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Ardys of Lydia

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Ardys: second king of the Mermnad dynasty. His reign lasted from 644 to ca.625.

Ardys was the son of Gyges, the first king of independent Lydia after the fall of the Phrygian empire. Although Gyges died after a military defeat against the nomadic tribe of the Cimmerians, and the lower city of his capital Sardes was sacked, the kingdom he had founded was to last.

Ardys continued his father's foreign policy. By paying tribute to the king of Assyria, Aššurbanipal (668-631), he received support in the war against the Cimmerians. At the same time, he tried to conquer the Greek towns in the west.

According to the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Ardys' reign lasted forty-nine years, which seems to be too long by some ten years. He also mentions that the lower city of Sardes was captured by the Cimmerians, which may be a mistake as well, because the same event is reported during his father's reign. On the other hand, Assyria was in decline after the loss of Egypt (in 664) and it is possible that the Cimmerians again broke through.

There is no reason to doubt, however, that Ardys was more successful in his Greek wars. He captured Priene and fought against Miletus, the leading Greek power in Asia. This was a war he inherited from his father, but he seems to have understood that his army would never be able to conquer Miletus, a naval power. Collaborating with his former enemy, Ardys allowed the Milesians to found new cities on the southern shore of the Black Sea, which paid tribute to the Lydian king. One of these new towns was Abydus (modern Çanakkale), where one could easily cross to Europe.

It was probably during Ardys' reign that the Lydians started to mint coins, but numismatists have proposed earlier and later dates as well. Almost every coin shows a lion, and it has been assumed that this fierce animal was the heraldic symbol of the Mermnad family.

Ardys had a son named Sadyattes, his successor, and a daughter named Lyde. They were probably married; Ardys' grandson was Alyattes and it is possible - after all, he ruled for forty years - that he saw his great-grandson Croesus.

Ardys was, like all kings of the Mermnad dynasty, buried at the royal cemetery of Bin Tepe, on the plain of Sardes.