Sardis, the Ancient Capital of the
Kingdom of Lydia
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
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.