The ancient city of Philadelphia is primarily remembered as one of the seven cities mentioned in the book of Revelation. Because the city was in an earthquake-prone area, not much remains to be seen of ancient Philadelphia. What might still exist lies buried, for the most part, under the modern city. Situated approximately 30 miles southeast of the site of ancient Sardis on highway 585, Alaşehir is the name of the modern city located on the site of ancient Philadelphia. Philadelphia was on a plateau in the Cogamus River valley (today the Alaşehir Çayï), a tributary of the Hermus River. In antiquity, the Persian Royal Road from Sardis to Susa (in modern Iran) ran through Philadelphia. Prior to the Hellenistic founding of the city of Philadelphia, an earlier settlement here was known as Calletebus, dating back several centuries. The city was named for Attalus II Philadelphus, the Attalid king of Pergamum from 159 to 138 B.C.E., whose loyalty to his brother Eumenes II Soter, who preceded him as king (r. 197–159 B.C.E.), earned him the nickname “Philadelphus,” meaning “brotherly love.” Either Eumenes or Attalus founded the city, which was in the Lydian region of ancient Anatolia. After Attalus III (r. 138–133 B.C.E.) bequeathed the Pergamene kingdom to the Romans in 133 B.C.E., Philadelphia came under Roman control. The area around Philadelphia was a fertile agricultural area, especially good for growing grapes. Unfortunately, the area was also susceptible to frequent earthquakes. A particularly devastating earthquake struck the area in 17 C.E., destroying the city of Sardis and doing extensive damage to Philadelphia. To help the city recover from this disaster, Emperor Tiberius remitted the tribute owed to Rome for a period of five years. In gratitude, Philadelphia took the name Neocaesarea and dedicated a temple to Tiberius. Although the city was slow to recover from the devastation caused by the earthquake and its aftershocks, it eventually prospered under Roman rule. By the 5th century it was sometimes referred to as “little Athens” because of its many temples and religious festivals.
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