Cities of the Lycus Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse

The cities of Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse–all of which are referenced in Colossians 4:13–were located within about 12 miles (19 km) of each other along the Lycus River in the region of Phrygia. Two main Roman roads heading east joined at Laodicea and continued on to Apamea and Iconium. Though Paul almost certainly passed through this area on his way to Ephesus during his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23; 19:1; see map), apparently he never personally met the believers there (2:1). Instead Paul’s coworker Epaphras, a native of Colosse, first brought the gospel to the Colossians and perhaps to the people of Laodicea and Hierapolis as well (Colossians 1:6-7; 4:12). Even so, Paul appears to have held the same degree of concern for these believers as he did for believers of the churches he personally founded. Paul urged the Colossian believers to make sure that his letter to them is read to the believers at Laodicea and also that his letter to the Laodiceans is read to the Colossians. The letter to the Laodiceans may be what we now regard as the letter to the Ephesians (4:16). Laodicea is also one of the churches addressed by the apostle John in Revelation (3:14-22), where John rebukes them for being lukewarm instead of hot or cold. This imagery is likely drawn from Laodicea’s lukewarm water sources, which were a result of the city being located too far from Hierapolis’s renowned hot springs and also too far from Colosse’s cold springs. John also references several other characteristic traits of Laodicea, such as their wealth, their eye ointment, and their cloth, which was made from their distinctive black wool. Philadelphia, another city addressed by John in Revelation (3:7-13), was located about fifty miles northwest of the Lycus Valley cities.

download hi-res file