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SARDIS or Sardes Turkey.

In the plain of the Hermus river about 10 km inland from the Aegean coast at the foot of Mt. Tmolos, a spur of which forms its acropolis. The site occupies ca. 2.5 sq. km astride the modern E-W highway between Izmir and Salihli, and extends S into the valley of the Pactolus river, famed in antiquity for its gold-bearing sands.

Excavations have established continuous habitation of the region since at least 3000 B.C. Mycenaean IIIC and Protogeometric pottery (ca. 1200-ca. 900 B.C.) lends credence to Herodotos' claim that Greek warriors, “sons of Herakles,” seized Sardis and founded a dynasty in ca. 1185 B.C. About 680 B.C. Gyges took Sardis from Kandaules, the last of the Heraklid kings, and founded the Mermnad dynasty. Under the Merinnads, Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, and Croesus, Sardis achieved international prominence as capital of Lydia. The period of greatest Lydian artistic and technical achievement was 650-550 B.C. Economic prosperity derived from the supply of gold and the ability to purify it, and from the invention of coinage and the establishment of a bimetallic monetary standard. In the time of Croesus (560/1-547) the population is estimated at 50,000.

In 547 Sardis fell to Cyrus, who made it his western capital from which the Anatolian and Ionic Satrapies of the Persian Empire were ruled. It was the western terminus to the Royal Road maintained by the Persian kings from Iran to the Mediterranean. In 334 B.C. the satrap Mithrines surrendered the city to Alexander the Great, whose generals held it until its capture in 282 B.C. by Seleucus I, satrap of Babylon. Antiochos III besieged and destroyed Sardis in 213 B.C. but let the city be replanned along Hellenistic lines.

The kings of Pergamon took over Sardis about 180 B.C., and in 133 B.C. it was left to the Romans by the bequest of the last Pergamene king, Attalos III. Although its power as an administrative center was lost to Ephesos, Sardis continued an important center throughout the Roman period and increased in size and prosperity. An important Jewish community existed at Sardis from the 5th c. B.C., attaining such influence that their synagogue was uniquely situated within the Roman gymnasium complex. The Revelation of St. John lists Sardis as one of the Seven Churches of Asia. The end of the Classical city probably came in A.D. 616 by a raid of the Sassanian king Chosroes II.

Ten m below the Byzantine bastion on the S side are three pre-Hellenistic wall segments, the remains of the triple defenses admired by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. (Arr. Anab. 1.17.3-6).

The Lydian city was an irregular agglomeration (499 B.C.: Hdt. 5.101) with an extension S into the Pactolus valley along a sacred road to the Artemis precinct. As observed by Herodotos and Vitruvius, both public and private buildings were of mudbrick, many with thatched roofs. The excavation of the Lydian bazaar area can be seen near the highway on the S side. An open area was transformed into an industrial and commercial center enclosed by an irregular stone wall which is preserved for ca. 32.8 m. Abutting it were single-room houses or shops. Farther S, excavation of a section of the Lydian city on the E bank of the Pactolus has revealed more sophisticated architectural units attached in urban complexes to form court-like spaces. Houses with interior hearths were built on high foundation walls of mudbrick. Both terracing and split level design occur. In this sector can be seen the remains of an archaic altar to Kybele and sacral precinct. South and W of the altar are industrial areas where conclusive evidence for gold refineries active ca. 600-547 has been found. Two floors of cupels (cavities for obtaining electrum from base metals) set in a layer of gravel were identified. Adjacent are remains of two sets of small furnaces used for cementation, the process of separating gold from silver, as indicated by the presence of scraps of gold foil. Other Lydian houses are known in a creek NE of the Artemis temple.

