Colosse (Colossians 1)

Bilderesultat for ancient colosse city

Colosse (or Clossae) was located in the Roman province of Asia Minor in the Lycus valley about 194 km east of Ephesus in today’s Southwestern Turkey. An ancient city of Phrygia, it was situated on the southern bank of the Lycus River, about 18 km from Laodicea and 21 km from Hierapolis. The site is currently unoccupied and has not been excavated, although a few surface inscriptions have been found. What little we know of Colosse comes from numismatics(the study of coins and related objects) and from comments mede by ancient writers, but until the city can be excavated our understanding of its history will remain clouded.

The historian Herodotus (History, 7.30) referred in 480 B.C. to Colosse as “a great city of Phrygia”, and Xenophon (Anabasis, 1.2.6) described it in 400n B.C. as large and prosperous. Colosse, standing on the most important trade route from Ephesus to the Euphrates, was a place of great importance from early times. The Persian king Xerxes visited it in 481 B.C., as did Cyrus the Younger in 401. By the time of Paul the city may have diminished somewhat in significance. Its econmy depended upon trade and textiles, and particularly on a distinctive purple wool called colossinus.

The church at Colosse was established on Paul’s third missionary journey, during his three years in Ephesus, not by Paul himself (Colossians 2:1) but by Epaphras (1:7, 12-13), a native of Colosse and an evangelist in nearby Laodicea and Hierapolis (see 4:13). Paul loved and admired him, calling him “our dear fellow servant”, “a faithful minister of Christ” and “a fellow prisoner” (Philemon 23). Epaphras was the one who told Paul at Rome about the Colossian church problem and thereby stimulated Paul to write this letter. The name Epaphras is a shortened form of Epaphroditus (from “Aphrodite”,the Greek goddess of love), suggesting that he was a convert from paganism. He is not the Epaphraditus of Philippians 2:24 and 4:18. Archippus also exercised a fruitful ministry in Colosse (Colossians 4:17, Philemon 2). Philemon was an active member of this church, as was Onesimus (Colossians 4:9).

Colosse lost its importance due to a change of the road system, after which Laodicea became the greater city. During the seventh and eighth centuries its open position exposed it to the terrible raids of the Saracens, the people moved to Chonae (now called Chonas), a fortress on the slope of Mount Cadmus, about five km farther south. During the twelfth century A.D. the Turks destroyed the city. Archaeologists have unearthed ruins of an ancient church.


 

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