The city was originally called Diospolis (which means "city of Zeus") and then Rhoas. It was renamed Laodicea by Antiochus II, king of Syria, who rebuilt it in the name of his wife Laodice.
Laodicea, built on seven hills like Rome, was one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. It flourished primarily due to its position along a critical trade route, which also made it a hub for large money transactions. In fact, the city minted its own coins, the inscriptions of which show evidence of the worship of Zeus, Apollo and the emperors.
The city often suffered from earthquakes. The city was completely destroyed when an earthquake occurred during the reign of Emperor Nero. The inhabitants declined Roman assistance to rebuild the city, opting to restore it themselves.
In the early church the Laodicean congregation became one of the chief seats of Christianity. The apostle Paul mentions the city and its believers several times in his epistle to the Colossians:
"For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh . . ." (Colossians 2:1, NKJV throughout)
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.
"Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. " (Colossians 4:12-13, 15-16)
The Laodicean church is the last one in Revelation 3 and 4 that God evaluated:
"These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:14-27, NKJV).