Ancient Egyptian history: The maritime policies of the Saite kings. The Babylonians secure the Levant.
Main menu Main Index and Search Page History List of Dynasties Cultural chronology Mythology Aspects of Life in Ancient Egypt Glossary of ancient Egyptian terms Herodotus on the pharaohs Ancient Egyptian texts Apologia and Bibliography

For best results save the whole page (pictures included) onto your hard disk and open the page with Word 97 or higher. The text can then be edited and unwanted parts such as navigational aids deleted.

Maritime Policies of the Saite Kings

[Map of the south eastern mediterranean]     Necho concentrated much of his war effort on rebuilding the Egyptian maritime strength. He built fleets of triremes with rams of the type invented by the armorers of Samos and Corinth in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and manned them with Greeks.
Necos betook himself to raging wars, and triremes were built by him, some for the Northern Sea and others in the Arabian gulf for the Erythraian Sea; and of these the sheds are still to be seen. These ships he used when he needed them.
Herodotus, Histories 2.159 [2], translated by Macaulay
Project Gutenberg
    H.T.Wallinga disputes the fact that triremes were built by Necho and thinks that Herodotus mistranslated the Egyptian word for "ship". He moreover maintains that the trireme was not developed in Greece but in Egypt during the late 6th century BCE and was a result (or perhaps a cause) of the Egyptian Persian arms race.
    The canal connecting the Pelusian arm of the Nile with the Red Sea via Wadi Tumilat and the Bitter Lakes was of vital strategic importance, both militarily and economically, above all for the protection of the Egyptian southern flank and the trade routes to Arabia and East Africa. If it was abandoned, as Herodotus claims, Edomites, Arabs and Babylonians who plied those waters could do so unhindered.
    Necho also sent a party of Phoenicians on a journey around Africa. The purpose of the undertaking can only be surmised and nothing is known whether it had any effect on the trade with the dark continent.
    Psammetic II, while mostly occupied with his Nubian campaign, didn't neglect Egyptian interests in the Middle East and showed his presence on the Phoenician coast, though the circumstances are unknown.
    In the Mediterranean the aim of the Egyptian policy was to take possession of the Phoenician coast or at least exert some control over it. Egypt attempted to create coalitions with Tyre on the coast and Jerusalem in Judah in order to oppose the expansion of the Babylonian empire. In 586 Nebukadrezzar II reached Ribla, on the way to destroy an alliance between Tyre, Jerusalem and Egypt.
21   For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.
22   At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount and to build a fort.
Ezekiel, 21 [1]
    Zedekiah, king of Jerusalem, call on Wahibre for help. But the pharaoh preferred to send assistance to the threatened Tyre and took Sidon by assault. He dispersed the Phoenician and Cypriot fleets the Babylonians relied upon and returned to Egypt carrying much booty. Hieroglyphic inscriptions found in many Phoenician cities (Arad, Byblos, Tyre, Sidon) testify to a period of intense Egyptian involvement in the region.
He (Apries - Wahibre) reigned five-and-twenty years, during which he led an army against Sidon and fought a sea- fight with the king of Tyre.
Herodotus Histories 2.161 [2], translated by Macaulay
Project Gutenberg
    The Egyptian land forces fared worse. Nebukadrezzar had laid siege to Jerusalem, and
5   Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard the tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 37 [1]
20   And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month in the seventh day of the month, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
21   Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and. lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed, to put a roller to bind it, to make it strong to hold the sword.
Ezekiel 30 [1]
    The Egyptians retreated from Judah and Jerusalem fell, its walls were razed and the leading nobility led into exile. In the period of unrest that followed the conquest by Nebukadrezzar, Gedaliah was murdered and many Jews fled to Egypt, taking with them the prophet Jeremiah. There they were allotted land near Memphis and Daphnae.
    The Egyptian policy of keeping control of the eastern Mediterranean and the Phoenician coastal towns foundered completely when the Tyrian king Merbaal, successor of Itobaal III, after a thirteen year siege by the Babylonians, signed a treaty of alliance in 573 and put his fleet at the disposition of Nebukadrezzar.


[1] The bible is somewhat problematical as a historical reference. But unlike the myths of the second millennium bible stories referring to the 7th century are supported by independent evidence.
[2] Herodotus wrote his account a century and a half after the events.

-21st to 31st Dynasties
-History Index Page
-Dynasty List
-Main Index and Search Page

Feedback: Please report broken links, mistakes - factual or otherwise, etc. to me. Thanks.

© January 2001