Usually in ancient stories and fables there are elements of truth. We see the same thing in news reports and speeches today. There’s generally just enough truth in stories to make them plausable. For example, we all know about the “midas touch.” The story of King Midas, tells of Midas’s ability to turn everything he touched to gold. Perhaps, he just had a good press agent and marketing empire. After turning his young daughter to gold and almost dieing because his food turned to gold, he supposedly washed his hands in the River Pactolus, which turned the river sands to gold. The element of truth here is that probably gold was found along the riverbed. Years after Midas we hear about King Croesus of Lydia in the same general geographical area. As with many people of power and money, King Croesus wanted more. It wasn’t enough that he minted coins with his image, his armies expanded his territory and soon controlled most of the land now known as Turkey. He was already rich, so rich that the phrase “As rich as Croesus” still has meaning.
Like today, riches were mostly made though commerce and trade. After gaining control of the Greek cities along the coast Croesus hoped to expand across the seas. He even made a pact with Sparta, the powerful Greek city-state. He also was busy making plans to conquer all the Greek islands where trade between countries was making them rich. His strategy was to build a navy and sail to each island and seize their ships. When a prominant Greek traveled to Croesus’s capitol city of Sardis, far inland from the coast. Croesus invited the Greek to meet with him so he could pump the Greek for details on what was happening in their part of the world.
After a little wine, entertainment and lots of boasting, Croesus asked what the Greeks were up to. The visitor shared the news that the Greeks were in the process of amassing ten thousand horses with which to invade and overcome Lydia. Croesus could barely contain himself. He smelled opportuniy. The Greeks were island people and knew absolutely nothing about cavalry, horses and armies. The king said something like, “May the gods tempt them and give them speed. How laughable that the islanders think they can simply ride in here and defeat us without knowing knowing anything about warfare and deployment!” He was almost drooling thinking of the upcoming Greek defeat on his land with his well trained men. The visitor could easily see what was going on in the king’s mind and held back snickering and said, “Really, the Greeks pray that you will attack them instead. They dream of meeting your people in battle on the seas where they are experts.”
The smile of delight faded from the face of Croesus, as he saw the reality of the situation. He abandoned his plans for invading Greece. Every circumstance requires planning and consideration. Choose your battles. Know your opponent. The same goes for business as well as diplomancy and statesmanship. Actually, the Greeks honed their battle skills on both the sea and the land. Around two hundred years later Alexander defeated anyone he found before him.