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It chanced, however, that the Spartans were themselves just at
this time engaged in a quarrel with the Argives about a place called
Thyrea, which was within the limits of Argolis, but had been seized on
by the Lacedaemonians. Indeed, the whole country westward, as far as
Cape Malea, belonged once to the Argives, and not only that entire
tract upon the mainland, but also Cythera, and the other islands.
The Argives collected troops to resist the seizure of Thyrea, but
before any battle was fought, the two parties came to terms, and it
was agreed that three hundred Spartans and three hundred Argives
should meet and fight for the place, which should belong to the nation
with whom the victory rested. It was stipulated also that the other
troops on each side should return home to their respective
countries, and not remain to witness the combat, as there was
danger, if the armies stayed, that either the one or the other, on
seeing their countrymen undergoing defeat, might hasten to their
assistance. These terms being agreed on, the two armies marched off,
leaving three hundred picked men on each side to fight for the
territory. The battle began, and so equal were the combatants, that at
the close of the day, when night put a stop to the fight, of the whole
six hundred only three men remained alive, two Argives, Alcanor and
Chromius, and a single Spartan, Othryadas. The two Argives,
regarding themselves as the victors, hurried to Argos. Othryadas,
the Spartan, remained upon the field, and, stripping the bodies of the
Argives who had fallen, carried their armour to the Spartan camp. Next
day the two armies returned to learn the result. At first they
disputed, both parties claiming the victory, the one, because they had
the greater number of survivors; the other, because their man remained
on the field, and stripped the bodies of the slain, whereas the two
men of the other side ran away; but at last they fell from words to
blows, and a battle was fought, in which both parties suffered great
loss, but at the end the Lacedaemonians gained the victory. Upon
this the Argives, who up to that time had worn their hair long, cut it
off close, and made a law, to which they attached a curse, binding
themselves never more to let their hair grow, and never to allow their
women to wear gold, until they should recover Thyrea. At the same time
the Lacedaemonians made a law the very reverse of this, namely, to
wear their hair long, though they had always before cut it close.
Othryadas himself, it is said, the sole survivor of the three hundred,
prevented by a sense of shame from returning to Sparta after all his
comrades had fallen, laid violent hands upon himself in Thyrea.
Although the Spartans were engaged with these matters when the
herald arrived from Sardis to entreat them to come to the assistance
of the besieged king, yet, notwithstanding, they instantly set to work
to afford him help. They had completed their preparations, and the
ships were just ready to start, when a second message informed them
that the place had already fallen, and that Croesus was a prisoner.
Deeply grieved at his misfortune, the Spartans ceased their efforts.
The following is the way in which Sardis was taken. On the
fourteenth day of the siege Cyrus bade some horsemen ride about his
lines, and make proclamation to the whole army that he would give a
reward to the man who should first mount the wall. After this he
made an assault, but without success. His troops retired, but a
certain Mardian, Hyroeades by name, resolved to approach the citadel
and attempt it at a place where no guards were ever set. On this
side the rock was so precipitous, and the citadel (as it seemed) so
impregnable, that no fear was entertained of its being carried in this
place. Here was the only portion of the circuit round which their
old king Meles did not carry the lion which his leman bore to him. For
when the Telmessians had declared that if the lion were taken round
the defences, Sardis would be impregnable, and Meles, in
consequence, carried it round the rest of the fortress where the
citadel seemed open to attack, he scorned to take it round this
side, which he looked on as a sheer precipice, and therefore
absolutely secure. It is on that side of the city which faces Mount

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