Hurriyet Daily News recently reported here on plans to reconstruct the ancient stadium in ancient Laodicea. Laodicea is known to Bible students from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.
For I bear him [Epaphras] witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:13-16 ESV)
Laodicea is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, five miles from the modern Turkish town of Denizli, and near the popular resort of Pamukkale.
The stadium at Laodicea before the recent efforts to uncover the stadium and restore it. A portion of the nymphaeum is visible on the hill on the left side of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
When I first began traveling to visit the sites of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation, all we could see at Laodicea was the form of the stadium and ruins of a nymphaeum (a fountain house). If we walked through across the mound to the north we could see the location of two theaters. That was about it.
In recent years tourists have seen many new excavations and reconstructions on the north side of the tell, but few walked through the weeds to get to the stadium.
Originally the stadium was an enclosed structure used for gladiatorial games. An inscription tells that a wealthy family dedicated it to Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79) and Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81). It is said to be the biggest stadium in Anatolia.
Vespasian and Titus are known for their war with the Jews beginning in A.D. 66, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Here is the article from the Hurriyet Daily News for those who wish to read further.
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Works have been initiated this summer to unearth a stadium in the ancient city of Laodicea, a property on UNESCO’s tentative list for World Heritage Sites. The stadium was a venue for sports competitions and gladiator fights in ancient times and is located in the western province of Denizli.
Excavations and restorations have been ongoing in the ancient city for 13 years under the leadership of Professor Celal Şimşek of the Pamukkale University (PAU) Archaeology Department. Some 4,000 artifacts have been uncovered so far.
The artifacts include figures, sculptures, agricultural tools, and household products and have been under protection. The Holy Agora, which is home to one of the seven holy churches mentioned in the Bible but which collapsed in an earthquake along with its columns in 494 A.D., has been restored and revived.
A project has also been initiated to unearth the Laodicea Stadium, located on Stadium Street in the ancient city and known as the largest stadium in Anatolia in the era.
The project has been approved by the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board and gets supported by the Merkezefendi Municipality. When it is finished, the stadium will be revived after 1,494 years.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Professor Şimşek said this year’s excavation and restoration works have still been continuing in the ancient city, focusing on the project made for the revival of Stadium Street.
“The recovery of the ruined columns continues. They will be revived with their arches within three months. The street will regain life after 1,500 years,” Şimşek said, adding that the street where the excavations are continuing is very important.
He said the Laodecia Stadium was the biggest one in Anatolia.
“It is a gigantic structure that is 285-meters high and 70-meters wide. Right next to it is a bath complex. It is one of the biggest bathes in Anatolia. There is an agora and an assembly building next to it. This place was a field of both sports and administration and people came together. From this aspect, the street has importance too,” said Şimşek.
Arena of gladiators
Şimşek said many competitions were held in the Laodicea Stadium in ancient times and the names of five-time winners of the competitions were written on inscriptions.
“At the same time, this stadium is very important for gladiator fights. The competition was held not only for this city but also the other cities in the Lycus lowlands. All Olympic-size games, local or big sports competitions, and gladiator fights have been held in this stadium,” he said.
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See Archaeology News Network for two aerial photos of the area.
HT: ABR Newsletter