Ask a question about 'Lydians'
Start a new discussion about 'Lydians'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
The Lydians were the inhabitants of Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

, a region in western Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, who spoke the distinctive Lydian language
Lydian language
Lydian was an Indo-European language spoken in the region of Lydia in western Anatolia . It belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European language family....

, an Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 language of the Anatolian
Anatolian languages
The Anatolian languages comprise a group of extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language.-Origins:...


Questions raised regarding their origins, as defined by the language and reaching well into the 2nd millennium BC, continue to be debated by language historians and archeologists . A distinct Lydian culture lasted, in all probability, until at least shortly before the Common Era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, having been attested the last time among extant records by Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 in Kibyra
Kibyra is an ancient city and an archaeological site in south-west Turkey, near the actual town of Gölhisar, depending the province center of Burdur....

 in south-west Anatolia around his time (1st century BC).

The Lydian capital was at Sfard or Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

. Their recorded history of statehood, which covers three dynasties traceable to the Late Bronze Age, reached the height of its power and achievements during the 7th and 6th centuries BC, a time which coincided with the demise of the power of neighboring Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 which lay to the north-east of Lydia.

Lydian power came to an abrupt end with the fall of their capital in events subsequent to the Battle of Halys
Battle of Halys
The Battle of Halys, also known as the Battle of the Eclipse, took place at the river Halys on May 28, 585 BC between the Medes and the Lydians...

 in 585 BC and defeat by Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 in 546 BC.


Material in the way of historical accounts of themselves found to date is scarce; the knowledge on Lydians largely rely on the impressed but mixed accounts of ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...


The Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

ic name for the Lydians was "Meiones", cited among the allies of the Trojans
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

 during the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

, and from this name "Maeonia" and "Maeonians" derive and while these Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 terms have sometimes been used as alternatives for Lydia and the Lydians, nuances have also been brought between them.

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 states that the Lydians "were the first men whom we know who coined and used gold and silver currency". While this specifically refers to coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

age in electrum
Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, with trace amounts of copper and other metals. It has also been produced artificially. The ancient Greeks called it 'gold' or 'white gold', as opposed to 'refined gold'. Its color ranges from pale to bright yellow, depending on the...

, some numismatists think that coinage per se arose in Lydia.

Language and script

Lydian texts discovered to date are not numerous and usually short, but close liaison maintained between leading scholars of Anatolian linguistics enable constant impetus and progress in the field, new epigraphical
Epigraphy Epigraphy Epigraphy (from the , literally "on-writing", is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; that is, the science of identifying the graphemes and of classifying their use as to cultural context and date, elucidating their meaning and assessing what conclusions can be...

 findings and evidence being added and new words recorded continuously. Nevertheless, real breaktrough for the understanding of the Lydian language still seems in the waiting.

Presently available texts begin around the mid-7th century and extend until the 2nd century BC, which leads one scholar to conclude; "Lydians wrote early, but [in the light of the available sources, it seems] they did not write much"


A number of Lydian religious concepts may well go back to the Early Bronze Age and even Late Stone Age
Late Stone Age
The Later Stone Age refers to a period in African prehistory. Its beginnings are roughly contemporaneous with the European Upper Paleolithic...

, such as the vegetation goddess Kore, the snake and bull cult, the thunder and rain god and the double-axe (Labrys
Labrys is the term for a symmetrical doubleheaded axe originally from Crete in Greece, one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization; to the Romans, it was known as a bipennis....

) as a sign of thunder, the mountain mother goddess (Mother of Gods) assisted by lions, associable or not to the more debated Kuvava (Cybele
Cybele , was a Phrygian form of the Earth Mother or Great Mother. As with Greek Gaia , her Minoan equivalent Rhea and some aspects of Demeter, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth...

). A difficulty in compounding Lydian religion and mythology remains as reciprocal contacts and transfer with ancient Greek concepts occurred for over a millenium from the Bronze Age to classical (Persian) times. As pointed out by archaeological explorers of Lydia, Artimu (Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

) and Pldans (Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

) have strong Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

n components and Cybele-Rhea
Rhea (mythology)
Rhea was the Titaness daughter of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, in Greek mythology. She was known as "the mother of gods". In earlier traditions, she was strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, the Great Goddess, and was later seen by the classical Greeks as the mother of the Olympian...

