, Eth. Lydus
), a country in the western part of Asia Minor. Its boundaries varied at different times. Originally it was a small kingdom in the east of the Ionian colonies; but during the period of the Persian dominion it extended to the south as far as the river Maeander, and, perhaps, even to Mount Messogis, whence some writers speak of the Carian towns of Aromata, Tralles, Nysa, and Magnesia on the Maeander, as Lydian towns, and Strabo (xii. p.577
) mentions the Maeander as the frontier between Lydia and Caria. To the east it extended as far as the river Lycus, so as to embrace a portion of Phrygia.
In the time of Croesus, the kingdom of Lydia embraced the whole of Asia Minor between the Aegean and the river Halys, with the exception of Cilicia and Lycia.
The limits of Lydia during the Roman period are more definitely fixed; for it bordered in the north on Mysia, from which it was separated near the coast by the river Hermus, and in the inland parts by the range of Mount Temnus; to the east it bordered on Phrygia, and to the south on Caria, from which it was separated by Mount Messogis. To the west it was washed by the Aegean (Plin. Nat. 5.30
; Strab. i. p.58
, ii. p. 130, xii. pp. 572, 577, &c.), whence it is evident that it embraced the modern province of Sarukhan
and the northern part of Sighla.
This extent of country, however, includes also Ionia, or the coast country between the mouth of the Hermus and that of the Maeander, which was, properly speaking, no part of Lydia. [IONIA
1. Physical Features of Lydia.
In the southern and western parts Lydia was a mountainous country, being bounded on the south by the MESSOGIS, and traversed by the range of TMOLUS
which runs parallel to it, and includes the valley of the Caÿstrus.
In the western parts we have, as continuations of Tmolus, Mounts DRACON and OLYMPUS
in the north of which rises Mount SIPYLUS
The extensive plains and valleys between these heights are traversed in a western direction by the rivers CAYSTRUS and HERMUS
and their numerous tributaries.
The whole country was one of the most fertile in the world, even the sides of the mountains admitting of cultivation; its climate was mild and healthy, though the country has at all times been visited by severe earthquakes. (Xenoph. Cyrop.
6.2.21; Strab. i. p.58
.) Its most important productions were an excellent kind of wine, saffron, and gold.
The accounts of the ancients about the quantity of gold found in Lydia, from which Croesus was believed to have derived his wealth, are no doubt exaggerated, for in later times the sand of the river Pactolus contained no gold at all, and the proceeds of the gold mines of Mount Tmolus were so small as scarcely to pay for the labour of working them. (Strab. xiii. p.591
The plains about the Hermus and Caystrus were the most fertile parts of the country, if we except the coast districts of Ionia.
The most celebrated of these plains and valleys bore distinct names, as the CILBIANIAN, the CAYSTRIAN, the HYRCANIAN; and the CATACECAUMENE
in the north east. Some of these plains also contained lakes of considerable extent, the most important of which are the GYGAEA LACUS, on the north of the Hermus, and some smaller ones in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, which were particularly rich in fish.
The capital of the country at all times was SARDES
2. Names and Inhabitants of the Country.
In the Homeric poems the names Lycia and Lycians do not occur; but the people dwelling about Mount Tmolus and Lake Gygaea, that is the country afterwards called Lydia, bear the name Meones or Maeones (Μἥονες, Il. 2.865
), and are allied with the Trojans.
The earliest author who mentions the name Lydians is the lyric poet Mimnermus (Fragm.
14, ed. Bergk), whose native city of Colophon was conquered by the Lydians. Herodotus (1.7
) states that the people originally called Meones afterwards adopted the name of Lydians, from Lydus the son of Atys; and he accordingly regards Lydians and Meonians as the same people.
But some of the ancients, as we learn from Strabo (xii. p.572
, xiv. p. 679), considered them as two distinct races,--a view which is unquestionably the correct one, and has been adopted in modern times by Niebuhr and other inquirers.
A change of name like that of Maeonians into Lydians alone suggests the idea of the former people being either subdued or expelled by the latter. When once the name Lydians had been established, it was applied indiscriminately to the nation that had been conquered by them as well as to the conquerors, and hence it happens that later writers use the name Lydians even when speaking of a time when there were no Lydians in the country, but only Maeonians. We shall first endeavour to show who the Maeonians were, and then proceed to the more difficult question about the Lydians and the time when they conquered the Maeonians. The Maeonians unquestionably belonged to the Indo-European stock of nations, or that branch of them which is generally called Tyrrhenian or Pelasgian, for these latter “inhabited Lesbos before the Greeks took possession of those islands (Strab. v. p.221
, [p. 2.229]
xiii. p. 621), and, according to Menecrates the Elaean, the whole coast of Ionia, beginning from Mycale, and of Aeolis.” (Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome,
vol. i. p. 32.) They no doubt extended beyond the coast into the interior of the country.
