Where is Hierapolis where St. Philip the Apostle was martyred?
Like many of the apostles, St. Philip was born in Bethsaida, a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Tradition says St. Philip preached in Greece and was crucified upside down at Hierapolis under the persecution of the Roman emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale) is a city in Turkey famous for its fantastic rock formations and hot springs. Tourists still bathe in these ancient hot springs today.
D. Darke says that ancient Hierapolis (Greek for “Holy City”) was made up of Greeks and Romans with a sizable community of Jews, which helps explain the early spread of Christianity here. At Hierapolis I climbed up this large hill to see a vast building or church built around the beginning of the 5th century that houses the tomb of the martyred Apostle Philip.
The plan of this building is complex, with an octagonal central chamber, reminiscent of early Byzantine churches. On the original long main street of Hierapolis that runs in a straight line, you can see the ancient baths. The two large vaulted rooms, now housing the museum, were in Roman times reserved for the emperor and special ceremonies. At the back of the baths is an adjoining palaestra or open area for exercise and gymnastics. Behind the palaestra are the remains of a vast basilica with three naves, which is probably a cathedral erected in the 6th century when Hierapolis became the seat of a bishop.
At the hotel you can see a sacred pool with columns and pillars in the shallow water. Here you see the ruins of a nymphaeum or monumental fountain. Here you also see the Temple of Apollo, the most shrine of Hierapolis.
Below the temple is a small vaulted door which leads to a chamber under the temple. This is the infamous Plutonium grotto which exuded fumes said to be deadly, according to the ancient historian Strabo. Near the temple is the Roman theater with its well-preserved seats. Here were discovered splendid reliefs from A.D. 200 illustrating the myths of Dionysus, Apollo and Artemis.
Also in Hierapolis is a well-preserved monumental gateway with a triple arch and two round towers. Just inside this gate is a small Byzantine chapel. Between the gate and the city wall, the street is lined with private houses. Beyond the gateway is an imposing brick building, a former bathing establishment, which was converted into a church at the beginning of the Byzantine period.
Beyond this area is a vast necropolis or cemetery, one of the most extensive in Turkey. Over 1200 tombs, many of them Greek, have been counted lining the beginning of the ancient route to Ephesus.
Philip the Apostle is different from Philip the deacon or evangelist. This Philip was one of the first seven deacons of Christianity, along with the famous St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. This Philip was successful in winning over the Samaritans to Christianity. He also converted and baptized the eunuch from Ethiopia in Africa. This Philip settled in Caesarea, a seaport city in Israel, where he lived with his four unmarried daughters. One tradition says Philip the deacon became the bishop of Tralles in Lydia (an ancient kingdom in western Turkey).
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