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Laodicea (See also wiki article Laodicea_on_the_Lycus.)

LAODICEA. A city of SW Phrygia, in the Roman province of Asia, in the W of what is now Asiatic Turkey. It was founded by the Seleucid Antiochus II in the 3rd century bc, and called after his wife Laodice. It lay in the fertile valley of the Lycus (a tributary of the Maeander), close to Hierapolis and Colossae, and was distinguished by the epithet 'on Lycus' from several other cities of the name. It was at a very important cross-road: the main road across Asia Minor ran W to the ports of Miletus and Ephesus about 160 km away and E by an easy incline on to the central plateau and thence towards Syria; and another road ran N to Pergamum and S to the coast at Attalia.

This strategic position made Laodicea an extremely prosperous commercial centre, especially under Roman rule. When destroyed by a disastrous earthquake in ad 60 (Tacitus, Ann. 14. 27) it could afford to dispense with aid from Nero. It was an important centre of banking and exchange (cf. Cicero, ad Fam. 3. 5. 4, etc.). Its distinctive products included garments of glossy black wool (Strabo, Geog. 12. 8. 16 [578]), and it was a medical centre noted for ophthalmology. The site had one disadvantage: being determined by the road- system, it lacked a sufficient and permanent supply of good water. Water was piped to the city from hot springs some distance S, and probably arrived lukewarm. The deposits still encrusting the remains testify to its warmth. The site of Laodicea was eventually abandoned, and the modern town (Denizli) grew up near the springs.

The gospel must have reached Laodicea at an early date, probably while Paul was living at Ephesus (Acts 19:10), and perhaps through Epaphras (Col.4:12-13). Although Paul mentions the church there (Col.2:1; 4:13-16), there is no record that he visited it. It is evident that the church maintained close connections with the Christians in Hierapolis and Colossae. The 'letter from Laodicea' (Col.4:16) is often thought to have been a copy of our Ephesians which had been received in Laodicea.

The last of the Letters to 'the seven churches of Asia' (Rev.3:14-22) was addressed to Laodicea. Its imagery owes relatively little to the OT, but contains pointed allusions to the character and circumstances of the city. For all its wealth, it could produce neither the healing power of hot water, like its neighbour Hierapolis, nor the refreshing power of cold water to be found at Colossae, but merely lukewarm water, useful only as an emetic. The church was charged with a similar uselessness: it was self-sufficient, rather than half-hearted. Like the city, it thought it had 'need of nothing'. In fact it was spiritually poor, naked and blind, and needed 'gold', 'white garments' and 'eye- salve' more effective than its bankers, clothiers and doctors could supply. Like citizens inhospitable to a traveller who offers them priceless goods, the Laodiceans had closed their doors and left their real Provider outside. Christ turns in loving appeal to the individual (v. 20).

Bibliography. W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, 1904; M. J. S. Rudwick and E. M. B. Green, ExpT69, 1957-8, pp. 176-178; C. J. Hemer, NIDNTT 1, pp. 317-319; idem, Buried History 11, 1975, pp. 175- 190. M.J.S.R. C.J.H.

[Illustrated Bible Dictionary. IVP. 1980.]