The number of tourists visiting the ancient city of Sardis in İzmir’s Salihli district has increased three fold over the last five years, thanks to promotional work. The ancient city was the capital of Lydia, the civilization that invented money.
Salihli Tourism Association Chairman Mustafa Uçar said that excavations had started in Sardis in 1910 and accelerated again after 1958, unearthing many historical artifacts.
Uçar said the excavations covered an area of 3,000 square meters and shed light on 1,400 years of history between the 7th century B.C and the 7th century A.D., with artifacts from the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman cultures, among others.
He said among the findings were an acropolis, a gymnasium, a synagogue, a bath, a court building, houses, 85 graves where Lydian kings had been buried and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven holy temples of Christianity, built in 300 B.C. by the ancient Greeks and renovated by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D.
The ancient city had been overlooked for many years and rarely hosted tourists, said Uçar, adding that interest in the city has been increasing in recent years and it now draws tourists throughout the year.
“Eight to 10 buses of tourists come to Sardis every day,” he said, adding that ongoing excavations and promotional activities were the reason for the increase of interest in the ancient city.
“In recent years, both local management and non-governmental organizations attached great importance to the promotion of Sardis. Symposiums and conferences were held to showcase the importance of the ancient city and the status of the Lydian Kingdom in history. Catalogues and brochures were printed and delivered to travel agencies. The site was promoted in both in Turkey and abroad. As a result, tourist interest in the ancient city has increased every day,” Uçar said.
“The ancient city of Sardis hosted 22,000 people in 2010. This number increased to 27,000 in 2011, 30,000 in 2012, 43,000 in 2013 and 65,000 in 2014. The city is expected to welcome 100,000 tourists annually in the near future,” he said.
Uçar said that the traces of the Lydians, who had led the way for the invention of money, could be found only in Sardis, and expressed the importance of the Temple of Artemis to tourists.
“It is the fourth largest ionic temple in the world. It had remained underground for many years, which is why it is still in good condition. It draws lots of interest from tourists,” Uçar said.
Sources: Hurriyet Daily News [January 09, 2015]