The Theater at Hierapolis
The first-century theater of Hierapolis, one of the best-preserved theaters in Asia, clearly demonstrates the city’s sophistication at the time Epaphras founded a church there. The carvings below the stage, which was twelve feet high, are in remarkable condition. They depict methodology of Apollo and Artemis and clearly show the connection between the theater and the worship of pagan gods. This particular theater had seating for seventeen thousand spectators, and in the center of the seating area was a “royal box” from which dignitaries watched events.
The Greeks and Romans considered the theater to be more than entertainment. It displayed the ideals of the Hellenistic culture, communicating to people “This is who we are, and this is who we should become.” That’s why Greek theaters such as this one were built so that the audience could see the actors on the stage against the backdrop of their communities.
For Christians of that day, the theater created a dilemma. There was nothing inherently sinful about drama, nor were all the presentations there an insult to godly values. But as an institution, the theater presented a seductive argument for the pagan lifestyle. The plays were dedicated to the gods before they began and were used to shape the values and beliefs of those who aspired to be all that a Greek or Roman should be.
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