Lydia (Assyrian: Luddu; Greek:
Λυδία) is a historic region of western Asia Minor, congruent with
Turkey's modern provinces of İzmir and Manisa. Its traditional
capital was the city of Sardis. However, at its greatest extent, the
Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. Lydia was later
the name for a Roman province. Coins were invented in Lydia around
The boundaries of historical Lydia
varied across the centuries. It was first bounded by Mysia, Caria,
Phrygia and coastal Ionia. Later on, the military power of Alyattes
and Croesus expanded Lydia into an empire, with its capital at
Sardis, which 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 Maeander was regarded as
its southern boundary, and under Rome, Lydia comprised the country
between Mysia and Caria on the one side and Phrygia and the Aegean
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 particles. Lydian
finally became extinct during the first century BC.
Lydia arose as a Neo-Hittite
kingdom following the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the twelfth
In Hittite times, the name for the
region had been Arzawa, a Luwian-speaking area. According to Greek
source, the original name of the Lydian kingdom was Maionia
(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 where Sardis stood. Later, Herodotus
(Histories i. 7) adds that the "Meiones" were renamed Lydians after
their king, Lydus (Λυδός), son of Attis, in the mythical epoch that
preceded the rise of the Heracleid dynasty. This etiological eponym
served to account for the Greek ethnic name Lydoi (Λυδοί). The
Hebrew term for Lydians, Lûḏîm
as found in Jeremiah 46.9, is similarly considered to be derived
from the eponymous Lud son of Shem; in Biblical times, the Lydian
warriors were also famous archers.
Some Maeones still existed in
historical times in the upland interior along the River Hermus,
where a town called Maeonia existed, according to Pliny the Elder
(Natural History book v:30) and Hierocles.
Lydia in Greek mythology
Lydian mythology is virtually
unknown, and their literature and rituals lost, in the absence of
any monuments or archaeological finds with extensive inscriptions;
therefore those myths involving Lydia are mainly in the realm of
For the Greeks, Tantalus was a
primordial ruler of mythic Lydia, and Niobe his proud daughter; her
husband Zethos linked the affairs of Lydia with Thebes, and through
Pelops the line of Tantalus was part of the founding myths of
Mycenae's second dynasty.
In Greek myth, Lydia was also the
first home of the double-axe, 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; and captured the
simian tricksters, the Cercopes. Accounts speak 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 descent from Heracles: 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, pointing out
that the Etruscan language and customs were known to be totally
dissimilar to those of the Lydians.
Later chronographers also ignored
Herodotus' 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 place Atys,
Lydus, and Tyrrhenus 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 historical king) were said to have been left there
when the legendary king Midas of Phrygia washed away the "Midas
touch" in its waters.
According to Herodotus, the
Lydians were the first people to introduce the use of gold and
silver coin, and the first to establish retail shops in permanent
It is believed that these first
stamped coins were minted around 650-600 BC. The first coin was made
of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. It was
made in the 1/3 stater (trite) denomination, meaning that it weighed
4.76 grams. It was stamped with a lion's head, the king's symbol.
14.1 grams of electrum was one
stater (meaning "standard"). A stater was about one month's pay for
a soldier. To complement the stater, fractions were made: the trite
(third), the hekte (sixth), and so forth, including 1/24 of a
stater, and even down to 1/48th and 1/96th of a stater. The 1/96
stater was only about 0.14 to 0.15 grams.
The name of Croesus of Lydia
became synonymous with wealth. Sardis was renowned as a beautiful
city. Around 550 BC, Croesus paid for the construction of the temple
of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient
world. Croesus was beaten by Cyrus II of Persia in 546 BC, and the
kingdom became a satrapy.
Lydia was ruled by three
Atyads (1300BC or earlier) -
Heraclids (Tylonids) (to 687 BC). 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.
Candaules - After ruling for seventeen years he was assassinated
by his former friend Gyges, who succeeded him on the throne of
called Gugu of Luddu in Assyrian inscriptions (687-652 BC or
(690-657 BC) - Once established on the throne, Gyges devoted
himself to consolidating his kingdom and making it a military
power. The capital moved from Hyde to Sardis. Barbarian
Cimmerians sacked many Lydian cities, except for Sardis. Gyges
was the son of Dascylus, who, when recalled from banishment in
Cappadocia by the Lydian king Mursylos — called Candaules "the
Dog-strangler" (a title of the Lydian Hermes) by the Greeks —
sent his son back to Lydia instead of himself. Gyges turned to
Egypt, sending his faithful Carian troops along with Ionian
mercenaries to assist Psammetichus in shaking off the Assyrian
yoke. Some Bible scholars believe that Gyges of Lydia was the
Biblical figure of Gog, ruler of Magog, who is mentioned in the
Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation.
- Ardys II
Sadyattes (621-609BC) or (624-610BC) - Herodotus wrote (in
Inquiries) that he fought with Cyaxares, the descendant of
Deioces, and with the Medes, drove out the Cimmerians from Asia,
took Smyrna, which had been founded by colonists from Colophon,
and invaded Clazomenae and Miletus.
II (609 or 619-560BC) - one of the greatest rulers of Lydia.
When Cyaxares attacked Lydia, the kings of Cilicia and Babylon
intervened and negotiated a peace in 585 BC, whereby the Halys
was established as the Medes' frontier with Lydia. Herodotus
"On the refusal of Alyattes to
give up his supplicants when Cyaxares sent to demand them of him,
war broke out between the Lydians and the Medes, and continued for
five years, with various success. In the course of it the Medes
gained many victories over the Lydians, and the Lydians also gained
many victories over the Medes."
The Battle of the Eclipse was the
final battle in a fifteen-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.
(560-546 BC) - the expression "rich as Croesus" came from this
king. The Lydian Empire came to an end when Croesus attacked the
Persian Empire of Cyrus II and was defeated in 546 BC.
In 546 BC the Achaemenid king
Cyrus II captured Sardis and Lydia became his satrapy.
Lydia remained a satrapy after
Persia's conquest by the Macedonian king Alexander III of Macedon.
When Alexander's empire fell apart after his death, Lydia went to
the major Asian diadoch dynasty, the Seleucids, and when it was
unable to maintain its territory in Asia Minor, Lydia fell to the
Attalid dynasty of Pergamum. Its last king avoided the spoils and
ravage of a Roman conquest war by leaving the realm by testament to
the Roman Empire.
When the Romans entered its
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 of 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 who came from Thyatira, in what had once
been the satrapy of Lydia. Christianity spread rapidly in the 3rd
century AD, centered on the nearby exarchate of Ephesus.
Under the tetrarchy reform of
Emperor Diocletian in 296 AD, Lydia was revived as the name of a
separate Roman province, much smaller than the former satrapy, with
its capital at Sardis. Together with the provinces of Caria,
Hellespontus, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phrygia prima and secunda, Pisidia
and the Insulae (Ionian islands), 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 and Thraciae (on
the Balkans, roughly Bulgaria).
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 for Islam, forming the
Sultanate of Ikonion, Lydia remained part of the Byzantine Empire;
and during the occupation of Constantinople in the First Crusade it
continued to be part of the Byzantine orthodox 'Greek Empire' based
Lydia finally fell to new Turkish
beyliks, which were all absorbed by the Ottoman state in 1390. The
area became part of the Ottoman vilayet (province) of Aydin, ending
up as the westernmost part of the modern republic of Turkey.
Baki. See also Bacchus
Goldsborough, Reid. "World's First