Thyatira was an ancient Greek city in Asia Minor located in the mouth of a long valley that extended north and south connecting the Hermus and Caicos valleys. Thyatira was located along a highway that was a major arterial road for communication and trade. During the time of the Roman Empire, the Imperial Post-road followed this highway, and when Pergamos was the capital of Asia minor it was the most important trade route in the region.
Thyatira was built by Seleucus I Nicator, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty and one of Alexander’s Diadochi who tore his kingdom to shreds after his death. Seleucus’ kingdom was bordered on the northwest by the Kingdom of Lysimachus and as a defense against him, Seleucus planted a colony of Macedonian soldiers at Thyatira effective turning it into a cavalry outpost and garrison city between 300 and 282 BC.
Later during the Hellenistic period, Thyatira became a strategic military outpost during wartime and changed hands between the Seleucid dynasty and the Attalid dynasty. In many ways, it was a key to holding the great highway that wound through the valleys. Because of its key location the strength of the Attalid dynasty and by extension the city of Pergamos, which was the capital of their kingdom, rested on the strength of Thyatira. In that way, the fortunes of Pergamos and Thyatira were inextricably linked.
But though it was a key gateway into the region it never gave the impression of being a fortified city. In many ways, Thyatira gave the impression of weakness, subjection, and dependence. No one could ever mistake Thyatira for being a powerful ruling city. In essence, Thyatira was a vassal city built to protect whichever empire it happened to belong to at the time by holding off the advance of its enemies deeper into imperial territory.
Little is known of the religion of Thyatira and what is known is gleaned from Thyatira coins. Thyatira had temples to several gods both native to it and from the wider Grecian world. The city had a temple for the sun god Apollo which was one of its most prominent buildings. Prior to its urbanization by Seleucus, Thyatira had been a small Anatolian village, sparsely populated and clustered around a central temple. There is historical evidence that it was named Pelopia and later Semiramis before being named Thyatira by Seleucus.
Its most important products were brass and bronze instruments which made it a city teeming with foundries; white-hot flames and sweltering artisans fashioning their wares in the dappled cool of a workshop.
But this wasn’t its only significant product. Thyatira was known for its cloth industry as well especially its production of red and purple cloth. At the time cloth was colored using natural dyes and producing purple cloth was an expensive process. Generally, at the time, purple dye was made from shellfish found along the Phenician and Spartan coasts. But the dye used in Thyatira would have been locally sourced.
The Bible mentions Lydia, whom Paul met at Phillippi being a seller of purple cloth and a native of Thyatira. The fact that Lydia was a seller of purple meant she was most likely a wealthy businesswoman.
Another focal point of the city was the temple of Apollos, which also housed a shrine to a female deity. Among the notable citizens of Thyatira was Artemidorus, an ancient Greek athlete who won in the Stadion race in the 193rd Olympiad in 8 BC. Then there was Nicander, a prominent Greek linguist. In 366 AD the Roman Emperor Valens defeated a pretender to his throne in a battle near Thyatira.