swum in a pool here. Having seen Cleopatra movies, I can just visualize the scene.

Hierapolis Antique Pool Follow Me on Pinterest

Hierapolis Antique Pool

There is plenty to see at the Hierapolis and during the time that we were here, we didn’t manage to see everything.

To see more photos of Hierapolis, see Travelsignposts Hierapolis photo gallery.

Hotels in Hierapolis

To enjoy a longer stay in this part of ancient Turkey, there are many hotels in Pamukkale that are within walking distance of Hierapolis. For the list of Pamukkale hotels, see Here.

Getting to Hierapolis

By Bus

Summer – There are some direct bus services from many parts of Turkey to Pamukkale, although most will change in Denizli which is 18km south. From Denizli, there are regular services to/from Istanbul (12 hours), Ankara (7 hours), Selcuk (3 hours) and Izmir (4 hours), as well as most resorts on the south coast. There is no main bus station in Pamukkale, but all buses use the dolmus stop.
Winter – There are no direct services, but regular public buses still run to and from Denizli.

By Rail

The nearest train station is at Denizli, with three daily trains to and from Izmir and an overnight train for Istanbul, taking 14 hours. There is a daily service to Afyon taking five hours.

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  1. […] Hierapolis was popular for its thermal springs during Hellenistic times, but it was during the Roman period that the city’s reputation as a health centre boomed. The hot springs, with its mineral rich waters are said to be good for illnesses such as skin diseases, circulation problems, rheumatism, heart diseases and many other ailments and people flocked here to find relief for their diseases. At the height of this health tourism, there were more than fifteen baths in Hierapolis. […]

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