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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Sardis

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(Σάρδεις , of uncertain etymology), a city of Asia Minor, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was situated about two miles to the south of the river Hermus, just below the range of Tmolus (Bos Dagh), on a spur of which its acropolis was built, in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus (Herod. 7, 31; Xenophon, Cyrop. 7, 2-11: Pliny, Hist. Nat.; Strabo, 13, 625). It is in lat. 38° 30' N., long. 27° 57' E. Sardis was a great and ancient city, and, from its wealth and importance, was the object of much cupidity and of many sieges.

1. Ancient History. The Lydians, or Ludim, whose metropolis Sardis was, were the descendants of Lud the son of Shem, and must not be confounded with the Ludim, the children of Lud the son of Misraim the son of Ham, who dwelt and settled in Egypt. These latter were the nation alluded to by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 46:9) when he speaks of "the Lydians that handle the bow:" the distinction will appear the more clearly from the fact that the Lydians and the Libyans are mentioned together as embracing the same cause. The Shemitic Ludim were a warlike, active, and energetic people, and established an empire extending as far east as the river Halys. The city of Sardis, although of more recent origin than the Trojan war (Strabo, 13, 625), was very ancient, being mentioned by Aeschylus (Pers. 45); and Herodotus relates (1, 84) that it was fortified by a king Meles, who (according to the Chronicles of Eusebius) preceded Candaules. The city itself was, at least at first, built in a rude manner, and the houses were covered with dry reeds, in consequence of which it was repeatedly destroyed by fire; but the acropolis, which some of the ancient geographers identified with the Homeric Hyde (Strabo, 13, 626; comp. Pliny, 5, 30; Eustath. ad Dion. Per. 830), was built upon an almost inaccessible rock. In the reign of Ardys, Sardis was taken by the Cimmerians, but they were unable to gain possession of the citadel. Over this realm a series of able princes ruled, the last of whom, Croesus, obtained a world wide fame for his wealth, his misfortunes, and his philosophy. The earlier part of his reign was one of unusual glory; he extended his dominion over the whole of Asia Minor with the exception of Lycia and Cilicia, and displayed as much ability as an administrator as he had done as a conqueror. But the rising power of Cyrus soon came into collision with his own, and, by the capture of Sardis, the Persian prince brought the Lydian rule to a close. Croesus is said to have advised the victor to discourage the martial spirit of the Lydians by restraining them from all warlike occupations, and employing them in those arts only which minister to luxury and sensuality. Cyrus is reported to have taken the disgraceful advice, and the result was that, from ranking among the bravest and hardiest nations of antiquity, the Lydians became the most helpless and effeminate.

After its conquest, the Persians always kept a garrison in the citadel, on account of its natural strength, which induced Alexander the Great, when it was surrendered to him in the sequel of the battle of the Granicus, similarly to occupy it. Sardis recovered the privilege of municipal government (and, as was alleged several centuries afterwards, the right of a sanctuary) upon its surrender to Alexander the Great, but its fortunes for the next three hundred years are very obscure. It changed hands more than once in the contests between the dynasties which arose after the death of Alexander. In the year B.C. 214 it was taken and sacked by the army of Antiochus the Great, who besieged his cousin Achaeus in it for two years before succeeding, as he at last did through treachery, in obtaining possession of the person of the latter. After the ruin of Antiochus's fortunes, it passed, with the rest of Asia on that side of Taurus, under the dominion of the kings of Pergamus, whose interests led them to divert the course of traffic between Asia and Europe away from Sardis. Its productive soil must always have continued a source of wealth; but its importance as a central mart appears to have diminished from the time of the invasion of Asia by Alexander. After their victory over Antiochus it passed to the Romans, under whom it still more rapidly declined in rank and prosperity.

In the time of the emperor Tiberius, Sardis was desolated by an earthquake (Strabo, 12, p. 579), together with eleven, or, as Eusebius says, twelve other important cities of Asia. The whole face of the country is said to have been changed by this convulsion. In the case of Sardis the calamity was increased by a pestilential fever which followed; and so much compassion was in consequence excited for the city at Rome that its tribute was remitted for five years, and it received a benefaction from the privy purse of the emperor (Tacitus, Ann 2, 47). This was in the year A.D. 17. Nine years afterwards the Sardians are found among the competitors for the honor of erecting, as representatives of the Asiatic cities, a temple to their benefactor. (See SMYRNA). On this occasion they plead, not only their ancient services to Rome in the time of the Macedonian war, but their well- watered country, their climate, and the richness of the neighboring soil; there is no allusion, however, to the important manufactures and the commerce of the early times. In the time of Pliny it was included in the same conventus jursidicus with Philadelphia, with the Cadueni, a Macedonian colony in the neighborhood, with some settlements of the old Maeonian population, and a few other towns of less note. These Maeonians still continued to call Sardis by its ancient name, Hyde, which it bore in the time of Omphale.

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2. Biblical Notice. The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the ancients for their voluptuous habits of life. Hence, perhaps, the point of the phrase in the Apocalyptic message to the city, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments" (Revelation 3:4). The place that Sardis holds in this message, as one of the "Seven Churches of Asia," is the source of the peculiar interest with which the Christian reader regards it. From what is said, it appears that it had already declined much in real religion, although it still maintained the name and external aspect of a Christian Church, "having a name to live, while it was dead" (Revelation 3:1).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sardis'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/sardis.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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