States of Asia Minor - The Lydians

The river Halys divided Asia Minor into two parts. East of the Halys, or near its source, were various nations of the Semitic stock - Cappadocians, Cilicians, Pamphylians etc. - each organized apart, but all included under the Assyrian, and latterly, as we have seen, under the Median empire. West of the Halys, the inhabitants were apparently of the Indo-Germanic race, although separated by many removes from the Indo-Germans of Persia. Overspreading this part of Asia Minor, as well as Thrace and other parts of southeastern Europe, this great race had been broken up into fragments distinguished by characteristic differences. To enumerate these various nations assigning to each its exact geographical limits, is impossible; the chief, however, were the Bithynians, a sort of Asiatic Thracians on the southern coast of the Euxine; the Lydians and Carians in the south-west; and, intermediate between the two, geographically as well as in respect of race and language, the Mysians and Phrygians. These were the native states but along the whole Aegean shore was diffused a large Greek population, emigrants, it is believed, from European Greece, chiefly gathered into cities. These Greeks of Asia Minor were of three races the Aeolic Greeks in the north, and the Ionian and Dorian Greeks in the south; and perhaps the earliest manifestations of Greek genius, political or literary, were among these Greeks of Asia. The intercourse of these Greeks with the native Lydians, Phrygians, etc., gave rise to mixture of population as well as to interchange of habits; the native music especially of the Lydians and Phrygians became incorporated with that of the Greeks.

When Lydia, with its capital Sardis, first began to be a powerful state, is not known; it is remarkable, however, that the Lydians are not mentioned in Homer. According to Herodotus, the Lydians traced their history back through three dynasties. 1st, The Atyadae, from the earliest times to B.C. 1221; 2d, The Heracleidae, from B.C. 122 to B.C. 716; and 3d, The Mermnadae. Only the last dynasty is historic; the manner in which it succeeded to that of the Heracleidae forms the subject of a curious Lydian legend.

The first king of the Mermoad dynasty was Gyges (B.C. 716-678), the second Ardys (B.C. 678-629), in whose reign the Cimmerians invaded Asia Minor, the third Sadyattes (B.C. 629-617), the fourth Alyattes (B. C . 317-560). Each of these Lydian kings was engaged in wars both with the Asiatic Greeks of the coast and the native states of the interior. The growth of the Lydian power was impeded by the Cimmerian invasion; but those savage nomades were at length expelled by Alyattes; and Croesus, the son of Alyattes by an Ionian wife, having succeeded his father B.C. 560, soon raised himself to the position of a great potentate, ruling over nearly the whole country westward of the Halys, comprehending Aeolian, Ionian, and Dorian Greeks; Phrygians; Mysians, Paphiagonians, Bithynians, Carians, Pamphylians, etc. At Sardis, the capital of this extensive dominion, was accumulated an immense treasure, composed of the tribute which the Lydian monarch derived from the subject states; hence the proverb, 'as rich as Croesus.'

Separated from the Median kingdom only by the river Halys, the Lydian dominion naturally became an object of desire to Cyrus after he had acquired the sovereignty of Media. Accordingly (B.C. 546), provoked by an invasion of Croesus, who had received from the Delphic oracle the equivocal assurance, that 'if he attacked the Persians he would subvert a mighty monarchy,' Cyrus crossed the Halys, advanced into Lydia, took Sardis, and made Croesus prisoner. It was intended by the conqueror that the Lydian king should be burnt alive - it is even said that the fire was kindled for the purpose; Cyrus, however, spared his life, and Croesus became his friend and confidential adviser. On the subversion of the Lydian monarchy, its subjects, the Greeks of Asia Minor, were obliged to submit to the conqueror, after having in vain solicited the aid of their brethren the European Greeks. The Lacedaemonians indeed sent an embassy into Asia Minor; and one of their ambassadors had a conference with Cyrus at Sardis, where he warned him 'not to lay hands on any of the Greek towns, for the Lacedmonians would not permit it.' 'Who are the Lacedaemonians?' said the astonished warrior. Having been informed that the Lacedaemonians were a Greek people, who had a capital called Sparta, where there was a regular market, 'I have never yet,' said he, 'been afraid of this kind of men, who have a set place in the middle of their city where they meet to cheat one another and tell lies. If I live, they shall have troubles of their own to talk about.' To save themselves from the Persians, the Ionian portion of the Asiatic Greeks proposed a universal emigration to the island of Sardinia - a striking design, which, however, was not carried into execution. All Asia Minor ultimately yielded to Cyrus.