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The chronologers give Croesus fifteen years, but H. does not reckon the last year (as unfinished), perhaps because he wished to bring out the coincidence of the ‘fourteen days’ and the ‘fourteen years’.

For the date of the capture of Sardis cf. Busolt, ii. 459-60. The usual date, 546 B.C., is that of Eusebius and most of the chronologers; the Parian marble, however, made it 541, and this date seems to have been that given by Xanthus: between these two dates it is impossible to decide. Duncker (iv. 326) put it in 549, as he thought it must have preceded (cf. 90. 4) the burning of the Delphic temple (548, 50. 3 n.), but this conjecture has not been generally accepted.

As to the fate of Croesus we have two contradictory traditions:

I. That he perished. Bacchyl. iii. 23-63 (Ode to Hiero, 468 B.C.; Jebb, pp. 195-7, 256-61) makes the pyre voluntary; Apollo carries Croesus off to the land of the Hyperboreans. This is confirmed, as to the voluntary nature of the act, by the Louvre amphora (No. 194, figured J. H. S. xviii. 268, where it is dated circ. 500, and in Bury, p. 228). The authority for this tradition is therefore slightly the older.

II. That he was spared. We have this in three main forms: (a) That of H., supported by Ephorus (Diod. ix. 34; cf. also Nic. Dam. fr. 68 (F. H. G. iii. 407), who adds embellishments of his own). (b) Xen. Cyr. vii. 2 makes Croesus spared to be the adviser of Cyrus, but omits all marvels. (c) Ctesias (c. 4, p. 64) says nothing of the pyre, but makes Croesus saved by other marvels, and adds that Cyrus gave him the town of Barene (near Ecbatana).

There is, apart from the miraculous elements, the further objection to the story that Cyrus, as a fire-worshipper, would not have polluted the sacred element (cf. iii. 16. 2). It may be argued that, not to speak of the possibility of mad freaks like those of Cambyses, Cyrus' beliefs sat lightly on him (cf. the Cylinder Inscription, R. P.2 v. 166-8, for his behaviour to the Babylonian gods, and Tac. Ann. iii. 62). But the objection, though not itself decisive, is serious.

To return to the main difficulty: it is hard to believe that Croesus perished (as Maspero holds, p. 656), in defiance of the independent evidence of Ctesias and of H. The latter also tells stories of Croesus later (cc. 155, 207, iii. 14, 36) which could hardly have gained currency as to a dead man; they seem, moreover, to come from sources different from those of the Lydian history. The explanation then of Bacchylides' story may be that he gives, as Jebb shows, a Delian version of the facts. Croesus was, so to speak, canonized as a model of piety (this is implied in his being represented on a vase at all, C. R. 1898, p. 85), and so a myth had grown up around him; cf. for his religious character Pind. Pyth. i. 94, his φιλόφρων ἀρετά.

We may then reject the evidence of Bacchylides, and assume that Croesus survived; but it is difficult to decide the further points:

(1) Meyer, i1. 503, thinks his pyre was a solemn act of selfdevotion; cf. for instances of voluntary burnings vii. 107 (Boges), vii. 167 (Hamilcar), 1 Kings 16. 18 (Zimri), and the legend of Sardanapallus, the last king of Nineveh (F. H. G. ii. 505). This is the most probable view; it is supported by the oldest evidence, and consistent with Cyrus' religious beliefs.

(2) Nöldeke (E. B.9 xviii. 566) accepts the pyre as the act of Cyrus, of course discarding the miracuious embellishments.

(3) A less probable view is that the whole pyre story is an invention, due to the confusion of myth with history. This view makes Croesus to be confused with the sun-god, Sandon, who perishes in fire (cf. Hercules on Mount Oeta), just as his son was confused with Atys (34. 2 n.).

δὶς ἑπτά. The ‘twice seven’ (the sacred number) boys are a religious touch.

ἀνενεικάμενον, ‘fetching a deep sigh.’ Cf. Il. xix. 314 of Achilles; the meaning is defined by the synonym ἀναστενάξας.

οἷα δή, ‘with such and such words.’ H. spares his readers the repetition of what they have read in c. 32.

οὐδέν τι μᾶλλον, ‘referring to all mankind just as much as to himself.’ The οὐκ (not in MSS.) must be restored, or the sense would be ‘just as little’ (cf. iv. 118. 3 and Thuc. vi. 82. 3 for omission of negative).

περιέσχατα. H. adds this touch to explain how Croesus could talk at such length on a burning pyre.

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hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 9.34
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.82.3
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 7.2
    • Homer, Iliad, 19.314
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