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Lydia /
Other spelling: Sardes

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Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey.
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The Roman baths at Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey. Photo: AJ Alfieri-Crispin.

Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey.
The Torah-table at the front of the synagogue. Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey.

Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey.
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The rear portico of the colossal temple of Artemis. Photo: Ian W Scott.

Sardis of Lydia, now Turkey.
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Moasic floor from a synagogue. Photo: Ian W Scott.

Ruined city in western Turkey, and ancient capital of the kingdom and empire of Lydia. It lies in the Gediz Valley (earlier known as Hermus Valley) on a spur at the foot of Boz Dog Mountain, formerly known as Mount Tmolus. Through the city runs the little river Pactolus.
Sardis' growth to importance, wealth and importance was its rich deposits of gold, but it also benefited from having an excellent connection between the Anatolian highlands and the Aegean Sea. The gold was washed down from the mountains and caught in sheepskins. In the 6th century, Sardis would start to coin gold and silver money, which would come to revolutionize commerce.
The wealth of gold near Sardis was explained through a myth: The legendary king Midas was rewarded by the god Dionysus so that all he touched was turned to gold. But as this also came to effect the food he was about to eat, he asked to be released from his powers. Dionysus had him bathe in the Pactolus River, resulting in the vast presence of alluvial gold in the stream, and King Midas was again a normal man.
The ruins today are dominated by Roman buildings, but there some remains from the Lydian past, like the citadel and around 1,000 Lydian graves.

1200 BCE: Possible start of urban settlement at the future site of Sardis.
7th century: Lydia, of which Sardis is the capital, grows in territory.
546: Sardis is conquered by the Persian king Cyrus 2 the Great. This ends the Lydian empire, and Lydia becomes a Persian province with Sardis as the administrative capital.
133: Lydia and Sardis passes to Rome. Being the capital and judicial administrative centre of the Lydian province, Sardis sees a new period of growth and prosperity.
334: Is conquered by Alexander the Great and comes under Macedonian control.
17 CE: Sardis is destroyed by an earthquake, but soon rebuilt.
1st century: A Jesus-Jewish or Christian congregation is established in Sardis
11th century: Seljuq Turks attacks the Hermus Valley, bringing hardship of Sardis.
Early 14th century: Sardis and the surrounding region comes under Seljuq control.
1402: Thoroughly destroyed by Timur Lenk. After this destruction, Sardis would never again be rebuilt, and eventually abandoned.
1958: Sardis is uncovered by archaeologists.

By Tore Kjeilen