Richest People in History Croesus King of Lydia

About the ancient King of Lydia Croesus, history and biography of one of the richest men in history.



The last king of Lydia, Croesus reigned from 560 to 546 B.C. By capturing the major Greek cities of western Anatolia, he completed the conquest of Ionia. Although he planned to conquer the Greek islands in the Aegean as well, he found himself at war with the Persians, who forced him back to his capital city of Sardis. There he was taken completely by surprise by a Persian force under Cyrus the Great, which had followed the Lydians back to Sardis after an inconclusive battle at Pteria. In 546 Cyrus's soldiers stormed the city, and control over Anatolia thus passed to the Persians.

Croesus's fate? Herodotus said he was condemned by Cyrus to be burned but was rescued by Apollo and eventually wound up in Egypt. The Persian Ctesias, however, denied the death sentence, claiming that the Lydian king made a peaceful transition to Cyrus's court and later served as governor of Barene in Media.

How Much?

Croesus's wealth was so great as to make a lasting impression on the imagination of ancient Greece. Recent archaeological findings at Sardis indicate the existence of an enormous gold-refining operation and therefore seem to confirm Croesus's role in the creation of pure gold coins. Prior to his time, coins had been made of a natural alloy called electrum, which contained 20-35% silver; since the precise amount of gold varied, the trade value of electrum coins was always ambiguous. Croesus oversaw the purification of gold and silver and created the first official government coinage by certifying the weight of the gold in coins.

Croesus sent gifts to the Greek sanctuaries of Delphi, Miletus, and Ephesus. In addition, he was responsible for supplying several of the pillars at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus--one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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