From Smyrna to Tocat, is thirty-five days journey with the Caravan. (..)
The first day we travel'd eight hours through a Country whose prospect was not
unpleasing, leaving some Villages more than a League from the Road, and we
lodg'd in a Park, near the River Pactolus, which is a small River, the Sand whereof
shines, and is of several colours. Which caus'd Antiquity to call Pactolus Golden-Sanded. It falls from the Mountain Tmolus, and after it has water'd the Territory
of Sardis, mixes with the River Hermus, that throws it self into the Archipelago
through the Gulf of Smyrna.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier - Travels through Turkey to Persia (in the 1630s-1650s)
Lydia was celebrated for its city Sardes, which was of great antiquity, though posterior to the war of Troy. It was enriched by the fertility of the soil, and had been the capital of the Lydian kings. (..) Croesus, who was tyrant or king of all the nations within the river Halys (today's Kizilirmak - Red River), engaging Cyrus, who had followed him into Lydia, was defeated in the plain before the city. (..) Afterwards the Persian satrapas, or commandant, resided at Sardes, as the emperor did at Susa. (..) Sardes under the Romans was a large city, and not inferior to any of its neighbours.
Richard Chandler - An account of a tour made at the expense of the Society of dilettanti - 1775
Not far from the west end of the Acropolis is the celebrated river Pactolus, which rises in mount Tmolus, and once flowed through the middle of the Agora or market-place of Sardes in its way to the Hermus, bringing down from the mountain bits of gold. The treasures of Croesus and of his ancestors were collected chiefly from the river, but in time that source failed. Chandler
In the large and well farmed valley of the River Hermos (Gediz) in the historical region of Lydia, few travellers are likely to notice a small stream near the village of Sart. The Pactolus was so rich in gold bearing sands that the kings of Lydia first minted coins of a weight and purity which was guaranteed by the seal of the king. The name of Croesus, the last king of Lydia, has become a synonym for a very rich man. His capital Sardis was conquered by the Persians in 546 BC and it became the western gateway of their immense empire. Very little is left of that ancient period of Sardis, because the city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17. At that time Sardis was part of the Roman province of Asia with Ephesus as capital and it was rebuilt by Emperor Tiberius and his successors. Its imposing ruins demonstrate its wealth during Roman rule.
(left) Roman columns; (right) Byzantine shops
Going on, we passed by remnants of massy buildings; marble piers sustaining heavy fragments of arches of brick; and more indistinct ruins. Chandler
The importance of Sardis declined after it was sacked by the Goths in 267 AD and it was eventually abandoned in 1402 when Timur razed it to the ground. The excavations of the Roman city which had expanded outside the ancient acropolis have brought to light the Byzantine town (especially shops) which nested inside the Roman buildings.
On our right hand, near the road, was a portion of a large edifice, with a heap of ponderous materials before and behind it. The walls are standing of two large, lofty, and very long rooms, with a space between them, as of a passage. (..) In this building, as some Roman authors have remarked, was exemplified the extreme durability of the antient brick. The walls in this ruin have double arches beneath, and consist chiefly of brick, with layers of stone. The bricks are exceedingly fine and good, of various sizes, some flat, and broad. We employed a man to procure one entire, but the cement proved so very hard and tenacious, it was next to impossible. Chandler
The most imposing building of Roman Sardis is the (much reconstructed) portico of a Gymnasium. Its design reflects the elaborate architecture of the Severian dynasty. See a page on the Roman construction techniques and the use of fired bricks.
The vast courtyard of the Gymnasium was the site where students had their physical training as the final purpose of the Roman pedagogic system was summarized by Juvenal's words Mens sana in corpore sano "A healthy mind in a healthy body" (Satires, X, 356).
A basilica adjoining the Gymnasium was turned into a synagogue towards the end of the IVth century when the population of Sardis had already significantly shrunk. Its pavement was then decorated with geometric mosaics based on Solomon's knots, a symbol of wisdom which Jews shared with other cultures: see Solomon's knots in the Synagogue of Ostia and in a Roman house at Brescia.
Artemision: section of the temple dedicated to Annia Faustina, wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius; a capital is shown in the image used as background for this page
After resting awhile, we were conducted toward the mountain, and suddenly struck with the view of a ruin of a temple, near us, in a most retired situation, beyond the Pactolus, and between the hill of the Acropolis and mount Tmolus. Five columns are standing, one without the capital; and one with the capital awry to the south. The architrave was of two stones. A piece remains on one column, but moved southward. (..) The soil has accumulated round the ruin; and the bases, with a moiety of each column, are concealed. (..) It was of the Ionic order, and had eight columns in front. The shafts are fluted, and the capitals designed and carved with exquisite taste and skill. It is impossible to behold, without deep regret, this imperfect remnant of so beautiful and glorious an edifice. Chandler
Artemis (Diana) had many worshippers on the Aegean coast of today's Turkey. The Artemision of Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sardis too had an Artemision at the foot of its acropolis. The ruins of the Artemision belong to a twin temple dedicated by Emperor Antoninus Pius to Artemis and to his late wife Annia Faustina. A typical example of a Roman twin temple was built by Hadrian and dedicated to Venere e Roma. While the section of the temple dedicated to Artemis can only be guessed at by observing its foundations, the two remaining columns of the portico which preceded the section dedicated to Annia Faustina give a better idea of the gigantic dimensions of the sanctuary, especially when compared to a small Byzantine church of a later period.