Sardis

Lying at the foothills of Mount Tmolus on the banks of the Pactolus River, Sardis was one of the great cities of Asia Minor. Today its ruins are located about 80 kilometres west of present-day İzmir in western Turkey. As the capital of the flourishing Lydian kingdom of the 7th century BC, Sardis achieved fame and wealth especially under the last Lydian king, Croesus, before succumbing to the Persian conquest in the mid-6th century BC. Sardis fell in turn to the Athenians, the Seleucids, and the Attalids until it was conquered by the Romans in 133 BC. The city flourished under the Roman peace and became an important center of Christianity and was home to a significant Jewish community. Sardis was one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

Coordinates: 38° 29′ 18″ N, 28° 2′ 25″ E

sardis

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Sardis was capital of the Kingdom of Lydia in the 7th and 6th centuries BC when a dynasty of kings from Gyges to Croesus conquered western Anatolia. King Croesus, who ruled Lydia from 560 to 546 BC, was the first person to issue gold and silver coins. Croesus’ legendary wealth lead to the expression ‘rich as Croesus’.

Sardis was located on a major route connecting the Aegean coast to inland Anatolia. Its wealth and prosperity can be attributed to its strategic location, ideal for trade and commerce, and to its abundant source of water and mineral resources, most notably the legendary Pactolus, a little river that contained gold dust. The Persians brought the Lydian monarchy to a final and dramatic end when Cyrus II, King of Persia, invaded Sardis in 547 BC.

Under the Achaemenid Persians (547 – 334 BC), Sardis was the capital of a major satrapy (province) of Anatolia, and formed the end station for the Persian Royal Road which began in Susa in present-day Iran. During the Persian occupation, the inhabitants of Sardis engaged in industry and commercial trade, making Lydia one of the richest kingdoms of the period. Sardis remained under Persian domination until it surrendered to Alexander the Great in 334 BC.

After Alexander the Great’s conquest, Sardis was incorporated into the Hellenistic kingdoms and formed the western capital of the Seleucid empire when it acquired status as a Greek city-state. The monumental temple to the goddess Artemis on the site dates to this period. The theatre of Sardis, now sadly in ruins, was also built during this period.

In 133 BC, Sardis came under Roman rule when the last king of Pergamon, Attalus III Philometor, died and bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans. The city became the metropolitan capital and centre of judicial administration of the Roman province of Lydia. The city was rebuilt after being destroyed by an earthquake in 17 AD. According to Tacitus (Annals 2.47), Tiberius awarded ten million sesterces for its reconstruction and agreed to waive all taxes due from Sardis and the other cities for a period of five years after the earthquake. Hadrian visited Sardis in 123/124 and in 128 AD as a “new Dionysos” whilst an inscription seems to mention a Hadrianeion (temple of Hadrian).

Excavations in Sardis have uncovered more remains of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine city than of the Lydian town described by Herodotus. Since 1958 the universities of Harvard and Cornell have sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis. As part of these works, the major Roman bath-gymnasium complex has been exacted and restored. The synagogue was also discovered in 1962. Some of the important finds from the archaeological site of Sardis are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Manisa in Turkey.

