So they went and said, “Croesus, the king of the Lydians and other nations, sent us with these words: ‘O Lacedaemonians, because the god proclaimed that we should win over the Greek as a friend, since you, I learn by inquiry, are the chief men of Greece, you, therefore, in accordance with the oracle, I call forth, inasmuch as I wish to become a friend and ally without treachery and deceit.’”
Croesus, then, that message, by messengers who were heralds, sent, and the Lacedaemonians, having heard on their own as well the message from the oracle that had been given to Croesus, took pleasure in the coming of the Lydians and swore oaths of foreign friendship and alliance. For, in fact, some benefactions had a hold on them that had been done still earlier by Croesus, in that the Lacedaemonians had sent men to Sardis and were bargaining for gold, because they had wanted to use it for that statue of Apollo that now is set up on Laconian land in Thorax, and Croesus, to them who were bargaining, had given it as a donation.
For that reason, then, the Lacedaemonians received the alliance, and since he had judged them first of all the Greeks and chosen them as friends. So, on the one hand, they for their part were ready for an announcement of instructions; on the other, they had made a bowl of bronze, which they filled with small figures outside round the lip, and in size could hold three hundred amphorae, and were bringing it, because they wanted to give it as a gift in return to Croesus. That bowl did not come to Sardis, there being said two conflicting causes why as follows: the Lacedaemonians say that, when, being brought to Sardis, the bowl had come to be near the Samian land, on learning by inquiry of it, the Simians took it away by sailing against them with large ships, but the Simians themselves say that, when those of the Lacedaemonians who brought the bowl were too late, and learned by inquiry that Sardis and Croesus had been captured, they sold the bowl in Samoa, and private men bought and dedicated it at the temple of Hera, and perhaps the sellers too would say, on coming to Sparta, that they had it taken away from them by the Simians.
Now, regarding the bowl it was thus, and Croesus, missing the response’s meaning, made an expedition against Cappadocia, in the expectation that he would put down Cyrus and the Persian’s power. While Croesus was preparing to advance with an army against the Persians, one of the Lydians, considered even formerly to be wise and, from that judgement, very much indeed having a name among the Lydians, advised Croesus this (his name was Sandanis): “O king, you are preparing to advance with an army against men of the kind who wear leather pants and leather dress of every other sort, as well as eat not all that they wish, but all that they have, because they have a harsh land. In addition, they consume no wine, but drink water, and have no figs to chew, no other good at all. On the one hand, then, if you will prevail, what will you take away from them, since they have nothing?; on the other, if you are prevailed over, learn all the goods that you will lose. For, once they get a taste of our goods, they will embrace them and will not be thrust away. Now, I have gratitude to the gods who do not put into the Persians’ mind to advance with an army against the Lydians.” Saying that, he could not persuade Croesus. But indeed the Persians, before they had subjected the Lydians, had neither anything luxurious nor good.
The Cappadocians are named Syrians by the Greeks, and those Syrians were, during the period before the Persians ruled, the Medes’ subjects. For the boundary of the Median rule and the Lydian was the Halys river, which flows from mount Armenius through the Cilicians, and afterward has the Matienians on the right as it flows and on the other side the Phygians, and passing by them and flowing up to the north wind, on one side keeps the Syrian Cappadocians and on the left the Paphlagonians. Thus the Halys river cuts off almost all the lower parts of Asia from the sea opposite Cyprus to the Hospitable Sea; that is the neck of all that country; on the length of its road, for a well-girt man, five days are used up.
