The Full Wiki

Lydia: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Ancient Region of Anatolia
Lydia (Λυδία)
Location Western Anatoliamarker
State existed: 15-14th c. BC (as Arzawa)
1200-546 BC
Language Lydian
Historical capitals Sardismarker
Famous rulers Gyges, Croesus
Persian satrapy Lydia
Roman province Asia, Lydia

Lydia (Assyrian: Luddu; ) was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minormarker located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkishmarker provinces of Manisamarker and inland İzmirmarker. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian.

At its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. Lydia was later the name for a Roman province. Coins were invented in Lydia around 610 BC.

Defining Lydia

Aside from a legend related by Herodotus, who states that the name Lydia came from king Lydus at the time of the fall of Troymarker (the Bronze Age), and that Lydus' brother Tyrrhenus led the Tyrrhenians (Etruscansmarker) to Italy, the name Lydia is limited to Greek and Assyrian records and Biblical passages no earlier than the 8th century BC. It seems to be associated with Guggu of Luddu (Gyges) in Assyrian records, who acceded to the throne about 680 BC as the first of the Mermnad Dynasty.

Despite events portrayed as historic in Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid, the Bronze Age Sea People called the Teresh and the Etruscan-like language of the Lemnos stele, the recent decipherment of Lydian and its classification as an Anatolian language mean that Etruscan and Lydian were not even in the same language family; moreover, there is no substantial evidence of Etruscans in Lydia. Since Ionia was between historical Lydia and the sea, the Lydians had no coastline from as early as at least the 10th century BC from which to launch and maintain fleets . Historic Lydia was not a maritime power, and there is no documentary evidence of any state or people possibly called Luddu before the 8th century BC.

While the Hebrew Bible mentions Lud in three different places, scholars of various religions are not agreed as to whether all these represent the same entity. The only instance generally agreed to refer to the Anatolian Lydia occurs in Isaiah 66:19 where Lud is listed with Javan (Ionia) as being one of the people "that draw the bow" who have not heard of God.

The name Lydia and its Biblical and Assyrian forms appear to have been or were derived from an exonym assigned by the Ionian Greeks (who invaded the coastal part of their country) on the basis of some now unknown understanding . The endonym survives in a larger and more official body of records inscribed in bilingual and trilingual stone-carved notices of the Achaemenid Empire: Lydian Śfard, the satrapy of Sparda (Old Persian), Aramaic Saparda, Babylonian Sapardu, Elamitic Išbarda. These in the Greek tradition are associated with Sardismarker, the capital city of Gyges, constructed in the 7th century BC. The inscriptions mean, however, the entire state; moreover, the entire people .

This array of names evidences the development of the Lydian language itself: Anatolian p became f and there was extensive syncope of vowels. Saparda must precede Śfard. If the Sepharad of the Hebrew Bible is Śfard that word can be dated to at least as early as 600 BC, before the Persians invaded Lydia .

Like the Lydian language, the names Lydia and Śfard seem to have appeared out of the Greek Dark Ages without documentation of their immediate precedents or any known connections to the historical records of the Bronze Age . The cultural ancestors appear to have been associated with or part of the Luwian political entity of Arzawa and yet Lydian is not part of the Luwian subgroup (as is Carian and Lycian). The ancestral population was Anatolian but not Luwian . In this gap the Greeks placed the Maeonians of the Trojan Battle Order but the connections are essentially legendary; no documents illuminate them.


The boundaries of historical Lydia varied across the centuries. It was first bounded by Mysia, Caria, Phrygia and coastal Ionia. Later on, the military power of Alyattes and Croesus expanded Lydia into an empire, with its capital at Sardis, which controlled all Asia Minor west of the River Halys, except Lycia. Lydia never again shrank back into its original dimensions. After the Persian conquest the Maeander was regarded as its southern boundary, and under Rome, Lydia comprised the country between Mysia and Caria on the one side and Phrygia and the Aegeanmarker on the other.


The Lydian language was an Indo-European language in the Anatolian language family, related to Luwian and Hittite. It used many prefixes and particles. Lydian finally became extinct during the first century BC.


