Amasis II

Last updated

Amasis II (Ancient Greek : Ἄμασις) or Ahmose II was a pharaoh (reigned 570 BCE 526 BCE) of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt, the successor of Apries at Sais. He was the last great ruler of Egypt before the Persian conquest. [2]



Most of our information about him is derived from Herodotus (2.161ff) and can only be imperfectly verified by monumental evidence. According to the Greek historian, he was of common origins. [3] He was originally an officer in the Egyptian army. His birthplace was Siuph at Saïs. He took part in a general campaign of Pharaoh Psamtik II in 592 BC in Nubia.[ citation needed ]

A revolt which broke out among native Egyptian soldiers gave him his opportunity to seize the throne. These troops, returning home from a disastrous military expedition to Cyrene in Libya, suspected that they had been betrayed in order that Apries, the reigning king, might rule more absolutely by means of his Greek mercenaries; many Egyptians fully sympathized with them. General Amasis, sent to meet them and quell the revolt, was proclaimed king by the rebels instead, and Apries, who then had to rely entirely on his mercenaries, was defeated. [4] Apries fled to the Babylonians and was captured and killed mounting an invasion of his native homeland in 567 BCE with the aid of a Babylonian army. [5] An inscription confirms the struggle between the native Egyptian and the foreign soldiery, and proves that Apries was killed and honourably buried in the third year of Amasis (c.567 BCE). [4] Amasis then married Chedebnitjerbone II, one of the daughters of his predecessor Apries, in order to legitimise his kingship. [6]

Some information is known about the family origins of Amasis: his mother was a certain Tashereniset, as a bust of her, today located in the British Museum, shows. [7] A stone block from Mehallet el-Kubra also establishes that his maternal grandmother—Tashereniset's mother—was a certain Tjenmutetj. [7]

His court is relatively well known. The head of the gate guard Ahmose-sa-Neith appears on numerous monuments, including the location of his sarcophagus. He was referenced on monuments of the 30th Dynasty and apparently had a special significance in his time. Wahibre was 'Leader of the southern foreigners' and 'Head of the doors of foreigners', so he was the highest official for border security. Under Amasis the career of the doctor, Udjahorresnet, began, who was of particular importance to the Persians. Several "heads of the fleet" are known. Psamtek Meryneit and Pasherientaihet / Padineith are the only known viziers.

Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos, with Pharaoh Amasis II. Polykrates with Pharao Amasis II.jpg
Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos, with Pharaoh Amasis II.

Herodotus describes how Amasis II would eventually cause a confrontation with the Persian armies. According to Herodotus, Amasis was asked by Cambyses II or Cyrus the Great for an Egyptian ophthalmologist on good terms. Amasis seems to have complied by forcing an Egyptian physician into mandatory labor, causing him to leave his family behind in Egypt and move to Persia in forced exile. In an attempt to exact revenge for this, the physician grew very close to Cambyses and suggested that Cambyses should ask Amasis for a daughter in marriage in order to solidify his bonds with the Egyptians. Cambyses complied and requested a daughter of Amasis for marriage. [8]

Amasis, worrying that his daughter would be a concubine to the Persian king, refused to give up his offspring; Amasis also was not willing to take on the Persian empire, so he concocted a deception in which he forced the daughter of the ex-pharaoh Apries, whom Herodotus explicitly confirms to have been killed by Amasis, to go to Persia instead of his own offspring. [8] [9] [10]

This daughter of Apries was none other than Nitetis, who was, as per Herodotus's account, "tall and beautiful." Nitetis naturally betrayed Amasis and upon being greeted by the Persian king explained Amasis's trickery and her true origins. This infuriated Cambyses and he vowed to take revenge for it. Amasis died before Cambyses reached him, but his heir and son Psamtik III was defeated by the Persians. [8] [10]

First, Cyrus the Great signed alliance agreements with the Lydian King Croesus and Nabonidus the Babylonian king in 542 BC. The actual aim of the agreements was to prevent aid between Egypt and her allies. With both now deprived of Egyptian support, the Persians conquered, first, Croesus's empire in 541 BCE, and, then, the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE.

