EPHESUS

This famous port was home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Diana, built with flamboyant wealth. It housed the image of Diana, (goddess of fertility that the Greeks once worshiped under the name of Artemis). According to the Ephesians, this image came down from heaven (Acts 19:35). A strong center of witchcraft inhabited this city. Paul worked there for 3 years with immense success: he founded there one of the most solid communities of early Christianity. All converted Christians burned their witchcraft books in public places (Acts 19:19) worth 50,000 drachmas. Knowing that a good day’s salary was paid a drachma, imagine the financial parallel in our time: 20 million Francs! The city lived richly from the trade of the pagan cult of Diana. Paul’s preaching disturbed this fruitful market to the point that the merchants of the city rioted against Paul (Acts 19:24). Timothy and John continued the work of Paul in this city and the cult of Diana consequently diminished. In 262, the Goths definitively destroyed the Temple of the goddess and the edict of Theodosius finally came to prohibit this pagan cult. Ephesus was one of the most active excavation centers of contemporary times and the finds have come to strengthen the testimonies of the book of Acts of the Apostles and the letters to the 7 churches of the Apocalypse. John addresses the church in Ephesus (Rev 2: 1-8) to reproach him for his deep lack of love. However, he recognizes him as a quality of having condemned the false prophets and the Nicolaitans, a little-known sect whose teachings were linked to sexual immorality and the probably erotic cult of idols.

SMYRNE

City located on the Aegean coast of the Roman province of Asia, near the Turkish Izmir. It was rebuilt on an ancient site in the 3rd century BC and became one of the most prosperous cities in Asia Minor. It was a natural harbor in a fertile region, famous for its beauty and magnificent constructions. The Agly was probably founded there by preachers from Ephesus (Acts 19:10). She encountered opposition from the Jews and received the promise of a true crown for her faithfulness (Revelation 2: 9), an image that alluded to the city’s wealth and historical fame.

PERGAME

This city housed the center of 4 great pagan cults: those of Zeus, Athena, Dionysos and Asklepios. There was also the cult of the Emperor. Blasphemous worship which makes John say that there “is the throne of Satan” (Rev 2:13). Among the remains discovered at the end of the 19th Century, a large altar bears splendid decorations of battles between gods and giants. Other buildings are dedicated to the cult of Athena, Trajan and Hadrian, the great persecutor of the Christian people. John evokes these persecutions and the martyrs who fell in this city (Rev 2: 12-17). However, the Nicolaitans occupied a place in the Christian community of Pergamon and several indulged in the erotic worship of idols, including that of Dionysus, God of wine and of celebrations whose bacchanalia always led to sexual immorality and orgies (in the photo , stele of offerings to Bacchus found in Ephesus).

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 its fame from the weaving of the black and shiny wool used for making rugs and clothing. The city prospered with in its surroundings a rich agriculture and a fort flock of sheep. Its geographical position between the ports of the Aegean Sea and the continent had made Laodicea a rich financial center controlled by majority by the Jews. John’s letter (Rev 1: 4-11) reproaches the community of Laodicea his material wealth which made him lose sight of the things of the mind. He reproaches him for his lukewarmness: allusion to the sources of lukewarm water in terraces (see illustration) that supplied the city. Advice from Christ in this church are in parallel with the activities of the city: he him is advisable to buy gold tested by fire (allusion to wealth city financial), white clothes (allusion to the famous of black wool) and eye drops to anoint his eyes (allusion to “powder phrygian “, used at that time to treat the eyes and which could be made in this city).