From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(Σάρδεις, Lat. Sardes or Sardis; the sing.[Note: singular.]form Σάρδις is found in Ptolemy)

Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, was one of the most ancient and renowned cities of Asia Minor. Built on a strong hill projecting, with smooth and steep flanks, from the northern side of Mt. Tmolus, it commanded the wide and fertile plain through which the Hermus, about 3 miles N., flowed westward to the aegean Sea. On three sides it was deemed inaccessible, the only approach being the neck of land which joined the hill to the Tmolus range. It was thus an ideal capital in days of primitive warfare between Lydia and Phrygia. In later times a second city was built around the foot of the hill, 1500 ft. lower than the acropolis.

In Sardis the kings of Lydia, whom the Greeks counted ‘barbarians’ (Herod. i. 6), reigned in Oriental splendour and luxury. But centuries of material prosperity made the Lydian character soft and voluptuous, and the fall of CrCEsus, whom Solon warned in vain of the fickleness of fortune, became to the Greeks the supreme illustration of the danger of careless security.

When Cyrus, king of Persia, besieged the city (549 b.c.), and offered a reward to the soldier who should first mount the wall, ‘a Mardian named HyrCEades endeavoured to climb up on that part of the citadel where no guard was stationed, because there did not appear to be any danger that it would be taken on that part, for on that side the citadel was precipitous and impracticable.… Having seen a Lydian come down this precipice the day before, for a helmet that had rolled down, and carry it up again, he noticed it carefully, and reflected on it in his mind; he thereupon ascended the same way, followed by divers Persians; and when great numbers had gone up, Sardis was thus taken and the town plundered’ (Herod. i. 84). The same daring exploit was performed by the Cretan Lagoras, who scaled the heights and captured the citadel for Antiochus the Great (218 b.c.). After the defeat of Antiochus at Magnesia (190 b.c.), Sardis was gifted by the Romans to the kings of Pergamos. From the time of Alexander the Great it had enjoyed the constitution of a self-governing city of the Greek type, and under the Romans it became the head of a conventus juridicus in the Hermus valley. It still amassed wealth, but its ancient power and prestige were gone. The once brave, warlike, victorious Sardians had long been despised as ‘tender-footed Lydians,’ who could only ‘play on the cithara, strike the guitar, and sell by retail’ (Herod. i. 55, 155). Living on the traditions of a splendid past, Sardis sank into a second-rate provincial town. It seemed to have no power of material or moral self-recovery. In a.d. 17 it was destroyed by an earthquake, and rebuilt with the aid of Imperial funds.

The delineation which the Apocalypse gives of the Church of Sardis is singularly like that which history gives of the city. It is scarcely possible to imagine that the writer was unconscious of the resemblance when he added touch after touch to his picture, and the parallel could not but strike every intelligent reader. In the time of Domitian the Christian community needed to be told humiliating truths regarding itself. Years of evangelism had not delivered it from the spirit of the city which boasted her great name and fame, while she lapped herself in soft Lydian airs and closed her eyes to the dangers of overweening self-confidence. Within a single generation the Church is repeating the city’s history of a thousand years. (1) It has a name to live and is dead ( Revelation 3:1). It is now only apparently what it once was really-a living Church. The youthful vitality is spent, its spiritual renown has become a nominis umbra. Religiously as well as politically decadent, Sardis seemed incapable of reanimation. Ramsay characterizes it ‘the city of death.’ (2) The Church, like the city, has ‘fulfilled’ none of its works. Beginning with great ambitions, high hopes, and noble endeavours, it has lacked the grace of perseverance, and so has realized nothing. After a springtime rich in promise, how meagre the harvest! (3) The Church is warned that it must watch, if it is not to be surprised as by a thief in the night (3:3). To any public-spirited Sardian that was ‘the most unkindest cut of all,’ for in the critical times of history Sardis had always been caught napping. (4) It is implied, though not directly asserted, that the Church of Sardis had defiled its garments with the immorality of the soft and dissolute city which had been the age-long worshipper of Cybele, when it ought by this time to be like an urbs candida, wearing the white robes of purity and victory. No one of the Seven Churches of the province of Asia, not even Laodicea, is so severely rebuked as Sardis. All the more warm and tender are the words of praise addressed to the few who have kept themselves unspotted ‘even in Sardis.’ Their virtue has a peculiar grace because it blooms in such an atmosphere, and the reward of their purity will be fellowship with the perfectly pure-God and His holy angels.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, 1904, p. 354 f.; C. Wilson, in Murray’s Handbook to Asia Minor, 1895.

