In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ancient Sardis

  • Introduction
  • Excavation and Publication
  • General Overviews
  • Results of the American Society for the Exploration of Sardis
  • Lydian and Persian Sardis
  • Lydian and Persian Burials
  • The Temple of Artemis
  • Hellenistic Sardis
  • Roman and Late Antique Sardis
  • Historical, Literary, and Epigraphic Sources
  • Lydian Inscriptions
  • Major Structures of the City
  • Other Materials
  • Bibliographies

Classics Ancient Sardis
Nicholas Cahill
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0388


Sardis was one of the great cities of western Anatolia from the Bronze Age into the Byzantine period. It was most famous as the capital city of the Lydians, as the city where coins were first minted. The site is located at the foot of Mt. Tmolus, around a sheer acropolis at the edge of the Hermos plain. The Pactolus River became famous for its “golden sands” which enriched the Lydians; the river kept its reputation into late antiquity, although the gold had long run out. In the Hellenistic period it became the western capital of the Seleucid empire until it was incorporated into the Pergamene kingdom. It remained an important city under Roman rule, and was elevated to a provincial capital in Diocletian’s reorganization of the empire. After the disasters of the early 7th century CE, which included a devastating earthquake as well as invasions, it remained a powerful and strategic citadel with imposing fortifications built largely of spolia from the lower city; and remained a strategic spot even into the twentieth century, when this area was fiercely contested in the Turkish War of Independence.

Excavation and Publication

Systematic excavation was carried out from 1910 until 1914, and again in 1922, by the American Society for the Exploration of Sardis directed by Howard Crosby Butler. Since 1958 the site has been excavated by the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, founded by Prof. G.M.A. Hanfmann and sponsored by Harvard University Art Museums and Cornell University. Preliminary reports are published in the American Journal of Archaeology (Butler), Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, and later American Journal of Archaeology (Hanfmann, Greenewalt, Cahill). Useful yearly reports are also available at the Turkish Kazı Sonuçları Toplantısı (Congress on the Results of Excavations). Recent KST reports on Sardis are also available. The major series of final reports are those of the Butler expedition (below), Sardis Monographs, and Sardis Reports; a new series of Sardis Studies is in preparation (2022).

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