We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result


The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East What is This? Provides comprehensive coverage of the history and scope of archaeology in the Near East.

Related Content


site located in western Anatolia about 100 km (62 mi.) due east of Smyrna (Izmir), where the valley of the Hermus River (Gediz çayı) meets the foothills of Mt. Tmolus (Boz daǧı). Sardis has always been identifiable because the toponym (Sart today) has survived, occurring in many ancient in situ stone inscriptions. The factors that account for the growth and prosperity of the city are the natural corridor of the river valley, which connects the Aegean coast with the interior of Anatolia; the fertility of the valley and of mountain highlands; the perennial water source of a mountain stream, the Pactolus River (Sart çayı), which empties into the Hermus; and the security of a high spur of Mt. Tmolus, which provided a defensible place of refuge (a citadel or acropolis) and mineral resources, notably gold (for which the Pactolus with its placer deposits was the most famous source in antiquity).


The oldest stratified occupation dates to the Late Bronze Age (c. 1500–1400 BCE), but Early Bronze Age and Neolithic artifacts have been recovered out of context. In the first millennium, Sardis was the chief city of the Lydians, an Anatolian people who occupied the central western river valleys, especially those of the Hermus and Kayster (Küçük Menderes çayı), and who spoke an Indo-European language (belonging to the Palaic-Anatolian subgroup). The Lydian language is known from a relatively small number of texts (somewhat more than 110), mostly from Sardis and mostly dedicatory and funerary inscriptions on stone and pottery. Before the seventh century their history (under a five-hundred-year-old Heracleid dynasty that traced its descent from Herakles) is shadowy. From about 780 to 546, under their aggressive Mermnad dynasty (and successive kings Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, and Croesus), the Lydians were masters of an empire in western Anatolia that extended as far east as the Halys River (Kızılırmak çayı). Around 546 the Lydian Empire was conquered by the Persians, under Cyrus the Great, who besieged and captured Sardis and made it the capital of an important satrapy or viceroyalty, named Sparda, like the city. Sardis was the chief western terminus of a major administrative route, the Persian “royal road,” which originated at Susa in Iran.

During more than two centuries as a western outpost of the Persian Empire, Sardis played a role in Persian relations with the Greeks. Capture and burning of the lower city by Athenians and Eretrians around 498 during the Ionian revolt led to the Persian Wars of 490 and 480–479; and Sardis was a stopping place for King Xerxes and his forces before their invasion of Greece In 480. The Athenian Alcibiades was a guest and councilor of the satrap Tissaphernes at Sardis In 412–411, where King Lysander of Sparta visited the satrap Cyrus the Younger, younger son of King Darius II, In 405. Sardis was the mustering place for Cyrus the Younger's illfated expedition with ten thousand Greek mercenaries against his brother, King Artaxerxes II, In 401. The Spartan king Aegesilaus won a victory over troops of satrap Tissaphernes In 395, which resulted in the latter's disgrace and execution. The Athenian admiral Konon was briefly imprisoned at Sardis by the satrap Tiribazus, In 392. The terms of the Peace of Antalcidas or the King's Peace, favorable to Persia and Sparta, were announced at Sardis In 387.

Persian rule ended In 334 when Sardis surrendered to Alexander the Great, who restored “to Sardians and other Lydians the ancient nomoi (customs or laws) of the Lydians” (Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, 1.17.3–8). In the Hellenistic Period, Sardis was controlled first by Antigonus and Lysimachus, around 323–281. During part of this time, it was the residence of Alexander's only full sister, Cleopatra. Then Sardis was ruled by the Seleucid kings from 281 to 190 BCE and next by Pergamon from 190 to 133. During Seleucid rule, the city was for a time headquarters of the rebel Seleucid prince Achaeus, uncle of the legitimate king, Antiochus III, who besieged the city and captured and executed Achaeus In 214. Antiochus's reparations to Sardis thereafter were recorded in an inscription on the Metroon at Sardis. After the bequest of Attalus III of Pergamon In 133, Sardis became part of the Roman province of Asia.

In Roman times, Sardis was the principal city of a assize or judicial district (dioecesis, conventus), which included twenty-seven or more other settlements of Lydia and Phrygia. In 17 CE extensive destruction by an earthquake, which also damaged eleven other cities of western Anatolia, was the occasion for a five-year tax remission and a grant-in-aid of ten million sesterces from Emperor Tiberius. Sardis was visited by the emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius with Commodus and perhaps also by Lucius Verus and Caracalla.

