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Croesus of Lydia and the Ionian Greeks

The Ionian Greeks1 originally lost their independence not to the Persians but when they were overpowered by Croesus2 (*c. 560-546), king of Lydia3. The Lydians4 were a non-Greek people whose land bordered on Ionia on the east. Since Croesus gained confidence from this conquest and was emboldened by his vast wealth, he resolved to attack the Persian kingdom, whose territory lay to the east of Lydia. Persia was just now becoming powerful and thus a potential threat to Lydia. Croesus sent an emissary to request advice from the oracle of the god Apollo at Delphi5 in central Greece on the advisability of the Lydian army attacking Persia. The oracle responded,6 “If Croesus crosses into Persian territory, he will destroy a great kingdom.” When Croesus attacked the Persians in 546 B.C., his forces were crushed by Cyrus7, the Persian king. Lydia, along with Ionia, fell to the Persians. Later, Cyrus allowed Croesus, now his prisoner being treated with respect in honor of his former royal status, to complain to the Delphic oracle8 that its advice had been wrong and that the god had not repaid the favor that Croesus had earlier shown him by sending splendid gifts to his Delphic sanctuary. The oracle pointedly replied to the complaint by answering that, if Croesus had been wise, he would have asked a second question: whose kingdom was he going to destroy with his expedition, Cyrus' or his own?9

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