James Strahan.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

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 Revelation 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" ( Revelation 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" ( Revelation 3:1;  1 Timothy 5:6;  2 Timothy 3:5;  Titus 1:16;  Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 2:5;  Ephesians 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 ( Pepleromena ) 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;  John 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" ( Revelation 7:14;  Ezekiel 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. Ecclesiastes 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

SARDIS was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia on the western coast of Asia Minor, and in the 6th cent. b.c. one of the most powerful cities of the world. It stood on one of the alluvial hills between Mount Tmolus and the sea, about 1500 feet above and south of the great plain of the river Hermus, and was inaccessible except by a neck of land on the south. The date of its foundation must be about b.c. 1200, and the situation was ideal for an early fortified capital of a kingdom. As time advanced, extension was necessary, and a lower city was built on the west and north sides of the original city, near the little river Pactolus, and probably also on the east side. The older city now acted as acropolis, or citadel, for the later. This rich Oriental city, whose wealth depended on well-cultivated land and incessant commerce, was for centuries to the Greek the type of an Oriental despotism, under which all must sooner or later bend. Its absorption was not without its effects on the conquerors, and Sardis became the home of a newer Hellenism, different from the old.

CrÅ“sus was king of Lydia in the second half of the 6th cent. b.c., and planned a campaign against Cyrus, the Persian king. He proceeded with the greatest caution, and crossed the river Halys. There he was completely defeated. He returned to prepare a second army, but Cyrus pursued him in haste, and besieged him in Sardis before he could get it ready. The citadel was captured by means of a climber who worked his way up by an oblique crevice in the perpendicular rock. The city was similarly captured by Antiochus the Great from Achæus late in the third century b.c. The patron deity of the city was Cybele, but she is conceived as possessing different attributes from those usually associated with the name. A special characteristic was the power of restoring life to the dead. The city suffered greatly from an earthquake in a.d. 17, and received a large donation as well as a remission of five years’ taxation from the Emperor Tiberius. The greatness of the city under the Roman empire was due entirely to its past reputation. The acropolis ceased to be inhabited, being no longer necessary for purposes of defence. Its use was revived in the earlier Turkish days, but for long there has been no settlement at Sardis. Its place is taken by Salikli, above 5 miles to the east.

According to the view of Sir W. M. Ramsay, Sardis is alluded to in the Apocalypse, as are all the other six churches, as a centre of influence in its district. One of the cities within its sphere was Magnesia. The letter addressed by the writer of the Apocalypse to Sardis, with which, as with the other six cities named there, he was obviously well acquainted, shows that the church at Sardis was practically dead. It had degenerated and decayed from its early promise to an extent equalled by no other city. There were in it only a few faithful souls. That there is a remarkable analogy between the history of the city and the history of the church may be seen even from the bald account of the former just given. The instability of the city in history finds its parallel in the immorality of the church members. Most of the Christians had fallen back to the pagan level of life. The few noble ones shall have their names enrolled in the list of the citizens of heaven. The letter doubtless had a good effect. Christianity survived at Sardis. It was the capital of the province Lydia, instituted about a.d. 295. The bishop of Sardis was metropolitan of Lydia, and sixth in order of precedence of all the bishops subject to the patriarch of Constantinople. Not far from Sardis there dwells in the present day a people whose customs differ so much from those of Mohammedanism that it is probable they would become Christian if they dared.

A. Souter.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Sar'dis. A city of Asia Minor , and capital of Lydia, situated about two miles to the south of the river Hermus, just below the range of Tmolus, on a spur of which its Acropolis was built. It was 60 miles northeast of Smyrna. It was the ancient residence of the kings of Lydia, among them Croesus, proverbial for his immense wealth. Cyrus is said to have taken $600,000,000 worth of treasure form the city when he captured it, B.C. 548.

Sardis was, in very early times, both from the extremely fertile character of the neighboring region, and from its convenient position, a commercial mart of importance. The art of dyeing wool is said to have been invented there. In the year 214 B.C., it was taken and sacked by the army of Antiochus, the Great. Afterward, it passed under the dominion of the kings of Pergamos. Its productive soil must always have continued a source of wealth; but its importance as a central mart appears to have diminished, from the time of the invasion of Asia by Alexander.

