Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing of thermal spring water.It is located in Turkey’s Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year.The ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of the travertine formation which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away. Known as Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) or ancient Hierapolis (Holy City), this area has been drawing visitors to its thermal springs since the time of Classical antiquity.The Turkish name refers to the surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcite-rich springs.Dripping slowly down the mountainside, mineral-rich waters collect in and cascade down the mineral terraces, into pools below. Legend has it that the formations are solidified cotton (the area’s principal crop) that giants left out to dry.
People have visited area for thousands of years, due to the attraction of the thermal pools. 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 UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools. There are well-preserved Roman ruins and a museum on site. A small footpath runs up the mountain face for visitors to use, however the travertine terraces are all off-limits, having suffered damage, erosion and water pollution due to tourism.It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 with Hierapolis.
There are only a few historical facts known about the origin of the city. No traces of the presence of Hittites or Persians have been found. The Phrygians built a temple, probably in the first half of the 7th century BC. This temple, originally used by the citizens of the nearby town of Laodicea, would later form the centre of Hierapolis.Pools inside the archeological site.Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC within the sphere of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus the Great sent 2,000 Jewish families to Lydia and Phrygia from Babylon and Mesopotamia, later joined by more from Judea. The Jewish congregation grew in Hierapolis and has been estimated as high as 50,000 in 62 BC.Hierapolis became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. The city began minting bronze coins in the 2nd century BC. These coins give the name Hieropolis. It remains unclear whether this name referred to the original temple (ἱερόν, hieron) or honoured Hiera, the wife of Telephus, son of Heracles and the Mysian princess Auge, the supposed founder of Pergamon‘s Attalid dynasty.This name eventually changed into Hierapolis (“holy city”),.In 133 BC, when Attalus III died, he bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. Hierapolis thus became part of the Roman province of Asia. In AD 17, during the rule of the emperor Tiberius, a major earthquake destroyed the city.Through the influence of the Christian apostle Paul, a church was founded here while he was at Ephesus.The Christian apostle Philip spent the last years of his life here.The town’s Martyrium was alleged to have been built upon the spot where Philip was crucified in AD 80. His daughters were also said to have acted as prophetesses in the region.During the 4th century, the Christians filled Pluto’s Gate (a ploutonion) with stones, suggesting that Christianity had become the dominant religion and begun displacing other faiths in the area. Originally a see of Phrygia Pacatiana,the Byzantine emperor Justinian raised the bishop of Hierapolis to the rank of metropolitan in 531. The Roman baths were transformed to a Christian basilica. During the Byzantine period, the city continued to flourish and also remained an important centre for Christianity.