Early history: Maeonia and Lydia

Lydia arose as a Neo-Hittite kingdom following the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the twelfth century BC. In Hittite times, the name for the region had been Arzawa, a Luwian-speaking area. According to Greek source, the original name of the Lydian kingdom was Maionia (or Maeonia): Homer (Iliad ii. 865; v. 43, xi. 431) refers to the inhabitants of Lydia as Maiones (Μαίονες). Homer describes their capital not as Sardis but as Hyde (Iliad xx. 385); Hyde may have been the name of the district where Sardis stood. Later, Herodotus (Histories i. 7) adds that the "Meiones" were renamed Lydians after their king, Lydus (Λυδός), son of Attis, in the mythical epoch that preceded the rise of the Heracleid dynasty. This etiological eponym served to account for the Greek ethnic name Lydoi (Λυδοί). The Hebrew term for Lydians, (לודים), as found in Jeremiah 46.9, is similarly considered to be derived from the eponymous Lud son of Shem; in Biblical times, the Lydian warriors were also famous archers. Some Maeones still existed in historical times in the upland interior along the River Hermus, where a town called Maeonia existed, according to Pliny the Elder (Natural History book v:30) and Hierocles.

Lydia in Greek mythology

Lydian mythology is virtually unknown, and their literature and rituals lost, in the absence of any monuments or archaeological finds with extensive inscriptions; therefore those myths involving Lydia are mainly in the realm of Greek mythology.

For the Greeks, Tantalus was a primordial ruler of mythic Lydia, and Niobe his proud daughter; her husband Zethos linked the affairs of Lydia with Thebesmarker, and through Pelops the line of Tantalus was part of the founding myths of Mycenaemarker's second dynasty.

In Greek myth, Lydia was also the first home of the double-axe, the labrys. Omphale, daughter of the river Iardanos, was a ruler of Lydia, whom Heracles was required to serve for a time. His adventures in Lydia are the adventures of a Greek hero in a peripheral and foreign land: during his stay, Heracles enslaved the Itones, killed Syleus who forced passers-by to hoe his vineyard; slew the serpent of the river Sangarios; and captured the simian tricksters, the Cercopes. Accounts speak of at least one son born to Omphale and Heracles: Diodorus Siculus (4.31.8) and Ovid (Heroides 9.54) mention a son Lamos, while pseudo-Apollodorus (Bibliotheke 2.7.8) gives the name Agelaus, and Pausanias (2.21.3) names Tyrsenus son of Heracles by "the Lydian woman."

All three heroic ancestors indicate a Lydian dynasty claiming descent from Heracles. Herodotus (1.7) refers to a Heraclid dynasty of kings who ruled Lydia, yet were perhaps not descended from Omphale. He also mentions (1.94) the recurring legend that the Etruscan civilizationmarker was founded by colonists from Lydia led by Tyrrhenus, brother of Lydus. However, Dionysius of Halicarnassus was skeptical of this story, pointing out that the Etruscan language and customs were known to be totally dissimilar to those of the Lydians. Later chronographers also ignored Herodotus's statement that Agron was the first to be a king, and included Alcaeus, Belus, and Ninus in their list of kings of Lydia. Strabo (5.2.2) makes Atys, father of Lydus and Tyrrhenus, to be a descendant of Heracles and Omphale. All other accounts place Atys, Lydus, and Tyrrhenus among the pre-Heraclid kings of Lydia. The gold deposits in the river Pactolusmarker that were the source of the proverbial wealth of Croesus (Lydia's last historical king) were said to have been left there when the legendary king Midas of Phrygia washed away the "Midas touch" in its waters.

First coinage

Early 6th century BC one-third stater coin.

According to Herodotus, the Lydians were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver coin and the first to establish retail shops in permanent locations. It's not clear, however, whether Herodotus meant that the Lydians were the first to introduce coins of pure gold and pure silver or the first precious metal coins in general. Despite this ambiguity, this statement of Herodotus is one of the pieces of evidence often cited in behalf of the argument that Lydians invented coinage, at least in the West, even though the first coins were neither gold nor silver but an alloy of the two.

