The necropolises of Hierapolis are the most important, not only in Asia Minor but in the entire ancient world. Extensive necropolises were built on the slopes both north and south of the city, along the roads linking the Aegean coast with the Anatolian plateau. Countless beautifully preserved sarcophagi and imposing mausolea cover the hillsides outside the city.
The oldest tombs date to the second and first centuries B.C. They are tumuli, or burial mounds, a traditional form widespread in the region of Phrygia. During the Roman imperial period, tombs were constructed in the forms of sacella (chapels with gabled roofs) or with basements containing precious marble sarcophagi.
Many inscriptions and symbols, such as the seven-branched candelabrum, or menorah, suggest the presence of a large Jewish community: One tomb dating to the second century A.D. bears an inscription that mentions the family of Aurelii, described as Ioudaioi (“Jews”).