Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.04.56

Hasan Dedeoglu, The Lydians and Sardis.   Istanbul:  A Turizm Yayinlari, 2003.  Pp. 118; maps 3, color figs. 110, b/w figs. 11.  ISBN 975-7199-99-0.  £30.00.  

Reviewed by Catherine M. Draycott, Somerville College, Oxford (
Word count: 1387 words

Hasan Dedeoglu's book The Lydians and Sardis is not readily available outside of Turkey, and deserves to be brought to the attention of a broader potential readership. Pitched at interested members of the general public, principally English speaking tourists visiting Sardis and museums in Turkey, it fills a gap in the literature on Lydia as an accessible overview of the history and archaeology of the region, and it contains a wealth of rare and good images.

The book is a synthetic, chronologically arranged history, illustrated with archaeological artefacts and with explicit discussion of some relevant monuments. The text devotes much attention to literary accounts; it is really a recounting of stories about Lydians and Sardis. There is a great deal of information included here, although students will have to turn to other sources to follow up the references. Scholars will particularly appreciate the range of good colour photographs of monuments and landscapes, as well as objects in the Manisa Museum, some of which are unpublished or only published in inferior quality black-and-white photographs. Some weaknesses and omissions are pointed out below, but generally the author has succeeded in bringing together much which is "not accessible to the general reader as a whole anywhere else" (p.7).

Including the introduction, the book is divided into a total of seventeen chapters, arranged in chronological order from prehistoric Lydia to Early Christian Sardis. The sections range in length from one page (Prehistory of Lydia) to eighteen pages (Lydians and Persians and Lydo-Persian Sardis). Generally, the book is much weighted toward the traditional interests in Lydian studies: the periods of the Lydian Kingdom and the Persian Empire.

A one page 'chapter' on the prehistory of Lydia explains that there were settlements in Lydia in prehistoric periods, but not much else, which seems a bit disproportionate -- there could have been a little more on the prehistoric mounds and finds, especially Yortan, since a Yortan pitcher is illustrated. The next two chapters, on the Bronze Age history and literary traditions of early Lydia, when the land was known to the Hittites as the 'Arzawa lands', are more extensive. D provides a short summary of Hittite political geography and the quite different Greek literary traditions of mythical 'heroic' age Lydians. Included here are a number of photographs of landmarks such as the Hittite period relief at the Karabel Pass and other rock cut monuments invested with mythic histories, such as the so-called 'Tomb of Tantalos' and 'Pelops' Throne', with explanatory text.

The next six chapters cover Mermnad Lydia, including tales of the rise of that dynasty and Kroisos' legendary wealth, as well as aspects of culture at Sardis. In general, there is less relationship here between the text and the illustrations, and many of the objects and monuments belong to the Persian period. This is fair enough, given that there are few assuredly seventh century monuments from Sardis and it is difficult to isolate the late Mermnad period from the early Persian period. One monument which certainly belongs to the early Lydian Kingdom period, however, is strangely downplayed and omitted from the illustrations: the huge city wall, which is one of the most outstanding finds of the Sardis team. At up to a possible thirty metres high, this wall made the city strikingly visible and signalled its importance within the Anatolian landscape. The wall is also not shown in the simplified plan of the city provided. The 'missing' palace of the King of Sardis is discussed in the text, and there are some illustrations of the terrace walls on the slopes of the acropolis above which it may have stood, as well as the well-known reconstruction of a mud-brick house decorated with terracotta tiles. The caption on the latter photo seems to have been left out, however, so there is no link with the text. The fragment of a terracotta with a Lydian man shown on p. 8 would not go amiss here. More positively, although the illustrations mostly show Achaemenid period items, some of which are not from Lydia, they are well chosen to correspond with the discussion in the section on Lydian society.

The section on Lydia and Ionia is less coherent, veering between discussions of Lydia's neighbours and the Cimmerian raids, repeating aspects of Lydian history and indicating some archaeological finds too quickly without enough explanation (seventh century destruction levels associated with Cimmerian sack). There is little relationship between the political history of the text and the illustrations. The illustrations are, however, useful in themselves, including the intriguing puppy sacrifice deposit.

The next four chapters effectively cover Persian Lydia and Sardis. The bulk is formed by the very long chapter on Lydo-Persian Sardis. Here, the text is almost entirely a political history from Herodotus, and, although it includes as much from literary sources as possible, it is too long and drawn out. The book seems to lose sight of the intended readership, including more information than is necessary for a general reader and yet lacking the references which would make it useful for a student. A subsection on tombs in Lydia would have been useful here, especially since many of the illustrations are of tombs and tomb finds. Indeed, most of the tumuli in Lydia and the rock-cut tombs around Sardis are thought to date to the Persian period and later. The tombs of the 'Lydian Treasure', at Harta and Güre on the borders of Lydia, could have been included here, making a useful link to the Lydian Treasure book (see below). The Pyramid Tomb at Sardis receives its own short section, befitting an outstanding monument, but the reconstruction shown is outdated.

The remaining thirty pages of the book cover Hellenistic to Early Christian Sardis. The last chapter is especially short and, like the first chapter, could have been either expanded or incorporated into the preceding chapter on Roman and Byzantine Sardis. As in the Persian section, here the text wanders away from Lydia and Sardis specifically, and the connection with the illustrations is sometimes lost.

There are some areas of weakness in the presentation and production of the book which should be noted. First, there are occasional lapses in the English in places. Secondly, although in general the standard of the illustrations is very high, the backgrounds used for much of the object photography look like a faux leather couch, which is disconcerting. As well, the figures are not numbered, and, although not strictly essential, this would be helpful. It would also be helpful to have the details of the objects shown included in the captions, such as the museum collection number, materials and dimensions. Finally, lack of references is understandable in a non-academic book, but a short bibliography or list of suggested readings at the end would make the book more useful for students, expanding its marketability.

As remarked above, this book fills a gap in the literature on Sardis and Lydia, for, although there are a number of books and articles on Sardis, there are few publications comparable in scope. The only other two books of similar scope are the much weightier academic volume produced by the Harvard team excavating Sardis: Sardis, from Prehistoric to Roman Times, ed. G.M.A. Hanfmann (Harvard 1983) and Bilge Umar's earlier guide booklet: Lydia (Akyayinlari 1981). More detail on various monuments and references for the history can be found in the many publications of the Sardis team, principally their series of monograph reports of their campaigns, as well as Elspeth Dusinberre's recent book: Aspects of Empire in Achaemenid Sardis (Cambridge 2003). A new study of the Lydian countryside by Christopher Roosevelt is also underway. Also on tombs in the hinterland and a key publication for Lydian archaeology is Heritage Recovered; the Lydian Treasure, by Ilknur Özgen and Jean Öztürk (Istanbul 1996), which catalogues rich goods and decorations from the Harta and Güre tombs and provides a good overview of Lydian history and culture in the Mermnad and Persian periods.

D's book is more extensive than Umar's guide booklet and is superior in production. While it is not a guide book, it covers a number of landscapes and landmarks which are not included in the Lydian Treasure book. Although not an academic publication, it complements and supplements the other more academic literature and will be an asset to libraries and the collections of interested scholars.

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