The dating of these first stamped coins is one of the most frequently debated topics in ancient numismatics, with dates ranging from 700 BC to 550 BC, but the most commonly held view is that they were minted at or near the beginning of the reign of King Alyattes (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Alyattes II), who ruled Lydia c. 610-550 BC. The first coins were made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver that occurs naturally but that was further debased by the Lydians with added silver and copper.

The largest of these coins are commonly referred to as a 1/3 stater (trite) denomination, weighing around 4.7 grams, though no full staters of this type have ever been found, and the 1/3 stater probably should more correctly be referred to as a stater, which means "standard." These coins were stamped with a lion's head adorned with what's likely a sunburst, which was the king's symbol. To complement the largest denomination, fractions were made, including a hekte (sixth), hemihekte (twelfth), and so forth down to a 96th, with the 1/96 stater weighing only about 0.15 grams. There's disagreement, however, over whether the fractions below the twelfth are actually Lydian.

Alyattes' son was Croesus, who became synonymous with wealth. Sardis was renowned as a beautiful city. Around 550 BC, near the beginning of his reign, Croesus paid for the construction of the templemarker of Artemis at Ephesusmarker, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Croesus was defeated in battle by Cyrus II of Persia in 546 BC, with the Lydian kingdom losing its autonomy and becoming a Persian satrapy.

Autochthonous Dynasties

Lydia was ruled by three dynasties:

Atyads (1300BC or earlier) - Heraclids (Tylonids) (to 687 BC)According to Herodotus the Heraclids ruled for 22 generations during the period from 1185 BC, lasting for 505 years). Alyattes was the king of Lydia in 776 BC. The last king of this dynasty was Myrsilos or Candaules.
  • Candaules - After ruling for seventeen years he was assassinated by his former friend Gyges, who succeeded him on the throne of Lydia.

  • Gyges, called Gugu of Luddu in Assyrian inscriptions (687-652 BC or (690-657 BC) - Once established on the throne, Gyges devoted himself to consolidating his kingdom and making it a military power. The capital moved from Hyde to Sardis. Barbarian Cimmerians sacked many Lydian cities, except for Sardis. Gyges was the son of Dascylus, who, when recalled from banishment in Cappadocia by the Lydian king Mursylos — called Candaules "the Dog-strangler" (a title of the Lydian Hermes) by the Greeks — sent his son back to Lydia instead of himself. Gyges turned to Egypt, sending his faithful Carian troops along with Ionian mercenaries to assist Psammetichus in shaking off the Assyrian yoke. Some Bible scholars believe that Gyges of Lydia was the Biblical figure of Gog, ruler of Magog, who is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation.

  • Sadyattes (621-609BC) or (624-610BC) - Herodotus wrote (in Inquiries) that he fought with Cyaxares, the descendant of Deioces, and with the Medes, drove out the Cimmerians from Asia, took Smyrnamarker, which had been founded by colonists from Colophon, and invaded Clazomenae and Miletusmarker.

  • Alyattes II (609 or 619-560BC) - one of the greatest rulers of Lydia. When Cyaxares attacked Lydia, the kings of Cilicia and Babylonmarker intervened and negotiated a peace in 585 BC, whereby the Halys was established as the Medes' frontier with Lydia. Herodotus writes:

"On the refusal of Alyattes to give up his supplicants when Cyaxares sent to demand them of him, war broke out between the Lydians and the Medes, and continued for five years, with various success. In the course of it the Medes gained many victories over the Lydians, and the Lydians also gained many victories over the Medes."

The Battle of the Eclipse was the final battle in a fifteen-year war between Alyattes II of Lydia and Cyaxares of the Medes. It took place on May 28, 585 BC, and ended abruptly due to a total solar eclipse.

  • Croesus (560-546 BC) - the expression "rich as Croesus" came from this king. The Lydian Empire came to an end when Croesus attacked the Persian Empire of Cyrus II and was defeated in 546 BC.

Persian Empire

In 546 BC, the Achaemenid king Cyrus II the Great captured Sardis and Lydia became his satrapy.

