Kingdom of Lydia
1200–546 BC
Map of the Lydian Kingdom in its final period of sovereignty under Croesus, c. 547 BC.
Map of the Lydian Kingdom in its final period of sovereignty under Croesus, c. 547 BC.
Common languagesLydian
Lydian religion
• 680–644 BC
• 644–637 BC
• 637–635 BC
• 635–585 BC
• 585–546 BC
Historical eraIron Age
1200 BC
670–630s BC
612–600 BC
590–585 BC
546 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Ionian League
Achaemenid Empire

Lydia (Ancient Greek: Λυδία, romanizedLȳdiā; Latin: Lȳdia) was an Iron Age kingdom situated in the west of Asia Minor, in modern-day Turkey. The ethnic group inhabiting this kingdom are known as the Lydians, and their language as Lydian and their capital was Sardis.[1]

The Kingdom of Lydia existed from about 1200 BC to 546 BC. At its greatest extent, during the 7th century BC, it covered all of western Anatolia. In 546 BC, it became a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, known as Sparda in Old Persian. In 133 BC, it became part of the Roman province of Asia.

The region of the Lydian kingdom was during the 15th–14th centuries BC part of the Arzawa kingdom. However, the Lydian language is usually not categorized as part of the Luwic subgroup, unlike the other nearby Anatolian languages Luwian, Carian, and Lycian.[2]

Lydian coins, made of silver, are among the oldest in existence, dated to around the 7th century BC.[3][4]

Portrait of Croesus, last King of Lydia, Attic red-figure amphora, painted ca. 500–490 BC.


The temple of Artemis in Sardis, capital of Lydia
Tripolis on the Meander is an ancient Lydian city in Turkey.
Büyük Menderes River also known as Maeander is a river in Lydia.

Lydia is generally located east of ancient Ionia in the modern western Turkish provinces of Uşak, Manisa and inland Izmir.[1]

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 and Croesus expanded Lydia, which, with its capital at Sardis, controlled all Asia Minor west of the River Halys, except Lycia. 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[5] in the Anatolian language family, related to Luwian[6] and Hittite. Due to its fragmentary attestation, the meanings of many words are unknown but much of the grammar has been determined. Similar to other Anatolian languages, it featured extensive use of prefixes and grammatical particles to chain clauses together.[7] Lydian had also undergone extensive syncope, leading to numerous consonant clusters atypical of most Indo-European languages. Lydian finally became extinct during the 1st century BC.


Early history: Maeonia and Lydia

Lydia developed after the decline of the Hittite Empire in the 12th century BC. In Hittite times, the name for the region had been Arzawa. 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).[8] 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.[9] 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;[10] however, Hippolytus of Rome (234 AD) 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).

Autochthonous dynasties

Main article: List of Kings of Lydia

According to Herodotus, Lydia was ruled by three dynasties from the second millennium BC to 546 BC. The first two dynasties are legendary and the third is historical. Herodotus mentions three early Maeonian kings: Manes, his son Atys and his grandson Lydus.[11] Lydus gave his name to the country and its people. One of his descendants was Iardanus, with whom Heracles was in service at one time. Heracles had an affair with one of Iardanus' slave-girls and their son Alcaeus was the first of the Lydian Heraclids.[12]

The Maeonians relinquished control to the Heracleidae and Herodotus says they ruled through 22 generations for a total of 505 years from c. 1192 BC. The first Heraclid king was Agron, the great-grandson of Alcaeus.[12] He was succeeded by 19 Heraclid kings, names unknown, all succeeding father to son.[12] In the 8th century BC, Meles became the 21st and penultimate Heraclid king and the last was his son Candaules (died c. 687 BC).[13][14]

The Mermnad Empire

Gyges tablet, British Museum

Main article: Gyges of Lydia

Available historical evidence suggests that Candaules was overthrown by a man named Gyges, of whose origins nothing is known except for the Greek historian Herodotus's claim that he was the son of a man named Dascylus.[15] Gyges was helped in his coup against Candaules by a Carian prince from Mylasa named Arselis,[16][17] suggesting that Gyges's Mermnad dynasty might have had good relations with Carian aristocrats thanks to which these latter would provide his rebellion with armed support against Candaules.[18] Gyges's rise to power happened in the context of a period of turmoil following the invasion of the Cimmerians, a nomadic people from the Pontic steppe who had invaded Western Asia, who around 675 BC destroyed the previous major power in Anatolia, the kingdom of Phrygia.[19]

