Alyattes II

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Alyattes, king of Lydia (619-560 BC), considered to be the founder of the Lydian empire, was the son of Sadyattes, of the house of the Mermnadae.

For several years he continued the war against Miletus begun by his father, but was obliged to turn his attention towards the Medes and Babylonians. On May 28, 585 BC, during the Battle of Halys fought against Cyaxares, king of Media, a solar eclipse took place (see also Thales); hostilities were suspended, peace concluded, and the Halys fixed as the boundary between the two kingdoms.

Alyattes drove the Cimmerians (see Scythia) from Asia Minor, subdued the Carians, and took several Ionian cities (including Smyrna, Colophon). (Smyrna was sacked and destroyed with its the inhabitants forced to move into the countryside.)

He standardised the weight of coins (1 Stater = 168 grains of wheat). The coins were produced using an anvil die technique and stamped with the Lion's head, the symbol of the Mermnadae.

He was succeeded by his son Croesus. His daughter Aryenis of Lydia was Queen consort of Astyages, King of Media.

His tomb still exists on the plateau between Lake Gygaea and the river Hermus to the north of Sardis—a large mound of earth with a substructure of huge stones. It was excavated by Spiegelthal in 1854, who found that it covered a large vault of finely-cut marble blocks approached by a flat-roofed passage of the same stone from the south. The sarcophagus and its contents had been removed by early plunderers of the tomb. All that was left were some broken alabaster vases, pottery and charcoal. On the summit of the mound were large phalli of stone.

Naming disagreement

It is considered that the name "Alyattes II" is likely to be incorrect. Its usage here is based on the online Encyclopaedia of the Orient. Though this online work provides no references, its usage of "Alyattes II" is likely based on John Lemprière's 1788 Classical Dictionary (Biblioteca Classica), its full name being Classical Dictionary of Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors Writ Large, With Chronological Table. This work, however, also doesn't cite its sources, but its sources were likely to be ancient epigraphs (or later works whose usage was based on ancient epigraphs) which are lists of kings on clay tablets and other media.

Epigraphic lists, however, are known by historians today to be generally unreliable as historical documents. For one thing, they sometimes combine kings from different regions. Livio C. Stecchini contended, for instance, that Gyges was the first Lydian king and those before him, including the earlier Alyattes, were kings of nearby Maionia, a Phrygian dependency. What's more, epigraphic lists are often legendary rather than annalistic, including, for instance, the mythic hero Herakles as a city's founder or people's progenitor, as they do for the Lydians, so another possibility is that "Alyattes I" was a legendary rather than a historical figure.

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