Stories of the East From Herodotus - Alfred J. Church

Croesus is Saved from Death. Of Lydia, the Lydians, and of Certain Greeks that Dwelt in Asia

So the Persians gained possession of the city of Sardis. And Crœsus himself they took alive, and led him to Cyrus their king; and all the years that he had reigned were fourteen; fourteen also was the number of the days for which his city was besieged. And thus was the prophecy of the oracle fulfilled, that he should bring to an end a great empire; to wit, his own. Then Cyrus commanded that they should build a great pile of wood, and should set Crœsus thereon bound in chains, and with him fourteen men of Lydia, and burn them with fire. But whether in so doing he thought to offer the first-fruits of his victory to some god, or was performing a vow which he had made, or having heard that Crœsus had been a great worshipper of the Gods, desired now to see whether any god would come and help him in his need, cannot certainly be known. But when Crœsus stood upon the pile, and the fire had now been put to it, there came into his thoughts, notwithstanding the great strait wherein he stood, that the saying of Solon was indeed true, and spoken by inspiration of the Gods, when he said that none of living men might be counted happy. And when he thought of this he cried out with a loud voice, having before kept silence altogether, "Solon, Solon, Solon!" which when Cyrus heard, he bade the interpreters ask of Crœsus who was this that he called upon. But when the interpreters asked this thing, for a time Crœsus kept silence, but afterwards, for indeed he was constrained to speak, made this answer, "He is one with whom it would be better than many possessions for all rulers to have speech." Then, as no man could understand these words, they enquired of him again what they might signify. And as they were earnest with him, and would not leave him in peace, he told them how there had come to his court one Solon, a man of Athens, who having seen all his wealth and prosperity, had made little account of it; and how that there had befallen him all that this same Solon had said, though indeed the man spake not of him in particular but of all mortal men, and especially of those who judged themselves to be happy. This was the answer which Crœsus made; and now the pile had been lighted, and the extremities were on fire. But when Cyrus heard from the interpreters the words of Crœsus, he repented him of his purpose, bethinking him how that he, being but a mortal man, was now giving another man that had aforetime been not less prosperous than himself to be burned with fire, and fearing lest there should come upon him vengeance for such a deed, and considering also that there was nothing sure in human affairs. For which reasons he bade them that stood by quench the fire and cause Crœsus and the men that were with him to descend from the pile. But these, with all their striving, could not prevail over the fire. Then Crœsus—for this is the story of the Lydians—when he saw that Cyrus had repented him of his purpose, and that every one was striving to quench the fire but could not, cried with a loud voice to Apollo, beseeching the god that if he had ever made an offering that was to his liking, he would deliver him from his present peril. This he besought of the god with many tears, and lo! of a sudden, though the day before had been fine and calm, there came a great storm with a most vehement rain, which quenched the fire. Then Cyrus knew of a surety that Crœsus was a good man and dear to the Gods. And having caused him to descend from the pile, he asked him, saying, "Tell me, Crœsus, what man persuaded thee to lead thy army against my land, and to make me thine enemy, having been before thy friend?" Then Crœsus answered, "This I did, O King, for thy good fortune, but to my loss. Nor was it a man that did this, but the god of the Greeks, who encouraged me to make war against thee. For surely no man is so foolish that of his own will he should choose war instead of peace; for in peace the children bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their children. But these things have fallen out as the Gods would have them."



