The Lydians and their World (2010)

by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.


Lydia: Geographical Location

Ancient Lydia was located in central western Anatolia, a region of river valleys and mountains slightly more than half the size of Switzerland or Denmark, and approximately the same size as the state of New Hampshire in the United States (Fig. 1).1 Dominating the topography of Lydia is a series of alternating rivers and mountain ranges oriented east-west, the rivers roughly 100-200 km long, rising in lower highlands of Anatolia and emptying into the Aegean. Central rivers are the Hermus (modern Gediz çayı, Figs. 2, 3) and Kayster (modern Küçük Menderes)—the latter modest in size but associated with the earliest reference in European Literature to Asia:

“… as the many tribes of winged fowl, wild geese or cranes or long-necked swans on the Asian Mead by the streams of Kayster, fly this way and that, glorying in their strength of wing, and with loud cries settle ever onwards, and the mead resoundeth …”2

Rivers and mountain ranges further to the north and south were frontiers or boundaries of Lydia: to the north the Kaikos River (modern Bakır çayı) and mountain chains separated Lydia from Mysia; to the south, the Maeander River (modern Büyük Menderes) separated Lydia from Caria. Eastern limits, roughly 150-200 km distant from the Aegean coast, and western limits, in some places only 10-25 km from the Aegean, separated Lydia respectively from Phrygia and from Greek lands of Ionia and Aeolis.3

  • Fig. 1

    Map of Anatolia, showing the approximate boundaries of Lydia, the extent of the Lydian Empire, and important sites (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College. Landsat image courtesy of NASA.)

  • Fig. 2

    The Hermus River, north of Sardis (1960) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 3

    View of the Hermus River (1960) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

Lydia in the Lydian Era, Seventh–Sixth Centuries BC

Lydia was homeland of the Lydians, an Anatolian people distinguished by language (an Anatolian sub-branch of Indo-European) and by religious, social, and artistic traditions. Under an aggressive dynasty of kings who controlled major resources of gold and silver, Lydia became a powerful state and nucleus of an empire, which existed for a little over one hundred years in the seventh and sixth centuries BC (Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7).

The beginnings of Lydian history are largely a pot pourri of fairy tale and romance, reported by ancient Greek writers, notably by Herodotus, who wrote in the fifth century BC.4 According to him, Lydia in the later second and early first millennia BC was ruled for more than five hundred years by two consecutive dynasties. Famine at the beginning of the earlier Atyad dynasty reportedly prompted an emigration of Lydians to Italy, where they became ancestors of the Etruscans. That tradition was doubted already in antiquity, and has few adherents in recent scholarship; inundation of Lydian lands by volcanic tephra from the explosion of Thera/Santorini in the second millennium BC, however, could have created famine conditions of the kind that prompt extreme emergency action and linger in collective memory (Figs. 8, 9, 10).5 The later dynasty of the Herakleidai reportedly was founded by Herakles and Lydian Queen Omphale or her serving lady.

With the third and last Lydian dynasty, that of the Mermnadai, and its kings Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, and Croesus, who ruled in patrilinear succession between ca. 680 and the 540s BC, Lydian history and culture begin to emerge from the mists of folktale; Greek sources shed some of their fantasy, gain in credibility, and are supported and supplemented by Near Eastern texts and by a greater amount of material culture, the latter acquiring distinctive, unique features. Beginning with Gyges (ca. 680-644 BC), Lydian kings created a western Anatolian empire that reached its greatest extent under Croesus (ca. 560-540s BC), extending as far to the East as the river Halys (modern Kızılırmak; Fig. 1), and established diplomatic relations with foreign powers (in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, Greece; Fig. 11).6 The Lydians’ wealth in gold and silver, acquired from secondary gold in mountain streams on the north side of Mount Tmolus (Fig. 12) and from sources to the west and northwest, became proverbial.7

Lydian cultural achievements that impressed Greeks included the invention of coinage, master works in precious metal and textile arts, cosmetics, music, horsemanship, parks, and gardens. With the exception of coinage, those achievements are known almost exclusively from Greek literature. The archaeological record documents more durable and concrete forms of material culture, notably handsome ashlar masonry construction in limestone and marble (Figs. 13, 14), sculpture (Figs. 15, 16), metalwork (Fig. 17), ceramics (Figs. 18, 19, 20, 21), and perhaps ivory carving (Nos. 52, 53, Fig. 22). Several of those forms and other aspects of Lydian material culture (like alphabetic writing) attest considerable borrowing and adaptation from Greek culture (see Melchert, “Lydian Language and Inscriptions”). Cultural interchange between neighbors is natural (even inevitable, deep though political and religious divides may be). The prominence of Greek models in the material culture of Anatolian Lydians, however, together with the large quantity of Greek ceramic imports at Sardis, suggests a more dynamic attitude on the part of Lydians to the culture of their western neighbors. The material record of art and popular culture in that respect sets in perspective the historical record of official policy: diplomatic relations with Greek states and lavish royal patronage of Greek sanctuaries (in mainland Greece as well as in Anatolia; see Kerschner, “The Lydians and Their Ionian and Aiolian Neighbours”).8

