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When Cyrus and his men had finished dinner and stationed guards, as was necessary, they went to rest. As for Croesus and his army, they fled straight towards Sardis, while the other contingents got away, each man as far as he could under cover of the night on his way toward home. [2]

When daylight came, Cyrus led his army1 straight on against Sardis. And as soon as he came up to the walls of the city, he set up his engines as if intending to assault it and made ready his scaling ladders. [3] But though he did this, in the course of the following night he sent some Chaldaeans and Persians to climb up by what was considered the most precipitous side of the Sardian citadel. The way was shown them by a Persian who had been the slave of one of the guards of the acropolis and had discovered a way down to the river and up again by the same route. [4]

When it became known that the citadel was taken, all the Lydians immediately fled from the walls to whatever part of the city they could. And Cyrus at daybreak entered the city and gave orders that not a man of his should stir from his post. [5] But Croesus shut himself up in his palace and called for Cyrus. Cyrus, however, left behind a guard to watch Croesus, while he himself drew off his army to the citadel now in his possession; for he saw that the Persians were holding guard over it, as it was2 their duty to do, but that the quarters of the Chaldaeans were deserted, for they had run down into the city to get plunder from the houses. He at once called their officers together and told them to leave his army with all speed. [6] “For,” said he, “I could not endure to see men who are guilty of insubordination better off than others. And let me tell you,” he added, “that I was getting ready to make you Chaldaeans who have been helping in my campaigns objects of envy in the eyes of all other Chaldaeans; but, as it is, you need not be surprised if some one who is your superior in strength should fall in with you, even as you go away.” [7]

When they heard this, the Chaldaeans were afraid; they besought him to lay aside his wrath and promised to give up their plunder. But he said he did not want it. “But,” said he, “if you wish3 me to forget my displeasure, surrender all that you have taken to those who have not relaxed their guard of the citadel. For if the rest of the soldiers find out that those who have been obedient to orders are better off than the rest, everything will be as I wish.” [8]

The Chaldaeans, accordingly, did as Cyrus bade; and the obedient received a large amount of spoil of every description. And Cyrus encamped his men in that part of the city where he deemed it most convenient, ordering them to stay in their quarters and take luncheon there. [9]

When he had attended to this, he ordered4 Croesus to be brought before him. And when Croesus saw Cyrus, he said: “I salute you, my sovereign lord; for fortune grants that henceforth you should bear this title and I address you by it.” [10]

“And I you, Croesus; for we are both men. But, Croesus,” he added, “would you be willing to give me a bit of advice?”

“Aye, Cyrus,” said he; “I wish I could find something of practical value to say to you. For that, I think, would prove good for me as well.” [11]

“Listen, then, Croesus,” said he. “I observe that my soldiers have gone through many toils and dangers and now are thinking that they are in possession of the richest city in Asia, next to Babylon; and I think that they deserve some reward. For I know that if they do not reap some fruit of their labours, I shall not be able to keep them in obedience very long. Now, I do not wish to abandon the city5 to them to plunder; for I believe that then the city would be destroyed, and I am sure that in the pillaging the worst men would get the largest share.” [12]

“Well,” said Croesus on hearing these words, “permit me to say to any Lydians that I meet that I have secured from you the promise not to permit any pillaging nor to allow the women and children to be carried off, and that I, in return for that, have given you my solemn promise that you should get from the Lydians of their own free will everything there is of beauty or value in Sardis. [13] For when they hear this, I am sure that whatever fair possession man or woman has will to come to you; and next year you will again find the city just as full of wealth as it is now; whereas, if you pillage it completely, you will find even the industrial arts utterly ruined; and they say that these are the fountain of wealth. [14] But when you have seen what is brought in, you will still have the privilege of deciding about plundering the city. And first of all,” he went on, “send to my treasuries and let your guards obtain from my guards what is there.”

All this, accordingly, Cyrus agreed to have done as Croesus suggested. [15]

“But pray tell me, Croesus,” he resumed,6 “what has come of your responses from the oracle at Delphi? For it is said that Apollo has received much service from you and that everything that you do is done in obedience to him.” [16]

“I would it were so, Cyrus,” he answered. “But as it is; I have from the very beginning behaved toward Apollo in a way contrary to all that he has advised.”

