The ancient city of Hierapolis is located on a
meter high terrace
deposits amid a
of mineral water pools
The ancient city overlooks the modern town of Pamukkale
in Turkey's Inner Aegean region. Founded
as a thermal spa in 190
BC by Eumenes II,
the King of Pergamon, the city was most likely named for
Hiero, the wife of the legendary founder of the Pergamene
theatre at Hierapolis was built in the second century AD
under the Roman Emperor
Hadrian during a
period of extensive rebuilding following a devastating
earthquake in 60 AD. It
was later renovated under Septimus Severus (193-211 AD).
At this time, the scaenae frons was modified
with elaborate limestone and marble carvings.
the exterior is relatively unassuming as viewed from the
interior contains one of Anatolia's most complete and
best-preserved collection of Greco-Roman theatre
- In 343 AD the scaenae
was renovated and the orchestra was altered so that it
could hold aquatic displays. In the later years of the
Roman Empire the orchestra was converted into a cellar.
Renovation work since 1977 has restored many of the
arches and a portion of the stage floor. Prior to this
date, the stage as well as its arched support system lay
in ruins. Recent archaeological evidence shows that the
theatre was in use through the 5th and into the 6th
century AD. In 532 AD the scaenae, which had been
weakened by seismic activity, was repaired.
theatre at Hierapolis had forty-five rows of seats
separated by two
reconstruction efforts have restored most of the cavea
which could accommodate approximately 15,000 people.
the seats into nine cunei and a series
of præcinctiones (audience passageways) provide
access to the upper cavea sections through four arched
Eight steps lead from the orchestra to the seats at each
side of the stage. A
massive marble tribunalia dominates the center of the
lower cavea. This
ornately carved, curved
seat of honor spans the width of the fourth, fifth and
sixth rows in the central seating section
(cunei) and was
reserved for priests, dignitaries or other honored
holes in the cavea floor on either side of the
be evidence of support poles for an awning (baldachin)
that once covered this central seating area. An
inscription in the first diazomata reads, "Hierapolis,
foremost land of broad Asia, mistress of the Nymphs,
adorned with streams of water and all beauty." The
theatre is made mostly of marble, but the renovations
made during the reign of Septimus Severus used recycled
stones from an ancient theatre to the north of the city.
scaenae frons had five doors
and six niches
for statuary. Ten
elaborately carved Corinthian columns in front of the
scaenae frons were decorated in marble with seashell
motifs. The columns supported detailed
(architectural element consisting of a horizontal beam, a
frieze, and cornice). The
stage was supported by a series of stone arches which
provided a corridor beneath the stage
theatre at Hierapolis has some of the best-preserved
decorative features of any theatre in Turkey.
decorative friezes from the elaborate scaenae frons have
survived intact. One shows Emperor Septimus Severus in
procession with his family and the gods, with an
inscription and dedication. Another illustrates the life
of Dionysus, from his birth through his journeys in Asia.
He is depicted riding in a carriage pulled by leopards,
with an entourage of satyrs, sileni, and bacchantes, as
well as the gods Pan and Priapus. The third frieze shows
a procession and sacrifice to the goddess Artemis and the
punishment of Niobe and her children by Artemis and
- Hierapolis was first
excavated by German Carl Humann in the late nineteenth
century. He published his "Altertumer Von Hierapolis" in
1889. Additional excavations by an Italian team led by
Paolo Verzone began in 1957. As
recently as 1977, visitors to Hierapolis would have found
the orchestra littered with architectural debris and the
cavea reduced to the first thirty rows of
teams have continued to excavated and restored the site.
The Hierapolis Museum was built at the site of the
Hierapolis Roman baths in 1970; before then artifacts
were sent to the museums at Izmir and Istanbul. As of
1996, the excavation of the orchestra and skene were
complete, and restoration of the podium was nearing
completion. As of 2001, Dr. Daria de Bernardi Ferrero has
been leading the Italian excavations.
- - Author: Amanda
Heffernan (student research assistant), Whitman College.
- Akurgal, Ekrem.
Ancient Civilization and Ruins of Turkey. 9th ed.
Istanbul: Net Turistik Yayinlar, 2001.
Accessed October 9, 2003. Available at: www.anthroarcheart.org/
- McDonagh, Bernard.
Blue Guide Turkey. London: A&C Black,
- Sansal, Burak.
"Pamukkale (Hierapolis)." Accessed July 13, 2003.
Available at: www.allaboutturkey.com/pamuk.htm.
Sabahattin. Pamukkale Hierapolis. 3rd ed.
Istanbul: Net Turistik Yayinlar, 1996.
- Utopia, Tourism, Sports,
Organizations. Accessed July 14, 2003. Available at: