, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Ancient Egyptian 27th Dynasty - Persian Period ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

April 24, 2012

Ancient Egyptian 27th Dynasty - Persian Period

Dynasty 27
(First Persian Period)
525-404 BC
  • Cambyses II (Mesutire) : 525-522 BC
  • Darius I (Setutre) : 521-486 BC
  • Darius II : 423-405 BC
  • Artaxerxes II : 405-359 BC
  • Xerxes : 485-465 BC
  • Artaxerxes I : 465-424 BC
The Persian conquest of Egypt in 525 BC was not so traumatic an occurrence as the biased contemporary accounts would have us believe. The Saite dynasty had collapsed, Psammetichus III had been captured and the Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, simply took charge of the country. At the beginning of Book 3 of his Histories, Herodotus, writing only three-quarters of a century after the event, tells three curious stories as to why Cambyses invaded Egypt: all concern women.

Persian king Cyrus
One was the king's request for an Egyptian princess for a wife (i.e. in reality, a concubine), and his anger when he realized he had been fobbed off with a second-rank lady. The second saw Cambyses as the Persian king Cyrus' bastard son by Nitetis (daughter of the Saite king Apries), thus making Cambyses half Egyptian anyway. The third tale concerns a promise Cambyses, aged ten, made to his mother (this time Cassandane) that he would 'turn Egypt upside-down' to avenge a slight paid her. Herodotus expresses doubt concerning all three stories, but they do reflect the later Greek propaganda that was to colour views of the Persian dynasty. More to the point, and more accurately, Herodotus notes how the Persians easily entered Egypt across the desert, having been advised by the defecting mercenary general, Phanes of Halicarnassus (Herodotus' own home city), to employ the bedouin as guides.

The Egyptian revenge on Phanes for betrayal was dire: as the two armies confronted each other, his sons, who had been left behind in Egypt, were brought out in front of the Egyptian army, where they could be seen by their father, and their throats were slit over a large bowl. When they had all been killed, Herodotus tells us, water and wine were added to the ghastly contents of the bowl and drunk by every man in the mercenary force.

The Egyptians were routed in the subsequent battle and fled back to Memphis. Herodotus gives at length the tribulations suffered by the captive Psammetichus and his family, as well as the outrages perpetrated by Cambyses. Not least among them were the desecration and deliberate burning of the embalmed body of Amasis, ripped from its tomb at Sais, and the stabbing by Cambyses of the sacred Apis bull of Memphis, leading to its subsequent death. The high propaganda level of such stories may be judged from an inscription in the Serapeum (the burial place of the Apis bulls at Memphis/Saqqara) recording the burial of a bull with full honours in Cambyses' sixth (Persian) year, 523 BC.

After his initial military success in Egypt, Cambyses had little further luck. Legend tells of his losing an entire army in the desert on its way to Siwa Oasis, and alleged traces of the 'lost army' are still reported from time to time in the press.

Although Cambyses had his name written in a cartouche, he remained a Persian and was buried at Takht-i-Rustam, near Persepolis. Only the ruined platform of his tomb survives. Cambyses and the rest of the Persian dynasty ruled Egypt from Susa like absentee landlords, leaving a satrap in control.

Outline tracing of the figure representing Darius in the Behistun Inscription

Darius I succeeded Cambyses in 522 and took a closer interest in the internal affairs and administration of Egypt. He had one satrap (Aryandes) executed for overstepping his office, built a temple at Khargah Oasis and repaired others as far apart as Busiris in the Delta and at el-Kab just north of Aswan. Not least, he recorded on a large stele now in Cairo his completion of the canal from the eastern Delta at Pelusium to the Red Sea, begun by Necho II.

The 35-year reign of Darius I - who, like Cambyses, wrote his name in a cartouche - was one of essential prosperity for Egypt, despite her now being subject to many outside influences and the politics of the Mediterranean world. In 490 the Greeks had, against all odds, defeated the Persian army at the battle of Marathon. Darius' attentions were elsewhere and, in 486, the Egyptians took the opportunity to revolt. Before Darius could suppress the insurgents he died and was buried in a great rock-carved tomb in the cliffs at Naqsh-i-Rustam at Persepolis.

The revolt was put down with great severity by the next Persian king, Xerxes, who himself had to contend with the Greeks again, but this time at sea, at Salamis in 480 BC. The cruelty of the Persian satrap Achaemenes (Xerxes' son) only served to rouse the Egyptians to revolt once more when Xerxes was assassinated. His successor, Artaxerxes I, thus found himself opposed by the princes Inaros of Heliopolis (son of Psammetichus III) and Amyrtaeus of Sais. The former became a legendary 'crusader' in later folklore, recorded in several damaged demotic papyri; the latter's grandson was to be the sole king of the 28th Dynasty. Despite initial successes with the aid of Greek allies, the Egyptians were defeated and Inaros executed in 454 BC. Relative tranquillity then ensued for the next 30 years and the reign of Artaxerxes I, 465-424, left little mark in Egypt.

Revolt broke out again with the advent of Darius II (423-405 BC), although he did endeavour to woo the nationalistic elements by selected building works. The trouble spots were still concentrated round the Delta families, Sais being a particular centre (much as el-Kab had been centuries before, in the Second Intermediate Period). The Egyptians relied heavily on Greek mercenaries and, curiously, centuries later the Athenians were to recognize Sais as being particularly associated with Athene (an Athene of Sais even appeared on the nome coinage in Roman times). The Egyptians were able to take advantage of the murderous internal family problems of the Achaemenid royal house and maintain a quasi-independence during the reigns of the last two Persian kings, Darius II and Artaxerxes II (405-359 BC).

Related Web Search :
  • Cambyses II
  • Darius I
  • Darius II
  • Artaxerxes II
  • Xerxes
  • Artaxerxes I
  • Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh
  • Ancient Egyptian Kings
  • Ancient Egyptian Dynasties


Post a Comment

Hi, If you found any copyright content in Ancient Egypt blog please don't hesitant to send an email : and will delete within 24 Hours


Follow us

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...