Horus Triumphant
- an Alternate Antiquity timeline -​

Over the years I've had several ideas for some timelines but never really had the time to do anything with it. Thanks to the coronavirus that has changed. As you might have guessed this timeline's main subject is Egypt, which in this timeline manages to avoid the second Persian occupation. The (rather lengthy) first update is entirely OTL, apart from some references to future events, and is more or less an overview of Egyptian history from 525 BC to 346 BC. The actual alternate history starts with update 2. My final note is that English is not my native language and I was never particularly good at it, so if you see any grammatical errors please let me know.
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1. Setting the stage (OTL)
Horus Triumphant

1. Setting the stage (OTL)
Cambyses and the Persian conquest of Egypt

The great king of all foreign countries Cambyses came to Egypt, taking the foreigners of every foreign country with him. When he had taken possession of the entire country, they settled themselves down therein, and he was made great sovereign of Egypt and great king of all foreign countries. His Majesty appointed me his chief physician and caused me to stay with him in my quality of companion and director of the palace, and ordered me to compose his titulary, his name as king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Mesuti-Ra

- Inscription on the naophorus of Udjahoressnet [1]

When Cambyses II succeeded his father Cyrus the Great as Great King his empire already spread from the Aegean to the Hindu Kush. No man before him, aside from his father, had ruled such a vast empire inhabited by so many different people. He was king of the Persians and the Medes, he ruled over Elam, Lydia, Babylon and Assyria, was master over the Phoenician city-states and the Ionian Greeks. Being a Persian he was the descendant of nomads, relative newcomers on the stage of the Near East especially compared to the ancient civilizations of the alluvial plains of the Euphrates and Tigris, in many places his power was thus build upon traditions of which the antiquity he could barely imagine. Rather than being intimidated by it he embraced it, and for every one of his subject peoples he played the role that they expected of him. His ascension to the throne of the empire had gone remarkably smoot, and now it was time for him to leave his mark on the map. As the son of the greatest conqueror the world had yet seen he must have known that equalling Cyrus’ conquests would be impossible, but luckily for Cambyses there was still one avenue of expansion left through which he could prove his worth as a conqueror. In 525 BC, after four years on the throne, he felt secure enough to start his conquest. He crossed the Euphrates with his army and marched down to Phoenicia where he commissioned his subject kings to construct him a fleet, the first in Persian history. He used this fleet first to seize Cyprus and thereafter had it sail south, supporting the forces that marched down the coastline. Lydia, Babylon, the Medes and the Phoenicians had all already been subjugated by the armies of the Great King. The goal of his campaign was the complete conquest of the last great power still standing of the old world order. Even compared to the likes of Babylon it was old, it was famed for its vast monuments and temples, strange gods with animal heads and its phenomenal wealth. The goal of Cambyses’ campaign was nothing less than the subjugation of Egypt.

At the time of Cambyses’ invasion Egypt was ruled over by the pharaoh Psamtik III who had only come to the throne the year before, after the death of his father, the long-reigning Ahmose II. Ahmose II was a military man of common birth and had come to power through a coup, expelling the pharaoh Wahibre. He married one of Wahibre’s daughters and thus became part of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty of Egypt. It was this dynasty that under Psamtik I had restored Egyptian self-rule, expelling the Kushites from Upper Egypt and breaking free from Assyrian vassalage. For a short time it seemed like Egyptian rule over the Levant would be restored but they were expelled by the Babylonians in 605 BC after the battle of Carchemish. However Babylonian attempts at conquering Egypt itself, including one to put Wahibre back on the throne, were a dismal failure. Ahmose II turned out to be a capable ruler, who increased Egypt’s involvement with the Greeks, who since the earliest days of the dynasty had served as mercenaries in the armies of the pharaoh. Some settled in the Delta as traders, exchanging Greek olive oil, wine and silver for Egyptian grain. Ahmose made donations to various shrines in Greece, most notably he paid for the rebuilding of the Oracle of Delphi after it burned down. In order to increase trade with the various Greek city-states he granted them a town in Egypt that functioned as a free trade zone, Naucratis. It was located not far away from the dynastic capital of Sau (Saïs) in the Western Delta which allowed Ahmose to oversee and tax the ingoing and outgoing trade. He allied himself with the tyrant Polycrates of Samos and married a daughter of the King of Cyrene, and brought Cyprus under Egyptian rule. Yet when Cyrus began his conquests he did nothing, the Levant passed from Babylon to Persia without Egyptian intervention, perhaps Ahmose judged it better not to provoke the great conqueror. So when the great pharaoh passed away in 526 BC he was not there to command the armies of Egypt when it was most needed, instead it was his inexperienced son and successor Psamtik who was in charge. He turned out not to be up to the task.

The Egyptian military at the time of Cambyses’ invasion had two important components: overseas mercenaries and local soldiers called machimoi by the Greeks. The origins of the machimoi lie in the last days of Egypt’s New Kingdom, when an increasingly embattled empire had a dire need for extra manpower. Libyans, sometimes as prisoner but often of their own volition, settled in the Delta where they were granted a piece of land in exchange for their hereditary service in the Egyptian army. Egyptianized Libyans settled in various towns in the Delta and established dynasties of their own. They gained influence because many of them attained high positions in the army and even married into the ruling Twentieth Dynasty. When Pharaoh Ramesses XI died he was succeeded by Nesbanebdjedet, a general (possibly of Libyan descent [2]) who married a daughter of Ramesses IX and founded the Twenty-First Dynasty. His brother-in-law, another general, Herihor became High Priest of Amun and wrote his name in a royal cartouche, thus proclaiming his kingship. From the beginning of the Twenty-First Dynasty the country was practically divided, a pharaoh ruling from Djanet (Tanis) in the Delta and the High Priest from Waset [3] in Upper Egypt. The Twenty-Second Dynasty, established by the Libyan chief Shoshenq, that followed saw after a brief unification of the country even further decentralization. The Libyans now that they were in charge of Egypt had relatively little reason to integrate into Egyptian culture, and even over the centuries managed to cling on to a large part of their native culture. Many of their kings had unabashedly un-Egyptian Libyan names like Nimlot, Shoshenq or Iuput. Their ruler’s gravesites, while often filled with treasure, were haphazardly build, a far cry from the impressive tombs of the earlier rulers of the Nile. The longer Libyan rule lasted the more fragmented the country became, and when in 729 the Kushite pharaoh Piye marched down the Nile to inaugurate the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty he was opposed by a motley crew of Libyan potentates he referred to denigratingly as ‘the feather-wearing chiefs of Lower Egypt’[4]. They were forced to bow in the dust before the Kushite ruler, who claimed the kingship of Upper and Lower Egypt but allowed the dynasts to return to their fiefdoms to rule as his governors. Once Piye had returned to Nubia they reverted to claiming their royal titles like nothing had happened, and it was one of them, Nekau of Sau, Great Chief of the West, who founded the Twenty-Sixth dynasty that in the end would, following a period of Assyrian vassalage, expel the Nubians. Despite the subsequent primacy of the Saïte dynasty and their employment of Aegean mercenaries the Libyan-descended dynasts of the Delta were still the primary source of Egypt’s military strength.

Cambyses and his army, supported by the fleet, managed to cross the Sinai without incident. Before the campaign had started a Greek mercenary commander named Phanes of Halicarnassus defected to the Persians, revealing to Cambyses the details of the military and political situation in Egypt. Polycrates and his fleet switched sides, Pelusium, the fortress that guards the Eastern Delta, fell. The various dynasts of the Delta were probably not too enthusiastic in their defence of the ruling Saïte dynasty who increasingly relied on mercenaries from the Aegean. Ahmose II himself had come to power after the native military revolted against the philhellenic tendencies of Wahibre, but after coming to power he only doubled down and increasingly strengthened ties with the Greeks. This lack of support among the native aristocracy would prove to be fatal to Psamtik’s cause. Somewhere in the north-eastern Delta he confronted the invaders with a largely Greek and Carian force and was defeated. Instead of retreating into the Western Delta and relying on his native military Psamtik retreated south, together with his mercenaries towards the country’s ancient capital Memphis (Men-nefer to the Egyptians, meaning ‘Enduring and Beautiful’). There he entrenched himself in the city’s great citadel, known as the White Wall. Cambyses followed and put the city under siege. For some time Psamtik held out, perhaps hoping that the Delta dynasts would come to the city’s relief. No help arrived, and Psamtik had no choice than to submit. Cambyses took control of the city and thus completed his conquest of Egypt. After 150 years of independence Egypt was once again under foreign rule.

Cambyses, far from the deranged maniac that later Egyptian sources portray him as, understood that for the stability of his empire securing Egypt and making sure it was a loyal province was of the utmost importance. Egypt as part of the empire could provide great wealth to the treasury, access to its lucrative trade routes and manpower for the army and navy. An Egypt outside the empire would be a perpetual threat on the western frontier, it would be a repeat of the situation between Egypt and Babylon, with warfare ravaging the Levant and Syria. Egypt thus had to be incorporated into the empire, letting a vassal sit upon the throne (like the Assyrians did) would be too unreliable. It was thus in the summer of 525 BC that in Memphis a new King of Upper and Lower Egypt was crowned with the double crown of the pharaohs. Cambyses assumed the throne name Mesutira (meaning “Offspring of Ra”). In addition to his other titles he now also became a Son of Ra, a remarkable achievement for a man whose not too distant ancestors were nomadic herdsmen in the Zagros.