Herodotus also describes how, just like his predecessor, Amasis relied on Greek mercenaries and councilmen. One such figure was Phanes of Halicarnassus, who would later leave Amasis, for reasons that Herodotus does not clearly know, but suspects were personal between the two figures. Amasis sent one of his eunuchs to capture Phanes, but the eunuch was bested by the wise councilman and Phanes fled to Persia, meeting up with Cambyses and providing advice for his invasion of Egypt. Egypt was finally lost to the Persians during the battle of Pelusium in 525 BC. [10]

Egypt's wealth

Statue of Tasherenese, mother of king Amasis II, 570-526 BCE, British Museum Statue of Tasherenese, mother of king Amasis II, 570-526 BCE, from Egypt, currently housed in the British Museum.jpg
Statue of Tasherenese, mother of king Amasis II, 570-526 BCE, British Museum

Although Amasis appears first as champion of the disparaged native, he had the good sense to cultivate the friendship of the Greek world, and brought Egypt into closer touch with it than ever before. Herodotus relates that under his prudent administration, Egypt reached a new level of wealth; Amasis adorned the temples of Lower Egypt especially with splendid monolithic shrines and other monuments (his activity here is proved by existing remains). [4] For example, a temple built by him was excavated at Tell Nebesha.[ citation needed ]

Amasis assigned the commercial colony of Naucratis on the Canopic branch of the Nile to the Greeks, and when the temple of Delphi was burnt, he contributed 1,000 talents to the rebuilding. He also married a Greek princess named Ladice daughter of King Battus III and made alliances with Polycrates of Samos and Croesus of Lydia. [4] Montaigne cites the story by Herodotus that Ladice cured Amasis of his impotence by praying to Venus/Aphropdite. [11]

Under Amasis, Egypt's agricultural based economy reached its zenith. Herodotus, who visited Egypt less than a century after Amasis II's death, writes that:

It is said that it was during the reign of Ahmose II (Amasis) that Egypt attained its highest level of prosperity both in respect of what the river gave the land and in respect of what the land yielded to men and that the number of inhabited cities at that time reached in total 20,000. [12]

His kingdom consisted probably of Egypt only, as far as the First Cataract, but to this he added Cyprus, and his influence was great in Cyrene, Libya. [4] In his fourth year (c.567 BCE), Amasis was able to defeat an invasion of Egypt by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II; henceforth, the Babylonians experienced sufficient difficulties controlling their empire that they were forced to abandon future attacks against Amasis. [13] However, Amasis was later faced with a more formidable enemy with the rise of Persia under Cyrus who ascended to the throne in 559 BCE; his final years were preoccupied by the threat of the impending Persian onslaught against Egypt. [14] With great strategic skill, Cyrus had destroyed Lydia in 546 BCE and finally defeated the Babylonians in 538 BCE which left Amasis with no major Near Eastern allies to counter Persia's increasing military might. [14] Amasis reacted by cultivating closer ties with the Greek states to counter the future Persian invasion into Egypt but was fortunate to have died in 526 BCE shortly before the Persians attacked. [14] The final assault instead fell upon his son Psamtik III, whom the Persians defeated in 525 BCE after he had reigned for only six months. [15]

Tomb and desecration

Amasis II died in 526 BC. He was buried at the royal necropolis of Sais, and while his tomb has never been discovered, Herodotus describes it for us:

[It is] a great cloistered building of stone, decorated with pillars carved in the imitation of palm-trees, and other costly ornaments. Within the cloister is a chamber with double doors, and behind the doors stands the sepulchre. [16]

Herodotus also relates the desecration of Ahmose II/Amasis' mummy when the Persian king Cambyses conquered Egypt and thus ended the 26th (Saite) Dynasty:

[N]o sooner did [... Cambyses] enter the palace of Amasis that he gave orders for his [Amasis's] body to be taken from the tomb where it lay. This done, he proceeded to have it treated with every possible indignity, such as beating it with whips, sticking it with goads, and plucking its hairs. [... A]s the body had been embalmed and would not fall to pieces under the blows, Cambyses had it burned. [17]

Later reputation

This head probably came from a temple statue of Amasis II. He wears the traditional royal nemes head cloth, with a protective uraeus serpent at the brow. Circa 560 BCE. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Egyptian - Head of King Amasis - Walters 22415.jpg
This head probably came from a temple statue of Amasis II. He wears the traditional royal nemes head cloth, with a protective uraeus serpent at the brow. Circa 560 BCE. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

From the fifth century BCE, there is evidence of stories circulating about Amasis, in Egyptian sources (including a demotic papyrus of the third century BCE), Herodotus, Hellanikos, and Plutarch's Convivium Septem Sapientium . 'In those tales Amasis was presented as a non-conventional Pharaoh, behaving in ways unbecoming to a king but gifted with practical wisdom and cunning, a trickster on the throne or a kind of comic Egyptian Solomon'. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

The 6th century BC started the first day of 600 BC and ended the last day of 501 BC.

