THYATIRE

City of the Roman province of Asia in western Turkey today (now Akhisar). Situated in a low valley, it was a garrison town on the border and an important center for fabric making and dyeing, pottery and copperworking. Lydie (Act 16.14) was probably the commercial agent of a Thyatira factory. Purple dye was made from madder until the 20th century. The letter of Rev 2: 18-29 alludes to the situation in the city. Jezebel is probably the symbolic name of a teacher in the Church who compromised with pagan practices, possibly in connection with certain brotherhoods of merchants.

SARDES

Capital of the kingdom of Lydia, it was one of the richest cities of the ancient world: they drew their wealth from the gold that was extracted from the Pactolus River. Croesus, famous for his fortune, was king in the 6th century BC. It is in this wealthy city that the first coins were minted. The goldsmith’s work was of course there and the city was rich in orchards and textile crafts. Completely destroyed by an earthquake in 17 BC, the city was rebuilt by the Romans and experienced a strong Christian boom during the 1st century AD. In this city dedicated to the worship of Artemis, Christians must have experienced difficulties in their faith, because John reproaches this community for being spiritually dead. (Rev 3: 1-6). No doubt a revival took place later if we are to believe the archaeological excavations: many signs of the cross were discovered on the walls of the temple of the goddess, which may suggest that Christians had invested the place and dedicated it to the worship of the Lord. In the 4th century, the Christians abandoned this great Temple and built a house in a corner of the city where they could worship. The remains are still well preserved.

PHILADELPHIA

City in the Roman province of Asia, west of modern Turkey. Founded in the 2nd century BC, it is located at the threshold of a fertile region (the open door of Rev 3.8) which was exposed to frequent earthquakes; one of them destroyed it in the year 17; it was rebuilt and received the name of Neo Caesarea (Revelation 3:12). It had many temples, where religious festivals were held, and its inhabitants were known for their faithfulness (Revelation 3: 8). The church had encountered opposition from the Jews there (Revelation 3: 9).

LAODICEA

The city was founded in 250 BC by Antiochus II who named it in honor of his wife, Laodice. The city was populated by Syrians and Jews formerly deported to Babylon. The city quickly gained fame from the weaving of the shiny black wool used to make rugs and clothing. The city prospered with in its surroundings a rich agriculture and a strong herd of sheep. Its geographical position between the ports of the Aegean Sea and the mainland had made Laodicea a rich financial center controlled mainly by Jews. John’s letter (Rev 1: 4-11) reproaches the community of Laodicea for its material wealth which made it lose sight of the things of the Spirit. He reproaches him for his lukewarmness: an allusion to the sources of warm water in terraces (see illustration) which supplied the city. Christ’s advice to this church is parallel with the activities of the city: he is advised to buy gold tested by fire (allusion to the financial wealth of the city), white clothes (allusion to the famous black woolen clothes) and eye drops to anoint his eyes (allusion to “Phrygian powder”, used at that time to treat the eyes and which could be made in this city).