Sar'dis (Σάρδεις, of uncertain etymology), a city of Asia Minor, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was situated about two miles to the south of the river Hermus, just below the range of Tmolus (Bos Dagh), on a spur of which its acropolis was built, in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus (Herod. 7, 31; Xenophon, Cyrop. 7, 2-11: Pliny, Hist. Nat.; Strabo, 13, 625). It is in lat. 38° 30' N., long. 27° 57' E. Sardis was a great and ancient city, and, from its wealth and importance, was the object of much cupidity and of many sieges.
1. Ancient History. — The Lydians, or Ludim, whose metropolis Sardis was, were the descendants of Lud the son of Shem, and must not be confounded with the Ludim, the children of Lud the son of Misraim the son of Ham, who dwelt and settled in Egypt. These latter were the nation alluded to by Jeremiah (Jer 46:9) when he speaks of "the Lydians that handle the bow:" the distinction will appear the more clearly from the fact that the Lydians and the Libyans are mentioned together as embracing the same cause. The Shemitic Ludim were a warlike, active, and energetic people, and established an empire extending as far east as the river Halys. The city of Sardis, although of more recent origin than the Trojan war (Strabo, 13, 625), was very ancient, being mentioned by Aeschylus (Pers. 45); and Herodotus relates (1, 84) that it was fortified by a king Meles, who (according to the Chronicles of Eusebius) preceded Candaules. The city itself was, at least at first, built in a rude manner, and the houses were covered with dry reeds, in consequence of which it was repeatedly destroyed by fire; but the acropolis, which some of the ancient geographers identified with the Homeric Hyde (Strabo, 13, 626; comp. Pliny, 5, 30; Eustath. ad Dion. Per. 830), was built upon an almost inaccessible rock. In the reign of Ardys, Sardis was taken by the Cimmerians, but they were unable to gain possession of the citadel. Over this realm a series of able princes ruled, the last of whom, Croesus, obtained a world wide fame for his wealth, his misfortunes, and his philosophy. The earlier part of his reign was one of unusual glory; he extended his dominion over the whole of Asia Minor with the exception of Lycia and Cilicia, and displayed as much ability as an administrator as he had done as a conqueror. But the rising power of Cyrus soon came into collision with his own, and, by the capture of Sardis, the Persian prince brought the Lydian rule to a close. Croesus is said to have advised the victor to discourage the martial spirit of the Lydians by restraining them from all warlike occupations, and employing them in those arts only which minister to luxury and sensuality. Cyrus is reported to have taken the disgraceful advice, and the result was that, from ranking among the bravest and hardiest nations of antiquity, the Lydians became the most helpless and effeminate.
After its conquest, the Persians always kept a garrison in the citadel, on account of its natural strength, which induced Alexander the Great, when it was surrendered to him in the sequel of the battle of the Granicus, similarly to occupy it. Sardis recovered the privilege of municipal government (and, as was alleged several centuries afterwards, the right of a sanctuary) upon its surrender to Alexander the Great, but its fortunes for the next three hundred years are very obscure. It changed hands more than once in the contests between the dynasties which arose after the death of Alexander. In the year B.C. 214 it was taken and sacked by the army of Antiochus the Great, who besieged his cousin Achaeus in it for two years before succeeding, as he at last did through treachery, in obtaining possession of the person of the latter. After the ruin of Antiochus's fortunes, it passed, with the rest of Asia on that side of Taurus, under the dominion of the kings of Pergamus, whose interests led them to divert the course of traffic between Asia and Europe away from Sardis. Its productive soil must always have continued a source of wealth; but its importance as a central mart appears to have diminished from the time of the invasion of Asia by Alexander. After their victory over Antiochus it passed to the Romans, under whom it still more rapidly declined in rank and prosperity.