He was instructed in Egyptian culture by Udjahorresnet, an Egyptian admiral who had defected to the Persians and later served as the personal physician of the king. He advised Cambyses in cultural and religious matters (he claimed to have chosen Cambyses’ throne name), ensuring that towards the native Egyptians he would appear a genuine pharaoh. Cambyses showed that he had paid attention to the lessons of Udjahorresnet, he performed as expected from a pharaoh. He oversaw the internment of the sacred Apis bull, an earthly manifestation of the god Ptah, he visited the oracle of Wadjet at Per-Wadjet in the Delta and the temple of Neith at Sau. Having thus secured his hold on Egypt an army was send south, to Waset in Upper Egypt and further beyond, to campaign in Nubia. This too can be seen as an attempt at acting as an traditional pharaoh, enforcing the will of the pharaoh in Nubia, as many of his predecessors on the Throne of Horus had done. In order to keep watch on the southern border Cambyses also established a garrison on the isle of Elephantine (or Abu, as it was known to the Egyptians). Expansion was also attempted towards the west, into Libya, but was less successful, with a Persian force send by Cambyses supposedly disappearing in the desert on their way to the Oracle of Amun at Siwa. Aryandes, the satrap (governor) of Egypt also attempted to subjugate Libya but without success, leaving the western border of Egypt exposed to Libyan raids. The various dynasts of the Delta, many of whom were of Libyan descent, and their machimoi forces were kept in place, many of them located in the Western Delta and thus in a good position to repel any Libyan raids. Partially this was done out of necessity, there were simply not enough Persians to garrison their enormous empire. The eventual execution of Psamtik III and the disinterment and destruction of the mummy of Ahmose II was also done to signal to the Delta dynasts that Cambyses’ rule would not be like that of the Saïte kings, with whom they so often quarrelled. Other members of the dynasty were also removed from their position, such as Ankhnesneferibre (a daughter of Psamtik II) who held the important position of God’s Wife of Amun at the complex of Ipetsut at Waset [5]. The position of God’s Wife of Amun was abolished entirely perhaps because if could function as a focal point for a rebellion in Upper Egypt. Using these methods Cambyses hoped to placate the Delta aristocracy and for a while it seemed to work.

The rule of Darius the Great

The perfect god, who acts with his own hand, sovereign, Ruler of the Two Crowns, who inspires fear in the hearts of humankind . . . whose power conquered both of the Two Lands, who acts according to the command of the god. The son of Ra, born of Atum, living image of Ra, whom he placed on his own throne to organize that which he had begun on earth. . . . Lord of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Darius— may he live forever!

- Inscription from a statue of Darius found at Iunu (Heliopolis) [6]

In 522 Cambyses left Egypt, never to return, leaving Aryandes as satrap to rule in his place in Memphis. He died en route to Persia, apparently to an accidentally self-inflicted sword wound. He was succeeded by his brother Bardiya. His reign did not last long, falling victim to a conspiracy of several high ranking noblemen led by a distant relative of the king named Darius, who served during the Egyptian campaign as personal spear-bearer to the king. Darius claimed that it was not Bardiya that he and his companions had overthrown but rather an imposter named Gaumata, the real Bardiya had supposedly been murdered by a jealous Cambyses years ago. Whatever the case a period of upheaval followed the ascension of Darius to the throne, many areas rose in revolt under native monarchs. Babylon rose up twice, the Medes had to be subdued again and even ancient Elam tried to reassert its independence. Most shocking was probably that Persia itself rose up against Darius, rather ironically under a man who claimed to be Bardiya. Darius however showed that he was a capable and ruthless monarch and managed to crush the rebellions, and commemorated this with an inscription with his version of the events at Mount Behistun, the first example of written Persian language. Having subdued the core of his empire he then set out to bring order to the outer provinces, his first stop being Egypt.

Despite the leniency that Cambyses had shown them the dynasts of Lower Egypt revolted without hesitation when the news of his death arrived. A certain Padibastet was proclaimed pharaoh, with 522 BC being mentioned as his first regnal year. But the Persian garrison under the command of Aryandes at Memphis managed to hold out, and when Darius came to Egypt in 518 with a large army all resistance seemed to melt away. Being a first-hand witness to Cambyses’ attempt at ‘Egyptianizing’ himself Darius knew what he had to do. One of his first act was to show his piety to the gods of Egypt, shortly before his arrival once again an Apis bull had died and the land was in mourning. Darius promised a reward of 100 talents to the person that could find the next Apis bull (there were strict restrictions to what the sacred bull must look like). Impressed by his piety the Egyptian people rallied to their new pharaoh.

In many ways Darius’ reign would be even more ‘pharaonic’ than Cambyses’, he started several monumental building projects throughout the land of the Nile, ever the hallmark of pharaonic rule. He added to the complex of the Serapeum at Saqqara and had a temple constructed in Hibis at the Kharga Oasis. It is in this temple that Darius is depicted as a traditional pharaoh, making offerings to Amun-Ra, the king of the gods. Temple-building was not the only construction that took place at Kharga, from their own parched homeland the Persians brought the knowledge of the building of qanats to Egypt, allowing them to draw water from underlying aquifers. This was especially useful in the various western oases such as Kharga and allowed the land to be used for agriculture. Kharga was the southernmost of the western oases and was a focal point of the caravan trade, but had been sparsely habited since the end of the Old Kingdom when the climate had become too arid for agriculture. Thanks to Persian ingenuity that had changed. The caravans themselves too had changed, for the Persians had from Bactria on the eastern fringes of their Empire introduced the camel to Egypt, which can travel great distances through the desert without needing water. Special attention was also given to the so-called ‘Houses of Life’ (Per-Ankh, an archive/scriptorium) that were attached to many temples, in one notable example Udjahorresnet (who lived at the court in Susa) was allowed to return to Sau to restore the House of Life that was attached to the Temple of Neith. Darius was also credited with codifying the laws of Egypt.

In order to bind Egypt closer to the rest of the Achaemenid Empire it was important to improve communications and logistics between the banks of the Nile and the imperial Mesopotamian-Iranian heartland. The natural isolation of Egypt had to be overcome, both overland and oversea. Overland the route through the northern Sinai was improved, waystations were built between Pelusium and Gaza and settled by Phoenicians and Philistines. The route was brought under the supervision of the ‘Overseer of Roads’ who also supervised the Royal Road from Susa to the Aegean coast. Overseas contact between Egypt and the Persian Gulf was possible via the various dry riverbeds that connected the Nile Valley with the Red Sea. The most important being the Wadi Hammamat just north of Waset that connected both to important mining areas in the Eastern Desert and the ports of the Red Sea. But that was only in Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt lacked that easy access. A hundred years before pharaoh Nekau II attempted to dig a canal through the Wadi Tumilat that connected the Nile near Per-Bast (Bubastis) with the Red Sea. Whether it was completed or not it was clearly not functional during the time of Darius, who either completed or restored the canal. When the canal was completed in either 497 or 496 BC the Great King himself visited Egypt and watched a flotilla of ships, laden with tribute, pass through the canal and then set sail towards the Persian Gulf. Darius had several stelae set up near to canal to commemorate its completion and to remind the world that it was he who completed it. The work must have been monumental, easily the equal of the construction of any temple or pyramid.

Darius’ reign was a prosperous one for Egypt. The country was one of the wealthiest provinces of his empire, but the Great King knew that to overburden it with taxes would only erode support for his regime. As a consequence the amount of tribute that flowed from Egypt into the imperial treasury was high, but not excessive. The native Egyptians were not excluded from the administration of their country, and while the satrap was always Persian (first Aryandes, who somewhere during the 490’s was succeeded by a man named Pherendates) during the reign of Darius a certain Ptahhotep was head of the treasury in Memphis, a very important post because Memphis was the centre of Persian government in Egypt. Outside of their native country Egyptians too were employed by the Persians, Egyptian laborers and skilled artisans were used to build the vast palace complex at the ceremonial capital of Persepolis, showing Egyptian architectural iconography and influence in the Iranian heartland of the Achaemenid Empire. Darius’ Horus name, part of the pharaonic titulary, was “Menekhib” i.e. “the one of splendid mind”, a well-deserved title if one considers what he had achieved.

The Ionian Revolt and the Greek Wars

In winter, as you lie on a soft couch by the fire,
Full of good food, munching on nuts and drinking sweet wine,
Then you must ask questions such as these:
"Where do you come from? Tell me, what is your age?
How old were you when the Mede came?'

- Xenophanes, fragment 22

The successful conquest and incorporation of Egypt into the empire opened up new possibilities for expansion. With Egypt pacified the Levant was secure, and this allowed the Persians to look further west than any Near Eastern state had done before. In 513 Darius launched a campaign to enlarge the empire in Europe, Thrace was overrun and the Great King then went north, across the Danube where he spend several months fruitlessly chasing after the nomadic Scythians. After returning to Thrace he sent his armies west, were they received the subjugation of the Kingdom of Macedon, the borders of the Empire now spreading from the foothills of Mount Olympus to the banks of the river Indus.

After the Scythian debacle it seems Darius decided to no longer mount any large scale expeditions in the west, instead he would rely on local resources to expand his realm. One of those attempted expansions was aimed at the isle of Naxos in 499 BC, it was a joint venture between Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus (the foremost of the Ionian cities), and Artaphernes, brother of the Great King and satrap of Lydia. The expedition however was marred by infighting between Aristagoras and the Persian commander Megabates, and it ended with a defeat for the Persians and Ionians. Once back in Miletus Aristagoras knew that he was in dire straits, he now had certainly lost the favour of the Persian court and could lose his position and maybe even his life. Thus in order to save himself he incited a revolt in his own city that soon spread to the rest of Ionia, where Persian rule and the tyrants appointed by them were not popular. Aristagoras knew that the Ionians on their own were no match for the might of the Persian army, so he personally travelled west to seek aid from the city-states on the Greek mainland. Already having witnessed the strength of Persia when it conquered Thrace and vassalized Macedon most were unwilling to risk conflict with the Great King. First Aristagoras visited Sparta, but king Cleomenes outright refused to aid the Ionians. Thereafter he went to Athens, which recently had become a democracy, Aristagoras had more success convincing the Athenian assembly and they vowed their support to the cause of Ionian liberty. They were also joined by the city of Eretria on Euboea. As a consequence 20 triremes from Athens and 5 from Eretria set sail towards the Anatolian coast in order to bolster the Ionian war effort.

