Croesus of Lydia was one of the most famous kings of antiquity. Although we know few concrete facts about him. Lydia was already the dominant power in Asia Minor before Croesus (often rendered as Kroisos) attained the kingdom’s throne in about 561 BC as the son of Alyattes, who had reigned for the previous half-century. The most important reform attributed to him was the introduction of a bimetallic coinage in gold and silver, first augmenting and then replacing the previous smaller electrum issues. The design chosen by King Croesus, the confronting foreparts of a lion and bull, are thought to be symbolic of “strength and power” (lion) and “fertility” (bull). The lion had previously been used by his father Alyattes , and so an alternative theory might be that this is a dynastic type, with the lion representing Alyattes and the bull representing his son and successor. The creation of separate gold and silver denominations ranging from a full “Heavy and Light” stater down to 1/96th of a stater was a visionary move that had a major impact on the ancient economy. Perhaps because of his association with gold and silver, Croesus became legendary for his wealth, and there are several almost mythical accounts of his interactions with another quasi-legendary Greek, the sage Solon, in which they discuss whether wealth and possessions can truly buy happiness. The most famous ancient account of Croesus occurred at the end of his reign, when he questioned the Delphic Oracle as to whether he should make war on the rising Persian kingdom; the oracle answered, with typical ambiguity, that if he attacked the Persians he would destroy a great empire. In the event he did move to confront the Persian King Cyrus the Great, and, after an inconclusive battle, was besieged and captured at his capital city of Sardes in 546 BC, thus destroying his own “great empire. His eventual fate is uncertain; some accounts suggest he continued as an advisor to Cyrus after the Persians absorbed Lydia, but more than likely he was executed. His revolutionary coinage was adopted, in simplified form, by the Persians, who retained the lion-bull motif for a few decades before replacing it with their own unique design, the Persian gold Daric.
Gold Heavy Stater