[strictly LAÖDICIA] (Λαοδίκεια, justice of the people), the name of several cities in Syria and Asia Minor, but one of which, usually called Laodicea ad Lycuum (from its proximity to the river Lycus), is named in Scripture. It lay on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about forty miles east of Ephesus, and is that one of the "seven churches in Asia" to which John was commissioned to deliver the awful warning contained in Re 3:14-19. The fulfillment of this warning is to be sought in the history of the Christian Church which existed in that city, and not in the stone and mortar of the city itself; for it is not the city, but "the Church of the Laodiceans," which is denounced. It is true, however, that the eventual fate of that Church must have been involved in that of the city. (See an account of the synod at Laodicea, in Phrygia, A.D. 350-389, in Von Drey's Theol. Quartalschr. 1824, page 3 sq.)
Laodicea was the capital of Greater Phrygia (Strabo, 12, page 576; Pliny, 5:29; or Phrygia Pacatiana, according to the subscription of 1 Timothy), and a very considerable city (Strabo, page 578) at the time it was named in the New Testament; but the violence of earthquakes, to which this district has always been liable, demolished, some ages after, a great part of the city, destroyed many of the inhabitants, and eventually obliged the remainder to abandon the spot altogether. The town was originally called Diospolis, and afterwards Rhoas (Pliny, 5:29); but Laodicea, the building of which is ascribed to Antiochus Theos, in honor of his wife Laodice, was probably founded on the old site. It was not far west from Colossae, and only six miles to the west of Hierapolis (Itin. Ant. page 337; Tab. Peut.; Strabo, 13, page 629). At first Laodicea was not a place of much importance, but it soon acquired a high degree of prosperity. It suffered greatly during the Mithridatic war (Appian, Bell. Mith. 20; Strabo, 12, page 578), but quickly recovered under the dominion of Rome; and towards the end of the republic and under the first emperors, Laodicea became one of the most important and flourishing commercial cities of Asia Minor, in which large money transactions and an extensive trade in wood were carried on (Cicero, ad Fam. 2:17; 3:5; Strabo, 12, page 577; compare Vitruv. 8:3). The place often suffered from earthquakes, especially from the great shock in the reign of Tiberius, in which it was completely destroyed; but the inhabitants restored it from their own means (Tacit. Ans. 14:27). The wealth of the citizens created among them a taste for the arts of the Greeks, as is manifest from the ruins; and that it did not remain behind-hand in science and literature is attested by the names of the sceptics Antiochus and Theiodas, the successors of Enesidemus (Diog. Laert. 9:11, § 106; 12, § 116), as well as by the existence of a great medical school (Strabo, 12, p. 580). During the Roman period Laodicea was the chief city of a Roman conventus (Cicero, ad Fam. 3:7; 9:25; 13:54, 67; 15:4; ad Att. 5:15,16, 20, 21; 6:1, 2, 3, 7; in Verr. 1:30). Many of its inhabitants were Jews, and it was probably owing to this circumstance that at a very early period it became one of the chief seats of Christianity [we have good reason for believing that when, in writing from Rome to the Christians of Colossae, Paul sent a greeting to those of Laodicea, he had not personally visited either place. But the preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus (Ac 18:19-19:41) must inevitably have resulted in the formation of churches in the neighboring cities, especially where Jews were settled. SEE LAODICEANS, EPISTLE TO THE, and the see of a bishop (Col 2:1; Col 4:15 sq.; Re 1:11; Re 3:14 sq.; Josephus, Ant. 14:10, 20; Hierocl. page 665). The Byzantine writers often mention it, especially in the time of the Comneni; and it was fortified by the emperor Manuel (Nicet. Chon. Ann. Pages 9, 81). During the invasion of the Turks and Mongols the city was much exposed to ravages, and fell into decay; but the existing remains still attest its former greatness (see Smith's Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geog. s.v. Laodiceia). Smith, in his Journey to the Seven Churches (1671), was the first to describe the site of Laodicea. He was followed by Chandler, Cockerell, and Pococke; and the locality has, within the present century, been visited by Mr. Hartley, Mr. Arundell, Colossians Leake, and Mr. Hamilton.
Laodicea is now a deserted place, called by the Turks Eski-hissar ("Old Castle"), a Turkish word equivalent to Paleo-kastro, which the Greeks so frequently apply to ancient sites. From its ruins, Laodicea seems to have been situated upon six or seven hills, taking up a large extent of ground.
To the north and north-east runs the river Lycus, about a mile and a half distant; but nearer it is watered by two small streams, the Asopus and Caprus, the one to the west, and the other to the southeast, both passing into the Lycus, which last flows into the Maeander (Smith, page 85). Laodicea preserves great remains of its importance as the residence of the Roman governors of Asia under the emperors, namely, a stadium, in uncommon preservation, three theaters, one of which is 450 feet in diameter, and the ruins of several other buildings (Antiq. of Ionia, part 2, page 32; Chandler's Asia Minor, 100:67). Colossians Leake says, "There are few ancient sites more likely than Laodicea to preserve many curious remains of antiquity beneath the surface of the soil; its opulence, and the earthquakes to which it was subject, rendering it probable that valuable works of art were often there buried beneath the ruins of the public and private edifices (Cicero, Epist. ad Amic. 2:17; 3:5; 5:20; Tacitus, Annal. 14:27). A similar remark, though in a lesser degree, perhaps, will apply to the other cities of the vale of the Masander, as well as to some of those situated to the north of Mount Tmolus; for Strabo (pages 579, 628, 630) informs us that Philadelphia, Sardis, and Magnesia of Sipylus, were, not less than Laodicea and the cities of the Maeander as far as Apameia at the sources of that river, subject to the same dreadful calamity (Geography of Asia Minor, page 253)." "Nothing," says Mr. Hamilton (Researches in Asia Minor, 1:515), "can exceed the desolation and melancholy appearance of the site of Laodicea; no picturesque features in the nature of the ground on which it stands relieve the dull uniformity of its undulating and barren hills; and, with few exceptions, its gray and widely-scattered ruins possess no architectural merit to attract the attention of the traveler. Yet it is impossible to view them without interest when we consider what Laodicea once was, and how it is connected with the early history of Christianity." See also Fellows, Journal written in Asia Minor, page 251 sq.; Arundell, Seven Churches, page 85 sq.; Schubert, Reisen, 1:282; S. Stosch, Syntagma dissert. 7 de sept. urbibus Asice in Iapoc. p. 165 sq.; also in Van Hoven, Otiumn literar. 3, p. 52; Mannert, VI, 3:129 sq.; Schultess, in the N. theol. Annal. 1818, 2:177 sq. SEE ASIA, SEVEN CHURCHES OF.