The existence of a Pelasgian population is probably also implied in the statement, that the most ancient royal dynasty of Lydia were Heracleidae, and that Lydus was a brother of Tyrrhenus. The Lydians, on the other hand, are expressly stated to have had nothing in common with the Pelasgians (Dionÿs. 1.30), and all we know of them points to more eastern countries as their original home.
It is true that Herodotus connects the Heracleid dynasty with that of Assyria, but if any value can be attached to this statement at all, it refers only to the rulers; but it may be as unfounded as his belief that most of the Greek institutions had been derived from Egypt.
The lydians are described as a kindred people of the Carians and Mysians, and all three are said to have had one common ancestor as well as one common language and religion. (Hdt. 1.171
.) The Carians are the only one of these three nations that are mentioned by Homer.
It is impossible to ascertain what country was originally inhabited by the Lydians, though it is reasonable to assume that they occupied some district near the Maeonians; and it is possible that the Phrygians, who are said to have migrated into Asia from Thrace, may have pressed upon the Lydians, and thus forced them to make conquests in the country of the Maeonians.
The time when these conquests took place, and when the Maeonians were overpowered or expelled, is conjectured by Niebuhr (Lect. on Anc. Hist.
vol. i. p. 87) to have been the time when the Heracleid dynasty was supplanted by that of the Mermnadae, who were real Lydians.
This would place the conquest of Maeonia by the Lydians about the year B.C. 720. The Maeonians, however, after this, still maintained themselves in the country of the Upper Hermus, which continued to be called Maeonia; whence Ptolemy (5.2.21
) speaks of Maeonia as a part of Lydia. Pliny (5.30
) also speaks of the Maeonii as the inhabitants of a district between Philadelphia and Tralles, and Hierocles (p. 670) and other ecclesiastical writers mention there a small town called Maeonia, which Mr. Hamilton (Researches,
vol. ii. p. 139, &c.) is inclined to identify with the ruins of Megne,
about five miles west of Sandal.
To what branch of the human family the Lydians belonged is a question which cannot be answered, any more than that about their original seats; all the Lydian words which have been transmitted to us are quite foreign to the Greek, and their kinsmen, the Carians, are described as a people speaking a barbarous language.
3. Institutions and Customs.
Although the Lydians must be regarded as barbarians, and although they were different from the Greeks both in their language and in their religion, yet they were capable, like some other Asiatic nations, of adopting or developing institutions resembling those of the Greeks, though in a lesser degree than the Carians and Lycians, for the Lydians always lived under a monarchy, and never rose to free political institutions. They and the Carians were both gifted nations; they cultivated the arts, and were in many respects little inferior to the Greeks. Previous to their conquest by the Persians, they were an industrious, brave, and warlike people, and their cavalry was regarded as the best at that time. (Hdt. 1.79
; Mimnerm. l.c.
) Cyrus purposely crushed their warlike spirit, forbade them the use of arms, and caused them to practice dancing and singing, instead of cultivating the arts of war. (Hdt. 1.154
; Justin, 1.8
.) Their subsequent partiality to music was probably the reason why the Greeks ascribed to them the invention of gymnastic games. (Hdt. 1.94
The mode of life thus forced upon them by their conquerors gradually led them to that degree of effeminacy for which they were afterwards so notorious. Their commercial industry, however, continued under the Persian rule, and was a source of great prosperity. (Hdt. 1.14
In their manners the Lydians differed but little from the Greeks, though their civilisation was inferior, as is manifest from the fact of their daughters generally gaining their dowries by public prostitution, without thereby injuring their reputation. (Hdt. 1.93
The moral character of the Lydian women necessarily suffered from such a custom, and it cannot be matter of surprise that ancient Greek authors speak of them with contempt. (Strab. xi. p.533
, xiii. p. 627.)
As to the religion of the Lydians we know very little: their chief divinity appears to have been Cybele, but they also worshipped Artemis and Bacchus (Athen. 14.636
; Dionys. Perieg. 842
), and the phallus worship seems to have been universal, whence we still find enormous phalli on nearly all the Lydian tombs. (Hamilton's Researches,
vol. 1. p. 145.) The Lydians are said to have been the first to establish inns for travellers, and to coin money. (Hdt. 1.94
.) The Lydian coins display Greek art in its highest perfection; they have no inscriptions, but are only adorned with the figure of a lion, which was the talisman of Sardes. We do not know that the Lydians had any alphabet or literature of their own: the want of these things can scarcely have been felt, for the people must at an early period have become familiar with the language and literature of their Greek neighbours.