In 498 BC, probably deciding that the best defence is a good offense, the Ionians and their allies decided to strike at the heart of Persian power in Western Anatolia: Sardis, seat of the satrap Artaphernes and former capital of the Lydian Kingdom. Travelling through some unguarded mountain passes the Greeks managed to surprise the Persian garrison and captured and burned the lower city. The Persians in the city’s citadel managed to regroup and then routed the attackers, harrying them all the way to the coast. The Athenians and the Eretrians, dismayed that it was not the easy victory that Aristagoras had promised them, decided to return to Greece and abandoned the Ionians. However the Persians did not press their advantage and the revolt spread even further to Cyprus and Caria and northwards towards the Hellespont, where Byzantium was captured by the rebels. Darius’ reaction was predictable: a large army was gathered and dispatched to Anatolia and the Phoenicians were once again ordered to gather a fleet. Aristagoras was murdered while trying to gather mercenaries and resources in Thrace, and with his death the revolt lost its leader.

Slowly but surely the Persians grinded down all resistance against them and in 496 BC they decided to cut out the heart of rebellion by focussing their attention on Miletus. There the Ionian fleet had gathered, hoping for a decisive clash with the imperial navy. Phoenician squadrons supplemented by Cilician and Egyptian ships had first transported Persian troops to Cyprus to crush the revolt there, and now were on their way to the Ionian coast. With the Persian army camped beneath its walls and with the decisive clash at sea imminent it seemed like the revolt had entered a critical stage, it was now or never. But it would turn out that, as so often in Greek history, that internal squabbles were about to undo the alliance before the battle even began. Perhaps agents of the Great King had distributed gold and promises of pardon to the various Ionian commanders. At the same time Miletus was surrounded and the population was subject to hunger and disease, not much time was left, many must have been desperate. One morning in the spring of 494 BC the Ionian fleet sailed out and formed up before the isle of Lade in the gulf of Miletus, the imperial fleet confronted them and the Ionian line promptly collapsed, the ships from Samos defected and the squadron from Lesbos followed them in confusion, dooming the Ionian cause. Miletus, now isolated, was stormed and mercilessly sacked, the population deported to Mesopotamia. What once was the greatest city of the Aegean was now a smouldering ruin, a chilling reminder of the wrath of the Great King and a warning to all would-be rebels.

Most worrying it must have been for Athens and Eretria, who now knew what was in store for them. Darius first send west his general Mardonius, who re-subjugated Thrace and Macedon (they broke off during the Ionian revolt) but his campaign was ended prematurely when his fleet was sunk during a storm. For Athens and Eretria it was only a temporary respite. In 490 BC a new expedition was send to subjugate the two cities, this time entirely by sea. It was led by a Median named Datis, who was also instrumental in the crushing of the Ionian revolt. Island-hopping across the Aegean first the Cyclades were brought into the empire, Naxos was finally captured and troops were landed on Euboea. Eretria was besieged and sacked, the population deported to Elam. Now the Persians crossed over to Attica, landing at the bay of Marathon. There the Persians were defeated, set upon by Athenian hoplites. So ended the Greek campaign of Darius, and while Marathon was of course a defeat for the Persians it should not be forgotten that all the other goals of the expedition were reached.

Yet the Athenians could not be left unpunished, and Darius ordered a much larger expeditionary force to be gathered, like when he went to war against the Scythians. Perhaps because of these increasing demands for tribute Egypt rose in revolt in 487 BC, and from this time there are some references to a pharaoh Psamtik IV, possibly a delta nobleman who led the revolt. Once again the Persians hold out in Memphis and other garrison towns, and once again all resistance seemed to collapse at the moment a large army from Persia arrived. Egypt was again secure, but Darius would not get the chance to avenge himself on the Athenians, for in the autumn of 486 BC the Great King had passed away. It was under his son and successor, Xerxes, that Egypt was brought back into the fold and that the war against the Greeks would be restarted. Xerxes was not Darius’ eldest son, but was his first son after his enthronement. Also important was his lineage for Xerxes was not only the son but also the grandson of a king, his mother being Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great.

Xerxes did not appear to share Cambyses’ and Darius’ concern with Egypt. No throne name or other pharaonic tittle is known of him, no building projects were commissioned or gifts given to shrines or oracles. It seems that practically for the first time in history Egypt was just another province, with the ruling overlord not even bothering pretending to be a pharaoh. The locals were regarded with increasing suspicion, garrisons were increased and no longer could native Egyptians serve in higher administrative positions. Xerxes appointed his own brother, Achaemenes, as satrap of Egypt perhaps trusting only his own family to keep watch on what still was a very wealthy province. The new Great King was also preoccupied with problems in the Mesopotamian core of his empire, were Babylon revolted twice but was finally defeated in 481 BC. With both Babylon and Egypt pacified he could now focus on completing what his father had started: the subjugation of Greece.

In the spring of 480 Xerxes set out from Sardis and crossed the Hellespont by the way of a pontoon bridge, another example of Persian ingenuity. The stories of Xerxes’ campaign in Greece are well known, first the stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae and then the burning of Athens and the battle of Salamis, where the Achaemenid fleet was destroyed. Xerxes then left Greece with most of the army, leaving Mardonius behind with a substantial force, which was destroyed at Plataea by the Greek alliance in 479. Around the same time as Plataea the Athenian navy defeated the Persians at Cape Mycale in Ionia which once again incited a revolt among the Ionians. Athens founded the Delian League, named after its headquarters on the isle of Delos, with as goal to avenge the wrongs they had suffered at the hands of the Great King. Further campaigns along the Aegean liberated most of the Greek cities during the 470’s , after which the front shifted to the eastern Mediterranean where in 469 the Persian fleet once again suffered a large defeat at Eurymedon. To any observer it must have seemed that Athens was on the ascendant and Persia was falling back.

Egypt too must have felt the impact of the war, troops and ships from the valley of the Nile were part of the invasion force of Xerxes. Commerce with the Aegean came to a halt. Once again the country must have been rife with unrest, only a spark was needed to set it ablaze. That spark came in 464 when Xerxes was murdered and a period of confusion followed during which several claimants vied for the throne. The satrap Achaemenes left the country to join in on the struggle which provided the perfect opportunity for an independence-minded delta dynast to rise up and start a revolt. It was led by Irethoreru (or Inaros to the Greeks) a prince from the Western Delta, possibly related to the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, who quickly won support all over Egypt. Contact was made with the Athenians and support was promised. Like during earlier revolts the Persians held their garrisons, waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Meanwhile the succession struggle had been won by Artaxerxes, a younger son of Xerxes who through intrigue managed to seize the throne. In 459 Achaemenes returned to Memphis with a force of considerable size, perhaps hoping that once again the revolting dynasts would lose their nerve and surrender, thus ending the rebellion without any large battles. But it was not to be, the rebellion continued, maybe the promise of Athenian support kept Irethoreru afloat. Achaemenes set out with an army towards the Western Delta, hoping to crush the revolt before the Athenians would arrive. At a place somewhere in the Western Delta the Greeks called Papremis the Persians encountered the main force of the machimoi army and were defeated, with Achaemenes himself falling in battle. Not much later the Athenian fleet arrived and defeated a Persian fleet guarding the delta, after which the Athenians and Irethoreru joined forces and marched on Memphis. The Persians instead of offering battle retreated inside the citadel of the White Walls and were besieged by the Egyptians and Athenians. For Irethoreru and his supporters it must have seemed like Egypt’s independence was about to be restored.

But the Great King Artaxerxes would not let go off his most affluent province that easily. Artabazus, a veteran commander who served during the invasion of Greece, was ordered to gather an expeditionary force. He spend a year in Phoenicia and Cilicia, supervising the construction of a fleet and training his forces, before setting out in 457. Diplomacy and intrigue too were utilised, attempts were made to bribe the Athenian fleet and to incite Sparta to attack Athens. While this tactic did not work immediately, war did break out between Sparta and Athens a year later. Meanwhile in Memphis the Persians managed to hold out inside the White Walls for 2 years, repelling whatever the Athenians and Egyptians could throw at them. When news arrived that an Persian army was advancing through the Eastern Delta the Athenians and the rebels gave up and retreated back into the Delta. A large part of the Athenian forces decided to occupy a district called Prosopitis, located on an island in the Western Delta surrounded by canals and branches of the Nile. Here they held out for 18 months against the Persians but they were defeated in 454 when the Persians drained one of the canals, thus immobilizing the Athenian fleet and allowing them to destroy the remnants of the Athenian army. Not long afterwards an Athenian fleet arrived, perhaps to relieve the forces on Prosopitis and unaware of the situation, the fleet was ambushed by the Persians and destroyed. The defeat of his allies was fatal for Irethoreru’s cause, and he was captured and crucified not long after. Perhaps he was betrayed by some of his fellow dynasts who saw which way the wind was blowing.

While order was restored in much of Egypt it was clear that not much had changed. An ambitious Delta dynast could with Athenian support gather enough sources and manpower to evict the Persians from the country, that much had the revolt of Irethoreru shown. Around 451 the threat of Athenian intervention was still very real, a dynast named Amenirdisu (Amyrtaios to the Greeks), who was also part of Irethoreru’s uprising, apparently held sway over a part of the Delta (a Greek source names him as ‘king of the marshes’) and had requested Athenian aid. Athens had signed a truce with Sparta and could thus focus all its attention on the Eastern Mediterranean. A expedition under the command of the general Cimon was send to Cyprus and sixty triremes were dispatched to aid Amenirdisu. Luck however had ran out for the would-be king and Cimon died on Cyprus, and the sixty triremes that were meant for Egypt returned to Athens together with the expeditionary force. A long and arduous campaign in the difficult terrain of the Delta to subjugate all the dynasts was simply not possible for the Persians, so they had to be tolerated, and it is quite possible that Amenirdisu submitted to Persian rule without any severe consequences. To prevent future rebellion it was important to sever the link between Athens and Egypt, this could be done by subduing Athens and dismantling its alliance or by making peace with Athens and thus preventing any further Athenian expeditions to Egypt. Even without a restless Egypt it would be almost impossible to launch another expedition to Greece, the Persians had since lost access to the Aegean and had continuously been bested at sea by the Athenians. Thus the only option left was peace. In 449 the peace of Callias, named after the chief Athenian negotiator, was signed. No Persian force or official was to come within a 3 days’ journey of the Aegean coast of Anatolia and the Athenians would no longer interfere in the lands belonging to the Great King. 50 years after the Ionian revolt peace had finally been achieved.

