« AnteriorContinuar »
the end grow perilous to himself, he consulted with the oracle of Apollo, whom he presented with marvellous rich gifts, what success he might hope for against Cyrus, if he undertook him; from whom he received this riddle, * Croesus passing over the river 'Halys, shall dissolve a great dominion.' For the devil, being doubtful of the success, paid him with merchandise of both sides like, and might be inverted either way, to the ruin of Persia, or of his own Lydia.
Hereupon Croesus being resolved to stop the course of Cyrus's fortunes, if he could, despised all the arguments used by Sandanes to the contrary, who desired him to forethink, that he urged a nation inhabiting a barren and mountainous region, a people not covered with the soft silk of worms, but with the hard skins of beasts, not fed with such meat as they fancied, but content with what they found; drinkers of water, not of wine ; and in a word, a nation warlike, enduring, valiant, and prosperous; over whom if he became victorious, he could thereby enrich himself in nothing but fame, in which he already excelled; and if by them beaten, and subjected, so great would his loss appear of all things which the world hath in account, as the same could neither hastily be told, nor readily conceived.
Notwithstanding this solid counsel, Crcesus, having prepared a powerful army, led the same towards Media, but in his passage he was arrested at Pterium, a city of great strength in Cappadocia; which while he sought by all means to surprise or to force, Cyrus came on, and found the Lydians encamped before it. That each was inferior to other in strength or opinion, I do not find; for out of doubt, Croesus, as he excelled any prince of that age in riches a,nd ability, so was he not under any in territory and fame that then lived.
But as Cratippus of Mitylene answered Pompey, when he complained against the gods, because they favoured a- disturber and usurper of the commonwealth against him who fought for the Roman li\ berty, That kingdoms and commonwealths had their increase and period from divine ordinance; so at this time was the winter of Croesus's prosperity at hand, the leaves of his flourishing fortune ready to fall, and that of Cyrus but in the flower and first spring. The God of all power, and not Admetus's herdsman, Apollo, had given date to the one, and a, beginning of glory to the other.
When these two armies were in view of each other, after the entertainment of divers skirmishes, the Persians and Lydians began to join in gross troops; supplies from both kings thrust on upon the falling off and advancement of either nation; and as the Per, sians had somewhat the better of the day, so when the dark veil of night had hidden each army from the other's view, Croesus doubting what success the rising sun would bring with it, quitted the field to Cyrus, and wjth all speed possible retired; and takr ing the next way into Lydia, recovered Sardis his first city and regal seat, without any pursuit made by Cyrus to retard him, Where being arrived, and nothing suspecting Cyrus's approach, or any other war for that winter, he dismissed the soldiers, and sent the troops of his sundry nations to their own provinces, appointing them to reassemble at the end of five months, acquainting his commanders with his intents for the renewing of the war at the time appointed.
The conquest of Lydia by Cyrus.
Cyrus in the following morning finding the Lydi, dians departed, put his army in order to pursue them, yet not so hastily, and at their heels, as to he discovered. But having good intelligence of Croesus's proceeding, he so measured his marches, as he presented not himself before Sardis, till such time as Croesus had disposed his army to their wintering garrisons; when, being altogether unlooked for, and unfeared, he surrounded Sardis with his army; wherein Croesus having no other companies than his citizens and ordinary guards, after fourteen days siege, the same was entered by assault, and all executed that resisted. Croesus having now neither arms to fight, nor wings to fly, Sardis being pn all parts strongly encompassed, thrust himself into the heap and miserable multitude of his vassals', and had undergone the common fortune of common persons vanquished, had not a son of his, who had been dumb all his life, (by extremity of passion and fear enabled,) cried out to the soldiers to spare Croesus*;—who thereupon being taken and imprisoned, despoiled of all things but the expectation of death, he was forthwith tied in fetters, and set on the top of a great and high heap of wood, to be consumed to ashes therepn. To which when the fire was set and kindled, remembering the discourse which he had had with the Athenian lawgiver, he thrice cried out on his name, Solon, Solon, Solon; and being demanded what he meant by that invocation, he first used silence, but Urged again, he told them, That he had now found it true which Solon had long since told him, that many men in the race and courses of their lives might well be accounted fortunate, but no man could dis* cern himself for happy indeed till his end.