The chief city of Lydia was Sardis, perhaps the only city of Lydia during the era of Lydian independence and empire; and the primary site from which archaeological evidence for Lydian culture has been recovered (and recovered in controlled excavations).9 Sardis was located ca. 75 km (47 miles) inland from the Aegean coast at Smyrna (modern Izmir), where the valley of the Hermus River meets the mountain range Tmolus (modern Boz Dağı; Figs. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27). Today, the site adjoins the modern town of Sart, in the administrative district of Salihli, and the province of Manisa. There, a mountain foothill, high—rising 300 m above the Hermus River plain—and steep-sided, was the physical nucleus of settlement: a citadel or acropolis (Figs. 28, 29). Flanking the Acropolis were two perennial mountain streams, the western one called Pactolus (modern Sart çayı; Figs. 30, 31, 32). Ancient settlement existed on north slopes of the Acropolis and extended into the plain, mainly between the two streams. Surrounding the settlement limits, especially in the two stream valleys, were cemeteries (the best known being those flanking the Pactolus Stream). In its ancient heyday, Sardis controlled the river plain immediately to the north (the Sardiane, Fig. 33). On the north side of the plain, a low limestone ridge was the site of an elite tumulus cemetery (modern Bin Tepe); just beyond it, further to the north, lies a large lake, the Gygaean Lake or Lake Coloë (modern Marmara Gölü) (Figs. 23, 34, 35, 36).

Environment probably played a role in the emergence and continuity of settlement at Sardis. Some environmental features would have fulfilled basic requirements: the Acropolis was both a refuge (in recorded history never taken by direct assault) and a stronghold; the Pactolus Stream was a dependable source of fresh water. Other features would have become assets after settlement was established: the river plain a resource for large-scale agriculture and a corridor for communication between inland Anatolia and the Aegean, Tmolus for timber, fuel, and summer pasturage in its highland valleys, the Pactolus and other mountain streams on the north side of Tmolus for secondary gold.

In the time of Croesus, Sardis was a large city of nearly 200 ha, including a fortified core of 108 ha, large extramural suburbs, and a fortified Acropolis summit (Figs. 37, 38, 39). Urban features cited in ancient Greek literary texts include a palace or palaces of the Lydian kings, sanctuaries of Cybele and Apollo, and a pleasure garden. Urban features known from the archaeological record include extensive landscape terracing on Acropolis slopes, sculptural votive offerings from a sanctuary of Cybele and perhaps from a sanctuary of Artemis, intramural houses, extramural residential, commercial, and industrial districts, one of which featured installations for the separation of gold and silver from secondary gold. Important urban features that remain to be discovered in archaeological research include palace and administrative buildings, major sanctuaries, and the design of functional spaces and thoroughfares.10

Monumentality was a feature of Lydian Sardis: defenses of the lower city included a massive wall 20 m thick (in places supplemented by a glacis 30 m thick and a ditch; Figs. 38, 39); an ambitious program of terrace walls regularized Acropolis slopes, transforming the irregular contours of nature into straight-sided, crisply-articulated geometric forms (Figs. 40, 41, 42, 43); and enormous royal tombs in the form of tumuli (Figs. 44, 45). Those great tumuli, visible from afar in their special cemetery located across the river plain from Sardis, would have been landmarks of Lydian wealth and power; the largest of them, which has been identified as the tomb of Alyattes, father of Croesus, has a base diameter of over 355 m.11

  • Fig. 4

    Şahan Kaya, a citadel in northern Lydia (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 5

    Şahan Kaya, a citadel in northern Lydia (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 6

    Şahan Kaya, a citadel in northern Lydia, Summit (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 7

    South slopes of Mt. Sipylos, with wild tulips and hyacinths (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 8

    The Katakekaumene (“Burnt Lands”) near Kula (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 9

    The Katakekaumene (“Burnt Lands”) near Kula (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 10

    Valonia Oak, growing near Kula (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 1

    Map of Anatolia, showing the approximate boundaries of Lydia, the extent of the Lydian Empire, and important sites (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College. Landsat image courtesy of NASA.)