The Greeks possessed several works on the history of Lydia, and one of them was the production of Xanthus, a native of Sardes, the capital of Lydia; but all have perished with the exception of a few insignificant fragments. If we had the work of Xanthus, we should no doubt he well informed on various points on which we can now only form conjectures.
As it is, we owe nearly all our knowledge of Lydian history to Herodotus.
According to him (1.7) Lydia was successively governed by three dynasties.
The first began with Lydus, the son of Atys, but the number of its kings is not mentioned.
The second dynasty was that of the Heracleidae, beginning with Agron, and ending with Candaules, whom the Greeks called Myrsilus.
The commencement of the Heracleid dynasty may be dated about B.C. 1200; they are connected in the legend in Herodotus with the founder of Nineveh, which, according to Niebuhr, means either that they were actually descended from as Assyrian family, or that the Heracleid dynasty submitted to the supremacy of the king of Nineveh, and thus connected itself with the race of Ninus and Belus. The Heracleids maintained themselves on the throne of Lydia, in unbroken succession, for a period of 505 years.
The third dynasty, or that of the Mermnadae, probably the first really Lydian rulers, commenced their reign, according to some, in B.C. 713 or 716, and according to Eusebius, twenty-two years later. Gyges, [p. 2.230]
the first king of the Mermnad dynasty, who is said to have murdered Candaules, is an entirely mythical personage, at least the story which Herodotus relates about him is nothing but a popular tradition.
He reigned until B.C. 678, and conquered several of the adjacent countries, such as a great part of Mysia and the shores of the Hellespont, and annexed to his dominions the cities of Colophon and Magnesia, which had until then been quite independent of both the Maeonians and the Lydians. Gyges was succeeded by Ardys, who reigned from B.C. 678 to 629, and, continuing the conquests of his predecessor, made himself master of Priene. His reign, however, was disturbed by the invasion of his kingdom by the Cimmerians and Treres.
He was succeeded by Sadyattes, of whom nothing is recorded except that he occupied the throne for a period of twelve years, from B.C. 629 to 617. His successor Alyattes, from B.C. 617 to 560, expelled the Cimmerians from Asia Minor, and conquered most of the Ionian cities.
In the east he extended his dominion as far as the river Halys, where he came in contact with Cyaxares the Mede. His successor Croesus, from B.C. 560 to 546, extended his conquests so far as to embrace. the whole peninsula of Asia Minor, in which the Lycians and Cilicians alone successfully resisted him.
He governed his vast dominions with justice and moderation, and his yoke was scarcely felt by the conquered nations.
But as both Lydia, and the Persian monarchy were conquering states, and separated from each other only by the river Halys, a conflict was unavoidable, and the kingdom of Lydia was conquered by Cyrus.
The detail of these occurrences is so well known that it does not require to be repeated here. Lydia became annexed to the Persian empire. We have already noticed the measures adopted by Cyrus to deprive the Lydians of their warlike character; but as their country was always considered the most valuable portion of Asia Minor, Darius, in the division of his empire, made Lydia and some small tribes, apparently of Maeonian origin, together with the Mysians, the second satrapy, and demanded from it an annual tribute for the royal treasury of 500 talents. (Hdt. 3.90
.) Sardes now became the residence of a Persian satrap, who seems to have ranked higher than the other governors of provinces. Afterwards Lydia shared the fate of all the other Asiatic countries, and more and more lost its nationality, so that in the time of Strabo (xiii. p.631
) even the language of the Lydians had entirely disappeared, the Greek having taken its place.
After the death of Alexander, Lydia was subject for a time to Antigonus; then to Achaeus, who set himself up as king at Sardes, but was afterwards conquered and put to death by Antiochus (Plb. 5.57
After the defeat of Antiochus by the Romans, Lydia was annexed by them to the kingdom of Eumenes. (Liv. 38.39
At a still later period it formed part of the proconsular province of Asia (Plin. Nat. 5.30
) and continued to retain its name through all the vicissitudes of the Byzantine empire, until finally it fell under the dominion of the Turks. (Comp. Th. Menke, Lydiaca, Dissertatio Ethnographica,
Berlin, 1844, 8vo.; Cramer, Asia Minor,
vol. i. p. 413, &c.; Forbiger, Handbuch der Alten Geogr.
vol. ii. p. 167, &c.; Clinton, Fasti Hell.
Append. p. 361, &c., 3rd edit.; Niebuhr, Lectures on Ancient History,
vol. i. p. 82, &c.) [L.S