A few miles north of Laodicea in the Lycus Valley, the ruins of Hierapolis stand along the ancient roadway connecting Laodicea to Philadelphia and Sardis to the northwest. The ruins demonstrate it was a prosperous trade center built around hot springs that were considered a source of healing power in the Roman period.
In the southwestern edge of the Phrygian territory, the city is perched 250 feet above on a natural terrace overlooking the surrounding valley. The ancient city had all the drawing points of a resort, with all the regional goods of the other regional cities: wools, dying trades and textiles.
With hot thermal springs ever present and cool mountain air to offer cold water constantly available, the dying guilds no doubt made use of these natural features required in adding color to cloth. The city also had an advantage in the bath complex, still seen on the northwestern part of the city’s edge, near the northern necropolis. Some scholars compare the hot water of Hierapolis, and the cold water of Colossae to the lukewarm water of Laodicea as the background for the imagery of Rev. 3:15-16.
Hierapolis was not a great city of antiquity, but was likely a pagan cult center as demonstrated in the name, which means holy city. A Hellenistic theatre demonstrates the city existed well before the earthquake of 17 CE, when Augustus supplied some aid to restoring the city.
Inscriptions show there was a significant Jewish presence in the city. Another damaging quake came in 60 CE, affecting the Lycus cities, and requiring aid from Emperor Nero. The city may have been reached by St. Paul's ministry impact from Ephesus (Acts 19:10), but more likely came under the evangelistic preaching of Epaphras (cp. Col. 4:12-13; see Laodicea and Colossae).
Stoic philosopher Epictetus stayed in the city for some time, as did Papias. Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus (190 CE) is quoted by Eusebius (Church History 3.31) as stating that the Apostle Philip was buried in the city, though scholars debate whether the reference is to the Apostle or the evangelist.
The site today includes two partially restored ancient baths (north and south of the city), an impressive colonnaded street, a Temple of Apollo and the Martyrium of St. Philip. The nearby hot springs at Pamukkale, or cotton castle (named because of the white calcified hot springs) are not to be missed!