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Pactolus (Sart Çayı)


The Pactolus. Photo Marco Prins. Pactolus: little river in western Turkey, modern Boz Dağları.

The river Pactolus has become famous because it carries down gold dust from Mount Tmolus (modern Boz Dağları). The Lydian kings, whose capital Sardes was directly west of this river, were the first to us the gold dust of this river to strike coins. We still have the proverb "as rich as Croesus", the famous last king of Lydia (c.560-c.547).

The Roman poet Ovid records an ancient myth in which the presence of gold in the Pactolus is explained from the fact that the Phrygian king Midas, who converted everything he touched into gold, had washed himself in the river to get rid of his curse (Metamorphoses, 11.136-141). According to the Greek geographer Strabo, the amount of gold dust had in his age - the beginning of our era - become lower than ever (Geography, 13.1.23, 13.4.5; cf. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 6.37), and today, you will no longer find gold diggers near the Pactolus.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The river Pactolus. Photo Marco Prins. Gold coin (stater) of king Croesus of Lydia.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 4 Dec. 2008
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