Sardis, the Ancient Capital of the Kingdom of Lydia

by Unknown

Letter S.

Sardis, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Lydia, is situated on the river Pactolus, in the fertile plain below Mount Tmolus. Wealth, pomp, and luxury characterised this city from very ancient times. The story of Croesus, its last King, is frequently alluded to by historians, as affording a remarkable example of the instability of human greatness. This Monarch considered himself the happiest of human beings, but being checked by the philosopher Solon for his arrogance, he was offended, and dismissed the sage from his Court with disgrace. Not long afterwards, led away by the ambiguous answers of the oracles, he conducted a large army into the field against Cyrus, the future conqueror of Babylon, but was defeated, and obliged to return to his capital, where he shut himself up. Hither he was soon followed and besieged by Cyrus, with a far inferior force; but, at the expiration of fourteen days, the citadel, which had been deemed impregnable, was taken by a stratagem, and Croseus was condemned to the flames. When the sentence was about to be executed, he was heard to invoke the name of Solon, and the curiosity of Cyrus being excited, he asked the cause; and, having heard his narrative, ordered him to be set free, and subsequently received him into his confidence.


Under the Romans, Sardis declined in importance, and, being destroyed by an earthquake, for some time lay desolate, until it was rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Tiberius.

The situation of Sardis is very beautiful, but the country over which it looks is almost deserted, and the valley is become a swamp. The hill of the citadel, when seen from the opposite bank of the Hermus, appears of a triangular form; and at the back of it rise ridge after ridge of mountains, the highest covered with snow, and many of them bearing evident marks of having been jagged and distorted by earthquakes. The citadel is exceedingly difficult of ascent; but the magnificent view which it commands of the plain of the Hermus, and other objects of interest, amply repays the risk and fatigue. The village, small as it is, boasts of containing one of the most remarkable remains of antiquity in Asia; namely, the vast Ionic temple of the heathen goddess Cybele, or the earth, on the banks of the Pactolus. In 1750, six columns of this temple were standing, but four of them have since been thrown down by the Turks, for the sake of the gold which they expected to find in the joints.

Two or three mills and a few mud huts, inhabited by Turkish herdsmen, contain all the present population of Sardis.