Croesus advanced with an army against Cappadocia for these reasons, both because, out of longing for land, he wanted to acquire an addition to his portion, and especially because he was trusting in the oracle and wished to punish Cyrus on behalf of Astyages. For Astyages, the son of Cyaxares, being Croesus’ brother-in-law and the Medes’ king, Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, had subjected and kept so, after he had become brother-in-law to Croesus this way: a band of pastoral Scythians became factious and went out stealthily into the Median land. During that time Cyaxares, the son of Phraortes, the son of Deioces, was tyrant of the Medes, who treated those Scythians, at the first, well, on the ground that they were suppliants; and so, considering them worth much, he gave over his sons to them to learn thoroughly their tongue and the art of bows. When time had gone, and on each and every occasion the Scythians went constantly to the hunt, and on each and every occasion were bringing something, indeed once it happened that they took nothing. So, after they returned with empty hands, Cyaxares, since he was, as the event showed plainly, extreme in anger, treated them very harshly injuriously. And they, because they had suffered that at Cyaxares’ hands, seeing that they had suffered things unworthy of themselves, took counsel and decided to cut up one of the sons who were being taught among them, dress him just as they were accustomed to dress the beasts as well, give him to Cyaxares by bringing him as game from the hunt forsooth, and, after they had given him, carry themselves the quickest way to Alyattes, the son of Sadyattes, into Sardis. That, indeed, was done. For, in fact, Cyaxares and the banqueteers present ate of that meat, and the Scythians, on bringing about that, became Alyattes’ suppliants. After that, since, indeed, Alyattes refused to give up the Scythians to Cyaxares, who demanded him to give up them, a war between the Lydians and the Medes was waged for five years, in which many times the Medes prevailed over the Lydians, and many times the Lydians over the Medes, and, moreover, they waged a kind of night battle; for, to them, who waged the war on an equal footing, when in the sixth year an encounter came about, it so happened as, while the battle was joined, for the day suddenly to become night. That alteration of the day Thales the Milesian foretold would be, and as its boundary he fixed that very year in which the change, in fact, occurred. The Lydians and the Medes, after they had seen it become night in place of day, ceased from the battle and both, indeed, somewhat more hastened peace to be made for themselves. Those who made them the treaty were these: Syennesis the Cilician and Labynetus the Babylonian. They, for them, not only were the ones who hastened the oath to be sworn, but also they brought about an exchange in marriage, in that they came to the judgement that Alyattes should give his daughter, Aryenis to Astyages, the son of Cyaxares, since, without powerful necessity, powerful treaties are not wont to remain fast. Those nations swear oaths just like the Greeks, and in addition to that, when they cut themselves superficially along the arms on the surface of the flesh, they lick up the blood of each other.
It was that Astyages, then, although he was his maternal grandfather, that Cyrus had subjected and held so, for a cause that I will indicate in the accounts to come, because of which action Croesus found fault with Cyrus and sent men to the oracles to ask whether he should advance with an army against the Persians, and, what’s more, with the coming of a deceptive response, on the supposition that the response was in his favor, he advanced with an army into the Persians’ portion. And when Croesus had come to the Halys river, at that time, a I say, across the existing bridges he transported the army; however, as the prevailing account of the Greeks goes, Thales the Milesian transported it for him; for, when Croesus was at a loss how his army would cross the river, it is said that, since, in fact, there did not yet exist during that time those bridges, Thales, being present in the camp, brought about for him that the river, which flowed on the left side of the army, flowed also on the right, and brought it about this way: beginning further upstream than the camp, he dug a deep trench and drew it moon-shaped, that the river might get the camp set up behind itself, when it was diverted by that route through the trench from its ancient streams, and again, when it passed by the camp, might enter into its ancient streams. And so, as soon as the river had actually split, it became fordable in both places. Some say that its ancient stream was dried up quite absolutely, but that I cannot believe at all; for how, when they were making their way back, would they have crossed it?
