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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Thyatira

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THYATIRA . There is a long valley extending northward and southward and connecting the valleys of the Hermus and Caicus. Down this valley a stream flows southwards, and on the left bank of this stream was Thyatira. An important road also ran along this valley, the direct route between Constantinople and Smyrna, and the railway takes this route now. Thyatira was also in the 1st cent. a.d. a station on the Imperial Post Road (overland route) from Brundislum and Dyrrhachium by Thessalonica, Neapolis (for Philippi), Troas, Pergamum, Philadelphia … to Tarsus, Syrian Antioch, Cæsarea of Palestine, and Alexandria. In its connexion with Pergamum this road had always a great importance. Thyatira was built (in the middle of the valley, with a slight rising ground for an acropolis) by Seleucus, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty, whose vast kingdom extended from W. Asia Minor to the Himalayas. The city was founded between b.c. 300 and 282 as a defence against Lysimachus, whose kingdom bordered that of Seleucus on the N. and W., and the colonists were Macedonian soldiers. In 282, Philetærus revolted from Lysimachus and founded the kingdom of Pergamum. After the death of Lysimachus, Thyatira was a useful garrison to hold the road, in the interests first of the Seleucids and afterwards of the Pergamenians. The latter were safe from the former if they were in possession of Thyatira. The relation between Pergamum and Thyatira was thus of the closest. The city, though weak in position, was a garrison city, and had to be carefully fortified, and everything was done to foster the military spirit. The character of the city’s religion is illustrated by the hero Tyrimnos, who is figured on its coins. He is on horseback and has a battle-axe on his shoulder. This hero is closely related to the protecting god of the city, whose temple was in front of the city. He was considered the divine ancestor of the city and its leading families, and was identified with the sun-god. He also had the title Pythian Apollo, thus illustrating the strange mixture of Anatolian and Greek ideas and names which is so common a feature in the ancient religions of Asia Minor. In conformity with this, he was represented as wearing a cloak fastened by a brooch, carrying a battle-axe, and with a laurel branch in his right hand, symbolizing his purifying power. (It is certain that the place was inhabited before the time of Seleucus, but merely as a village with a temple.) The city had Pythian games on the model of those in Greece proper, and in the 3rd cent. a.d. the Emperor Elagabalus was associated with the god in the worship connected with them, showing the closer relation which had been effected between the popular and the Imperial religion. It is probable that Seleucus i. had settled Jews in Thyatira, as he certainly did in some of the cities of Asia. Lydia of Thyatira ( Acts 16:14 ) had come within the circle of the synagogue, possibly in her native place.

Little is known of the history of the city. It surrendered to the Romans in b.c. 190. It was occupied by Aristonicus during his revolt in b.c. 133 2. It must have suffered severely and repeatedly during the fighting between Arabs and Christians, and Turks and Christians, in the Middle Ages. Its situation demands that it be captured and re-fortified by every ruling power. In Roman times it had been a great trading city, dating its greatest period of prosperity from about the time when the Seven Letters were written. There is evidence of more trade-guilds there than in any other Asian city: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, bronze-smiths, etc. Lydia probably belonged to one of those guilds. The purple in which Lydia dealt must have been a product of the region of Thyatira, and the well-known Turkey-red must therefore be meant. It is obtained from madder-root, which grows abundantly in that region. The name ‘purple’ had a much wider meaning among the ancients than among us. The bronze work of Thyatira was also remarkably fine (cf. Revelation 2:18 ).

The letter addressed to the Church at Thyatira ( Revelation 2:18-29 ) is the most obscure and difficult of all the seven, as we know so little of local conditions. It is remarkable that the city, which was the least of all the seven (with perhaps the exception of Philadelphia), should be promised strength and power. The exact nature of the Nicolaitans with their prophetess cannot be precisely determined. The principles they represented were regarded by the author as subversive of true Christianity.

A. Souter.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Thyatira'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/t/thyatira.html. 1909.

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