We left the Hotel Colossae and headed to two cites where there is just not much to see, Philadelphia and Thyatira. The problem is both of these locations have modern cities built over them, making the kind of archaeology seem at Hierapolis or Laodicea impossible.
Since we are traveling in a small van, we were able to drive up to the acropolis of Philadelphia, although there is nothing excavated. Mark Wilson knows where the bits and pieces are, so we saw a few stones of a theater on the road to the top as well as the outline of a stadium on the back side of the acropolis.
Moving on to Thyatira, there is a small excavation in the center of the town, including an inscription mentioning Titus. There is a small city museum in Thyatira with a handful of artifacts from the dig. More interesting were the few items from Ben Tepe, the so-called Turkish pyramids. We drove past those burial mounds from the Lydian period on the way to Thyatira.
The highlight of the day was Sardis. (We visited this before Thyatira, but I thought I would adapt the order to be more dramatic). Sardis is not a large site, but it has three very significant features. First, there is a very large synagogue dating to the fourth century A.D. The mosaic floors are partially restored including several mentioning the donors who contributed to the synagogue. There are two niches which could have been used to store a Torah scroll or possibly individual scrolls of the Septuagint (since nobody spoke Hebrew out here, Mark Wilson said).
Although is is surprising to see a synagogue in Turkey, Sardis is probably mentioned in Esther 3:12-14 and Josephus reports Antiochus III moved a large number of Jews to Sardis (Ant 12.148–49). There are several strange features, including the reuse of a Lydian stone table with lion motif. There were not benches along the walls as in other early synagogues, but rather a set of seats which looked more like a boule to me.
Second, the façade of the gymnasium has been restored by a team from Harvard. Although much is not original, the reconstructed façade give the visitor a sense of the grandeur of the building. The inscriptions on the cornice pieces appear to have been colored in so they are more clearly visible, as they would have been when the building was new.
Third, a short drive from the main city is a huge, although unfinished Temple of Artemis. We can tell it was unfinished because the bases of several of the huge pillars have not been trimmed or decorations are started and left incomplete. Like the temple at Jerash (in Jordan), several massive pillars have stood since construction stopped. A small Byzantine chapel was eventually built on the sight and there are several examples of Christian graffiti on the temple walls. This temple is well worth visiting.
We managed to hit Izmir at rush hour, bit since we are staying in the Mövenpic, a little traffic should not bother us.