(θυατείρα ῾τὰ], Vulg. civitas Thyatirenorum), a city in Asia Minor, the seat of one of the seven Apocalyptic churches (Re 1:11; Re 2:18). It was situated on the confines of Mysia and Ionia, a little to the south of the river Hyllus, and at the northern extremity of the valley between Mount Timolus and the southern ridge of Temnus. It was founded by Seleucus Nicator, and was regarded as a Macedonian colony (Strabo, 13:928), from the strong Macedonian element in its population, it being one of the many Macedonian colonies established in Asia Minor, in the sequel of the destruction of the Persian empire by Alexander. The original inhabitants had probably been distributed in hamlets round about when Thyatira was founded. Two of these, the inhabitants of which are termed Areni and Nagdemi, are noticed in an inscription of the Roman times. According to Pliny, it was known in earlier times by the names Pelopia and Euhippia (Hist. Nat. 5, 29). The Roman road from Pergamos to Sardis passed through it. The resources of the neighboring region may be inferred both from the name Euhippia and from the magnitude of the booty which was carried off in a foray, conducted jointly by Eumenes of Pergamos and a force detached by the Roman admiral from Canae, during the war against Antiochus. During the campaign of B.C. 190, Thyatira formed the base of the king's operations; and after his defeat, which took place only a few miles to the south of the city, it submitted, at the same time with its neighbor Magnesiaon-Sipylus, to the Romans, and was included in the territory made over by them to their ally the Pergamene sovereign.
During the continuance of the Attalic dynasty, Thyatira scarcely appears in history; and of the various inscriptions which have been found on the site, not one unequivocally belongs to earlier times than those of the Roman empire. The prosperity of the city seems to have received a new impulse under Vespasian, whose acquaintance with the East, previously to mounting the imperial throne, may have directed his attention to the development of the resources of the Asiatic cities. A bilingual inscription, in Greek and Latin, belonging to the latter part of his reign, shows him to have restored the roads in the domain of Thyatira. From others, between this time and that of Caracalla, there is evidence of the existence of many corporate guilds in the city. Bakers, potters, tanners, weavers, robe makers, and dyers (οἱ βαφεῖς) are specially mentioned. Of these last there is a notice in no less than three inscriptions, so that dyeing apparently formed an important part of the industrial activity of Thyatira, as it did of that of Colossse and Laodicea. With this guild there can be no doubt that Lydia, the seller of purple stuffs (πορφυρόπωλις), from whom Paul met with so favorable a reception at Philippi (Ac 16:14), was connected. The country around this city is fertile and well watered, abounding in oaks and acacias, and in its numberless streamlets are found the leeches used in medicine throughout Austria and the east of Europe in general. The mode of taking them is curious; a number of children are sent to walk barefooted among the brooks, and come back to their employers with their feet covered with leeches. The waters here are said to be so well adapted for dyeing that in no place can the scarlet cloth out of which fezzes are made be so brilliantly or so permanently dyed as here. The place still maintains its reputation for this manufacture, and large quantities of scarlet cloth are sent weekly to Smyrna.
Thyatira is at present a populous and flourishing town; its inhabitants amount to eight thousand, and they are on the increase. Its modern name is Akhissar, or "the white castle." The town consists of about two thousand houses, for which taxes are paid to the government, besides two or three hundred small huts; of the former, three hundred are inhabited by Greeks, thirty by Armenians, and the rest by Turks. The common language of all classes is the Turkish; but in writing it the Greeks use the Greek, and the Armenians the Armenian characters. There are nine mosques and one Greek church. It exhibits few remains of antiquity, save fragments built into the walls of houses. There is, indeed, an ancient building in a very ruinous condition at a little distance from the city, to which tradition has given the name of the Palace of the Caesars; it is impossible to determine either its date or its purpose. But though there is little that can be identified, yet for miles around Thyatira are precious relics in the form of sarcophagi, capitals of columns, and similar fragments, used as troughs, coverings for wells, and such purposes.
