Volume 12 issue 3 December 2011
ANCIENT EGYPT explores the WORLD WIDE WEB ...
THE PERSIANS AND ALEXANDER THE GREAT
This month’s NETFISHING continues its look at the history of Egypt by seeing what the World Wide Web has to say about the Second Persian Period and the Persian conflict with Alexander the Great.
Nectanebo II, the last ever native king of Egypt, fought off a Persian attack in 350 BC and was, therefore, seen by his people as having the protection of the gods, but when the Persian king Artaxerxes III launched a renewed attack on Egypt in 343 BC Nectanebo II was outflanked at the Egyptian stronghold of Pelusium, and Memphis fell to the attackers. Pushed further and further south into Nubia, Nectanebo presumably died in exile leaving Egypt once again under the control of a Persian king; the ‘Second Persian Period’ had begun.
Greek sources (which are undoubtedly biased) present a picture of Persian oppression in Egypt. Temples were sacked, towns destroyed, and the very statures of the gods removed from temples and taken back to the Persian capital of Persepolis. Yet even though Greek sources say the sacred Apis bulls were roasted rather than given a proper burial, inscriptions from burials in the Serapeum show this to be propaganda and entirely untrue as the bulls were buried with all due diligence under Persian rule. Artaxerxes III’s reign lasted until 338 BC when he was poisoned in Persia and his son’s reign (Artaxerxes IV) was even shorter, lasting just two years, refer:
Artaxerxes IV (Arses) http://www.livius.org/arl-arz/artaxerxes/artaxerxes_iv.html
King Darius III duly succeeded to the throne of Persia, only for his crown to be threatened by the advance of Alexander III,
son of Philip II of Macedon. Refer:
Alexander III (known to history as Alexander the Great), was proclaimed King after the death of his father, Philip II of Macedon, and launched his campaign against the Persian Empire in 334 BC. He defeated the Persian satrap (governor) at the battle of Granicus in Anatolia, and in the following year (333 BC) defeated King Darius III himself at the battle of Issus. Darius III flees the battlefield in disarray – as depicted in the famous mosaic at Pompeii. Alexander then moves south down the coast of the Mediterranean conquering cities as he does so, until he reaches Egypt. The Persian satrap, Mazaeus, requests assistance from his king, but when none is forthcoming, surrenders Egypt without a fight in 323 BC and Alexander is welcomed by the Egyptian people as a liberator from Persian oppression. He journeys down the Nile, visits the oracle in the Western Desert oasis of Siwa (where he is recognised as King by the priesthood) and founds the city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.
Alexander secures Egypt by leaving his general Ptolemy in control of an army of occupation, and one Cleomenes in charge of collecting the taxes for Egypt. He then continues his campaign against the Persians knowing his southern flank is secure. Alexander
defeats Darius again, at the Battle of Gaugamelia, in 331 BC and proceeds on to capture Babylon and Persepolis (the Persian capital).
Darius is murdered by his own satrap Bessus, who is eventually captured and put to death, leaving Alexander as sole king of Persia. Alexander continues his conquest of the known world reaching as far as the River Beas in India before returning to Babylon at the behest of his troops in 323 BC, where he dies.
Alexander’s generals are unsure as to what to do, as none of them is strong enough to rule the Empire of Alexander alone, and so they place his half-brother, Philip III Arrhidaeus, on the throne as a puppet king whilst they issue their instructions through him.
Eventually, the generals tire of Arrhidaeus and, having him murdered in 317 BC, now place the son of Alexander the Great, Alexander IV (by his Persian mother Roxana), on the throne. He in turn is murdered in 311 BC together with his mother, and the Empire descends into a chaotic series of battles as each general vies for control.
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