History Files
 

 

Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia

 

 

 

MapMaeonia & Lydia
c.13th Century - 547 BC

Situated in western Anatolia, Maeonia had been a Hittite territory within Arzawa. Its language was closely related to the Luwian which was spoken all around it, but perhaps with minor differences as the Lydians are often recognised as a separate group of South Indo-European-speakers. As Hittite power collapsed during the thirteenth century BC, it became an independent neo-Hittite kingdom. Independence didn't last for long, however, as it soon fell to the Heraclidae (the Mycenaean Greeks under Heracles) some time after they defeated Troy. Although Mycenaean civilisation disappeared from most of Greece following the Dorian invasions, Lydia survived with its capital at Sardis. Unfortunately, none of the kingdom's history is datable until the accession of Gyges in 685 BC, while its traditions, mythology and rituals have been lost, leaving us to rely on Greek mythology for its earliest events.

FeatureEphesus, a few kilometres from Sardis, near the coast, was later a major city in the Roman world, being an important centre for early Christianity, as well as home to a gladiator school.

1300s BC

The first Mycenaean Greek settlements are founded along the coastline of western Anatolia. Indo-European Hittite and Luwian peoples still govern the territory however, probably from the state of Arzawa.

Luwian bronze seal
A bronze seal written in the almost universal Anatolian language of Luwian which was discovered at Troy in 1995

c.1200 BC

The weakened Hittite empire is destroyed, and the former subjects of western Anatolia form a neo-Hittite state called Maeonia.

Herodotus claims that colonists from this state land in Etruria around this time and become the Etruscans.

MapAtyad Kings of Maeonia / Maionia (Tantalids)

The information on Maeonia before the seventh century BC comes from sources such as Herodotus. He gives the founder and namesake of the kingdom, Manes, as the first king of Maeonia, with a son named Atys (Atyllus). Other sources, such as Strabo, name Tmolus and his son Tantalus as kings of the region at the same time, ruling from Sipylus (Mount Sipylus, near Manisa and Izmir in western Anatolia). As Omphale is shown as a member of both families, the probability is that they are identical.

The region was on the edge of late Hittite territory, within former Arzawa, and its Indo-European Maeonian kings were neo-Hittites who ruled independently after the empire collapsed. The rulers are all semi-legendary figures.

c.1200? BC

Manes / Tmolus

Founder of Maeonia. Gored to death by a bull.

c.1195 - 1173? BC

Omphale

Wife. Reigned after Manes' death.

c.1190? BC

Atys / Tantalus

Son of Tmolus and Plouto. m Dione.

Herodotus states that in the time of Atys there is a 'great scarcity [of food] throughout the whole land of Lydia', which appears to be a remembrance of the widescale famine that affects the region at the end of the thirteenth century BC.

Tantalus is a name from Greek legend, ruling in Sipylus (Mount Sipylus), otherwise known as the kingdom of Tantalus. It seems likely that he and Atys are one and the same. To test the gods, he kills his son, Pelops, and they revive him.

Pelops

Son. m Hippodamia, dau of Oenomaus. King of Pisa.

The sons of Pelops, Atreus and Thyestes, fight between each other for the kingdom of Mycenae. Atreus wins and becomes king. He founds the dynasty at Mycenae which produces Agamemnon but which is cursed to suffer misfortune.

? - c.1183 BC

Lydus / Broteas

Brother. Went mad and threw himself into a fire.

Died c.1200 BC

Tantalus (of Pisa)

Son. m Clytemnestra & killed by Agamemnon of Mycenae.

c.1193 - 1183 BC

Mesthles and Antiphus, the sons of Telaemenes, lead the Maeonian contingent to the Trojan War on the side of Troy.

c.1183 - 1100 BC

Maeonia becomes a Heraclid post-Mycenaean, Ionic colony after the defeat of Troy. It is unclear whether the new masters are part of the Ionian League, but it seems that Omphale still rules for a time (perhaps as a vassal?).