The end of Achaemenid rule in Egypt

I spent seven years as controller for this god, administering his endowment without fault being
found, while the ruler of foreign lands was protector in Egypt, and nothing was in its former
place, since fighting had started inside Egypt, the South being in turmoil, the North in revolt,
all temples without their servants; the priests fled, not knowing what was happening.

- Part of the Tomb Inscription of Padiusir, priest of Thoth at Khmun (Hermopolis)[7]

Without any hope of foreign support the Egyptians seemed to have realised that any attempt at rebellion was doomed. For 40 years after the peace of Callias Egypt was a peaceful province, the dynasts in the Delta kept to themselves, not even the death of Artaxerxes in 425 caused any rebellions. Perhaps Egypt was governable after all. But once again events in Greece jeopardized Persian rule over Egypt. Since 431 Sparta and Athens were at war, with short periods of peace in between. In 415, while not successful on land, Athens still had supremacy on sea and decided to mount an expedition to Sicily to eliminate Syracuse, an important Spartan ally. It turned out to be a disaster and ended with the complete destruction of the Athenian army and navy on Sicily. This did not go by unnoticed by the Great King Darius II, successor of Artaxerxes, and ordered his satraps in Anatolia to start collecting tribute in Ionia, thus breaching the Peace of Callias. He also entered into an alliance with Sparta and started funding the building of a Spartan fleet. Once again Athens and Persia were at war.

It is not surprising then that it was at this moment that reports of unrest in the Delta once again show up. The satrap Arsames’ personal estates in the Delta were attacked and shipments of Egyptian grain once again arrived in Athens. However help from Athens did not arrive, and so the dynasts were confined to their fiefs in the Delta. From 412 onward the Persians, after subjugating Ionia, instead of sending a fleet of their own decided to subsidize the building of a Spartan fleet. Several years the Athenians and Spartans contended over the Aegean, with neither side managing to force the other out of the war. After six years of naval warfare in the Aegean it was in the summer of 406 that the Athenians appeared to have scored a decisive victory at the battle of Arginusae, and to many it must have seemed like that despite the Persian aid Sparta was about to lose the war. It was also in 406 that the situation in Egypt escalated, perhaps in anticipation of a peace treaty between Athens and Sparta after which Athens could focus all its attention on the Eastern Mediterranean. Amenirdisu [8], a dynast from Sau and probably the grandson of the Amenirdisu who participated in the revolt of Irethoreru, was the leader of the revolt. The news, a year later in 405, that the Spartans had defeated the Athenians at Aegospotami and that Athens had surrendered, must have been unwelcome to the revolting dynasts. Their cause must have seemed doomed, the revolt would end the same way as the revolts of 522 and 489, with the dynasts yielding in the face of overwhelming Persian force. The Persians were still holding the eastern routes to the Sinai, Upper Egypt and most importantly Memphis, with its impenetrable citadel and large garrison which had proven to be the bedrock of Achaemenid rule in Egypt.

Persia was thus in a strong position, it had once again conquered Ionia and Athens, since Marathon a menace to Achaemenid interests, had been emasculated by Sparta. The revolt in Egypt was worrying, but as long as Memphis could hold out it was certainly not lost. In 404 Darius II passed away, leaving the throne to his son Artaxerxes II in a seemingly smooth succession. Artaxerxes II had ordered the satrap of Syria Abrocomas to gather an army to put down the rebellion in Egypt. In 401 preparations were complete, but just before the army could set out for the valley of the Nile Abrocomas received news that he was to hurry east with his army, across the Euphrates to support his king. A new threat had arisen, this time from inside the Achaemenid royal family itself. Cyrus, younger brother to king Artaxerxes II, was appointed commander-in-chief of Anatolia by his father Darius II in 407 but had been demoted by his elder brother to just being the overseer of Ionia. The ambitious Cyrus, probably fearing that his demotion was just the precursor to his eventual execution, started plotting against his brother and gathered a sizeable force of Greek mercenaries around him. The satrap of Lydia, Tissaphernes, found out about Cyrus’ plot and informed Artaxerxes. Realizing that it was now or never for him Cyrus set out towards the east from Anatolia, hoping to confront his brother before he could gather any sizeable force. Abrocomas was unable to prevent Cyrus’ crossing the Euphrates, and Cyrus marched unopposed into Babylonia. Just north of Babylon he confronted the forces of his brother at Cunaxa, where his army was defeated by Artaxerxes. Cyrus himself fell in battle, thus securing the throne for Artaxerxes. Abrocomas’ army was still intact and could have been send to Egypt, but Artaxerxes decided against it, perhaps because of the support that several high ranking Persians had shown to Cyrus he decided to keep the troops on hand in case another coup was attempted.

And thus the revolt of Amenirdisu was saved by something he had relatively little influence over, though he might have had contact with Cyrus through the would-be king’s close confidant and admiral, an Egyptian named Tamos who after Cyrus’ death defected and joined Amenirdisu. In 405 at the begin of his revolt Amenirdisu was just another Delta warlord who attempted to eject the Persians from Egypt, but by 401 he was recognised as the rightful King of Upper and Lower Egypt from Abu to Pelusium. Details over what exactly happened are scarce but at some point it seems he managed to break out of the Delta and managed to gain the allegiance of Upper Egypt, probably using his machimoi forces that were assembled to repel Abrocomas. When Tamos joined him he also gained a fleet which he could have used to isolate Memphis from the rest of the country. Afterwards probably only the places with large Persian garrisons like Memphis and Abu remained loyal to Artaxerxes, and they managed to hold out for quite some time until the news arrived that no help would come. It is at Abu that the last mention of a regnal year of Artaxerxes II is mentioned (401), after which they switch over to the regnal years of Amenirdisu. There are no records of battles, and it is unknown why the great Citadel of Memphis did fall this time but it is quite possible that it was a negotiated surrender. The high-ranking Persian officials and commanders were probably expelled or executed, but the Achaemenid Empire was a vast multi-ethnic state, and there were many other peoples who were brought to Egypt to serve the Great King and would be willing to serve a pharaoh if they could keep their position. At Abu, for example, there was a garrison of Jewish soldiers who switched sides and remained on their post but now paid by the Pharaoh of Egypt instead of the Achaemenid King. There must have been many cases like this, and it is quite possible that Amenirdisu just took over the Achaemenid satrapal government, minus the Persian personnel.

After 125 years of Persian rule Egypt had finally after many revolts managed to throw off its oppressors. Amenirdisu had succeeded there where others had failed, even if only because of luck. And yet history does not remember him like Ahmose I [9] or Psamtik I, great liberator-kings who expelled foreign tyrants ,restored independence and inaugurated periods of Egyptian greatness. If anything Amenirdisu is a rather obscure figure, the only pharaoh of the Twenty-Eighth Dynasty. His reign would not be long lasting. In October 399 he was defeated in battle and subsequently executed, bringing an end to the shortest of Egyptian dynasties. It was not an Persian expeditionary force that overthrew him but a fellow dynast from the Delta, Nayfaurud [10] of Djedet (Mendes). The reason for his overthrow of Amenirdisu is not known, but strife between the dynasts of the Delta is the most likely reason. Not long afterwards Nayfaurud was crowned in Memphis, becoming the first pharaoh of the Twenty-Ninth Dynasty. The dynastic capital then shifted from Sau to Djedet, an important Delta city and home to the cult of the ram-headed god Banebdjedet (‘the Ram-Lord of Djedet’). He attempted to reign as a traditional pharaoh, starting several building projects in Djedet itself and at Ipetsut. However the greatest success of his six year long reign was that, mainly through diplomacy, he managed to forestall Persian attempts at reconquest.

The Twenty-Ninth Dynasty and conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean

Take, first, the case of Egypt: since its revolt from the King, what progress has he made against its inhabitants? Did he not dispatch to this war the most renowned of the Persians, Abrocomas and Tithraustes and Pharnabazus, and did not they, after remaining there three years and suffering more disasters than they inflicted, finally withdraw in such disgrace that the rebels are no longer content with their freedom, but are already trying to extend their dominion over the neighbouring peoples as well?

- Isocrates’ Panegyric 4.140-141 [11]

The Persians would never give up their claim to Egypt, and reconquering the lost satrapy would become an, in the end, fatal obsession for the Achaemenid dynasty. The situation had more or less reversed to where it was during the Neo-Babylonian rule over the Near East, with the Levant controlled by an empire centred on Mesopotamia and an independent Egypt that would interfere and steer up trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean. The reconquest of Egypt was not only important because it would recover a lost satrapy but also to once again secure the western satrapies. In Southern Palestine a line of forts was established from Gaza to the Dead Sea, a fortified residency was established at Lachish to oversee the new border with Egypt. In 398 orders arrived in Phoenicia to construct a fleet, possibly to support an invasion of Egypt but it could also serve to repel an Egyptian assault on Phoenicia. Egypt, after all, also supplied a large part of the Achaemenid navy and with sizeable docks at Memphis it could also be expanded. All of these preparations thus had a double purpose: to protect the Levantine satrapies and to provide a staging ground for the eventual reconquest of Egypt. But events in the Aegean would, once again, prove disruptive to Persian ambitions.

