Saturday, December 8, 2012

Resurrecting the ancient city of Laodicea

Cranes, excavators, teams of workmen in hard-hats and foremen shouting into their mobile phones are a ubiquitous feature of today's Turkey, a country where, in spite of a global economic slowdown, new buildings continue to be erected at a staggering rate. Take a trip to Laodicea, however, and you'll see a “building site” with a twist. For here a long abandoned Greek-Roman city is being resurrected wholesale from its ruins by … construction cranes and teams of workmen in hard-hats!

Sprawling across a low hill between the prosperous textile town of Denizli and the iconic travertine formations of Pamukkale in western Turkey, ancient Laodicea is generally overlooked by the vast majority of visitors, who tend to be drawn instead to Pamukkale and its associated site of Hierapolis, or the wonderful remains at Aphrodisias, not too much further away. Only bible groups, attracted to Laodicea because it is one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the New Testament's Revelation of John, buck the trend.

That Laodicea is relatively little visited is hardly surprising given its press. The current edition of Lonely Planet Turkey says “there's not much of interest left,” the Rough Guide to Turkey doesn't even mention the site. A late 1980s version of the more specialist, archaeology and history-orientated Blue Guide writes of Laodicea, “Much of its worked stone has been removed for building purposes and, unfortunately, little is being done to preserve its remaining structures from further damage.”

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