Croesus, when he had made the crossing with the army, and come in Cappadocia into the so-called Pterian land (the Pterian land is the most powerful place in that country, and lies pretty nearly opposite the city of Sinope on the Hospitable Sea), then camped and destroyed the lots of the Syrians. Indeed he took the city of the Pterians and captured them as slaves, and took all the cities settled round it; in short, the Syrians, who were not at all guilty, he caused to migrate. Then Cyrus, after he had gathered his own army and taken to himself all those settled in his midst, opposed Croesus. Yet before he rushed to drive out his army, he sent heralds to the Ionians and tried to make them revolt from Croesus. Now, the Ionians could not be persuaded, and when Cyrus had come and camped against Croesus, then in the Pterian country they made trial of one another by force. After the battle had become fierce and many on both sides had fallen, finally neither prevailed and they stood apart at night’s advancing.
Both camps competed thus, and Croesus, finding fault with his expedition regarding its multitude, since the army of his that had engaged in the encounter was far smaller than that of Cyrus, finding fault with that, when the next day Cyrus did not try to advance, drove away to Sardis, because he had in mind to call to his side the Egyptians in accordance with the oath (for he had made an alliance also with Amasis, who was king of Egypt, earlier than with the Lacedaemonians), to summon the Babylonians too (for, in fact, with those an alliance had been made by him, and during that time Labynetus was tyrant of the Babylonians), and to announce instructions to the Lacedaemonians as well to be present at the stated time and, on gathering those very men and collecting his host, he intended, once he let the winter pass, together with the spring to advance with an army against the Persians. And he, with that in mind, when he had come to Sardis, sent heralds round to the allies to proclaim that at the fifth month they should collect themselves at Sardis, but the army that was present and had fought with the Persians, which was his foreign one, he let go and disbanded wholly, since he did not at all expect that, Cyrus after all, when he had competed so nearly the same, would march against Sardis.
For Croesus, while he was thinking on that, the whole suburb became full of serpents. Then, at their appearance, the horses came steadily and ate them up. To Croesus, who saw that, it seemed to be a portent, just as, in fact, it was. At once he sent the messengers who consulted the oracle to the Telmessian interpreters. But to the messengers who consulted the oracle, on their coming to and learning from the Telmessians what the portent meant to indicate, it was not granted to announce it back to Croesus, because, before they sailed back again, Croesus had been captured. However, the Telmessians came to this judgement, that an alien army should be expected to come to Croesus against his country and, on its coming, it would subject the natives, and they said that the serpent was the child of the land, and the horse the enemy and incomer. Now, the Telmessians made that reply for Croesus, who by then had been captured, since they knew nothing yet of the events that had taken place concerning Sardis and Croesus himself.
Cyrus, immediately Croesus was driving away after the battle that had been fought in the Pterian land, on learning that Croesus had driven off and was to disband his army, took counsel and found it advantageous for himself to march, as quickly as he could, against Sardis, before the force of the Lydians was gathered the second time. When he had decided that, indeed he did it with speed; he drove his army into Lydian land and was present himself as messenger to Croesus. Then Croesus, although he had come to great straits, now that his affairs were contrary to the belief that he himself firmly believed, nevertheless led out the Lydians to battle. And there was during that time no nation either more manly or more valorous than the Lydian. Their manner of battle was from horses, and they carried long lances and in themselves were good at riding horses.
When the parties had come together in that plain that is before the town of Sardis, which is large and barren (through it other rivers and the Hyllus flow and together break into the largest, the so-called Hermus, which out of the mountain sacred to mother Dindymena flows and discharges into the sea by the Phocaean city), then Cyrus, after he had seen the Lydians arrayed, in dread of the horse did, at the suggestion of Harpagus, a Median man, a deed like this: all those camels that followed his own army as food-carriers and baggage-carriers, he gathered and took away their burdens; then he made men go up on them, dressed in horsemen’s dress and, on having them dressed, he commanded them to go before the rest of the host toward the horse of Croesus, while he bade the foot soldiery follow the camel, and behind the foot he arrayed in back all the horse. When all the men had been set in array by him, he exhorted that, although the rest of the Lydians they should not spare, but kill every one of them that came to be in their way, yet Croesus they should not kill, not even if, while he was being apprehended, he defended himself. That he exhorted, and the camels he arrayed opposite the horse for this reason: a horse fears a camel and patiently endures neither seeing the sight of it nor smelling the odor. For that very reason indeed he had devised his wise course, in order that the horse soldiery might be useless to Croesus, and it was in that that the Lydian indeed purposed to shine significantly. So, when they actually went together into the battle, then, as soon as the horses had smelled the camels and seen them, they turned back again, and the hope of Croesus was destroyed. However, the Lydians, at any rate, at that time were not cowardly, but when they had learned what was happening, they leapt from their horses and encountered the Persians on foot. In time, after many on both sides had fallen, the Lydians got put to rout and, cooped up within their wall, were besieged by the Persians.