With Diocletian's provincial reorganization in the late third and early fourth centuries CE, Sardis became capital of the province of Lydia within the larger diocese of Asiana. Under Diocletian or Constantine I it was the site of a weapons factory. Beginning in the first century CE, Sardis was an important center of Christianity, as one of the “seven churches which are in Asia” (Rev. 1:11; 3:1–6) and the seat of a high-ranking bishop until 1369. It also had a privileged Jewish community. (Josephus, Antiq., 12.147–153; 14.235, 260). The city barely escaped capture by the Goths In 399, may have been raided and partly sacked by the Sassanian Persians In 616, was taken by the Arabs In 716, and was in Turkish hands intermittently from the eleventh century, permanently from the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Topography, Monuments, Culture.

Sardis grew up around the high acropolis, mainly at the edge of the Hermus plain on the north side, also in the Pactolus Valley on the west side. Some settlement regularly existed on the acropolis summit. Cemeteries were located at the periphery of settlement, mainly in hilly terrain of the Pactolus Valley and also 8 km (5 mi.) away to the north on a low limestone ridge (Bin Tepe) located between the Hermus plain and the Gygaean Lake or the Lake of Koloe (Marmara Gölü). Of satellite communities—villages, hamlets, farms, military outposts—in the surrounding plain and mountains, some are named in ancient texts (e.g., Kombdilipia and Tbalmoura in a Hellenistic inscription on the temple of Artemis; and Metallon, in Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13.464–478), and some are known from sites and their archaeological remains (e.g., Dedemezari and Karadut).

Little is known about the nature and extent of settlement in the Late Bronze Age and early centuries of the first millennium BCE. The Lydian city of the sixth century probably covered at least 115 hectares (285 acres), over which excavated occupation remains are distributed). As topography and later settlement patterns suggest, the city may have spread over twice as much land. (Herodotus, 3.4.2, judged Kadytis [Gaza] in Palestine comparable to Sardis in size.) The lower city was partly surrounded by a fortification wall, and the acropolis had its own triple-walled fortifications (Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, 1.17.5; Lucian, Charon, 9). A few segments of them survive. Residences (some associated with small glass industry), perhaps a market, a quarter near the Pactolus stream where gold and silver were separated from placer (waterborne or glacial deposits) electrum, and a modest altar (probably associated with the goddess Cybele), are known from excavation. Also attested by archaeological work is a chthonic cult attested by ritual offerings in the form of dinners. Immature dogs are the main course. Each offering included a pitcher, cup, dish, iron knife, and cooking pot with dog skeleton buried near houses. A temple of Cybele and palace or palaces of the Lydian kings are cited in literature (for the temple, see Herodotus, 5.102; Plutarch, Themistocles, 31; for the palace[s], see Xanthus of Lydia cited by Nicolaus of Damascus; see Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker [Berlin and Leiden, 1923–1958], 90.44[7]; Vitruvius, 2.8.9–10; Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, 1.17.6).

Ordinary houses were built with walls of mud-brick on fieldstone socles and roofs of reed construction. Grander buildings had terra-cotta roof and revetment tiles with molded and painted decoration (figural, floral, and pattern motifs in red, black, and white), and precisely cut ashlar (dressed) masonry in white limestone and marble. The physical size and conceptual grandeur of several monuments testify to the wealth and power of the Lydian capital: the massive 20 m (65.5 ft.)-thick fortification wall of the lower city; the terracing in white, crisp, ashlar masonry that regularized and redefined natural slopes of the acropolis; the huge tumuli (two with diameters exceeding 350 m [1148 ft.]) and dramatic landscape created by them in the cemetery at Bin Tepe.

Lydian culture of Sardis attested in the archaeological record combines Anatolian and Greek traditions. Anatolian are the tumulus and rock-cut chamber tombs, some pottery shapes (notably the lydion unguent container) and decorative conventions (distinctive varieties of Anatolian bichrome and black-on-red wares, and the highly distinctive “marbling”). Greek are the architectural ornament, including the terra-cotta roof and revetment tiles and their motifs, as well as the Ionic repertory (column design, moldings, pattern, individual motifs) in stone; sculptural motifs, design, and style (e.g., kouroi, kourai, lions), many vessel forms, mainly attested in pottery (column crater, skyphos); and the alphabetic writing system (adapted with certain changes). Conceivably Greek cultural components may have been more prominent at Sardis than at other settlements of Lydia (the Lydian archaeological record of which is still little known) because of greater foreign contacts at the capital. If so, however, it was well entrenched, as is shown by the use of Greek design for plain and ordinary pottery of the seventh and sixth centuries, and by close similarities to Greek forms in the shapes and decoration of earlier Sardis pottery, about 1300–700. Anatolian and Greek motifs can be originally combined, as in the highly decorative painted pottery called Ephesian ware, probably made at Sardis and elsewhere in western Anatolia in the seventh and early sixth centuries. Some design features are at home in both western Anatolia and Greece and probably reflect a shared cultural heritage.

