Laodicea pertains to an ancient Greek city that was built upon the river Lycus, in the region comprising Caria and Lydia (present-day southwestern Turkey, near the city of Denizli). While being initially called Diospolis (‘The City of Zeus’), the settlement was not really considered as an important urban center, until the 3rd century BC, when Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid dynasty constructed buildings in honor of his wife Laodice. By 2nd century BC, Laodicea was a thriving metropolis administered by the Kingdom of Pergamon, which later passed under Roman control – thereby allowing the construction of not one but two magnificent ancient theaters. And now archaeologists are looking forth to structurally restore the older theater (of Hellenistic origin), thus preserving a slice of history from 2,200 years ago.
The collaborative effort of the Pamukkale University Archaeology Department and the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, had resulted in a series of excavations that were aimed at finding the older theater and a large temple, both within the confines of ancient Laodicea. And now after years of extensive unearthing and assessments, the researchers have determined the actual scale of the ancient constructions at their prime. For example, the Hellenistic (Western) theater had a diameter of 94 m (or 308 ft) and a capacity for holding 15,000 people, while the Roman (Northern) theater had diameter of 124 m (or 407 ft) and a capacity for 20,000 people.
Interestingly enough, the later Roman structure was also used a convention center for trade meetings that involved people and merchants from different parts of the realm. In fact, Laodicea in itself was situated along a major road, and was known as a commercial Roman city attuned to large money transactions and an extensive trade in black wool. As Head of Laodicea Excavation Committee Professor Celal Şimşek, said –
This shows us that an entity similar to the European Union existed in this land 1,800 years ago.
As for the ancient Greek temple, the monumental structure and its extensive compound boasted 35,000 sq m (or 377,000 sq ft) of area, which is equivalent of more than six American football fields. However the complex was transformed into a thriving market area during the reign of Constantine, while being completely destroyed by an earthquake in 5th century AD.
Finally as for the ambitious restoration project in question, the researchers are expecting to complete their architectural feat in just three years. Furthermore, Şimşek and his team have also set their goal to add Laodicea to the UNESCO World Heritage List in five years (currently the site is in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites). In consideration of such praiseworthy aims, the restoration was deservedly awarded the European Union Cultural Heritage Jury’s special award in March of this year.