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Amasis II
Ahmose II
A fragmentary statue head of Amasis II
A fragmentary statue head of Amasis II
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign 570–526 BC,  26th dynasty
Predecessor Apries
Successor Psamtik III
Died 526 BC

Amasis II (also Ahmose II) was a pharaoh (570 BC - 526 BC) 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.

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. 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 had now to rely entirely on his mercenaries, was defeated. Apries was either taken prisoner in the ensuing conflict at Memphis before being eventually strangled and buried in his ancestral tomb at Sais, or fled to the Babylonians and was killed mounting an invasion of his native homeland in 567 BC with the aid of a Babylonian army. 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 BC). Amasis then married Chedebnitjerbone II, one of the daughters of his predecessor Apries, in order to better legitimise his kingship.

Some information is known about the family origins of Amasis: his mother was a certain Tashereniset as a bust statue of this lady, which is today located in the British Museum, shows.[3] A stone block from Mehallet el-Kubra also establishes that his maternal grandmother—Tashereniset's mother—was a certain Tjenmutetj.[4]

Contents

Egypt's wealth

Although Amasis thus 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). 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 (see Battus) and made alliances with Polycrates of Samos and Croesus of Lydia.

Under Amasis or Ahmose II, 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 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[5]

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. In his fourth year (c.567 BC), Amasis was able to defeat a Babylonian invasion of Egypt Nebuchadrezzar II; henceforth, the Babylonians experienced sufficient difficulties controlling their empire that they were forced to abandon future attacks against Amasis.[6] However, Amasis was later faced with a more formidable enemy with the rise of Persia under Cyrus who ascended to the throne in 559 BC; his final years were preoccupied by the threat of the impending Persian onslaught against Egypt.[7] With great strategic skill, Cyrus had destroyed Lydia in 546 BC and finally defeated the Babylonians in 538 BC which left Amasis with no major Near Eastern allies to counter Persia's increasing military might.[7] 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 BC shortly before the Persians attacked.[7] The final assault instead fell upon his son Psamtik III, whom the Persians defeated in 525 BC after a reign of only six months.[8]

Tomb and desecration

Amasis II died in 526 BC. He was buried at the royal necropolis of Sais, and while his tomb was never 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.[9]

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.[10]

Gallery of images

References

  1. ^ Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p195. 2006. ISBN 0-500-28628-0
  2. ^ Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p195. 2006. ISBN 0-500-28628-0
  3. ^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, 2004. pp.245 & 247
  4. ^ Dodson & Hilton, pp.245 & 247
  5. ^ Herodotus, (II, 177, 1)
  6. ^ Alan B. Lloyd, 'The Late Period' in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (ed. Ian Shaw), Oxford Univ. Press 2002 paperback, pp.381-82
  7. ^ a b c Ibid., p.382
  8. ^ The New Encyclopaedia Brittanica: Micropaedia, Vol.9 15th edition, 2003. p.756
  9. ^ Amasis
  10. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, Book III, Chapter 16
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AMASIS II. was the last great ruler of Egypt before the Persian conquest, 570-526 B.C. Most of our information about him is derived from Herodotus (ii. 161 et seq.) and can only be imperfectly controlled by monumental evidence. According to the Greek historian he was of mean origin. A revolt of the native soldiers gave him his opportunity. These troops, returning home from a disastrous expedition to Cyrene, suspected that they had been betrayed in order that Apries, the reigning king, might rule more absolutely by means of his mercenaries, and their friends in Egypt fully sympathized with them. Amasis, sent to meet them and quell the revolt, was proclaimed king by the rebels, and Apries, who had now to rely entirely on his mercenaries, was defeated and taken prisoner in the ensuing conflict at Momemphis; the usurper treated the captive prince with great lenity, but was eventually persuaded to give him up to the people, by whom he was strangled and buried in his ancestral tomb at Sais. An inscription confirms the fact of the struggle between the native and the foreign soldiery, and proves that Apries was killed and honourably buried in the 3rd year of Amasis. Although Amasis thus 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 the highest pitch of prosperity; he adorned the temples of Lower Egypt especially with splendid monolithic shrines and other monuments (his activity here is proved by remains still existing). To the Greeks Amasis assigned the commercial colony of Naucratis on the Canopic branch of the Nile, and when the temple of Delphi was burnt he contributed I 000 talents to the rebuilding. He also married a Greek princess named Ladice, the daughter of Battus, king of Cyrene, and he made alliances with Polycrates of Samos and Croesus of Lydia. 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. At the beginning of his long reign, before the death of Apries, he appears to have sustained an attack by Nebuchadrezzar (568 B.C.). Cyrus left Egypt unmolested; but the last years of Amasis were disturbed by the threatened invasion of Cambyses and by the rupture of the alliance with Polycrates of Samos. The blow fell upon his son Psammetichus III., whom the Persian deprived of his kingdom after a reign of only six months.

See NAUCRATIS; also W. M. Flinders Petrie, History, vol. iii.; Breasted, History and Historical Documents, vol. iv. p. 509; Maspero, Les Empires. (F. LL. G.)


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