The Greek cities of Ionia were where Herodotus’ war story began, too. These thriving settlements, which maintained close ties with their mother cities across the Aegean to the west, began, in the early sixth century B.C., to fall under the dominion of the rulers of the Asiatic kingdoms to the east; by the middle of the century, however, those kingdoms were themselves being swallowed up in the seemingly inexorable westward expansion of Persia, led by the charismatic empire builder Cyrus the Great. The fable-like arc of Croesus’ story, from a deceptive and short-lived happiness to a tragic fall arising from smug self-confidence, admirably serves what will turn out to be Herodotus’ overarching theme: the seemingly inevitable movement from imperial hubris to catastrophic retribution.