Introduction to the Greco-Persian Wars Pt.2

Now, let’s talk about Lydia. This wasn’t another small Greek city or power. Lydia was the major power in Anatolia, owning its western half and expanding slowly over centuries. This excluded the islands near the coast because the Lydians, primarily a kingdom based on the land, lacked a fleet so they were unable to conquer and rule. Instead they chose to use their massive wealth to influence the politics of these cities to their advantage. During the reign of King Croesus of Lydia all of the Anatolian Greek cities were conquered by 560 BCE after well over a century of intermittent warfare. However the Greeks in this region were similar to the Lydians and widely interacted with them which in turn lead to an easier rule under their short dominion. Taking over the Greek cities had been an arduous task and Miletus took the longest because of the Milesian assets.

While there is a debate about how strong or rich the city was there is no doubt it was a dominant power in Ionia. Miletus was also an important maritime power, possessing numerous colonies across the Aegean up into the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles), Propontus (modern Sea of Marmara), Euxine Sea (modern Black sea) and the Tauric Penninsula (modern Crimea). Now “power” is defined here in a similar way to other strong maritime Greek cities which had founded or at least sponsored cities. By founding so many Miletus established itself as a place of major trade with most of them which enriched and enlarged it, far more than it ever would have been if it just affiliated with other Ionian cities. Croesus’s reign over these cities however would be cut short by a looming shadow from a restless neighbor.

 In 547 BCE Croesus decided to attack the Achaemenid city of Pteria in the north of Cappadocia, a mountains region lying in the general center of Anatolia. After a siege the city was taken and the citizens were sold into slavery. After the attack King Cyrus of the Achaemenid Empire lobbied Ionia to rebel against their Lydian masters but the Ionians refused, angering Cyrus as he gathered an army to march to Pteria. The battle at the city was fierce but neither had the upper hand so Croesus retreated to the Lydian capital of Sardis to wait for the winter. Sardis was a major city east of Ionia but further inland. There Croesus sent word to his allies to help him for his new campaign against Cyrus but right before winter ended Cyrus marched to Sardis. This was an unusual move because states mainly waited for winter to end since campaigning during winter risked deploying in extremely cold conditions, stretching supply lines very thin or destroying them, the utter lack of food and other resources in the surrounding area, the unfavorable terrain and the risk of becoming separated and isolated in enemy territory. 

Cyrus pursued Croesus to the plains north of his capital, encountering a portion of the army he fought at Pteria in December. He had hoped to catch the king by surprise but was surprised himself to find he was outnumbered, 2-1. Cyrus deployed in a square formation and when the Lydians nearly encircled him Cyrus used his reserves to exploit disorganization in the Lydian formation while Persian archers hailed arrows upon them. With this momentum Cyrus achieves victory however Croesus retreats to Sardis with part of his army. This forces Cyrus to besiege their capital and after 14 days it fell with Croesus captured. It is uncertain here if he is killed outright or used as an advisor or if he escaped. It still remains a mystery.

Our next part will be the final and then we can finally begin the series.

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