Egypt and the rising Persian empire
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Egypt and the rising Persian empire

map of the middle east     During much of the later period of Babylonian hegemony, peaceful relations reigned between the various nations of the Middle East, interrupted by - in Babylonian eyes at least - minor policing actions against Judah and Tyre and an abortive Delta invasion by Nebukadrezzar II (568 BCE), following which Egypt stopped intervening militarily in Palestine.
    The relationship between Chaldeans and Medes and later their successors, the Persians, was one of cooperation and they respected each others spheres of interest for most of the time.

    In 560 Ahmose II conquered Cyprus, strategically placed opposite the coast held by his potential enemies.

He was the first of men who conquered Cyprus and subdued it so that it paid him tribute.
Herodotus, Histories 2,182, translated by Macaulay
Gutenberg Project
    After Cyrus had deposed the king of the Medes, Astyagus, in 555 and had thus become lord of Cilicia, tensions arose between him and Nabonidus (Nabu-naihc, r.556-539), the last Babylonian king because of the latter's conquest of Harran. Croesus, king of Lydia, intended to exploit the situation, relying on his alliances with Sparta, Babylon and Egypt. Following an indecisive battle against Cyrus at Pteria
he intended to call on the Egyptians to honour their treaty. Before making an alliance with the Lakedaemonians he had allied himself with Amasis, King of Egypt. He was also sending for the Babylonians, with whose king Labynetus he had signed a treaty of assistance.
Herodotus, Histories 1.77
    Ships arrived from Egypt, Cyprus and Phoenicia bringing reinforcements. But the Persians took Sardis (546) and annexed Lydia and the Ionian cities on the coast. This robbed Egypt of a major ally.

    With the fall of Sardis, the philhellenic Ahmose formed an alliance with Polykrates , tyrant of Samos, and according to H.T.Wallinga funded his navy [1].

He concluded a treaty with Amasis king of Egypt, and sent him gifts and received gifts from him. ... The power of Polykrates grew and he became famous in Ionia and all other Greek lands. All his military ventures succeeded. He had one hundred ships with fifty oars and a thousand archers.
Herodotus, Histories 3.39

Amasis also dedicated offerings in Hellas, first at Kyrene an image of Athene covered over with gold and a figure of himself made like by painting; then in the temple of Athene at Lindos two images of stone and a corslet of linen worthy to be seen; and also at Samos two wooden figures of himself dedicated to Hera, which were standing even to my own time in the great temple, behind the doors. Now at Samos he dedicated offerings because of the guest-friendship between himself and Polykrates the son of Aiakes; at Lindos for no guest-friendship but because the temple of Athene at Lindos is said to have been founded by the daughters of Danaos, who had touched land there at the time when they were fleeing from the sons of Aigyptos. These offerings were dedicated by Amasis.
Herodotus, Histories 2,182, translated by Macaulay
Gutenberg Project
    But when Cambyses prepared his forces in 526, Polykrates considered opposition futile and decided to join the Persians, offering them the use of his fleet.

    Nabonidus of Babylon had concentrated his efforts on rebuilding temples and left the running of the State to his son, Bel-shar-usur (the biblical Belshazzar). The Persians under Cyrus took Nineveh by a coup de main (539) thus gaining control of most of the Near East.

    Cambyses prepared his forces, entered into an alliance with the Arabs and after the death of Ahmose crossed the Sinai desert and reached Pelusium
There he (Phanes, a Greek general who had deserted) found Cambyses prepared to set out against Egypt, but in doubt as to his march, how he should cross the waterless desert; so Phanes showed him what was Amasis' condition and how he should march; as to this, he advised Cambyses to send and ask the king of the Arabians for a safe passage.
Herodotus, Histories 3,4

The Arabian ... devised the following: Camel-skins were filled with water and loaded on his camels. They were driven into the waterless desert and waited for Cambyses' army.
Psammenitus, the son of Amasis, waited for the attack of Cambyses encamped by the Pelusian mouth of the Nile.
The fighting was fierce, and many men of both sides were killed; but at last the Egyptians were routed.
Herodotus, Histories 3,9ff
    Psammetic III retreated to Memphis, Cambyses took it after a siege and captured the Pharaoh.
... Psammenitus plotted evil and got his punishment. He was caught inciting the Egyptians to revolt, and when this became known to Cambyses, Psammenitus drank blood of a bull and died. Such was his end.
Herodotus, Histories 3,15
    Egypt was reduced to being a Persian satrapy.


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-[1] H. T. Wallinga, Ships and Sea-Power before the Great Persian War: The Ancestry of the Ancient Trireme.

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