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approach, from his present misfortune took no heed of him, nor did he care about dying by the blow; but this speechless son of his, when he saw the Persian advancing against him, through dread and anguish burst into speech, and said, “Man, kill not Croesus.”
These were the first words he ever uttered; but from that time he continued to speak during the remainder of his life.
So the Persians got possession of Sardis, and made Cræsus prisoner, after he had reigned fourteen years, been besieged fourteen days, and lost his great empire, as the oracle had predicted. The Persians, having taken him, conducted him to Cyrus; and he, having heaped up a great pile, placed Crosus upon it, bound with fetters, and with him fourteen young Lydians, designing either to offer this sacrifice to some god as the first fruits of his victory, or wishing to perform a vow; or perhaps, having heard that Croesus was a religious person, he placed him on the pile for the purpose of discovering whether any deity would save him from being burned alive. When Crosus stood upon the pile, notwithstanding the weight of his misfortunes, the words of Solon recurred to him, as spoken by inspiration of the Deity, that “no living man could be justly called happy.” When this occurred to him, after a long silence he recovered himself, and uttering a groan, thrice pronounced the name of Solon. When Cyrus heard him, he commanded his interpreters to ask Crosus whom it was he called upon: they drew near and asked him, but Crosus for some time kept silence; but at last, being constrained to speak, said, “I named a man whose discourses I more desire all tyrants might hear, than to be possessor of the greatest riches."
When he gave them this obscure answer, they again inquired what he said ; and when they persisted in their inquiries, and were very importunate, he at length told them that Solon, an Athenian, formerly visited him, and having viewed all his treasures, made no account or tiem; telling, in a word, how everything had befallen him as Solon had warned him, though his discourse related to all mankind as much as to himself, and especially to those who imagine themselves happy. The pile being now kindled, the outer parts began to burn : but Cyrus, informed by the interpreters of what Cræsus had said, relented, and considering that being but a man, he was yet going to burn another man alive who had been no way inferior to himself in prosperity; and moreover fearing retribution, and reflecting
that nothing human is constant, commanded the fire to be instantly extinguished and Cresus, with those who were about him, to be taken down; but they, with all their endeavors, were unable to master the fire.
Cresus, perceiving that Cyrus had altered his resolution, when he saw every man endeavoring to put out the fire but unable to get the better of it, shouted aloud, invoking Apollo, and besought him, if ever any of his offerings had been agreeable to him, to protect and deliver him from the present danger: he with tears invoked the god, and on a sudden clouds were seen gathering in the air, which before was serene, and a violent storm burst forth and vehement rain fell and extinguished the flames; by which Cyrus perceiving that Crosus was beloved by the gods, and a good man, when he had had him taken down from the pile, asked him the following question : “Who persuaded you, Crosus, to invade my territories, and to become my enemy instead of my friend ?”
He answered: “O king, I have done this for your good but my own evil fortune, and the god of the Greeks who encouraged me to make war is the cause of all. For no man is so void of understanding as to prefer war before peace: for in the latter, children bury their fathers; in the former, fathers bury their children. But I suppose it pleased the gods that these things should be so.
He then thus spoke: but Cyrus, having set him at liberty, placed him by his own side, and showed him great respect; and both he and all those that were with him were-astonished at what they saw. But Cræsus, absorbed in thought, remained silent; and presently turning round and beholding the Persians sacking the city of the Lydians, he said : “Does it become me, O king, to tell you what is passing through my mind, or to keep silent on the present occasion ?”
Cyrus bade him say with confidence whatever he wished; upon which Cresus asked him, saying, “ What is this vast crowd so earnestly employed about?”
He answered, “ They are sacking your city and plundering
“Not so,” Crosus replied ; "they are neither sacking my city nor plundering my riches, for they no longer belong to me, but they are ravaging what belongs to you."
