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Clio   


himself into his power with earnest entreaties that he would sacrifice
him upon the body of his son- "his former misfortune was burthen
enough; now that he had added to it a second, and had brought ruin
on the man who purified him, he could not bear to live." Then Croesus,
when he heard these words, was moved with pity towards Adrastus,
notwithstanding the bitterness of his own calamity; and so he
answered, "Enough, my friend; I have all the revenge that I require,
since thou givest sentence of death against thyself. But in sooth it
is not thou who hast injured me, except so far as thou hast
unwittingly dealt the blow. Some god is the author of my misfortune,
and I was forewarned of it a long time ago." Croesus after this buried
the body of his son, with such honours as befitted the occasion.
Adrastus, son of Gordias, son of Midas, the destroyer of his brother
in time past, the destroyer now of his purifier, regarding himself
as the most unfortunate wretch whom he had ever known, so soon as
all was quiet about the place, slew himself upon the tomb. Croesus,
bereft of his son, gave himself up to mourning for two full years.
At the end of this time the grief of Croesus was interrupted by
intelligence from abroad. He learnt that Cyrus, the son of Cambyses,
had destroyed the empire of Astyages, the son of Cyaxares; and that
the Persians were becoming daily more powerful. This led him to
consider with himself whether it were possible to check the growing
power of that people before it came to a head. With this design he
resolved to make instant trial of the several oracles in Greece, and
of the one in Libya. So he sent his messengers in different
directions, some to Delphi, some to Abae in Phocis, and some to
Dodona; others to the oracle of Amphiaraus; others to that of
Trophonius; others, again, to Branchidae in Milesia. These were the
Greek oracles which he consulted. To Libya he sent another embassy, to
consult the oracle of Ammon. These messengers were sent to test the
knowledge of the oracles, that, if they were found really to return
true answers, he might send a second time, and inquire if he ought
to attack the Persians.
The messengers who were despatched to make trial of the oracles
were given the following instructions: they were to keep count of
the days from the time of their leaving Sardis, and, reckoning from
that date, on the hundredth day they were to consult the oracles,
and to inquire of them what Croesus the son of Alyattes, king of
Lydia, was doing at that moment. The answers given them were to be
taken down in writing, and brought back to him. None of the replies
remain on record except that of the oracle at Delphi. There, the
moment that the Lydians entered the sanctuary, and before they put
their questions, the Pythoness thus answered them in hexameter verse:-

I can count the sands, and I can measure the ocean;
I have ears for the silent, and know what the dumb man meaneth;
Lo! on my sense there striketh the smell of a shell-covered
tortoise,
Boiling now on a fire, with the flesh of a lamb, in a cauldron-
Brass is the vessel below, and brass the cover above it.

These words the Lydians wrote down at the mouth of the Pythoness
as she prophesied, and then set off on their return to Sardis. When
all the messengers had come back with the answers which they had
received, Croesus undid the rolls, and read what was written in
each. Only one approved itself to him, that of the Delphic oracle.
This he had no sooner heard than he instantly made an act of
adoration, and accepted it as true, declaring that the Delphic was the
only really oracular shrine, the only one that had discovered in
what way he was in fact employed. For on the departure of his
messengers he had set himself to think what was most impossible for
any one to conceive of his doing, and then, waiting till the day
agreed on came, he acted as he had determined. He took a tortoise
and a lamb, and cutting them in pieces with his own hands, boiled them

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