  • Fig. 11

    Nomadic-style items from Sardis (Nos. 54-55) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 12

    Alluvial gold from near Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 13

    Interior of the Tumulus of Alyattes, entrance to the tomb chamber, seen from outside. Chamber walls are built of marble; ceiling beam blocks are limestone and measure more than three m. high and three m. deep. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 14

    Tomb chamber within the Tumulus of Alyattes, view taken from the back of the chamber looking towards the doorway. “The masonry is superb! It made one's architectural blood tingle to see such enormous blocks cut so true and square, the joints very close and, of course, laid entirely without mortar …” (Francis H. Bacon, in 1882; from Greenewalt, Cahill, Stinson, and Yegül 2003, 40). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 15

    Cybele Monument, No. 34 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 16

    Cybele Monument, No. 34 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 17

    Unfinished bronze bridle attachment in the form of a wild goat, from Sardis, No. 49 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 18

    Orientalizing lebes, from Sardis, No. 90 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 19

    Orientalizing lebes, from Sardis, No. 90 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 20

    Orientalizing lebes from Sardis, No. 71 (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 21

    Orientalizing lebes from Sardis, No. 71 (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 22

    Ivory head from Sardis, No. 52 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 23

    Map of Sardis and Bin Tepe (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 24

    View of Sardis from Bin Tepe, with Boz Dağı in the background (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 25

    View of Gölcük, Boz Dağı (1959) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 26

    Panorama showing Acropolis of Sardis (right), Necropolis Hill (left), Bin Tepe (left, above) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 27

    View of the Acropolis, from Boz Dağ (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 28

    View of the Acropolis of Sardis from the west (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 29

    Top of the Acropolis of Sardis, with Boz Dağı in the background (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 30

    View of the Pactolus River (1987) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 31

    Source of the Pactolus stream where, according to ancient legend, King Midas of Phrygia washed off his “golden touch,” and thereafter the stream flowed with gold (Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.126-145) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 32

    Damselfly (Calopteryx virgo, male) on a rock in the Pactolus Stream above Sardis (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 33

    View of plain from Sardis, showing tumuli at Bin Tepe (1961) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 34

    View of Bin Tepe; in the background is the royal tumulus locally called Kır Mutaf Tepe; in the foreground, camels (1957) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 35

    View of Bin Tepe (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 36

    View of the Gygaean Lake Gygaean Lake or Lake Coloë (Marmara gölü). According to Homer’s Iliad (2.864-866), the Lake was grandmother of the Maeonian heroes who aided Priam in the Trojan War (view looking east). (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 37

    Plan of Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 38

    Reconstruction of the Lydian Fortification in the mid-6th C. BC, looking east into the city (P.T. Stinson) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 39

    Reconstruction of the Lydian Fortification in the mid-6th C. BC, looking west out of the city (P.T. Stinson) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 40

    Lydian terrace wall on the Acropolis of Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 41

    Terraces on the lower slopes of the Acropolis in central Sardis; reconstructed view looking south (P.T. Stinson) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 42

    Corner of terrace wall on the lower slopes of the Acropolis at Sardis (excavation sector ByzFort), view looking south. Surviving ashlar limestone facing of the wall originally existed below ground level. The same masonry continued above for an additional height of 12 m. (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 43

    Marble and limestone stylobate on top of ByzFort terrace, with Christopher Ratté. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 44

    One of the royal Lydian tumuli at Bin Tepe: Koca Mutaf Tepe, probably the Tumulus of Alyattes (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 45

    One of the royal Lydian tumuli at Bin Tepe: Kır Mutaf Tepe (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

The End of the Lydian Empire

The independence and empire of Lydia came to an end in the 540s BC, when the forces of King Croesus were defeated and Sardis was captured by the Persians under their king, Cyrus the Great. A dramatic account of those events is given by Herodotus: Croesus’s decision to go to war against the Persians (after prediction by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi that war would result in the fall of a mighty empire—which Croesus assumed would be that of Persia but which proved to be his own); inconclusive battle in Cappadocia, at Pteria (perhaps Kerkenes); decisive battle at Sardis; siege and capture of the Acropolis; Croesus’s near execution by burning, stayed by Apollo’s rainstorm and Cyrus’s pardon. Herodotus’s account is supplemented by the equally dramatic archaeological record: destruction, partly by burning, of lower city defenses and houses, scattered armament and weapons; skeletons of unceremoniously buried casualties, including “unknown soldiers” of Croesus (No. 210; Fig. 46).12

  • Fig. 46

    “Soldier of Misfortune,” one of the casualties of the battle between Croesus and Cyrus of Persia (compare No. 210, found nearby) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Lydia Before the Lydian Era

The exhibition for which this Catalogue was prepared focuses on the material culture of Lydia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, when it was the center of a “mighty empire.”13Ancient Lydia and Sardis were occupied long before the Lydians, however—long before there is evidence for their ethnic and cultural identity, that is—and long after their “palmy days” of independence and empire.

