The city of Laodicea was home to the seventh church addressed in the Book of Revelation. As with the other six churches, specific references were made to the geography, commerce and the culture of the city. Paul’s letters 1 Corinthians, Colossians and 1 Timothy also mention or reference the city. Colossians references a letter from Paul to Laodicea that has been lost. Some Biblical scholars believe that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians may actually have been addressed to the Laodiceans.
Laodicea was founded c.260 BC by the Seleucid king, Antiochus II, Theos, who named it for his wife Laodice. The city was originally established as a fortress to protect a major east-west trader route through the Meander Valley. It quickly grew to be a very wealthy city because of its woolen clothing, banking (particularly money exchange) and medicine (particularly a salve used for eye care.) Each of these is referenced directly in the letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3.
The city itself was located some distance, roughly 4 miles, from a dependable water supply. The water supply was from a calcium laden hot springs. It was transported to Laodicea in clay pipes that became clogged by the calcium. (See picture at the top.) Periodic openings covered with flat stones, much like modern manholes, they provided for cleaning the deposits from the clay pipes. By the time the water arrived at the city it was no longer hot, but tepid… or lukewarm.
The clothing manufactured in Laodicea was woven from an unusual black wool from the flocks in that area. The salve, claimed to be a cure-all for eye problems (can you say “snake-oil?), became so famous that eye doctors in Laodicea even had coins struck with their images.
As with modern-day Turkey, this entire area suffered from frequent devastating earthquakes. Most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake c. 60 AD. The city was so wealthy that it refused assistance from Rome to rebuild it.
Laodicea quickly became a center for Christianity in the Roman Province of Asia. It was here that the canon (approved books) of the Bible was completed in 361 AD.
The lack of dependable clean water led to the eventual decline of Laodicea. All that remains today are ruins. Much of the ancient city has yet to be excavated.
This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs
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