Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 71 -72

Wherein Croesus does not heed sage advice, and we see the Cappadocians (and by extension, the Persians) had much to gain and little to lose in the conflict with the well-to-do Lydian King.


Croesus, having failed to grasp the true meaning of the oracle now prepared a campaign against Cappadocia, thinking he would topple Cyrus and Persian hegemony. While he was making these preparations he was given advice by a certain Lydian already regarded as a wise individual. Indeed, as a result of this very piece of advice he gave to the Lydians, he won great renown. His counsel ran as follows:  ‘My King, you prepare to march against men who dress in leather, fashioning breeches, and every other garment from that material. They eat not what they want, but what they have or can find, their country being harsh and stony hardscrabble. They do not drink wine, but plain water. They have no sweets, no dessert, not even figs, nothing else that is good.  If you were to defeat them, what will you take from them, seeing that they have nothing? And, if they were to conquer you, consider all the good things you would lose. For, once they taste the good life, and become accustomed to all we have, nothing will loosen their grip, nothing will be strong enough to expel them.  Personally, I thank the Gods that they have not put it in the mind of the Persian to move against Lydia.’

Croesus did not heed the advice. Indeed, it was the case that prior to conquering the Lydians, the Persians had no luxuries or good things of significance.


Now, these Cappadocians are called, by the Greeks, ‘Syrians.’ Before they came under Persian rule, they were subject to the Medes.  At this period of time, they were ruled by Cyrus. The boundary between the Median and Lydian realms was along the river Halys, which flows out of the mountainous region of Armenia, through Cilician territory, and then between the Matieni, on the right, and Phrygians on the other side.  Passing through this area, it continues its course northward, and separates the Cappadocian Syrians on its right, from the Paphlagonians to its left. In essence the Halys cuts off the entirety of Asia Minor, from the Cyprian to the Euxine seas.