Remembering Croesus, Serving Darius: Local Elites and Imperial Administration in Early Achaemenid Sardis

Recorded: April 13, 2023
Event: Achaemenid Workshop 1
Citation: Hyland, John O. "Remembering Croesus, Serving Darius: Local Elites and Imperial Administration in Early Achaemenid Sardis." Pourdavoud Center: Achaemenid Workshop 1 (April 13, 2023).

by John O. Hyland (Christopher Newport University)

The conquest of Sardis and the Lydian kingdom was a formative moment in Cyrus’ initial expansion, but the region’s subsequent place in the evolution of the Achaemenid imperial system remains obscure. Herodotus rarely returns to Lydian matters in the later books of the Histories, and the lack of a surviving Lydian documentary record has so far prevented the sort of synchronic regional study of political transition that is possible in the case of late sixth-century Babylonia. Fortunately, the evidentiary situation is beginning to improve, not only with archaeological discoveries of changing settlement patterns at Sardis and across Greater Lydia, but with recent readings of Lydian inscriptions hinting at a funerary cult in honor of Croesus as part of a pragmatic alliance between Persian authorities and Lydian social elites. Travel ration records from the Persepolis Fortification Archives are also revealing the multifaceted traffic that connected the administrative hub of Sardis, overseen by the royal sibling Artaphernes, with the Iranian imperial centers in the reign of Darius I. Several of these texts reveal the satrap’s employment of officials with western Anatolian personal names, broadening our evidence for Lydian and neighboring elites in Persian bureaucratic and military service beyond Herodotus’ occasional references to men such as Myrsos and Pythios. A synthesis of these disparate pieces of evidence offers new insights into the processes of political transition and integration in a vital part of the expanding Achaemenid world.

About the Speaker

John O. Hyland earned his PhD from the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World at the University of Chicago in 2005. He has taught since 2006 at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, where he holds the rank of Professor in the Department of History. His first book, Persian Interventions: the Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta 450-386 BCE, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2018. He is currently writing a new monograph on Persia’s Greek campaigns and their Near Eastern imperial contexts, under contract with Oxford University Press, as well as a companion volume for Brill on war in ancient Iran.