The Achaemenid Empire


The Conquest of Lydia



                        Lydian Empire (blue ) Persian Empire ( yellow )

Babylonian Empire ( green )

 Click to enlarge .

The quarter to which Cyrus really first turned his attention was Lydia. There, in the somewhat narrow but most fertile tract between the river Halys and the Aegean Sea, Lydia was a state which seemed likely to give him trouble—a state which had successfully resisted all the efforts of the Medes to reduce it, and which recently, under their king, Croesus (595 BCc. 546 BC) had grown in power and wealth .  Croesus was so renowned for his wealth that in English to this day, such expressions such as "rich as Croesus" or "richer than Croesus" are used to indicate great wealth



Lydian Coins

Lydia arose as a Neo-Hittite kingdom following the collapse of the Hittite Empire in the twelfth century BC. Its capital was the city of Sardis. The Greek states on the coast of Asia Minor came under Lydian control .At its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. According to Herodotus, the Lydians were the inventors of coined money around 600 BC. The abundance of gold and silver in Lydia and the large volume of trade were factors in the growth of this new medium of exchange as stamps were needed on the gold and silver to guarantee of the exact weight or the purity of the metal .





The battle of Thymbra, how did only 49 000 Persians, led by Cyrus managed to defeat the army of Croesus which numbered more than 100 000 men!


 Sardis is in the Aegean Region near Manisa and Izmir. Sardis was the capital of the famous Kingdom of Lydia, where the first coins in the world were minted. The Temple of Artemis by the Sart Stream dates back to the 4th century B.C. In the same place there was the Temple of Kybele (the Mother Goddess) before. By the temple, there are a Byzantine Church and a synagogue. St. John referred to the church as one of the ''Seven Churches.

Croesus plans to Attack

Cryus' victory placed Croesus in a position of great perplexity, since it annulled the previous treaties between Lydia and the now non-existent Median Empire .Warlike ideas, nevertheless, prevailed at the court of Sardes, and, taking all into consideration, we cannot deny that they had reason on their side. The fall of Ecbatana had sealed the fate of Media proper, and its immediate dependencies had naturally shared the fortunes of the capital; but the more distant provinces still wavered, and they would probably attempt to take advantage of the change of rule to regain their liberty. Cyrus, obliged to take up arms against them, would no longer have his entire forces at his disposal, and by attacking him at that juncture it might be possible to check his power before it became irresistible. Having sketched out his plan of campaign, Croesus prepared to execute it with all possible celerity.


Egypt and Babylonia, like himself, doubtless felt themselves menaced; he experienced little difficulty in persuading them to act in concert with him in face of the common peril, and he obtained from both Amasis and Nabonidus promises of effective co-operation.


Delphi Oracle



 Ancient Greece Delphi & the Oracle of Apollo

He consulted the Greek Delphi oracles to divine the fate of his campaign. "If Croesus crossed the Halys, a great empire shall be brought down" Croesus did not ask the important follow up question " Which empire ?" but assumed it would be the Persian empire .By the end of 548 B.C. all was in readiness for a simultaneous movement; Sparta was equipping a fleet, and merely awaited the return of the favourable season to embark her contingent; Egypt had already dispatched hers, and her Cypriot vassals were on the point of starting, while bands of Thracian infantry were marching to reinforce the Lydian army. These various elements represented so considerable a force of men, that, had they been ranged on a field of battle, Cyrus would have experienced considerable difficulty in overcoming them. An unforeseen act of treachery obliged the Lydians to hasten their preparations and commence hostilities before the moment agreed on. Eurybatos, an Ephesian, to whom the king had entrusted large sums of money for the purpose of raising mercenaries in the Peloponnesus, fled with his gold into Persia, and betrayed the secret of the coalition. The Achaemenian sovereign did not hesitate to forestall the attack, and promptly assumed the offensive.


Temple of Artemis, started by Croesus, one of the 7 Wonders of the ancient world





 Seven Wonder of The Ancient World-Temple of Artemis

The transport of an army from Ecbatana to the middle course of the Halys would have been a long and laborious undertaking, even had it kept within the territory of the empire; it would have necessitated crossing the mountain groups of Armenia at their greatest width, and that at a time when the snow was still lying deep upon the ground and the torrents were swollen and unfordable. The most direct route, which passed through Assyria and the part of Mesopotamia south of the Masios, lay for the most part in the hands of the , but their enfeebled condition justified Cyrus's choice of it, and he resolved, in the event of their resistance, to cut his way through sword in hand.


