Croesus was not content with the size of his force, for his army that had engaged was far smaller than that of Cyrus; therefore, when on the day after the battle Cyrus did not try attacking again, he marched away to Sardis, intending to summon the Egyptians in accordance with their treaty
(for before making an alliance with the Lacedaemonians he had made one also with Amasis king of Egypt), and to send for the Babylonians also (for with these too he had made an alliance, Labynetus at this time being their sovereign),
and to summon the Lacedaemonians to join him at a fixed time. He had in mind to muster all these forces and assemble his own army, then to wait until the winter was over and march against the Persians at the beginning of spring.
With such an intention, as soon as he returned to Sardis, he sent heralds to all his allies, summoning them to assemble at Sardis in five months' time; and as for the soldiers whom he had with him, who had fought with the Persians, all of them who were mercenaries he discharged, never thinking that after a contest so equal Cyrus would march against Sardis.
This was how Croesus reasoned. Meanwhile, snakes began to swarm in the outer part of the city; and when they appeared the horses, leaving their accustomed pasture, devoured them. When Croesus saw this he thought it a portent, and so it was.
He at once sent to the homes of the Telmessian interpreters, [Note] to inquire concerning it; but though his messengers came and learned from the Telmessians what the portent meant, they could not bring back word to Croesus, for he was a prisoner before they could make their voyage back to Sardis.
Nonetheless, this was the judgment of the Telmessians: that Croesus must expect a foreign army to attack his country, and that when it came, it would subjugate the inhabitants of the land: for the snake, they said, was the offspring of the land, but the horse was an enemy and a foreigner. This was the answer which the Telmessians gave Croesus, knowing as yet nothing of the fate of Sardis and of the king himself; but when they gave it, Croesus was already taken.
When Croesus marched away after the battle in the Pterian country, Cyrus, learning that Croesus had gone intending to disband his army, deliberated and perceived that it would be opportune for him to march quickly against Sardis, before the power of the Lydians could be assembled again.
This he decided, and this he did immediately; he marched his army into Lydia and so came himself to bring the news of it to Croesus. All had turned out contrary to Croesus' expectation, and he was in a great quandary; nevertheless, he led out the Lydians to battle.
Now at this time there was no nation in Asia more valiant or warlike than the Lydian. It was their custom to fight on horseback, carrying long spears, and they were skillful at managing horses.
So the armies met in the plain, wide and bare, that is before the city of Sardis: the Hyllus and other rivers flow across it and run violently together into the greatest of them, which is called Hermus (this flows from the mountain sacred to the Mother Dindymene [Note] and empties into the sea near the city of Phocaea).