15th–14th centuries BC (as Arzawa)1200–546 BC
Lydia (Assyrian: Luddu; Greek: Λυδία, Turkish: Lidya) was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern western Turkish provinces of Uşak, Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian.
- Defining Lydia
- Early history Maeonia and Lydia
- Lydia in Greek mythology
- First coinage
- Autochthonous dynasties
- Persian Empire
- Hellenistic Empire
- Roman province of Asia
- Roman province of Lydia
- Byzantine and Crusader age
- Under Turkish rule
- Episcopal sees
At its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. Lydia (Sparda in Old Persian) was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, with Sardis as its capital. Tabalus, appointed by Cyrus the Great, was the first satrap.
The endonym Śfard (the name the Lydians called themselves) survives in bilingual and trilingual stone-carved notices of the Achaemenid Empire: the satrapy of Sparda (Old Persian), Aramaic Saparda, Babylonian Sapardu, Elamitic Išbarda, Hebrew סְפָרַד. These in the Greek tradition are associated with Sardis, the capital city of King Gyges, constructed during the 7th century BC.
An Etruscan/Lydian association has long been a subject of conjecture. The Greek historian Herodotus stated that the Etruscans came from Lydia, repeated in Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid, and Etruscan-like language was found on the Lemnos stele from the Aegean Sea island of Lemnos. However, recent decipherment of Lydian and its classification as an Anatolian language mean that Etruscan and Lydian were not even part of the same language family. Nevertheless, a recent genetic study of likely Etruscan descendants in Tuscany found strong similarities with individuals in western Anatolia, indicating that Etruscans may have lived in or near the region at one time.
The boundaries of historical Lydia varied across the centuries. It was bounded first by Mysia, Caria, Phrygia and coastal Ionia. Later, the military power of Alyattes II and Croesus expanded Lydia, which, with its capital at Sardis, controlled all Asia Minor west of the River Halys, except Lycia. Lydia never again shrank back into its original dimensions. After the Persian conquest the River Maeander was regarded as its southern boundary, and during imperial Roman times Lydia comprised the country between Mysia and Caria on the one side and Phrygia and the Aegean Sea on the other.
The Lydian language was an Indo-European language in the Anatolian language family, related to Luwian and Hittite. It used many prefixes and grammatical particles. Lydian finally became extinct during the 1st century BC.
Early history: Maeonia and Lydia
Lydia developed as a Neo-Hittite kingdom after the decline of the Hittite Empire in the 12th century BC. In Hittite times, the name for the region had been Arzawa; it was a Luwian-speaking area. According to Greek source, the original name of the Lydian kingdom was Maionia (Μαιονία), or Maeonia: Homer (Iliad ii. 865; v. 43, xi. 431) refers to the inhabitants of Lydia as Maiones (Μαίονες). Homer describes their capital not as Sardis but as Hyde (Iliad xx. 385); Hyde may have been the name of the district in which Sardis was located. Later, Herodotus (Histories i. 7) adds that the "Meiones" were renamed Lydians after their king Lydus (Λυδός), son of Atys, during the mythical epoch that preceded the Heracleid dynasty. This etiological eponym served to account for the Greek ethnic name Lydoi (Λυδοί). The Hebrew term for Lydians, Lûḏîm (לודים), as found in the Book of Jeremiah(46.9), has been similarly considered, beginning with Flavius Josephus, to be derived from Lud son of Shem; however, Hippolytus of Rome (AD 234) offered an alternative opinion that the Lydians were descended from Ludim, son of Mizraim. During Biblical times, the Lydian warriors were famous archers. Some Maeones still existed during historical times in the upland interior along the River Hermus, where a town named Maeonia existed, according to Pliny the Elder (Natural History book v:30) and Hierocles (author of Synecdemus).
Lydia in Greek mythology
Lydian mythology is virtually unknown, and their literature and rituals lost due to the absence of any monuments or archaeological finds with extensive inscriptions; therefore, myths involving Lydia are mainly from Greek mythology.
