Sonia Halliday Photographs

Avercius’s hometown? The mineral-rich hot springs of Hierapolis, Turkey (modern Pamukkale), have attracted visitors since Roman times. The dazzling white landscape is produced by steaming water that pours from the springs, cutting shelves and basins in the adjacent cliffs and coating the area with layers of calcareous rock.

According to the medieval Life of Avercius, the bishop lived in the ancient town of Hierapolis. But the Life’s description of Avercius’s town does not match the topography of the white city of Pamukkale, leading many to question whether Avercius ever really presided here. In 1883, Ramsay solved the problem: Inscriptions found in a rural region east of Pamukkale indicated that there were two ancient cities with the same name: Hierapolis of the famous hot springs and a less well known city called Hierapolis of the Pentapolis, which had hot springs outside the village—just as the Life describes.