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Colossae (/kəˈlɒsi/; Greek: Κολοσσαί) was an ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor, and was the location to which the Apostle Paul directed his Epistle to the Colossians. A significant city from the 5th Century BC onwards, it had dwindled in importance by the time of Paul, but was notable for the existence of its local angel cult. It was part of the Roman – and then Byzantine – province of Phrygia Pacatiana, before being destroyed in 1192/3 and its population relocating to nearby Chonae (modern day Honaz).

Origin and etymology of place name[edit]

The medieval poet Manuel Philes, incorrectly, imagined that the name "Colossae" was connected to the Colossus of Rhodes.[1] More recently, in an interpretation which ties Colossae to an Indo-European root that happens to be shared with the word kolossos, Jean-Pierre Vernant has connected the name to the idea of setting up a sacred space or shrine.[2] Another proposal relates the name to the Greek kolazo, "to punish".[1]

Location and geography[edit]

Colossae was located in Phrygia, in Asia Minor.[3] It was located 15 km southeast of Laodicea on the road through the Lycus Valley between Sardeis and Celaenae.[4] At Colossae, Herodotus describes how, "the river Lycos falls into an opening of the earth and disappears from view, and then after an interval of about five furlongs it comes up to view again, and this river also flows into the Maiander."[5] Despite a treacherously ambiguous cartography and history, Colossae has been clearly distinguished in modern research from nearby Chonae (Χῶναι), now called Honaz, with what remains of the buried ruins of Colossae ("the mound") lying 3 km to the north of Honaz.[6][7][8]


Before the Pauline period[edit]

Writing in the 5th Century BC, Xenophon refers to Colossae as "a populous city, wealthy and of considerable magnitude".[9] It was famous for its wool trade. Strabo notes that the city drew great revenue from the flocks, and that the wool of Colossae gave its name to colour colossinus.[10] In 396 BC, Colossae was the site of the execution of the rebellious Persian satrap Tissaphernes who was lured there and slain by an agent of the party of Cyrus the Younger.[11] Although during the Hellenistic period, the town was of some mercantile importance, by the 1st century it had dwindled greatly in size and significance.[12] Paul's letter to the Colossians point to the existence of an early Christian community. The town was known for its fusion of religious influences (syncretism), which included Jewish, Gnostic, and pagan influences that in the first century AD were described as an angel-cult.[13] This unorthodox cult venerated the archangel Michael who is said to have caused a curative spring to gush from a fissure in the Earth.[4]

Pauline period[edit]

Colossae was the location of a Christian community to which the Apostle Paul addressed a canonically accepted epistle [14](letter), which is known for its content's exaltation of the supremacy of Christianity's namesake.[15] One aim of the letter was to address the challenges that the community faced in its context of the syncretistic Gnostic religions that were developing in Asia minor.[13]

Judging from the Letter to the Colossians, Epaphras was a person of some importance in the Christian community there (Col. 1:7; 4:12), and tradition presents him as its first bishop.[16] It does not appear from his Epistle to the Colossians that St. Paul had visited the city, for the epistle only speaks of him having heard of their faith (Col. 1:4) and since he tells Philemon of his hope to visit it upon being freed from prison (see Philemon 1:22). Tradition also gives Philemon as the second bishop of the see.

The Apostolic Constitutions list Philemon as a Bishop of Colossae.[17] On the other hand, the Catholic Encyclopedia considers Philemon doubtful. [18]

The first historically documented bishop is Epiphanius,[when?] who was not personally at the Council of Chalcedon, but whose metropolitan bishop Nunechius of Laodicea, the capital of the Roman province of Phrygia Pacatiana signed the acts on his behalf.[citation needed]

Decimation and destruction[edit]

The city was decimated by an earthquake in the 60s AD, and was rebuilt independent of the support of Rome.[citation needed] The city was later overrun by the Saracens in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.[citation needed]

Colossae's famous church was destroyed in 1192/3 during the Byzantine civil wars. It was a suffragan diocese of Laodicea in Phyrigia Pacatiane but was replaced in the Byzantine period by the Chonae settlement on higher ground[4]

Modern legacy and study[edit]