There is little evidence for cultural interchange with Mesopotamia or Iran (although Lydian contact with Assyrians, Babylonians, and Medes is reported by the Assyrian records of Ashurbanipal and by Herodotus (1.16, 73–74, 77). The “nomadic” animal style of some objects probably reflects the presence at Sardis of Cimmerians or Scythians.

Persian conquest initially had little effect on the material culture of Sardis, except in lavish art forms (plate, jewelry, glyptic). Cults of Sardis during the Persian era include those of Artemis of Sardis, attested by Lydian grave epitaphs and by a monumental altar in the Pactolus Valley (perhaps the one cited by Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.6.7); Artemis of Koloe, whose sanctuary by the Gygaean Lake is reported by Strabo, 13.4.5/626, and is attested by Lydian grave epitaphs; and Zeus Baradates (perhaps Ahuramazda of the Zoroastrian religion), known from a Greek inscription of Roman imperial times that refers to his statue and adyton in the time of King Artaxerxes. Gardens and hunting parks (paradeisoi) of the satraps Tissaphernes and Cyrus the Younger are reported in literature (Xenophon, Oeconomicus, 4.20–24; Diodorus, 14.80.2).

Early in Hellenistic times the altar of Artemis of Sardis in the Pactolus Valley was greatly enlarged and a huge temple built to the east of it. The temple faced west, like the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which may have been the model. A metroon of more modest size (perhaps a successor of the Temple of Cybele reported by Herodotus, 5.102, and the same or the successor of one cited by Plutarch, Themistocles, 31) is attested by marble blocks inscribed with correspondence between the Seleucid King Antiochus III; his queen, Laodike; and the Sardians. A gymnasium is cited in one of the same inscriptions; and a theater, city walls and gates, hippodrome, and temple of Zeus Olympius (vowed by Alexander the Great) are cited in the literature (Polybius, 7.15–18; Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, 1.17.3–6).

City institutions, cults, and monuments of Roman times are documented in greater number than for any other era. Most major Roman archaeological features postdate the earthquake of 17 CE. A series of vast terraces on the lower slopes and skirt of the acropolis supported many buildings. Two or three gymnasium-bath complexes (one of them possibly a basilica), a theater, stadium, and large pseudodipteral temple are known from archaeological remains, as are additions to the temple of Artemis of Sardis (pseudodipteral peristyle, cella-partition wall, perhaps designed to create separate halls for cults of Artemis and Zeus Polieus). A mud-brick building reportedly once the palace of Croesus served for the gerousia, council of elders (Vitruvius, 2.8.9–10). An agora, nearly twenty fountains, an odeion, and many cults with sanctuaries and temples, including those of Hera, Demeter, Mēn, and Augustus and Gaius, are attested in inscriptions. A goddess called Kore, represented in Roman sculpture and on coins of Sardis as a semi-aniconic image (analagous to the Ephesian Artemis type) may belong to a pre-Roman cult.

In late Roman times (fourth–seventh centuries CE), the urban traditions of a great metropolis were maintained but with increasing strain. Major buildings, colonnaded thoroughfares (one with a tetrapylon or four-sided arch), and commodious, multiroom private residences were repaired, rebuilt, or freshly created, often substantially constructed and decorated with lavish expanses of mosaic paving. The tomb of an arms-factory director (Chrysanthius) is one of many painted tombs of barrel-vaulted, subterranean type (hypogaeum) in the city cemeteries. Increasing reuse of building materials, however, suggests significant abandonment or ruin in the city as well as economic recession; one colonnaded street and its sidewalks were never paved. Sardis was refortified: the lower city in the late fourth century, with a circuit wall that enclosed a space of about 150 hectares (350 acres); the acropolis in the seventh–ninth centuries, with massive, well-designed fortifications at strategic places. Three churches, two of them substantial in size, and an unusually large synagogue about 80 m (262 ft.) long were built and flourished in the fifth and sixth centuries.

