Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey, Hierapolis Türkei
Hierapolis was a cure centre founded around 190 BC by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum, which prospered under the Romans and even more under the Byzantines. it had a large Jewish community and therefore an early Christian church. Earthquakes brought disas-ter a few times; after the one in 1334 the locals finally called it a day and moved away.
These days the primary reason for coming to Pamukkale should really be to explore the ruins of Hieropolis where Fiat is sponsoring ongoing excavations and restoration work. The ruins sprawl over a wide area within the national park. To inspect everything carefully could take the best part of a day, although most visitors settle for an hour or two.
The centre of Hierapolis may have been the sacred pool, now the swimming pool in the courtyard of the Pamukkale Motel (Hotel Hierapolis). If the motel is torn down as planned, the pool may again be visible as it was to the ancients, instead of being ringed with overpriced ice cream stands. The city's Roman baths, parts of which are now the Pamukkale Museum, are in front of the Pamukkale Motel. At the time of writing the museum was closed for restoration but opening hours used to be daily except Monday from 8.30 am to noon and 1.30 to 5 pm. Admission will probably be US$3 when it re-opens.
Near the museum stands a ruined Byzantine church and the foundations of a Temple of Apollo. As at Didyma and Delphi, the temple had an oracle attended by eunuch priests. The source of inspiration was an adjoining spring called the Plutonium, ded-icated appropriately to Pluto, god of the underworld. The spring gives off toxic vapours, lethal to all but the priests, who would demonstrate its powers to visitors by throwing small animals and birds in and watching them die.
To find the spring, walk up towards the Roman theatre but enter the first gate in the fence on the right, then follow the path down to the right about 30m. To the left and in front of the big, block-like temple is a small subterranean entry closed by a rusted grate and marked by a sign reading 'Tehlikelidir-Zehirli Gaz' (Dangerous - Poisonous Gas). If you listen, you can hear the gas bubbling up from the waters below. Note that the gas is stili deadly poisonous. Before the grate was installed there were several fatalities among those with more curiosity than sense.
The spectacular Roman theatre, capable of seating more than 12,000 spectators, was built in two stages by the emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus. Much of the stage survives, along with some of the decorative panels and the front-row 'box' seats for VIPs. it was carefully restored by Italian stonecutters in the 1970s.
From the theatre take one of the rough tracks heading uphill and eventually you'll come to the extraordinary octagonal Mar-tyrium of St Philip, built on the site where it's believed that St Philip was martyred. The arches of the eight individual chapels are ali marked with crosses. Views from here are wonderful and you'll probably share them only with the goldfinches and skylarks.
If you hack across the hillside in a wester-ly direction, eventually you'll come to a completely ruinous Hellenistic theatre along unmarked goat tracks.
Standing beside the theatre and looking down you'll see the 2nd century agora, one of the largest ever discovered. On three sides it was surrounded by marble porticoes with Ionic columns, while the fourth side was closed off by a basilica.
Walk down the hill and through the agora, and you'll re-emerge on the main road along the top of the ridge. Turn right towards the northern exit and you'll come to the remains of the marvellous colonnaded Frontinus Street, stili with some of its paving and columns intact. once the city's main north-south commercial axis, this street was bounded at both ends by monumental arch-ways. The ruins of the Arch of Domitian, with its twin towers, are at the northern end, but just before them don't miss the surpris-ingly large latrine building, with two channels cut into its floor, one to carry away sevvage, the other for fresh water.
Beyond the Arch of Domitian you come first to the ruins of the Byzantine baths and then to the Appian Way of Hierapolis, an extraordinary necropolis (cemetery), ex-tending several kilometres to the north, with many striking, even stupendous, tombs in ali shapes and sizes. Look out in particular for a cluster of circular tombs, supposedly topped with phallic symbols in antiquity. Hierapolis was a health spa, but obviously the cure didn't work for everyone.
in late May or early June, the Pamukkale Festival brings spectators to Hierapolis' re-stored Roman theatre for musical and folkloric performances.