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Sardis, also Sardes (Lydian: Sfard, Greek: Σάρδεις, Persian: Sparda), modern Sart in the Manisa province of Turkeymarker, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire, and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman and Byzantine times. As one of the Seven churches of Asia, it was addressed by the author of the Book of Revelation in terms which seem to imply that its population was notoriously soft and fainthearted. Its importance was due, first to its military strength, secondly to its situation on an important highway leading from the interior to the Aegeanmarker coast, and thirdly to its commanding the wide and fertile plain of the Hermus.

Geography

Map of Sardis and Other Cities within the Lydian Empire


Sardis was situated in the middle of Hermusmarker valley, at the foot of Mount Tmolus, a steep and lofty spur which formed the citadel. It was about south of the Hermus. Today, the site is located by the present day village of Sart, near Salihlimarker in the Manisa province of Turkey, close to the Ankaramarker - İzmirmarker highway (approximately from İzmirmarker). The part of remains including the bath-gymnasium complex, synagogue and Byzantine shops is open to visitors year-round.

History



The earliest reference to Sardis is in the The Persians of Aeschylus (472 BC); in the Iliad the name Hyde seems to be given to the city of the Maeonian (i.e. Lydian) chiefs, and in later times Hyde was said to be the older name of Sardis, or the name of its citadel. It is, however, more probable that Sardis was not the original capital of the Maeonians, but that it became so amid the changes which produced the powerful Lydian empire of the 8th century BC.

The city was captured by the Cimmerians in the 7th century, by the Persians and by the Atheniansmarker in the 6th, and by Antiochus III the Great at the end of the 3rd century. In the Persian era Sardis was conquered by Cyrus the Great and formed the end station for the Persian Royal Road which began in Persepolismarker, capital of Persiamarker. During the Ionian Revolt, the Atheniansmarker burnt down the city. Sardis remained under Persian domination until it surrendered to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C..

Once at least, under the emperor Tiberius, in 17 AD, it was destroyed by an earthquake; but it was always rebuilt. It was one of the great cities of western Asia Minormarker until the later Byzantine period.

The early Lydian kingdom was far advanced in the industrial arts and Sardis was the chief seat of its manufactures. The most important of these trades was the manufacture and dyeing of delicate woolen stuffs and carpets. The stream Pactolusmarker which flowed through the market-place "carried golden sands" in early antiquity, in reality gold dust out of Mt. Tmolus; later, trade and the organization of commerce continued to be sources of great wealth. After Constantinoplemarker became the capital of the East, a new road system grew up connecting the provinces with the capital. Sardis then lay rather apart from the great lines of communication and lost some of its importance. It still, however, retained its titular supremacy and continued to be the seat of the metropolitan bishop of the province of Lydia, formed in 295 AD. It is enumerated as third, after Ephesusmarker and Smyrnamarker, in the list of cities of the Thracesion thema given by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century; but over the next four centuries it is in the shadow of the provinces of Magnesia-upon-Sipylum and Philadelphia, which retained their importance in the region.

After 1071 the Hermus valley began to suffer from the inroads of the Seljuk Turks but the successes of the general Philokales in 1118 relieved the district and the ability of the Comneni dynasty together with the gradual decay of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum retained it under Byzantine dominion. When Constantinoplemarker was taken by the Venetiansmarker and Franks in 1204 Sardis came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire of Nicea. However once the Byzantines retook Constantinople in 1261, Sardis with the entire Asia Minormarker was neglected and the region eventually fell under the control of Ghazi (Ghazw) emirs, the Cayster valleys and a fort on the citadel of Sardis was handed over to them by treaty in 1306. The city continued its decline until its capture (and probable destruction) by the Mongol warlord Timur in 1402.

Archaeological expeditions

By the nineteenth century, Sardis was in ruins, showing construction chiefly of the Roman period. The first large scale archaeological expedition in Sardis was directed by a Princeton Universitymarker team between years 1910 - 1914, unearthing the Temple of Artemis, and more than a thousand Lydian tombs. The excavation campaign was halted by World War I, followed by the Turkish War of Independence. Some surviving artifacts from the Butler excavation were added to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New Yorkmarker.

The excavation is currently under the directorship of Nick Cahill, professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker. 4 The laws governing archaeological expeditions in Turkey ensure that all archaeological artifacts remain in Turkey. Some of the important finds from the site of Sardis are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Manisa, including Late Roman mosaics and sculpture, a helmet from the mid-6th century BC, and pottery from various periods.

Sardis synagogue



Since 1958, both Harvardmarker and Cornell Universitiesmarker have sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis. These excavations unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors. (For evidence in the east, see Dura Europosmarker in Syriamarker.) The discovery of the Sardis synagogue has reversed previous assumptions about Judaism in the later Roman empire. Along with the discovery of the godfearers/theosebeis inscription from the Aphrodisiasmarker, it provides indisputable evidence for the continued vitality of Jewish communities in Asia Minor, their integration into general Roman imperial civic life, and their size and importance at a time when many scholars previously assumed that Christianity had eclipsed Judaism.

The synagogue was a section of a large bath-gymnasium complex, that was in use for about 450 – 500 years. In the beginning, middle of the second century AD, the rooms the synagogue is situated in were used as changing rooms or resting rooms. The complex was destroyed in 616 AD by the Sassanian-Persians.

See also



External links



Bibliography

  • Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis 1958-1975, George M. A. Hanfmann et al., ISBN 0-674-78925-3, Harvard University Press



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