On the way to Sardis, we take the opportunity to stop by the side of the road and climb up the hillside to see a Hittite Relief carved into a rock hillside,
span high and you can translate that into modern measurements by using the life size model who was instructed to climb up and stand next to it. The relief was carved in the late 13th century BC and is a depiction of Tarkasnawa, king of Mira which was a Hittite vassal state. It
indicated to those coming through the pass that they were either entering or leaving his kingdom. Herodotus mentions it in his annals and late 19th century drawings show it in better condition than today and also describe the hieroglyphics on it (written in early Lydian).
Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, an important city in the Persian Empire, the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire, and one of the Seven churches of Asia mentioned in The Apocalypse.
As we arrived, so did a couple of coach parties from a cruise ship but they were gone within minutes leaving us the site for the rest of the day.
One enters the site down a street which had shops along one side
Jacob’s Paint Shop – the name is a clue to what is around the corner
and nearby in another shop is a storage bin made out of reused Christian materials (these stone sheets are upside down).
and in another is a water pipe leading down to a sewer (below the lighter coloured arch). By now, we have come to expect to see an ordinary arch (the terracotta one) above a sewer when it goes through a wall. This was done in order to reduce the weight of the wall on the sewer roof for fear it might collapse – a similar technique is used today.
There are two main reasons that archaeologists come to this part of the Sardis site, to see the Synagogue and to see the Baths.
Sardis had a Jewish Community from at least 300BC and it became very wealthy, hence the construction of a large Synagogue
which could accommodate around 1000 people.
There is a large colonnaded courtyard at the entrance (right hand side of the diagram above)
which leads into the mosaic floored 50 metre long hall.
There are also fragments of wall panels remaining in situ
The mosaics and wall panels are nothing special but the overall quantity shows that a lot of money was spent when the Synagogue was constructed.
The original Altar is still there and it has lovely carvings on its ends
The Synagogue forms one corner of an enormous baths complex which has been restored and reconstructed with great skill.
The Palestra (exercise yard)
leads to a large entrance door behind which were the baths,
The pillars on either side of the entrance doors have been beautifully carved into a barleycorn twist design and most impressively, the twist direction is to the right on the left hand side of the door and to the left on the right hand side of the door.
This detailing shows the high quality of the carving with beautifully smooth marble.
at the top is an imposing pediment with nice quality carving.
The majority of the bath area is still to be excavated but a large cold pool has been cleared.
Temple of Artemis at Sardis
On what would have been the other side is the remains of the Temple of Artemis. When built, this was one of the largest Greek temples in existence and was larger than the Parthenon.
It is not just its history, size and location which
is of interest. This temple shows all of the
signs of the budget running out before its construction was completed.
Later there were plans to significantly expand
it (the diagram on the left) but either the money ran out or there was a change of mind and all that was completed was that shown in the diagram on the right.
One item on the site which seems to attract considerable interest is this old crane which was left behind by early archaeologists working there.
Scattered around the site are various items such as this capitol which were retrieved during the excavations.
Where the work has been completed, it is of the highest quality and the above pictures
are evidence of the beauty of the design.
When the temple was originally constructed, the stone blocks were held together with metal ties. It is rare to find them in place nowadays because they were hacked out many years ago for their scrap value (nothing changes!) This is why many fair faced block walls have holes in every corner where the blocks meet, many years ago someone cut out the corners looking for the metal.
This is an example of unfinished work. The lug in the centre of the picture is there simply to enable the stone to be lowered into place. Once this has been done, normally the lugs are cut off and the stone dressed to its final finish.
Some of the pillars have “cut to here” inscriptions on them.
This pillar base has no carvings around it and the pillar itself is completely plain – it should have a grooved pattern like all of those nearby to it and the surface is undressed – an indicative dressing line can be seen running around it.
Here the pattern has been cut onto the base of the pillar where it would not be accessible for cutting once it was lowered into place but not above the dividing line where an inscription has been left.
The way patterns were created was to drill down through the stone to a predetermined depth and then to cut the stone around the hole with a chisel to that depth thus removing the hole. Here all of the holes remain showing that the pillar decoration was not finished.
The countryside around the temple is beautiful and if you cut out the few 21st century noises you can hear, it is quite easy to be back around 200BC.
Whilst there, we came across two travellers
resting in the sun and enjoying the beautiful views before they continued their journey.