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Laodicea, Laodiceans


LAODICEA, LAODICEANS lā ōd’ ə se’ a, Gr. Λαοδικία, Λαοδικεία, a city and its inhabitants located on the southern bank of the Lycus River, a tributary of the Maeander River in the southwestern region of ancient Phrygia, the area of modern Çürüksuçay in central Turkey. The ancient town stood on a plateau nearly a hundred feet above the river. Although it was undoubtedly a station on the caravan route from Ephesus to northern Syria in Neolithic times, its historic foundation was begun by the Hel. ruler Antiochus II (261-246 b.c.) who named the town for his wife, Laodikē. It was known in antiquity as Gr. λαοδικια ἡ προς τῳ̂ λυκῳ̂, Lat. Laodicea ad Lycum, “Laodicea on the Lycus.” The Gr. geographers Polybius (202-120 b.c.) and Strabo (64 b.c.-a.d. 19) list it as a Phrygian town while the Alexandrian scholar Ptolemy (2nd cent. a.d.) lists it as Carian. N and W of the town lay the open broadlands of the Maeander while SE was the high country of the Babadağ-Akdağ Ranges.

The town grew to wealth and prominence during the period of Rom. supremacy, when it was a way station for the extensive shipments by which Rome exploited Syria-Pal. The Romans continued the city’s character as both a military outpost and a trade center after 133 b.c. Tacitus records the fact that a serious earthquake struck Laodicea in a.d. 60 but that the city was rebuilt by the private wealth of her citizens, “propriis opibus revaluit” (Tacitus Annals XIV, 27). An additional source of its wealth came from the wool of its famous black sheep, which was carded and woven in the locality, and its production of a poultice, Gr. τέφραφρυγία, widely sought for treatment of eye ailments. In the environs were also the temples of the ancient deities, chiefly at Attuda where the shrine of Men-of-the-Carians was located. According to Josephus, Antiochus the Great (III) settled 2,000 Jewish families in Phrygia and Lydia after deporting them from Babylon (Jos. Antiq. XII. 147-149). No doubt the rising economic position and business endeavors of the region caused the Jews to thrive. Two references to the Jews of Laodicea during the 1st cent. b.c. have survived. In his defense of Flaccus, Cicero mentions that the Jews of Asia Minor were forbidden to send money to Jerusalem (pro Flacco, 28.) and Josephus records that the Jews were guaranteed freedom of worship by the city magistrates (Jos. Antiq. XIV. 241). It was this wealth and independence which is the background of the remark recorded in Revelation 3:17ff. Laodicea was widely known as a banking center and the business of money changing (Gr. κολλυβίστης) prospered. Laodicea minted its own coins several centuries before the Christian era, expressing upon them the attributions and inscrs. of the ancient gods.

From its inception, Christianity in Laodicea was bound up with the other missionary churches of the Lycus Valley. It was to these churches that the encyclical epistle of Ephesians was most prob. written. It is also mentioned in a similar context with the church of Colossae (Col 2:1; 4:13, 15, 16). A spurious Lat. pseudep. work by the title of “The Epistle to the Laodiceans” was circulated for a goodly part of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. However, the citation to an “epistle from Laodicea” (Col 4:16), undoubtedly refers to the text of Ephesians. A certain Epaphras (q.v.) apparently ministered in the Lycus area and represented Paul and his coworkers, on the basis of reading the older Gr. ὑπερ ἡμω̂ν, instead of the ὑπερ ὑμω̂ν, of the TR, “on our” for “on your” behalf in Colossians 1:7. Laodicea was therefore one of the furthest inland of the classical “seven churches.”


W. M. Ramsay, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia (1895) I, 32-83; W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches (1904) 413-431; Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, VI (1939) x-xi, 1-14; M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (1941) 479, 487, 822, 945, 1645; D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950) I, 127; M. J. Mellink, “Laodicea,” IDB (1962) KQ, 70, 71.