After defeating Athens in 404 Sparta had become the de-facto hegemon of the Hellenic world and thus their relationship with Persia changed. Having practically handed back Ionia to the Great King must have been an embarrassment to the Spartans, and the relationship was further strained by Spartan support for Cyrus the Younger’s bid for the throne. Thus in the aftermath of Cyrus’ failed revolt in 400 the Spartans send an expeditionary force to Anatolia in order to ‘liberate’ the Greeks of Asia, using their fleet that they had constructed with Persian aid five years prior. Basing themselves in Ephesus the Spartans managed to gain control of many of the cities that were once part of the Delian League. It seems that Artaxerxes II was not too concerned, and it was only after a personal visit in 398 by Pharnabazus, the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, that he undertook action to evict the Laconians from the shores of Asia. Tissaphernes, the loyal satrap of Lydia, was appointed as commander-in-chief and was given authorization to levy troops all over Anatolia. Probably fearing that if the Spartans could secure Western Anatolia they would act like the Athenians did, by colluding with the Egyptians to end the Persian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean altogether he would have to take measures to prevent that. Already in 398 the Spartans had seized Rhodes, which with its large harbour provided an excellent base of operations for actions along the southern Anatolian coast and the Eastern Mediterranean as a whole. In order to counter this potential threat Artaxerxes ordered another fleet to be build, second to the one that was built to defend the Levant against the Egyptians. This time the bulk of the fleet would come from Cyprus, where the local kings were ordered to supply 100 triremes to the Persian navy. Surprisingly this fleet was not to be commanded by a Persian, Phoenician or Cypriot but by the Athenian Conon who lived in exile at the court of Evagoras, the king of Cypriot Salamis. Conon was an experienced naval commander who lived in self-imposed exile after being defeated by the Spartans at Aegospotami, the defeat that cost Athens its empire and independence. Perhaps he hoped to avenge himself on the Spartans and wipe away the dishonour of the defeat at Aegospotami.

If Artaxerxes suspected collusion between Egypt and Sparta then he was right. In 397 the Spartan king Agesilaus crossed the Aegean with a force 8000 strong to reinforce the Spartan position in Asia. Around the same time envoys were send to king Nayfaurud in Djedet, and an alliance between Sparta and Egypt was created. The Egyptians were to support the Spartan war effort in Asia with supplies and ships. Nayfaurud was only happy to help those who opposed Persia but did not send any warships to the Aegean, for he must have known of the Persian fleet that was under construction in Phoenicia and Cyprus and did not want to be caught off guard if it were to head to Egypt. Supplies however were send to Agesilaus, mostly grain from Lower Egypt. In the meantime Conon had started his counterattack, with only 40 ships he sailed into the harbour of Caunus on the Carian coast opposite Rhodes. The Spartan commander Pharax immediately saw the danger he was in (the Spartans would have known, because during the Peloponnesian War they used Caunus as their base to capture Rhodes) and sailed out with 120 ships, the full Spartan fleet. He trapped Conon in Caunus, but Conon’s fleet was not as risk because Conon had it moved upstream on a local river to a lake where it would be safe. Several months into this blockade, in late 397, Pharnabazus arrived with some forces and relieved the siege, probably by making it impossible for Pharax to forage on land for food and water. In the meantime more Cypriot ships arrived and occupied several strategic harbours on the Anatolian coast opposite Rhodes. Pharax, who did not want to risk his fleet and thus leave open the Aegean to Persian harassment decided to retreat from Rhodes. In the meantime the Rhodians rose up against the retreating Spartans and welcomed Conon and his fleet, who subsequently ousted the Spartan-backed oligarchy and installed a democratic regime on the island. Not long afterwards several Egyptian grain ships moored in the harbour of Rhodes, probably not aware of the recent events, and were promptly seized. It must have been a heavy blow for the cooperation between Egypt and Sparta, and with Rhodes (a critical midway point between mainland Greece and Egypt) in Persian hands further joint action would be hard to set up.

Success at sea however did not automatically translate to success on land for the Persians. In 396 and 395 Agesilaus managed to outwit Tissaphernes and launched several large raids into Lydia and Hellespontine Phrygia, both wealthy satrapies. This culminated in a successful strike on Sardis in 395, after which Artaxerxes must have lost his patience and had Tissaphernes executed for his incompetence. He was replaced by the chiliarch Tithraustes, second only to the Great King in importance. Rather surprisingly one of the first actions that Tithraustes took when he took over the command of Anatolia was signing a truce with Agesilaus, who accepted and retreated from Tithraustes’ Lydian satrapy and invaded Pharnabazus’ satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia. Tithraustes in the meantime used the funds put at his disposal by the Great King to pay Conon and his navy, which had not received pay in a long time and was at the brink of mutiny. He also send an envoy, Timocrates the Rhodian, to mainland Greece with fifty talents of silver in order to incite the rivals of Sparta (Athens, Corinth, Argos and Thebes) to take action against them. Subsequently an anti-Spartan coalition was formed on the mainland. However Agesilaus was still on the loose in Anatolia and had since the truce only strengthened his position and had, using the considerable resources of the various Greek city-states of Asia, started the construction of a fleet. If Sparta remained the dominant power of the Aegean it would be very hard for the Achaemenids to support any anti-Spartan coalition in mainland, and especially Athens (who depended on grain shipments from the Black Sea) would be vulnerable. If the Great King wanted to win the war he would have to destroy Sparta’s navy and force Agesilaus to retreat from Asia. Late 395 Conon visited the Great King in Babylon and persuaded him to grant him the resources to attain this goal, with Pharnabazus as his second-in-command.

Conon was a proponent of a much more aggressive strategy against the Spartans, and when in command of a combined Cypriot-Cilician-Phoenician fleet in 394 he sailed west, where at Cnidus he encountered the Spartan fleet under Peisander. The battle was a catastrophe for the Spartans, who lost a large part of their fleet, many ships were sunk and 50 of them were captured by Conon. In the meantime war had broken out in Greece between Sparta and a coalition of Athens, Argos, Corinth and Thebes. The Spartans had suffered a defeat at Haliartus in Boeotia and recalled Agesilaus from Asia to defend the homeland. Late in the summer of 394 the Persian fleet sailed into the Aegean, for the first time since 480, and proceeded northwards along its western coast, expelling Spartan garrisons in the area. With Agesilaus gone and the Spartan navy destroyed Conon and Pharnabazus thus received the subjugation of the Ionian Greeks. In the following year he would advance further into the Aegean and even occupy Cythera in the Laconian Gulf. Conon, himself being an Athenian, managed to persuade Pharnabazus to support his mother city, and with Persian aid the Long Walls between Athens and Piraeus, dismantled on the orders of Sparta in the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, were rebuilt. This allowed the Athenians themselves to rebuild their fleet, which they did and used to seize several islands in the Aegean.

Meanwhile in Egypt in 392 pharaoh Nayfaurud had passed away and was interred at a tomb at Djedet. He was succeeded by Hakor [12], probably a relative and maybe even his son. Hakor reigned for approximately a year before being overthrown by Pasherienmut [13]. His reign is ephemeral and practically nothing is known of him, but after a year on the throne he too was overthrown. Surprisingly it was Hakor who overthrew him, and in one of his inscriptions he proclaimed that ‘he repeated his appearance (as king)’. Once restored to the throne however Hakor proved to be an effective pharaoh. He expanded Egypt’s network of allies, a treaty was signed with the city of Barca in Cyrenaica, safeguarding the Western Delta from potential attacks from Cyrene and preventing them from allying with Persia. Around this time it is also reported that the chief of Siwa, site of an important oracle of Amun and a gathering place for Libyan raiders, recognised the pharaoh of Egypt as his sovereign. A treaty was also signed with a resurgent Athens and with Evagoras of Cypriot Salamis, who since 391 was in revolt against the Persians. In 390/389 – 387/386 Hakor managed to repel a Persian attempt at reconquest. Not much is known about this attack, and it is mostly attested to in a speech of Isocrates, from which can be deducted that the attack was a dismal failure for the Persians. Perhaps they were stopped at Pelusium or somewhere else in the Delta, but it did make clear that Egypt could defend itself even without much outside support. Having thus secured the west and repelled the Persians Hakor could now consider something no Egyptian ruler had done in a long time, going on the offensive in the Near East.

In the Aegean Pharnabazus was recalled in 393 and replaced by Tiribazus, who received envoys from the various warring Greek cities and held a conference in which ending the war was discussed. The conference failed and Tiribazus, who was fearful of the recent Athenian resurgence and less anti-Spartan than his predecessor, decided to back the Spartans financially. For this Artaxerxes replaced him (most likely out of distrust for the Spartans) with a certain Struthas, who once again started to fund the anti-Laconian alliance. This lengthened the war in Greece for the alliance now had no reason to continue peace talks with Sparta. Struthas also managed to defeat another Spartan expedition to Ionia, allegedly slaying its commander Thibron in personal combat. The war continued to drag on, Sparta was unable to overcome the alliance that opposed it as long as it was supported by Persia. Much of the fighting was done in the vicinity of Corinth, which commanded the isthmus between the Peloponnese and middle Greece, and thus the war was known as the Corinthian War. In 387 however much had changed, with the situation in Egypt and Cyprus requiring the full attention of the Achaemenid Empire. He reappointed the laconophile Tiribazus as satrap of Lydia who once again started supporting Sparta. With Tiribazus’ aid the Spartans build a fleet which they used to threaten the Athenian grain supply routes from the Black Sea. This finally brought Athens to the negotiating table, along with its allies Corinth, Thebes and Argos, who were unwilling to continue fighting without Athens. The peace came to be known as the King’s Peace (after Artaxerxes) or the Peace of Antalcidas (after the Spartan negotiator), and its terms were a humiliation to the Greeks:

King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia should belong to him, as well as Clazomenae and Cyprus among the islands, and that the other Greek cities, both small and great, should be left autonomous, except Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros; and these should belong, as of old, to the Athenians. But whichever of the two parties does not accept this peace, upon them I will make war, in company with those who desire this arrangement, both by land and by sea, with ships and with money. [14]