Gyges took advantage of the power vacuum created by the Cimmerian invasions to consolidate his kingdom and make it a military power, he contacted the Neo-Assyrian court by sending diplomats to Nineveh to seek help against the Cimmerian invasions,[20] and he attacked the Ionian Greek cities of Miletus, Smyrna, and Colophon.[19] Gyges's extensive alliances with the Carian dynasts allowed him to recruit Carian and Ionian Greek soldiers to send overseas to assist the Egyptian king Psamtik I of the city of Sais, with whom he had established contacts around 662 BC. With the help of these armed forces, Psamtik I united Egypt under his rule after eliminating the eleven other kinglets with whom he had been co-ruling Lower Egypt.[16][21][20][17]

In 644 BC, Lydia faced a third attack by the Cimmerians, led by their king Lygdamis. This time, the Lydians were defeated, Sardis was sacked, and Gyges was killed.[21][20]

Ardys and Sadyattes

Main articles: Ardys of Lydia and Sadyattes

Gyges was succeeded by his son Ardys, who resumed diplomatic activity with Assyria and would also have to face the Cimmerians.[21][20] Ardys attacked the Ionian Greek city of Miletus and succeeded in capturing the city of Priene, after which Priene would remain under direct rule of the Lydian kingdom until its end.[22][18]

Ardys's reign was short-lived,[23] and in 637 BC, that is in Ardys's seventh regnal year, the Thracian Treres tribe who had migrated across the Thracian Bosporus and invaded Anatolia,[24] under their king Kobos, and in alliance with the Cimmerians and the Lycians, attacked Lydia.[20] They defeated the Lydians again and for a second time sacked the Lydian capital of Sardis, except for its citadel. It is probable that Ardys was killed during this Cimmerian attack.[23][25]

Ardys was succeeded by his son, Sadyattes, who had an even more short-lived reign.[23] Sadyattes died in 635 BC, and it is possible that, like his grandfather Gyges and maybe his father Ardys as well, he died fighting the Cimmerians.[23]


Main article: Alyattes of Lydia

Amidst extreme turmoil, Sadyattes was succeeded in 635 BC by his son Alyattes, who would transform Lydia into a powerful empire.[26][23]

Soon after Alyattes's ascension and early during his reign, with Assyrian approval[27] and in alliance with the Lydians,[28] the Scythians under their king Madyes entered Anatolia, expelled the Treres from Asia Minor, and defeated the Cimmerians so that they no longer constituted a threat again, following which the Scythians extended their domination to Central Anatolia[29] until they were themselves expelled by the Medes from Western Asia in the 590s BC.[20] This final defeat of the Cimmerians was carried out by the joint forces of Madyes, whom Strabo credits with expelling the Treres and Cimmerians from Asia Minor, and of Alyattes, whom Herodotus of Halicarnassus and Polyaenus claim finally defeated the Cimmerians.[30][31]

Tomb of Alyattes.

Alyattes turned towards Phrygia in the east, where extended Lydian rule eastwards to Phrygia.[32] Alyattes continued his expansionist policy in the east, and of all the peoples to the west of the Halys River whom Herodotus claimed Alyattes's successor Croesus ruled over - the Lydians, Phrygians, Mysians, Mariandyni, Chalybes, Paphlagonians, Thyni and Bithyni Thracians, Carians, Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians, and Pamphylians - it is very likely that a number of these populations had already been conquered under Alyattes, and it is not impossible that the Lydians might have subjected Lycia, given that the Lycian coast would have been important for the Lydians because it was close to a trade route connecting the Aegean region, the Levant, and Cyprus.[32][33]

Bin Tepe royal funeral tumulus (tomb of Alyattes, father of Croesus), Lydia, 6th century BC.
Croesus at the stake. Side A from an Attic red-figure amphora, ca. 500–490 BC
Lydia's borders under the reign of Croesus

