Hierapolis is a popular tourist site, featured frequently on travel posters and tourist advertisements because of the adjacent spectacular calcified cliffs. Equally as impressive as the white cliffs, however, are the remains of the ancient city and the excellent museum at the site. Along with Colossae and Laodicea, Hierapolis was one of the major cities of the Lycus River valley. While Colossae and Laodicea are on the southern side of the Lycus River, Hierapolis (today known as Pamukkale) is north (or northeast) of the river. The site of the ancient city is approximately 12 miles north of the modern city of Denizli. The most striking aspect of the city, in ancient as well as modern times, is the sight of the calcified white cliffs, formed by mineral deposits from the water flowing over the cliffs. From these white cliffs, which can be seen from the ruins of Laodicea, approximately 6 miles away, Hierapolis derived its modern name of Pamukkale (meaning “cotton castle”). The date of the founding of the city of Hierapolis is uncertain. Because the earliest inscription found at Hierapolis dates from the reign of Eumenes II of Pergamum (r. 197–159 B.C.E.), the founding of the city has usually been dated to the time of the Pergamene kingdom. But because of an inscription in the theater that lists various tribal names, some of which are derived from the names of members of the Seleucid family who ruled parts of Asia Minor during the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.E. (such as Seleucidos and Antiochidos), the founding of the city should likely be moved back to the time of the Seleucid kings. Even the origin of the name of the city is uncertain. One tradition is that the Pergamene rulers named the city after Hiera, the wife of Telephus (son of Hercules and grandson of Zeus), the mythical founder of Pergamum. Another explanation is that the name means “holy city” (hieros in Greek means “holy”) and that the city was so named because of the temples located there. The latter explanation may have arisen after the mythological connection was forgotten.
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