Of which answer Cyrus being speedily informed3, remembering the changes of fortune and his own mortality, he commanded his ministers of justice to withdraw the fire with all diligence to save Croesus, and to conduct him to his presence; which done, Cy*
1 In communi calamitate suam quisque habet fortunam, Curt. 2 Mtmoriaaj mctus perimit; timor rocis est incitaraeatum, &.c. Solin c. 7. 3 Homo qui in homine eakmiwso aisericors est meminit s«i, Cass.
rus demanded of htm who it was that had persuaded him? or what self-reason had conducted him to invade his territory, and to make him of a friend an enemy? To whom he thus answered, It was thy prosperous and my unprosperous destiny, (the Grecian God flattering therewithal my ambition,) that were the inventors and conductors of Croesus's war against Cyrus.
Cyrus being pierced •with Croesus's answer, and bewailing his estate, though victorious over it, did not only spare his life, but entertained him ever after as a king and his companion, shewing therein a true effect of mercy indeed. 'Qu£e non causam, sed fortu'nam spectat.'
And herein is the real difference discerned between that behaviour which we call Beneficium latronis, and gratiam principis:—A thief sometimes sparing the life of him which is in his power, but unjustly; a king that giveth breath, and a continuance of being, to him that was the cause and author of his own evil.
The report made by Xenophon is, That Cyrus did friendly entertain Croesus at the first sight, not mentioning that which Herodotus delivers, and is here already set down, that he should have been burnt alive. It may well be, that Xenophon pourtraying, (in Cyrus,) an heroical prince, thought an intent so cruel, fitter to be forgotten than rehearsed, as too much misbeseeming a generous nature. And it is very likely, that nearness of alliance might withhold Cyrus, (had he been otherwise vicious,) from so cruel a purpose against his grandmother's brother. Howsoever it was, the moral part of the story hath given much credit and reputation to the report of Herodotus, (as to many the like it often doth,) and made it pass for current, though the trust reposed in Croesus afterwards may seem to argue, that Cyrut did not use him inhumanly at the first.
For as Herodotus himself telleth us, when Cyrus passed with his army over Araxes into Scythia, he left Croesus to accompany and advise his son Cambyses, governor of the empire in his absence, with whom he lived all the time of Cyrus, and did afterwards follow Cambyses into Egyn/, where he hardly escaped his tyrannous hand. What his end was I do not find.
But in this time the races of three of the greatest kings in that part of the world took end; to wit, of the Babylonians, Medians, and Lydians; in Baltha8ar, Cyaxares, and Croesus.
After this Lydian war ensued the great conquest of Babylon, which gave unto Cyrus an empire so large and mighty, that he was justly reputed the greatest monarch then living upon earth. How long time the preparations for this great action took up, it is uncertain; only, it seems, that ten whole years did pass between his taking those two cities of Sardis and Babylon, which nevertheless I do not think to have been wholly occupied in provision for the Assyrian war, but rather to have been spent in settling the estate which he had already purchased. And hereunto perhaps may be referred that which Ctesias hath in his fragments, of a war made by Cyrus upon the Scythians, though related as foregoing the vie, tory obtained against Croesus. He telleth us, that Cyrus invaded Scythia, and being victorious over that nation, took Amorges their king prisoner; but being in a second battle overthrown by the wife of Amorges, Sparetha, and therein taken, the one king was delivered for the other.
Likewise it may be thought that no small part of those troubles, which arose in the Lower Asia, grew soon after the departure of the victorious, army, before the conquest was fully established. For after Cyrus was returned out of Asia the Less, many nations, conquered formerly by Croesus, and