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Ancient Egypt - The 27th Dynasty


The Battle of Pelusium was the first major battle between the Persian Empire and Egypt. Herodotus writes a detailed account of these events. Although entertaining, he provides little fact, and hardly any information about the actual battle. What is known, is that the inexperienced king, Psammetichus III, was defeated by Cambyses II of Persia. Psammetichus III fled to Memphis, but was captured, transported to Susa (the Persian capital) and executed. He would be the first Egyptian king to be captured and removed by a foreign power.

From Egypt, Cambyses II attempted the conquest of Kush, but his army was not able to cross the deserts and after heavy losses, was forced to return. Cambyses II would become the first Pharaoh of the 27th Dynasty. Unlike the stories of Herodotus and the later Egyptian priests, Cambyses II respected and even participated in the Egyptian religious practices. He did not stay long in Egypt, however, and departed after leaving a satrap in control.

Dairus I succeeded Cambyses II in 522 BC and took a closer interest in the internal affairs and administration of Egypt. During a visit in 497 BC, he had the satrap Aryandes executed for treason for attempting to issue his own coinage. Darius I built many temples and restored those that had previously been destroyed. Even though he was a Zoroastrian, he built temples dedicated to the gods of Egypt. He created several roads and completed Necho II's canal, from the Eastern Delta at Pelusium to the Red Sea. The monuments that Darius built were often inscribed in the official languages of the Persian Empire. To construct these monuments, he employed a large number of workers and artisans of diverse nationalities. Several of these workers were deportees who had been employed specifically for these projects. At the time of Darius' death, construction projects were still under way. Xerxes completed these works and in some cases, expanded his father's projects by creating new buildings of his own.

When the Greeks defeated the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC, the Egyptians realized that Darius' attention was elsewhere and decided to revolt. He died before he could respond, but Xerxes quickly crushed the rebellion and installed his brother, Achaemenes, as satrap. Xerxes ended the privileged status that Egypt held under Darius, and increased supply requirements from the country, probably to fund his invasion of Greece. Furthermore, Xerxes promoted the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda at the expense of traditional Egyptian deities, and permanently stopped the funding of Egyptian monuments.

Xerxes was murdered in 465 BC. Five years later, another Egyptian rebellion occurred by princes Inaros II of Heliopolis and Amyrtaeus of Sais, subsequently assisted by the Athenians of Greece. They defeated the Persian army led by Achaemenes, who was killed in the process, and took Memphis while exerting control over large parts of Egypt. Xerxes' successor, Artaxerxes I, responded with a large force, defeated the Egyptians, and executed Inaros II in 454 BC. Peace ensued for the next 30 years and the reign of Artaxerxes I left little mark on Egypt.

Artaxerxes I died in 424 BC, and was succeeded by Xerxes II who only ruled for 45 days. He was murdered by his brother, Sogidanus, who was consequently murdered by his brother, Ochus, who became Darius II.


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