As of 2015, it had never been excavated,[citation needed] though plans are reported for an Australian led expedition to the site.[citation needed]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cadwallader, Alan H., and Michael Trainor (2011). "Colossae in Space and Time: Overcoming Dislocation, Dismemberment and Anachronicity". In Cadwallader and Trainor, eds. Colossae in Space and Time: Linding to an Ancient City. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 18-19.
  2. ^ Vernant, Jean-Pierre (2006) [1965]. Myth and Thought Among the Greeks. Third edition of a translation from the French originally published in 1983, from a French work published in 1965. Zone Books. p. 321.
  3. ^ Losch, Richard R. (2005-01-01). The Uttermost Part of the Earth: A Guide to Places in the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802828057.
  4. ^ a b c Brill's New Pauly : encyclopaedia of the ancient world. Antiquity. [CAT-CYP]. Cancik, Hubert., Schneider, Helmuth., Salazar, Christine F., Orton, David E. Leiden: Brill. 2002–2010. p. 579. ISBN 9004122664. OCLC 54952013.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  5. ^ The History of Herodotus — Volume 2 by Herodotus.
  6. ^ Cadwallader, Alan H.; Trainor, Michael (2011). "Colossae in Space and Time: Overcoming Dislocation, Dismemberment and Anachronicity". In Cadwallader, Alan H. & Trainor, Michael. Colossae in Space and Time: Linking to an Ancient City. Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus/Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments (NTOA/StUNT), Vol. 94. Göttingen, GER: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 9–47. ISBN 3647533971. Retrieved 17 February 2016.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) The case is made exhaustively in this book, over pages 11-37, wherein it states—after dispensing with a further false association of the ancient city with the island of Rhodes the home of The Colossus of Rhodes, which resulted in its being misplaced for hundreds of years (by "almost 200 kilometers to the south-west," p. 18ff)—in summary, that: "Colossae's various positions on early maps confirmed the confusion over identity [opening section title]. Cartographers positioned Colossae to the west (rather than south-east) of Laodicea7 or, as 'Conos', between Laodicea to the north-west and Hieropolis to the north-east.8 [p. 11] … 'Chonos' or some other guesttimation of the spelling of Honaz12 sometimes subsumed Colossae. [p. 13] … The inhabitants of the immediate vicinity of the ancient site [Colossae, which had ceased to exist] were shackled in bureaucratic tabulation for tax purposes to the town of Honaz. [p. 14] … When Frances Arundell's sketch of Honaz appeared in 1834, the town had descended from the mountain heights [it was a mountain fortress, Honazdağ] but it was similarly labelled, albeit after the fashion of Nicetas Choniates: 'Chonas, … anciently Colossae'.98 [p. 32] … The question was whether Honaz and Colossae were to be equated or separated and whether the contemporary Honaz was the means to pinpoint the ancient… site. [p. 33] … William Hamilton became the one credited with the separation of Colossae from Chonai with the former's location at the mound three kilometers to the north of Honaz.108 [p. 35] … Two photographs of the 'Ruines de Colossae' and 'Chonas' by Henri Carmignac published toward the endif the nineteenth century finally eliminated the concordant visualisation of the places that had been the legacy of Arundell (Fig. 11).113 [p. 37]." For much earlier sources presenting the errant historical opinion, see the next two citations.
  7. ^ Smith, William (1854). "Colossae". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.[full citation needed]
  8. ^ Pétridès, Sophrone (1908). "Colossae". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York, NY.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ Watson, J. S. (2007). The First Four Books of Xenophon's Anabasis. Project Gutenberg. p. 6.
  10. ^ The Geography of Strabo, Volume 2 (of 3) by Strabo. p. 334.
  11. ^ "Tissaphernes". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. 26.
  12. ^ Cadwallader, Alan H.; Trainor, Michael (2011-12-07). Colossae in Space and Time: Linking to an Ancient City. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 9783647533971.
  13. ^ a b Bruce, F.F. [Frederick Fyvie] (1980) [1969]. New Testament History. New York, NY: Galilee/Doubleday. pp. 415f. ISBN 0385025335. Retrieved 17 February 2016. [Quoting:] Those churches which claimed an apostolic foundation attached great importance to the maintenance of the teaching which they had originally received. There were powerful forces at work in many of them which militated against the maintenance of that teaching; chief among these were those tendencies which in a few decades blossomed forth in the elaborate systems of the various schools of Gnosticism. One form of incipient Gnosticism is the syncretistic angel-cult of nonconformist Jewish foundation and pagan superstructure attacked in the Epistle to the Colossians. A further, less stable online source with access to these pages is available at [1], accessed same date.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Pétridès, Sophrone (1908). "Colossae". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York, NY. Colossæ was the home of...Onesimus and Epaphras, who probably founded the Church of Colossæ.
  17. ^ Translated by James Donaldson. (1886). "(Book VII) Section 4". Apostolic Constitutions. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Retrieved 2018-12-28. Of Colossæ, Philemon.
  18. ^ Pétridès, Sophrone (1908). "Colossae". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York, NY. Retrieved 2018-12-28. Besides St. Epaphras... Archippus and Philemon, especially the latter, are very doubtful.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Colossae" . Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bruce, F.F. [Frederick Fyvie] (1980) [1969]. New Testament History. New York, NY: Galilee/Doubleday. pp. 415f. ISBN 0-38502533-5. Retrieved 17 February 2016. A further, less stable online source with access to these pages is Amazon, accessed same date.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Colossae" . Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.[needs update]
  • Bennett, Andrew Lloyd. "Archaeology From Art: Investigating Colossae and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Kona." Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 50 (2005):15–26.

External links[edit]