The Domitian Gate:
Hierapolis, known for its healing hot springs, was about six miles from Laodicea. What is left of the entrance to the city?a gate complex of two gigantic towers and three arches that opened onto a paved street about a mile and a half long stands as a testimony to the city’s former majesty. What is most important is not the gate’s size or architecture, however, but what it represented.
Like most city gates of the ancient world, the gates of the Hierapolis expressed the people’s devotion to their deities or rulers. For Hierapolis, that god was the Roman emperor Domitian-one of the first emperors to declare himself to be divine. Thus anyone who entered the Domitian Gate was in a sense acknowledging that Domitian was god their provider and protector whom they would honor and obey above all others.
Obviously, the early believers who lived in the Hierapolis had to choose to serve and worship Caesar (in this case, Domitian) or to serve and worship the God of Israel. According to ancient church tradition, an early missionary named Philip, who most likely was Philip the disciple of Jesus, refused to recognize the authority of Domitian. Philip and his children stood fast in their declaration that Jesus alone is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and they paid the ultimate price. High on a hill overlooking Hierapolis are the remains of a small building known as the Martyrium of Philip.
The Apollo Temple and Plutonium:
Hierapolis was also the site of the Apollo Temple and Plutonium, where the god of music, prophecy, and light was worshiped. Inside the temple, a grand fountain called Nymphia was a constant reminder to the people that Apollo was supposed to be their source of life. Next to the temple was a mysterious hole in the ground known as the Plutonium, the Devil’s Hole, or the Gates of Hades. It was believed to be an entrance to the underworld where Pluto (Latin) or Hades (Greek) lived. Poisonous gases emanated from the hole and instantly killed any animals that wandered in. But the priests of Apollo, who apparently held their breath or had some other means of breathing fresh air, amazed the people by going into the hole and coming out again unharmed’seeming to have power over death.
Another prominent feature of Hierapolis was its theater, which communicated through its architecture as well as its activities the people’s devotion to their gods and goddesses. One can still see the images of gods and goddesses depicted in the ornately carved stones.
By far the most impressive feature of Hierapolis was its hot springs. The baths of the Hierapolis were among the largest in all of Asia Minor, allowing hundreds of people to bathe at the same time. People from distant regions came to soak in warm baths and seek healing for arthritis, skin diseases, and even abdominal problems.
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