For the Greeks, Tantalus was a primordial ruler of mythic Lydia, and Niobe his proud daughter; her husband Amphion associated Lydia with Thebes in Greece, and through Pelops the line of Tantalus was part of the founding myths of Mycenae's second dynasty. (In reference to the myth of Bellerophon, Karl Kerenyi remarked, in The Heroes of The Greeks 1959, p. 83. "As Lykia was thus connected with Crete, and as the person of Pelops, the hero of Olympia, connected Lydia with the Peloponnesos, so Bellerophontes connected another Asian country, or rather two, Lykia and Karia, with the kingdom of Argos".)
In Greek myth, Lydia had also adopted the double-axe symbol, that also appears in the Mycenaean civilization, the labrys. Omphale, daughter of the river Iardanos, was a ruler of Lydia, whom Heracles was required to serve for a time. His adventures in Lydia are the adventures of a Greek hero in a peripheral and foreign land: during his stay, Heracles enslaved the Itones; killed Syleus, who forced passers-by to hoe his vineyard; slew the serpent of the river Sangarios (which appears in the heavens as the constellation Ophiucus) and captured the simian tricksters, the Cercopes. Accounts tell of at least one son born to Omphale and Heracles: Diodorus Siculus (4.31.8) and Ovid (Heroides 9.54) mention a son Lamos, while pseudo-Apollodorus (Bibliotheke 2.7.8) gives the name Agelaus, and Pausanias (2.21.3) names Tyrsenus son of Heracles by "the Lydian woman."
All three heroic ancestors indicate a Lydian dynasty claiming Heracles as their ancestor. Herodotus (1.7) refers to a Heraclid dynasty of kings who ruled Lydia, yet were perhaps not descended from Omphale. He also mentions (1.94) the recurring legend that the Etruscan civilization was founded by colonists from Lydia led by Tyrrhenus, brother of Lydus. However, Dionysius of Halicarnassus was skeptical of this story, indicating that the Etruscan language and customs were known to be totally dissimilar to those of the Lydians. Later chronographers also ignored Herodotus's statement that Agron was the first to be a king, and included Alcaeus, Belus, and Ninus in their list of kings of Lydia. Strabo (5.2.2) makes Atys, father of Lydus and Tyrrhenus, to be a descendant of Heracles and Omphale. All other accounts name Atys, Lydus, and Tyrrhenus as being among the pre-Heraclid kings of Lydia. The gold deposits in the river Pactolus that were the source of the proverbial wealth of Croesus (Lydia's last king) were said to have been left there when the legendary king Midas of Phrygia washed away the "Midas touch" in its waters. In Euripides' tragedy The Bacchae, Dionysus, while he is maintaining his human disguise, declares his country to be Lydia.
Gold Croeseid, minted by king Croesus circa 561-546 BCE. (10.7 grams, Sardis mint).
According to Herodotus, the Lydians were the first people to use gold and silver coins and the first to establish retail shops in permanent locations. It is not known, however, whether Herodotus meant that the Lydians were the first to use coins of pure gold and pure silver or the first precious metal coins in general. Despite this ambiguity, this statement of Herodotus is one of the pieces of evidence most often cited on behalf of the argument that Lydians invented coinage, at least in the West, even though the first coins were neither gold nor silver but an alloy of the two called electrum.
Silver Croeseid, minted by KING Croesus, circa 560-546 BCE (10.7 grams, Sardis mint)
The dating of these first stamped coins is one of the most frequently debated topics of ancient numismatics, with dates ranging from 700 BC to 550 BC, but the most common opinion is that they were minted at or near the beginning of the reign of King Alyattes (sometimes referred to incorrectly as Alyattes II), who ruled Lydia c. 610-550 BC. The first coins were made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver that occurs naturally but that was further debased by the Lydians with added silver and copper.
The largest of these coins are commonly referred to as a 1/3 stater (trite) denomination, weighing around 4.7 grams, though no full staters of this type have ever been found, and the 1/3 stater probably should be referred to more correctly as a stater, after a type of a transversely held scale, the weights used in such a scale (from ancient Greek ίστημι=to stand), which also means "standard." These coins were stamped with a lion's head adorned with what is likely a sunburst, which was the king's symbol. To complement the largest denomination, fractions were made, including a hekte (sixth), hemihekte (twelfth), and so forth down to a 96th, with the 1/96 stater weighing only about 0.15 grams. There is disagreement, however, over whether the fractions below the twelfth are actually Lydian.