Lydia was occupied already in Palaeolithic, as well as in Neolithic, and Chalcolithic Eras, from the tenth through the fourth millennia BC. In the brilliant cultural era of the Early Bronze Age, in the third millennium BC, Lydian lands had many settlements and shared in the technically and artistically sophisticated culture of western Anatolia and the eastern Aegean (Figs. 47, 48). Whether Sardis existed as a city in that era is unclear: Early Bronze Age artifacts have been recovered at the city site (Fig. 49), but not in contemporaneous occupation contexts, and therefore could be merely intrusive “flotsam and jetsam” of later eras.14

During the Late Bronze Age, ca. 1500-1100 BC, Lydian lands were involved in the politics and cultural traditions of two great neighboring powers, the Hittites of central Anatolia and Mycenaean states of Greece and the Aegean. According to current understanding of Hittite texts of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC, Lydian lands in those centuries belonged to two kingdoms that sometimes were part of the Hittite Empire, sometimes independent and associated with Mycenaean Greece (Ahhiyawa): the Hermus and Kaikos River valleys belonged to the Seha River land; the Kayster and Maeander River valleys to the lands of Mira-Kuwaliya. Rock cut sculpture showing a colossal divinity, on Mount Sipylos south of the Hermus River, and of a king of Mira (Tarkasnawa) in western and southern parts of Mira-Kuwaliya, are in a Hittite style, and accompanying inscriptions are in Hittite hieroglyphs (Fig. 50, 51). In the Iliad, Lydian lands are the home of a people called Maeonians, who sent a contingent to Troy in the Trojan War. Imported and local Mycenaean-style pottery has been recovered at several Lydian sites, and as far east as Philadelphia (modern Alaşehir). Sardis has not been identified in Hittite texts, and is absent in the Iliad (although Hermus valley landmarks—the River itself, Mt. Tmolus, the Gygaean Lake—are named, in connection with the Maeonians’ homeland); and, perhaps only because of its absence in the Iliad, the Greek geographer Strabo wrote that Sardis was founded after the Trojan War. There are no surviving foundation legends for Sardis, as there are for many Greek cities. The earliest occupation deposits so far uncovered at Sardis have been approximately dated, on the basis of pottery style and stratification, to the fourteenth-twelfth centuries BC; which could antedate or postdate the Trojan War according to ancient time reckoning for that event (1334–1135 BC).15

  • Fig. 47

    Objects from Early Bronze Age grave, gold “ear plugs” Nos. 2-3 (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 48

    Early Bronze Age silver ram pendant No. 1 (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 49

    Stone “mace head” from Sardis, found in a Roman stratum but perhaps dating to the Early Bronze Age (third millennium BC) (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 50

    Rock-cut sculpture at Akpınar on Mt. Sipylus, near Manisa, identified as Cybele or as a male god (second millennium BC) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 51

    The Karabel Pass between the Hermus and Cayster valleys, showing the relief of the king of Mira, Tarkasnawa (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

Lydia After the Lydian Era

After the fall of Croesus’s Empire, Lydia became a part of larger political and cultural entities: Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish. Earlier cultural traditions affected later ones, and contemporaneous cultures merged. Although never again the capital of an independent state after its capture by the Persians in the 540s BC, Sardis remained an important city (by far the most important in Lydia) for more than a millennium. Under Persian rule it was the capital of a province or satrapy and the seat of a viceroy (sometimes a member of the royal family), called a satrap (no. 215, Fig. 52). It was visited on two occasions by Persian kings (Darius I in 512 BC; Xerxes in 480 BC), and it was the hub of Persian-Greek diplomatic transactions. Satrapal orchards and hunting parks (paradeisoi), which impressed Greek visitors, may have been inspired by Lydian gardens. The local aristocracy evidently prospered (to judge from monumental burials and rich funeral offerings; Nos. 189209; Figs. 53, 54, 55); their estates, together with settlements of Persians, formed the core of cities that flourished in Hellenistic and Roman times.

Alexander the Great visited Sardis in 334 BC after defeating Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus, restored former Lydian laws/customs (nomoi), admired triple fortifications of the Acropolis, and contemplated building there a Temple to Olympian Zeus. In the Hellenistic era (broadly 323-30 BC), Lydia was controlled by successive dynasts and dynasties that succeeded Alexander the Great: Antigonos Monophthalmos and Lysimachos for about twenty years each (321-281 BC), Seleucid dynasts of Syria and other parts of western Asia for a century (281-180 BC), and Attalids of Pergamon for half a century (180-133 BC). During this period, Sardis became a Greek city: Greek was the language of its formal texts; city government was run by a council and assembly; a gymnasium, theater, and hippodrome accommodated Greek cultural institutions. During Seleucid control, Sardis was a royal residence, and the great Temple of Artemis (Fig. 56) may have been begun under Seleucid auspices in the third century BC.16

Lydia became a Roman possession in 133 BC and, under the Roman Empire (from 27 BC), part of the province of Asia; notable cities included Philadelphia (modern Alaşehir), Magnesia ad Sipylum (modern Manisa), Thyateira (modern Akhisar), Julia Gordios (modern Gördes), in addition to Sardis (Fig. 57). Under the Romans, Sardis continued to flourish as one of the great cities of the eastern Mediterranean: aided and honored by the imperial government (notably with substantial aid after a devastating earthquake in AD 17; and with three neokorate honors), visited by Emperors Hadrian (in AD 124) and Marcus Aurelius, with heir-apparent Commodus (in AD 176); home of wealthy aristocratic families and recipient of their benefactions; seat of an assize and of a Christian bishopric; enhanced by grand public monuments (public baths, basilica, four macella, many sanctuaries, colonnaded streets, and public fountains; Fig. 58).17

