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SARDIS

SAR'DIS (sar'dis). A city of western Asia Minor about fifty miles E of Symrna, which was the fifth named of the seven churches addressed by John (Rev 1:11; 3:1,4). This important city was founded probably as early as the beginning of the Iron Age and located on important commercial routes running E and W through the rich kingdom of Lydia, of which it was the capital. It was also made wealthy by textile manufacturing and jewelry making. Here are said to have been minted the first coins under the opulent Croesus. Cyrus the Great overcame the city in 546 B.C. Antiochus the Great did the same in 218 B.C. Wealthy Sardis citizens took up with mystery cults, notably with that of Cybele.

As a result of extensive archaeological investigation of Sardis the site is gradually becoming better known. Howard C. Butler of Princeton worked there on behalf of the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis from 1910 to 1914. His efforts were chiefly centered on the great temple of Artemis (300 by 160 feet) to the W of the acropolis, and he opened more than one thousand graves in the so-called "Cemetery Hill." In 1958 the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard, Cornell University, and the American Schools of Oriental Research began a joint excavation at Sardis. George M. A. Hanfmann of Harvard was the director for many years. Along the Pactolas River a Roman villa and bath, two Byzantine churches, and the gold-smelting establishment of King Croesus have been found. Along the Izmir-Ankara highway finds have been extensive. On the N side of the road stood more than thirty Byzantine shops. Behind the shops a synagogue was discovered, three times larger than any synagogue preserved in Palestine. Dating to the first half of the third century, it is four hundred feet long and sixty feet wide. This structure has been partially restored. North of the synagogue lay a gymnasium complex consisting of a large court for athletic exercise and a bath establishment. The monumental entrance gate, two stories high, has now been completely restored.

H.F.V.   (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

 

SARDIS

Capital of Lydia, in Asia Minor; on the Pactolus, at the root of Mount Tmolus. Northward is a view up the Hermus valley. Southward stand two beautiful Ionic columns of the temple of Cybele, six feet and one third in diameter, 35 ft. below the capital; the soil is 25 ft. above the pavement. The citadel is on a steep, high hill. So steep was its S. wall that Croesus the last king omitted to guard it; and one of Cyrus' Persian soldiers, seeing a Lydian descend by cut steps to regain his helmet, thereby led a body of Persians into the acropolis. Now an unhealthy desert; not a human being dwelt in the once populous Sardis in 1850. The senate house (gerusia), called Croesus' house, lies W. of the acropolis. One hall is 156 ft. long by 43 broad, with walls 10 ft. thick. There are remains of a theater, 400 ft. in diameter, and a stadium, 1,000; and of two churches, the latter constructed of fragments of Cybele's temple. Now Sart.

Famed for the golden sands of Pactolus, and as a commercial entrepot. In Sardis and Laodicea alone of the seven addressed in Rev 2; 3; there was no conflict with foes within or without. Not that either had renounced apparent opposition to the world, but neither so faithfully witnessed by word and example as to "torment them that dwell on the earth" (Rev 11:10). Smyrna and Philadelphia, the most afflicted, alone receive unmixed praise. Sardis and Laodicea, the most wealthy, receive little besides censure. Sardis "had a name that she lived and was dead" (Rev 3:1; 1 Tim 5:6; 2 Tim 3:5; Titus 1:16; Eph 2:1,5; 5:14). "Become (Greek) watchful" or "waking" (Greek), what thou art not now. "Strengthen the things which remain," i.e. the few graces which in thy spiritual slumber are not yet extinct, but "ready to die"; so that Sardis was not altogether "dead." Her works were not "filled up in full complement (pepleeromena (NT:4137)) in the sight of My God" (so the Siniaticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus manuscripts).

Christ's God is therefore our God; His judgment is the Father's judgment (John 20:17; 5:22). He threatens Sardis if she will not watch or wake up, "He will come on her as a thief"; as the Greek proverb, "the feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool," expressing the noiseless nearness of God's judgments when supposed far off. Sardis had nevertheless "a few names" in the book of life, known by the Lord as His (John 10:3). The gracious Lord does not overlook exceptional saints among masses of professors. Their reward and their character accord. "They have not defiled their garments," so "they shall walk (the best attitude for showing grace to advantage) with Me in white, for they are worthy," namely, with Christ's worthiness "put on them" (Rev 7:14; Ezek 16:14). The state of grace now, and that of glory hereafter, harmonize. Christ's rebuke was not in vain. Melito, bishop of Sardis in the second century, was eminent for piety; he visited Palestine to investigate concerning the Old Testament canon, and wrote an epistle on it (Eusebius 4:26; Jerome Catal. Script. Eccl. 24). In A.D. 17, under the emperor Tiberius, an earthquake desolated Sardis and 11 other cities of Asia; Rome remitted its taxes for five years, and the emperor gave a benefaction from the privy purse.  (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

 