Cambyses II Second King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire

Cambyses II was the second King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 530 to 522 BC. He was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great and his mother was Cassandane.

Darius the Great Third King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire (550–486 BC)

Darius I, commonly known as Darius the Great, was the third Persian King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, reigning from 522 BCE until his death in 486 BCE. He ruled the empire at its peak, when it included much of West Asia, parts of the Caucasus, parts of the Balkans, most of the Black Sea coastal regions, Central Asia, as far as the Indus Valley in the far east and portions of north and northeast Africa including Egypt (Mudrâya), eastern Libya, and coastal Sudan.

This article concerns the period 529 BC – 520 BC.

This article concerns the period 569 BC – 560 BC.

Apries Egyptian pharaoh

Apries is the name by which Herodotus and Diodorus designate Wahibre Haaibre, a pharaoh of Egypt, the fourth king of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt. He was equated with the Waphres of Manetho, who correctly records that he reigned for 19 years. Apries is also called Hophra in Jeremiah 44:30.

Psamtik II Egyptian pharaoh

Psamtik II was a king of the Saite-based Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt. His prenomen, Nefer-Ib-Re, means "Beautiful [is the] Heart [of] Re." He was the son of Necho II.

<i>Histories</i> (Herodotus) work by Herodotus

The Histories of Herodotus is considered the founding work of history in Western literature. Written in 430 BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known in Greece, Western Asia and Northern Africa at that time. Although not a fully impartial record, it remains one of the West's most important sources regarding these affairs. Moreover, it established the genre and study of history in the Western world.

Cyrus the Great Founder of the Achaemenid Empire

Cyrus II of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Under his successors, the empire eventually stretched at its maximum extent from parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. The Nabonidus Chronicle notes the change in his title from simply "King of Anshan," a city, to "King of Persia." Assyriologist François Vallat wrote that "When Astyages marched against Cyrus, Cyrus is called 'King of Anshan," but when Cyrus crosses the Tigris on his way to Lydia, he is 'King of Persia.' The coup therefore took place between these two events."

Psamtik III Egyptian pharaoh

Psamtik III was the last Pharaoh of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt from 526 BC to 525 BC. Most of what is known about his reign and life was documented by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC. Herodotus states that Psamtik had ruled Egypt for only six months before he was confronted by a Persian invasion of his country led by King Cambyses II of Persia. Psamtik was subsequently defeated at the Battle of Pelusium, and fled to Memphis where he was captured. The deposed pharaoh was carried off to Susa in chains, and later committed suicide.

Late Period of ancient Egypt time period of Ancient Egypt

The Late Period of ancient Egypt refers to the last flowering of native Egyptian rulers after the Third Intermediate Period in the 26th Saite Dynasty founded by Psamtik I, but includes the time of Achaemenid Persian rule over Egypt after the conquest by Cambyses II in 525 BC as well. The Late Period existed from 664 BC until 332 BC, following a period of foreign rule by the Nubian 25th dynasty and beginning with a short period of Neo-Assyrian suzerainty, with Psamtik I initially ruling as their vassal. The period ended with the conquests of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great and establishment of the Ptolemaic dynasty by his general Ptolemy I Soter, one of the Hellenistic diadochi from Macedon in northern Greece. With the Macedonian Greek conquest in the latter half of the 4th century BC, the age of Hellenistic Egypt began.

Ankhnesneferibre Ancient Egyptian princess and priestess, Gods Wife of Amun, High Priest of Amun

Ankhnesneferibre was an ancient Egyptian princess and priestess during the 26th Dynasty, daughter of pharaoh Psamtik II and his queen Takhuit. She held the positions of Divine Adoratrice of Amun and later God's Wife of Amun between 595 and 525 BC, during the reigns of Psamtik II, Apries, Amasis II and Psamtik III, until the Achaemenid conquest of Egypt.

Cyaxares II was said to be a king of the Medes whose reign is described by the Greek historian Xenophon. Some theories have equated this figure with the "Darius the Mede" named in the Book of Daniel. He is not mentioned in the histories of Herodotus or Ctesias, and many scholars doubt that he actually existed. The question of his existence impacts on whether the kingdom of the Medes merged peacefully with that of the Persians in about 537 BC, as narrated by Xenophon, or was subjugated in the rebellion of the Persians against Cyrus' grandfather in 559 BC, a date derived from Herodotus (1.214) and almost universally accepted by current scholarship.

Ladice or Ladice of Cyrene was a Greek Cyrenaean princess and was a member of the Battiad dynasty. She married the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amasis II. When Amasis died in 526 BC, she returned from Egypt back to Cyrene.

