Hierapolis is situated where the fertile river-valleys Lykos and Meander meet, at the western end of the Anatolian mountainous plateau. Pamukkale is the modern name of the nearest village, which lies close to Denizli, some 200 km east of Izmir. Hierapolis was founded around 200 BC, became part of the Roman province of Asia Minor few generations later; it prospered in the Imperial and early Byzantine periods, but after a severe earthquake in the 7th century AD it never recovered. The following centuries are characterized by gradual decline, squatting, and periods of reoccupation, from the 11th/12th century perhaps also of Turkish Seldjuks.
Hierapolis covers an area roughly the size of Pompeii (ca. 65 ha) and is surrounded by large, well-preserved necropoleis on three sides, to the north, east, and south. The Greek name Hierapolis means “The holy city”, probably referring to an oracular shrine of Apollo in the centre of the town. After emperor Theodosius’ ban on pagan cults in AD 391, in the early 5th century was established a new pilgrimage centre of the town by monumentalizing the tomb of the apostle Philip east of the town. A large building, the Martyrion of St. Philip, was raised above the grave