Lydia (place) | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.

Lydia (place)

See also Lydia (Territory)

LYDIA (place), lĭd’ ĭ a (Λυδία, G3376). A large territory on the W of Asia Minor.


Lydia’s borders are difficult to define accurately. It was bounded on the N by Mysia, on the S by Caria, on the E by Phrygia, and on the W by the Aegean Sea. The southern boundary may have gone as far as the Maeander River (Strabo xii. 8. 15). The E boundary is confusing, for there is a dispute whether Catacecaumene, an inland volcanic area on the upper Hermus River, was a part of Lydia or Mysia (Strabo xiii. 4. 11) and because some of the territories were claimed by both Lydia and Mysia (Strabo xii. 8. 3, 18; xiii. 4. 12). It is a land mostly of fertile river valleys with the Hermus River in the N and the Cayster valley, which is between the Tmolus and Messogis mountain ranges, in the southern part of Lydia. Sardis served as Lydia’s capital.


The earliest reference to Lydia is in Genesis 10:22 (cf. also 1 Chron 1:17) where it refers to Lud as a son of Shem and Josephus refers to the Lydians as Lud’s descendents (Antiq. i. 6. 4 § 144). Herodotus (i. 7) does not preclude a Sem. origin of the Lydians. In Isaiah 66:19 Lud is listed with Tubal, Javan, and the distant coast line far off which would fit with Lydia in Asia Minor. In Ezekiel 27:10 and 30:5 Lud is listed as an ally with Tyre and with Egypt respectively. Lydia is mentioned also in the Neo-Babylonian annals.

The age of prosperity and strength for Lydia came with the Mermnad dynasty founded by Gyges (c. 685-657/52 b.c.) who murdered King Canduales and married his widow (Herodotus i. 8-12) Gyges gradually subdued the coastal cities Miletus, Smyrna, and Colophon and sent offerings to Delphi (Herodotus i. 14-15). Gyges made a pact with Ashurbanipal (669-633 b.c.) of Assyria against the Cimmerians. Gyges defeated the Cimmerians and broke his alliance with Ashurbanipal and in fact made an alliance with Psammetichus I (c. 663-609 b.c.) to help liberate the Egyptians from the Assyrian control. The Cimmerians made another attack on Lydia resulting in Gyges’ death. It was not until Alyattes (c. 610/5-560 b.c.), the fourth in the Mermnad dynasty, that the Cimmerians were finally driven out (Herodotus i. 16). Alyattes made war against Cyaxares the Mede and finally established peace in 585 b.c. whereby the Halys River served as a border between Lydia and Media. Hence, Lydia had extended its borders. In the peace agreement Alyattes’ daughter Arvenis and Cyaxares’ son Astyages were married, and from them a daughter was born whose name was Mandane who was Cyrus the Great’s mother (Herodotus i. 74).


The origins of the Lydian people are obscure, but there seems to have been an early Sem. influence (see above and Lud, Ludim). During Antiochus III’s reign (223-187 b.c.) many Jews were settled in Lydia (Jos. Antiq. xii. 3. 4 § 147-149). One can see the Anatolian influence quite strong early with more Gr. influence from Croesus’ reign onward. There was a constant tension between Greek and Anatolian influences. Fourth cent. inscrs. seem to indicate that the Lydian language was an idiom of the Indo-European family but by the beginning of the Christian era Gr. was the common language (Strabo speaks of an ancient writing, xiii. 4. 9).


Lydia was rich in natural resources. During Croesus’ reign it is told that gold was washed down the Pactolus River and Strabo mentions the existence of gold mines that were exhausted in his day (Strabo xiv. 5. 28). Lydia was known for its rich fertile land producing olives, figs, grapes, and grain. Its most well-known industry was the manufacture of textile fabrics and along with this Thyatira was well known for its dyeing processes (cf. Homer Iliad iv. 141) and its guild of dyers was known to be prosperous. One of those in the industry was the Thyatiran woman who was converted to Christianity at Philippi by Paul (Acts 16:14). One significant achievement of the Lydians was their invention of coinage (Herodotus i. 94). The first Lydian coinage had alloys mixed with gold, with 36-53 percent gold content. This variance of gold content shook the public confidence in coinage, and so this may be the reason for Croesus’ introducing coinage of pure gold and pure silver. The new invention was accepted by the Gr. cities of the coast and then by the whole world.

Importance in the NT.

As noted above, Lydia the seller of purple was Paul’s convert in Europe at Philippi (Acts 16). Also in Lydia is Ephesus, the place where Paul spent nearly three years (Acts 19). Moreover, out of seven churches addressed by John in Revelation 2, 3, five of them were in Lydia (see Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia). New Testament writers never address the above churches as being in Lydia but in Asia in accordance with the Rom. provincial classification.


W. M. Ramsay, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, 2 pts. (1895-1897), passim; W. M. Ramsay, “Lydia,” HDB, III (1900), 177, 178; D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950), I, 45-50; II, 807-817; M. J. Mellink, “Lydia (Place),” IDB, III (1962), 191, 192; G. E. Bean, Aegean Turkey: An Archaeological Guide (1966), 259-272, passim; B. Levick, Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (1967), passim; A. H. M. Jones, The Cities in the Eastern Roman Provinces, 2nd ed. (1971), passim.