The reply of Cresus attracted the attention of Cyrus; he therefore ordered all the rest to withdraw, and asked Crosus what he thought should be done in the present conjuncture. He answered: “Since the gods have made me your servant, I think it my duty to acquaint you if I perceive anything deserving of remark. The Persians, who are by nature overbearing, are poor. If therefore you permit them to plunder and possess great riches, you may expect the following results : whoso acquires the greatest possessions, be assured will be ready to rebel. Therefore, if you approve what I say, adopt the following plan: place some of your bodyguard as sentinels at every gate, with orders to take the booty from all those who would go out, and to acquaint them that the tenth must of necessity be consecrated to Jupiter: thus you will not incur the odium of taking away their property; and they, acknowledging your intention to be just, will readily obey."
Cyrus, when he heard this, was exceedingly delighted, as he thought the suggestion a very good one. Having therefore commended it highly, and ordered his guards to do what Cresus suggested, he addressed Cresus as follows: “Cresus, since you are resolved to display the deeds and words of a true king, ask whatever boon you desire on the instant."
“Sir,” he answered, “ the most acceptable favor you can bestow upon me is to let me send my fetters to the god of the Grecians, whom I have honored more than any other deity, and to ask him if it be his custom to deceive those who deserve well of him.”
Cyrus asked him what cause he had to complain, that induced him to make this request : upon which Cresus recounted to him all his projects, and the answers of the oracles, and particularly the offerings he had presented; and how he was incited by the oracle to make war against the Persians. When he had said this, he again besought him to grant him leave to reproach the god with these things. But Cyrus, smiling, said, “ You shall not only receive this boon from me, but whatever else you may at any time desire."
When Cresus heard this, he sent certain Lydians to Delphi, with orders to lay his fetters at the entrance of the temple, and to ask the god if he were not ashamed to have encouraged Cresus by his oracles to make war on the Persians, as he would put an end to the power of Cyrus, of which war such were the first fruits (showing the fetters), and at the same time to ask if it were the custom of the Grecian gods to be ungrateful.
When the Lydians arrived at Delphi, and had delivered
their message, the Pythian is reported to have made this answer : “ The god himself even cannot avoid the decrees of fate; and Cræsus has atoned the crime of his ancestor in the fifth generation, who, being one of the bodyguard of the Heraclidæ, was induced by the artifice of a woman to murder his master, and to usurp his dignity, to which he had no right. But although Apollo was desirous that the fall of Sardis might happen in the time of the sons of Cresus, and not during his reign, yet it was not in his power to avert the fates : but so far as he allowed they accomplished, and conferred the boon on him ; for he delayed the capture of Sardis for the space of
Let Crosus know, therefore, that he was taken prisoner three years later than the fates had ordained ; and in the next place, he came to his relief when he was upon the point of being burned alive. Then, as to the prediction of the oracle, Cræsus has no right to complain : for Apollo foretold him that if he made war on the Persians, he would subvert a great empire ; and had he desired to be truly informed, he ought to have sent again to inquire whether his own or that of Cyrus was meant. But since he neither understood the oracle, nor inquired again, let him lay the blame on himself. And when he last consulted the oracle, he did not understand the answer concerning the mule : for Cyrus was that mule ; inasmuch as he was born of parents of different nations, the mother superior, but the father inferior. For she was a Mede, and daughter of Astyages, king of Media ; but he was a Persian, subject to the Medes; and though in every respect inferior, he married his own mistress.
The Pythian gave this answer to the Lydians, and they carried it back to Sardis, and reported it to Cresus, and he, when he heard it, acknowledged the fault to be his, and not the gods.
Such is the account of the kingdom of Creesus, and the first subjection of Ionia.
THE LAST TWO ORACLES OF GREECE.
TRANSLATED BY F. W. H. MYERS.
AN ORACLE CONCERNING THE ETERNAL GOD.
O God ineffable eternal Sire,
Some sons of thine, our Father, King of kings,
To AMELIUS, WHO INQUIRED, “WHERE IS NOW PLOTINUS' SOUL ?”
PURE spirit — once a man pure spirits now
This death in life, this sick perplexity, · From “Hellenica,” a collection of Essays edited by E. Abbott. By permission
of the editor and the publisbers, Longinans, Green & Co.