For them, then, a siege was established, and Croesus, thinking that the siege against him would be for a long time, sent from within the wall other messengers to the allies. For the former ones were sent off to proclaim that at the fifth month they should be collected at Sardis, but those latter he sent out to ask them to come to the rescue the quickest way, on the ground that Croesus was being besieged.
Accordingly then he sent men to the rest of the allies and, in particular, to Lacedaemon. But for those very same, at just that time, there had happened coincidently to be a contention with the Argives concerning the place called Thyrea. For those Thyrean lands, which belonged to the Argolid portion, the Lacedaemonians cut off for themselves and held. It was, in fact, the territory up to the Malean lands to the west of the Argives, namely, the country on the mainland, the island of Cythera and the remaining of the islands. When the Argives had come to the rescue of their own land as it was being cut off, then the parties concurred, on going together for speeches, that three hundred men of each side should fight, and whichever of the two groups survived, the place should be theirs, and that the multitude of the army should depart, each to his own land, and not remain by, while they competed, for this reason, that, the camps being present, one of the two, seeing their own men being worsted, might not offer aid. After making that compact, they departed, and picked men of each side got left behind and had an encounter. Of them, when they had fought and proven evenly matched, there were left over, out of six hundred men, three: of the Argives, Alcenor and Chromius, and of the Lacedaemonians, Othryades, and these remained left over at night’s advancing. The two of the Argives, then, on the ground that they had prevailed, ran to Argos, while he of the Lacedaemonians, Othryades, once he had stripped the corpses of the Argives and carried the arms to his own camp, kept himself at his post. The next day both sides were present and learned of the event by inquiry. For a while each side asserted that they themselves were victors, the one side stating that more of their own had survived, the other declaring that they had fled, while their own man had remained by and stripped their corpses. Finally, out of the contention, they fell together and fought. Indeed, after many on both sides had fallen, the Lacedaemonians were the victors. Now, the Argives from that time cropped their heads, although previously, of necessity, they had worn their hair long, and pronounced it law and a curse that none of the Argive men should grow their hair long nor the women wear gold ornaments on themselves, before they brought back to safety the Thryean lands, and the Lacedaemonians laid down as law the opposite of that, in that, although they had not worn their hair long before then, from then they wore their hair long. But that one man, they say, who was left over from among the three hundred, Othryades, ashamed to return back to Sparta, since the fellows of his company had been destroyed, there in the Thyrean lands used himself mortally. When affairs like those were afoot for the Spartiates, the herald from Sardis was present to ask them to come to the rescue of Croesus, who was being besieged, and they, nevertheless, after they had learned of the situation from the herald, were minded to come to the rescue. Yet to them, by then when they were prepared and ships were ready, came another message, that the wall of the Lydians had been captured and Croesus had been taken alive and was kept so. Just then they, considering it a misfortune, had ceased their efforts.