When he had said these things Cyrus bade them loose his chains, and put him near to himself, and marvelled when he regarded him, both he and the Persians that were with him. And Crœsus said nothing, thinking about many things. But after a while, when he saw the Persians plundering the city of the Lydians, he turned him to King Cyrus, and said, "Is it allowed to me, O King, to speak that which is in my heart, or shall I be silent?" And Cyrus bade him be of courage and speak what he would. Then Crœsus asked him, "What is it that this great multitude is so busy about?" "They are spoiling thy city," said Cyrus, "and carrying off thy possessions." "Nay," said Crœsus, "this is not my city that they spoil, nor my possessions that they carry off; for I have now no share or lot in these things. But the things that they plunder are thine." Then Cyrus took heed of the words which Crœsus had spoken to him; and bidding all others leave him, he asked him again what he thought of these matters. Then Crœsus made answer, "The Gods have made me thy servant; wherefore I count it right to tell thee if I perceive aught that thou seest not. The Persians are haughty by nature, but they are poor. And if thou sufferest them to plunder in this fashion and to gain for themselves great wealth, be sure that this will befall thee. That man among them who shall get the most will be he that will rebel against thee. If therefore my words please thee, do according to my bidding. Set spearmen as guards at all the gates, and let them take away from all that come out the things that they carry with them, saying at the same time, ` We must needs give tithe to Zeus of all these things.' And they will not hate thee as if thou didst take the things from them by force, but will judge thee to do that which is right, and will give them up willingly." When Cyrus heard these words he was pleased with them beyond measure, judging them to have been wisely said. So when he had commended Crœsus for his wisdom, and had given commandment to the spearmen according to these words, he said, "Thou hast it in thy heart to do good deeds and to say good words as befitteth a king; ask therefore some boon of me which thou wouldest have granted to thee straightway." Then said Crœsus, "O King, thou canst not please me more, than if thou wilt suffer me to send to the god of the Greeks, whom I have honoured with gifts more than all Gods beside, and to lay these fetters before him, and ask him whether it is his custom to deceive them that do him honour." And when Cyrus would know why he desired to put this question accusing the god, Crœsus set before him the whole matter, both that which he had asked, and the answer of the god, and the offerings which he had made, and how he had made war against the Persians, being encouraged thereto by the god. And when he had ended this tale he besought Cyrus again that he would suffer him to reproach the god with these things. And Cyrus, when he heard it, laughed and said, "This request I grant thee, O Crœsus, as I will grant thee everything that that thou shalt ask me hereafter." And when Crœsus heard these words he sent certain Lydians to Delphi, and bade them lay the fetters on the threshold of the temple and enquire of the god whether he was not ashamed to have encouraged Crœsus by his oracles to march against the Persians, thinking that he should overthrow the empire of Cyrus, of which undertaking these, the fetters to wit, were the first-fruits, and whether it was the custom of the god of the Greeks to be unfaithful. And when the Lydians did as had been commanded them, the Pythia made this answer, "That which is fated it is by no means possible to avoid, not even to a god. And Crœsus hath suffered for the transgressions of his forefather in the fifth generation, who, being a body-guard of the king, slew his master, a woman helping him with her craft, and took his honour to himself, though he had no part or lot in it. And Apollo was very earnest with the Fates that they should not bring this evil upon Sardis in the days of Crœsus, but that they should bring it in his son's days. Yet could he not prevail. Nevertheless all that the Fates granted to him that did he for Crœsus, delaying the taking of Sardis for the space of three years; for let Crœsus be sure of this, that the taking of Sardis is later by three years than had been ordained at the first. Also when he was in peril of being burnt with fire the god helped him and delivered him. And as for the oracle, Crœsus doth not right to blame him, for Apollo foretold to him that, if he should make war against the Persians, he should bring to the ground a great empire. If therefore he had been well advised in this matter, he should have sent again to enquire of the god whether his own empire or the empire of Cyrus were thus signified. But seeing that he understood not the thing which was said, nor enquired a second time, let him blame himself. And as to that which Apollo answered him when he enquired of him the last time, speaking of a mule, this also Crœsus understood not. For Cyrus was this mule, being born of parents that were not of the same race, his mother also being of the more noble stock and his father of the worse. For she was a woman of the Medes and the daughter of King Astyages, and he was a Persian and no king, but a servant that married the daughter of his master." This was the answer that the priestess gave to the Lydians; and when Crœsus heard it he confessed that he had erred and not the god.

