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Archaeological site of Laodikeia

Date of Submission: 15/04/2013
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Délégation permanente de Turquie auprès de l'Unesco
State, Province or Region:
Province of Denizli, Villages of Goncalı and Eskihisar
Coordinates: N37 50 04 E29 06 33.75
Ref.: 5823

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Laodikeia is located within the borders of the villages of Eskihisar, Goncalı, Korucuk and Bozburun, six km north of the modern city of Denizli. The site is on the road to Pamukkale (Hierapolis), which is approximately ten km to the north.

Laodikeia is also situated at the crossroads of main routes that connect western, central and southern Anatolia with each other. Set amid the fertile plains of the Lycos River, Laodikeia lies on a high plateau surrounded on three sides by rivers: the Lycos (modern Çürüksu) to the northeast, the Kapros (modern Başlıçay) to the southeast and the Asopos (modern Gümüşçay - Goncalı Deresi) to the northwest.

Laodikeia is one of the important archaeological remains for the region along with Hierapolis (Pamukkale) and Tripolis. Excavations at Laodikeia show that the city was settled continuously from the Chalcolithic Period (Copper Age, 5500 BCE) to 7th century CE. The name of the settlement was, in turn, Rhoas (Asopos Hill), Diopolis (City of Zeus) and finally Laodikeia.

The settlement was founded as a city in the Hellenistic Period. The Hellenistic city was founded by the commander Seleucus Antiochus II in the name of his wife Laodike around the middle of the third century BCE. The region later became part of the Roman Republic (after Empire) in 130-129 BCE. Throughout its history, Laodikeia suffered many earthquakes and was rebuilt numerous times. It was finally abandoned after a severe earthquake in the reign of Emperor Focas (r. 602-610 CE). Its citizens settled in Denizli - Kaleiçi and Hisarköy on the north slopes of Mt. Salbakos (modern Babadağ), after the city's abandonment. Laodikeia was one of the Seven Churches named in the Book of Revelation and later became a metropolitan city in the Early Byzantine period.

During the Hellenistic Period the city was designed on the Hippodamian grid plan where the streets cross at right angles or run parallel to each other. The golden age of the city was from the 1st to 5th centuries CE. Most of the structures and the city itself have been developed during this period.

Encompassing an area of about five square kilometres, Laodikeia boasts the following impressive remains: the largest ancient stadium of Anatolia (measuring 285 x 70m), two theatres (Western and Northern Theatres), four bath complexes (East, Central, West and East Roman baths), five agoras (East, Central, West, South and North Agoras), five fountains (nymphaea; East Byzantine, Caracalla, Septimus Severus, B and West Fountains), two monumental portals (Ephesus and Syria Gates), a council house (bouleuterion), houses with a peristyle design (House A Complexes, Peristyle House with Church), temples (Temple A), churches (East, North, West, Central, Southwest Churches and Laodikeia Church), public latrines, two large water distribution terminals and monumental colonnaded streets (Syria, Ephesus, Stadium Streets). The city is surrounded by cemeteries (necropoleis) on its four sides.

The most important income of the city was commerce, thanks to its location on the crossroads of major trade routes. The foremost trade was textiles. In addition, marble, grain and livestock commerce also provided an important income to the city.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Laodikeia, which is situated in the middle of Lycos Plain and on the southwest border of the region of Phrygia, was one of the biggest metropolises of Anatolia. The golden age of the city ranged from the Roman Imperial Period to the Early Byzantine Period. The city felt the hegemony of various kingdoms: first the Seleucids, then the Pergamenes and finally the Romans.

Christianity began to spread into the area beginning in the second half of first century CE. The city's active trade life, no doubt played a role in the spread of the Christian gospel to the Lycos valley. Laodikeia is one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation (1.11, 3.14-22) as well as in Paul's letter to the Colossians (4.16). The city gained prominence as a Christian center and as a place of religious pilgrimage in the Early Byzantine Period. The Council of Laodikeia met here in 364 CE. The legalization of Christianity allowed the construction of one of Anatolia's most unique churches in the early fourth century CE. Extant churches among the ruins date from the 4th-7th centuries CE. The Laodikeia Church was discovered in 2010 and excavations and restorations of this large basilican structure have been almost completed in the past two years. Laodikeia thus remains a very important site for the Christian world.

Laodikeia has the biggest stadium in Anatolia and is the only ancient city with two theatres. The existence of large bath complexes, in which not only cleansing but also meetings and pedagogy occurred, underscores Laodikeia's intellectual fabric. The fact that much medical equipment was found during excavations suggests that the city was a healing center too.

One of the most famous rhetoricians of antiquity, the sophist Polemon (88-144 CE), was a native of Laodikeia. The richness of the city and its relationship with Rome is reflected in its civic art. The marble relief sarcophagi with garland, frieze and column as well as high-quality sculptures that have been found are evidence of this. Furthermore, the workmanship on the god/goddess sculptures is incomparable. Data revealed during excavations, such as inscriptions, monograms and symbols belonging to Christians and Jews in addition to information supplied by ancient sources, shows that local citizens, Macedonians, Seleucids, Pergamenes, Romans and Jews lived together in harmony and peace. This shows that people from different cultures and religions have been living together in harmony for thousands of years.

Criterion (ii): Laodikeia is the one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in Turkey today. The area of the city covers more than five square km. The life of the settlement continued without interruption from 5500 BCE to the 7th century CE. The settlement has been developed especially during the Hellenistic and Roman Imperial Periods when it became a center of trade, art and culture.