PORTFOLIO

The ruins of the great Ionic Temple of Artemis, one of the largest in the world.
The ruins of the great Ionic Temple of Artemis, one of the largest in the world. Construction of the temple begun during the Hellenistic era in the third century BC on the location a sanctuary of Artemis dating to the late 6th or 5th century BC.
The Lydian Altar of Artemis, the oldest preserved building in the sanctuary of Artemis.
The underground foundations of the Lydian Altar of Artemis, the oldest preserved building in the sanctuary of Artemis (500-400 BC) where animal sacrifices, libations, and other offerings were made. The building above, which may have been much more finely made, has been entirely destroyed.
View of Lydian Altar and Temple of Artemis.
View of Lydian Altar and Temple of Artemis.
The altar was restored in 2010-2012, with the support of the J.M. Kaplan Fund (figs. 13, 14). The travertine stair blocks are modern replacements of the original marble stairs, to protect the ancient foundations.
The altar was a stepped foundation made of limestone tufa. A set of marble stairs across the front of the building led to the higher level. The altar was restored in 2010-2012. The travertine stair blocks are modern replacements of the original marble stairs, to protect the ancient foundations.
The Temple of Artemis was renovated in the 2nd century AD by dividing the cella into two equal chambers. The temple incorporated the Imperial Cult. Both shrines were dedicated to Antoninus Pius and to his wife Faustina (as Zeus and Artemis). The colossal head from a statue of the empress Faustina the Elder is now part of the British Museum collection.
The Temple of Artemis 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 Temple of Artemis 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 complete Ionic columns have stood intact since antiquity and have never been restored. Most columns were unfluted as the Temple was never finished.
Hellenistic column base on Roman pedestal with Greek verse around the bottom of the column, from the Temple of Artemis.
Hellenistic column base on Roman pedestal with Greek verse around the bottom of the column.
The gigantic structure was still unfinished by the end of the fourth century AD when it was abandoned with the coming of Christianity, and a small church was erected at the southeast corner.
The Temple of Artemis was abandoned with the coming of Christianity, and a small church was erected at the southeast corner.
The Bath-Gymnasium complex, built in the late 2nd - early 3rd century AD.
The Bath-Gymnasium complex, probably completed in the late 2nd – early 3rd century AD. This complex is a fairly common architectural type in Asia Minor combining a Roman bath with its vaulted halls and a colonnaded palaestra such as Ephesus and Ancyra.
The two-story colonnaded Marble Court of the Bath-Gymnasium complex.
The two-storey colonnaded Marble Court of the Bath-Gymnasium complex. It was originally separated from the baths and was used for special ceremonies.
The first story carries Ionic capitals, the second a type k n o w n as "acanthus-and-fluting."
South west corner and west ambulatory of the two-storey colonnaded Marble Court.
The first storey of the Marble Court carried Ionic capitals, the second a type known as "acanthus-and-fluting".
The first storey of the Marble Court carried Ionic capitals, the second a type known as “acanthus-and-fluting”.
The inscription on the first story (with red-painted letters) dedicates this space to the Roman Imperial family: Emperors Caracalla and Geta, and their mother Julia Domna; and records that the hall was gilded by the city and two ladies of consular rank.
The inscription on the first storey architrave with red-painted letters dedicates the Marble Court to the Roman Imperial family: Emperors Caracalla and Geta, and their mother Julia Domna (Geta’s name is erased). It also records that two prominent citizens, Antonia Sabina and Flavia Pollitta, helped the city to pay the expenses of this project.
The Palaestra of the Bath- Gymnasium Complex covering a total area of 6650 m2. It constisted consists of a large square peristyle court of 100 columns and is bordered on the north and south by ranges of rooms
The Palaestra of the Bath- Gymnasium Complex covering a total area of 6650 m2. It consisted of a large square peristyle court of 100 columns, bordered on the north and south by ranges of rooms.
The Frigidarium with a long rectangular pool in its centre, the side walls are articulated by alternating semicircular and rectangular niches which contain pools, basins and fountains.
The Frigidarium (cold bath) with a long rectangular pool in its centre. The side walls are articulated by alternating semicircular and rectangular niches which contain pools, basins and fountains.
The monumental synagogue was the center of Jewish religious life at Sardis during the Late Roman period. Discovered in 1962, the building and its decorations have been partly restored.
The monumental synagogue, the centre of Jewish religious life in Sardis during the Late Roman period. Discovered in 1962, the building and its decorations have been partly restored.
View of the Main Hall of the Synagogue. It was over 50 m long and large enough to hold nearly a thousand people.
View of the Main Hall of the Synagogue ending in an apse. It was over 50 m long and large enough to hold nearly a thousand people.
Table and lions
The Main Hall of the Synagogue with a marble table and lions and a three tiers of marble-covered benches which served as seats for the synagogue elders The table and the lions are older than the synagogue itself; they were moved from their original locations and reused here.
The Forecourt of the monumental synagogue.
The Peristyle Forecourt of the monumental synagogue. It was roofed around the sides but opened to the sky in the centre.
 geometric
The Peristyle Forecourt of the synagogue was paved with geometric mosaics and the walls were covered with painted plaster. Floor mosaics constituted the most extensive part of the Synagogue’s decoration and covered a total area of some 1400 square metres.
View of the Byzantine Shops and the Bath-Gymnasium Complex.
View of the Byzantine Shops and the Bath-Gymnasium Complex.
The Byzantine Shops. The streets of Late Roman Sardis were flanked by buildings that served a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The shops formed part of a lively commercial district in the 5th-6th centuries.
The Byzantine Shops. The streets of Late Roman Sardis were flanked by buildings that served a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The shops formed part of a lively commercial district in the 5th-6th centuries.
A short segment of the Roman main street paved with marble blocks and flanked by covered porticoes.
A short segment of the Roman main street paved with marble blocks and flanked by covered porticoes.

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2 thoughts on “Sardis

  1. What a beautiful place this must have been in its hey day Carole, even the ruins are spectacular. Superb photography. I particularly like the main hall of the Synagogue. Thanks for sharing your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

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