Alyattes's eastern conquests brought the Lydian Empire in conflict in the 590s BC with the Medes,[34] and a war broke out between the Median and Lydian Empires in 590 BC which was waged in eastern Anatolia lasted five years, until a solar eclipse occurred in 585 BC during a battle (hence called the Battle of the Eclipse) opposing the Lydian and Median armies, which both sides interpreted as an omen to end the war. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and the king Syennesis of Cilicia acted as mediators in the ensuing peace treaty, which was sealed by the marriage of the Median king Cyaxares's son Astyages with Alyattes's daughter Aryenis, and the possible wedding of a daughter of Cyaxares with either Alyattes or with his son Croesus.[35][36][32][37]


Main article: Croesus

Alyattes died shortly after the Battle of the Eclipse, in 585 BC itself,[23] following which Lydia faced a power struggle between his son Pantaleon, born from a Greek woman, and his other son Croesus, born from a Carian noblewoman, out of which the latter emerged successful.[15]

Croesus brought Caria under the direct control of the Lydian Empire,[18] and he subjugated all of mainland Ionia, Aeolis, and Doris, but he abandoned his plans of annexing the Greek city-states on the islands of the Aegean Sea and he instead concluded treaties of friendship with them, which might have helped him participate in the lucrative trade the Aegean Greeks carried out with Egypt at Naucratis.[18] According to Herodotus, Croesus ruled over all the peoples to the west of the Halys River, although the actual border of his kingdom was further to the east of the Halys, at an undetermined point in eastern Anatolia.[35][36][32][38][39]

Croesus continued the friendly relations with the Medes concluded between his father Alyattes and the Median king Cyaxares, and he continued these good relations with the Medes after he succeeded Alyattes and Astyages succeeded Cyaxares.[32] And, under Croesus's rule, Lydia continued its good relations started by Gyges with the Saite Egyptian kingdom, then ruled by the pharaoh Amasis II.[32] Croesus also established trade and diplomatic relations with the Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nabonidus,[32] and he further increased his contacts with the Greeks on the European continent by establishing relations with the city-state of Sparta.[18]

In 550 BC, Croesus's brother-in-law, the Median king Astyages, was overthrown by his own grandson, the Persian king Cyrus the Great,[32] and Croesus responded by attacking Pteria, the capital of a Phrygian state vassal to the Lydians which might have attempted to declare its allegiance to the new Persian Empire of Cyrus. Cyrus retaliated by intervening in Cappadocia and defeated the Lydians at Pteria in a battle, and again at Thymbra before besieging and capturing the Lydian capital of Sardis, thus bringing an end to the rule of the Mermnad dynasty and to the Lydian Empire. Lydia would never regain its independence and would remain a part of various successive empires.[32]

Although the dates for the battles of Pteria and Thymbra and of end of the Lydian empire have been traditionally fixed to 547 BC,[40] more recent estimates suggest that Herodotus's account being unreliable chronologically concerning the fall of Lydia means that there are currently no ways of dating the end of the Lydian kingdom; theoretically, it may even have taken place after the fall of Babylon in 539 BC.[40][41]

Persian Empire

Main article: Lydia (satrapy)

Lydia, including Ionia, during the Achaemenid Empire.
Xerxes I tomb, Lydian soldier of the Achaemenid army, circa 480 BC

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.[42] Lydia became a province (satrapy) of the Persian Empire.

Hellenistic Empire

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

Roman province of Asia
Photo of a 15th-century map showing Lydia

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

Lydia circa 50 AD

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 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. While the Venetians occupied Constantinople and Greece as a result of the Fourth Crusade, Lydia continued as a part of the Byzantine rump state called the Nicene Empire based at Nicaea until 1261.

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.


First coinage

Early 6th century BC Lydian electrum coin (one-third stater denomination).

