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SARDİS

Where coinage was invented                           

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East of İzmir, the ruins of Sardis, the capital of King Croesus of the Lydians, stand in lovely countryside at Sartmustafa (Sart), near the small town of Salihli. It was here that the great Ottoman artist and museologist Osman Hamdi Bey suggested that archaeologists start digging, and what they uncovered was enough to indicate that this had once been a hugely important city, albeit one whose stones had long since been carried away for reuse elsewhere.

Around the site

sardis2Today as you approach the site along a stretch of Roman road you pass the slight remains of a series of shops in an area that has been described as a bazaar – great innovators, the Lydians are thought to have been the first people to set up permanent shops as opposed to market stalls. They would probably have been combined shop-houses since many of the items found inside them suggest a domestic purpose. 

Sardis appears to have had a sizeable Jewish population. The shop-houses once backed onto a 3rd-century synagogue whose magnificent mosaic floor still survives. One of the shops appears to have been owned by a man called Jacob.

Beyond the synagogue other remains are typical of other Classical-era sites and confirm that Sardis continued in importance long after the Lydians had been consigned to history. There are, for example, remains of a hamam and gymnasium, both of them dating back to the 2nd century AD and apparently destroyed during a Sassanian raid in 616.

The remains are by no means as impressive as those at Ephesus, but they are dominated by the magnificent marble-encrusted Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult, dating back to 211, which has been partially restored to give some idea of its original size and splendour.sardis3

One of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor mentioned by St John in the Biblical Book of Revelation, Sardis must have been a huge town in its heyday, and across the road from the main site stand pieces of the city wall with later Roman houses straddling them.

Near the site

For any trace of the Lydians, you need to leave the main site and head 1km south along the road in search of the remains of a vast Temple of Artemis which is thought to have been built originally during the reign of King Croesus. At that time, it was probably one of the four largest temples of Asia Minor, rivalling in size the giant temple at Ephesus, whose building costs were also borne by Croesus.

sardis4What is to be seen today dates back to a later remodelilng, although the historian George Bean suggested that the unusually lofty column bases were a feature that should be traced back to the Lydians. A couple of inscriptions written in both Greek and Lydian were also found here. There are also remains of a later Byzantine church.

The best evidence of the Lydian presence is to be seen north from the road running between Salihli and Sartmustafa in the form of the many tumuli scattered about an area called Bintepe (One Thousand Hills).

Believed to have contained the remains of the Lydian kings including Gyges, they are very like those around Gordion that contained the remains of the Phrygian kings, highlighting once again the links between the two cultures.

Some of these tumuli are absolutely enormous. That of King Alyattes is 69m high but measures a km around its base. Amongst those said to have laboured to build it a group of prostitutes are said to have been the most zealous.

In 1401 Tamerlane came rampaging through the region and that was the effective end of Sardis.

Sleeping

Although there is accommodation in Salihli, near Sartmustafa, it’s probably best to stay in İzmir and visit both sites on day trips.sardis6Scenery around Sardis in spring

Transport info

There are frequent flights to İzmir airport, and bus services to İzmir from all nearby towns. To get to Sardis, take a local bus from the upper level of İzmir otogar to Salihli, and change to a bus to Sart. 

Day trip destinations

Alaşehir

Birgi

Kula

Manisa

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-347315-the-splendor-of-sardis.html

sardis5Neglected ruins of frescoed Roman house across the road from main site

 

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