Once again the Asian Greeks were under Persian rule and while Sparta was left as the enforcer of the King’s Peace in Greece, it had gained nothing from almost two decades of war and had lost its fleet and prestige. Athens, who as an exemption to the promised autonomy for all Greeks managed to keep several Aegean Islands had to stop its support of Evagoras’ revolt (who they supported since 387). Artaxerxes had imposed a common peace upon Greece, and threatened anyone who would upset this peace, and the guaranteed autonomy of all Greek cities, with war. Whenever there was a war between the Greeks in the following 50 years most would end with a common peace, an ultimatum from the Great King to cease fighting. For all intents and purposes the Greek states were now dependencies of the Achaemenid Empire, who dictated their foreign policy and guaranteed their autonomy. Scarcely 100 years after Marathon Darius’ great-great-grandson had achieved what he could not, the practical subjugation of Greece. The Greeks themselves were, of course, not blind to this and lamented their fate:

One may best comprehend how great is the reversal in our circumstances if he will read side by side the treaties which were made during our leadership and those which have been published recently; for he will find that in those days we were constantly setting limits to the empire of the King, levying tribute on some of his subjects, and barring him from the sea; now, however, it is he who controls the destinies of the Hellenes, who dictates what they must each do, and who all but sets up his viceroys in their cities. For with this one exception, what else is lacking? Was it not he who decided the issue of the war, was it not he who directed the terms of peace, and is it not he who now presides over our affairs? Do we not sail off to him as to a master, when we have complaints against each other? Do we not address him as “The Great King” as though we were the captives of his spear? Do we not in our wars against each other rest our hopes of salvation on him, who would gladly destroy both Athens and Lacedaemon ? [15]

From then onwards Egypt and Evagoras faced Persia alone. Not much is known about the war between the Egyptians and Persians in the late 380’s BC, mostly because nearly all sources are Greek and from this point onwards they mostly focus on events in Greece itself, but there are some things that we do know. We know that Hakor had not remained passive after repelling the Persian invasion in 387, and in conjunction with Evagoras started to attack Persian possessions in the Levant. The Phoenician city of Tyre and most likely also Sidon had joined the anti-Persian coalition, as did the Qedarite Arabs. Warfare must have ravaged the Levant [16] and even some towns in Cilicia joined Hakor in his anti-Persian endeavour. After the King’s Peace Athens was supposed to cease its support for Evagoras, but instead of returning home the Athenian commander Chabrias went to Egypt and joined Hakor. Despite winning in the Aegean it seems that Persia had more or less lost control of the Eastern Mediterranean in 386. Because of the scarcity of sources it is impossible to know the exact reason behind Egyptian success, but it seems likely that local discontent in the Levant played a role. The recent conflicts in the Aegean and now with Egypt required supplies and men that were to be supplied locally. The last large scale build-up of forces was in the 450’s, so the Levantine population was no longer used to extraordinary Imperial demands. When the Egyptians promised them freedom if they rose up against Persia they probably didn’t hesitate for long.

If Artaxerxes wanted to regain his provinces he would have to regain control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and reconquering Cyprus would be an important step in that process. In 382 Tiribazus was appointed commander by Artaxerxes, he build a fleet in Ionia and recruited mercenaries in Greece. He then marched to Cilicia where he defeated local rebels and then crossed over to Cyprus, where he defeated Evagoras at Citium, who afterwards went to Egypt to ask Hakor for aid. Sadly for Evagoras no aid would come, but he did manage to hold out till 376, after which he surrendered but was allowed to keep his throne. The Persians also pressured the Athenians into recalling Chabrias from Egypt. Thus in the period of 382 – 380 the Persians regained their position in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 380 Hakor passed away, and was succeeded by his son Nayfaurud II. He ruled only for four months before being overthrown and killed by a general from Tjebnetjer (Sebennytos) named Nakhtnebef [17], founder of the Thirtieth Dynasty.

The early Thirtieth Dynasty

You are powerful and mighty, through your strength, your arms are strong so as to attack those who strike Egypt, the gods…son of Ra, Nakhtnebef. The gods who are resting on the shrine of Sopdu who strikes the Asiatics on its right and left side, those set up in their place in the temple of Sopdu, Their divine forms are shown likewise, under the Majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Kheperkara, son of Ra, Nakhtnebef, may he live for eternity, beloved of Sopdu, lord of the east, may he live, endure, have all dominion, all health, and all joy, and arise on the throne of Horus, like Ra for eternity.

- Inscription of the naos of Nakhtnebef found at Per-Sopdu [18]

The ascension of Nakhtnebef to the Throne of Horus marked the third change of dynasty in little over twenty years. It seems that because of the dynastic squabbling of the various prominent Delta families Egypt was not any more stable than it had been under Persian rule. In a country where stability and dynastic continuity were seen as a hallmark of their unique civilization this certainly represented a problem. Nakhtnebef himself lambasted his predecessors in an inscription, mentioning the ‘disaster of the king that came before’, and seemed to only to only recognize Nayfaurud I as a legitimate king amongst those of the Twenty-Ninth dynasty, perhaps hinting at a link between the two. The new king, himself a stern man of military background, would certainly not tolerate any dissent, he described himself as a ruler who ‘cuts out the hearts of the treason-hearted’. Harsh discipline and military might were what was necessary if Egypt wanted to keep the Persians out, and the king saw himself ideally as ‘a mighty king who guards Egypt, a copper wall that protects Egypt’. If the people of Egypt were to look at their king they would not want to see a petty Delta dynast, a half-Libyan feather-haired squabbling chieftain but a mighty pharaoh, rightful successor to the great kings of old. In Nakhtnebef they, finally, would not be disappointed.

But martial prowess alone was not sufficient for a King of Upper and Lower Egypt, if Nakhtnebef wanted to portray himself as a traditional pharaoh he would also need to show his piety to the gods. He granted endowments to various temples throughout Egypt, most notably to the temple of Neith at Sau. The temple was granted 1/10th of the yearly custom revenue collected at Naucratis, and through this act Nakhtnebef both placated the gods and made sure that Sau, one of the most important cities in the Delta and former dynastic capital, would remain loyal to him. As living incarnation of Horus he could not ignore his patron, and generous donations were made to the temple of Horus at Djeba (Edfu) [19]. Ipetsut could also, of course, not escape pharaonic attention and Nakhtnebef started the construction of a new pylon, which was only completed late in the reign of his grandson Nakhthorheb. During his reign he also had a new chapel constructed at Iunu and had a temple built to Isis on the isle of Pajurek (Philae) near Swenet (Aswan), which under later rulers would expand into a large temple complex. All these donations and construction works are not only marks of Nakhtnebef’s piety, but also of his keen economic insight. He understood that the temples, who owned large estates, many workshops and even some mines, were hubs of economic activity. By investing in them he strengthened the Egyptian economy and in the long term increased the tax revenues the state would receive, which could be used to invest in the defence of the country. Taxing the temples however was a delicate balancing act, and overtaxing them was a sure way of creating discontent throughout the country, as Nakhtnebef’s successor would find out.

And with the Eastern Mediterranean once again under Persian control the revenue that Nakhtnebef gathered was direly needed to shore up the defences of Egypt. Under Hakor defensive works were already constructed at various places in the Delta, some under supervision of the Athenian Chabrias. Nakhtnebef continued fortifying Egypt and had several forts built to guard the mouths of the Nile. At Pelusium, the focal point of the defences of the Eastern Delta, canals were dug so that the approaches towards the fortress could be inundated and embankments were laid down that blocked access by sea and prevented a fleet from sailing up the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. South from Pelusium a series of fortified towns were established facing the eastern desert, to prevent the Persians from outflanking the great fortress. It was not only fortresses and other military posts that were reinforced, but on orders of the king many temple precincts were now surrounded by high brick walls. These enclosures could thus, in case the outer defences failed, serve as a local bastion to resist the Persians. This was not only done in Lower Egypt, but also further upstream the Nile, where even the great complex at Ipetsut was now surrounded by a massive enclosure wall. Nakhtnebef also followed Hakor, and the earlier pharaohs of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, in hiring many Greek mercenaries, for which he minted the first native Egyptian coins. After the King’s Peace there must have been many mercenaries out of work, and Greek sources mention that pay for service in Egypt was especially high. Several villages founded by Chabrias during his stay in Egypt seem to suggest that many mercenaries chose to settle in Egypt, providing Nakhtnebef with excellent heavy infantry to complement his machimoi forces.

After the final suppression of Evagoras’ revolt on Cyprus the time had come for the Great King Artaxerxes II to focus his attention on Egypt. With Egypt turned into a fortress by Hakor and Nakhtnebef it was of the utmost importance that the coming attack was well planned. Pharnabazus was chosen to lead the campaign, who by this time was a veteran of many wars. Most important was probably that he already had experience fighting in Egypt, being one of the commanders of the invasion in the early 380’s. This also would be the first campaign in Egypt where the Persians would employ Greek troops, and Pharnabazus had a lot of experience dealing with the Greeks, so he was the natural choice to lead the expedition. Probably hoping to counter the widespread use of Greek mercenaries by the Egyptians by deploying their own, hiring as many hoplites as possible seems to have been a priority for the Persians. In 378 the Boeotian War had broken out in Greece, in which Thebes and her Athenian ally faced off against Sparta, in 375 the Great King send an envoy to the Greeks to remind them of the Common Peace, probably wanting them to cease fighting in order to free up mercenaries for the coming Egyptian campaign. Leading the Greek troops was the Athenian general Iphicrates, a veteran of the Corinthian War. Iphicrates was hired in 380, and was put in command of a force of mostly Greek mercenaries tasked with guarding recently reconquered Phoenicia and Philistia against Egyptian incursions. Nakhtnebef however undertook no offensive actions and seems to have invested all his time and energy in building up the defences of Egypt. In March 373 the preparations for the campaign were complete, and Iphicrates and Pharnabazus marched on Egypt.

