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Gyges of Lydia

Gyges, was the founder of the third or Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings and reigned from 687 to 652 BC (according to H Gelzer. H Winckler makes it 690-657 BC).

The chronology of the Lydian kings given by Herodotus has been shown by the Assyrian inscriptions to be about twenty years in excess. Gyges was the son of Dascylus, who, when recalled from banishment in Cappadocia by the Lydian king Sadyates--called Candaules "the Dog-strangler" (a title of the Lydian Hermes) by the Greeks--sent his son back to Lydia instead of himself.

Gyges soon became a favourite of Sadyattes and was despatched by him to fetch Tudo, the daughter of Arnossus of Mysia, whom the Lydian king wished to make his queen. On the way Gyges fell in love with Tudo, who complained to Sadyattes of his conduct. Forewarned that the king intended to punish him with death, Gyges assassinated Sadyattes in the night and seized the throne with the help of Arselis of Mylasa, the captain of the Carian bodyguard, whom he had won over to his cause.

Civil war ensued, which was finally ended by an appeal to the oracle of Delphi and the confirmation of the right of Gyges to the crown by the Deiphian god. Further to secure his title he married Tudo. Many legends were told among the Greeks about his rise to power. That found in Herodotus, which may be traced to the poet Archilochus of Paros, described how "Candaules" insisted upon showing Gyges his wife when unrobed, which so enraged her that she gave Gyges the choice of murdering her husband and making himself king, or of being put to death himself. Plato made Gyges a shepherd, who discovered a magic ring by means of which he murdered his master and won the affection of his wife.

Once established on the throne Gyges devoted himself to consolidating his kingdom and making it a military power. The Troad was conquered, Colophon captured from the Greeks, Smyrna besieged and alliances entered into with Ephesus and Miletus. The Cimmerii, who had ravaged Asia Minor, were beaten back, and an embassy was sent to Assur-bani-pal at Nineveh (about 650 BC) in the hope of obtaining his help against the barbarians. The Assyrians, however, were otherwise engaged, and Gyges turned to Egypt, sending his faithful Carian troops along with Ionian mercenaries to assist Psammetichus in shaking off the Assyrian yoke (660 BC).

A few years later he fell in battle against the Cimmerii under Dugdamme (called Lygdamis by Strabo i. 3. 21), who took the lower town of Sardis. Gyges was succeeded by his son Ardysus.

Many Bible scholars believe that Gyges of Lydia was the Biblical figure of Gog, ruler of Magog, who is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.