Following the collapse of Mycenaean civilisation in Greece by around 1140 BC, it seems that the Mycenaean settlers in Maeonia either take over the kingdom, or replace it with one of their own in the same region.

Heraclid Kings of Maeonia / Lydia (Tylonids)

Following the Mycenaean conquest of Troy, the descendants of semi-legendary Heracles eventually seem to have established the capital at Hyde (perhaps the name of the region in which Sardis was located). They were bordered by the Ionian League of city states to the west and Phrygia to the north-east. At some point up to the reign of Gyges in circa 685 BC Maeonia became Lydia after the last king of the previous dynasty. The change in the kingdom's name supports a level of social change in the region which could include the replacement of a Maeonian royal house for a Mycenaean one, or perhaps the Heraclids for the later Mermnads.

The Heraclids comprised of twenty-two kings who reigned for a total of 505 years, according to Herodotus. They were descended from a liaison between Omphale and Heracles (known as Tylon to the Lydians), although Herodotus suggests that the Lydian kings may not have descended from Omphale at all. Perhaps this was a later Mycenaean attempt at establishing the legitimacy of their rule.

Lydian warriors were famous archers by the sixth century BC who were known by the Israelites (Jeremiah 46:9), and despite the Greek influences, their language remained Lydian, an Indo-European language related to Hittite, which finally became extinct during the first century BC.

c.1183 BC

Heracles / Herakles

Married Omphale, widow of Manes, but apparently didn't rule.

c.1183 - 1173 BC

In Greek mythology, Omphale is the ruler of Lydia, whom Heracles is required to serve for a period of time. During his time in Lydia Heracles enslaves the Itones, kills Syleus (who had been forcing passers-by to hoe his vineyard), and captures the Cercopes.

c.1160? BC

Alcaeus / Alkaios

Son. Later chroniclers named these three as kings of Lydia.

c.1140? BC

Belus / Belos

Son.

c.1120? BC

Ninus / Ninos

Son.

c.1100? BC

Agron

Son. First Heraclid king of Lydia.

c.1100 - 795 BC

Seventeen unknown kings over 505 years, all succeeding each other in an unbroken line of descent.

795 - 759 BC

Ardys I / Ardysus I

Son of his predecessor.

759 - 745 BC

Alyattes I

Son.

745 - 733 BC

Meles / Myrsus

Son.

733 - 716 BC

Candaules / Myrsilus

Son. Murdered by former friend Gyges.

731 (695) BC

Phrygia loses the territory of Pergamum to Lydia about 695 BC, seemingly upon the defeat and suicide of King Midas III. Five years later, nomadic Cimmerian warriors overrun Phrygia and sack the capital, Gordion. However, this Cimmerian sacking is also stated to be the cause of Midas committing suicide, so the situation seems to be mildly confused. Either way, Lydia becomes the dominant power in western Anatolia whilst Phrygia is eclipsed.

716 (685) BC

Gyges murders Candaules and usurps the kingdom, marrying Candaules' widow to cement his claim to the throne. From this point onwards, dates are calculated against those of Assyrian history.

Mermnad Kings of Lydia

From the reign of Gyges onwards the kingdom is fully historical. However, the dates for this dynasty have never been determined with certainty. The traditional dates are derived from Herodotus, who gives the lengths of each king's reign; but these have been questioned by modern scholars on the basis of matching events with confirmed dates in Assyrian history. The dates calculated against Assyrian history are shown here, with the traditional dates in the notes.

Gyges founded a new capital at Sardis, a few miles further inland from Sipylus. During his reign and afterwards, Lydia was the leading power in western Anatolia, now that Phrygia had been severely reduced in strength following the sacking of its capital city. Lydia is also noted as the birthplace of coinage in circa 660 BC, and had subjugated Caria by the sixth century.

(Additional information from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

c.685 - 644 BC

Gyges (Guggu)

(716-678 BC). Married Candaules' widow. Reigned 38 years.

