BMCR 2013.08.59

Il Martyrion di Hierapolis di Frigia (Turchia): Analisi archeologica e architettonica. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2385

, Il Martyrion di Hierapolis di Frigia (Turchia): Analisi archeologica e architettonica. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2385. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2012. 169. ISBN 9781407309774 £31.00​.

This book is dedicated to the martyrium of St. Philip in Hierapolis, a Roman city located in classical Phrygia in southwestern Asia Minor. The martyrium is usually named after the Christian apostle Philip, but from early times there has been some dispute as to the actual identity of “Philip of Hierapolis”. Little reliance can be placed on traditional accounts of Philip, owing to the evident confusion that arose between him and the evangelist of the same name, who appears in the book of Acts.1 The presence of the martyrium as well as several churches indicates the importance of Phrygian Hierapolis in Early Christian history as Phrygia is known as the center of Montanism2 in the literature of Early Christianity. The book is a systematic archaeological and architectural analysis of the martyrium of St. Philip that was excavated by the Italians in 1957-1958, 1961-1963, 2001 and 2004-2008 and previously studied by P. Verzone.3 It is very common in archaeology that several years should pass before excavations complete their field activities and assess all their results. So, too, in Turkey it always takes longer than usually expected to have concrete archaeological results in the form of final publications. Indeed, Turkish archaeology is especially vulnerable these days to such criticism, since there are several hundred excavations without any concrete final publications.4

The book consists of 169 pages with black and white photos as well as illustrations on each page. The major focus of the book is the function of the martyrium and the reason for its construction. After the preface by A. A. Ippoliti the book is divided into seven main chapters: an introduction to Phrygian Hierapolis (chap. 1), an archaeological history of the discovery and excavations of the martyrium (chap. 2), followed by an architectural presentation (chap. 3), pointing to the techniques and materials applied (chap. 4), the architectural elements (chap. 5), concluding with a proposal for the reconstruction of the building (chap. 6) and an appendix on the stratigraphic units of the walls (chap. 7 = appendix). The text ends with an extensive abstract in English. Chapters 3 to 7 are, however, the main focus and the major contribution of the book to Early Byzantine architectural history.

After the first short introductory section on the city of Hierapolis and its urban character during the Roman-Early Byzantine periods (pp. 4-7), in the second chapter (pp. 8-25) previous studies on martyria are discussed. Since the complex was enormously large it took years to assess the results; here numerous useful photographs from past excavation seasons are presented. In the last part of this chapter the cult of St. Philip is explained with a detailed discussion of the literary and syllographical evidence. The book also seeks to explain why Philip was buried in Hierapolis. An open question is the transformation of the pagan cult of Apollo into the Christian cult of St. Philip. Both of these short chapters are clear and useful.

Chapter three is dedicated to the architectural problems of the complex. At the beginning the methodological approaches of the architectural analysis are clarified. From these passages it becomes apparent that the dating of the building is evaluated by the author architecturally, i.e. through architectural elements, mural painting, ornamentation etc. The periodization of the building is based on the analysis of each of the architectural units such as central space, tribelon, doorways etc. In his “periodizzazione e fasi dell’edificio” Gümgüm establishes five periods between the 4 th and 21 st century A.D. with several architectural phases and reuses according to all the architectural criteria (pp. 29-48). The main construction, however, belongs to the 4 th to 9 th century A.D. as the coin finds indicate that the 4 th and 5 th century as well as the 11 th century were the most active periods for the use of martyria. The definitive abandonment of the area occurred in the 15 th to 18 th century. This descriptive chapter is based on the presentation of materials, and no detailed arguments are discussed. The use of archaeological evidence is very brief, but compiled in a coherent and scientific way.

Chapter four is about the construction techniques and building materials: according to stratigraphic analysis, nine masonry techniques were used in the building, which are displayed in fig. 111, p. 53. These architectural techniques are compared with other 4 th to 5 th century buildings in Hierapolis such as the martyrial complex, the theatre, the great baths, the bath church, nymphaeum of the springs and the cathedral.5 Also construction materials (irregular stones, travertine blocks, brick and wood) and pavements ( opus sectile, white marble mosaic and travertine floors) as well as roofing materials are presented in detail. This chapter is also a descriptive one and especially mural descriptions and photos are very useful for future research. Chronological aspects of the construction techniques that were established by stratigraphic sequences are, however, problematic and not sufficiently specified.

Beside the architectural analysis of the Hierapolitan martyrium, stress is laid on the description of architectural elements presented in chapter five. Here bases, capitals, frames, shelves, pillars, capitals of pillars and liturgical elements ( ambons, altar tablets etc.) are featured. Each element was sorted by type and each type was represented with related finds in standard catalogue form. Some of these finds are in situ; in the catalogue, however, very few of them were dated. In this part it is stated that the development of the capital shape in Hierapolis dates to the 5 th to 6 th century A.D. An assessment of the arguments in relating to architectural elements and a general conclusion with the evidence they provided is lacking; some generalizations about their workmanship, masonry, stone sources, chronology, quantity and quality would have been of considerable use.

