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Volume 12 issue 1 August 2011




This month’s NETFISHING continues its look at the history of Egypt by seeing what the World Wide Web has to say about the First Persian Period, Egypt’s Twenty-seventh Dynasty, when Egypt became part of a wider empire.


The defeat of the Egyptian king Psamtek III (or Psamme-tichus III) at the battle of Pelusium in 525 BC left the way clear for the Persian king, Cambyses II to lay claim to the Egyptian throne. His army marched into Memphis and the independent state of Egypt duly became a part of the huge Persian Empire. The Greek historian Herodotus, in Book III of his Histories, outlines the reasons why Cambyses II invaded Egypt; but none of these reasons appears convincing to us today, and indeed Herodotus (who lived some three hundred years after these events) also expresses his scepticism. Refer:






Despite the huge military might of the Persian army the priests of the temple of Siwa, far out in the Western Desert,

refused to acknowledge the authenticity of Cambyses’s claim to the throne and so the ‘Great King’ responded by sending an army of fifty thousand soldiers to convince these priests of the legitimacy of his claim. The campaign was not a success, however, as after leaving Kharga Oasis the entire army was lost in the desert, reportedly in a giant sandstorm that consumed them all. In modern times travellers in the Western Desert occasionally come back with stories of finding the remains of this army. Such claims have yet to be substantiated, however, as invariably the travellers have been unable to retrace their steps and find ‘The Lost Army of Cambyses’ again. Refer:




In spite of his conquest of Egypt and great power and wealth, Cambyses II appears a tragic figure. He lost not only his army but also his position as king, when he was usurped back home in a palace coup. Eventually, realising he  had no way to regain his throne, he, most probably, committed suicide. Refer:




The kings of Persia administered Egypt as if it were any other part of the Persian Empire. Building work was undertaken as necessary, but on the whole we have few archaeological remains to illuminate this period of Egyptian history. In textual terms also, the Greek records that have come down to us are concerned with the conflict between Greece and the Persian Empire, on the whole make little mention of events in Egypt; as far as these writers were concerned, Egypt had little part to play in their narrative of conflict and war. For a record of the reigns of these Achaemenid (Persian) kings, refer:


Darius I http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_the_Great

Xerxes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerxes_I_of_Persia

Artaxerxes I http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artaxerxes_I_of_Persia

Darius II http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_II

Artaxerxes II http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artaxerxes_II_of_Persia


Darius I tried to increase trade in Egypt by completing the canal (began by Nekau II) from the Eastern Delta to the Red Sea, but on the whole the Egyptians were looking not for trade but rather for a chance to regain their freedom from Persian rule. An attempt was made in the reign of Xerxes (after the Greek success at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC) but this was rapidly crushed. Another bid for freedom was made in the reign of Artaxerxes I, but this too eventually came to nothing and was quashed, and so the Egyptians had to bide their time and await a leader who could stand up to the might of the Persian Empire. For an overview of this complex period, refer





Victor Blunden

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