Argives and Trallian Thracians founded the city of Tralles. It fell under the control of Cyrus and the Persian Empire in 546 B.C.E., and Alexander the Great took the city in 334 B.C.E. He used it as a base until Tralles became part of the Pergamene Kingdom after 189 B.C.E.
The ancient historian Strabo recognized Tralles for the great wealth and prosperity of her people. Tralles’ riches were famous in Alexander’s time and during the reign of the Pergamene kings. Schools of philosophy and art were established as well as the magnificent Pergamene palace. The city was also renowned for its pottery.
In later times, Anthemius, a Greek from Tralles, became a distinguished mathematician, physicist, and architect in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. With Isidore of Miletus, “the greatest geometer of antiquity,” Anthemius designed the renowned cathedral Hagia Sophia for Justinian I. Also from Tralles was Pythadoris, the granddaughter of Marc Anthony and wife of the king of Pontus Polemon I. Pythadoris ruled for four decades as queen. Her grandson Polemon II was briefly married to Bernice (Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30), granddaughter of King Herod.
Tralles eventually fell and became part of the Roman Empire. Augustus helped rebuild it after a great earthquake as he did for many other cities.
Tralles in Christian History
According to Acts 18:23, the Apostle Paul passed through Galatia and Phrygia “strengthening all the disciples” before reaching his destination in Ephesus. He probably would have followed the Meander River Valley, which means he likely could have stopped to encourage the believers in Tralles. If the Christian community there did not originate with Paul, it probably began with students from the apostle’s school of Tyrannus in Ephesus, or with Epaphras, who went beyond Tralles to evangelize in Colossae.
Ignatius’ letter to Christians in Tralles in 108 A.D. suggests that a church had been established there for some time. The Bishop of Tralles, Polybius, visited Ignatius at Smyrna when Ignatius was en route to his martyrdom in Rome. In his letter, Ignatius addresses church polity (referring to bishops and deacons), correction doctrine and a warning of heresies from false adherents to Christ. Ignatius strongly defends both the deity and humanity of Jesus as well as his death and resurrection and urges the church follow his counsel in unity and love.
Ignatius, who is also called Theaphorus, to the holy Church which is at Tralles, beloved by God the Father, and Jesus Christ, elect, and worthy of God, possessing peace through the flesh and Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in His passion by the cross and death, and in His resurrection, which also I salute in its fulness, and in the apostolical character, and wish abundance of happiness.
I know that ye possess an unblameable and sincere mind in patience, and that not only for present use, but as a permanent possession, as Polybius your bishop has shown me, who has come to Smyrna by the will of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, with the co-operation of the Spirit, and so sympathized in the joy which I, who am bound in Christ Jesus, possess, that I beheld your whole multitude in Him. Having therefore received through him the testimony of your good-will according to God, I gloried to find that you were the followers of Jesus Christ the Saviour.
But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, He became man in appearance [only], that He did not in reality take unto Him a body, that He died in appearance [merely], and did not in very deed suffer, then for what reason am I now in bonds, and long to be exposed to the wild beasts? In such a case, I die in vain, and am guilty of falsehood against the cross of the Lord. Then also does the prophet in vain declare, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn over themselves as over one beloved.” These men, therefore, are not less unbelievers than were those that crucified Him. But as for me, I do not place my hopes in one who died for me in appearance, but in reality. For that which is false is quite abhorrent to the truth. Mary then did truly conceive a body which had God inhabiting it. And God the Word was truly born of the Virgin, having clothed Himself with a body of like passions with our own. He who forms all men in the womb, was Himself really in the womb, and made for Himself a body of the seed of the Virgin, but without any intercourse of man. He was carried in the womb, even as we are, for the usual period of time; and was really born, as we also are; and was in reality nourished with milk, and partook of common meat and drink, even as we do. And when He had lived among men for thirty years, He was baptized by John, really and not in appearance; and when He had preached the Gospel three years, and done signs and wonders, He who was Himself the Judge was judged by the Jews, falsely so called, and by Pilate the governor; was scourged, was smitten on the cheek, was spit upon; He wore a crown of thorns and a purple robe; He was condemned: He was crucified in reality, and not in appearance, not in imagination, not in deceit. He really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead, even as He prayed in a certain place, saying, “But do Thou, O Lord, raise me up again, and I shall recompense them.” And the Father, who always hears Him, answered and said, “Arise, O God, and judge the earth; for Thou shall receive all the heathen for Thine inheritance.” The Father, therefore, who raised Him up, will also raise us up through Him, apart from whom no one will attain to true life. For says He, “I am the life; he that believeth in me, even though he die, shall live: and every one that liveth and believeth in me, even though he die, shall live for ever.” Do ye therefore flee from these ungodly heresies; for they are the inventions of the devil, that serpent who was the author of evil, and who by means of the woman deceived Adam, the father of our race. — Ignatius, Letter to the Trallians