21 July 2009
Marble table in the synagogue of Sardes

Marble table in the synagogue of Sardes

If all history of Antiquity were summarized, the result would look like Sardes, or Sardis. The city dates back to the Bronze Age but did not become important until the Cimmerians had overthrown the Phrygian kingdom, and Gyges reorganized what was left: the Lydian Empire, capital Sardes. His dynasty became famously wealthy because next to Sardes is the Pactolus, which contains gold dust. The immense size of the royal tombs at nearby Bin Tepe reflects the wealth of the city.

The Persians took charge in thr 54os or 530s and introduced eastern religious practices. From Sardes, the indomitable western barbarians were divided and controled, but in 334, their leader Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces and took over the eastern empire. Now, Sardes became a capital in the Hellenistic world, successively ruled by Antigonus, Lysimachus, Seleucus, his successors and several rebel princes, and after 188 by the Attalids and, after 133 BC, the Romans.

The city prospered and may have had some 100,000 inhabitants. Many monuments survive, even though Sardes has received less attention than, for example, nearby Ephesus. The presence of Jews and Christians is attested; in the Byzantine age, the city was rich enough to build new churches. It was the Sasanian king Khusrau II who made an end to the city’s prosperity.

I’ve rewritten an older article and added several new photos: go here.


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