1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Laodicea

LAODICEA, the name of at least eight cities, founded or renovated in the later Hellenic period. Most of them were founded by the, Seleucid kings of Syria. Seleucus, founder of the dynasty, is said by Appian to have named five cities after his mother Laodice. Thus in the immense realm of the Seleucidae from the Aegean Sea to the borders of India we find cities called Laodicea, as also Seleucia (q.v.). So long as Greek civilization held its ground. these were the commercial and social centres. The chief are Laodicea ad Lycum (see below); Combusta on the borders of Phrygia, Lycaonia and Pisidia; a third in Pontus; a fourth, ad mare, on the coast of Syria; a fifth, ad Libanum, beside the Lebanon mountains; and three others in the far east—Media, Persia and the lower Tigris valley. In the latter countries Greek civilization was short-lived, and the last three cities disappeared; the other five continued great throughout the Greek and Roman period, and the second, third and fourth retain to the present day the ancient name under the pronunciation Ladik, Ladikiyeh or Latakia (q.v.).

Laodicea ad Lycum (mod. Denizli, q.v.) was founded probably by Antiochus II. Theos (261–46 b.c.), and named after his wife Laodice. Its site is close to the station of Gonjeli on the Anatolian railway. Here was one of the oldest homes of Christianity and the seat of one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse. Pliny states (v. 29) that the town was called in older times Diospolis and Rhoas; but at an early period Colossae, a few miles to the east, and Hierapolis, 6 m. to the north, were the great cities of the neighbourhood, and Laodicea was of no importance till the Seleucid foundation (Strabo, p. 578). A favourable site was found on some low hills of alluvial formation, about 2 m. S. of the river Lycus (Churuk Su) and 9 m. E. of the confluence of the Lycus and Maeander. The great trade route from the Euphrates and the interior passed to it through Apamea. There it forked, one branch going down the Maeander valley to Magnesia and thence north to Ephesus, a distance of about 90 m., and the other branch crossing the mountains by an easy pass to Philadelphia and the Hermus valley, Sardis, Thyatira and at last Pergamum. St Paul (Col. iv. 15) alludes to the situation of Laodicea beside Colossae and Hierapolis; and the order in which the last five churches of the Apocalypse are enumerated (Rev. i. 11) is explained by their position on the road just described. Placed in this situation, in the centre of a very fertile district, Laodicea became a rich city. It was famous for its money transactions (Cic. Ad Fam. ii. 17, iii. 5), and for the beautiful soft wool grown by the sheep of the country (Strabo 578). Both points are referred to in the message to the church (Rev. iii. 17, 18).

Little is known of the history of the town. It suffered greatly from a siege in the Mithradatic war, but soon recovered its prosperity under the Roman empire. The Zeus of Laodicea, with the curious epithet Azeus or Azeis, is a frequent symbol on the city coins. He is represented standing, holding in the extended right hand an eagle, in the left a spear, the hasta pura. Not far from the city was the temple of Men Karon, with a great medical school; while Laodicea itself produced some famous Sceptic philosophers, and gave origin to the royal family of Polemon and Zenon, whose curious history has been illustrated in recent times (W. H. Waddington, Mélanges de Numism. ser. ii.; Th. Mommsen, Ephem. Epigraph. i. and ii.; M. G, Rayet, Milet et le Golfe Latmique, chap. v.). The city fell finally into decay in the frontier wars with the Turkish invaders. Its ruins are of wide extent, but not of great beauty or interest; there is no doubt, however, that much has been buried beneath the surface by the frequent earthquakes to which the district is exposed (Strabo 580; Tac. Ann. xiv. 27).

See W. M. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i.-ii. (1895); Letters to the Seven Churches (1904); and the beautiful drawings of Cockerell in the Antiquities of Ionia, vol. iii. pl. 47–51.  (A. H. S.)