A city in the Roman province of Asia, Colossae was located in western Asia Minor in the upper Lycus River valley, 110 miles east of Ephesus, 10 miles east of Laodicea, and 12 miles southeast of Hierapolis. The ancient east-west thoroughfare from Ephesus to the Euphrates ran through the Lycus Valley, which accounts for the early missionary work done there.

Colossae achieved city status as early as the 5th century B.C. Herodotus called it “a large city of Phrygia,” and Xenophon called it “a populous city, large and well off.” Inscriptions and coins also reflect Colossae’s importance before Paul’s day.

Along with its neighbor cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis, Colossae was a center of the textile industy. Its dark red wool, called colossinum, was especially known. The importance of the city declined after the road to Pergamum was moved to the west through Laodicea. By the late 1st century B.C., Hierapolis and Laodicea had surpassed Colossae in importance. Strabo lists the city among a group of smaller towns.

It is possible the gospel came to Colossae while Paul was living at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Paul had apparently not visited Colossae when he wrote his epistle, and it is likely the gospel was preached through Paul’s companion, Epaphras, who was from Colossae (Col. 1:7; 4:12-13). Members of the early Colossian church included Philemon and his slave Onesimus (Col. 4:9; Philem. 10, 23).

The population of Colossae included Jews, Greeks, and Phrygians, which accounts for the type of paganism, Judaism, and asceticism that Paul’s epistle was meant to counter.

An earthquake in A.D. 60 devastated the city, of which there is no mention in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. It was apparently written before the earthquake occurred or before the news of this calamity reached Rome.