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fkirmishes, the two armies came at last to a general engagement, wherein many fell on each fide but night coming on, both armies parted on equal terms.
But Crœfus, fearing to venture a fecond battle, as his forces were not near fo numerous as those of Cyrus, he retired in the night time, and marched, with all poffìble expedition, to Sardis, where he disbanded his troops, enjoining them to re-affemble at the end of five months; for he did not in the leaft prehend that Cyrus, who had not been able to get the better of him in the field, fhould venture to advance to his capital.
Cyrus, however, finding, the morning after the engagement, that the enemy had left the field, refolved to purfue him to Sardis, and oblige him to venture a fecond battle before his allies could join him. This refolution was executed with fo much expedition, that Cyrus, at the head of his army, appeared on the plains of Sardis, before Crofus had any intelligence of his defign.
The Lydians were greatly alarmed at fo bold an attempt, which they had neither forefeen nor expected. The king, however, affembling
fembling together the forces that were remaining with him, marched out against the Perfians. A fharp encounter enfued, wherein Crœfus was put to flight, and forced to fhut himself up in Sardis.
He now found it neceffary to dispatch ambaffadors to all his allies, entreating their immediate affiftance. But in the mean time Cyrus carried on the fiege with fo much vigour, that he took the city before any fuccours could arrive, and with it the king, whom, in honour of his gods, and as the first fruits of his victory, he condemned to be burnt alive.
Cræfus was accordingly placed on a large pile of wood, accompanied by fourteen young Lydians, who were to fuffer with him. What a dreadful reverfe for him, who lately confidered himself as not only the richest and most powerful monarch in the world, but the happiesta reverse that entitles him, without dispute, to a place among the fingular inftances on record, of the mutability of for
When Crofus had afcended the pile, notwithstanding the weight of his misfortunes,
he recollected the words of Solon," that no man could be called happy before his death." Revolving these words in his mind, he cried out three times, with a great figh, Ob Solon, Solon, Solon! Which when Cyrus heard, he commanded his interpreter to ask him, whose affistance he implored ?
Upon this Crœfus acquainted the Perfian king, that Solon, an Athenian philosopher, having formerly vifited him, and viewed his immenfe treasures, had defpifed all; and, inftead of applauding his happinefs, had plainly told him that he could not pronounce any man happy fo long as he lived, because no man could foresee what might happen before his death; of the truth of which being now fully convinced by his prefent calamity, he could not forbear calling on the name of Solon.
This humiliating acknowledgement raised in the breast of Cyrus fo lively a sense of the uncertainty of all human felicity, and at the fame time fuch compaffion for Crofus, that he commanded the fire to be extinguished, and the unfortunate king to be taken down from the pile,
Accordingly, every endeavour was inftantly used to execute thefe orders; but the fire could not be maftered. In this distress (Herodotus tells us) Crofus, being informed that Cyrus intended to fave his life, but seeing that the Perfians attempted in vain to extinguish the flame, he burst out into a flood of tears, and with a loud voice invoked Apollo, earnestly befeeching that god to deliver him from the prefent danger, if any of his offerings had ever been agreeable to him. He had scarcely ended his prayer, before clouds were feen gathering in the air, which till then had been ferene, and a violent ftorm of rain enfued, that quite extinguished the flame.
Cyrus, understanding from this miraculous event that Cræfus was a pious prince, and greatly favoured by the gods, not only spared his life, but allowed him a very honourable maintenance, and made ufe of him ever after as one of his chief counsellors.
The fame writer informs us, that at the time the city of Sardis was ftormed, one of the Persians, not knowing Crœfus, advanced to kill him. As that unhappy prince, unwilling to survive the loss of his kingdom, did not attempt to avoid the blow, his fon, who
was born dumb, feeing the foldier ready to ftrike, was moved with fuch fear and tendernefs for the life of his father, that in the very inftant he cried out, Soldier, fpare the life of Crafus! which were the first words he ever uttered, but from that time he continued to fpeak with fluency.
The first favour Crefus begged of his conqueror was, that he would give him leave to fend his fetters to the oracle of Delphos, as the trophies of the fuccefs which Apollo had promised him. This, Cyrus readily granted; but the oracle, or rather the priests, reprefented to Cræfus, that he, and not Apollo, had been to blame for Apollo, they faid, had only foretold, that by making war on the Perfians, he would overturn a great monarchy. Had he defired to be truly informed, continued they, he ought to have sent again, to enquire whether his own, or that of Cyrus, was meant by the oracle. But if he neither understood the true meaning of the oracle, nor would be at the pains of fuing for a further explanation, his misfortunes and downfall were entirely owing to himself. Cræfus, upon receiving this aníwer, acknowledged himself to be in the wrong, and cleared, as much as in him lay, upon all occaI 4 fions,