From the seventh century onward, Sardis steadily diminished in size. Over foundations of one of the larger churches a modest-size, ornately decorated church of multidome type (like the church of the Holy Apostles in Salonica) was built in the thirteenth century. The city was apparently a community of villages, one on the acropolis and several in the lower city and Artemis of Sardis sanctuary, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Research and Excavation.

Antiquarian research began in the fifteenth century with Cyriacus of Ancona, who visited Sardis In 1446, explored the site, and recorded inscriptions on stone. From the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century, many British and European travelers recorded topography and architecture, notably Thomas Smith In 1670, Edmund Chishull In 1699, Robert Wood and Charles de Peysonnel In 1750, Richard Chandler In 1765, Charles Cockerell In 1812, and Anton von Prokesch (Anton Prokesch von Osten) In 1825. Their records are valuable for references to then-existing conditions and for monuments that disappeared after their visits. Tumuli at Bin Tepe were explored and excavated (without discovery of intact burial chambers) by Ludwig Spiegelthal (who excavated the tumulus of Alyattes) In 1853, George Dennis beginning In 1868 and again In 1882, and Auguste Choisy In 1875. Excavations at the temple of Artemis in the Pactolus Valley were also conducted by Dennis In 1882 and by Gustave Mendel on behalf of the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Constantinople In 1904. Systematic long-term excavations were undertaken by the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, founded and directed by Howard Crosby Butler, In 1910–1914 and 1922. The temple of Artemis and graves in the Pactolus Valley were the focus of Butler's excavations, but exploration and test excavation in other parts of the city site and at Bin Tepe also were undertaken. [See The biography of Butler.] Since 1959, excavation and other archaeological research in many parts of the city site and at Bin Tepe have been conducted by the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, a project begun by George M. A. Hanfmann and jointly sponsored by the Harvard University Art Museums, Cornell University, the American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Corning Museum of Glass.


  • Buckler, William H, and David M. Robinson. Greek and Latin Inscriptions. Publications of the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, vol. 7.1. Leiden, 1932. Texts, translations, and commentary on Greek and Latin inscriptions studied up to 1922.
  • Butler, Howard Crosby. Sardis: The Excavations, 1910–1914. Publications of the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, vol. 1.1. Leiden, 1922. Summary of excavations between 1910 and 1914, primarily concerned with the Temple of Artemis of Sardis and graves and including a general introduction to topography, city history, and the history of scholarly research at Sardis.
  • Foss, Clive. Byzantine and Turkish Sardis. Sardis Monograph, 4. Cambridge, Mass., 1976. Political, military, and cultural history, with archaeological interpretation and key sources.
  • Gauthier, Philippe. Nouvelles inscriptions de Sardes. Vol. 2. Centre de Recherche d'Histoire et de Philologie de la IVe Section de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études, 3; Hautes Études du Monde Gréco-Romain, 15. Geneva, 1989. Hellenistic inscriptions from the Metroon, recording correspondence between King Antiochus II, Queen Laodike, and the Sardians.
  • Greenewalt, Crawford H., Jr. “When a Mighty Empire Was Destroyed: The Common Man at the Fall of Sardis, ca. 546 B.C.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 136 (1992): 247–272. Covers Lydian defenses of the lower city and evidence for the siege and capture by Cyrus the Great.
  • Hanfmann, George M.A. From Croesus to Constantine: The Cities of Western Asia Minor and Their Arts in Greek and Roman Times. Ann Arbor, 1975. Urban history of Sardis in Anatolian context.
  • Hanfmann, George M. A., and N. H. Ramage. Sculpture from Sardis: The Finds through 1975. Sardis Report, 2. Cambridge, Mass., 1978. Primarily concerned with Lydian, Hellenistic, and Roman sculpture.
  • Hanfmann, George M.A. Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times. Cambridge, Mass., 1983. Comprehensive account of Sardis.
  • Pedley, John G. Ancient Literary Sources on Sardis. Sardis Monograph, 2. Cambridge, Mass., 1972. Texts with translations and commentary, organized chonrologically and thematically.
  • Yegül, Fikret K. The Bath-Gymnasium Complex at Sardis. Sardis Report, 3. Cambridge, Mass., 1986. Comprehensive report on one of the Roman bath-gymnasium complexes.

Crawford H. Greenewalt, Jr.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2022. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice