By the Editors of the Madain Project

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Sardis or Sardes, located in modern day Turkey, was an ancient city best known as the capital of the Lydian Empire. By the nineteenth century CE, Sardis was in ruins, with mainly visible remains mostly from the Roman period. Some of the important finds from the site of Sardis are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Manisa, including Late Roman mosaics and sculpture, a helmet from the mid-6th century BC, and pottery from various periods.


Sardis, over a span of approximately 3500 years, experienced fluctuations between being a prosperous city of global significance and a group of humble villages.

Earlist settlement at Sardis was established prior to 1500 BCE, yet the specific details regarding the early settlement's size and characteristics remain uncertain, as only limited sections outside the city walls have been excavated. The evidence of occupation mainly comprises pottery from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, displaying connections to Mycenaean Greece and the Hittites. As of 2011 CE, no monumental architecture had been discovered from this period.

During the seventh century BCE, Sardis assumed the role of the capital city of Lydia. It became the seat of power for kings like Croesus, who governed an empire extending as far as the Halys River in the east. The city, encompassing an area of 108 hectares, inclusive of extramural regions, was safeguarded by formidable walls with a thickness of thirty meters. The city's layout and organization is only partly known at present.

In 547 BCE, Sardis was conquered by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Following victories over the Lydian king Croesus at the Battle of Pteria and the Battle of Thymbra, the Persians pursued the withdrawing army to Sardis, ultimately capturing and looting the city after a short siege.

Notable Structures

circa 280 BCE

Temple of Artemis
The marble for the temple of Artemis (Artemis Tapınağı) came from quarries located 3 kilometers to the south. Blocks were transported in a roughly worked state to protect the surfaces from damage, and only finished once they were set in place. Natural imperfections in the marble were cut out and filled with carefully cut plugs or "dutchmen".

Although it was used for more than eight hundred years, the temple of Artemis was never completed, and the unfinished parts of the building give a misleading impression of the structure. For instance, the only finished columns are those on the high pedestals at the eastern end. Their slender proportions, sharp definitions, and rhythmical forms show how the other, roughly finished and unfluted columns would have looked like if they had been finished. But these unfinished parts of the building reveal how the masons designed the temple, worked the stone, and lifted blocks in to place. In addition, different building techniques help to date different parts of the temple to the Hellenistic or Roman periods. The perfection of the design and construction of the temple of Artemis at Sardis attests the high professional commitment of its ancient builders.


The construction of the bath-complex likely concluded in the late second or early third century CE. Over the following centuries, it underwent repairs and alterations, with one of its halls converted into a Synagogue. However, by the secenth century CE, the bath fell into disrepair and ruins.

The bath-complex at Sardis was one of at least two grand bath buildings within the city, encompassing an area of 23,000 square meters. It adheres to a relatively standardized design known as the "Imperial bath", commonly found in other cities across Asia Minor, like Ephesus, and throughout the Roman empire. The layout features symmetrical arrangements of rooms and halls, with central pools of hot and cold water (the caldarium and frigidarium). The eastern portion consists of an open court (palaestra) suitable for exercises and ceremonies, while the western section serves as the bath unit, comprising numerous spacious halls covered by vaults.


The monumental synagogue served as the focal point of Jewish religious activities in Sardis during the Late Roman era. Unearthed in 1962 CE, the structure and its adornments have undergone partial restoration.

The synagogue was situated at the corner of the Roman bath-gymnasium, transforming a section of this public structure into a Jewish place of worship. The mosaic floors, furnishings, and marble wall decorations were added at various intervals; the majority that remain date back to the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Following an earthquake that affected much of the city in the early seventh century CE, the synagogue, along with many other buildings, was abandoned.

In the forecourt, there was a sizable krater or urn (inspect), a replica of the original marble one, functioning as a fountain where worshippers cleansed their hands before prayer. The water supply was facilitated through clay pipes situated beneath the floor, and a cleverly designed valve regulated the flow. The adjacent pool was initially paved with flat stones, most likely made of marble.


Byzantine Lavatory
During the late antiquity period, this part of the city underwent renovations, which involved the construction of public latrines positioned at the southwest corner of the Bath-Gymnasium Complex. The latrines were relatively small, and their doorways located to the north and east indicate that they served both Bath users and passersby on the marble avenue. The two long rectangular rooms were similarly designed, potentially accommodating separate sections for men and women, with a capacity of up to approximately two dozen visitors at a time. The larger latrine featured a marble floor with a raised border and a recessed channel, ensuring a continuous flow of water in front of the benches. Below the seats, a deep sewage canal was periodically flushed with water from the Bath. Additionally, two small statues— a standing Dionysos and a draped female figure— might have been part of the original decorations.


Byzantine Paint Shop
The two-room shop (designated as W8-9) may have been used for the preparation and sale of dyes and paints. Both rooms were directly accessible from the portico. The smaller space was pave with tiles and may bave been used for storage. The larger room was partly paved with stone slabs and terracotta tiles. A stone mortar may have been used for grinding pigments. In the room's northeast corner stood a water tank made of two reused marble slabs, a gravestone and a honorific stele of the second century CE. Large crosses (inspect) incised on the front of both slabs express the sentiments of the Christian owner and his interest in protecting his water supply.

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