King Croesus of Lydia was a larger than life character in Asia Minor during the sixth century BCE. By far, his biggest claim to fame was minting the very first coins as we know them in the modern sense of the word, but there is quite a bit more to Croesus, the man. Here are a few facts everyone should know.
Croesus Funded One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
It was Croesus that was responsible for funding the construction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. This massive temple to the goddess of the hunt carried a column drum that read, “Dedicated by Croesus”. But don’t imagine him a philanthropist. Croesus funded the construction of the temple and several other buildings after he conquered the native Greek settlements.
Croesus Ran with the Glitterati of His Day
Lydian King Croesus was well-connected with the luminaries of his time. He was associated with Aesop, of Aesop’s Fables fame, Solon the Law-giver, a notable Athenian statesman, Midas, the king with the fabled golden touch, Thales, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and polymath, and Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia. That last relationship didn’t end well for Croesus.
Croesus Was Fabulously Wealthy
Estimates of his wealth don’t survive, but we know it was considerable. So large was his fortune that it became the stuff of legends. A common phrase of the day, when talking about a rich person, was to say they were as “Rich as Croesus”. Jeff Bezos probably qualifies to be as “Rich as Croesus.”
His Son, Atys, Was Murdered
The first great tragedy of Croesus’s life occurred after his son Atys traveled to Olympus to hunt boar. While there he was killed, ironically by the man Croesus had hired to keep him safe. It’s said that Croesus mourned his son’s death for two years, and finally let him go to focus on the growing might of the Persian army, which was the start of tragedy number two.
The Oracle at Delphi Was His Undoing
With the Persian Empire growing uncomfortably powerful, Croesus sent word to the Oracle at Delphi asking whether he should go to war with Cyrus the Great. The message the Oracle sent back read, “If Croesus goes to war, he will destroy a great empire.”
This was all the assurance Croesus needed, and he mounted his forces for an invasion. The invasion didn’t go as planned, so he made his way back home to gather more troops. Unbeknownst to him, Cyrus’ fleet followed him back to Lydia. They launched a surprise attack and defeated Croesus’s army. Croesus’s actions certainly destroyed a great empire. Just not the one he was hoping for.
About Rory Brown: Mr. Rory Brown is a Managing Partner of Nicklaus Brown & Co., the Chairman of Goods & Services, Nearshore Technology Company, and a member of the board of directors of Desano. He is passionate about delving into the history of money and how our modern currency has evolved into what it is today. In his spare time, he writes about the history of the Lydians – the first civilisation to use gold and silver coinage.