Like during earlier campaigns the Persian army moved down the coastline supported by the fleet. There are no mentions of the Egyptian fleet attempting to confront or harass the Persian advance, which suggests that Nakhtnebef either had no navy or an insufficient one. In the aftermath of the suppression of the revolt on Cyprus and the recapture of the Levant the Arabs had also defected back to the Great King, so the invasion force was not harassed during their march from Gaza to Pelusium. Pharnabazus and Iphicrates were probably aware of the defensive works that were built in the Delta, as Chabrias (who was responsible for the defences build under Hakor) was an acquaintance of Iphicrates. Nakhtnebef however had significantly expanded those, and it is unknown whether the Persians were aware that their information was somewhat outdated. When the army arrived at Pelusium the approaches towards the fort were inundated. Now that it was impossible to assault Pelusium Pharnabazus must have decided to evade the fortress altogether. A camp was established to the east of Pelusium and from there he had several contingents of Greek mercenaries board transport ships. They sailed past Pelusium and landed at the mouth of the Mendesian branch of the Nile, where they assaulted and occupied an Egyptian stronghold that was built to guard it. Pharnabazus and Iphicrates had seized a base of operations from which they could advance farther into Egypt, but disagreements between the two were about to undo their entire campaign. Iphicrates argued for a quick advance on Memphis with his elite mercenary forces while Pharnabazus was more cautious and wanted to wait till more troops were ferried over from the camp at Pelusium. Pharnabazus probably knew that Memphis, if well defended, would be impossible to seize with such a small force. He probably also didn’t want an almost entirely Greek force with a general of its own in control of Memphis, maybe fearing that they for the right price would offer the city back to Nakhtnebef. While they were bickering Nakhtnebef was strengthening his position, reinforcing his positions on the banks of the Mendesian Nile in order to repel any Achaemenid advance. While Persian reinforcements were arriving by sea the Egyptians had a clear numerical advantage and they used this to launch several attacks on the Persians. It was now August, and with their backs against the Mediterranean and the waters of the Nile rising the situation was increasingly precarious for the Persian forces and they decided to board their ships and retreat.

For Pharnabazus the defeat was especially bitter, having now failed twice to reconquer Egypt, he had returned back to the camp east of Pelusium. Iphicrates, whom Pharnabazus blamed for the defeat, fled back to Athens. Without Iphicrates’ presence it seems that the Greek mercenaries became unmanageable and unreliable, and thus Pharnabazus could not continue the campaign. He retreated back to Akko (Acre) and there he disbanded some parts of the army, lacking the supplies to maintain the large expeditionary force. Large parts however were kept under arms, just in case the Egyptians decided to campaign in the Levant, like they did after the failed invasion of the early 380’s. Artaxerxes II was certainly not about to give up on his ambition of reconquering Egypt, and with a large part of the army still intact it would be possible to launch another expedition in the not too distant future. Pharnabazus, who was well into his 70’s, was replaced by Datames, the Satrap of Cappadocia who had distinguished himself while serving during a war against the Cadusians in north-western Iran. In 371 or 370 Artaxerxes once again send envoys to Greece, to call upon them to settle their wars and establish a common peace in accordance with earlier agreements, hoping to once again free up mercenaries for his new campaign in Egypt. The Greeks did not comply, and war between Sparta and Thebes continued, culminating at the battle of Leuctra where the Spartans were decisively defeated by the Thebans, who subsequently campaigned in the Peloponnese itself, which shifted the balance of power in the Hellenic world. The final blow however to Artaxerxes’ ambition to reclaim Egypt came from Datames himself, who in 370 left behind the expeditionary force and went back to his satrapy of Cappadocia and revolted against the king. Apparently the reason for his revolt was that several courtiers of Artaxerxes II were conspiring against Datames because they were jealous of him, and thus exposed to danger he had no choice but to revolt. During the 360’s the Anatolian satrapies of the Persian Empire would be the stage of the so-called Satrap’s Revolt, wherein several satraps rose up against Artaxerxes II. Combined with continued attempts to broker peace in Greece the revolt would require most of the attention of Artaxerxes II during the last years of his long reign, leaving him unable to send another expedition to Egypt.

For Egypt the outcome of the 373 campaign was a great victory. It had, without any outside help, faced off against the world’s most powerful empire and had won. Aside from the occupation of a single fort in the Delta no damage was done to Egypt. In the eyes of the Egyptian population the victory must have greatly enhanced Nakhtnebef’s legitimacy, and the cult of Nakhtnebef as incarnation of Horus started to gain popularity after the victory. It was in many ways the start of a national revival. Like before the invasion Nakhtnebef generously donated to and repaired several temples. During the latter part of his reign he also supported the various animal cults of Egypt, many of whom had gained prominence during the Persian period. The remaining years of Nakhtnebef’s reign were peaceful and prosperous, Egypt was not under threat and in order to keep the Persians occupied he supported the revolting satraps in Anatolia with supplies and money. Another priority of Nakhtnebef was to secure an stable succession which he did by reviving the ancient practice of co-regency and appointing his son Djedhor [20] as co-ruler in 365. In 361 Nakhtnebef passed away, leaving behind a powerful and confident kingdom for Djedhor to rule.

During the last years of Nakhtnebef’s reign (and the first of Djedhor’s co-regency) there seemed to be a change in strategy, Egypt allied itself with Sparta and with the revolting Anatolian satraps and started preparations for an offensive in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Athenian Chabrias once again came in service of a pharaoh and was put in charge of the fleet, supervising the construction of ships and the training of Egyptian seamen. After his father’s death and his assent as sole king of Egypt Djedhor accelerated his preparations and started building a large army. Agesilaus, by now an octogenarian, came to Egypt with a force of 1000 hoplites. All in all Djedhor hired around 10000 Greek mercenaries to supplement his machimoi forces, which put a great strain on the finances of the country. In dire need of more money Djedhor became increasingly creative, the revenue meant for the Temple of Neith was seized, other temples were pressured to grant ‘loans’ to the king and the newly recruited Egyptian seamen were ordered to surrender their privately held gold and silver. Also introduced was a tax on both selling and buying wheat. All these extra taxes must have made Djedhor deeply unpopular, both with the common people and the priesthood. In 360 Djedhor launched his campaign and, encountering almost no resistance, managed to capture the city of Akko. He send his nephew Nakhthorheb [21] forward into Syria, while he himself remained in Akko making sure that no Persian counterattack could reach Egypt by guarding the Aruna Pass. The precise goals of Djedhor’s campaign are unknown, but the large size of his army seems to suggest that the goal was more than seizing a buffer zone for Egypt. Most likely Djedhor had set out to make Egypt, not Persia, the preeminent power of the Near East, farfetched perhaps, but with Anatolia in revolt and with the martial prowess of both the machimoi and a large Greek contingent (commanded by a very experienced veteran) at his command it seems that Djedhor was confident of victory. Sadly for him it was not to be, dynastic strife within Egypt was about to put an end not only to the campaign but to Djedhor’s kingship as well.

Djedhor had left his brother Tjahapimu in charge back in Egypt who now had to deal with unrest in the country, a consequence of his brother’s oppressive tax policies. Greek sources mention that at this moment a man they name ‘the Mendesian’ rose up in the Delta and incited the peasantry into a revolt. Mendes was the city the Egyptians themselves named Djedet, and was the seat of the Twenty-Ninth Dynasty, making it quite possible that ‘the Mendesian’ was a relative of Hakor and Nayfaurud who sought to overthrow Djedhor and restore his family to the throne. Tjahapimu, who was probably in Memphis, could do little to supress the revolt because practically the entire army was in Asia. If he wanted to save himself, and his dynasty, the only possible course of action was to distance himself from Djedhor and his unpopular taxes. It would probably mean the collapse of the campaign in Asia and return of the Eastern Mediterranean to Persian rule but that was apparently a risk Tjahapimu was willing to take if it meant preserving the dynasty. He contacted his son Nakhthorheb and persuaded him to revolt against Djedhor and claim the kingship for himself. Nakhthorheb was in command of the machimoi forces and probably bribed his forces to join him, with money and possibly with the promise of a quick return to Egypt. Many of the machimoi had their estates in the Delta, exactly the area where the revolt of ‘the Mendesian’ was taking place, and probably feared that their holdings were at risk. Nakhthorheb also tried to persuade Chabrias and Agesilaus to join his side, which Agesilaus eventually did (in return for a generous payment) and Chabrias did not. Djedhor, who by now had lost all support, first fled to Sidon and then to the court of Artaxerxes, perhaps hoping to regain his lost throne with Persian aid. Chabrias had gone back to Athens and Agesilaus and the rest of the army joined with Nakhthorheb at Akko, and subsequently marched back to Egypt. There Nakhthorheb fought out a civil war against ‘the Mendesian’, and for some time Nakhthorheb was besieged by the would-be king in Djanet, but in the end he managed to defeat him with aid of Agesilaus. The old Spartan was richly rewarded for his service, but died during his journey back to Sparta.

The Persians had in the meantime not been idle. By 361 the last of the Satrap’s Revolts had been ended and while surprised by the Egyptian offensive under Djedhor it seems that the Persians were gathering an army under the command of the son and heir of Artaxerxes II, Ochus. Djedhor’s arrival at the Achaemenid court must have made the Persians realize that the Egyptian army was in a state of confusion and the country itself rife with unrest. In late 360 Ochus set out with his army, moving down into Phoenicia and Philistia, expelling whatever garrisons Nakhthorheb had left behind and re-establishing Persian hegemony in the region. Sidon and Tyre, the most important Phoenician cities, changed sides and provided ships to Ochus, allowing him to confront the Egyptian fleet. The Persians started their campaign hoping to capitalize on the chaos within Egypt, and successfully used this to regain the Levantine satrapies, but when Ochus and his army arrived at the borders of Egypt Nakhthorheb had crushed the resistance and had managed to establish himself as the rightful King of Upper and Lower Egypt. With this opportunity for a fast victory gone Ochus retreated from the borders of Egypt, and soon afterwards hastened back to Susa itself. It had become clear that Artaxerxes II was not long for this world, and the presence of the heir was required in order to ensure a stable transition of power. The Great King Artaxerxes II died in 358, at the advanced age of either 86 or 94, and in hindsight his reign can be seen as one of mixed results. On one hand the Achaemenid Empire had, at least for some time, finally managed to gain the upper hand in the Aegean, but on the other hand all the attempts at reconquering Egypt had failed. That combined with internal unrest (the revolt of Cyrus the Younger and the Satrap’s Revolt, for example) made sure that the Empire was weaker after Artaxerxes’ reign than it was before. As expected Artaxerxes II was succeeded by his son Ochus, who upon his assumption of the throne adopted his father’s name, becoming Artaxerxes III, Great King of Persia.

