The fall of Lydia - 546 B.C.

"A little polis living orderly in a high place is stronger than a blockheaded Nineveh" Phocylides of Miletus, mid 6th century.

Over in Asia Minor, Cyrus did not wait another Croesus attack but put his own plans into action, with all haste he made his advance upon Sardis, before the Lydians could get their forces together a second time.  They met again on the plain before Sardis.  Cyrus using a new tact of having his camels that normally would carry the baggage, carry riders in the fry with Croesus horseman.  Horses can't stand camels.  The combat was long, but at last, after a great slaughter on both sides, the Lydians turned and fled.  They were driven within their walls, and the Persian laid siege to Sardis.

    Croesus sent off fresh heralds to his allies.  His former messages had been charged to bid them assemble at Sardis, the new message was that his town was being beseeched.

     The Spartans at this time found themselves in a quarrel with their neighbors the Argives.  To settle the dispute the Spartans and the Argives were each to give 300 men in the Battle of Champions, winner take all.  Although the Spartans were engaged with these matters when the heralds arrived from Sardis to entreat them to come to the assistance of the besieged king, yet, notwithstanding, they instantly set to work to afford him help.  They had completed their preparations, and the ships were just ready to start, when another message informed them that the place had already fallen, and that Croesus was a prisoner.  Deeply grieved at the misfortune, the Spartans ceased their efforts.


Croesus' life is spared

Artifact: Origianl pottery is in the Louve. Click on the image to follow the link.


Cyrus spared Croesus life from the burning pyre. Croesus asked Cyrus 'what are those men yonder doing so busily?  Plundering the city?'
To which Cyrus replied 'and carrying off your riches'
'Not my riches, it is your wealth which they are pillaging.'

    Croesus hit a cord with Cyrus and quickly became like a consult to the King and was allowed to send certain Lydians to Delphi, enjoining them to lay his fetter (chains of hands and feet) upon the threshold of the temple, and ask the god, 'If he were not ashamed of having encouraged him, as the destined destroyer of the empire of Cyrus, to begin a war with the Persia, of which such were the first-fruits?'  As they said this they were to point to the fetter; and further they were to inquire, 'if it was the wont of the Greek gods to be ungrateful?'

    The Lydians went to Delphi and delivered the message on which the Pythoness is said to have replied - 'It is not possible even for a god to escape the decree of destiny.  Croesus has been punished for the sin of the fifth ancestor {O01}, who, when he was one of the bodyguard of the Heraclides, joined in a woman's fraud, and, slaying his master, wrongfully seized the throne.  Apollo was anxious that the fall of Sardis should not happen in the lifetime of Croesus, but be delayed to his son's days; he could not, however, persuade the Fates.  All that they were willing to allow he took and gave to Croesus.  Let Croesus know that Apollo delayed the taking of Sardis three full years, and that he is thus a prisoner three years later than was his destiny.  Moreover it was Apollo who saved him from the burning pile.  Not that Croesus has right to complain with respect to the oracular answer which he received.  For when the god told him that, if he attacked the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire {O04}, he ought, if he had been wise, to have sent again and inquired which empire was meant, that of Cyrus or his own but if he neither understood what was said, not took the trouble to seek for enlightenment, he has only himself to blame for the result.  Besides, he had misunderstood the last answer which had been given him about the mule {O05}Cyrus was the mule.  For the parents of Cyrus were of different races, and of different conditions, his mother a Median princess, daughter of King Astyages, and his father a Persian and a subject, who, though so far beneath her in all respects, had married his royal mistress.

    Such was the answer of the Pythoness.  The Lydias returned to Sardis and communicated it to Croesus, who confessed, on hearing it, that the fault was his, not the gods.  Such was the way in which Ionia was first conquered, and so was the empire of Croesus brought to a close [1].

NEXT PAGE>>>Battle of Pallene


'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996 (Book 1, 91)



Note#1: Croesus probably commiteed suicide by self-immolation to save himself worse indignities. The far fetch story of Apollo's last mintue rescue seem to be a self-exculpatory propaganda put out by Delphi after the event. Cyrus merely recorded, with sinister brevity, that 'he marched to the land of Lydia. He killed it's King, he took it's booty, he placed in it his own garrison.' It is to be noted that the word 'Lydia' in the inscription has been disputed between archeologists, as it is faded, and may be refering to someplace else.

Note#2: Some mother, different fathers.


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