Sardis, also known as Sardes was an ancient political and cultural center of Anatolia, and the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia.
According to some historians Lydians entered Anatolia with Phrygians in 13th century. BC. According to some Etruscans and Hitites have the same origin with Lydiians. There were 4 major dynasties who ruled the country. In the 7th century BC Heraklid dynasty took over the rule. According to the legendary story: In the 7th century BC the kingdom was ruled by Kandaules. Kandaules was admired by the beauty of his wife. He mentioned this beauty to his beloved friend commander Gyges. He forced him to see his wife while she was naked. Kandaules had Gyges hidden behind the door of his sleeping room. However Queen saw Gyges while departing and had no reaction. The other day she ordered Gyges to come and see her in the residence while Kandaules was away. She said to him 'Seeing a queen naked should have a punishment. You have two options you either going to kill my husband and become the king or you will die here now.' It was so hard to make this decision of Gyges and he decided to kill his friend Kandaules and became the next King of Lydia. This was the begining of a new dynasty to rule the Lydan Empire. This caused a rebellion, Gyges consulted to the Delphoi Apollon Temple. The answer was in the favour of Gyges. The treasury of Gyges in Delphoi Temple was a symbol of his appreciation.
The peak times for Lydians and their capital city Sardis was over 150 years from 7th century till 546BC. In that time Phyrigians were at the mid part of Anatolia there were Persian and Kimmerian attacks to western Anatolia. Sardis was a very rich capital where Greek and Oriental cultures meet. Sardis was a city which is known with a sculpturing school. Aeolian and and Ionian cities was under rule of Lydians till 546BC. Smyrna was the port city of Lydian Empire.
The first coins were invented by the Lydians. They also invented electron, a coin mixture of gold and silver. In the beginning the ratio was %60 gold, %40 silver. This ratio changed by years.
The King of Lydia was Croesus and he was very rich. He is even referred to in the saying "as rich as Croesus". Much of the wealth of Sardis is thought to have come from a gold-bearing stream that ran through the city called the Pactolos River (Sartcay). Pactolos stream assumed Midas`s Golden Touch when the Phyrigian king bathed in the headwaters and forever after flowed with gold. Lydians were known as refining of Gold. They made small hollows in the ground and used as hearths to melt down the gold dust panned from the Poctolus stream. The native gold was purified further in the banks of small furnaces.
After prosperous days of Lydian period, Persian attacks dangered cities peak times. In 585BC during a battle with Persians a solar eclipse was experienced. This shocked the people and interpreted as the gods was not in the favour of this war. This solar eclipse was estimated by Thales of Miletus who was considered as one of the 7 geniuses of the ancient world. Croisos consulted oracles regarding the future of the empire. Oracles advised him that he will be incharge for the destruction of an empire. He thought the empire will be destroyed will be Persia. However Sardis fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia in 546 BC. According to the legend King of Lydia had a son born from one of his concubines. For this miracle Lydian King consulted to the Apollon Temple. The prophecy was if the lion is toured around the city walls of Sardis, no one will conquer the city. Since some parts of the city was on very high slope, some parts were missed during touring. During the Persian siege, a Persian soldier saw a Lydian who fell his helmet and went down to take it and climb back from the missed parts of the toured areas. The day after from the same area Persians climbed and captured the city and Kroisos.
The city was the satrapy (goverment) center during the Persian rule. During the Ionian rebellion the city was destroyed by the Greeks. The city continued to flourish through the periods of Alexander the Great, Romans and Byzantines until it was inhabited by the Turks and then deserted.
It was here at Sardis that one of the "Seven Churches" had been founded. Investigations begun in 1910 by an American expedition exposed a well-preserved temple of Artemis along with a series of Lydian tombs dating from the 7th century BC and later. Since 1958 ongoing archaeological research at the site has uncovered, in addition to important Lydian-period finds, several later monuments, notably a gymnasium and synagogue of the 2-3C AD and several Byzantine shops.
Sardis also became the westernmost terminus of the Royal Road from Susa.
The ruins of Sardis can be divided into four areas: the Acropolis on Bozdag (Mount Tmolos), the Pactolos Valley where the Artemis Temple was built, the city located on both sides of the modern highway between Ankara and Izmir and finally Bintepeler (the Thousand Hills) consisting of 150 Lydian tombs. The ruins to the north of the highway are what were then public toilets, gymnasium and a synagogue. To the south of the synagogue was the main road of the city which had various shops, including a hardware store and a paint shop. The road once formed the westernmost stretch of the Royal Road. These ruins are of Byzantine period and have been dated to the 4th century AD.
Synagogue is from the 3rd century AD and once was a part of the gymnasium and restored to be a synagogue. Sardes has the largest known ancient synagogue. Its size and grandeur are a testimony to the prosperity of the Jews in Sardes during Roman times and to their eminent position in the city. It was probably not originally planned to be a synagogue as it has a very different layout. It faces the direction of Jerusalem and the entrance is also from the same side through three gates, which open from the courtyard into the main assembly hall. After entering, one has to turn back to see the two shrines between the gates. At the opposite end of the hall there is a semicircular apse with three rows of marble seats which were thought to be for the elders. The floors were mostly covered with mosaics.
Gymnasium is a large 'Imperial Type' complex consisting of a palaestra next to the synagogue, colonnades on three sides and the main building with the recently-restored ornate facade. According to its inscription, it was bulit in the 2nd c. AD and dedicated by the people of Sardes to Geta and Caracalla, the sons of Septimus Severus and to their mother Julia Domna. It was a complex of symmetrically arranged rooms. Around the gymnasium, one can notice the shops as paint shop and hardware shop. And also the part of the Royal road which is 30 feet wide. Bath consists of Apodyterium, Frigidarium, Tepidarium, Caldarium,
Artemis Temple is located in the Pactolos Valley and was one of the seven largest ancient temples with eight columns at short side and twenty along long side. Artemis temples always lay outside the city. It was believed that an altar dedicated to Artemis & Zeus had existed there as early as the 5th century BC. It was begun about a generation after conquest of Alexander and enormous scale was clearly ment to rival the 3 great Ionian Temples: Ephesus Artemis Temple, Samos Heraion and Didyma Apollon Temple. 3 mentioned temples are built with dipteros style. Sardis Temple was constructed with pseudodipteros style. Cella was subdivided into two possibly for Zeus & Artemis. Western cella dedicated to Zeus and Eastern to Artemis. The heads of Antonius Pius and his wife Faustina is also been excavated proving that Faustina and Antonius Pius was worshipped here. The temple was built in stages, the first part being constructed in 300 BC. Later further construction took place in the 2nd century BC. Again only part of the project was completed. The third stage started in the 2nd century AD. At this stage the cella was divided into two halves by an internal cross-wall, the western half dedicated to Artemis and the other half to the Empress Faustina, who was deified after her death.
Ruins of a small building at the southeastern corner of the temple belong to a 4th century AD church. According to some sources it is referred to as one of the Seven Churches of the Revelation. However, this cannot be correct as congregations not the actual buildings were meant by churches at that time.
Mounds: Burial mounds can also be noticed on the way. These individual thombs of kings and royalty of the 7th & 6th centuries BC. The largest mound is in the height of 200 feet.
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