Hellenistic Empire

Lydia remained a satrapy after Persia's conquest by the Macedonian king Alexander III of Macedon. When Alexander's empire fell apart after his death, Lydia went to the major Asian diadoch dynasty, the Seleucids, and when it was unable to maintain its territory in Asia Minor, Lydia fell to the Attalid dynasty of Pergamum. Its last king avoided the spoils and ravage of a Roman conquest war by leaving the realm by testament to the Roman Empire.

Roman province of Asia

Roman province of Asia

When the Romans entered its capital Sardis in 133 BC, Lydia, as the other western parts of the Attalid legacy, became part of the province of Asia, a very rich Roman province, worthy of a governor of the high rank of proconsul. The whole west of Asia Minor had Jewish colonies very early, and Christianity was also soon present there. Acts of the Apostles 16:14-15 mentions the baptism of a merchant woman called "Lydia" who came from Thyatiramarker, in what had once been the satrapy of Lydia. Christianity spread rapidly in the 3rd century AD, centered on the nearby Exarchate of Ephesus.

Roman province of Lydia

Under the tetrarchy reform of Emperor Diocletian in 296 AD, Lydia was revived as the name of a separate Roman province, much smaller than the former satrapy, with its capital at Sardis. Together with the provinces of Caria, Hellespontus, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phrygia prima and secunda, Pisidia and the Insulae (Ionian islands), it formed the diocese (under a vicarius) of Asiana, which was part of the praetorian prefecture of Oriens, together with the dioceses Pontiana (most of the rest of Asia Minor), Oriens proper (mainly Syria), Aegyptus and Thraciae (on the Balkans, roughly Bulgaria). Under the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641), Lydia became part of Anatolikon, one of the original themata, and later of Thrakesion. Although the Seljuk Turks conquered most of the rest of Anatolia for Islam, forming the Sultanate of Ikonion, Lydia remained part of the Byzantine Empire. During the occupation of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, Lydia continued to be a part of the Byzantine orthodox 'Greek Empire' based at Nicaeamarker.

Under Turkish rule

Lydia finally fell to new Turkish beylik, which were all absorbed by the Ottoman state in 1390. The area became part of the Ottoman vilayet (province) of Aydinmarker, ending up as the westernmost part of the modern republic of Turkeymarker.

Lydian gods


  1. Book I Chapter 7.
  2. Lydia
  3. See Strabo xiii.626.
  4. In reference to the myth of Bellerophon, Karl Kerenyi remarked, in The Heroes of The Greeks 1959, p. 83. "As Lykia was thus connected with Crete, and as the person of Pelops, the hero of Olympia, connected Lydia with the Peloponnesos, so Bellerophontes connected another Asian country, or rather two, Lykia and Karia, with the kingdom of Argos."
  5. Sources noted in Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks 1959, p. 192.
  6. Thus appearing in the heavens as the constellation Ophiucus (Hyginus, Astronomica ii.14).
  7. Herodotus. Histories, I, 94.
  8. Carradice and Price, Coinage in the Greek World, Seaby, London, 1988, p. 24.
  9. N. Cahill and J. Kroll, "New Archaic Coin Finds at Sardis," American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 109, No. 4 (October 2005), p. 613.
  10. A. Ramage, "Golden Sardis," King Croesus' Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining, edited by A. Ramage and P. Craddock, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 18.
  11. M. Cowell and K. Hyne, "Scientific Examination of the Lydian Precious Metal Coinages," King Croesus' Gold: Excavations at Sardis and the History of Gold Refining, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 169-174.
  12. L. Breglia, "Il materiale proveniente dalla base centrale dell'Artemession di Efeso e le monete di Lidia," Istituto Italiano di Numismatica Annali Vols. 18-19 (1971/72), pp. 9-25.
  13. E. Robinson, "The Coins from the Ephesian Artemision Reconsidered," Journal of Hellenic Studies 71 (1951), p. 159.
  14. M. Mitchiner, Ancient Trade and Early Coinage, Hawkins Publications, London, 2004, p. 219.
  15. Lydian Period of Anatolia


See also

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address