The History of the Lydians is one of great prosperity and even greater tumult. Its borders ebbed and flowed under the ambitions of successive kings, and then its ownership and fortunes fluctuated under the weight of successive wars.
Lydia owed its great wealth and influence in large part to a lucky bit of geography. The country was centered at the crossroads of several important trading routes. It was also blessed with significant stores of natural resources, particularly the readily accessible electrum deposits that flowed freely in the Pactolus river. This favorable location also made Lydia a target for outside empires looking for a strategic foothold in the region. Rory Brown, Managing Partner of Nicklaus Brown & Co., weighs in on the Lydian’s survival as a sovereign nation for nearly 700 years in the Western Asia Minor Region.
Lydia Under the Mermnad Dynasty
Lydia’s peak, both as a regional power and as a financial force, began with the first of the Mermnad dynasty kings, King Gyges. His brutal ambitions, from 680 to 645 BC, captured the Greek city of Colophon and drove the Cimmerians out of Phrygia. Gyges laid the groundwork for the country’s rapid rise.
Alyattes, the fourth Mermnad king, continued his ancestor’s expansion, battling the Greeks, Carians, Medes, and the nomadic Cimmerians in a ten-year campaign that captured the cities of Miletus, Smyrna, and others, pushing out Lydia’s eastern, western, and southern borders.
It was under Alyattes’s son Croesus that Lydia experienced the height of its power and influence in the region. Through a mix of expansionary expeditions and shrewd diplomacy, Lydia became a dominant power in the region by the middle of the sixth century BC.
Croesus conquered the remaining Ionian Greek coastal cities to drive Lydia’s borders until the country occupied the entirety of the Anatolian plateau, straight to the Persian border.
This border, it turns out, is what caused the fall of the Lydian empire.
Lydia Loses Sovereignty
When Croesus chose to attack the Persian King Cyrus II’s troops in 547 BC, the campaign didn’t go well. Lydia was roundly defeated and became a wholly-owned satrapy of the Persian Empire. In almost no time, Lydia’s dynasty came to an end.
About: Mr. Rory Brown is a Managing Partner of Nicklaus Brown & Co., the Chairman of Goods & Services, Nearshore Technology Company, and a member of the board of directors of Desano. He is passionate about delving into the history of money and how our modern currency has evolved into what it is today. In his spare time, he writes about the history of the Lydians – the first civilization to use gold and silver coinage.