The Kingdom of Lydia emerged from the remains of the crumbling Hittite Empire in the 12th century B.C. Located in western Asia Minor, in an area that is now part of Turkey, the Lydian’s thrived for over 700 years, growing their modest country into the expansive Lydian Empire. By the middle of the 6th century B.C., it covered the entire Anatolian plateau, running straight up to the edge of the expanding Persian Empire on its eastern border.
Croesus, the last king of the Lydian Empire, had a difficult relationship with the Persians, and this would prove to be more than the Kingdom could bear. It was Croesus’s paranoia and hubris that precipitated the beginning of the end. Rory Brown, Managing Partner of Nicklaus Brown & Co., discusses how the Persians ultimately conquered the Lydian Empire.
The Battle of Pteria
The Halys River marked the easternmost extent of the Kingdom of Lydia and had been declared the dividing line between Lydia and their neighbor rival, the Medes. A functional peace existed between the two enemies.
However, in 550 B.C., the Persian Empire, under the rule of King Cyrus the Great, attacked and defeated the Median army, capturing their capital city. This expansionary move made Croesus nervous and excited in equal measure.
He saw the chaotic state of his former neighbor as an opportunity to further extend Lydia to the east. But he was also wary that Cyrus’s ambitions might not stop at the Halys River and thought that preemptive action might be necessary to assure the Persians didn’t move on Lydia next.
Whether Croesus’s paranoia was warranted or not, he set himself to the task of taking the Median territory from Persia. After securing support from the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and a handful of Greek city-states, including Sparta, Croesus gathered his army and crossed the Halys.
In fairly short order, the Lydian army captured Pteria, the well-defended district capital. As they sacked the city they were met by Cyrus’s forces, and a bloody but indecisive battle followed.
Both sides had suffered considerable casualties by the end. Croesus was convinced that he’d worn the Persian army down enough that they would have to winter on their side of the Halys before any counter-attack could be mustered, and by then, he would have the help of his new allies. So he withdrew back to Lydia, disbanding most of his army when he arrived.
The Battle of Thymbra
Croesus’s retreat was a massive miscalculation. Cyrus’s army had certainly been hobbled, but not as severely as Croesus imagined. Instead of wintering his army, Cyrus gathered his remaining troops and advanced over the Lydian front.
This caught Croesus entirely off guard. Having partially disbanded his troops, he no longer had the manpower to drive back the Persian advance. In 547 B.C., Cyrus defeated the remaining Lydian soldiers on the plains outside of Lydia’s capital city, Sardis.
Cyrus then laid siege to Sardis itself, and after fourteen days, the city fell. Cyrus took possession of the city and incorporated the entirety of Lydia’s expansive territories into the Persian Empire. Lydia became a satrapy of Persia, and the great Lydian Kingdom’s 700-year existence came to an abrupt and violent end.