Re-dating the Fall of Sardis

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Nikos Kokkinos


Claiming to be based on strong Greek tradition, the prevailing view that the Fall of Sardis to the Persians occurred in 546 BC lacks justification. An analysis of all the relevant fragments of ancient Greek chronography shows that while a date of 548 BC is found in the Latin version of Eusebius (the end result of centuries of number juggling), a much lower date was current in the earliest Hellenistic period when chronography began. This was based on a Lydian king list different from that in Herodotus, and evidently that used by the chronographer of the Parian Marble to set the Fall as low as 542/1 BC (or 541/0 BC). The origins of this list may ultimately go back to the Lydian historian Xanthus, an older contemporary of Herodotus. Moreover, alleged support for the standard date from the Nabonidus Chronicle has fallen through – a new reading of the damaged toponym in the entry for Year 9 (547/6 BC) reveals that Cyrus attacked ‘U[rartu]’ not ‘Ly[dia]’. Further, analysis of the Chronicle shows that the Fall of Sardis can only have taken place between 544/3 and 540/39. Given this, it would be unwise not to give credit to the date of the Parian chronographer as restored here.

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