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Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:00

Pamukkale, Hieropolis, Gates of Hell and St. Philip’s Tomb

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Pamukkale translates to English as ‘cotton castle’ and it is easy to understand why it was so aptly named. 

Hot springs, flowing from a geologic fault, deposit white calcium carbonate that over the years have built up and created a 200 meter tall, six kilometer wide series of travertine terraces, pools and waterfalls.  In order to walk up the travertine terrace, visitors are required to remove shoes and make the trek barefoot.  The water gradually warms as one climbs at some places reaching 35 C.

Upon reaching the summit of the terraces, one is rewarded with the awe inspiring ancient city ruins of Hieropolis.  The ancient city pools have been restored and for 32 TL one can swim in the therapeutic pools amidst ancient pillars and stones.  In ancient times, as now, the “spas” were a big money maker for the city. “The therapeutic virtues of the waters were exploited at the various thermal installations which included immense hot basins and pools for swimming.  Hydrotherapy was accompanied by religious practices, which were developed in relation to local cults.”

“The history of Hierapolis followed the same course as many Hellenistic cities in Asia Minor.  The Romans acquired full control of it in 129 BC and it prospered under its new rulers.  It was a cosmopolitan city where Anatolians, Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and Jews intermingled.  The hot springs which attracted throngs of people ‘taking the waters’ also served another purpose: scouring and dying wool.”

It is interesting to note that The Temple of Apollo/Artemis, (Lycian/Greek in origin), also included names of Juno and Jupiter who were Roman additions.  Basically, the Romans attached their own gods to the temple while honoring/incorporating the previous tenants. The temple was erected on a geological fault from which noxious vapors escaped, as also is the case in other temples (i.e. Delphi).

The Gates of Hell

(Pluto’s Gate or Plutonium), had been extensively written about in ancient times and in 2013 it was discovered next to the Temple of Apollo/Artemis in Hieropolis.   The entrance had been walled off during Christian times.

“Next to this temple and within the sacred area is the oldest local sanctuary, Pluto’s Gate, a shrine to Pluto.  This plutonium was described by several ancient writers, including Strabo.  It is a small cave just large enough for one person to enter through a fenced entrance, beyond which stairs go down and from which emerges suffocating carbon dioxide gas caused by subterranean geologic activity.  Behind the 3 square meter (32 sq ft) roofed chamber is a deep cleft in the rock, through which fast-flowing hot water passes while releasing a sharp smelling gas. 

During the early years of the town, castrated priests of Cybele descended into the plutonium, crawling over the floor to pockets of oxygen or holding their breath.  Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and so tends to settle in hollows.  The priests would then come up to show that they were miraculously immune to the gas and infused with divine protection.  An area of 2000 square meters (22,000 sq ft) stood in front of the entrance.  It was covered by a thick layer of suffocating gas, killing anyone who dared to enter it.  The priests sold birds and other animals to the visitors so that they could try out how deadly this enclosed area was.  Visitors could (for a fee) ask questions of Pluto’s oracle.  This provided a considerable source of income for the temple.  Strabo …. wrote… The space is filled with a cloudy and dark vapor, so dense that the bottom can scarcely be discerned… Animals which enter… die instantly.  Even bulls, when brought within it, fall down and are taken out dead.  We have ourselves thrown in sparrows, which immediately fell down lifeless.”

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If you can brave the climb to the top to the theatre you will be rewarded, beyond the incredible panoramic view, by what was definitely not just another usual theatre.  The backing to the stage was originally three stories high of which one glorious story remained complete with statues of Artemis and Apollo and friezes of Dionysus and other mythological beings.  The theatre could hold from 12,000 to 15,000 people and in 352 AD was renovated to be able to include water shows.

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St Phillip’s Tomb – Following the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine and his establishment of Constantinople as the ‘new Rome” in 330 A.D., the town was made a bishopric.  As the place of St. Philips martyrdom in 80 A.D., commemorated by his Martyrium building in the 5th century, Hierapolis, with its several churches, became an important religious center for the Eastern Roman Empire.

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http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/485

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/130414-hell-underworld-archaeology-mount-olympus–greece/

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