Egypt: History - Dynasty XXX (Thirtieth Dynasty)

Thirtieth Dynasty

After the four months' reign of his son Nepherites II, the kingship passed into the hands of a general from Sebennytus. Manetho's THIRTIETH DYNASTY consists of three members, the names of the first and third being presented to him in so similar a form (Nectanebes and Nectanebos) that they are best discarded in favor of the etymologically quite distinct Nekhtnebef and Nekhtharehbe. Of these two, though their relative order has often been disputed, it is now certain that Nekhtnebef was the earlier. The multitude of his monuments might leave the impression of unbroken peace and prosperity. The oldest parts of Philae were built by him. At Edfu he was remembered as the donor of much land to the temple of Horus. A great stela at Ashmunen (Hermopolis Magna) records extensive additions to the temples of the goddess Nehmet'away, of the primeval Ogdoad, and of the twice-great Thoth himself; and a finely inscribed inscription from Naucratis commemorates the imposition of a ten (10) percent duty on imports to that town and on good manufactured in it. The proceeds to be devoted to the enrichment of the goddess Neith of Sais. But a very different story emerges from the Greek historians of whom Diodorus is once again the foremost representative. Artaxerxes II (404-359 BC) was still reigning in Persia and as determined as ever that Egypt should be humbled and reduced to her former dependent condition. However, his preparations for the invasion proceeded only very slowly. First he insisted on Athens recalling from Egypt the able Chabrias, who had thereafter to content himself with a military post at home. It was not until 373 BC that the great Persian host, led by the satrap Pharnabazus and the commander of his Greek mercenaries Iphicrates, set forth from Acre. On reaching Pelusium it was realized that an attack from that quarter was hopeless, but that on or other of the less well-fortified Nile mouths held out better prospects. And so it turned out, the barrier of the Mendesian branch was breached, and many Egyptians were killed or captured. Against the will of Pharnabazus Iphicrates sought to push on to Memphis. While the antagonism between the two commanders delayed the Persian effort, Nekhtnebef's forces gathered strength and encircled the besieged invaders on all sides. The inundation of the Nile now intervened as a welcome ally. Such parts of the Delta as were not a lake became a swamp and the Persians were forced to retreat. For the second time Egypt escaped reoccupation.

The next years were marked by rebellions of the satraps everywhere, in the course of which Nekhtnebef found protection for himself by subsidies of gold to the various combatants. When he died in 363 BC he was succeeded by his son Teos, or Tachos as some Greek writers call him, Nehktnebef's father had borne the same name. The time seemed ripe for a direct attack on the Persians. The aged Spartan king Agesilaus arrived in Egypt with 1000 hoplites, where the Athenian Chabrias joined him. In the attack on Phoenicia which ensued (360 BC) Teos insisted on commanding his own Egyptians. Agesilaus, enraged a the mirth excited by his odd appearance and demeanor, lent his support to the young Nekhtharehbe whom a large party of followers put up as a rival to Teos. The entire expedition was a fiasco. Nekhtharehbe returned to Egypt as Pharaoh, and Teos fled to Persia, where he lived and died in exile.

Looked at from the Egyptian angle, the reign of Nekhtharehbe (360-343 BC) might seem an almost exact replica of that of Nekhtnebef. Both kings ruled for eighteen years and the building activity of both was immense. But meanwhile world-shaking events were preparing. The accession of Artaxerxes III Ochus (358 BC) put new life into the tottering Persian Empire. Order was restored among the satraps of Asia Minor, but the energy required for the effort precluded the thought of any attack upon Egypt. By 350 BC, however, Ochus was ready. No details are known, but this was a complete failure, with the result that revolts against the Persian domination broke out everywhere. Phoenicia and Cyprus were in the forefront of the rebels. Long before this Greek soldiers and Greek commanders were the greatest asset upon which either side could count. But Egypt was the most important objective on account of the gold and the corn which she alone could supply in abundance, and a reconquest was an absolute necessity. First, however, Phoenicia and Palestine had to be dealt with. Sidon was the center of the revolt and had invited retaliation by a violently destructive blow against the occupying Persians. In their dread of what was to come of the Sidonians appealed to Egypt, but Nekhtharehbe contented himself with sending a limited contingent of Greek mercenaries under Mentor of Rhodes. Diodorus (xvi. 40-51) tells the story of the next few years in great detail which can only be summarized here. Ochus's preparations were on a vast scale, but even before the arrival of every substantial forces from the Greek cities of the mainland and of Asia Minor he was able in inflict horrible punishment upon Sidon, whose treacherous king Tennes conspired with Mentor to deliver up the city, whereupon the inhabitants burned their ships and many of them sought voluntary death in the flames of their own homes.

In the autumn of 343 BC the Persian army set forth upon its momentous campaign against Egypt, the Great King himself at its head. Pelusium was the first Egyptian town to be attacked and put up a stiff resistance. Ochus had, however, planned simultaneous entry into the Delta at three different places, and it was near one of the western Nile mouths that penetration was achieved. The inundation season was at an end so that the disaster of thirty years earlier was no longer to be feared. Misfortune attended the defenders from the start. Sallying forth from the neighboring fortress the Greek mercenaries under Cleinias of Cos were heavily defeated and he himself was killed. The terror-stricken Nekhtharehbe, instead of standing his ground, retreated to Memphis, which he put in readiness for a siege. But meanwhile Pelusium had been taken, the garrison surrendering under the promise that those who did so would be well treated. A similar assurance was given elsewhere and soon Egyptians and Greeks were vying with one another which of them should be the earliest to avail themselves of this clemency. The third corps under Mentor and Ochus's close friend and associate Bagoas had also met with success. The capture of Bubastis by the combined forces was an important event, after which the other Delta towns capitulated with all haste. Egypt was now at Ochus's mercy, and Nekhtharehbe, realizing the situation to be hopeless, gathered together so much of his belongings as he could and departed upstream 'to Ethiopia', after which nothing more is heard of him.

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Last Updated: June 20th, 2011