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x0x The golden city Sardis

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  • Turkish Culture List
    [See more on this subject by visiting the pages selected for you by Anita Donohoe: http://turkradio.us/k/sardis20091101/ ] x0x The golden city Sardis By FUSUN
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2009
      [See more on this subject by visiting the pages
      selected for you by Anita Donohoe:
      http://turkradio.us/k/sardis20091101/ ]

      x0x The golden city Sardis


      Sardis, where the first coin in the world was
      struck, takes visitors on a journey back in time
      through the ruins of numerous ancient

      When I reached the center of this city renowned
      for its trade, the first thing that struck my eye
      was a gargantuan structure about 100 meters long.
      In order to reach it, I first had to pass a row of
      shops, some rectangular, others square in shape.
      The first one is the most colorful of the
      workplaces here, the shop of the paint dealer
      Yakub, universally loved and respected by the
      townspeople. Cans of paint in every color of the
      rainbow from green and blue to red and pink line
      the shelves along the wall. Yakub advises
      customers who are going to paint their houses:
      "This shade will make your house too dark," he
      says, "take one a couple of shades lighter." Next
      to the paint shop is a scribe's office. There's a
      bustling crowd here, where documents and
      correspondence of every variety are being written
      up. A man who wants to sell his house is having a
      sales contract drawn up; somebody else is having a
      letter composed to his son who is far from home.
      In sharp contrast with the crowd in the office,
      the hardware merchant next door has no business at
      all. Obviously there is little demand for
      construction materials these days, and the
      proprietor is rolling dice with his apprentice to
      while away the time.


      We're in the ancient city of Sardis, 72 kilometers
      south of Izmir in Salihli township of Manisa
      province. And the shops we just described are from
      the Late Roman period. But the city's history
      dates back much earlier than this to the 7th
      century B.C. Sardis, for centuries the capital
      city of the Lydian League, which put the first
      coins into circulation, came under the hegemony of
      several different states from the time of the
      Lydians up to the 14th century. These lands saw
      not only the Persians and the Hellenistic Greeks
      but also the Pergamenes, the Romans and the
      Byzantines. So this ancient city affords visitors
      an opportunity to journey back in time.

      The road that begins directly opposite the shops
      is the Roman Way, a thoroughfare dating back to
      the 4th century A.D. and a short segment of the
      roads that were built one after the other in
      stages to provide transit between East and West.
      At 18.5 meters in width, it is twice as wide as
      today's modern highway. In its time, this avenue
      was paved with blocks of marble set with
      polychrome mosaics. Let us not forget to mention
      that it was also the beginning of the famous
      2500-km-long Royal Way which extended as far as
      Susa in Iran and was built by the Lydians to
      foster Sardis' East-West trade.

      Sardis experienced a century-long 'golden age'
      under the Lydians. Its rise during the Lydian
      period when it was ruled by three different
      dynasties commenced with King Gyges at the end of
      the 7th century B.C.

      But its most famous king was Croesus, also known
      as Karun, the first person in world history to
      strike coins of both gold and silver.While we're
      on the subject of the fabulously wealthy, I should
      point out that this king is also the origin of the
      expression 'as rich as Croesus'.

      This ruler, whose wealth remains the subject of
      legend to this very day, owed the major portion of
      his treasury to the river Pactolus (Sart) which
      originates on Mt. Tmolus and in those days was
      filled with particles of gold. During the reign of
      Croesus, local workshops began extracting the gold
      carried by the river's alluvial sands, and the
      world's first coined money soon appeared in the
      shape of a bean.

      The gold workshops along the road leading to the
      Temple of Artemis, which we will visit shortly,
      did not of course only coin money.

      Valuable jewelry in the form of gold rings,
      earrings and bracelets as well as silver bowls,
      ladles and spoons were also created by its highly
      skilled artisans. Some of these priceless items
      are on exhibit today in the Manisa Museum.


      Following the road we proceed to the synagogue,
      accompanied by two fellow-travelers. A pair of
      tortoises! As if to mock their slow pace, time now
      flows swiftly backwards. The calendar shows the
      3rd century A.D. The pavements are decorated with
      colorful mosaics.

      The only sound audible is the voice of the chief
      rabbi, preaching to a packed congregation. The
      people are hushed, hanging on his every word.

      Immediately next to the synagogue is the structure
      we noticed upon entering Sardis, the 'gymnasium',
      built in the time of the Romans.

      Someone is standing in its marble-paved courtyard,
      but he doesn't look anything like a Roman! We
      introduce ourselves. He is none other than
      Crawford H. Greenewalt, American archaeologist and
      director of the excavations under way at Sardis
      today. Greenewalt, who teaches archaeology and art
      history at the University of California, first
      came to Sardis in 1959. "As soon as I got my Ph.D.
      from Harvard, I came to Sardis... as a
      photographer. I've been spending two or three
      months a year here ever since, because I fell in
      love with Sardis.

      It's a stunning site from the standpoint of
      nature. A myriad of cultures also lived here in
      harmony over the centuries. The culture I'm most
      interested in is that of the Lydian civilization,
      though we come across more Late Roman and
      Byzantine remains in our excavations.

      Our research is ongoing." Greenewalt,

      who says that great banquets in honor of the Roman
      emperors were once held in the gymnasium, explains
      that the broad green area in front of the building
      was a training ground for athletes in antiquity.

      Immediately behind the gymnasium meanwhile are the
      hot and cold water pools.


      Sardis is not limited to the 23,000 square meter
      area we've just toured. But the entire area
      covered by the ancient city has not yet been
      precisely determined. "For the time being the
      boundaries of Sardis extend for 1 km east-west and
      1 km north-south. If we could find the cemetery,
      we could get a better idea about the size of the
      city," says Greenewalt. Explaining that they have
      now identified a theater and a stadium in the area
      east of the city center between the highway and
      the Temple of Artemis but have not yet excavated
      them, the archaeologist invites us to the Temple,
      one kilometer to the east.

      Crossing the Sart, whose alluvia still contains
      gold, we head straight for the temple. The sun is
      directly overhead, but a cool refreshing breeze
      helps to relieve its blistering heat.An aged man
      on a slow-moving tractor is probably heading for
      his field.

      And the elderly woman bearing savory pastries is
      perhaps invited to her neighbors' for five o'clock
      tea. One of Sardis' most important monuments, the
      Temple of Artemis was built during the
      Hellenization of the city in the 3rd century B.C.
      The temple, which was built on the site of an
      altar with steps, thought to have been dedicated
      to Cybele and to have stood here since the 5th
      century B.C., underwent continuous restoration and
      use in the Roman period. Today only two of its
      columns are standing. The others, succumbing to
      the weariness of the centuries, lie horizontal,
      only half exposed to the light of day... But the
      Temple of Artemis is still so magnificent as to
      cast a spell over all who behold it. Meanwhile, in
      the southeast sector of the temple the ruins of a
      church with a double apse, built in the time of
      the Roman Emperor Constantine, have been

      Many more monuments lie buried in the depths of
      Sardis. "Actually the earth is a good preserver of
      monuments," says Greenewalt. "But it's our job to
      bring them up." As he also points out, these
      monuments need to be carefully protected and
      preserved. When the Persian king Cyrus captured
      the Lydian king Croesus and his city, he declared
      gleefully, "Look, Croesus, I'm burning your city
      to the ground!" And Croesus answered the great
      king as follows: "It used to be my city, it's
      yours now. It's your own city you are destroying!"
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