The city of Philadelphia is 25 to 30 miles southeast of Sardis. It is on a plateau extending from The north slopes of the Timolus/Boz Mountains toward the Hermus River, today called Gediz but along this specific stretch, Cogamis. They city was established in the second century B.C. and it was named in honor of the brother of Attalus II, king of Eumenes. The king loved his brother very much and thus one has the city of “brotherly love” or “Philadelphia.”
The city stood as a type of crossroads on the Imperial Post Road where the borders of three countries met. They were Lydia, Mysia, and Phrygia. It was the gateway to the East and stood on one of the greatest highways in the world which led from Europe to the East .
History (Secular and Religious):
The city, along with eleven others, was destroyed in 17 A.D. And like Sardis, it was rebuilt with help from Tiberius. It was situated on a broad plain 800 feet in height that sloped gently upward from the valley. This favorable physical terrain provided Philadelphia with good military fortifications. Philadelphia called itself Flavia in honor of the emperor. Its final destruction came at the hands of the Turk and Byzantine armies in the 14th century.
As with most of these Asian churches, we have a disappointingly small amount of information about the origin of the church at Philadelphia. In that great part of Asia Minor came under the dynamic influence of Paul’s Ephesian ministry, and from Ephesus the Word went out into many adjacent cities, it is proper to assume that Philadelphia owes its origin to that period. It was apparently established as a radiating center for Greek culture in Asia, and in this role it was successful.
Located near where Lydia, Mysia and Phrygia met and on an important highway which made it a commercial success, it was established to spread Greek culture throughout that entire area.
The city had three things it was primarily known for which are: It was called “Little Athens” because of the many temples and public buildings that were in it. One thing of note that is vital to the understanding of the things within the book of Revelation is, after Tiberius helped rebuild the city of Philadelphia, he helped it found a cult of Germanicus, the adopted son and heir of the emperor. This would later develop into the imperial cult. The city would be renamed “Neocoros”, which means “warden of the temple”. This is due to the city’s close proximity to the temple. Therefore one can see the development of Emperor Worship in the city.
Two, due to the very good climate, it was known for its massive productions of grapes. Therefore, the commercial success of the city was great and it’s reputation in the first century as being one of the wine producing hubs drew many worshipers of the Greek “god” Dionysus, the god of wine. Three, the city was known for its being in an “earthquake zone. This was one of the churches of Asia that were written by John in the book of revelation which is very important to know about when studying that church and the letter to them.