Primary Sources: Herodotus, CLIO part 12
Croesus shouted exhortations at the heavens, reminding the gods that he wasn’t the worst guy ever, and begging them to save him. Apollo or someone took pity on him, and sent a freak rainstorm that allowed the Persians to extinguish the fire.
“So, Croesus, got anything to say for yourself?” Cyrus asked him afterwards.
“Just one question. What are your soldiers doing in Sardis, right now?”
Cyrus let out a booming laugh. “They’re looting your city and plundering your treasure! Duh!”
“A heh, sire, well…” Croesus snickered. “I’m standing here in manacles. I don’t have a city and I don’t have any treasure.”
“…I don’t follow you.”
“They’re looting your city and plundering your treasure.”
“Crap,” said Cyrus. “That makes sense.” He ordered his troops to stand down and cease with the pillaging, which they weren’t thrilled about. On Croesus’s advice, he stationed guards at the exit of Sardis, whose job it was to examine Persian troops as they left the city, determine how much loot they were taking out, and seize some so that while the soldiers would get the loot they deserved, no one would end up with enough loot to fund a rebellion against Cyrus. The pretext Croesus suggested was claiming it was a tithe for Zeus, since “Croesus demands the loot you looted” was a hard sell.
In exchange Croesus requests, and receives, permission to write an angry letter to the Oracle of Delphi, complaining about a bum prophecy that cost him his empire. However the Pythia had a whole counterargument ready, which she laid out to rebut his assertions that her prophecy had been flawed.
1) Croesus is a descendent of Gyges, who was cursed, as related earlier.
2) If the gods hadn’t intervened, Croesus’s empire would have fallen, like, three whole years earlier.
3) And Croesus would have been killed then, instead of having his life spared by a freak rainstorm.
4) So he should be happy to just be alive!
5) Croesus asked what would happen if he invaded Syria; the Pythia said that he would destroy an empire. He destroyed his own empire. Prophecy complete!
6) If he’d thought about it Croesus should have sent more bribes and a follow-up question about which empire, but instead Croesus decided to be chintzy.
7) Don’t blame the Pythia for the choices Croesus chose to choose.
8) Cyrus was a mule, which is to say, a half-breed; his mother was a Median princess, and his father a Persian. So that checked out, too.
Pretty audacious to claim Croesus was being a cheapskate, the guy who sent so many bribes to so many temples (Herodotus could just go on listing them all day, there’s a tripod of gold and golden cows and a golden shield and on and on). And that wraps up the first big story in the Histories, all about the riches of Croesus! But before Herodotus moves on to another topic, he wants to lay down some QUICK LYDIA FACTOIDS for us.
QUICK LYDIA FACTOIDS! Information about Croesus’s homeland!
1) They got a little gold dust down from Tmolos but otherwise weren’t any great shakes, natural resources wise. No telling where Croesus got all his celebrated riches.
2) Croesus’s father, Atyattes, had a huge tomb rivaling the Pyramids of Eygpt in size and scope.
3) The tomb was built of stones donated by various craft guilds; the largest contribution came from the guild of prostitutes.
4) Lydian girls were super slutty, is what Herodotus is saying.
5) Lydians invented coinage as a concept, little slugs of precious metal you trade and use as a currency. Before that, people settled debts by shouting.
6) They also invented dice, to amuse themselves during a famine. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they played dice, and Tuesdays and Thursdays they ate food.
7) That famine wasn’t resolved until half of the Lydians got on boats and relocated to central Italy.
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