Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale is located to the south central of the Aegean region of Turkey. The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white “castle” which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high.


As recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing considerable damage. An approach road was built from the valley over the terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes.


When the area was declared a World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools. The hotels built in the 1960s were demolished as they were draining the thermal waters into their swimming pools and caused damage to the terraces.


Nowadays, water supply to the hotels is limited and they need to deposit the water used to the supply to generate. Hierapolis is an exceptional example of a Greco-Roman thermal installation established on an extraordinary natural site.


The therapeutic virtues of the waters were exploited at the various thermal installations, which included immense hot basins and pools for swimming. Hydrotherapy was accompanied by religious practices, which developed in relation to local cults.


The Temple of Apollo, which includes several Chtonian divinities, was erected on a geological fault from which noxious vapours escaped. The theatre, which dates from the time of Severus, is decorated with an admirable frieze depicting a ritual procession and a sacrifice to the Ephesian Artemis.


Pamukkale, which literally means ‘cotton castle’, is the name the Turks gave to the extraordinary site of Hierapolis. The name was inspired by the preternatural landscape of bizarre forms created by calcite deposits from the hot springs that surface through a fault: mineral forests, petrified cascades and terraced pools of an immense natural nymphaeum.


The ancients attributing healing powers to the hot springs (35 °C) equal to their power to metamorphose the landscape, they founded a thermal station on the site in the late 2nd century. The history of Hierapolis followed the same course as many Hellenistic cities in Asia Minor.

Pamukkale Turkey

Travertine pools at ancient Hierapolis, now Pamukkale, Turkey

The Romans acquired full control of it in 129 BC and it prospered under its new rulers. It was a cosmopolitan city where Anatolians, Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and Jews intermingled.


Pamukkale was formed when a spring with a high content of dissolved calcium bicarbonate cascaded over the edge of the cliff, which cooled and hardened leaving calcium deposits. This formed into natural pools, shelves and ridges, which tourists could plunge and splash in the warm water.


The ancient city of Hierapolis, the original site of Pamukkale, was known as a Holy City in archaeological literature because of the abundance of temples and other religious structures in the area.


Although there is limited information on the founding of the city, it is known that Eumenes II, king of Pergamon (or Pergamum (197-159 BC)), founded it and named it after Bergama’s mythical founder, Hiera, who was the wife of Telephos. It was an important center during the Roman and Byzantine periods, and a center of Christianity since the 4th century.


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