Sardis was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, ruled by King Croesus (560-546 BC). Later, it was an important Roman city.
Located 90 km (56 miles) east of İzmir (map) next to the town of Sartmahmut, Sardis (Sart in Turkish) is a large archeological site with lots to see. Guided tours are available from İzmir and Ephesus/Kuşadası.
The great Temple of Artemis was begun in 334 BC, reconfigured over the centuries in various architectural styles, but never finished.
The 2nd-century AD Marble Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult complex has been extensively restored, as has been the huge, rich Roman synagogue.
Sardis is a large site divided by the İzmir-Uşak highway (E96/D300), with the Marble Court and synagogue on the north side, and the Temple of Artemis about 1 km (6/10 mile) to the south, along with remnants of a Byzantinechurch, a late Roman villa.
The River Pactolus, now called the Gediz Nehri, passes along the western edge of the site. The ancient Lydiansgathered gold dust from its waters by placing sheepskins in the water which collected the dust. According to legend, the gold came from the Phrygian King Midas who, cursed with the golden touch, washed in the Pactolus to rid himself of it. You can visit the site of the Lydians’ gold refinery.
You can see Sardis on a day-trip from İzmir (90 km/56 miles, 75 minutes), either by private car or by frequent regional minibus or, less conveniently, by train.
From İzmir’s Otogar (bus terminal), go to the İlçe Peronları (EEL-cheh peh-rohn-lah-ruh, regional gates) to catch a minibus for Salihli, the town just beyond Sardis, and ask to be let out at Sartmustafa.
There are two morning trains and one afternoon train from İzmir’s Alsancak station toward Uşak and Alaşehir that take 2.5 hours to travel the 120 km (75 miles) of track to the Sartmahmut station one km (6/10 mile) north of the Sardis archeological site. Two returning trains from Sartmahmut to İzmir (Alsancak) depart Sartmahmut in the morning and one in the evening.
The nearest hotels are in Salihli and Manisa, but the greatest selection is İzmir hotels.
Distances & Travel Times
Alaşehir (Philadelphia): 58 km (36 miles) SE, 1 hour
İzmir: 90 km (56 miles) W, 1.5 hours
Manisa: 58 km (36 miles) NW, 1 hour
Salihli: 10 km (6 miles) E, 15 minutes
Selçuk (Ephesus): 121 km (75 miles) SW, 2.25 hours
Uşak: 144 km (90 miles) E, 2.25 hours
—by Tom Brosnahan