And now the Spartans! A while back, they’d had just a terrible code of laws, total bull, but then Lycurgos (no relation to the Lycurgos who was Peisistratos’s political enemy) visited the Oracle of Delphi and they proclaimed him to just be tops, loved by Zeus. Lycurgos, thus inspired, rewrote all of Sparta’s laws, which he could do because he was the uncle of the underage king and brother of the late king. His legal reforms were so popular that after he died, the Spartans erected a temple to him and worshipped him as a god. This part of the story isn’t connected to anything; Herodotus just thinks it’s neat.
In the generation before Croesus, the Spartans had been feeling their oats and they cast about looking for some other city to fight. They went to Delphi and asked the Oracle there whether they should conquer Tegea, and the Oracle gave them the run-around and told them to dance in Tegea and measure its fields into plots.
Naturally the Spartans assumed this meant they would defeat Tegea easily. But then, spoiler alert, they didn’t! Instead the bulk of their army was captured and enslaved and Herodotus claims that the bit about dancing and the dividing of the land into plots were poetic references to the field-work they did as slaves. The refugees from this abortive invasion returned to Delphi and demanded better advice! The Oracles told them to find the bones of Orestes, the classical hero, which was just more runaround as they had no idea where to even start looking. So they pestered the Pythia some more, and finally she sent them to a smooth place… where there do blow two blasts by strong compulsion together. The Spartans threw up their hands in frustration and scattered, vowing to regroup.
Lichas, one of the Spartans, was hanging out by a forge just staring at the smooth anvil and the way the two bellows pumped the fire in two blasts, like you do, when he got to talking to the smith there, who for whatever reason told him about this one time the smith found a coffin about ten feet long, which he’d assumed to be some kind of novelty prank coffin, until he’d opened it up and discovered a giant skeleton inside.
“Orestes!” thought Lichas, because apparently Orestes was a giant? I do not recall that from the Libation Bearers. Neither had the other Spartans, since when he went to tell them about it they’d laughed in his face and then exiled him when he pressed the point. Bitter, he returned to to the smith and demanded the giant skeleton. The smith didn’t want to hand it over, but Lichas beat it out of him. Then Lichas took the skeleton back to Sparta, and everyone apologized, and then they invaded Tegea again, this time defeating them handily. They were just resting from this victory when they received word Croesus wanted to ally with them.