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History of Sardis

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The name Sardis comes from the word sardius, a semi-precious orange-brown stone that reflects deep red color when light passes through it. There is evidence of human existence in Sardius right from the Paleolithic period. Ancient Sardis was the capital of Lydia. King Gyges of the Mermnad Dynasty minted the first coins here. They were made out of an alloy of gold and silver called "electrum". The most famous king of the Lydian Kingdom was King Croesus who introduced coins of pure gold and silver panned from the river Pactolus nearby. An interesting folklore says that such abundant gold was available there because of the fabled King Midas who bathed in the river to rid himself of the curse of the golden touch.

Cyrus conquered Sardis in 546 BC and thus the Persian influence began. Subsequently, the city of Sardis fell to Alexander the Great and was conquered by the Greeks. Sardis finally came to the Romans upon the death of Attalus II and flourished to a great extent. By the end of the 3rd century B.C., Sardis changed hands and went to Antiochus the Great. However, this prosperous city was ravaged by an earthquake in 17 AD. In 123 A.D. Sardis was visited upon by Hadrian and later, by Emperor Diocletian and in 297 AD, Sardis was appointed the capital of Lydia.

Soon with Constantinople as the capital of the East, Sardis lost some of its importance. However, the metropolitan bishop of the province of Lydia, created in 295A.D. had its headquarters in Sardis.

The Arabs conquered Sardis in 716 AD, and this was followed by the invasion of the Ottoman Turks in 1306. An incessant destruction of the city saw its final downfall in the hands of Timur in 1402.

The 19th century saw Sardis as a city of ruins and presently its importance lies in its ancient archaeological finds.


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