Late Antiquity, fourth-seventh centuries AD, was an era of change and increasing insecurity, with the suppression of pagan cults, rise of Christian authority, urban decline, and menace and invasion from outside (by Goths, Sassanian Persians, Arabs). At Sardis in the fourth century AD, grand urban traditions continued, as did artistic and intellectual life; the city became a provincial capital and location of an arms factory; urban core territory was increased; colonnaded streets and monumental buildings (including two large churches and one large synagogue) were constructed. The city core was enclosed by a well-built fortification wall (the first of its kind since Hellenistic times), perhaps in the fourth century AD, and the Acropolis summit was protected by an even stronger wall of the mid-sixth century AD or later (Fig. 59). Those defenses also reflect the insecurity of the era; just as the regular reuse in public and private construction of large, finely-worked stone blocks from other buildings (spolia), implying abandonment or destruction of major public buildings, evidently reflects decline in prosperity, in population, or both. The seventh century AD at Sardis is conspicuous in the archaeological record for destructions of public buildings and abandonment of houses.18

For more than half a millennium thereafter Lydia was an important part of the Byzantine Empire. The cities of Nymphaeum and Magnesia ad Sipylum in western Lydia were Byzantine government headquarters for half a century in the thirteenth century (AD 1211-1261), when Constantinople was capital of the so-called Latin Empire, following conquest by armies of the Fourth Crusade. Soon after the Battle of Manzikert in AD 1071, control of Lydia was contested by Turkish groups and states (for a few years in the late eleventh century Sardis was a possession of Chaka, the enterprising emir of Smyrna) but Turkish rule became permanent only in the first half of the fourteenth century, with the conquests of Saruhan, Emir of Germiyan. The city of Philadelphia remained a Byzantine possession until the last decade of the fourteenth century, when it was taken by Ottoman Sultan, Bayazid I. Under Ottoman rule, older cities continued to exist, some flourishing (notably Magnesia ad Sipylum, Turkish Manisa, which became headquarters of the heir apparent as early as the fifteenth century), others declining (like Sardis, in the seventeenth century still a sizable town, according to Evliya Çelebi; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a small hamlet or group of hamlets); and other towns emerged (notably Kassaba/Turgutlu and Salihli, the latter replacing Sardis as a market town).19

  • Fig. 52

    Sling bullet of the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, No. 215 (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 53

    Gold appliques from a Persian-period tomb (Tomb 836) at Sardis (IAM 4652, 4653) (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 54

    Hellenistic pottery from a tomb at Sardis, No. 216 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 55

    Hellenistic pottery from a tomb at Sardis, No. 217 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 56

    The Hellenistic Temple of Artemis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 57

    Roman portrait of a philosopher, No. 219 (Courtesy of the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, Istanbul)

  • Fig. 58

    The Marble Court, part of the Roman Bath-Gymnasium Complex at Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 59

    Byzantine fortification on the Acropolis of Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Research and Excavation

If the extensive networks of Roman tunnels in tumuli of Lydian and Persian eras at Bin Tepe (Fig. 60) and elsewhere reflect treasure hunting rather than antiquarian curiosity (which is conceivable),20 scholarly research at Sardis began in 1444 (with the visit of Cyriacus of Ancona, who commented on topography and monuments and recorded texts of inscriptions on stone); excavation began in 1750 (with the visit of Robert Wood and his team, and their excavation of a column in the Temple of Artemis). Lydian material culture has been uncovered in tumulus burials at Bin Tepe, in 1854 (including the Tomb of Alyattes by L. Spiegelthal), 1868-1869 and 1882 (by George Dennis), and 1875 (by August Choisy), and at the city site, graves outside the city site, and tumulus burials at Bin Tepe in 1910-1914 and 1922 (by the Expedition called Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, founded and directed by Howard Crosby Butler of Princeton University) and from 1958 to the present (by the project called Archaeological Exploration of Sardis / Sart Amerikan Hafriyat Heyeti, co-sponsored by the Harvard Art Museum and Cornell University and founded by G. M. A. Hanfmann of Harvard University). Material culture of the Lydian era elsewhere in Lydia has been significantly illuminated through fieldwork and documentation conducted by the Museums of Manisa, Ödemiş, Tire, and Uşak.21

  • Fig. 60

    Roman water jug recovered resting upright and intact on the floor of a low niche in the side of a treasure hunters' (or antiquarian excavators'?) tunnel of Roman times, in the royal Lydian tumulus called Karnıyarık Tepe, in the Bin Tepe Cemetery north of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)


  • 1The name Lydia is first attested, in the Akkadian form, Lu-ud, in Assyrian annals of the second quarter of the seventh century BC (Prism E of the historical prisms of King Assurbanipal, specifically recension E2 of Prism E (recording the reception at the court of Assyrian King Assurbanipal of an envoy from Lydian King Gyges), which Cogan and Tadmor have dated 665/4 plus or minus 1 year; Cogan and Tadmor 1977, 65–74, 81–82; in general, Pedley 1972 82–83.