Outstanding among the Lydian remains are the huge burial mounds in the cemetery of Bin Tepe (Turkish “Thousand Mounds”) 6.4 km N of the city area across the Hermus, S of the Gygean Lake (Marmara Gölü). At the E end of the cemetery stand three mounds larger than the rest. A poem by Hipponax (ca. 540 B.C.) suggests that the central one, with a diameter of over 200 m, is that of Gyges. Within is a retaining wall or krepis of finely cut local limestone blocks for a smaller interior mound, on which the monogram GuGu, the name by which Gyges was known in Assyrian records, appears. The burial chamber has not been located. The E mound of Alyattes, largest of the three, was compared by Herodotos to the pyramids. It had a retaining wall of huge masonry, now vanished, which was recorded as 1,115.23 m in circumference in 1853. A small burial chamber is built of highly polished marble blocks fitted together with precision and held with iron clamps. Pottery finds indicate construction in the late 7th or early 6th c. B.C. In the precipitous necropolis ridge on the W bank of the Pactolus are hundreds of Lydian rock-cut chamber tombs.

Attributable to the Persian era is the “Pyramid Tomb,” a stepped platform of limestone in Şaitan Dere gorge, E of the Pactolus. The masonry resembles that of Cyrus' structures at Pasargadai and the stepped sandstone altar adjoining the Artemis temple on the W.

In the 3d c. B.C. the city was Hellenized, and the great Ionic Temple of Artemis in the Pactolus valley was begun. It was fronted on each end by eight columns almost 17.8 m high; twenty such columns were on each side. The extant columns are largely Roman replacements. The two shrines of the double cella were converted to the Roman Imperial cult ca. A.D. 140—that to the E dedicated to Antoninus Pius, that to the W to his wife Faustina. The earliest parts of the theater (at the foot of the acropolis, S of the highway), especially the masonry walls supporting the two sides of the semicircular auditorium, and the plan of the adjacent stadium belong to the Early Hellenistic period. The Hellenistic orientation of the city featured a diagonal artery from the Pactolus to the gymnasium area to the NE corner of the city. This thoroughfare obliquely crossed the colonnaded main avenue of the Roman plan.

In A.D. 17 earthquakes leveled the Hellenistic city, and Tiberius and Claudius offered funds for rebuilding. A master plan was formulated but the building of individual structures lasted several generations. A marble-paved and colonnaded main avenue was laid out S-W. It is now N of and under the modern highway. On its N side an artificial terrace with substructures more than 5 m deep supported the gymnasium complex. Symmetrical to the E-W axis, the gymnasium has a palaestra on the E and large baths of imperial type on the W. The central unit, comprised of a pair of double-apsed halls flanking a rectangular room, was completed by A.D. 166 when an inscribed base was erected in honor of Lucius Verus.

The E section of the baths centered around a monumental hall, called by the excavators the Marble Court, which has been restored (1964-73) to the top of the second story. A dedicatory inscription to Caracalla, Geta, and Julia Domna dates the facades to A.D. 211. The carved friezes, cornices, and floral soffits are among the finest examples of the Severan Baroque style. The facade is comprised of alternating two-story aediculae. Benches with Early Byzantine inscriptions run along the N, S, and parts of the W sides. On the W side is an ornate gate with four fluted spiral Ionic columns supporting an arcuated pediment, which leads into a barrel-vaulted hall with a pool and fountains, possibly the aleipterion, mentioned in inscriptions. On the E side the court was closed by a screen colonnade which opened into the palaestra. Early Byzantine restoration is attested by inscriptions.

Between the palaestra and the main road, oriented E-W, is a large basilican building which was used as a synagogue from ca. A.D. 200 to 616. Now partly restored, the building comprises three parts: the entrance porch, which fronted on a colonnaded road, a peristyle forecourt, and a long main hall ending in an apse. The colonnade of the forecourt has been re-erected and a replica of its krater fountain replaced. On the N wall above a marble dado is a restored sample from a redecoration dating in the 5th or 6th c. A.D.: short pilasters support arcades with a pattern of doves and kraters against a recessed background filled with red mortar. In its earlier phase the masonry was covered with frescoes. Between the three doors leading from the forecourt to the main hall are two small shrines, one Doric and one Late Corinthian in style, which face the apse. The main hall was divided into seven bays by six pairs of piers; at the W end is an apse lined by three marble benches. The ritual furnishings include a massive marble table supported by eagles in relief and flanked by two pairs of adorsed lions. The floors of both the forecourt and hall were covered with geometric mosaics of the 4th c. A.D. The walls were revetted with polychrome marble. The architectural system, including donors' inscriptions, has been restored in one bay on the N wall and one on the S. Samples of restored marble panels are on the S wall. Roughly a hundred Hebrew and Greek inscriptions provide information about the Jewish community, which may have numbered between 5000 and 10,000. Along the S side of the gymnasium complex runs a continuous row of shops (ca. A.D. 400-600) which opened onto the main avenue. One had a marble tank decorated with crosses and fed by terracotta water pipes; apparently Christian and Jewish shopkeepers traded side by side.