Cyrus crossed the river not far from Nineveh and struck into Mesopotamia. He probably skirted the slopes of the Masios On the way, he may have slain the King of Armenia, who refused tribute and service to the King of Persia. Nabonidus, king of Babylonia dispatched couriers by the shortest route in order to warn his ally, and if necessary to claim his promised help.


Croesus, when he received the couriers, had with him only the smaller portion of his army, his famous Lydian heavy cavalry, the contingents of his Asiatic subjects, and a few Greek veterans, and it would probably have been wiser to defer the attack till after the disembarkation of the Lacedaemonians ( Spartans ); but hesitation at so critical a moment might have discouraged his followers, and decided his fate before any action had taken place.


 Battle of Pteria ( 547~6 B.C. )



 Battle of Pteria

He therefore collected his troops together, crossed to the right bank of the Halys river into Persian territory devastated the country and occupied the Persian city of Pteria . This led to the Battle of Pteria fought in 547 or 546 B.C. which resulted in a draw with Croesus, withdrawing back west into his own kingdom. Croesus retired under cover of night, burning the country as he retreated, to prevent the enemy from following him, and crossed the Halys with the remains of his battalions. The season was already far advanced; he thought that the Persians, threatened in the rear by the Babylonian troops, would shrink from the prospect of a winter campaign, and he fell back upon Sardis without further lingering in Phrygia. But Nabonidus did not feel himself called upon to show the same devotion that his ally had evinced towards him, and concluded a peace treaty with Cyrus The Persian king raised his camp as soon as all fear of an attack to rearward was removed, and, falling upon defenseless Phrygia, pushed forward to Sardis in spite of the inclemency of the season.


Cyrus advances to Sardis

No movement could have been better planned, or have produced such startling results. Croesus had disbanded the greater part of his feudal contingents, and had kept only his body-guard about him, the remainder of his army—natives, mercenaries, and allies—having received orders not to reassemble till the following spring. The king hastily called together all his available troops, both Lydians and foreigners, and confronted his enemies for the second time. The following Battle of Thymbra in outside the Lydian capital of Sardis resulted in defeat for Croesus . It is possible that even under these disadvantageous circumstances he might in fair fight have been victorious, for the Lydian cavalry were at this time excellent, and decidedly superior to the Persian. But Cyrus, aware of their merits, had recourse to stratagem, and by forming his camels in front, so frightened the Lydian horses that they fled from the field. The riders dismounted and fought on foot, but their gallantry was unavailing. After a prolonged and bloody combat the Lydian army was defeated, and forced to take refuge behind the walls of the capital.


The Fall of Sardis

Croesus he dispatched couriers to his allies in Greece and Egypt to beg for succour without delay. The Spartans hurried on the mobilization of their troops, and their vessels were on the point of weighing anchor, when the news arrived that Sardis had fallen in the early days of December, and that Croesus himself was a prisoner. According to Herodotus. The blockade had lasted, so he tells us, fourteen days, when Cyrus announced that he would richly reward the first man to scale the walls. Many were tempted by his promises, but were unsuccessful in their efforts, and their failure had discouraged all further attempts, when a Mardian soldier, named Hyreades, on duty at the foot of the steep slopes overlooking the Tmolus, saw a Lydian descend from rock to rock in search of his helmet which he had lost, and regain the city by the same way without any great difficulty. He noted carefully the exact spot, and in company with a few comrades climbed up till he reached the ramparts; others followed, and taking the besieged unawares, they opened the gates to the main body of the army



ruins of Sardis


The funeral pyre of Croesus


Thus fell the greatest city of Asia Minor after a siege of fourteen days. The Lydian monarch, it is said, narrowly escaped with his life from the confusion of the sack; but, being fortunately recognized in time, was made prisoner, and brought before Cyrus. According to one account, According to Herodotus, Croesus was placed upon a great pyre by Cyrus' orders, for Cyrus wanted to see if any of the heavenly powers would appear to save him from being burned alive. The pile was set ablaze, and as Cyrus watched he saw Croesus mutter a word, "Solon". He asked the interpreters to find out why he said this word with such resignation and agony. The interpreters returned the answer that Solon had warned Croesus of the fickleness of good fortune. This touched Cyrus, who realized that he and Croesus were much the same man, and he bade the servants to quench the blazing fire as quickly as they could. They tried to do this, but the flames were not to be mastered. According to the story, Croesus called out to Apollo and prayed to him. The sky had been clear and the day without a breath of wind, but soon dark clouds gathered and a storm with rain of such violence that the flames were speedily extinguished. Cyrus, convinced by this that Croesus was a good man, made Croesus an advisor who served Cyrus well and later Cyrus's son by Cassandane. According to other historians, Croesus died soon after the conquest .




