The wealth of King Croesus has become proverbial and still today, more than 2,500 years after date, we all know the expression “to be as rich as Croesus”. But who was Croesus? When and where did he live? And was he really that rich? These questions arise after the latest news that a gold brooch from his treasure is returning to
But first the brooch story. The piece is a winged seahorse looted from tombs in Western Turkey in 1965, which by the 1980’s found its way to the
Metropolitan Museum in . In 1993, the brooch came home as a show-piece at Uşak’s Museum but the good news didn’t last as in 2006, thanks to an anonymous tip, it was discovered that the brooch on display was a fake. What had happened? New York
An investigation revealed that the director of the museum had accumulated serious debts by gambling and couldn’t think of a better solution than to sell this famous brooch together with other artifacts. Now the brooch itself is said to be cursed since ancient times, meaning that whoever touched it would meet misfortune or even death. This might explain the strange behaviour of said director.
Luckily the original brooch could be traced back in
and the Turkish Minister of Culture has meanwhile confirmed that the precious piece will soon return home. Home is the Archaeological Museum in Uşak that will be housed in a new building and is expected to open its doors by the end of 2013 to show off the four hundred and fifty pieces from Croesus’ treasure (also known as the Karun Treasure) – that is, if the curse is broken! Germany
The news made headlines, of course, although it has not been determined whether the artifacts ever belonged to Croesus. However, it is generally accepted that they are from about the same time period. The largest part of the Croesus-treasure seems to come from a tomb chamber belonging to a Lydian princess that was blasted by looters in the 1960’s to gain access. Later on, looters added other precious items from neighboring tombs to the collection.
King Croesus (born about 595 BC) ruled over
Lydia (in Asia Minor, today’s north-western ) from 560 till 547 BC when he was defeated by the Persians. He is known to have ended the old wars with the Greeks and taken possession of Aeolia and Turkey Ionia. He failed to occupy Miletus but established his authority in Ephesos where he rebuilt the famous Temple of Artemis, something he could easily afford as his court is said to live in splendid luxury. Yet, the relationship with Ionia was an uneasy one especially since he was pressed by the Persians who gained ever more power in Anatolia. It must be said that the Persian King at that time was nobody less than Cyrus the Great – later to be a raw model for Alexander the Great! Cyrus was an enemy to be reckoned with and so Croesus consulted the oracles of both Delphi and Amphiarion. The responses from the oracles went down into history for they were typically double sided: if Croesus attacked the Persians he would destroy a great empire. Croesus evidently thought he would conquer the Persians while in the end the Persians came out victorious taking the Lydian capital city of and Croesus. Sardes
Important is to know that Croesus was the first king to issue gold coins with a standard purity. In fact they were made of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver that was found in the alluvial deposits of the
Pactolus River running through . It is after Croesus’ defeat that the first gold coins appeared in Sardes . Persia
[Gold coin picture from Wikipedia]
[Gold coin picture from Wikipedia]