Civic planning during the Hellenistic and Roman Periods was highly organized. The city was planned along a grid system with main and side streets crossing each other. The city plan consisted of insulae measuring 42 x 51 meters. Religious, civic and common structures were built in these insulae. Even the infrastructure (e.g., canalization) system of the city worked to perfection. Colossal baths located in the central, eastern, and western areas were connected to the agoras. The stadium, located at the southern side of the city, and the west and east theatres, located at the city's northern side, show the importance placed on the beauty of communal living, art, sport and civic space. Shops were built along the perimeters of the peristyle houses bordering its streets. This shows the integration of the trading and residential areas. Such an integrated environment helps us understand the roots of the active commercial life, which goes back thousands of years.

Ancient rooster reliefs show the existence of the "Denizli Rooster," which still serves as the symbol of the modern Denizli. Moreover, reliefs of pomegranate, poppy and gourd show the continuity of agricultural production from past to present. Excavations prove that textile production, still very important for the Denizli area, goes back thousands of years. Loom weights, dated to 4000 years ago, and textile dyehouses and dyes, dated to 1600 years ago, have been found in Laodikeia. Even today Denizli is located in a first-degree earthquake zone, and excavations have shown the damaging effects of earthquakes to Laodikeia throughout the centuries. For the reasons mentioned above, Laodikeia can truly be called a complete "Archaeological Park."

Criterion (iii): Laodikeia is the home of unique and magnificent structures dating from the Hellenistic, Roman Imperial and Early Byzantine Periods. These structures were supplied by a system that brought water from springs located in the valleys of the Salbakos Mountain eight km south of the city. A water line made of double rows of travertine pipes as well as clay pipes utilized in the first and second water distribution terminals, demonstrate its excellent hydraulic design. This siphon system is unique in Anatolia.

Laodikeia has the largest Roman-period stadium in Anatolia measuring 285 x 70 meters. With its double spendona, the stadium shows the importance given to sports. Laodikeia is the only city in Anatolia with two theatres, which shows the emphasis placed on culture and arts. It is also the only city planned with a stadium, bath complex, agora and council house, all placed side by side. The area of this complex, located in the southern part of the city, covers 12.000 square meters. There are three commercial agoras, one civic agora and one religious agora, and in that sense too Laodikeia is unique in Anatolia. This likewise demonstrates the importance given to trade, politics and religion in the city.

Criterion (iv): Besides its unique architectural legacy and system of infrastructure, Laodikeia remains very important for the Christian world. It was one of the three churches in the Lycos valley mentioned, along with Hierapolis and Colossae in Paul's letter to the Colossians (4.16). In the book of Revelation John addressed a letter to Laodikeia, one of the Seven Churches of the province of Asia (1.11, 3.14-22). The city later became a center of religious pilgrimage. The sacredness of the city to Christianity is evidenced by the construction of the Laodikeia Church at the time of Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 CE) after Christianity became legalized in 313 CE. Therefore, the church is one of the oldest sacred places of the Christian world.

Excavations have revealed that a part of some large houses was used as a church, evidencing Christianity's early tradition of house churches. Many churches were unearthed in the city as well. Moreover, the Laodikeia church was discovered in 2010 and fully excavated and restored in the two excavation seasons that followed. The Laodikeia Church has a distinctive place in Christian history. The church was built at the time of Constantine the Great and provides a unique example with its basilican plan, mosaics, opus sectile pavements, frescos and dedicatory inscription. The Laodikeia Pilgrimage Church is located, according to the grid system, in the northeast part of the city along the street leading from the Syria Street to the North Theatre. The church is located northeast of Temple A. The church, with its east-west orientation, covers one insula; two fountains related to the church are situated on the southwest and northeast streets. For the above reasons Laodikeia is the one of the most significant and sacred centers of Christianity in the world today.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Laodikeia Archaeological Site is under protection by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Property, Law No.: 2863. Laodikeia was registered as 1st and 3rd Degree Archaeological Sites by the related Regional Conservation Council through the decision dated 27.01.2005 and numbered 1501. The conservation plan prepared for the site was approved by the related Regional Conservation Council through the decision dated 07.09.2009 and numbered 2163.

Laodikeia's excavations and restorations have been conducted since 2003 on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Pamukkale University, under the directorship of Pr. Celal Şimşek. Excavations and restorations have continued year-round since 2008 because of a protocol established between the Denizli Municipality and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The munificent sponsorship of the Denizli Municipality has produced twelve months of excavations and restorations, thus allowing a continuity of work to be achieved. As a result the following have been excavated and mostly restored: East Byzantine Gate, East Byzantine Fountain, Syria Street, Temple A, House A Complex, Monumental Fountain of Emperor Septimius Severus, North Theatre Street, Central Agora, Nymphaeum B, Latrine, Water Depot, Stadium Street. The excavation and restoration of the following are ongoing: Laodikeia Church, North (Sacred) Agora and its porticos, especially the columns of its East Portico which are gigantic (10.80 m in height), North and West Theatres, Asopos Hill and the Necropoleis.

Comparison with other similar properties

All the civic, religious, common and individual structures seen at Xanthos, Letoon and Troy, World Heritage sites in Turkey, are represented in Laodikeia. The structures of Laodikeia have a special importance because of their monumental scale and elegant ornamentation. In comparison with the nearby World Heritage Site of Hierapolis (Pamukkale), located ten kilometres north of Laodikeia, the theatres, baths and streets of Laodikeia are much more monumental. No similar ancient city has four monumental baths. Laodikeia has the biggest stadium in Anatolia and is the only city with two theatres. Laodikeia has a special significance and sacredness for the Christian world because of its churches. One of these, the Laodikeia Church, is dated back to the fourth century CE. Laodikeia is as important as Ephesos with her expansion and monumental structures. Laodikeia has more buildings and bigger buildings than Athens Acropolis, which is the one of the most important place for World Cultural Heritage.