    For the “c. 22,400 square km (8,645 square mile) area” of Lydia, and comparisons, Roosevelt 2003, 28 n. 24.

  • 2Iliad 2.459–463, translation by A. T. Murray, Loeb Classical Library. Asia is commonly thought to be derived from the Hittite Assuwa; Bryce 2005, 125, 424–425 n. 14.
  • 3For the topography, and geographical limits of Lydia, Roosevelt 2003, 22–35. Physical limits of Lydia are problematic because (1) they changed over time, and surviving evidence permits only a pastiche of chronologically-disparate data; (2) for those of the seventh and sixth centuries BC there is little specific evidence, apart from Herodotus’s report (7.30) that Croesus set up a stele to mark the boundary between Lydia and Phrygia at Kydrara in the Maeander valley (and the location of Kydrara is only tentatively identified, with an ancient habitation mound at Sarayköy); (3) where limits did not coincide with natural features, they can only be broadly determined; and (4) some may have been indefinite, frontiers rather than boundaries.
  • 4Other sources for ancient Lydia both antedate and postdate Herodotus. Earlier sources survive only as fragmentary texts; notable examples including verses of seventh century poets Archilochus, Sappho, and Alcaeus, and the “Lydian History” (Lydiaka) of Xanthos, who was a Lydian, perhaps a contemporary of Herodotus, and who wrote in Greek (i.e. for Greek readers). Major Greek and Near Eastern sources are collected in Pedley 1972.
  • 5For Lydian origins of the Etruscans, see Herodotus 1.94; Briquel 1991; Drews 1992; Ridgway 1993. For Thera/Santorini tephra at Sardis, see Sullivan 1988 and Sullivan 1990. For the date of the Thera/Santorini explosion in the seventeenth century (1627-1600 BC), see Friedrich et al. 2006.
  • 6For Gyges’ aggressive policy and authority in the Greek states of western Anatolia: Herodotus 1.15; Strabo 13.1.22 (founding by Miletus of Abydus in the Troad with Gyges’ permission). Gyges’ diplomatic relations with Assyria, which were established in connection with his request to King Assurbanipal for aid against the nomadic Cimmerians are recorded in Akkadian texts (Cogan and Tadmor 1977), likewise his correspondence with Egypt (ibid. 78–79); for bone objects of “nomadic animal style,” presumably either Cimmerian or Scythian, Nos. 54, 55, Fig. 11; Ivantchik 2001, 73–79. For Alyattes’ reception of Scythian refugees, his war against the Medes, and the peace treaty brokered by the kings of Cilicia and Babylon, see Herodotus 1.72–74.
  • 7The wealth of Lydian kings was proverbial already in the mid seventh century BC: “I care not for Gyges rich in gold,” wrote Greek poet Archilochus (fr. 19, ed. Gerber). Although the Pactolus stream at Sardis was famous in antiquity as a source of gold (e.g. Herodotus 1.93, 5.101, cf. 6.125; Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.142–145; for other Greek and Roman references to Pactolus gold, see Pedley 1972, 70–71 nos. 242–255), other streams on the north side of Tmolus also yield placer gold (as established by a research team from the Maden Tetkik ve Arama Enstitüsü in 1981). According to Strabo, other sources of Lydian gold included a site between Atarneus and Pergamon (14.5.28/680) and of western Anatolian gold Phrygia, Sipylus, and Astyra near Abydos, in the Troad (13.1.23/591); for the last, Leaf 1923, 134–135; Cook 1973, 290; Allen 1999, especially 206, 209, 343 n. 163; Robinson 2006, especially 224–225, 325–327, 382, 395–396. For the record of Lydian wealth in the form of royal dedications and munificence, see Buxton 2002, Kerschner 2006.
  • 8Lydian coinage and unguents are discussed in Kroll, “The Coinage of Sardis,” and Greenewalt, “Perfumes and Unguents”. Celebrated master works in precious metal were a silver mixing bowl (krater) and its intricate stand of welded iron, dedicated by King Alyattes at Delphi (Herodotus 1.25; other Greek sources collected in Asheri et al. 2007, 93; Buxton 2002, 96–97 [krater], 109–121 [stand]), a miniature plane tree of gold and a (life-size?) vine with clusters of precious stones (Herodotus 7.27; Xenophon, Hellenica 7.1.38; Chares of Mytilene and Amyntas cited by Athenaeus 12.514f; Diodorus 19.48.7; Özgen et al. 1996, 24). Masterworks in textile arts included crimson dye, cloth of gold, pile carpets, translucent flesh-colored fabric (sources collected in Greenewalt and Majewski 1980). Lydian music had an impact on Greek music, and in that respect was noted by Greek intellectuals for its distinctive key, scale, and emotional quality in