Photos by Jack A. Waldron
If there is one great, most spectacular, stupendous aspect with regard to my cycle tour route during the summer of 2015, it is that I entered Denizli from the east, and not the southwest. The Cibyratic plain is approximately 3500 feet above see level, and at its head it drops directly into Denizli from the east within about 10 kilometers! I am happy I didn't have to climb that 10 km. Pictured above, I am in the final decent into Denizli, which is seen in the valley below.
Hieropolis occupies a slope on the western edge of the Denizli basin, just five kilometers beyond Laodikeia when coming from the Denizli city center, which is another fifteen kilometers northeast. The white cliffs that Hieropolis looks down upon are the result of a steady flow of warm mineral water that has extended the deposit and its pools out over the lower reaches, and which have become one of the natural wonders of our planet.
I entered Hieropolis through the Northern Necropolis, which is accessed about 2 kilometers north of the city center and the cascading warm flows of Pamukkale, which translates as Cotton Castle in English.
One way to view the northern necropolis entrance into the ancient city via the paved road that is lined with tombs and sarcophagi is by paraglider (look in the upper right hand corner of the photo below).
The tombs and sarcophagi of the Northern Necropolis are so numerous, that the area takes on the feeling of a city, albeit, a city of the dead.
The Northern Necropolis is more than worthy of at least a two-three hour visit for us novice historians, and has demanded full lifetimes of those dedicated to its complete survey and study.
Many structures with the Northern Necropolis seek to replicate the larger city structures that dominate the city proper. Examining the tomb structures sheds light on the larger building in the city, almost like a miniature model built for example at 1/6 scale.
The tombs themselves are unique architectural designs regardless of their being molded on their larger cousins that function as operational buildings of administration, sports, product sales, baths or entertainment.
One of the most interesting tomb complexes of the Northern Necropolis is the Tomb of the Gladiators, which displays finely carved friezes with dedicatory images for decoration and symbolism.
Like a miniature temple, the lid of sarcophagus in the photo below has a full pediment, with its tympanum showing a lion facing a griffin, while the sima supports acroterion that accentuate the corners. Conveniently, a ladder cut of stone allows access to the top of the sarcophagus platform.
Inscriptions and ornate carvings describe the lives of the deceased in some detail, though without greater historical reference, we, like them, are known only to those who lay alongside them; thus, they are lost to time.
Like the paragliders flying high above the Northern Necropolis, the lives of humans come, and go.
Some of the more spectacularly sculpted sarcophagi that once sat atop various platforms throughout the necropolis (such as the platform pictured below) are now on display in the Hieropolis museum, which occupies the 2nd century baths complex not far below the Monumental Fountain and pool.
Pictured below, a tumulus tomb in the forefront along the North Necropolis road.
Carvings of Medusa (such as the one pictured below) are common throughout the necropolis.
Tomb 65 features an extremely high platform. Beds on which the deceased were interned can be seen within the chamber of the picture below.
Pictured below, the Tomb of Curses, named as such due to an inscription on the sarcophagus that promises retribution in the after life for those who violate the sanctity of the sepulcher.
Though the vaulted ceiling of the tomb pictured below has collapsed, there are other examples of vaulted tombs within the North Necropolis that have their roofs intact.
Tombs with vaulted facades such as the the one pictured below offer extensive examples of the variety of designs embarked upon within the realm of tomb architectural experimentation.
As seen behind the tomb in the photo below, the buildup of sediment over the millennia left the North Necropolis buried, and protected from further disturbances and destruction.
Tumulus tombs begin to dominate the North Necropolis road as we get closer to the the city gates.
Most of the tombs along the North Necropolis road are open and accessible to those who are brave enough to enter them, though one must consider the consequences that will be handed down in the after life.
The North Necropolis road exits the necropolis near the Basilica Bath, which is currently under preservation and restoration work. Just beyond the Basilica Baths is the Arch of Domitian.
Next to the Arch of Domitian (pictured below) are the remains of an olive press facility. Further out from the front of the arch is the Tomb of Flavius Zeuxis.
The triple Arch of Domitian was dedicated in 83 AD to Domitian (81-96 AD) by the Proconsul of Asia, Julius Frontinus, thus the gate is known as the Frontinus Gate. The triple arch once had a second story similar to the Hadrianic arch in Antalya. The towers on either side of the gate share a Hellenistic heritage, such as the gate towers of Perge.
The Roman road from the Frontinus Gate follows a direct path to the gate on the opposite side of the city, which then meets the road to Laodikeia and connecting with the road to Colossae.
To the immediate right of the Frontinus Gate are the remains of an olive press works.
Just inside the Frontinus Gate to the left is the public Latrine, which would have greeted travelers with welcome relief, and a chance or charge to wash themselves, as to not introduce plight nor pestilence to the city. Furthermore, the Basilica Baths just 100 meters outside the gate was most likely strategically placed for exactly the same reasons, to protect the city from decease (much like the passenger temperature monitoring cameras at modern airports).