“How so?” asked Cyrus; “please explain; for your statement sounds very strange.” [17]

“At first,” he answered, “instead of asking the god for the particular favour I needed, I proceeded to put him to the test to see if he could tell the truth. And when even men, if they are gentlemen—to say nothing of a god—discover that they are mistrusted, they have no love for those who mistrust them. [18] However, as he knew even about the gross absurdities I was engaged in, far as I was from Delphi,7 I then sent to him to inquire if I should have male issue. [19] And at first he did not even answer me; but when I had at last propitiated him, as I thought, by sending many offerings of gold and many of silver and by sacrificing very many victims, then he did answer my question as to what I should do to have sons; and he said that I should have them. [20] And I had; for not even in this did he speak falsely; but those that were born to me have been no joy to me. For the one has continued dumb until now, and the other, the better of the two, was killed in the flower of his youth. Then, overwhelmed by the afflictions I suffered in connection with my sons, I sent again and inquired of the god what I should do to pass the rest8 of my life most happily; and he answered me:

‘Knowing thyself, O Croesus—thus shalt thou live and be happy.’9 [21]

And when I heard this response, I was glad; for I thought that it was the easiest task in the world that he was laying upon me as the condition to happiness. For in the case of others, it is possible to know some; and some, one cannot know; but I thought that everybody knows who and what he himself is. [22]

“For the succeeding years, as long as I lived at peace, I had no complaint to make of my fortunes after the death of my son. But when I was persuaded by the Assyrian king to take the field against you, I fell into every sort of danger. However, I was saved without having suffered any harm. Here again I have no fault to find with the god. For when I recognized that I was not your match in battle, with his help I got off in safety, both I and my men. [23]

“And lately again, spoiled by the wealth I had and by those who were begging me to become their leader, by the gifts they gave me and by the people who flattered me, saying that if I would consent to take command they would all obey me and I should be the greatest of men—puffed up by such words, when all the princes round about chose me to be their leader in the war, I accepted the command, deeming myself fit to be the greatest; but, as it seems, I did not know myself. [24] For I thought I was capable of carrying on war against you; but I was no match for you; for you are in the first place a scion of the gods and in the second place the descendant of an unbroken line of kings, and finally you have been practising virtue from your childhood on, while the first of my ancestors to wear a crown, I am told, was at the same time king and freedman.10 Therefore, as I was thus without knowledge, I have my just deserts. [25]

“But, Cyrus,” said he, “I know myself now. But do you think Apollo's declaration still holds true, that if I know myself I shall be happy? I ask you this for the reason that under the present circumstances it seems to me you can judge best; for you are also in a position to fulfil it.” [26]

“You must give me time to consider this,11 Croesus,” Cyrus replied; “for when I think of your happiness hitherto, I am sorry for you, and I now restore to you your wife, whom you once had, your daughters (for I understand you have daughters), your friends, your servants, and the table that you and yours used to enjoy. But wars and battles I must forbid you.” [27]

“In the name of Zeus,” said Croesus, “pray do not trouble yourself further to answer me in regard to my happiness; for I assure you even now that if you do for me what you say you will, I, too, shall have and enjoy that life which others have always considered most blissful; and I have agreed with them.” [28]

“And who is it,” asked Cyrus, “that enjoys such a life of bliss?”

“My wife, Cyrus,” said he. “For she always shared equally with me my wealth and the luxuries and all the good cheer that it brought, but she had no share in the anxieties of securing it nor in war or battle. So, then, you seem to be putting me in the same position as I did her whom I loved more than all the world, so that I feel that I shall owe Apollo new thank-offerings.” [29]

At hearing these words Cyrus wondered at his good spirits, and after that he always used to take Croesus with him wherever he went, whether, as may well have been, because he thought Croesus was of some service to him, or whether he considered that this was the safer course.

1 The capture of Sardis

2 The Chaldaeans' breach of discipline

3 Good discipline rewarded

4 Croesus before Cyrus

5 Cyrus proposes to spare Sardis

6 Croesus and the Pythian oracle

7 See Index, s.v. Croesus, note.

8 The secret of a happy life

9 There is a reference to the famous inscription on the temple at Delphiγνῶθι σεαυτόν.

10 Gyges, the shepherd king of Lydia.

11 Cyrus restores to Croesus his household

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    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 1.86
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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PHA´LERAE
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