See also: Croeseid

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.[43] 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.[44] 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, although the first coins (under Alyattes I, reigned c.591–c.560 BC) were neither gold nor silver but an alloy of the two called electrum.[45]

The dating of these first stamped coins is one of the most frequently debated topics of ancient numismatics,[46] 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).[47][48] 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.[49]

Gold Croeseid, minted by king Croesus circa 561–546 BC. (10.7 grams, Sardis mint).
Silver Croeseid, minted by king Croesus, circa 560–546 BC (10.7 grams, Sardis mint)
The gold and silver Croeseids formed the world's first bimetallic monetary system circa 550 BC.[50]

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."[51] These coins were stamped with a lion's head adorned with what is likely a sunburst, which was the king's symbol.[52] The most prolific mint for early electrum coins was Sardis which produced large quantities of the lion head thirds, sixths and twelfths along with lion paw fractions.[53] 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.[54]

Alyattes' son was Croesus (Reigned c.560–c.546 BC), who became associated with great wealth. Croesus is credited with issuing the Croeseid, the first true gold coins with a standardised purity for general circulation,[50] and the world's first bimetallic monetary system circa 550 BC.[50]

It took some time before ancient coins were used for commerce and trade. Even the smallest-denomination electrum coins, perhaps worth about a day's subsistence, would have been too valuable for buying a loaf of bread.[55] The first coins to be used for retailing on a large-scale basis were likely small silver fractions, Hemiobol, Ancient Greek coinage minted in Cyme (Aeolis) under Hermodike II then by the Ionian Greeks in the late sixth century BC.[56]

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.

In 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".)

The Pactolus river, from which Lydia obtained electrum, a combination of silver and gold.

In Greek myth, Lydia had also adopted the double-axe symbol, that also appears in the Mycenaean civilization, the labrys.[57] 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)[58] and captured the simian tricksters, the Cercopes. Accounts tell of at least one son of Heracles who was born to either Omphale or a slave-girl: Herodotus (Histories i. 7) says this was Alcaeus who began the line of Lydian Heracleidae which ended with the death of Candaules c. 687 BC. Diodorus Siculus (4.31.8) and Ovid (Heroides 9.54) mentions a son called Lamos, while pseudo-Apollodorus (Bibliotheke 2.7.8) gives the name Agelaus and Pausanias (2.21.3) names Tyrsenus as the 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 legend that the Etruscan civilization was founded by colonists from Lydia led by Tyrrhenus, brother of Lydus. 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. In addition, the story of the "Lydian" origins of the Etruscans was not known to Xanthus of Lydia, an authority on the history of the Lydians.[59]

Later chronologists ignored Herodotus' statement that Agron was the first Heraclid to be a king, and included his immediate forefathers Alcaeus, Belus, and Ninus in their list of kings of Lydia. Strabo (5.2.2) has Atys, father of Lydus and Tyrrhenus, as a descendant of Heracles and Omphale but that contradicts virtually all other accounts which name Atys, Lydus, and Tyrrhenus among the pre-Heraclid kings and princes 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 maintaining his human disguise, declares his country to be Lydia.[60]

Lydians, the Tyrrhenians and the Etruscans

Main article: Origins of the Etruscans

The relationship between the Etruscans of northern and central Italy and the Lydians has long been a subject of conjecture. The Greek historian Herodotus believed they came from Lydia, but Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a 1st-century BC historian, argued that the Etruscans were indigenous to Italy and unrelated to the Lydians.[61] Dionysius pointed out that the 5th-century historian Xanthus of Lydia, who was regarded as an important source and authority for the history of Lydia, never linked the Etruscans to Lydia or mentioned Tyrrhenus as a Lydian ruler.[61]

In contemporary scholarship, Etruscologists overwhelmingly support an indigenous origin for the Etruscans,[62][63] dismissing Herodotus' account as based on erroneous etymologies.[64] Michael Grant argue that the Etruscans may have propagated this narrative to facilitate their trading in Asia Minor, when many cities in Asia Minor, and the Etruscans themselves, were at war with the Greeks.[65] The French scholar Dominique Briquel contends that "the story of an exodus from Lydia to Italy was a deliberate political fabrication created in the Hellenized milieu of the court at Sardis in the early 6th century BC."[66][67] Ultimately, these Greek-authored accounts of the Etruscan origins are only the expression of the image that Etruscans' allies or adversaries wanted to divulge and should not be considered historical.[68]