Sardis was captured this way: after the fourteenth day of the siege of Croesus had come, Cyrus sent off horsemen to his own host and proclaimed that to the first to set foot on the wall he would give gifts. After that, when the host had made a try, as it was not a success, then, all the rest having ceased their efforts, a Mardian man tried to go up, whose name was Hyroiades, at that place in the acropolis where no guard had been posted, since it was not to be feared at that place that it would be captured ever. For the acropolis is precipitous there and impregnable, where alone Meles, the former king of Sardis, did not bring round the lion that his concubine had borne him, when the Telmessians had rendered the decision that, if the lion was brought round the wall, Sardis would be unconquerable. Indeed that Meles, although he brought it round to the rest of the acropolis’ wall, where it was pregnable, neglected that spot, on the ground that it was impregnable and precipitous; it is the spot in the city turned to Tmolus. Thus it was that Hyroiades, the Mardian, indeed, that, on seeing, the day before, one of the Lydians go down the length of that place in the acropolis for a helmet that rolled down from above, and bring it up for himself, made a point of it and laid it to heart. So then indeed he was on top of the wall and after him others of the Persians climbed up; after numerous man had gone up, just then Sardis was captured and the whole city was being plundered.
Regarding Croesus himself the following happened. A son was his, whom I, in fact, made mention of before, fit in all other respects, but dumb. Accordingly, in his bygone well-being, Croesus had done everything for him; he had thought up other plans and especially to Delphi he had sent men to consult the oracle about him. And Pythia said to him this:
Lydian in race, many’s king, big infant Croesus,
Don’t want to hear the much-prayed-for cry in your house
Of a voiced son. That’s far better for you to be
Without. For he’ll speak first a day unprosperous.
When the wall, then, was captured, since one of the Persians, taking Croesus for another, approached with the intention of killing him, now, Croesus saw him advance and under the influence of the present misfortune cared not; it even made no difference to him to be struck and die; but that dumb son, after he had seen the Persian advance, under the influence of fear and evil let out an utterance and said, “O fellow human being, don’t kill Croesus.” He, then, first gave voice to that, and after that from then on he could speak his whole lifetime.
The Persians got hold of Sardis and took Croesus himself alive, after he had ruled fourteen years and fourteen days had been besieged, and in accordance with the oracle had ceased from his great rule. Then the Persians took him and brought him to Cyrus. He piled together a large pile and made Croesus, bound in fetters, and twice seven sons of the Lydians alongside him go up on it, either, probably, because he had in mind to burn them as first fruits to some god or other, or, maybe, because he wished to fulfil a vow, or, maybe, because he had learned by inquiry that Croesus was reverential to the gods and for the following reason he made him go up on the pyre, that he wanted to know whether any of the divinities would rescue him from being consumed by fire alive. He, then, it is said, did that, while to Croesus, standing on the pyre, there occurred, even though he was involved in so great an evil, the saying of Solon, that it was spoken by him with a god’s help, that saying that none of the living are prosperous. When, after all, that thought had risen before him, he, they say, on coming to himself and crying aloud after a long silence, thrice called the name “Solon”, and Cyrus heard that and bade his interpreters ask Croesus who was that man he called upon, and they went to him and put the question. Croesus, the story goes, a while kept silent, while he was questioned, and afterward, when he was compelled, said, “Whom I would have preferred at the cost of much money to come into speeches with all tyrants.” Since he had pointed out to them unintelligible things, again they questioned what was said. And, as they were persistent and rendered themselves an annoyance, he then said that, to begin with, Solon, being an Athenian, had come and, after he had beheld all his prosperity, had disparaged it—saying so and so—and that everything had come out for him just as that man had said, who in no way spoke anything with regard to him more than with regard to the whole human race and especially those who in their own judgement think they are prosperous. Croesus, they say, related that, while, the pyre by then being on fire, its edges began to burn. And Cyrus, they further relate, after he had heard from his interpreters what Croesus had said, changed his mind and had in his thought that indeed he himself, being a human being, another human being, who had become no less than himself in happiness, he offered to fire alive, and in addition to that he feared vengeance and thought on how nothing of what’s among human beings is not liable to fall, and so he bade men extinguish the quickest way the burning fire and make Croesus and those with Croesus go down. Yet those men, although they tried, could not any longer get mastery over the fire. Then, it is said by the Lydians, Croesus learned of Cyrus’ change of mind and, when he saw every man try to extinguish the fire and able no longer to restrain it, he let out a cry to Apollo and called on him, if any gratifying gift had been presented to him by himself, to stand by and rescue him from the present evil. So he, in tears, called on the god, and after clarity and windlessness there ran together suddenly clouds, and a storm broke out and it rained with a most violent rain, and finally the pyre was completely extinguished. Just then Cyrus learned that Croesus was loved by the gods and a good man and, when he had made him go down from the pyre, he asked this: “Croesus, who of human beings convinced you to advance with an army against my land and be established my enemy instead of my friend?” And he said, “O king, I did that because of the happiness that’s yours and the unhappiness that’s mine; the god of the Greeks proved the cause of that action, in that he induced me to advance with an army. For no one is so unintelligent that he chooses war instead of peace, since in the one sons bury their fathers, and in the other fathers their sons, but to a divinity, I suppose, it was dear that that event thus happen.”