In the time of the emperor Tiberius, Sardis was desolated by an earthquake (Strabo, 12, p. 579), together with eleven, or, as Eusebius says, twelve other important cities of Asia. The whole face of the country is said to have been changed by this convulsion. In the case of Sardis the calamity was increased by a pestilential fever which followed; and so much compassion was in consequence excited for the city at Rome that its tribute was remitted for five years, and it received a benefaction from the privy purse of the emperor (Tacitus, Ann 2, 47). This was in the year A.D. 17. Nine years afterwards the Sardians are found among the competitors for the honor of erecting, as representatives of the Asiatic cities, a temple to their benefactor. SEE SMYRNA. On this occasion they plead, not only their ancient services to Rome in the time of the Macedonian war, but their well- watered country, their climate, and the richness of the neighboring soil; there is no allusion, however, to the important manufactures and the commerce of the early times. In the time of Pliny it was included in the same conventus jursidicus with Philadelphia, with the Cadueni, a Macedonian colony in the neighborhood, with some settlements of the old Maeonian population, and a few other towns of less note. These Maeonians still continued to call Sardis by its ancient name, Hyde, which it bore in the time of Omphale.
2. Biblical Notice. — The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the ancients for their voluptuous habits of life. Hence, perhaps, the point of the phrase in the Apocalyptic message to the city, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments" (Re 3:4). The place that Sardis holds in this message, as one of the "Seven Churches of Asia," is the source of the peculiar interest with which the Christian reader regards it. From what is said, it appears that it had already declined much in real religion, although it still maintained the name and external aspect of a Christian Church, "having a name to live, while it was dead" (Re 3:1).
3. Description and Modern Remains. — Sardis was in very early times, both from the extremely fertile character of the neighboring region and from its convenient position, a commercial mart of importance. Chestnuts were first produced in the neighborhood, which procured them the name of βάλανοι Σαρδιανοί. The art of dyeing wool is said by Pliny to have been invented there; and, at any rate, Sardis was the entrepot of the dyed woolen manufactures, of which Phrygia, with its vast flocks (πολυπροβατωτάη, Herod. 5, 49), furnished the raw material. Hence we hear of the φοινικίδες Σαρδιαναί; and Sappho speaks of the ποικίλος μάσθλης Λύδιον καλὸν ἔργον, which was perhaps something like the modern Turkish carpets. Some of the woolen manufactures, of a peculiarly fine texture, were called ψιλοτάπιδες. The hall through which the king of Persia passed from his state apartments to the gate where he mounted on his horse was laid with these, and no foot but that of the monarch was allowed to tread on them. In the description given of the habits of a young Cyprian exquisite of great wealth, he is represented as reposing upon a bed of which the feet were silver, and upon which these ψιλοτάπιδες Σαρδιαναί were laid as a mattress. Sardis, too, was the place where the metal electrum was procured (Sophocles, Antig. 1037); and it was thither that the Spartans sent in the 6th century B.C. to purchase gold for the purpose of gilding the face of the Apollo at Amyclae. This was probably furnished by the auriferous sand of the Pactolus, a brook which came from Tmolus and ran through the agora of Sardis by the side of the great temple of Cybele. But, though its gold washings may have been celebrated in early times, the greatness of Sardis in its best days was much more due to its general commercial importance and its convenience as an entrepot. This seems to follow from the statement that not only silver and gold coins were there first minted, but there also the class of κάπηλοι (stationary traders, as contradistinguished from the ἔμποροι, or traveling merchants) first arose. It was also, at any rate between the fall of the Lydian and that of the Persian dynasty, a slave mart.
Successive earthquakes and the ravages of the Saracens and Turks have reduced this once flourishing city to a heap of ruins, presenting many remains of its former splendor. The habitations of the living are confined to a few miserable cottages, still found on the true site of Sardis, at the foot of Mount Tmolus, or Buz-dag, as the Turks call it. Two or three shepherds inhabited a hut, and a Turk with two servants a mill, at the time of Arundel's visit in 1826. In 1850 no human being found a dwelling in the once mighty and populous Sardis. The modern name of the ruins at Sardis is Sert-Kalessi. Travelers describe the appearance of the locality on approaching it from the northwest as that of complete solitude. The Pactolus is a mere thread of water, all but evanescent in summer time. The Wadis-tchai (Hermus), in the neighborhood of the town, is between fifty and sixty yards wide and nearly three feet deep; but its waters are turbid and disagreeable, and are not only avoided as unfit for drinking, but have the local reputation of generating the fever which is the scourge of the neighboring plains. A countless number of sepulchral hillocks, beyond the Hermus, heighten the desolateness of a spot which the multitudes lying there once made busy by their living presence and pursuits. The acropolis seems well to define the site of the city. It is a marked object, being a tall distorted rock of soft sandstone, rent as if by an earthquake. The acropolis is very difficult of ascent; it has a few fragments of ruinous walls on the summit, but no remains are visible of the temple which Alexander built there in honor of the Olympian Jove. The almost perpendicular wall towards the south was considered impregnable, and Croesus therefore, in defending his capital against Cyrus, omitted to guard it; but a Persian soldier, seeing a Lydian descend by a path of steps cut in the rock in order to regain his helmet, which had fallen down, watched his proceedings, and led a body of Persian troops into the acropolis itself.