Archaeological evidence does not support the idea of Lydian migration to Etruria.[62][63] The Etruscan civilization's earliest phase, the Villanovan culture, emerged around 900 BC,[69][70][71][72][73] which itself developed from the previous Proto-Villanovan culture of Italy in the late Bronze Age.[74] This culture has no ties to Asia Minor or the Near East.[75] Linguists have identified an Etruscan-like language in a set of inscriptions on Lemnos island, in the Aegean Sea. Since the Etruscan language was a Pre-Indo-European language and neither Indo-European or Semitic,[76] Etruscan was not related to Lydian, which was a part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European languages.[76] Instead, Etruscan language is considered part of the pre-Indo-European Tyrrhenian language family, along with the Lemnian and Rhaetian language.[77]

A 2013 genetic study suggested that the maternal lineages of western Anatolians and modern Tuscans had been largely separate for 5,000 to 10,000 years, with Etruscan mtDNA closely resembling modern Tuscans and Neolithic Central European populations. This suggests Etruscans descended from the Villanovan culture,[78][79] indicating their indigenous roots, and a link between Etruria, modern Tuscany, and Lydia dating back to the Neolithic period during the migration of Early European Farmers from Anatolia to Europe.[78][79] A 2019 genetic study revealed that Etruscans (900–600 BC) and Latins (900–500 BC) from Latium vetus shared genetic similarities, with both groups having a mixture of two-thirds Copper Age ancestry and one-third Steppe-related ancestry. This study also suggested indigenous origins for the Etruscans, despite their pre-Indo-European language.[80]

A 2021 study confirmed these findings, showing that Etruscans and Latins in the Iron Age had similar genetic profiles and were part of the European cluster. The Etruscan DNA was completely absent a signal of recent admixture with Anatolia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Etruscans exhibited a blend of WHG, EEF, and Steppe ancestry, with 75% of males belonging to haplogroup R1b and the most common mitochondrial DNA haplogroup being H.[81]

Culture and society


Early Lydian religion

The Lydians in early Antiquity adhered to a polytheistic religion which remains marginally attested due to the known sources covering it being largely of Greek origin, while Lydian inscriptions regarding religion are small in number[82] and no Lydian corpus of ritual texts like the Hittite ritual tablets have been recovered.[83]

Despite the small size of the recorded Lydian corpus, the various inscriptions relating to religion date from c. 650 to c. 330-325 BC, thus covering the period beginning with the establishment of the Mermnad dynasty under Gyges and ending with the aftermath of the Macedonian conquest under Alexander III and the beginning of the Hellenistic period.[84] Based on limited evidence, Lydian religious practices were centred around the fertility of nature, as was common among ancient societies which depended on the successful cultivation of land.[83]

Although Lydia had been conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in c. 547 BC, native Lydian traditions were not destroyed by Persian rule, and most Lydian inscriptions were written during this period.[85]


The early Lydian religion exhibited strong connections to Anatolian as well as Greek traditions,[82] and its pantheon was composed of native Lydian deities who were reflexes of earlier Aegean-Balkan ones, as well as Anatolian deities, the latter of whom held lesser roles.[86]


Unlike traditionally Anatolian pantheons but similarly to the Phrygian one, the Lydian pantheon was headed by the goddess Artimus (𐤠𐤭𐤯𐤦𐤪𐤰𐤮), who is the most well-attested Lydian deities both in the Lydian corpus and archeologically.[87][88]

Artimus was a deity of wild nature, and was also the Lydian variant of an earlier Aegean-Balkan goddess whose other reflexes included the Greek Artemis (Αρτεμις) and the Phrygian Artimis. Being the main goddess of the Lydians, Artimus had a similar role to the Phrygian Matar Kubeleya,[89] and she possessed the features of the latter Mother goddess well as of a potnia thērōn,[90] and she was therefore represented using similar iconography as Matar Kubeleya.[88]

Artimus was the mother of the goddess Kufaws, as is visible from her depiction side by side with this latter goddess in a daughter-mother pairing in a c. 400 BC naiskos from Sardis, where the larger figure of Artimus holds a deer while the smaller figure of Kufaws holds a lion,[91] which also attests that the sacred animal of Artimus was the stag.[87]

Artimus was also a protector of the dead, and she was invoked to protect grave monument and punish offenders, with her altar being oriented towards the necropolis hill in the western direction representing this role of this goddess.[87]