Alyattes' son was Croesus, who became associated with great wealth. Sardis was renowned as a beautiful city. Around 550 BC, near the beginning of his reign, Croesus paid for the construction of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Croesus was defeated in battle by Cyrus II of Persia in 546 BC, with the Lydian kingdom losing its autonomy and becoming a Persian satrapy.
Portrait of Croesus, last King of Lydia, Attic red-figure amphora, painted ca. 500–490 BC.
Lydia was ruled by three dynasties:
According to Herodotus the Heraclids ruled for 22 generations during the period from 1185 BC, lasting for 505 years). Alyattes was the king of Lydia in 776 BC. The last king of this dynasty was Myrsilos or Candaules.
The Battle of the Eclipse was the final battle in a five year war between Alyattes II of Lydia and Cyaxares of the Medes. It took place on May 28, 585 BC, and ended abruptly due to a total solar eclipse.
In 547 BC, the Lydian king Croesus besieged and captured the Persian city of Pteria in Cappadocia and enslaved its inhabitants. The Persian king Cyrus The Great marched with his army against the Lydians. The Battle of Pteria resulted in a stalemate, forcing the Lydians to retreat to their capital city of Sardis. Some months later the Persian and Lydian kings met at the Battle of Thymbra. Cyrus won and captured the capital city of Sardis by 546 BC.
Lydia remained a satrapy after Persia's conquest by the Macedonian king Alexander III (the Great) of Macedon.
When Alexander's empire ended after his death, Lydia was possessed by the major Asian diadoch dynasty, the Seleucids, and when it was unable to maintain its territory in Asia Minor, Lydia was acquired by the Attalid dynasty of Pergamum. Its last king avoided the spoils and ravage of a Roman war of conquest by leaving the realm by testament to the Roman Empire.
Roman province of Asia
When the Romans entered the capital Sardis in 133 BC, Lydia, as the other western parts of the Attalid legacy, became part of the province of Asia, a very rich Roman province, worthy of a governor with the high rank of proconsul. The whole west of Asia Minor had Jewish colonies very early, and Christianity was also soon present there. Acts of the Apostles 16:14-15 mentions the baptism of a merchant woman called "Lydia" from Thyatira, known as Lydia of Thyatira, in what had once been the satrapy of Lydia. Christianity spread rapidly during the 3rd century AD, based on the nearby Exarchate of Ephesus.
Roman province of Lydia
Together with the provinces of Caria, Hellespontus, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phrygia prima and Phrygia secunda, Pisidia (all in modern Turkey) and the Insulae (Ionian islands, mostly in modern Greece), it formed the diocese (under a vicarius) of Asiana, which was part of the praetorian prefecture of Oriens, together with the dioceses Pontiana (most of the rest of Asia Minor), Oriens proper (mainly Syria), Aegyptus (Egypt) and Thraciae (on the Balkans, roughly Bulgaria).
Byzantine (and Crusader) age
Under the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641), Lydia became part of Anatolikon, one of the original themata, and later of Thrakesion. Although the Seljuk Turks conquered most of the rest of Anatolia, forming the Sultanate of Ikonion (Konya), Lydia remained part of the Byzantine Empire. During the occupation of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, Lydia continued to be a part of the Byzantine Orthodox 'Greek Empire' based at Nicaea.
Under Turkish rule
Lydia was captured finally by Turkish beyliks, which were all absorbed by the Ottoman state in 1390. The area became part of the Ottoman Aidin Vilayet (province), and is now in the modern republic of Turkey.
Lydia had numerous Christian communities, and, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Lydia became one of the provinces of the diocese of Asia in the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The ecclesiastical province of Lydia had a metropolitan diocese at Sardis and suffragan dioceses for Philadelphia, Thyatira, Tripolis, Settae, Gordus, Tralles, Silandus, Maeonia, Apollonos Hierum, Mostene, Apollonias, Attalia, Hyrcania, Bage, Balandus, Hermocapella, Hierocaesarea, Acrassus, Dalda, Stratonicia, Cerasa, Gabala, Satala, Aureliopolis and Hellenopolis. Bishops from the various dioceses of Lydia were well represented at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and at the later ecumenical councils.