compositions expressing sorrow and joy; Barker 1984, 130–133; Landels 1999, 97–109, 158. For possibly Assyrian impact on Lydian music and musical instruments, see Franklin 2008. Lydian horsemanship is attested in Greek sources (Mimnermus fr. 14, ed. Gerber; Herodotus 1.27, 79); for commemoration in a Lydian relief vase of the seventh century BC and marble relief sculpture of the sixth century BC, see Hanfmann 1945, 570–581; Hanfmann and Ramage 1978, 156 no. 231 fig. 401. A garden at Sardis and a Lydian wild animal park (thera) at Zeleia in the Troad are briefly cited in Greek sources (respectively Clearchus as reported by Athenaeus 12.515e–516a, 540f. and Strabo 13.1.17/589). For the long and complex relationship between Aegean peoples, Greeks, and peoples of western Anatolia, see Bryce 2008, 86. Some aspects of Greek design in architectural terracottas, sculpture, ceramics, and alphabet are presented below. For the Greek appearance of Lydian military gear (hopla), Herodotus 7.74. For Alyattes’ relations with Corinth, Herodotus 3.48.2; for Croesus’ relations with Ionian islanders, 1.27; and Sparta, Herodotus 1.56, 69–70, 77, 8–83. For Lydian royal patronage of Greek sanctuaries at Delphi, Assessos, Oropos, Thebes, Ephesus, and Didyma, see Herodotus 1.14 (Gyges), 22, 25 (Alyattes), 50–51; Buxton 2002, 3–7; Kerschner, “The Lydians and Their Ionian and Aiolian Neighbours”. Note that some major royal dedications at Delphi were of Greek manufacture: Alyattes’ silver krater and its iron stand, made by Glaukos of Chios; Croesus’ huge silver krater, made by Theodoros of Samos.
  • 9The name Sardis, in its common Greek plural form, Sardeis, is first attested in Greek literature (Sappho frr. 96, 98; perhaps Alcaeus fr. 105e, ed. Campbell). The root of the Lydian name was śfar- (śfard- ? śfari- ?); the Akkadian, Hebrew, and Persian names were, respectively, Sapardu, Sepharad, and Sparda. A derivative form survives as the name of the settlement that exists at the site today, Sart.
  • 10The fortified core of Sardis in the sixth century BC is comparable in territorial size to the fortified cores of Miletus (110 ha) and Carchemish (94 ha); somewhat smaller than that of Athens (187 ha); much smaller than those of Kerkenes (250 ha), Corinth (ca. 600 ha), Nineveh (728.7 ha), Babylon (850 ha), and Rome (1,340 ha, within the Aurelian Wall). Sanctuaries of Cybele and Apollo are cited by Herodotus (5.102) and Ctesias (Persika fr. 4, ed. König); a palace or palaces, reportedly made of sun-dried brick and used in Roman times to house the council of elders, or gerousia, by Vitruvius (2,8,9-10) and Pliny (Natural History 35.172), Arrian (Anabasis Alexandri 1.17.6), and Nicolaus of Damascus (fr. 90.44[7], ed. Jacoby). The major royal palace would have been a large complex, perhaps an assemblage of megaron units and large halls, like those at Gordion and Kerkenes Dağ, possibly anticipating layout and buildings of Persian palaces at Pasargadae and Persepolis in Iran ( Nylander 1970: 117–118; Hanfmann 1975, 17–19; Hanfmann 1977; Hanfmann 1980, 104). For the pleasure garden, Clearchus as reported by Athenaeus 12.515e–516a, 540f.
  • 11The huge tumulus called Koca Mutaf Tepe at Bin Tepe (Fig. 44) has been identified with the tomb of Alyattes (Herodotus 1.93; Strabo 13.4.7) because of correspondences in general location, diameter, stone crepis wall, and marker on the summit. The identification is persuasive but insecure because of lack of precise evidence and discrepancies between Koca Mutaf Tepe and Herodotus’s account of the tumulus of Alyattes. Although the former is the largest tumulus in the Bin Tepe cemetery (the diameter of the next largest, Kır Mutaf Tepe (Fig. 45), is smaller by 55-60 m), its dimensions are somewhat smaller than those given by Herodotus for the tumulus of Alyattes; the crepis wall of Koca Mutaf Tepe, allegedly 18 m high on its south side, has not been reported since excavations by Spiegelthal in 1854; and evidence for more than a single marker on Koca Mutaf Tepe is slight, whereas, according to Herodotus, the tumulus of Alyattes had five markers (ouroi). For those aspects, von Olfers 1859, 544–546; Greenewalt et al. 2003, 40–41; Greenewalt and Rautman 1998, 499–500 (on Kır Mutaf Tepe); Asheri et al. 2007, 145. Koca Mutaf Tepe can be seen 30 km away, from the western outskirts of modern Turgutlu/Kasaba.
  • 12Herodotus 1.46–56, 71–91. Other ancient Greek sources on the Fall of Sardis are collected in Pedley 1972, 37–42.
