Subsequent to the downfall of Gordion, the Phrygian
was obliterated by the Cimmerian hordes in 676 B.C., the Lydians took control of the
Meander plains and Gediz, which had been heavily influenced by the Hittites
and Phrygians. The Lydian State was soon established in Western Anatolia, with Sardis as
its capital. During the reign of King Gyges, Lydia established trade and good
relationships with other states, increasing its own wealth at the same time. It was he who
had the famous royal road built from Ephesus, through Sardis to the east. Heredotus of Halicarnassos
wrote in detail the history of the origins of this
king in Caria, to which he himself belonged. His story reveals much about the
Heredotus also recounts the history of the rulers before Gyges, stating that these were of
22 generations, and ruled for a total of 505 years. This shows us that the Lydians lived
within a principality in this region for a long time before establishing a state.
The reign of Gyges was indeed a remarkable one. Unfortunately, the Cimmerians, who had
meanwhile conquered Phrygia, then attacked the Lydians. King Gyges managed to repulse the
first attacks, but during the second onslaught, in 652 B.C., he died on the battlefield.
The affluent and prospering Lydian towns were plundered and razed to the ground. The son
of Gyges, Ardys took his place, who was succeeded by Sadyattes, who in turn was succeeded
12 years later by Alyattes. The latter was to restore Lydia to its former glory, and to
banish the Cimmerians from Anatolia. He captured cities such as Ephesos and
extended the western frontiers as far as the Aegean Sea, and to the east as far as the
Kizilirmak River and the western border of Persia. The Lydians and Persians then commenced
a frontier struggle that was to go on for a very long time. In the middle of this long
lasting war, an agreement was reached in 585 B.C. By this time, the greatest of the hawk
kings, Croesus (575-546 B.C.) was on the throne of Lydia. During his rule, the wealth of
the state reached its peak. The treasury was filled with gold, and Lydia minted its own
coins for the first time in history whereas trade was steadily increasing the wealth of
the state. However, this wealth decreased the Lydians interest in defense, which was
given over to mercenary soldiers.
As history recalls, the armies of the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great marched into
Anatolia and confronted the troops of Lydia on the banks of the Kizilirmak. The Lydian
monarch lost the battle, and was forced to retreat to Sardis in order to regroup his
forces. Not having estimated that the Persians would pursue them with such speed, they
were forced to defend their capital. The Persians were ordered to swarm the city walls,
and the camel-riding Persian soldiers charged the Lydian cavalry. The horses were
frightened by the camels, and so the Lydians, deprived of their most powerful defense, the
cavalry, retreated into the city. Just two weeks later, the finest city in the Near East
was in the hands of the Persians, and was looted and razed to the ground. Cyrus the Great
had Croesus tied to a stake and gave orders for him to be burned. However, he later felt
sorry for the monarch, and tried to have the fire extinguished. No attempts could put out
the flames, but just then a downpour doused the fire. The Persian sovereign became
convinced that Croesus was favored by the Gods, and had him called to his side. He asked,
"Croesus, who told you to attack my land and meet me as an enemy instead of a
The King replied, "it was caused by your good fate and my bad fate. It was the
fault of the Greek gods, who with their arrogance, encouraged me to march onto your lands.
Nobody is mad enough to chose war whilst there is peace. During times of peace, the sons
bury their fathers, but in war it is the fathers who send their sons to the grave."
Cyrus liked these words, and having Croesus untied, he drew him near. Croesus looked at
the city of Sardis, which was being looted at the time and begged permission to speak.
When Cyrus gave him permission, he asked what the mobs were doing. Cyrus replied that they
were looting the city, whereupon Croesus replied, "The city is no longer mine, it is
your city they are looting." So, the dynasty of Lydia, the kingdom and all its major
cities were razed to the ground and the whole of Anatolia entered into a period of Persian
rule. Burial mounds found along the shore of the Marmara Lake near Salihli belong to the
Lydia Kings and are called "Bintepeler" (1000 hills). Ninety of these mounds are
known to have been the burial sites of Lydian aristocracy and royal families. It is
understood that a mound of 69 m (226 ft) high belonged to King Alyattes. The priceless
works of art known as the Treasure of Karun, which were first smuggled to America and then
returned to Turkey to be exhibited at the Usak Museum, show us how far Lydian art had
Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey".
You can purchase "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey" book and other Turkey related books from Explore Turkey Bookstore.