Sardis was the former capital of the Persian Empire, and home of the first coins, the largest gold reserves on the planet, King Midas as well as one of the Seven Churches written about by St. John in the Book of Revelations. A trip to Sardis (modern Sart) would be a fantastic educational day for your “private” group.
Recent excavations have focused on the height of its power, the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., when Sardis was the capital of the Lydian empire. From Izmir, it will take 1:15 hours to drive there through the Turkish landscape of tobacco fields and grape vineyards. Once there, you’ll be spending approximately two hours looking at the impressive ruins of the Temple of Artemis, the Synagogue and the Gymnasium.
The Temple of Artemis:
This structure was “twice” as large as the Parthenon in Athens and was considered one of the seven largest Greek temples when it was first built in 334 BC. This was right after Sardis was liberated by Alexander the Great. As Artemis was the main goddess of fertility, the hunt, children and animals, people came from far and wide to worship in the mammoth 300’x150’ temple. In Roman times, Artemis became known as Diana, daughter of Zeus and twin of Apollo. There is proof that Artemis was worshiped as early as the 6th century BC as there was a free standing altar of Artemis.
As with all of history due to wars, earthquakes, and other acts of men and God, the construction began and halted many times. Main construction resumed around 175 BC and was then again abandoned. This was followed by much damage from the earthquake of 17 AD. Finally, the most impressive age of construction started during the Roman period about 150 AD.