The massive temple of Cybele still bears witness, in its fragmentary remains, to the wealth and architectural skill of the people that raised it. On the north side of the Acropolis, overlooking the valley of the Hermus, is a theatre nearly 400 feet in diameter, attached to a stadium of about 1000 feet. There are still considerable remains of the ancient city at Sert-Kalessi . Travellers describe the appearance of the locality as that of complete solitude. The only passage in which it is mentioned in the Bible is  Revelation 3:1-6.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

The only biblical mention of the church in the town of Sardis is as the recipient of one of the letters that John sent to seven churches in the province of Asia (for map see Asia ). Nothing is known of the church apart from what is found in this letter.

So much had the church in Sardis followed the ways of the society around it, that it was Christian in name only. Spiritually it was dead. Unless the Christians woke up and changed their ways, God would act against them in swift judgment. There were some, however, who proved the genuineness of their faith by refusing to alter their behaviour to suit the majority. Such people were assured of God’s reward ( Revelation 3:1-6).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Sardis ( Sär'Dis ). A city in Asia Minor, and the capital of Lydia. Sardis was situated at the foot of Mount Tmolus, about 50 miles northeast of Smyrna and on the river Pactolus, celebrated for its "golden sands." It was the residence of the famous Croesus, whose name is the synonym for riches. When Cyrus conquered him, b.c. 548, he is said to have taken treasure of the value of $600,000,000. Sardis was the seat of one of the seven churches of Asia, and the Christians seem to have been so corrupted by the prevailing worldliness that they received a severe rebuke.  Revelation 3:1-5.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

The capital of ancient Lydia in Asia Minor. The church that was gathered there is known only by being selected as one of the seven typical churches to which addresses were sent by the apostle John.  Revelation 1:11;  Revelation 3:1,4; See Revelation In the time of Croesus, its last king, Sardis was a rich and splendid city. It was taken by Cyrus. Now there is nothing but ruins. Its modern name is Sart, 38 28' N, 28 4' E .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

a city of Asia Minor, and formerly the capital of Croesus, king of the Lydians. The church of Sardis was one of the seven churches of Asia, to which the writer of the Apocalypse was directed to send an epistle,  Revelation 3:1-3 .

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

A city of Asia. One of the seven churches to whom the Lord Jesus Christ sent the solemn message in the second and third chapters of the book of the Revelations. If it be derived from the word Sharar, it means to rule, or of authority.

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

 1 Chronicles 3:1-6 1 Chronicles 3:4

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Revelation 3:1-6

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sardis'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

sar´dis ( Σάρδεις , Sárdeis ): 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 (  James 1:11;  James 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  Revelation 3:2 ,  Revelation 3:3 ). 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  Revelation 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 fulfill 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.'"

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

Sar´dis, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, situated at the foot of Mount Tmolus, in a fine plain watered by the river Pactolus, is in N. lat. 38° 30′; E. long. 27° 57′. Sardis was a great and ancient city, and from its wealth and importance was the object of much cupidity and of many sieges. When taken by Cyrus, under Croesus, its last king, who has become proverbial for his riches, Sardis was one of the most splendid and opulent cities of the East. After their victory over Antiochus it passed to the Romans, under whom it rapidly declined in rank and importance. In the time of Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt by order of the emperor. The inhabitants of Sardis bore an ill repute among the ancients for their voluptuous habits of life. The place that Sardis holds in the Apocalypse, as one of the 'Seven Churches of Asia,' is the source of the peculiar interest with which the Christian reader regards it. From what is said it appears that it had already declined much in real religion, although it still maintained the name and external aspect of a Christian church, 'having a name to live, while it was dead' .

Successive earthquakes, and the ravages of the Saracens and Turks, have reduced this once flourishing city to a heap of ruins, presenting many remains of its former splendor. The habitations of the living are confined to a few miserable cottages, forming a village called Sart.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [15]

Capital of ancient Lydia, in Asia Minor, at the foot of Mount Tmolus, celebrated for its wealth, its trade, and luxury, through the market-place of which the river Pactolus flowed with its sands of gold.