The city of Sardis has existed for over four thousand years and for much of that time it was a major metropolis. The city was defined by defense walls, but settlement extended beyond these boundaries.
The ancient city is situated in Manisa Salihli, in the territory of ancient Lydia, at the foot of Tmolus Mountains, 72km away from Izmir and 162km away from Kusadasi on Izmir-Ankara highway where evidence has been found of human activity as early as Paleolithic period. It was the ancient capital of Lydia which was ruled by the King Croesus who had the fame to use coin exchange for goods. However because of the earthquakes most of ruins are now under the ground and the ones on earth are dating back to the Roman Times only.
The important remains of Sardis are the Temple of Artemis and the restored gymnasium apart from the Synagogue from the 3rd century with its mosaics and carved colored-stone panels. The complex of bath and gymnasium, synagogue and the shops are located in the north of the highway. The baths were built in 161 AD where one can enter through the doors opening into the courtyard. They were built during the time of the king Lucius Verus. Along the southern sides of the synagogue and gymnasium there lies the main street of the city with marble blocks on the sides. Opposite of the gymnasium there is Bronze House of the Infidels which was built around 550 AD and it might have been used as the bishop’s palace. One can see the ruins in Sardis which date back to the times of the Romans and the Byzantines which are churches, stadium and Roman theater which could hold twenty thousand people that was destroyed in an earthquake in 17 AD.
The other ruins lie on the road along the river Paktalos which leads to the Temple of Artemis. The temple had three stages while being built. the first and the original temple was built in the 4th century BC, facing wet and was in the Ionic order which consisted of an outer portico, an enclosure and a back chamber. Because this temple was destroyed somehow the second one began to be built between 175-150 BC. However the construction stopped and if it had continued there would have been twenty columns on the long side and eight on the short side of the temple. The construction did not start until 150 AD.
For the visitors who have extra time the Gölmarmara,at the west end of the Salihli plain close to the Sardis Necropolis and nexs to it ,the tumulus that belong to the Lydain kings are worth seeing!
Excavations of Sardis synagogue unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors. The discovery of the Sardis synagogue has reversed previous assumptions about Judaism in the later Roman empire. Along with the discovery of the godfearers/theosebeis inscription from the Aphrodisias, it provides indisputable evidence for the continued vitality of Jewish communities in Asia Minor, their integration into general Roman imperial civic life, and their size and importance at a time when many scholars previously assumed that Christianity had eclipsed Judaism.
The synagogue was a section of a large bath-gymnasium complex, that was in use for about 450 – 500 years. In the beginning, middle of the 2nd century AD, the rooms the synagogue is situated in were used as changing rooms or resting rooms. The complex of Sardis was destroyed in 616 AD by the Sassanian-Persians.