According to Greek records, the Mermnad kings of Lydia, especially Croesus, were closely connected to the cult of Artimus.[87]

The cult of at least three hypostases of Artimus are attested in Lydia:[87]

Additional epithets of Artimus are also attested, but their meanings are still unknown:[87]

These three hypostases of Artimus were invoked together, showing that they were both distinct from and closely associated with each other.[87]

Ephesian Greeks might have founded the cult of Artimus of Ephesus at Sardis, attesting of a complex connection between Lydian and ancient Greek cults. Whether the cults of Artimus of the Sardians and Artimus of Koloē were founded as a result of that of Artimus of Ephesis is still unknown due to lack of evidence.[92]

Qaλdãns or Qaλiyãns

The identity of the figure of Qaλdãns or Qaλiyãns (𐤲𐤷𐤣𐤵𐤫𐤮) is still uncertain, and has been variously interpreted as:

This figure is mentioned in two inscriptions, where his name always appears before that of Artimus. He is invoked along with Artimus in protective curse formulae in both inscriptions, and figures as the receiver of a temenos dedicated to "mighty Qaλdãns/Qaλiyãns and Artemis of Ephesus" (Lydian: 𐤲𐤷𐤣𐤵𐤫𐤮 𐤯𐤠𐤥𐤮𐤠𐤮 𐤠𐤭𐤯𐤦𐤪𐤰𐤨 𐤦𐤡𐤮𐤦𐤪𐤳𐤦𐤳, romanized: Qaλdãns/Qaλiyãns tawsas Artimu(s)=k Ipsimšiš) in the second inscription. The role of Qaλdãns/Qaλiyãns in both inscriptions can fit either interpretation of him being a human, possibly a deified a ruler or a religious official with a high status, or a deity.[94]

The goddess Artimus is herself invoked again alone within the temenos inscription, and never alongside Qaλdãns/Qaλiyãns in another inscription, implying that she held a higher status than him within the Lydian pantheon.[94]

The etymology of the name is still uncertain, and several hypotheses have been put forward for it:[97]


Lews (𐤩𐤤𐤥𐤮) or Lefs (𐤩𐤤𐤱𐤮) was the Lydian equivalent of the Greek god Zeus and the Phrygian god Tiws. Unlike the Anatolian storm-god Tarḫuntas, Lews held a less prominent role in the Lydian religion.[89]


The goddess Lamẽtrus (𐤩𐤠𐤪𐤶𐤯𐤭𐤰𐤮) was, likewise, the Lydian reflex of an earlier Aegean-Balkan goddess whose Greek iteration was Dēmētēr.[89]


The frenzy god Pakiš (𐤡𐤠𐤨𐤦𐤳) to whom was performed an orgiastic cult was also a Lydian variant of an older Aegean-Balkan god whose Greek reflex was Bakkhos.[89]


The goddess Kufaws (𐤨𐤰𐤱𐤠𐤥𐤮) or Kuwaws (𐤨𐤰𐤥𐤠𐤥𐤮), who was an prominent Lydian deity possessing an important temple in Sardis,[98] was the daughter of the Mother goddess Artimus, as is visible from her depiction side by side with Artimus in a daughter-mother pairing in a c. 400 BC naiskos from Sardis, where the larger figure of Artimus holds a deer while the smaller figure of Kufaws holds a lion.[91]

Kufaws was a young[99] goddess of divine frenzy, being thus the feminine counterpart of Pakiš.[100] Similarly to the relation between the Lydian Artimus and the Greek Artemis, Kufaws was the Lydian reflex of an earlier goddess whose Phrygian variant was the Mother goddess Kubeleya.[100]

Despite having Aegean-Balkan origins and not being derived from the Anatolian goddess Kubaba (𔖶𔖖𔗎𔗏𔗜𔒚𔕸𔕸𔗔𔖶‎), Kufaws was nonetheless influenced by this deity, as can be seen by her appearance in a curse formula on a tomb, reading:[101]

