Lydians: Xanthos of Lydia and Klearchos of Soloi (fifth-fourth centuries BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Lydians: Xanthos of Lydia and Klearchos of Soloi (fifth-fourth centuries BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified February 6, 2023,

Ancient authors: Xanthos of Lydia and Klearchos of Soloi, Lives, book 4, as cited by Athenaios of Naukratis, Sophists at Dinner 12.11 = 515e-516c (link).

Comments: Athenaios briefly cites Xanthos of Lydia (fifth century BCE) with respect to the supposed sterilization of women who served Lydian royalty. The citation of Klearchos of Soloi is far more extensive and aims to demonstrate that Lydians lived in a disrespectfully luxurious way. It seems that book four of Lives cited a variety of ethnic groups as negative examples of peoples who engaged in violent abuse and/or luxury.

Source of the translation: C.B. Gulick, Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1927-41), public domain (passed away in 1962 and copyright expired), adapted by Harland.


The Lydians went so far in unrestricted luxury that they were the first to sterilize women, as recorded by Xanthos of Lydia, or whoever is the author of the inquiries attributed to him. It is Dionysios Scytobrachion, according to Artemon of Kassandreia in his work On the Collecting of Books, who, however, ignores the fact that the writer Ephoros mentions Xanthos as being older and as having supplied sources for Herodotos. Anyhow, Xanthos says in the second book of his Lydian History that Adramytes, the king of Lydia, was the first to sterilize women and employ them in the place of male eunuchs.

Also, Klearchos in the fourth book of his Lives says:

“The Lydians in their luxury laid out parks, making them like gardens, and so lived in the shade, because they thought it more luxurious not to have the rays of the sun on them at all. Proceeding further in their disrespectful behaviour, they would gather the wives and young women of other men into the place called ‘The Place of Chastity’ (because of this action) and there abuse them. Finally, after becoming thoroughly effeminate in their souls, they adopted women’s ways of living. As a result, this way of life earned for them a woman tyrant, one of those who had been abused, named Omphale. She was the first to begin that punishment of the Lydians which they deserved. For the fact that they were ruled disrespectfully by a woman is proof of their own violence. Being a woman of uncontrolled passions and avenging herself for the abuses previously done to her, she gave in marriage the young daughters of the masters to the slaves of the city in the same place where she had been abused by them. Into this place, then, she forcibly collected the women and made the matrons lie with the slaves. Ever since, the Lydians cover over the bitterness of this act by calling the place ‘Sweet Embrace’.”

But it is not only the women of Lydia who were allowed casual encounters, but also those of the western Lokrians, also those of Cyprus, and all those who dedicated their daughters to prostitution. These cases seem to be, in point of fact, a reminder of some ancient abuse and revenge.

It was to gain revenge that the Lydian nobles, who had been oppressed by the rule of Midas, attacked him, since Midas in effeminate luxury reclined in his purple robes, or helped the women at their looms to work the wool, while Omphale killed all the strangers who had slept with her. So a noble man punished them both. Midas, who had become deaf through his stupidity, he pulled by the ears, because by his lack of sense he had acquired the name of the most senseless animal in the world. And as for Omphale. . . [remainder lost].

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