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,

Croesus tests the oraclesThis 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 {O03}.  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 considered favourable.{O04}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 {O05}.  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?The oracle prophesises for Croesus

    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 (Ionic blood).

    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.  

    Croesus sends trophies to DelphiCroesus 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.



NEXT PAGE>>>Lydia at war with Persia  


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





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