Archeologists Stumped After an Enormous Statue of an Emperor Was Found Under a Turkish Fountain
In what is now Denizli, Turkey, resides the ancient Roman city of Laodicea. Archeologists have been working at the important historical site since the late 19th century, though a more diligent study began in 2002.
For the past 20 years, archeologists have discovered an incredible number of important artifacts within the ancient city. Though their most recent finding is considered by many to be the crowning jewel of Laodicea.
Archeologists Have Spent Years Understanding the Ancient City of Laodicea
As archaeologists have been digging up and analyzing the ancient city of Laodicea for centuries, many assumed that these experts had already found everything of interest.
And while that has proven to be untrue, the researchers have found an almost unbelievable amount of information about the city itself, as well as the various people who lived there. In fact, they now know that the city was under control of three different empires through its lengthy lifespan.
Laodicea Was Originally Known as the “City of Zeus”
Historians believe that the Laodicea was actually founded by the Greeks, possibly in the 4th century BCE. At that time, the Greeks called the city Diospolis, meaning “City of Zeus.” Though according to records, the city’s name changed to Rhodas in the 3rd century BCE.
Only a hundred years later, what was once a Greek city became a part of the ever-expanding Seleucid Empire under the leadership of Seleucus Antiochus II, who supposedly named the city Laodicea after his wife, Laodice.
When Did Laodicea Become a City Under Roman Control?
Although many consider Laodicea to be a Roman city, it actually didn’t come under Roman control until 133 BCE, nearly 300 years after it was originally constructed.
Though the reason why it’s so often considered a Roman city is because the city only became as large, impressive, and significant as we know it to be today once it became a port for the great Empire.
Laodicea Almost Didn’t Make it Into the 1st Century CE
In the final century before Christ, the Roman Empire was fighting in the violent Mithridatic Wars.
Researchers believe that at some point during the war, Laodicea was significantly affected. Though according to their findings, the city was rebuilt not only to its former glory but actually to a much more impressive metropolis very shortly after the war concluded.
Why Was Laodicea Important to the Roman Empire?
It’s vital to understand that Laodicea was considered an extremely important city within the early Roman Empire.
And it’s all because of the city’s location; Laodicea was directly on the trade route from what is now Europe to Asia. Throughout the Roman Empire, trade between the continents was not only essential, it was also incredibly lucrative. So as a city along the route, Laodicea became extremely wealthy, population, and therefore, important.
The Team That Made the Incredible Discovery
All of this incredible knowledge has been deduced from ancient texts as well as archeological finds from the site. Though the newest find is argued to be one of, if not the most important discoveries to date.
The proud team of archeologists who made the announcement was led by Denizli’s Pamukkale University’s Celal Şimşek. As part of the Excavation Committee of the Ancient City of Laodicea, Celal Şimşek announced his team’s finding in 2019, and for the past few years, he and his team have dedicated themselves to understanding everything there is to know about it.
Trajan’s Statue at Laodicea
The great discovery was a statue of the well-known Roman Emperor Trajan. The statue was found under an ancient fountain, shattered into 356 pieces. Though as Celal and his team began carefully putting the statue back together, they quickly realized just how large it was.
Back together again, Trajan’s statue stands at an incredible 9.8 feet tall, though according to historians, this is not nearly the most exciting thing about it.
Who Was Trajan?
Before diving into the specifics of this fascinating statue, it’s crucial to understand who Trajan was. Trajan is one of the most well-known and well-respected Roman Emperors of all time.
He reigned from 98 to 117 CE, and during his time as emperor, Trajan was widely beloved for his bravery, strength, and love for his people. In fact, he was considered by his constituents as “the best ruler” or Optimus princepus in Latin.
The Details on the Trajan Statue Are Simply Amazing
The statue shows Trajan dressed in his military best, with an enemy kneeling and handcuffed below him. Archeologists state that there are almost a ridiculous number of detailed symbols on the statue, including the god of Jupiter, Medusa, griffins, and even the god Apollo.
But the most important detail they found was an inscription near the statue that describes what is now called the “Water Law.”
What Was the Water Law?
The inscription alongside Trajan’s statue has taught historians and academics a great deal about the Water Law.
This law essentially allowed for water to flow through the city, but there were very strict rules established in order to ensure the water remained clean and available to all. For example, the water could not be used for agriculture, and anyone who tampered with the water would be heavily fined.
Why Finding Trajan in Laodicea Is so Interesting
After extensive research, archeologists have determined that the reason why such a large and detailed statue of Trajan was erected in Laodicea, directly next to an inscription of the Water Law, is because he actually created the law and the water supply for the great Roman city.
As water was so essential to the health and livelihoods of the city’s residents, Trajan’s Water Law was considered one of the most important legislations in Laodicea’s history. Therefore, archaeologists are not surprised that such a beautiful statue was made to show gratitude to the emperor who made it happen.