South of the Byzantine Pactolus bridge, above the Lydian gold refineries, are excavated ruins of a Roman bath and a small Middle Byzantine church. At the NW corner of the Artemis Temple is a nearly complete church of the 4th-6th c. with two apses en echelon. Major unexcavated buildings are remnants of the Roman civic center on a terrace S of the highway, a Byzantine fort (farther S and uphill), tunnels to the citadel, the theater, stadium, and a Roman odeum. By the N side of the highway are piers of a large Justinianic church, perhaps a cathedral. Farther down and N is a fine Roman basilica with apses at either end.

First scientific excavations of the site were undertaken from 1910 to 1914 and resumed for one season in 1922. Finds are in the Istanbul Museum, Izmir Museum, Metropolitan Museum, New York, and Princeton University Museum. In 1958 excavation was again resumed. Finds are in the Archaeological Museum, Manisa, Turkey.


Sardis, Publications of the American Society for the Excavation of: I,1 H. C. Butler, The Excavations, 1910-1914 (1922); II,1 Architecture, The Temple of Artemis (1925); v,1 C. R. Morey, Roman and Christian Sculpture, the Sarcophagus of Claudia Antonia Sabina (1924); VI,1 Enno Littmann, Lydian Inscriptions (1916); VI,2 W. H. Buckler, Lydian Inscriptions (1924); VII,1 W. H. Buckler & D. M. Robinson, Greek and Latin Inscriptions (1932); X,1 T. L. Shear, Architectural Terracottas (1926); XI,1 H. W. Bell, Coins, 1910-1914 (1916); XII,1 C. D. Curtis, Jewelry and Gold Work, 1910-1914 (1925).

G.M.A. Hanfmann, et al. (eds.), Archaeological Exploration of Sardis: Monograph 1, G. E. Bates, Byzantine Coins (1971)MPI; 2, J. G. Pedley, Ancient Literary Sources on Sardis (1972); 3, R. Gusmani, Neue epischorische Schriftzeugnisse aus Sardis (1958-1971) (1974)MPI; 4, Clive Foss, Byzantine and Turkish Sardis (forthcoming)MPI. Report 1, G.M.A. Hanfmann, J. C. Waldbaum, A Survey of Sardis and Major Monuments Outside the City Wall (forthcoming)MPI.

Preliminary reports by G.M.A. Hanfmann and others have appeared annually in BASOR and TürkArkDerg.

In D. G. Mitten, et al. (eds.), Studies Presented to G.M.A. Hanfmann (1971)MPI: M. S. Balmuth, “Remarks on the Appearance of the Earliest Coins,” 1-8; C. H. Greenewalt, Jr., “An Exhibitionist From Sardis,” 29-46; A. T. Kraabel, “Melito the Bishop and the Synagogue at Sardis,” 77-86; A. Oliver, Jr., “A Bronze Mirror From Sardis,” 113-20; A & N. H. Ramage, “The Siting of Lydian Burial Mounds,” 143-60.

G.M.A. Hanfmann, Letters From Sardis (1972)MPI includes earlier bibliography. C. H. Greenewalt, Jr., “Two Lydian Grave Sites at Sardis,” CSCA 5 (1972) 1 13-45MPI; A. R. Seager, “Building History of the Sardis Synagogue,” AJA 76 (1972) 425-35MPI; “Archaeology at the Ancient Synagogue of Sardis, Turkey,” Ball State University Faculty Series (1974)MPI; G. Yüğrüm, A Guide to the Excavations of Sardis (1973)MPI E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (1973) 124-32MPI; D. G. Mitten, G. Yüğrüm, “Ahlatli Tepecik Beside the Gygean Lake,” Archaeology 27 (1974) 22-29MPI; G.M.A. Hanfmann, From Croesus to Constantine (1975)MPI.


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    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.101
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