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The Lydians and Phrygians

Ancient history, from the beginning of historical information to the downfall of the Western Roman Empire (? B.C. - 476 A.D.). The Great Empires: Eastern Nations.
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The Lydians, a people of Semitic race, according to high authorities, and largely Hittite, according to others, in civilisation if not in blood, dwelt in the west-central region of Asia Minor, watered by the river Hermus, its tributary the Pactolus, and the Cayster. Their capital, in historical times, was the famous Sardis, at the northern base of the Tmolus range of mountains, attaining the height of 6,000 feet. The Pactolus, flowing through the city, was a mere brook, and its "golden sands" are now believed to allude to the riches of the people derived from the manufacture of stuffs, carpets, and rugs, and from the command of the trade between the inner highlands and the coast. The Lydians had much skill in the weaving and dyeing of wool, and the mines of Tmolus, if not the sands of Pactolus, gave much gold. In the history of civilisation they have credit for the invention of coined money, which greatly improved international and social intercourse by the substitution of purchase for barter. The deities chiefly,worshipped were the sun-god Attys, and Cybele, the mother of the gods, corresponding to the Hittite-Babylonian Tammuz and Istar.

The first really historical sovereign, after semi-mythical kings had reigned for [about three centuries, was Gyges, who founded, about 690 b.c., the dynasty called the Mermnadae, of a native Lydian family. Energy, ambition, and statesmanship marked this period of Lydian history. Mysia, to the north, was annexed, and the Greek cities on the coast were also attacked by Gyges, in order that Lydia might command again the outlets to the AEgean Sea at the mouths of her rivers and the harbours on her seaboard. A sturdy resistance was made by the cities, and the struggle was ended for the time through, an invasion of Lydia by the Cimmerians, a wild people whose original country lay between the rivers Borysthenes (Dnieper) and the Tanais (Don), and in the Tauric Chersonesus (the Crimea). They were driven thence by the Scythians, and passed round to the southern shore of the Black Sea, whence they proceeded to make inroads throughout Asia Minor. These noxious intruders did not attempt to settle, but were mere hordes of plunderers who stormed and sacked towns and ravaged the countryside. Gyges, seeking help from Asshurbanipal of Assyria, was relieved for a time, and in return became tributary. Then he revolted, in alliance with Psamatik of Egypt, and in another Cimmerian invasion he was slain. His son and successor, Ardys, reigned for 36 years in the 7th century, and in his day the Cimmerians took and plundered Sardis, and then retired, unable to get at the citadel. This king and his successor renewed the contest with the Greek cities on the coast, without much success, but the territory was increased by the conquest of Phrygia.

Under Alyattes, the greatest of the Lydian kings, reigning chiefly in the first half of the 6th century, the monarchy reached its highest point. The Cimmerians were finally disposed of, and the frontier was advanced eastwards to the Halys (now Kizil-Irmak\ the greatest river of Asia Minor, an important ethnographical and political boundary, dividing the Indo-European races of the western region from the Semitic races of south-west Asia, and cutting off the Lydian empire, at the time of which we are treating, from the newly formed Median monarchy. Alyattes was thus confronted with Kyaxares of Media, and war ensued. After an even contest for five years, a great battle was being fought in favour of the Medians, when it was suddenly interrupted by an eclipse of the sun. The intervention of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon brought about a peace, cemented by the marriage of Alyattes' daughter to Kyaxares' eldest son Astyages. The date of this event is given as 585 b.c. The Halys was now the boundary, and the Lydian monarchy, with dominions of fertile land that now included Bithynia and Paphlagonia on the Euxine (Black Sea), and great wealth derived from her natural resources and from trade, was in the height of power and fame. Sardis, with splendid buildings, was a grand and luxurious capital a city which was afterwards the western capital of the Persian empire, the place of residence for Cyrus and for Xerxes before they set forth on their great expeditions. The passing away of worldly glory is now grimly indicated, as with so many other Oriental cities, by the existence of naught but a little village and some ruin-mounds on the site still called "Sart." Alyattes ended a reign of nearly 60 years about 560 b.c. The loyal regard of his people is still commemorated by the great sepulchral mound near the site of Sardis. His son and successor Croesus, proverbial for riches, found himself in possession of the greatest and most powerful state of Asia Minor, a fine army including a most formidable body of disciplined and well-mounted cavalry, and of a royal treasury packed with wealth in various forms. This splendid, able, and amiable monarch, whose chief fault appears to have been an exceeding pride in his wealth, captured Ephesus and subdued all the Greek cities on the coast except Miletus, with which he made an alliance. When Cyrus of Persia conquered Media, dethroning Croesus' brother-in-law Astyages, the Lydian king took up his kinsman's cause, being also eager to check the growing Persian power. On consulting the oracle of Delphi, to which he sent gifts of enormous value, he received the well-known ambiguous reply that by crossing the Halys he would destroy a great empire. Interpreting this in his own favour, Croesus advanced against Cyrus, fought an indecisive battle, and then retired to Sardis, hoping to renew the contest in the following year with the aid of troops from Babylonia, Egypt, and Sparta, to all of which states he sent envoys. The prompt action of Cyrus frustrated these plans. He followed his adversary so quickly as to take him by surprise, defeat him in a second action, and capture Sardis with the king of Lydia. The war and the monarchy were ended at a blow, about 550 b.c, with a suddenness which greatly awed the neighbouring peoples, and gave rise to stories of Greek invention concerning the unstable nature of man's good fortune. The dynasty of the Mermnadse had won goodwill both from subjects and foreigners by generous behaviour, and the conqueror assigned Croesus a city as his residence, and made him an intimate associate both at court and in his warlike expeditions. Cyrus, at his death, commended his son Cambyses to the care of the Lydian, who was well fitted, from his experience, to tender wise counsel to the new Persian monarch.

Phrygia, which has been seen as a part of the Lydian monarchy in its time of greatness, comprised a lofty plateau eastwards from Lydia proper, being a region whose pastures maintained vast flocks of sheep famous for wool of fine quality. Some of the land was very fertile, especially in the south-west, at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, giving rise to the Maeander and other rivers. There was gold in the streams, and the marble was noted in ancient times. Traces of the Phrygians are found in almost all parts of Asia Minor, in regions where they dwelt before they were driven into narrower limits by Semitic and other peoples. The question of their origin is one of great difficulty, though some authorities declare the Phrygians to be a branch of the great Aryan stock which settled in Thrace (now Bulgaria and Roumelia), and, crossing the Bosphorus, moved eastwards as far as the Armenian highlands, becoming there ancestors of the Armenian nation which, mixed with later Aryans, has become so mournfully famed in the most modem days. About 750 b.c. an independent monarchy was formed in north-west Phrygia, with its capital at Gordium, on the bank of the river Sangarius. We know nothing certain of the dates of the kings, called by the names of "Gordius" and "Midas." The. Phrygian religion, whose deities included Cybele and Attys, largely influenced the Greek mythology, and the country seems to have been a great centre of the orgiastic worship known as "Mysteries." The conquest by Lydia has been related above.

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