My initial assumption was that you were playing one of the Civ games. In which case I would advise against war. I find it quickly gets boring and I start losing when I make war on anything apart from a tiny state. I never figured out non-peaceful victories in those games. (Apart from Alpha Centauri, where I once played as the Gaia hippies and ended up spending the late game nuking the hell out of the fundamentalists, mostly because of that haircut).
Anyway, that’s got nothing to do with the actual context of your actual question, which you have kindly supplied.
Anyway, I have a very strict policy regarding any kind of oracle or genie (or politician). Don’t trust a fucking word. And in the case of the genie, that’s even if the words are yours.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from spending my whole life bathing in ridiculous pop culture and literature, it’s that magical entities thrive on being tricksters. As far as I can tell, it’s not just the Djinn that are chaotically aligned. It’s anyone who has more power or knowledge gained by means other than actual wisdom and life experience. (That definitely covers politicians too. For a moment I was thinking they didn’t count because they were lawful, on account of being on the side of the status quo, but in fact, they are clear oathbreakers…chaotic evil, all the way).
Anyway. Basically, Croesus got what he deserved. A mule ruling the medians is even more obvious than ‘no man of woman born’, and an oracle that says going to war will destroy a mighty empire and then encourages you to unite a mighty empire under yourself has clearly got his ‘fuck you’ hat on.
Don’t trust the supernatural know-it-alls. They’ve got a vested interest in being right, and they can only make themselves right by manipulation of the people who come to them. It’s all about instilling over-confidence. It worked for the witches, and it worked for the oracles. Their PR was excellent, because they were shown to be right. Better hit rate equals more customers. It’s in their interest to fuck you over. That’s how they control things.
So don’t make war on the Persians because you got told to. Pretty much the only reason you should make war on the Persians is if you are the Spartans, and if you are, then you wouldn’t be asking the question, you’d be putting on your tightest, tiniest pants at the first available opportunity.
And of course, those who make war on Persians (or their neighbours) on tricksy information often end up with their reputations in tatters, proven wrong by history.
Anyway. Herodotus, like the oracles, had a sense of drama. And dramatically speaking the only thing that can happen is that the words you hear mean something different underneath. That’s the sting in the tail.
I know it wasn’t really an option, but love is thicker than war, you know.
Worth a shot.
Illustration by Jaime.