652 BC

One serious invasion of Anatolia by Cimmerians has already been repulsed, with the states or regions of Hilakku, Lydia, and Tabal requesting help from Assyria. Now the Cimmerians return (leader unknown). King Gyges of Lydia is killed during a second attack. His capital of Sardis is captured, all except the citadel which manages to hold out. The fact that it does suggests either that either the Cimmerians do not hang around for long after their victory or that (as before) they are moved along by an Assyrian force (with Ardys II of Lydia helping them on their way at the point of a sword).

Cimmerian warriors
This image shows Cimmerians battling early Greeks - prior to the advent of accepted 'Classical' Greece - with the mounted Cimmerians warriors apparently being accompanied by their dogs

Excavations at the site of Sardis later discover a destruction layer that appears to be associated with this event. The dating is clearly off when matched against the dates given here for Gyges, or even the alternative dates shown in parentheses in his notes, but that is not unusual when many events are being pieced together from various ancient inscriptions, tablets, and 'annals'.

c.644 - 615 BC

Ardys II / Ardysus II

(678-c.625 BC). Son. Reigned 49 years.

c.626 - 590 BC

Lydia seizes control of the kingdom of Phrygia.

c.615 - 610 BC

Sadyattes

(629-617 BC). Son. Reigned 12 years.

c.610 - 560 BC

Alyattes II

(617-560 BC). Son. Reigned 57 years.

c.600 BC

The Lydians conquer the southern Anatolian region of Pamphylia and expand the kingdom in all directions, coming into direct contact with Greek settlers in western Anatolia. During this period the kingdom is bordered in the north-east by Scythians and Cimmerians, tribes which are aggressive and unruly, although most of their antagonism is directed towards Assyria.

585 BC

Alyattes loses the Battle of the Eclipse to Media in a fifteen year war which is otherwise relatively evenly matched. Lydia expands in his reign to form an empire that covers all of western Anatolia and includes Paphlagonia. The end of the war signals the start of closer ties between the two kingdoms. Alyattes II of Lydia gives his daughter in marriage to Astyages, son of Cyaxares.

560 - 547 BC

Croesus / Kroisos

(560-546 BC). Son. Reigned 14 years.

547 - 334 BC

Croesus is the source of the term 'rich as Croesus'. His ambition outrunning his ability, he attacks the recently-established Persian empire and is defeated, being chased back to his capital, there to be captured. Lydia is absorbed into the empire and becomes the centre of a governing Eurypontid satrapy. The empire of Croesus had included various neighbouring territories, including Pamphylia and Paphlagonia, and Persia takes these too.

Coins of Croesus of Lydia
Croesus was reputed to have minted the first gold and silver coins - two sides of such a silver coin are shown here - and was famous for his wealth until he became too ambitious and was conquered by the growing Persian empire

? - 334 BC

Spithridates

Persian satrap.

334 - 323 BC

Lydia is conquered by Alexander the Great's Greek empire. Spithridates joins his king, Darius, at the decisive Battle of Granicus in 334 BC. He is involved in the fighting to prevent Alexander the Great from reaching Darius and as he aims a blow at Alexander's back, his hand is cut off by Clitus the Black (later Greek satrap of Bactria).

323 - 320 BC

Menander

Greek satrap.

320 - c.180 BC

Lydia becomes part of the Greek Seleucid empire (it is unclear whether Greater Phrygia or the Lysimachian empire claim it for any time during the Wars of the Diadochi (322-301 BC), although the latter certainly appears to gain it as a spoil of war in 301 BC).

c.180 - 133 BC

Rome defeats the Seleucids in the Seleucid War, taking Asia Minor as a province in 188 BC. The Seleucid ally, Cappadocia, negotiates friendly terms with Rome, notably because Stratonice, the king's daughter, is about to marry the king of Pergamum, a Roman ally. Pergamum annexes Lydia and Pamphylia around this point in time.

133 BC

Pergamum and Lydia become Roman provinces.