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THE RICHEST KING
EARLY six hundred years before the Christian era began, Croesus was king of
Lydia. He was a brave and successful warrior and had a large kingdom. He was
at that time the richest man in the world, though his fortune of nine
millions of dollars would not now be considered very great. He was also
extremely proud of his wealth.
It is said that when Solon was upon his travels he went to Sardis, the
capital city of Lydia. The king was glad to see him and showed him all the
treasures gathered in his palace. There were chests full of gold and silver
money, boxes in which shone thousands of precious stones, rooms in which
hung many dresses of silk, velvet, and cloth of gold. There were pictures,
statues, ivory carvings, shields, swords, spears, and musical instruments,
gathered from every part of the known world.
Solon had never seen such treasures but he did not say, "How wonderful! How
Croesus was not pleased at this silence. "Did you ever see a happier man
than I am?" he inquired at last. "Yes," said Solon.
"Who was he, and where did he live?" asked the king.
"He lived in Athens, and his name was Tellus. He always had enough to live
on, and when he died it was
 in battle fighting for his country. Not only his children but the state
mourned for him. I never knew anybody else so happy as he."
"Who was next in happiness?" asked Croesus.
"Two sons of a priestess of Hera in Argos. Once she was to offer sacrifice
and the oxen which should draw her were not ready. Her sons harnessed
themselves to the chariot and brought her to the temple. She prayed that
those dutiful sons might receive the best of all gifts, and her prayer was
answered. That night they fell asleep and never woke again. They passed away
without sorrow or pain. Their kindred loved them, their country honored
them. Who could be happier than they?"
"Do you mean that a rich and powerful king is not happy?" asked the king
"O king!" replied the sage, we can call no man truly happy until he dies.
Power, health, and riches may all pass away. That which we may lose in a day
cannot make us happy and he who looks for joy in such things is not wise."
Croesus was displeased with these words of Solon but he could not forget
them. He was not really so happy as he pretended to be. He had two sons, one
of them dumb; the other, Atys, handsome and gifted. Croesus dreamed that
this son was killed by an instrument with an iron point. He was much afraid
that the dream would come true.
Gordius, king of Phrygia, had two sons one of whom, Adrastus, accidentally
killed the other. His father drove
 the unfortunate boy from his court; and he went to Croesus who received him
A wild boar had done much damage in the fields and vineyards, and Croesus
sent Atys with Adrastus to hunt and kill the beast. They found him and
Adrastus threw an iron-pointed spear, which missed the animal and struck
Atys in the side. Thus the prophecy of the dream was fulfilled.
It is said that, some time after, the son who was dumb saw his father in
danger of being killed. The power of speech came to him and he called out,
"Look, father! Take care, take care!"
Cyrus was now gaining power and Croesus, afraid for his kingdom, asked for
help from the Greeks and advice from their oracles. All gave him fine words,
but none kept the promise.
Croesus led out his own army against Cyrus, and fought a battle in which
neither side won the victory. Croesus retreated toward Sardis and Cyrus
followed. The Lydian king ordered his cavalry to charge upon the Persians.
Cyrus put a number of camels in the front rank, and when the horses saw
those strange beasts nothing could hold them. They ran wildly away and the
defeat of Croesus was complete.
He shut himself up in his city of Sardis which Cyrus besieged for many
months. One day a soldier, leaning over the wall of the citadel, dropped his
helmet which rolled into the plain below. He climbed after it down the face
of the rock and went up again by the same path.
 A soldier in the army of Cyrus saw this and asked permission to lead a party
up the rocky height. They started in the night. The Lydians did not watch
that point for they did not think an enemy would come that way. The Persians
took the citadel by surprise and quickly had the city at their mercy.
THE CAPTURE OF THE CITADEL
Croesus was taken prisoner and Cyrus ordered him to be burned alive as a
sacrifice to the gods.
He was chained and laid upon the piled up wood. As the fire was kindled he
called out in a loud voice, "O Solon! Solon! Solon!"
Cyrus ordered that the fire should be put out and the captive brought before
"Upon whom did you call so earnestly?" he asked. "Was it your god to whom
you prayed, or was it some friend whom you remembered?"
"O king!" said the captive Croesus, "it was the name of a wise man who
warned me that I could not be happy while I trusted in power, health, or
"My power is gone for I am your slave. My riches are mine no more for they
are yours. What health have I, who a moment ago was at the door of death and
in another moment may return there by your command? I am the most unhappy
wretch in all the world!"
But Cyrus said, "I will give you freedom, and you shall be my friend." Often
afterwards he took the advice of the man whom Solon had warned.
Of this story only part can be true. Solon had gone home to Athens before
Croesus began to reign. But it is true that Croesus was thought to be the
 in the world; that he had two sons one of whom was deaf and dumb; that the
other son was killed by accident; that Croesus was defeated by Cyrus, and
ordered to be burned alive; and that he was spared, and became the friend of