Battle of Pelusium (525 BC) Battle between the Achaemenid Empire and Egypt

The Battle of Pelusium was the first major battle between the Achaemenid Empire and Egypt. This decisive battle transferred the throne of the Pharaohs to Cambyses II of Persia, marking the beginning of the Achaemenid Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt. It was fought near Pelusium, an important city in the eastern extremes of Egypt's Nile Delta, 30 km to the southeast of the modern Port Said, in 525 BC. The battle was preceded and followed by sieges at Gaza and Memphis.

<i>The Divine Worshipper</i> book by Christian Jacq

The Divine Worshipper is a historical fiction novel written by Christian Jacq. The story follows on from the previous book, Manhunt, in which the young scribe Kel, aided by his wife Nitis and friend Bebon, try to clear his name of murders he did not commit. It takes place in ancient Egypt during the reign of the pharaoh Amasis in 528 BC. The book was originally published in France in 2007, and translated and published in English in 2008.

Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt dynasty and satrap in 5th and 6th centuries BC

The Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the First Egyptian Satrapy, was effectively a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire between 525 BC and 404 BC. It was founded by Cambyses II, the King of Persia, after the Battle of Pelusium and his conquest of Egypt, and his subsequent crowning as Pharaoh of Egypt. It was disestablished upon the rebellion and crowning of Amyrtaeus as Pharaoh. A second period of Achaemenid rule in Egypt occurred under the Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt.

Phanes of Halicarnassus council man, tactician, and mercenary from Halicarnassus, serving the Egyptian pharaoh Amasis II (570–526 BC)

Phanes of Halicarnassus was a wise council man, a tactician, and a mercenary from Halicarnassus, serving the Egyptian pharaoh Amasis II. Most of what history recounts of Phanes is from the account of Herodotus in his grand historical text, The Histories. According to Herodotus, Phanes of Halicarnassus was "a resourceful man and a brave fighter" serving Amasis II on matters of state, and was well connected within the Egyptian pharaoh's troops. Phanes of Halicarnassus was also very well respected within the military and royal community of Egypt.

Achaemenid Empire First Iranian empire, founded by Cyrus the Great (c. 550–330 BC)

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt Egyptian dynasty of the Late Period (664-525 BCE)

The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC. The dynasty's reign is also called the Saite Period after the city of Sais, where its pharaohs had their capital, and marks the beginning of the Late Period of ancient Egypt.


  1. 1 2 Peter A. Clayton (2006). Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. p. 195. ISBN   978-0-500-28628-9.
  2. Lloyd, Alan Brian (1996), "Amasis", in Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Anthony (eds.), Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN   0-19-521693-8
  3. Mason, Charles Peter (1867). "Amasis (II)". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology . 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 136–137.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Griffith, Francis Llewellyn (1911). "Amasis s.v. Amasis II.". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 782. This cites:
  5. Herodotus, The Histories, Book II, Chapter 169
  6. "Amasis". Livius. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  7. 1 2 Dodson, Aidan & Hilton, Dyan (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. pp. 245 & 247. ISBN   0-500-05128-3.
  8. 1 2 3 Herodotus (1737). The History of Herodotus Volume I,Book II. D. Midwinter. pp.  246–250.
  9. Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1837). Manners and customs of the ancient Egyptians: including their private life, government, laws, art, manufactures, religions, and early history; derived from a comparison of the paintings, sculptures, and monuments still existing, with the accounts of ancient authors. Illustrated by drawings of those subjects, Volume 1. J. Murray. p.  195.
  10. 1 2 3 Herodotus (Trans.) Robin Waterfield, Carolyn Dewald (1998). The Histories. Oxford University Press, US. p. 170. ISBN   978-0-19-158955-3.
  11. Montaigne, de, Michel. "20". In William Carew Hazlitt (ed.). The Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Translated by Charles Cotton. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  12. Herodotus, (II, 177, 1)
  13. Lloyd, Alan B. (2002). "The Late Period". In Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Paperback ed.). Oxford Univ. Press. pp. 381–82. ISBN   0-19-280293-3.
  14. 1 2 3 Lloyd. (2002) p.382
  15. Griffith 1911.
  16. "Egypt: Amasis, the Last Great Egyptian Pharaoh".
  17. Herodotus, The Histories, Book III, Chapter 16
  18. Konstantakos, Ioannis M. (2004). "Trial by Riddle: The Testing of the Counsellor and the Contest of Kings in the Legend of Amasis and Bias". Classica et Mediaevalia . 55: 85–137 (p. 90).

Further reading