Croesus (pronounced /ˈkriːsəs/, CREE-sus; Greek: Κροῖσος, Kroisos) (595 BC – c. 547? BC) was the king of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC until his defeat by the Persians. The fall of Croesus made a profound impact on the Hellenes, providing a fixed point in their calendar. "By the fifth century at least," J.A.S. Evans remarked, "Croesus had become a figure of myth, who stood outside the conventional restraints of chronology." Croesus was renowned for his wealth—Herodotus and Pausanias noted his gifts preserved at Delphi.
Wealth and coinage
In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Croesus' wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as "rich as Croesus" or "richer than Croesus" are used to indicate great wealth. The earliest known such usage in English was John Gower's in Confessio amantis (1390):
That if the tresor of Cresus
And al the gold Octovien,
Forth with the richesse Yndien
Of Perles and of riche stones,
Were al togedre myn at ones...
Croesus is credited with the issuing the first true gold coins with a standardised purity for general circulation. They were quite crude, and were made of electrum, a naturally occurring pale yellow alloy of gold and silver. The composition of these first coins was similar to alluvial deposits found in the silt of the Pactolus river, which ran through the Lydian capital, Sardis. King Croesus' gold coins follow the first silver coins that had been minted by King Pheidon of Argos around 700 BC. In 546 BC, Croesus was defeated and captured by the Persians, who then adopted gold as the main metal for their coins.
Aside from a poetical account of Croesus on the pyre in Bacchylides, there are three classical accounts of Croesus. Herodotus presents the Lydian accounts of the conversation with Solon (Histories 1.29-.33), the tragedy of Croesus' son Atys (Histories 1.34-.45) and the fall of Croesus (Histories 1.85-.89); Xenophon instances Croesus in his panegyric fictionalized biography of Cyrus: Cyropaedia, 7.1; and Ctesias, whose account is also an encomium of Cyrus.
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