Chapter six is dedicated to the architectural reconstruction of martyria through comparison with contemporary buildings in the eastern Mediterranean, such as the Golden Octagon of Constantine in Antioch, the martyrium building at Caesarea Maritima, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the octagonal building on Mont Gerizim with regard to stylistic plan and architectural effect within the urban plan. The goal here is also to provide a basis for the future restoration projects of the building. In association with the reference to 38 niches found in the building, the use of hollow terracotta vaulting tubes (in Italian, tubi fittili) for the construction of vaults in Byzantine Constantinople in religious buildings like Saraçhane (St. Polyeuctus) and Gül Camii (St. Theodosia) has been reconsidered, although no possible explanation for the use of clay tubes in the niches was offered evidently to make vaults less heavy, such as at San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Ravenna, Rome and Tunisia. On p. 98, with figs. 248-249 the reconstruction of the first phase has been illustrated. In the Early and Middle Byzantine periods the building received various additions, renovations and restorations which Gümgüm briefly displays in his fig. 109, p. 52. The great earthquake that occurred in the second half of the 7 th century caused extensive damage to the martyrium so that the original plan (and probably function) changed several times after that date. This chapter is clear enough and provides some important comparative examples which were establish a better understanding of this building.

The appendix, the longest section of the book, is comprised of the stratigraphic units as well as a catalogue of the walls. Not all of the walls, however, are illustrated. Ten phases for the construction and use of the walls between the 4 th and 20 th century are established. Each wall has been numbered and briefly described according to its construction materials. Except for a short periodization (p. 102), an assessment of the evidence is lacking. It is, therefore, difficult to use the data provided in this section.

As for the conclusions it should be noted that this architecture-based book is one of the few contributions to the history of religious architecture in Early Byzantine Asia Minor. It is dedicated to a complex building in western Anatolia that is still a significant gap in Byzantine archaeology. But there are several mistakes in English and German literature, in its abstract in English as well as lots of editing errors and confusions. Several important bibliographical references were ignored.6 The bibliography contains several mistakes in terms of spelling, grammar etc. The structural and functional logic of the building is still a massive question to be answered. Small finds (glass, clay unguentaria) and their contribution to the chronology and function of the building have been neglected. Comparative wall studies with other contemporary sites in western Asia Minor during the Early Byzantine period, such as those at Ephesus, Laodicea on the Lycus, Miletus, Aezani and Sardis, would be of use for the future research and a better understanding the regional patterns of architectural style.

As a whole, though, the book offers a good combination of archaeological results of past campaigns and architectural history with average quality photos and drawings. Especially the descriptions concerning the wall techniques are useful in the relation to the architectural chronology of Early Byzantine rural areas, since this type of research is very meager. It offers an encouraging and scientific base for an intensive restoration project of the martyrium of St. Philip in the future.

[The reviewer would like to thank to Dr. Alexander Zäh (Maintal), Dr. Chris S. Lightfoot (New York), Dr. Eva Christof (Graz), Dr. Maurizio Buora (Udine) and Dr. Hadrien Bru (Besançon) for reading and making some important commentaries on this text.] ​


1. This confusion started with a report by Polycrates of Ephesus in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History (Hist. eccl., III., xxxi. 3, V., xxiv. 2).

2. W. Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions and testimonia: epigraphic sources illustrating the history of Montanism, Patristic Monograph Series 16 (Macon, GA 1997) 507-508.

3. Two important contributions on the martyrium of Hierapolis in the 1960s are P. Verzone, Il Martyrion ottagono a Hierapolis di Frigia. Relazione preliminare, Palladio 10, 1960, 1-20; and P. Verzone, Hierapolis cristiana, in: Corsi di cultura sull’arte ravennate e bizantina, XII (Ravenna 1965) 613-627.

4. Almost at the same time as this book appeared, new reports on the martyrium of Hierapolis were published and so are not considered in the book: F. D’Andria, Il santuario e la tomba dell’apostolo Filippo a Hierapolis di Frigia, Atti della Pontificia Accademia romana di archeologia, Rendiconti 84, 2011/2012, 3-52; and M. Piera Caggia/F. D’Andria/T. Ismaelli (eds.), Hierapolis di Frigia V: Le attività delle campagne di scavo e restauro 2004-2006 (Istanbul 2012). For a partial bibliographical list of Italian excavations in Hierapolis: “Missione Hierapolis, Bibliografia“.

5. Not sufficiently considered is the publication on the cathedral of Hierapolis: G. Peirano, La cattedrale di Hierapolis. La storia, il Museo (Torino 2008).

6. The following important references were not considered for comparisons to the building: A. De Bernardi, Due esempi di architettura euclidea. Il martyrion di San Filippo a Hierapolis. Il teatro di Segesta, Annali della Scuola normale superiore di Pisa 3/24, 1994, 467-489; F. W. Deichmann, Das Oktogon von Antiocheia. Heroon-Martyrion, Palastkirche oder Kathedrale? Byzantinische Zeitschrift 65, 1972, 40-56; and F. W. Deichmann, Märtyrerbasilika, Martyrion, Memoria und Altargrab, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 77, 1970, 144-169.