Monday, June 10, 2013

Turkey Day 5: Colossae and Perga

Turkey in 10 Days
1. General Remarks
2. What to Bring
3. Day 1: Traveling There
4. Day 2: Troy
5. Day 3: Pergamum, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna 
6. Day 4: Ephesus and Laodicea

7. Day 5: Colossae and Perga

Monday morning started in Pamukale, ancient Hierapolis.

White Rocks of Hierapolis

At the top of these white rocks are natural hot baths, a result of the frequent earthquakes of this region. We had the usual speculation about whether Jesus in Revelation was thinking of the hot or the cold as the preferred temperature of nearby Laodicea.  I guess the baths at the top are no longer available to tourists, now that this is a World Heritage site.  But there is a man made bath up there, I guess.  We saved a little money and didn't go up.

That means we also missed the ruins at the top.  Hierapolis is actually mentioned in the New Testament, in Colossians 4:13 where all three of the cities in this area are mentioned (Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis) as places Epaphras served. We mused what his role might have been--"senior pastor"?  Probably not.  Maybe a respected deacon type that these churches sent to Paul to bring material support while he was in prison.

Hierapolis is better known as the place where Papias was bishop in the early 2nd century (and, yes, there were bishops over cities by then).  Some date him as early as 110.  Irenaeus, in the late 100s, considered him a contemporary of Polycarp, who was martyred in 155.  Irenaeus calls him someone who had heard John.

The reason Papias is significant is because he is the one that first says that Mark was the author of Mark and that Matthew, somewhat enigmatically, wrote down the "sayings" of Jesus in Aramaic.  Papias is so early and so well connected that we should take his traditions quite seriously.

We had a really hard time finding Colossae because the Garman kept changing the numbers we plugged in for longitude and latitude (37-45-22.33N, 29-15-57.81E)--very weird.  First it took us down some back road to the almost mountain village of Honaz, about 2 kilometers south of where we needed to be.

In the end, it's easy to find if you just follow the brown signs.  From Pamukkale, you head back south toward Denizli and get back on 320 going east. About 25 kilometers east of Denizli, you'll eventually see a small brown sign on the right that points you toward Colossae.  Follow the road until the next brown sign (a couple kilometers), which is another right turn.  You'll see the mound right there on the right.

Dave atop Colossae
Lower ruins of Colossae

Colossae was here.
There really isn't much to see here.  There is a guard booth at the bottom of the mound, but no one was there.  We looked around. Some farmer had gunshots going off about every 2 minutes--we figured to scare off birds.  But another farmer must have called the Jandarma, the state police, who showed up at the site just as we were coming down.

Keith and Ross were already at the bottom.  Dave and I were headed down a little more slowly from different parts of the mound.  I figured they just wanted to make sure we weren't tampering with the site, not carrying off any potsherds.  There is an industrial park nearby, as you can see in one of the pictures above. Hard to believe they would be concerned that we were taking pictures of it.

They were a little like good cop/bad cop.  The one went up past me to check out the site, maybe whether anyone else was up there (I had already told him "dirt keesheeler," "four persons")?  The other one was friendly.  He looked at my notebook.  Curiously, I had never taken my notebook with me on site until then.  He saw that I had written Colossae down with some other scribble--that rung true to him.  We showed them the letter from the university.  I learned the word "erretmen," "teacher."  At least the "good cop" seemed satisfied, and they let us go.

Still not quite sure what that was all about.  If I were to take a tour, I think I would clear it with the state first, get a letter from the Turkish government with a list of sites we were going to visit. You don't need more than 20 minutes at Colossae, just enough for the motivated to climb to the top, walk around, and walk back down.

Colossae is far more significant than the current state of the site.  Paul and Timothy wrote a letter to this church. This is the church of Philemon.  This is the church Paul was afraid might be influenced by a particular kind of Jewish philosophy in the area (I think a form of mystical Judaism).

Colossae, as well as Laodicea and Hierapolis, were destroyed by an earthquake around the year 61 (Tacitus) or 64 (Eusebius). The other cities rebuilt, Colossae apparently didn't.

Antalya (Attalia)
The rest of the day was mostly travel. We went back to 320, back west toward Denizli for a smidge, then south again on 585 toward Antalya, ancient Attalia.  At some point it merges into 350 east, still toward Antalya.