He said that, and Cyrus, on releasing him, seated him near himself and held him in very much consideration, and both he himself and all who were in his circle marvelled much at seeing him. He, in the meanwhile, held in close thought, was silent. Then afterward, when he had returned to himself and seen the Persians were plundering the town of the Lydians, he said, “O king, which should I? Speak to you what I, in fact, think or be silent at the present time?” And Cyrus bade him take courage and say whatever he wanted. And he asked him a question by saying, “That large crowd there—what’s that it is doing with much eagerness?” And he said, “Your city it is sacking and your property carrying away.” Then Croesus replied, “Neither my city nor my property it is sacking; for there is no share for me any longer in that, but they are carrying off and leading away yours.” So for Cyrus it became a care what Croesus had said, and he removed all the others and asked Croesus what he observed for him in what was done. And he said, “Since the gods gave me as a slave to you, I think it just, if I observe any advantage, to indicate it to you. The Persians, being in nature insolent, are propertyless. If, therefore, you allow their sacking and gaining hold of much property, the following is likely to be done to you by them: whoever of them gains hold of most, anticipate he will rise up against you. Now therefore act this way, if what I say pleases you. Station from among your lance-bearers at all the gates guards and let them say to those carrying out property, as they take it away for themselves, that it is necessary for it to be tithed for Zeus. Thus you will not incur their enmity, although by force you are taking the property away for yourself, and they, with an admission that you are acting justly, will willingly give it up.” Cyrus took very much pleasure in hearing that, as it seemed to him to be well suggested, and, when he had praised him much and enjoined on his lance-bearers to bring to completion what Croesus had suggested, he said to Croesus this: “Croesus, since you, a king, are prepared to do good in actions and words, ask for yourself whichever gift you want to become yours immediately.” And he said, “O master, you will gratify me most by letting me send these fetters of mine and ask the god of the Greeks, whom I honored most of the gods, whether to deceive those who treat him well in his law.” Then Cyrus asked why he spoke that against the god and made that entreaty. And Croesus repeated to him his own thought, the oracles’ answers, and especially his offerings, as well as that, induced by the seat of prophecy’s response, he had advanced with an army against the Persians. On saying that, he concluded by entreating him again to permit himself to cast that reproach on the god. And Cyrus, with a laugh, said, “Both that you will obtain from me, Croesus, and everything else that on each occasion you ask for.” After Croesus had heard that, he sent some of the Lydians to Delphi and enjoined on them that, after putting the fetters on the temple’s threshold, they should ask whether the god was in no way ashamed of inducing Croesus, by the seat of prophecy’s responses, to advance with an army against the Persians, with the intention of putting an end to Cyrus’ power, in consequence of which first-fruits became his like those, at which point they should show the fetters, that they should ask that and whether it was the law of the Greek gods to be most ungrateful.