Ancient city of Asia Minor and capital of Lydia; situated on the Pactolus at the northern base of Mount Tmolus, about sixty miles from Smyrna. The town is first mentioned by Æschylus ("Persæ," ed. Kirchhoff, line 47), and may be the "Sparda" of the Old Persian inscriptions of Darius Hystaspes (Behistun, i. 15; Persepolis, e, 12; Naḳshi Rustam, a, 28). It had an eventful history, and after the establishment of the Roman province of Asia in 133 B.C. it became the capital of a "conventus" or district.

The date and early history of the Jewish community of Sardis are unknown, although it is clear that by the second half of the first century B.C. it had become an influential one; for in a decree of the proquestor and propretor Lucius Antonius, dating from 50-49 and preserved by Josephus ("Ant." xiv. 10, § 17), the Jews are described as having "an assembly of their own, according to the laws of their forefathers, and this from the beginning, as also a place of their own, wherein they determined their suits and controversies with one another." In obedience to an order of Antonius that the Jews, as Roman citizens, should be confirmed in their rights and privileges, the Sardians passed a decree (ib. § 24) that the community should enjoy freedom of worship, while special measures were taken to import food which should be ritually clean. A few years later, in the early part of the reign of Augustus, the proconsul Caius Norbanus Flaccus, at the express command of the emperor, renewed the religious privileges of the Jews of Sardis and permitted them to send money to Jerusalem (ib. xvi. 6, § 6).

The single allusion to Sardis in Rev. iii. 1-4 adds no information concerning its Jewish community, nor does the Talmud throw any light on the history of the Jews in the city, although, Sardis may be meant by "Asia" in a few passages (Sifre, Balaḳ, ed. Friedmann, p. 47b; 'Ab. Zarah 30a; B. M. 84a). Its site is now occupied by the ruined village of Sart.

  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 12;
  • Neubauer, G. T. pp. 310-311;
  • Wilson, Handbook for Travellers in Asia Minor, etc., pp. 82-83, London, 1895.
E. G. H. L. H. G.
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