In this way did the empire of the Lydians come to an end. These Lydians were the first that found out the coining of gold and silver. Also they were the first traders. And they say of themselves that they first made the games at which they and the Greeks are used to play. Also they declare that in the days when these games were first made by them they colonized the land of Tyrsenia, which is in Italy. And their story of this matter is this. In the days of Atys the son of Manes there was a sore famine throughout the whole land of Lydia. And for a while the Lydians were instant in prayers to the Gods that they would help them; but, as the famine ceased not, they sought for remedies, contriving some one thing and some another. In those days they devised dice-playing and ball-playing and all other kinds of games that men use, save chess only, for this the Lydians say not that they devised. And their manner with the games was this. One day they would play continually, that they might not have any thought for food, and the next day they would leave off from their playing and eat. In this fashion they endured for the space of eighteen years. But as the evil abated not but rather grew worse, the King divided the people of Lydia into two parts, making them cast lots, that the one part should remain in the land, and the other part should go forth to some other country. And that part which drew the lot for remaining he took to himself, but that part which should go forth he gave to his son, whose name was Tyrsenus. These then went down to the seacoast, to Smyrna, and there built them ships, into which they put all things that they needed for a voyage, and so set sail, seeking for livelihood and a country wherein they might dwell; in which search, having passed by many lands, they came to the land of the Umbri, and there built for themselves cities, in the which they dwell to this day. Also they changed their name, calling themselves no more Lydians but Tyrsenians, after the name of the King's son, Tyrsenus, who had led them forth.

Now the men of Ionia and Ĉolia, so soon as they knew that the Lydians had been subdued by the Persians, sent messengers to Cyrus, saying that they would fain be his servants after the same manner in which they had been the servants of Crœsus. But when they had made their oration to him he spake to them for an answer this parable. "A certain flute-player, seeing fishes in the sea, played his flute to them, thinking that they would come forth from the sea on to the land at his playing. But when they would not do as he had hoped, he took a net, and cast it, and having encompassed therewith a great multitude of fishes, he drew it to the land. And when he saw them that they flapped their tails upon the ground, he said, 'Cease this dancing, for ye would not come out and dance upon the land when I piped to you.'" This said Cyrus because in the beginning of the war he had sent to these men bidding them rebel against Crœsus, and they would not, but now when they knew that he had gotten himself the victory, they were ready to be his servants. For this cause he was very wroth with them; and when the men of Ionia and Ĉolia heard his words, they knew that he purposed evil against them, and began to prepare themselves accordingly.

First they sent messengers to Sparta to ask for help; who, when they were come, chose Pythermus, a man of Phocĉa, to speak for them. This Pythermus, having clad himself in purple, which he did that all the Spartans might come together to see him, stood up in the assembly, and told his business. But the Spartans consented not to help; only after that the messengers had departed they sent certain men in a ship of fifty oars, who should see for themselves how things were with Cyrus and the Ionians. The chief of these men, a certain Lacrines, went up to Sardis, and declared to Cyrus the pleasure of the Lacedĉmonians, that he should not harm any city of the Greeks, for that they would not suffer it. But when Cyrus heard these words he enquired of certain Greeks that were with him, what manner of men and how many in number these Lacedĉmonians might be that they laid such commands upon him. And when he heard he said to Lacrines, "I regard not at all the folk who have a set place in the midst of their city whither they assemble and forswear themselves and deceive each other. Surely, if it be well with me, all that the Ionians have suffered they shall suffer." Cyrus said this reproaching the Greeks because they have markets wherein they buy and sell, for the Persians use not to do any such thing.

After this Cyrus departed, and took Crœsus with him; and over Sardis and the Lydians he made a certain Persian, named Tabalus, governor, but the charge of the gold he gave to Pactyas, a man of Lydia. But Pactyas took the gold, and having hired soldiers besieged Tabalus in the citadel of Sardis. When tidings of these things were brought to Cyrus as he journeyed eastward, he changed not his purpose, having weightier things in hand, but sent Mazares a Mede with a part of the army to deal with the Lydians and Ionians. Of whose coming when, Pactyas heard he escaped from the citadel of Sardis and fled to Cumĉ. Whereupon Mazares sent messengers to Cumĉ, bidding the inhabitants deliver up the enemy of the King. But the men of Cumĉ doubted what they should do, and sent messengers to enquire of the god in Branchidĉ of Miletus; to whom the god answered that they should deliver up Pactyas. But when this answer was brought back, and the people were now ready to deliver him up, the thing pleased not one of the chief men, Aristodicus by name, who persuaded the men of Cumĉ that they should send yet again and enquire of the god by the hand of other messengers. So they sent other messengers, among whom was Aristodicus himself. When they were come to the oracle, Aristodicus, being spokesman for the rest, spake, saying, "O King, there came to us a certain Pactyas, a man of Lydia, flying from the Persians, who were ready to put him to death. And now these Persians will have us deliver him to them. But we, though we fear them, are yet loath to deliver the man to death, and so are come asking thee what we should do." To this the god answered again that they should deliver him up. But when Aristodicus heard this he went about the temple taking the young birds out of their nests, for many birds had built therein. As he did this there came a voice out of the shrine, "What doest thou, thou wicked man, taking these that have sought sanctuary with me?" Then Aristodicus answered, "O King, thou indeed defendest them that seek sanctuary with thee, but thou biddest the men of Cumĉ deliver up this suppliant. And the god answered, "Yea, I bade you do this thing, that so ye might perish utterly, and might not ask such ill questions of the god any more." When the men of Cumĉ heard these words they neither were willing to deliver him up nor to keep him, and so be besieged. Therefore they sent him to Mitylene. But when they knew that the men of Mitylene were preparing to deliver him up for a reward, they sent a ship and took him to Chios; but the Chians delivered him up to the Persians, receiving for him a certain place called Atarnes, which is in Mysia, over against Lesbos. And to this day Atarnes is accursed, and the Chians use not any of its fruits for sacrifice.