  • 13As stated by the Delphic Oracle, Herodotus 1.53; for other versions of the oracular response, see Fontenrose 1978, 67, 113–114.
  • 14For Palaeolithic-Chalcolithic material remains in Lydian lands, for more than 100 Early Bronze Age occupation sites (settlements and burials), and for ceramic traditions of “West Anatolian Red Slipped Ware” and Yortan pottery in Lydian lands, see Roosevelt, “Lydia Before the Lydians”; also 2003, 90–98, 2009, 13–19.
  • 15For the Seha River Land and Mira-Kuwaliya, see Bryce 2006, 83–86; Hawkins 1998, 1–2, 21–31; Işık ve Tekeoğlu forthcoming. The divinity on Mount Sipylus, commonly accepted as Cybele, also has been identified as a male god, perhaps a mountain god; badly weathered and perhaps unfinished condition frustrate identification; see Kohlmeyer 1983, 28–34; André-Salvini and Salvini 2003; Ehringhaus 2005, 84–87. Rock-cut sculpture of King Tarkasnawa of Mira are located at the Karabel Pass near Nymphaeum (modern Kemalpaşa), at Karakuyu near modern Torbalı, and on Mount Latmos south of the Maeander; for those, Hawkins 1998; Roosevelt 2009, 16–17; Peschlau-Bindokat and Herbordt 2001. The Maeonian contingent and its leaders, Mnethles and Antiphos, sons of Talaimenes, are cited in Iliad 2:864–866; 20.381–392. Strabo wrote that an early name for Sardis, or its Acropolis, was Hyde (13.4.5–6/625–626). Ancient dates for the Trojan War ranged from 1334 BC (according to Douris of Samos) to 1135 BC (according to Ephorus of Cyme).
  • 16For Persian settlement in Lydia, see Sekunda 1985. For paradeisoi of satraps Tissaphernes and Cyrus the Younger at Sardis, the latter planned and planted by Cyrus himself, Xenophon, Oeconomicus 4.20–24; Diodorus 14.80.2. For Alexander the Great at Sardis and for his contemplated or initiated Temple of Zeus, Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri 1.17.3–8; Hanfmann 1977. Seleucid King Antiochus I and his consort Stratonike lived at Sardis in 276/5 BC, and she died there in 254 BC; it was the chief city of Seleucid pretender Achaeus in 215-213 BC (Polybius 5.57, 77–78; 7.15–18; 8.15–21).
  • 17A major source for consequences of the earthquake of AD 17 is Tacitus, Annals 2.49. For other sources, including the evidence of inscriptions from Sardis and coins issued in Rome and Sardis, see Herrmann 1995, 24–30; Sutherland 1987, 47–49; Head 1901, 250 no. 101. For neokorate honors, see Burrell 2004, 100–115. For visits to Sardis of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, see Bowersock 1969, 120–123; Weiss 1995: 217–223; and Herrmann 1993, 258. For Sardis as an assize, see Habicht 1975. For Christianity at Sardis (one of the “seven Churches that are in Asia” in Revelations 1, 3), its church buildings, and its influential Bishop Melito of the second century AD, see Hanfmann and Buchwald in Hanfmann 1983, 191–204; Kraabel 1971.
  • 18With Diocletian’s reorganization of Roman provinces, in the early fourth century Sardis became capital of the province Lydia, within the diocese of Asiana. Intramural territory was increased by the addition of 13.7 ha, in the western part of the city, to make a total 127.6 ha (Fig. 37). Sardis produced two influential intellectuals: the philosopher and orator Chrysanthios, and the teacher and historian Eunapius. A threatened attack by the Goths in AD 399 is recorded by Zosimus 5.18. For destruction and abandonment of the Bath-Gymnasium Complex and Byzantine Shops, see Yegül 1986, 15–16; Crawford 1990. For the seventh century in general at Sardis, Rautman 1995, Rautman 2008, and Rautman forthcoming.
  • 19For Byzantine and Turkish Sardis, see Foss 1976. For the emergence of Salihli, Ergül 1982, especially 11–35.
  • 20For Roman tunnels in tumuli, see von Olfers 1859, 547, pl. III; Greenewalt et al. 2003, 40–41 (Tomb of Alyattes); Hanfmann 1983a, 57 fig. 106 (Karnıyarık Tepe). For Second Sophistic and broadly Roman intellectual concerns with non-Greek antiquity, see Borg 2004, 3; Jones 2004; Yıldırım 2004.
  • 21For summary accounts and references to important fieldwork reports and inventories, especially those of the Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum in Manisa, see Dedeoğlu 2003, Roosevelt 2003 and Roosevelt 2009.
  • Fig. 44

    One of the royal Lydian tumuli at Bin Tepe: Koca Mutaf Tepe, probably the Tumulus of Alyattes (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 45

    One of the royal Lydian tumuli at Bin Tepe: Kır Mutaf Tepe (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)

  • Fig. 37

    Plan of Sardis (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)