 Recreating Pasargadae, Cyrus the Great's Paradise

Impressed by the grandeur of Lydian architecture, Cyrus drafted artisans and sent them to build him a capital in Fars, Pasargadae, in begun in 546 B.C. In general, the art and architecture found at Pasargadae (' house of the Persians ' ) exemplified the Persian synthesis of various traditions, drawing on precedents from Elam, Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt, with the addition of some Anatolian influences. According to Plutarch, Pasargadae was a sacred place where new Persian kings were to be crowned .


The downfall of Croesus marked a decisive era in the world's history. His army was the only one, from the point of numbers and organisation, which was a match for that of Cyrus, and from the day of its dispersion it was evident that neither Egypt nor Babylonia had any chance of victory on the battlefield.

Lydia itself was absorbed at once into the Persian Empire, together with most of its dependencies, which submitted as soon as the fall of Sardis was known. There still, however, remained a certain amount of subjugation to be effected.


 The conquest of the other cities of Asia Minor

The native races in the south-western corner of Asia Minor which declined to submit without a struggle to the new conqueror. But these matters were not regarded by Cyrus as of sufficient importance to require his own personal superintendence. Having remained at Sardis for a few weeks, during which time he received an insulting message from Sparta, whereto he made a menacing reply, and having arranged for the government of the newly-conquered province and the transmission of its treasures to Ecbatana, he quitted Lydia for the interior, taking Croesus with him, and proceeded towards the Median capital. He was bent on prosecuting without delay his schemes of conquest in other quarters—schemes of a grandeur and a comprehensiveness unknown to any previous monarch.


Before returning to the capital, a Lydian named Pactyes was entrusted by Cyrus to send Croesus' treasury to Persia. However, soon after Cyrus' departure, Pactyes hired mercenaries and caused an uprising in Sardis, revolting against the Persian satrap of Lydia, Tabalus. With recommendations from Croesus that he should turn the minds of the Lydian people to luxury, Cyrus sent Mazares, one of his commanders, to subdue the insurrection, but demanded that Pactyas be returned alive. Upon Mazares' arrival, Pactyas fled to Ionia, where he had hired mercenaries. Mazares marched his troops into the Greek country and captured the cities of Magnesia and Priene, where Pactyas was captured and sent back to Persia for punishment.


Mazares continued the conquest of Asia Minor, but died of unknown causes during his campaign in Ionia. Cyrus sent Harpagus to complete Mazares' conquest of Asia Minor. Harpagus captured Lycia, Cilicia and Phoenicia, using the technique of building earthworks to breach the walls of besieged cities, a method unknown to the Greeks. He ended his conquest of the area in 542 BC, and returned to Persia.


The fall of the last Ionian town left Harpagus free to turn his attention to the tribes of the south-west which had not yet made their submission—the Carians, the Dorian Greeks, the Caunians, and the people of Lycia. Impressing the services of the newly-conquered Ionians and AEolians, he marched first against Caria, which offered but a feeble resistance. The Dorians of the continent, Myndians, Halicarnassians, and Cnidians. submitted still more tamely, without any struggle at all; but the Caunians and Lycians showed a different spirit.



These tribes, which were ethnically allied, and of a very peculiar type, had never yet, it would seem, been subdued by any conqueror. Prizing highly the liberty they had enjoyed so long, they defended themselves with desperation. When they were defeated in the field they shut themselves up within the walls of their chief cities, Caunus and Xanthus, where, finding resistance impossible, they set fire to the two places with their own hands, burned their wives, children, slaves, and valuables, and then sallying forth, sword in hand, fell on the besiegers' lines, and fought till they were all slain.



 Early life of Cyrus


 Cyrus Conquers Parthia