SARDIS

(sar'-dis) (Sardeis): Sardis is of special interest to the student of Herodotus and Xenophon, for there Artaphernes, the brother of Darius, lived, and from there Xerxes invaded Greece and Cyrus marched against his brother Artaxerxes; it is also of interest to the student of early Christian history as the home of one of the Seven Churches of Rev (Rev 1:11; 3:1 ff). It was moreover one of the oldest and most important cities of Asia Minor, and until 549 BC, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia. It stood on the northern slope of Mt. Tmolus; its acropolis occupied one of the spurs of the mountain. At the base flowed the river Pactolus which served as a moat, rendering the city practically impregnable. Through the failure to watch, however, the acropolis had been successfully scaled in 549 BC by a Median soldier, and in 218 by a Cretan (compare Rev 3:2-3). Because of its strength during the Persian period, the satraps here made their homes. However, the city was burned by the Ionians in 501 BC, but it was quickly rebuilt and regained its importance. In 334 BC it surrendered to Alexander the Great who gave it independence, but its period of independence was brief, for 12 years later in 322 BC it was taken by Antigonus. In 301 BC, it fell into the possession of the Seleucidan kings who made it the residence of their governor. It became free again in 190 BC, when it formed a part of the empire of Pergamos, and later of the Roman province of Asia. In 17 AD, when it was destroyed by an earthquake, the Roman emperor Tiberius remitted the taxes of the people and rebuilt the city, and in his honor the citizens of that and of neighboring towns erected a large monument, but Sardis never recovered its former importance (compare Rev 3:12). Again in 295 AD, after the Roman province of Asia was broken up, Sardis became the capital of Lydia, and during the early Christian age it was the home of a bishop. The city continued to flourish until 1402, when it was so completely destroyed by Tamerlane that it was never rebuilt. Among the ruins there now stands a small village called Sert, a corruption of its ancient name. The ruins may be reached by rail from Smyrna, on the way to Philadelphia.

The ancient city was noted for its fruits and wool, and for its temple of the goddess Cybele, whose worship resembled that of Diana of Ephesus. Its wealth was also partly due to the gold which was found in the sand of the river Pactolus, and it was here that gold and silver coins were first struck. During the Roman period its coins formed a beautiful series, and are found in abundance by the peasants who till the surrounding fields. The ruins of the buildings which stood at the base of the hill have now been nearly buried by the dirt washed down from above. The hill upon which the acropolis stood measures 950 ft. high: the triple walls still surround it. The more imposing of the ruins are on the lower slope of the hill, and among them the temple of Cybele is the most interesting, yet only two of its many stone columns are still standing. Equally imposing is the necropolis of the city, which is at a distance of two hours' ride from Sert, South of the Gygaean lake. The modern name of the necropolis is Bin Tepe or Thousand Mounds, because of the large group of great mounds in which the kings and nobles were buried. Many of the mounds were long ago excavated and plundered.

We quote the following from the Missionary Herald (Boston, Massachusetts, August, 1911, pp. 361-62):

Dr. C.C. Tracy, of Marsovan, has made a visit to ancient Sardis and observed the work of his countryman, Professor Butler, of Princeton University, who is uncovering the ruins of that famous city of the past. Already rich "finds" have been made; among them portions of a temple of Artemis, indicating a building of the same stupendous character as those at Ephesus and Baalbec, and a necropolis from whose tombs were unearthed three thousand relics, including utensils, ornaments of gold and precious stones, mirrors, etc. What chiefly impressed Dr. Tracy was the significance of those "Seven Churches of Asia," of which Sardis held one. "When I think of the myriads of various nationality and advanced civilization for whose evangelization these churches were responsible, the messages to the Christian communities occupying the splendid strategic centers fill me with awe. While established amid the splendors of civilization, they were set as candlesticks in the midst of gross spiritual darkness. Did they fulfil their mission?"

One of Dr. Butler's recoveries is the marble throne of the Bishop of Sardis; looking upon it the message to Sardis recurs to mind. A fact of current history quickened the visitor's appreciation of the word to "the angel" of that church. "Yonder among the mountains overhanging Sardis there is a robber gang led by the notorious Chakirjali. He rules in the mountains; no government force can take him. Again and again he swoops down like an eagle out of the sky, in one quarter of the region or another. From time immemorial these mountains have been the haunts of robbers; very likely it was so when Rev was written, `I will come upon thee as a thief.' In each case the message was addressed to `the angel of the church.' Over every church in the world there is a spirit hovering, as it were-a spirit representing that church and by whose name it can be addressed. The messages are as vital as they were at the first. `He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.' "  E. J. BANKS

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

 

SARDIS

[SARR dis]-the capital city of Lydia in the province of Asia, in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The church at Sardis was one of the seven churches mentioned by John in the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:1-6).

Sardis was situated on the east bank of the Pactolus River about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Smyrna; it occupied a rocky spur of Mount Tmolus and a valley at the foot of this mountain. In ancient times Sardis was well fortified and easily defended. It became the capital of the ancient Lydian empire, then passed successively to the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans during their respective dominance of the ancient world.

During its days as a Roman city, Sardis became an important Christian center. However, the church at Sardis was evidently affected by the complacency of the city and its reliance on past glory: "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Rev 3:1). Sardis, the dead church, was like "whitewashed tombs which...appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones" (Matt 23:27). Its thriving, healthy appearance masked an inner decay.

The most impressive building of ancient Sardis must have been its magnificent Temple of Artemis, built in the fourth century B.C. The temple was 100 meters (327 feet) long and 50 meters (163 feet) wide and had 78 Ionic columns, each 17.7 meters (58 feet) high. Some of these columns remain standing until this day.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)