Pictured above, the entrance/exit of the Latrine. Below, inside the Latrine. One can only hope that the high ceiling would have allowed for plenty of ventilation. Also, it is unclear if this structure provided access to women, perhaps being somehow separated from the men.
The Nymphaeum of the Triton is located next to the Latrine, and would have further aided travelers by providing them quick and easy access to fresh drinking water, and another chance to cleanse themselves. This nymphaeum was built on a massive scale with fine ornate decorations in marble and statuary for niches in the first and second stories.
The Exedra were also incorporated into the structure every few meters along the pool to allow citizens a place to sit, relax and cool down during those hot summer days, perhaps as a place to people watch, or see the new visitors arriving.
The North Byzantine Gate is located about 100 meters inside the Frontinus Gate, and was built with reused materials quarried from the North Agora, which sits to the left of the main road (to left of the road and gate in the picture below).
The North Agora is comprised of a West Side (pictured immediately below), and East Side (pictured further down). The North Agora was very large and magnificently decorated.
Pictured below, looking across the open square of the agora from the West Side toward the East Side, where once stood an elaborately ornamented Monumental Stoa-Basilica (see below some of the capitals and statuary that once adorned the structure).
A section of steps that once led up to the Monumental Stoa remain in situ, with the rest being quarried for other projects.
Leaving the North Agora via a covered canal that is about 1 meter deep and 1 meter wide, that was most likely a water delivery system to the local houses and on to the northern part of the city (to among other uses, flush out the latrine!). The path with its huge blocks laid over the walk is still the most convenient way to traverse this ancient neighborhood and which leads just up the hill from the Monumental Fountain (pictured below) and just below the Theater.
The Monumental Fountain provided public access to water within the city center, and also acted as a distribution point via an intricate piping system to neigborhoods and other builds throughout the city. The fountain was elaborately decorated in marble sculpture and statues within its numerous niches. Pictured below, the south side of the Monumental Fountain (the front of the fountain is in the left of the photo, with back of the fountain to the right), which sits in front of the Temple of Apollo inside the sacred area of Apollo.
The Temple of Apollo is located almost directly behind the Monumental Fountain (pictured below, with two columns standing upright in the front of the temple). Next to the Temple of Apollo is the Plutonium, also a sacred area, and the gateway to hell.
In the illustration below, the Temple of Apollo would be behind the Plutonium atop and beyond the vertical wall. The steps to the right can be seen next to the Temple of Apollo in the photos further down.
An arched niche can be seen next to the Temple of Apollo in the photo below. This is one of the gas vents of the Plutonium, which till this day discharges noxious fumes. Known as the gateway to hell, the passage to the underworld was used as a means of sacrificing to the gods. (Illustrations and Excavation photo from webpage: Gateway To Hell)
Pictured below, the back of the Temple of Apollo, with the Monumental Fountain directly in front of the temple.
The Theater sits up the hill from the Temple of Apollo and the Plutonium (pictured below).
The Marble Portico encompasses the sacred complex which includes the Temple of Apollo and the Plutonium. Built in the 1st C AD, it is ornately sculpted.
The sacred complex which includes the Monumental Fountain, the Temple of Apollo, the Plutonium and the Marble Portico are #10 in the illustration below.
The Hieropolis Theater dates from the 2nd C AD. It dominates the city, and offers a grand view over the valley below, though we must remember that this is not a Greek theater, which would not have had a three story skene that blocked the view.
An inscription in the seating (pictured below) reserves the space for a patron who would have made a contribution to the city for the privilege of keeping it exclusive.
With rays of the sun jutting out from his locks, Helios looks out from a pediment in the skene over the orchestra of the theater.
The birth of Dionysus and his triumphal procession throughout Asia on grand car drawn by leopards is the central theme of the ornate frieze that decorates the hyposcaenium, and is a testament to the fact that most ancient Greek and Roman cities of the ancient world prized highly the god who gave them drama and wine.
Numerous statuary that once decorated the niches of the stage building are on display in the museum in the Central Baths.
Continuing west from the theater brings us down the hill toward the South Gate, which is approximately 1 kilometer from the North gate on the same central road that runs through the city.
Just inside the South Gate are the scant remains of the Gymnasium, albeit, still being excavated (pictured below). Located near the Gymnasium is the Stadium, which is yet to be excavated.
The Central Baths (pictured below from 1958), is the home of the Hieropolis museum, and sits out a shelf atop the white mineral cliffs of Pamukkale.
I had avoided Pamukkale during my first trip to Turkey in 2006, as I was afraid of the throngs of tourists who I know occupy the site each and every summer regardless of any political unrest of war. But, after spending nearly seven hours exploring the ancient city, I can say that for the most part the tourist tend to converge around the warm cascading mineral pools, that in the end, I found very very pleasant after a long hot trek around this most fascinating ancient city. Everyone takes their shoes off (required), and slowly descends down the gentle water covered slopes of carbonate minerals . . . so refreshing!!
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)