Philadelphia (Asia Minor)

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The city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor was an important and wealthy trade center in ancient Lydia that retained its importance until late Byzantine times. The city was addressed as one of the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:7 ff) and became an early seat of a bishop.

History

As an ancient city, Philadelphia was not as ancient as many of the other cities of Asia Minor. It was founded in 189 BC along one of the roads that led to the east toward Pisidia. The city has had a number of names through its existence: "Philadelphia", to honor Attalus II who was honored for his loyalty with the nickname Philadelphos, literally one who loves his brother, by his elder brother, Eumenes II, king of Lydia; "Decapolis", as it was considered one of the ten cities of the plain of Lydia; "Neo-kaisaria", during the first century; and "Flavia", during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian. Its modern name is "Alashehir".

In 133 BC, the city passed into the control of the Romans. It was during the few centuries before Christ that Jewish families settled in the cities of western Asia Minor and among whom the apostles, notably Ss. Paul and John the Theologian, visited, labored, and established the first Christian churches. Their efforts are reflected in mention of Philadelphia among the Seven Churches in John's Book of Revelation. The renown of Philadelphia is further attested as the place that St. Ignatius of Antioch visited on his trip to his martyrdom in Rome and to which he sent a letter.

However, being located in the area of the Anatolian fault, Philadelphia suffered greatly though the ages from earthquakes. An earthquake in the year 17 was so devastating that the Roman emperor Tiberius relieved the city of having to pay taxes. Philadelphia remained a prosperous city into Byzantine times. About the year 600, the domed Basilica of St. John was built. But, by the eleventh century, the city had been captured by the Seljuk Turks and, although recovered by Eastern Roman emperor Alexius I, the city would continue as a prize among the warring forces until finally taken by the Turks in 1338, and became Alashehir.

Sources

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