So Many Tombs at Hierapolis

I’ve recently recommended Christopher Stanley’s A Rooster for Asklepios as an enjoyable way to enter the Greco-Roman world and all of its fascinating background to the New Testament. Frequently I found things clicking into place as he included some ancient custom or activity in the fictional story of a slave who journeys with his master to a healing sanctuary of Asklepios.

Early in the story, a young doctor is describing his previous employment at the temple of Asklepios in Hierapolis.

“The temple was always quite busy, as the springs attract vast numbers of people who wish to be cured. You might think that this would make it a good place for a physician to ply his trade,” he went on, “but it wasn’t.  Too many of the people whom I saw had waited until they were beyond healing before coming to the springs.  Many of them died there, while others left only to die at home.  If you’ve ever been to the city, you’ll know that the cemetery that runs along both sides of the main road contains far more tombs than you would expect for a city of its size.  Many of them belong to people from other cities who were too sick to travel home or who chose to stay and enjoy the comforts of the springs until their bodies gave out” (Kindle location 936; surfaced by Readwise).

This is a pretty obvious concept when you think about it, but I don’t know that I had ever thought about it. Hierapolis is an impressive city, not far from Laodicea, and the ancient cemetery is well worth some time exploring.

Hierapolis northern necropolis, tb041305056

Northern necropolis at Hierapolis

Hierapolis eastern necropolis, tb041305814

Buried tombs in eastern necropolis of Hierapolis

Hierapolis northern necropolis, shs031115195

Well-preserved tombs in the northern necropolis

For more about Hierapolis, see our page with photos and related websites.


One thought on “So Many Tombs at Hierapolis

  1. Hurrah for fiction books to put Roman society in perspective. I enjoyed the first and second books. Thanks for the recommendation.

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