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Alyattes , king of Lydia (619-560 BC), the real founder of the Lydian empire, was the son of Sadyattes, of the house of the Mermnadae.

For several years he continued the war against Miletusmarker begun by his father, but was obliged to turn his attention to the Medes and Babylonians. On May 28, 585 BC, during the Battle of Halys fought against Cyaxares, king of Media, a solar eclipse took place (see also Thales); hostilities were suspended, peace concluded, and the Halysmarker fixed as the boundary between the two kingdoms.

Alyattes drove the Cimmerii (see Scythia) from Asia, subdued the Carians, and took several Ionian cities (Smyrnamarker, Colophon). (Smyrnamarker was sacked and destroyed c.600 BC, the inhabitants forced to move to the country.)

He standardised the weight of coins (1 Stater = 168 grains of wheat). The coins were produced using an anvil die technique and stamped with the Lion's head, the symbol of the Mermnadae.

He was succeeded by his son Croesus. His daughter Aryenis of Lydia was Queen consort of Astyages, King of Media.

His tomb still exists on the plateau between Lake Gygaea and the river Hermus to the north of Sardismarker -- a large mound of earth with a substructure of huge stones. It was excavated by Spiegelthal in 1854, who found that it covered a large vault of finely-cut marble blocks approached by a flat-roofed passage of the same stone from the south. The sarcophagus and its contents had been removed by early plunderers of the tomb, all that was left being some broken alabaster vases, pottery and charcoal. On the summit of the mound were large phalli of stone.

Naming disagreement

Note that the name "Alyattes II" is likely incorrect. Its usage here is based on the online Encyclopaedia of the Orient. Though this online work provides no references, its usage of "Alyattes II" is likely based John Lemprière's 1788 Classical Dictionary (Biblioteca Classica), its full name being Classical Dictionary of Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors Writ Large, With Chronological Table. This work, however, also doesn't cite its source, but this source was likely ancient epigraphs or earlier works whose usage was based on ancient epigraphs, which are lists of kings on clay tablets and other media.

Epigraphic lists, however, are known by historians today to be generally unreliable as historical documents. For one thing, they sometimes combine kings from different regions. Livio C. Stecchini contended, for instance, that Gyges was the first Lydian king and those before him, including the earlier Alyattes, were kings of nearby Maionia, a Phrygian dependency. What's more, epigraphic lists are often legendary rather than annalistic, including, for instance, the mythic hero Herakles as a city's founder or people's progenitor, as they do for the Lydians, so another possibility is that "Alyattes I" was a legendary rather than a historical figure.

The ancient historians Herodotos and Strabo both refer to Croeusus' father as Alyattes and make no mention of an earlier King Alyattes of Lydia in their writings on Lydia. The same is true of modern historians, archeologists, and numismatists who have focused on Lydia, including George M.A. Hanfmann, John Griffiths Pedley, Robert W. Wallace, Koray Konuk, and Andrew Ramage. Likewise, other newer references such as Oxford Classical Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Britannica don't use "Alyattes II" and make no mention of an earlier Lydian king named Alyattes.


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