I have always been particularly fascinated with ancient cities of the Holy Land and surrounding places that I have never heard of and am not even sure they still exist. Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, Delphi, Laodicea, Thessalonica – even the names are interesting. New neighborhoods have probably sprung up around the former sites of many of these places, and perhaps some of these newer cities are now famous. Some settlements have since been reduced to haunting ruins. It is a mystery why many of these once-important names faded from history, but it is most likely that, when they lost their dominance within the network of ancient cities and their neighbors crumbled, it was undeemed unimportant to upkeep them. The cities explored below are located in the modern-day environs of Greece and Turkey, or at least nearby.
Antioch. This Biblical city once found in Asia Minor is one of the more well-known ancient places. One of the things you will probably want to see is St. Peter’s Church; it doesn’t have the huge dimensions or stunning exterior architecture, but yet its simple design makes it appealing. Its plain color and box-like shape seems to fade right into the ruins, and it is rumored that the building was once a cave. Don’t expect to find a perfectly-preserved classical paradise, however; Antakya, a newer town, stands where the Antioch of the past once sprawled, and reconstruction is not given as much thought as in other old cities.
Corinth. Located in what is now collectively Greece but was a once of conglomeration of different “states,” Corinth was an impressive power in its day and many different groups of people from across the Mediterranean made their home here in ancient times. This is one of the cities whose ancient area exists mainly in ruins; here you can see the Acrocorinth Gate that still retains its splendor, as well as stark white temple columns and an old road that, despite its crumbling state, gives us an excellent idea of the craftsmanship of the period. The wealthy status of Corinth came to an end in the 3rd century A.D. after a foreign attack. Visitors can view the white columns that so many cities once occupied by the Romans now sport.
Delphi. You may have heard of the oracle of Delphi, but this place should be famous for its scenery as well as its lore. From certain viewpoints it looks as if Delphi was carved out of the mountains, since the ruins of the old city are gathered around the base of soaring cliffs. The remains of the ruined settlement have left many clues, but have generally been left alone. If you make the journey to Delphi you will find, to name just a few, a temple and a theater belonging to centuries past. Considering its age, the ruins of the Temple of Apollo are in fairly good condition though much has long since crumbled. Here you will find an interesting place known as Castalia Spring. It was thought to be sacred by Delphi’s inhabitants and is a place that stays fixed in the imagination.
Ephesus. Ephesus can be found in Turkey and was once known around the vicinity as a generally advantageous place to live. Although time has created many ruins, the city’s historical places of interest can be toured and newer buildings such as churches have been added to the perimeter of the old city. One intriguing place you will find here is actually known as the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, which sounds like something out of an Arabian Nights tale. The stadium is particularly impressive.
Laodicea. Unfortunately, very little of Laodicea (a city in what is now Turkey) remains; even ruins are crumbling almost to the point of no recognition. A stadium and other notable places can be seen but leave much to the imagination. Laodicea was actually named specifically after a woman named Laodice, and was founded in the 200s B.C. A gate that must have once been very beautiful, known as the Triple-Arched Gateway, is now a few stones piled on top of one another, and even this threatens to fall. Laodicea lies in the Lycus Valley and no modern city is located over this site.
Thessalonica. The classical Thessalonica, begun in the 4th century B.C. by Macedonian royalty, is now a more modern Greek city that retains its original name of Thessaloniki. The old city remains in a few contrasted ruins, but has been conquered by the new; skyscrapers and roads have been constructed over the original settlement. Once and again places like the old forum will reveal themselves in the middle of projects or digs, giving a rare glimpse into the past. The modern city of Thessaloniki is one of the country’s biggest, complete with a port, an impressive trade record, and a huge downtown that defies its ancient past.
Some other ancient cities located in the Holy Land or the Mediterranean are Pergamum, Caesarea, Petra, Seleucia, and Tarsus.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer