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Journey through 50 miles west of Izmir to explore the 2,500-year legacy of the ancient city of Sardis, where you will feel the history of prosperity, war, conquest, and architecture coursing through the old stones as you tour these magnificent ruins.
Kusadasi or Izmir
Like any other visit to a historical attraction, this tour is mainly a trek back in time. Fortunately, no two trips are similar, and with so much to do in Sardis, exploring this former Lydian capital promises to be a new experience even for a seasoned traveler.
The ruins are in surprisingly good condition, allowing Sardis to provide its visitors a satisfactory glance at life in the Hellenistic era. In general, this day tour is carefully designed for those looking to enjoy a taste of Hellenic history and architecture in Turkey.
Where gold & silver money was printed and used for the first time in history…
You will be picked up from your accommodation base in the morning and driven to Sardis; most tourists stay in hotels in Kusadasi, Kusadasi Harbor, or Izmir. If you arrive from another region, enjoy a private transfer from Izmir airport to the ancient city. The drive to the site takes about 2 hours 30 minutes.
Starting with a quick look at Sardis’ history, here is what the city has in store for us.
According to the notes of the Greek historian Herodotus, Sardis was founded by the Heraclides (sons of Hercules) in 1220 BCE. Their dynasty lasted for five centuries and was succeeded by the Mermnades in 716 BCE. The Mermnades dynasty reigned for less than two centuries, their short reign coming to an end in 546 BCE at the hands of the Persians.
Sardis was established strategically on a spur sitting at Mt. Tmolus (Boz Dag) and was the capital of the Lydian kingdom. The city’s prosperity peaked between the 7th century and 6th century BCE. During this period, Sardis became the first city in history to mint gold and silver coins ( beginning with a ratio of 60% gold to 40% silver), a testament to the good times the city was experiencing.
Between 560 and 546 BCE, the city was ruled by King Croesus, renowned for his incredible wealth. Unfortunately, he was also the last king of Lydia, as the Persians managed to conquer the city during his reign.
Sardis remained under Persian rule and was the government’s center until the Greeks liberated it during the Ionian rebellion. After that, it flourished under the reign of Alexander the Great, and this carried on to the Roman and Byzantine eras (except for a period around 17 CE when an earthquake destroyed the city).
In the later Byzantine period, it was occupied by the Turks but was eventually deserted before getting destroyed in 1402 by the Mongols under Timur (Tamerlane).
Welcoming you to the ancient city is an 18-meter long paved Roman road, the western part of the royal road from Susa. Along the historical road are numerous Byzantine shops from the 4th century CE and a well-preserved Byzantine latrine.
Waiting for you on the left end of the road are the remains of a 2nd-century havra (synagogue). The ruins are impressive and boast beautiful decorations, showing that the synagogue was once a magnificent structure.
Next to the havra is the gymnasium (palestra), an expanse where the local athletes trained in preparation for public games. Its believed to have been constructed in the 3rd century CE but was abandoned in the early 7th century after an invasion.
From here, proceed to the heavily restored Marble Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult. After exploring the stunning two-story building, visit a Roman villa and a portion of the city wall before proceeding to the Temple of Artemis.
Although never completed, the temple is one of the finest examples of Hellenistic religious architecture. Next to it is a basilica from the 4th century CE.
During the tour, you will also see the Patroclos River, believed to have been responsible for Sardis’ success thanks to the gold in the stream. Legend states that the gold started flowing when King Midas of Phrygia bathed in the headwaters, transferring his golden touch.
The ancient city of Sardis sits on open ground, and the sun can get quite hot. So, carry a wide hat and apply sunscreen in the summer months. Also, take care as you choose your footwear as you will engage in quite a lot of walking.