, the Mother of Gods, and Baki (Bacchus, Dionysos) went from Anatolia to Greece, while both in Lydia and Caria
Caria was a region of western Anatolia extending along the coast from mid-Ionia south to Lycia and east to Phrygia. The Ionian and Dorian Greeks colonized the west of it and joined the Carian population in forming Greek-dominated states there...

, Levs (Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

) preserved strong local characteristics all at the same sharing the name of its Greek equivalent.

Among other divine figures of the Lydian pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

 which still remain relatively obcsure, Santai, Kuvava's escort and sometimes a hero burned on a pyre
A pyre , also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite...

, and Marivda(s), associated with darkness, may be cited.

Lydians in literature and arts

Niobe was a daughter of Tantalus and of either Dione, the most frequently cited, or of Eurythemista or Euryanassa, and she was the sister of Pelops and Broteas, all of whom figure in Greek mythology....

, daughter of Tantalus
Tantalus was the ruler of an ancient western Anatolian city called either after his name, as "Tantalís", "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus, at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the...

 and Dione
Dione (mythology)
Dione was a Greek goddess primarily known as the mother of Aphrodite in Book V of Homer's Iliad. Aphrodite journeys to Dione's side after she has been wounded in battle protecting her favorite son Aeneas. In this episode, Dione seems to be the equivalent of the earth goddess Gaia, whom Homer also...

 and sister of Pelops
In Greek mythology, Pelops , was king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. He was the founder of the House of Atreus through his son of that name....

 and Broteas
In Greek mythology, Broteas, a hunter, was the ugly son of Tantalus , whose other offspring were Niobe and Pelops. He was said to have carved the most ancient image of the Great Mother of the Gods , an image that in Pausanias' day was still held sacred by the Magnesians...

, had known Arachne
In Greco-Roman mythology, Arachne was a great mortal weaver who boasted that her skill was greater than that of Minerva, the Latin parallel of Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts. Arachne refused to acknowledge that her knowledge came, in part at least, from the goddess. The offended...

, a Lydian woman, when she was still in Lydia/Maeonia in her father's lands near to Mount Sipylus
Mount Sipylus
Mount Spil , the ancient Mount Sipylus , is a mountain rich in legends and history in Manisa Province, Turkey, in what used to be the heartland of the Lydians and what is now Turkey's Aegean Region....

, according to Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's account. These eponymous figures may have corresponded to the obscure ages associated with the semi-legendary dynasty of the Atyads and/or Tantalids, and situated around the time of the emergence of a Lydian nation from their predecessors and/or previous identities as Maeonians and Luvians.

Several accounts on the dynasty of Tylonids succeeding the Atyads and/or Tantalids are available and once into the last Lydian dynasty of Mermnads, the legendary accounts surrounding Ring of Gyges
Ring of Gyges
The Ring of Gyges is a mythical magical artifact mentioned by the philosopher Plato in book 2 of his Republic . It granted its owner the power to become invisible at will...

, and Gyges
Gyges of Lydia
Gyges was the founder of the third or Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings and reigned from 716 BC to 678 BC . He was succeeded by his son Ardys II.-Allegorical accounts of Gyges' rise to power:...

's later enthronement to the Lydian throne and foundation of the new dynasty, by replacing the King Kandaules, the last of the Taylanids, this in alliance with Kandaules's wife who then became his queen, are Lydian stories in the full sense of the term, as recounted by Herodotus, who himself may have borrowed his passages from Xanthus of Lydia, a Lydian who had reportedly written a history of his country slightly earlier in the same century.

Several expressions on Lydians were in common use in ancient Greek and in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 languages, and a collection and detailed treatment of these were done by Erasmus in his Adagia
Adagia is an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs, compiled during the Renaissance by Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. Erasmus' collection of proverbs is "one of the most monumental ... ever assembled" Adagia (adagium is the singular form and adagia is the plural) is an...


There are also several works of visual arts depicting Lydians and/or using as theme subject matters of Lydian history.

See also

  • Lydia
    Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

  • Lydia (satrapy)
    Lydia (satrapy)
    Lydia was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, with Sardis as its capital. Tabalus, appointed by Cyrus the Great was the first satrap , however, his rule did not last long as the Lydians revolted. The insurrection was suppressed by general Mazares and his successor Harpagus. After Cyrus' death,...

  • Lydian Treasure (Karun Treasure)
  • Luvian language