Satellite Image of ancient Philadelphia
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Ancient Philadelphia, one of the Seven Cities of the Apocalypse, is mostly covered by the modern city of Alasehir, Turkey, with a 2007 population of almost 46,000. It is one of several ancient cities sharing the name "Brother-Love."

When the Pergamene king Eumenes II founded the city in 189 BCE, he named it "Brother-Love" to honor his brother's loyalty to him. When the last king of that same dynasty died heirless in 133 BCE, he bequeathed the Kingdom of Lydia, including Philadelphia, to the Romans, who four years later organized the Roman province of Asia. The area around Philadelphia is geologically unstable, making it prone to earthquakes. After a particularly devastating one in 17 CE, Tiberius Caesar granted it tax relief, as reported by Tacitus and Strabo. Many other earthquakes have followed in the city's long history.

References to Philadelphia in the first and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are the only biblical references to this city. In the portion specifically addressed to it, Rev. 3:7-13, Its church shared with Smyrna the distinction of receiving nothing but praise from the Lord. Christ promised to make each of its overcomers a pillar in the New Jerusalem and to write on him or her both His name and the name of the New Jerusalem. This symbol of permanency and stability would probably have been appealing to residents of "Shaky Town."

The main archaeological attraction of ancient Philadelphia are the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, an early 7th-century Byzantine church. The three squat, red-brick columns that remain once supported the dome of the church. At the northern edge of Toptepe Hill, site of the ancient city's acropolis, is a small Roman theater and ruins the locals call "The Old Palace." Byzantine walls that once surrounded the old city have virtually disappeared, though a few remains are visible near the bus station at the northeast edge of the city.

Want to go deeper?

The following are recommended to help you look deeper into the history and archaeology of Thyatira.

Recommended for purchase:

Steve Singleton – Overcoming: A Study Guide for the Book of Revelation (DeeperStudy.com, 2004) – Provides a brief historical background of Pergamum and the other six cities of the Apocalypse, as well as a thorough introduction and brief commentary on the Apocalypse. Get digital edition and save almost 50%!

Steve Singleton – Seven Letters to the Church (2006) – E-book drawn from Overcoming (see above), with additional material. Illustrated commentary on the Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, as found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Includes history, culture, and archaeology of the churches, plus a summary of relevance for today as well as verse by verse comments. Illustrated with drawings & color photos, including satellite images of Ephesus, Pergamum, and Laodicea.

Claude E. Fant & Mitchell G. Reddish – A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey (Oxford, 2003). – Nearly two-thirds of the New Testament, including all the letters of Paul, most of Acts, and the Book of Revelation, are set in either Turkey or Greece. This book serves as a historical, biblical, and up-to-date archaeological guide to most of these biblical sites. View excerpt

CD-ROM: Turkey: Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (2004) – Series is most complete collection of high resolution Bible Land images available... perfect for worship, class study, or personal Bible study! Highest quality available. This CD features more than 700 high-resolution digitized images, including: Cities of Paul's Journeys (Antioch on the Orontes, Seleucia, Tarsus, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra and Derbe, Colossae, Hierapolis, Assos, Alexandria Troas, and Miletus); seven churches of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea; plus Istanbul, Cappadocia, Priene, and Troy.

Online resources:

Photos of St. John Basilica – Entrance to area | Close-up of columns | Another column | Excavation beside column | Grave marker | Later grave marker | Vineyard and landscape just outside Alasehir

Wikipedia – Alasehir

William M. Ramsay – "Philadelphia: The Missionary City" | "The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia" 401-412 and 413-423, respectively, from Letters to the Seven Churches & Their Place in the Plan of the Apocalypse, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906).


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