The remains of the ancient city are few and inconsiderable. The gerusia — called also the house of Croesus — lies westward of the acropolis. Arundel measured one of its halls, and found it one hundred and fifty-six feet in length by forty-three in breadth, and having walls ten feet in thickness. There are some portions of a theater and of two churches, one of which, said to be dedicated to the Virgin, was carefully examined by Col. Leake, and found to consist almost wholly of fragments of earlier edifices; and from more recent investigations it appears that these were chiefly taken from the Temple of Cybele, and if so they are among the oldest monuments now existing in the world, the temple having been built only three hundred years after that of Solomon. Of the few inscriptions which have been discovered, all, or nearly all, belong to the time of the Roman empire. Yet there still exist considerable remains of the earlier days. The massive Temple of Cybele still bears witness in its fragmentary remains to the wealth and architectural skill of the people that raised it. Mr. Cockerell, who visited it in 1812, found two columns standing with their architrave, the stone of which stretched in a single block from the center of one to that of the other. This stone, although it was not the largest of the architrave, he calculates must have weighed twenty-five tons. The diameters of the columns supporting it are six feet four and a half inches at about thirty-five feet below the capital. The present soil (apparently formed by the crumbling away of the hill which backs the temple on its eastern side) is more than twenty-five feet above the pavement. Such proportions are not inferior to those of the columns in the Heraeum at Samos, which divides, in the estimation of Herodotus, with the Artemisium at Ephesus the palm of preeminence among all the works of Greek art. And as regards the details, "the capitals appeared," to Cockerell, "to surpass any specimen of the Ionic he had seen in perfection of design and execution." On the north side of the acropolis, overlooking the valley of the Hermus, is a theater near four hundred feet in diameter, attached to a stadium of about one thousand. This probably was erected after the restoration of Sardis by Alexander. In the attack of Sardis by Antiochus, described by Polybius (7, 15-18), it constituted one of the chief points on which, after entering the city, the assaulting force was directed. The temple belongs to the era of the Lydian dynasty, and is nearly contemporaneous with the Temple of Zeus Panhellenius in Egina, and that of here in Samos. To the same date may be assigned the "Valley of Sweets" (γλυκὺς ἀγκών), a pleasure ground, the fame of which Polycrates endeavored to rival by the so-called Laura at Samos.
4. Authorities. — Ancient: Athenseus, 2, 48; 6, 231; 12, 514, 540; Arrian, 1, 17; Pliny, H.N. 5, 29; 15, 23; Stephanus Byz. s.v. Υδη; Pausanias, 3, 9, 5; Diodorus Sic. 20, 107; Scholiast, Aristoph. Pac. 1174; Herodotus, 1, 69, 94; 3, 48; 8, 105; Strabo, 13, § 5; Tacitus, Annal. 2, 47; 3, 63; 4, 55. Modern: Böckh, Inscriptiones Groecoe, Nos. 3451-3472; Cockerell, in Leake's Asia Minor, p. 343; Arundel, Discoveries in Asia Minor. 1, 26-28; Tchibatcheff, Asie Mineure, p. 232-242; Chandler, Travels in Asia Minor, p. 316 sq. See also Smith, Hartley, Macfarlane, Arundel, and Svoboda, severally, On the Seven Churches of Asia; Storch, Dissert. de Sept. Urb.
Asioe in Apocal.; Richter, Wallfahrten, p. 511 sq.; Prokesch, Denkwürdigk. 2, 31 sq.