Croesus confronts the Persians - 550 B.C.
"Until he is dead, no man may be considered happy - only lucky" Solon to Croesus from 'Histories' by Herodotus (1.32)
Croesus had grand plans for Lydia, he wanted to united all Greeks cities in Asia Minor, so at first he attacked Epheses (a
Greek city), afterwards, he made war in
turn upon every Ionian and Aeolian state, gaining substantial grounds.
In this way he made himself master of all the Greek cities in Asia,
and forced them to become his tributaries, after which he began to think
of building ships, and attacking the islanders. This came to naught
and he made a league of amity with the Ionians of the isles. In
Asia Minor however, his campaigns continued and grew in size. Sardis (the capital
of Lydia) was now at it's height. He had two sons, one blasted by a natural
defect, being deaf and dumb; the other Atys was a fine man. Croesus dreamt that Atys would die from the blow of an iron weapon. Forbidding
his son to go anywhere near soldiers and having all weapons removed
from the male apartments. He thought he could protect him. Alas, Atys died in a hunting accident, speared by a friend Adrastus
who missed his mark.
Having returned the body to
the King, Adrastus, bereaved at his deeds offered the King the right
to kill him over his sons body. The King would have none of that
and forgave him. At a later time, when all was quite Adrastus
would slay himself upon the princes tomb. Croesus,
bereft of his son, gave himself up for mourning for two full years.
Athens & Chersonese
It was during this time, around 550 B.C. that the Dolonci, a Thracian tribe to whom the Chersonese belonged, were under a grueling war with another Thracian tribe to the north. The Dolonci looked towards Athens for aid which was at that time under the domination of Pisistratus, he sent Miltiades the Elder to the Chersonese, probably because he considered him a threat. Taking with him as many Atheneans that wanted to go with him, they sailed away with the Dolonci to the Chersonese.
Miltiades the Elder, on his arrival was made king by those that invited him. After this his first act was to build a wall across the neck of the Chersonese to protect the country from the ravages from the northern tribes. Miltiades the Elder then went forward and attacked the tribe on its own lands. But falling into an ambush, he had the misfortune to be taken prisoner. Miltiades the Elder was a good friend of the Lydian king, Croesus. When Croesus heard of the calamity that fell on his friend he sent a command to the northern tribe to give Miltiades his freedom or face the full wrath of the Lydian forces. The tribes being greatly afraid of Croesus, released Miltiades the Elder, and let him go free.
At the end of this time Croesus was interrupted by
intelligence from abroad. He learnt that Cyrus,
the son of Cambyses, had destroyed
the empire of the Medes ruled by his brother-in-law, Astyages, the son of Cyaxares; and that the Persians were
becoming daily more powerful. Astyages had two sisters one was married to Croesus and the other was married to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Therefor, all three were related by marriage and sealed a treaty between the empires,
led him to consider with himself whether it were possible to check the
growing power of that people before it came to a head. With this
design he resolved to make distant trial of the several oracles in Greece,
and of the one in Libya. Messages were dispatched with instructions
to wait until the hundredth day after leaving to ask the oracle on that
day what Croesus the son of Alyattes,
King of Lydia, was doing at that moment. Only the Oracle at Delphi's
reply remains on record
The King on the 100th day took a tortoise and a lamb, and cutting them
in pieces with his own hands, boiled them both together in a brazen
cauldron, covered over with a lid which was also of brass. Croesus
believed that the Oracle of Delphi spoke the truth.
Huge sacrifices were organised,
300 over every sacrificial beast, silver, gold etc all to propitiate
the Delphic god. The messengers who had the charge of conveying
these treasures to the shrines, received instructions to ask the oracles
whether Croesus should go to war with
the Persians. When they reached their destination and presented
the gifts, they asked the question. The answer they received, Croesus
Croesus by now was getting on very
well with the Oracle. He consulted the Oracle again, on whether
his kingdom would be of long duration
To which the answer seemed to be not to worry until a mule had become
monarch of Media. Of course this pleased Croesus,
what chances were there that a mule would rule Media?
He now turned this thoughts
to alliances, his enquires pointed to the two states as pre-eminent
above the rest. These were the Lacedaemonians (Doric
origins, i.e. Spartans) and the Athenians
After deliberation he decided
to align with Sparta. Sending messages with gifts the Lacedaemonians
received them with thanks as the whole of Greece knew of the oracle
and Sparta was the obvious choice for an ally.
was Astyages brother by marriage, and now he was dethroned by Cyrus
and the Persians. Not wasting any time and knowing that Sparta,
Egypt and Babylon had pledged their alliance Croesus
and the Lydian army made there way to Cappadocia to meet the Persian
army. The battle that took place claimed many on both sides and
by the end there was no clear victor. Croesus
blamed the amount of men he had on his ill success and on the next day
he set off back to Sardis. Now he sent messages to his allies,
he knew he needed to call up favours as next year he would be back.
'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth
1996 (Book 1, 91)