Lydian text

𐤱𐤠𐤨𐤪𐤷 𐤮𐤵𐤫𐤯𐤠𐤮
𐤨𐤰𐤱𐤠𐤥𐤨 𐤪𐤠𐤭𐤦𐤥𐤣𐤠𐤨


fak=mλ Sãntas
Kufaw(s)=k Mariwda(š)=k


To him, Sãntas
and Kufaws and the Dark Gods
shall do harm

This mention finds parallels in Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions from Tabal, where the goddess Kubaba, the god Šandas and the Marwainzi (Dark Gods) were associated to each other as deities who harmed evil-doers.[102][103]

Also reflecting the influence of Kubaba is the association of Kufaws with felines:[104] as it had been for Kubaba, the lion was the sacred animal of the Lydian Kufaws as well, and was also the symbol of the Lydian royal dynasty, as attested by the imagery of lions on the coinage of the Lydian Empire and the use of the element walwi-, meaning lit.'lion' in the name of the Lydian king Alyattes (Lydian: 𐤥𐤠𐤩𐤥𐤤𐤯𐤤𐤮, romanized: Walwetes).[92]

An altar of Kufaws was present in the gold-refining district of Sardis, attesting of her role as the protector of the Lydian gold and silver industry.[104]

Known depictions of Kufaws include:[104]


The existence of the goddess Korē (Κορη) is not recorded during the period of Lydian independence or from any Lydian language source, hence why nothing is known about her worship during the Lydian Empire. She was however later attested during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, when she was assmiliated with the Greek goddess Persephonē.[83]

Korē appears to have had some vegetative aspects, and the festival of Khrysanthina (Χρυσανθινα) was celebrated at Sardis in her honour during the Hellenistic Period.[83]


Anatolian deities in the Lydian pantheon included the god Sãntas (𐤮𐤵𐤫𐤯𐤠𐤮),[89] who was the consort of Kufaws,[90] but whose nature is still uncertain.[105]

While this god's name corresponds to that of the Luwian Šandas (𔖶𔖖𔗎𔗏𔑶𔑯𔗔𔖶), he might instead have been more similar to that of the ancient Greek hero Hēraklēs, whom Greek sources recorded was worshipped in Lydia.[105]

The association of Sãntas with the goddess Kufaws and the Mariwyas (Dark Gods) finds parallels in Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions from Tabal, where the god Šandas was associated with the Marwainzi (Dark Gods) and the goddess Kubaba as deities who harmed evil-doers.[102][103]

The name of the god Sãntas appeared as a theophoric element in personal names, such as in that of an advisor of the king Croesus who was named Sandanis (Σανδανις).[101]


Accompanying Sãntas were several lesser demon-like figures called the Mariwyas (𐤪𐤠𐤭𐤦𐤥𐤣𐤠𐤮).[89]

The Mariwyas were the Lydian equivalent of the deities attested in Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions as the Marwainzi (Dark Gods) (𔖖𔗎𔗏𔘅𔖱𔗬𔓯𔖩𔓯𔖶).[101]


Another Anatolian deity present in the Lydian pantheon was the goddess Maλiš (𐤪𐤠𐤷𐤦𐤳), who corresponded to the Anatolian goddess Maliya (Hittite: 𒀭𒈠𒀀𒇷𒅀, romanized: Māliya; Lycian: 𐊎𐊀𐊍𐊆𐊊𐊀, romanized: Maliya),[106][107] and the Greek goddess Athēna (Αθηνα).[89]

Maλiš possessed a vegetative aspect,[83] being a goddess of vegetation, especially of wine and corn.[107]

According to Ancient Greek texts, the Lydian kings sponsored the cult of the goddess "Athena," that is of Maλiš.[107]

The goddess was referred to in the Greek fragmentary line from the island of Lesbos reading Μαλις μεν εννη λεπτον εχοις επ ατρακτω λινον (Malis men ennē lepton ekhois ep atraktō linon), meaning lit.'holding her spindle, Maλiš spun a fine thread'.[107]

A Greek text of the myth of Arakhnē also called the goddess Athena by the name Malis, thus showing that the cult of Maλiš had passed into the Greek milieu.[107]

A small ivory statuette of a spinning woman wearing a Lydian headgear might have depicted Maλiš.[107]


The evidence for Lydian cultic sites dates from after the end of Lydian independence,[82] and those from the Lydian empire are primarily known from Greek literature rather than from archaeological evidence.[85]