We wanted to see the water where Paul and Barnabas left the region to head back to Syrian Antioch at the end of the first missionary journey (Acts 14:25).  This lovely bay did the trick. There is a ruin in town called Hadrian's Gate, but the water was sufficient to cover this one verse in the Bible.

Antalya (Attalia)

It's of course also possible that Paul, Barnabas, and Mark sailed into Attalia from Cyprus in Acts 13:13.  Or they could have sailed into Side, just a little further east.  Or they could have sailed up the Aksu River straight to Perga itself.

The Perga site was easy to find.  Either the Garman didn't fail us on Perga (written Perge) or the signs were clear, but we didn't have any trouble finding the ruins. Looking at maps, it looks like you would go east on 400 out of Antalya toward Serik, just a little past your turn off north to Isparta (685). Then you would seen a sign to the left going north to Perge, which is Attaturk Road.

It is a fairly extensive site as such things go.  Admission was 15 lira to the main site so we skipped it (our letter didn't help here--they'd already gotten to the printed ticket stage). We were still able to go into the stadium, and a ticket won't get you into the theater anyway, which is perhaps the best (Roman) theater intact from the ancient world.

Perga ruins
Perga theater
Perga stadium

Our goal for the day was to go north up 685 in the direction of Isparta and stay somewhere for the night. We wanted to get a feel for Paul's trip north. There is actually a hiking trail I guess called St. Paul's Trail or some such that goes from Antalya to Yavach (Pisidian Antioch).  I guess there is also a St. Paul's Center in Antalya.  I heard that at one time there were two nuns running a church there in which you could worship.

Perga looking north

We tried to get a feel for what John Mark would have seen if he had looked north from Perga.  I suspect a lot more was going on than just a dread of climbing, but if you look at the picture above, you could at least understand one scenario in which Mark says something like, "That's it. I didn't sign up to climb mountains like that."

Lake headed north from Perga 

But it turned out to be quite a pleasant drive.  It would be fun to hike it some day.

River headed north from Perga

We ended up spending the night in Isparta. Paul's route likely went up the east side of Lake Eğidir, so we deviated from the path a little to get a room for the night. There were plenty of hotels on what seemed to be a main drag.

Hotel at Isparta

Just as we got into town, we went to a Migros (like Wal-Mart), bought some bread and foodstuffs.  Ross got some directions from some modern dressed women in the parking lot, and we found pay dirt in hotels.

I believe we stayed at the Otel Bolat, although I'm a little fuzzy on this one.  It was a typical old school hotel.  There is a string of hotels on "Mimar Sinan" Street.  Here's a picture looking off the balcony.


Keith Drury said...

Boy, these are good Ken--wish we had them when we went! ;-) THANKS for all the work you do like this for others to follow.

Anonymous said...

part of the benefit of going to each of these sites for me was geographical orientation. Colossae, Laodicea and Hieropolis (all mentioned in scripture) are in the same larger valley area. It's easy to imagine a sort of church connection there with brothers and sisters passing letters from Paul back and forth among them using day-messengers.

I hope I get to go again with Ken some day, I missed half his insights along the way. Keith says he probably won't ever go back... but maybe... just maybe. :) I hope for a Ken Schenck led travel course.

Anonymous said...

Every trip needs a cheerleader...Ross' bartering skills were great, but his positive energy and desire for knowledge of scripture were even greater. Every trip needs a Ross Hoffman around.

Dennis Baugh said...

Once again your post brings back many memories. St Paul's Cultural Center in Antalya has a vibrant group of Christians for worship on Sunday morning. Dr Mark Wilson of Seven Churches Network ( attends there. Jim Bultema is the pastor. It was my understanding that this was the only Christian group in the city of almost a million. Next time you visit this area, there's a stretch of the Via Sebaste in the mountains to the west of the city. You ascend up the mountain side on the ancient road up to the ruins of old toll station and a Roman mile marker. Dr Wilson wrote a paper for New Testament Studies awhile back where he explores the various options for the route that Paul took between Perga and Antioch. ALso, the book St Paul's Trail by Kate Clow goes into detail on the hike north. Someday, I'd like to go back and walk it.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks Dennis!