Thyatira was never a place of paramount political importance, and hence her history is less interesting to the classical student than those of Ephesus, Sardis, and Pergamos, which were the capitals of great kingdoms. Her chief hold on our consideration is that at Thyatira was seated one of those churches to which the Spirit sent prophetic messages by the beloved apostle. The message itself is one of peculiar interest, but presenting at the same time a remarkable difficulty. After much commendation on the virtues and progress of the Church or the elder, pastor, bishop, or angel-the epistle continues, "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman (or as the correct text has it, thy wife) Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Re 2:20). This is followed by threats of judgment upon herself, her lovers, and her children. The question naturally arises, What party is represented by this Jezebel? To understand this message rightly, it will have to be borne in mind that Thyatira was very near Pergamos and that the latter was by far the more important city, and probably possessed the more numerous Church; the influence and example of Pergamos would be likely to have a great influence on the smaller city and Church.. SEE PERGAMOS. Now, at Pergamos, the Balaamites, who taught precisely the doctrine here attributed to Jezebel, were numerous, as well as the Nicolaitans (q.v.); We are not, therefore, at all to be surprised at finding a party espousing and endeavoring to propagate similar sentiments in Thyatira; but it would be a miserable literalism, and contrary to the whole genius of the Apocalyptic imagery, to suppose the leader of this heretical sect to be a woman of the name of Jezebel. We can only understand by this a person holding substantially the same relation to the official head of the Church in Thyatira which Jezebel of old did to the king of Israel; that is, a party that ought to have been in subjection usurping it, for wicked purposes, over the proper ruler. For this the leader is severely rebuked, and the heaviest judgments threatened both against him and the usurping party unless they repent. There was still, however, a faithful portion who stood aloof from the licentious teaching which was propagated. To them the Lord turns with words of encouragement, and exhorts them to hold fast what they had received. There is a small error also in the text at the commencement of this address. It should be "But unto you I say, the rest in 'Thyatira;" those, namely, who resisted the pollution. The received text confuses the meaning by putting it, "But unto you I say, and to the rest," as if both parties were alike called to continue steadfast. SEE JEZEBEL.
The principal deity of the city was Apollo, worshipped as the sun-god under the surname Tyrimnas. He was no doubt introduced by the Macedonian colonists, for the name is Macedonian. One of the three mythical kings of Macedonia, whom the genealogists placed before Perdiccas — the first of the Temenidse that Herodotus and Thuicydides recognize — is so called; the other two being Carants and Ccenus, manifestly impersonations of the chief and the tribe. The inscriptions of Thyatira give Tyrimnas the titles of πρόπολις and προπάτωρ θεός, and a special priesthood was attached to his service. A priestess of Artemis is also mentioned, probably the administratrix of a cult derived from the earlier times of the city, and similar in its nature to that of the Ephesian Artemis. Another superstition of an extremely curious nature which existed at Thyatira, seems to have been brought thither by some of the corrupted Jews of the dispersed tribes. A fane Stood outside the walls dedicated to Sambatha the name of the sibyl who is sometimes called Chaldean, sometimes Jewish, sometimes Persian in the midst of an enclosure designated "the Chaldaeans court" (τοῦ Χαλδαίου περίβολος). This lends an additional illustration to the above passage (Re 2:20-21), which seems to imply a form of religion that had become condemnable from the admixture of foreign alloy, rather than one idolatrous ab initio. Now there is evidence to show that in Thyatira there was a. great amalgamation of races. Latin inscriptions are frequent, indicating a considerable influx of Italian immigrants; and in some Greek inscriptions many Latin words are introduced. Latin and Greek names, too, are found accumulated on the same individuals, such as Titus Antonius Alfeus Arignotus and Julia Severina Stratonicis. But amalgamation of different races in pagan nations always went together with a syncretism of different religions, every relation of life having its religious sanction. If the sibyl Sambatha was really a Jewess, lending her aid to this proceeding, and not discountenanced by the authorities of the Judaeo-Christian Church at Thyatira, both the censure and its qualification become easy of explanation. It seems also not improbable that the imagery of the description in Re 2:18, ὁ ἔχων τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ ώς φλόγα, καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ , may have been suggested by the current pagan representations of the tutelary deity of the city. . See a parallel case at Smyrna (q.v.). Besides the cults which have been mentioned, there is evidence of a deification of Rome, of Hadrian, and of the imperial family. Games were celebrated in honor of Tyrimnas, of Hercules, and of the reigning emperor. On the coins before the imperial times, the heads of Bacchus, of Athena, and of Cybele are also found; but the inscriptions only indicate a cult of the last of these.
See Strabo, 13:4; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 5, 31; Livy, 37:8, 21, 44; Polybius, 16:1; 32:25; Elian, Var. Hist. 12:35; Bbckh, Inscript. Graec. Thyatir., especially Nos. 3484-3499; Jablonski, De Ecclesia Thyatirensi (Francof. ad V. 1739); Stosch, Antiq. Thyatiren. (Zwoll. 1763); Hoffmann, Griechenland, 2, 1714; Svoboda, Seven Churches of Asia Minor, p. 48 sq.; Barber, Patmos and Seven Churches (Bridgeport, 1851), p. 187 sq.; and the works cited under SEE ASIA MINOR and SEE REVELATION.