The Egyptian Campaign: Cambyses II

After the Battle of Pelusium in May 525 BC, Cambyses conquered Egypt. It was 4 years after the death of his father, Cyrus the Great. The main source of Cambyses' Egyptian campaign is the Histories written by Herodotus. In his book, he mentions 3 reasons for the Persian conquest of Egypt:

  • When Cambyses was a little boy, he saw that his mother Cassandane was sad. He wanted to know the reason of her sadness, and she said that her husband, Cyrus the Great, didn't love her anymore, because he was with his Egyptian concubine all the time. When Cambyses heard that, he promised his mother that he would turn Egypt upside down when he grew up.
  • When Cambyses was the King of Persia he demanded a doctor due to his eye-problems. The Egyptians had famous doctors at that time, and consequently the Egyptian king, Amasis II, sent a doctor to treat him. The doctor was angry, because he didn't want to leave Egypt, but he was forced to do so by the Egyptian King. Therefore he wanted to avenge this, and said to Cambyses that the Egyptian king had a very beautiful daughter. Therefore, Cambyses wanted to marry her. Amasis II was afraid now. In either way he would lose something. If he married his daughter to Cambyses, he would never see her again, and if he didn't send his daughter to Cambyses, he would lose his country to the Persians. So he decided to send another beautiful girl to Persia pretending to be his daughter. Eventually Cambyses found out that it wasn't an Egyptian princess and he got very angry and decided to conquer Egypt.
  • Cyrus the Great had conquered almost all the known world and thus created the largest empire the world had ever seen at that time. When Cambyses was crowned as king, only Egpyt remained unconquered in that area. Subsequently, Cambyses had to conquerer this ancient civilization. One day, a Greek general, Phanes of Halicarnassus, defected to the Persians from Egyptian service. He said to Cambyses that he knew a path into Egypt and would help the Persians to conquer Egypt. Amasis II hoped to stop the coming Persian invasion by allying with the Greeks, but it didn't happen and a large number of Greek ships from Cyprus and Samos joined the Persian army. Cambyses, allied with the arab chieftains, made the world's first pipeline with camel-skin, so the Persian army was well-supplied with water when crossing the desert towards Egypt.
The two armies eventually met at Pelusium. The Persians outnumbered the Egyptians, and the Egyptian king Amasis II was succeeded by his inexperienced son Psamtik III. The Persians were very clever and they had painted their shields with a large image of Bestat, an Egyptian deity. Therefore, the Egyptians were unwilling to attack the Persians. Consequently they suffered a crushing defeat and routed. According to Ctesias, The Egyptians lost 50.000 men, while the Persians had only lost 7.000 men.

(Cambyses II Fighting the Egyptians, Encarta)

The Egyptians fled into the fortress of Pelusium. The Persians again demonstrated their cleverness by collecting as many cats as possible, because cats were considered as holy animals by the Egyptians, and they symbolized peace and security. So Cambyses ordered the Persians to make the cats run towards the Egyptians, as if they were making an assault, while the Persians stormed the fortress. Consequently, the Persians easily defeated the Egyptians. 

After the siege of Memphis in Northern Egypt, the Persian conquest of Egypt was complete. Now Cambyses wanted to conquer Ethiopia, and the soldiers were unable to do so, because of the lack of food. And the conquest of Carthage (modern Tunisia) was impossible, because the Phoenicians that made up the imperial Persian fleet wouldn't attack their kindred.

Now Cambyses only wanted to consolidate the empire. In 522 BC, three years after the battle of Pelusium, a rebellion started in Persia, and Cambyses left Egypt to attack the leader of the rebellion, who claimed to be his brother Bardia. 

In may 522, Cambyses died on his way to quell the rebellion. Now the Persian Empire was up for grabs. At that time, Darius, one of the soldiers in the Persian army was on his way to Persia...

The Persian Empire 522 BC

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