Remains of a looted building from the acropolis of Sardis contained sherds of pottery graffitied with 𐤠𐤭𐤯 (ART), which was a suspension writing of the name Artimus, suggesting that a sanctuary of this goddess was located there.[92]

The current remains of the temple of Artemis at Sardis date from the 3rd century BC in the Hellenistic Period, that is three centuries after the Lydian Empire; this temple was itself preceded by an archaic limestone altar which first was constructed between c. 550 and c. 500 BC, under Persian rule, with no structure having existed at this site before it, thus suggesting that the sanctuary of Artimus at Sardis was located elsewhere during the Lydian Empire.[108]

Lydian rulers also had relations with Greek sanctuaries both in Anatolia and in mainland Greece, with an inscription reading ΒΑ ΚΡ ΑΝ ΘΗΚ ΕΝ, that is, βα[σιλευς] Κρ[οισος] αν[ε]θηκεν (ba[sileus] Kr[oisos] an[e]thēken), meaning lit.'King Croesus dedicated (it)', having been recorded from a column dedication at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.[85]

A still undiscovered sanctuary of Kufaws existed in Lydia, as suggessted by spolia such as lion sculptures from the 5th to 4th centyries BC, a votive stela depicting Kufaws and Artimus, and a marble model of a temple of Kufaws from between c. 540 and c. 530 BC. This sanctuary appears to have been used from c. 550 to the 4th century BC, and the reuse of spolia from this sanctuary in the Late Roman period suggests that it was still functioning under Roman rule.[109]

A model of a Ionic temple has tentatively been suggested to have possibly represented the temple of Kufaws at Sardis. The four sides of this model are decorated with different scenes:[109]

the bottom row shows a centaur as well as two human men and a human woman;

A small altar to the goddess Kufaws was located in the gold refinery precinct in Sardis, showing that she was a protector of the Lydian gold and silver industry. This altar was itself built in two phases:[92][104]

The small size of this altar however suggests that this was not a state cult, but was instead a minor one.[92]


The early Lydian religion possessed at least three cultic officiants, consisting of:[96]

In addition to these clerical offices, the religious role of the kings among other Anatolian peoples suggests that Lydian kings were also religious high functionaries who participated in the cult as a representative of divine power on earth and claimed their legitimacy to rule from the gods. Anatolian and Hellenistic Greek parallels also suggest that Lydian kings might have been deified after their deaths.[94]

The priests and priestesses were in charge of administering and maintaining the cults, which were individually organised, as attested by the existence of priests of Pakiš and of Lamẽtrus.[96]

Little is otherwise known about Lydian priests and their functions, although one priest named Mitridaštas recorded in an inscription that he had handed over property to the temple of Artimus at Sardis, and he invoked the goddess to protect it, suggesting that priests could become wealthy enough to distribute property, although it is uncertain whether this was prevalent or rare.[96]

The duties of the cultic personnel might have included dance, music, and divination:[110]


Worship activities included processions, likely by priests and priestesses.[83]


Festivals marking spring and harvesting might have existed among the Lydians, although such celebrations, such as the Khrysanthina festival celebrated at Sardis in honour of the goddess Kore.[83]


Lydians performed sacrifices to obtain the favour of their deities, and remains of such offerings, which were likely utensils used for ritual dinners, have been found in pits containing pitchers, cups, plates, knoves, and cooking pots containing the skeletons of dismembered but not consumed puppies. These sacred meals were especially offered between c. 575 and c. 525 BC, and possibly to protect the precinct buildings.[83]

In a later attested sacrificial ritual, pottery cups or vessels, metal instruments such as nails and needles, as well as pierced eggs, and coins, were deposited at the base of walls near the temple of Artimus; the deposition of eggs, especially, was performed as part of rituals for purification, for protection against evil curses, or to secure the success of businesses. This ritual was also performed during Roman times, when such offerings were deposed under the floor of a room in a building, with a young pig having been placed under the floor of another room.[111]


Lydia later 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.[112]

Episcopal sees

Church of St John, Philadelphia (Alaşehir)

Ancient episcopal sees of the late Roman province of Lydia are listed in the Annuario Pontificio as titular sees:[113]

See also


  1. ^ tūran


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Further reading

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