After this Tabalus, having subdued certain cities of Ionia, died, and Cyrus sent Harpagus a Mede, of whom there is much to be said hereafter, to be captain in his room. And the first city which Harpagus made ready to attack was Phocĉa. Now the men of Phocĉa were mighty sailors, and were the first of the Greeks to make long voyages, visiting, besides other places, Tartessus, which is in Spain. Now in Tartessus they found a certain king, whose name was Arganthonius. He was a very old man of sixscore years, and he had reigned in Tartessus fourscore years. This Arganthonius dealt very kindly with the Phocĉans, and when he knew that the power of the Medes waxed great in Asia, gave them much money that they might build them a wall; which wall indeed they built of great stones well fitted together. Now when Harpagus was come to Phocĉa, he sent messengers bidding them submit themselves to Cyrus; and he said that it would suffice if they would throw down one battlement on their wall, and set apart one house in their city. But the men of Phocĉa asked for one day that they might deliberate, and would have Harpagus take his army from before their city for so long. Then, said Harpagus, "I know well what ye purpose to do, yet shall ye have the day." And he took his army from before the city. Then the Phocĉans launched their ships, and put therein, their wives and children and their goods, and all the images from the temples, and all the offerings, save such as were of brass or stone, or pictures; and having done this they sailed to Chios; and the Persians took Phocĉa, being deserted of its inhabitants.

But the Phocĉans would fain have bought certain islands of the people of Chios, but these would not sell them, fearing lest they should suffer in trading. Then they sailed to Cyrnus, where twenty years before they had built a city. But first they sailed back to Phocĉa and slew the garrison which Harpagus had set there to keep it; and having slain the garrison, they threw an anvil of iron into the sea, and swore that they would not return to the city till they should see the anvil floating on the water. Yet, while they were voyaging to Cyrnus, half and more repented them of their purpose, and brake their oath, and went back to Phocĉa, and dwelt there. But such as kept to their oath sailed to Cyrnus, where they dwelt for five years. But at the end of five years the Phœnicians and the men of Carthage made alliance and sailed against them, for they plundered all the neighbouring parts. Then was there a great battle, and the Phocĉans prevailed, yet lost forty ships out of threescore. Then those that remained sailed to Rhegium in Italy, and built a city in those parts.

The men of Tios did as the Phocĉans had done, for they put all that they had in ships, and departed, and dwelt in a city of Thrace called Abdera. But all the other Ionians on the mainland submitted themselves to Cyrus; and the islanders did likewise, fearing what might befall them.

After this Harpagus subdued the other nations that are in those parts, as the Carians and the Lycians and others. About these there is nothing worthy to be told, save about the Lycians of Xanthus only. For these first of all fought against the Persians before their city, and being vanquished for all their valour, for they were few fighting against many, and being shut up in their city, yet would not yield themselves. For first they gathered together in their citadel their wives and their children and their slaves and all their goods, and burnt them with fire. And having done this, they bound themselves with dreadful oaths, and fell upon the Persians, and died fighting all of them.