The reign of Nakhthorheb

The good god, the lord of strength, strong of arm, one of useful advice, who provides for Egypt, protector of the nomes, one who drives back the Asiatic countries, who smites the chiefs of foreign lands, who destroys the place of their fighting, the imposing of heart, who seizes the moment without turning back, who pulls his elbow for a bow of precision, one who gives the temples the greatness of his power, chosen of Anhur, beloved by Amun, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Senedjemibra, son of Ra, Nakhthorheb, may he have millions of jubilees!

- Inscription on the first pylon of Ipetsut, completed by Nakhthorheb [22]

Although his reign started inauspiciously, overthrowing his own uncle and thereby sabotaging a military campaign and having to fight for his throne afterwards, it seems that Egypt was quickly pacified after Nakhthorheb’s return from Phoenicia and suppression of ‘the Mendesian’, the most important factor probably being the abolishment of Djedhor’s oppressive taxes and the reinstatement of the temple subsidies. He continued his grandfather’s program of embellishing the great temples of Egypt, eager to win the support of the priesthood for his regime and to establish himself in the eyes of the people as a legitimate pharaoh. He, literally, left his mark on the country, there is scarcely a major temple or cult site that does not feature at least an inscription by Nakhthorheb, who started a building frenzy unseen since the days of Ramesses II. At Hebyt, not far from the dynastic capital at Tjebnetjer in the central Delta he ordered the construction of a large temple to Isis, constructed almost entirely out of granite. Almost unavoidable for a ruling pharaoh, Nakhthorheb also constructed a temple at Ipetsut and later on in his reign he would complete the pylon that his grandfather had started building. Many of his construction projects were focussed on gateways and enclosure walls, showing that the king was concerned with the safety of the sacred places of Egypt, perhaps with the ever-present threat of Persia at the back of his mind.

Construction of temples was not the only feature of Nakhthorheb’s religious policy, he also introduced several new cults to the country. He ordered one of his subordinates, Wennefer from Hebyt who also served as emissary to the Achaemenid court, to re-instate the mortuary cults of Sneferu and Djedefra [23]. Reviving these cults associated Nakhthorheb with some of Egypt’s most renowned monarchs and was probably also done to reinforce his legitimacy. Another cult that grew in prominence during Nakhthorheb’s long reign was the cult of Horus, son of Osiris and god of kingship. Nakhthorheb (whose very name alluded to Horus) was, even more than usual for a pharaoh, associated with the falcon god throughout his rule and this gave rise to the royal-sponsored cult of Nakhthorheb-the-Falcon, thus harnessing the popularity of the falcon god to support the monarchy. Early in his reign he also personally oversaw the internment of an Apis bull and the expansion of the Serapeum at Saqqara, their burial place. He also instated a new bull cult in the southern city of Iunu-Montu (Armant). There the Bakh bull (Buchis) would be revered as the incarnation of the ka (part of the soul) of the war god Montu. After a life of adoration they would be interred at a sacred vault not unlike the one at Saqqara known as the Bucheum. At the dynastic seat of Tjebnetjer he made additions to the temple of Anhur-Shu, a local syncretism of the war god Anhur and the god of air Shu. Anhur especially must have been a god that the pharaoh personally held in high regard, for in many inscriptions he is named ‘Nakhthorheb Setepenanhur’ meaning ‘Nakhthorheb chosen of Anhur’. Religion was thus at the forefront during Nakhthorheb’s first decade on the throne, and while doubtlessly a pious man himself it is hard not to think of his building spree as an attempt at establishing his own legitimacy by emphasizing his devotion to the gods.

The increasing prominence of both Anhur and Montu, both war gods, might point towards Nakhthorheb seeking divine aid on the battlefield and him foreseeing war in the not too distant future. If he did so than he was right, for Egypt was still under threat from its giant neighbour to the east. The new Great King Artaxerxes III was a much more vigorous and active king than his father and he shared his obsession with reclaiming Egypt for the Achaemenid dynasty. A ruthless man, not necessarily a negative character trait for a Persian Great King, Artaxerxes supposedly had over 80 of his relatives killed on a single day to consolidate his position on the throne. One of his first acts as king was to order the satraps of Anatolia to disband their satrapal armies, perhaps fearing another revolt. If preventing a rebellion was Artaxerxes’ intention then the scheme backfired quite badly. The satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, a grandson of Artaxerxes II named Artabazus (who was also the son of Pharnabazus, who was in charge of the attack on Egypt in 370), refused to disband his army. Artaxerxes III then attempted to replace him as satrap, perhaps fearing that because of his close connection to the royal family he could use his position to gather forces and seize the throne, like Cyrus the Younger had done 50 years before. Artabazus resisted this attempt to remove him and rose up, and so only several years after the first revolt Anatolia was once again the stage of a struggle between several satraps and the Great King. He was joined in this revolt by Orontes, satrap of Mysia, and also received aid from Athens and Thebes. Despite several setbacks and defeats in 353 Artaxerxes had managed to suppress the revolt, and Artabazus (together with two Greek mercenary commanders, Mentor and Memnon of Rhodes) fled to the court of Philip II, king of Macedon.

With Artabazus’ flight to Macedon Artaxerxes was now finally able to start preparations for his most important project, the subjugation of the wayward satrapy of Egypt. Already in 355 Athenian sources mention the build up of a fleet in Cilicia and Phoenicia, which would be needed to confront Nakhthorheb (who probably still had most of the ships that Djedhor had built for his campaign). The staging ground for the new offensive against Egypt would be Phoenicia, Artaxerxes, who did not trust the locals who so often changed sides in the recent wars, put the Cilician satrap Mazaeus in charge of the area. Unlike the previous unsuccessful campaigns against Egypt this time it would be led by the Great King himself, who because of his earlier foray into Egypt at least had some experience fighting in the region. It was in 351 that Artaxerxes marshalled his sizeable army and marched on the Nile, hoping to finally put an end to Egyptian independence, it would be the final time that an Achaemenid army would attempt to reconquer Egypt. Egypt’s defences were formidable, and had already defied several Persian assaults. Nakhthorheb had, despite a rather unfortunate start, showed himself to be a capable ruler that had won the support of the priesthood and people of Egypt. His sizeable native machimoi forces and hired regiments of Greek hoplites were certainly capable off facing off against the Persian army. It is, then, not unsurprising that this last Persian campaign against Egypt itself too was a dismal failure. Not much is known of the precise sequence of events during the campaign, but much can be glanced from its outcome: after only several months another large scale Persian attack on Egypt had ended in an ignominious defeat, and this time it was the Great King himself who had failed.

Now that the blame for the defeat lay squarely on the Great King himself the only thing that could be done was regrouping the army and resuming the campaign as quickly as possible. Harsh demands were made of the cities of Phoenicia to once again build a fleet and to make available supplies to the forces of Artaxerxes. Probably tired of constantly having to pay up for the privilege of being ruled by the Persians Sidon rose up against them, most likely in late 351. Sidon was the centre of Persian power in the region, and probably most aggrieved by them, but other Phoenician cities like Tyre, Aradus and Tripoli also rebelled against Persian rule, hinting at wider unrest in the region. Persian officials were executed, supplies meant for the coming campaign destroyed and the most striking symbol of Persian royal power in the region, a forested pairidaeza [24] near Sidon, was burned. Contact was also made with the Egyptians, who turned out to be quite willing to support the Phoenician revolt, eager as they were to deprive the Persians of their staging ground for attacks on Egypt. Nakhthorheb send Mentor of Rhodes, Artabazus’ ally who ended up in Egyptian service, with 4000 Greek mercenaries by ship to support Tabnit, the king of Sidon. Together with a Phoenician militia Mentor managed to defeat both Mazaeus and Belesys, the satrap of Syria, who were attempting to suppress the rebellion. The various Cypriot kings now too rose in revolt, undoubtedly because of the situation in Phoenicia and the heavy burden of another war against Egypt that they were facing. Artaxerxes in response started gathering his forces, probably in Mesopotamia, and sending envoys to Greece to recruit mercenaries. Instead of rushing forward with a vanguard it seems he was assembling a larger force, perhaps fearing that Nakhthorheb would send a large force to contend the rule over the Levant. For several years the Phoenicians and Cypriots, with Egyptian support, maintained their independence. It was only around 347/46 that the Persians started their counterattack, Artaxerxes ordered Idrieus [25], satrap of Caria to reconquer Cyprus, in this endeavour he was supported by the Athenian Phocion. In 346 Artaxerxes himself crossed the Euphrates with a large army, intent on subjugating Phoenicia and finally bringing Egypt to heel.


  1. Text can be found on, on the Cambyses article
  2. There is no consensus on the amount of Libyan influence during the Twenty-First Dynasty, but there is some evidence that both Nesbanebdjedet (also known by his Greek name Smendes), whose name is only found among Libyan-descended chiefs of the Delta, and Herihor, who had several sons with typically Libyan names, were of Libyan descent.
  3. I decided to use Waset, the Egyptian name, instead of Thebes to avoid confusion with the Greek Thebes
  4. During Piye’s conquest there were 3 kings in Upper Egypt: Ini in Waset (Thebes), Nimlot in Khmun (Hermopolis) and Peftjauawybast of Henen-nesu (Herakleopolis) (who was a member of the Twenty-Third Dynasty). In Lower Egypt the situation was more complex: in Per-Bast (Bubastis) and Djanet (Tanis) Osorkon IV, last scion of the Twenty-Second dynasty ruled, the town of Taremu (Leontopolis) was ruled by ‘king’ Iuput II, Hutheryib (Athribis) was ruled by a prince Padieset and Tjebnetjer (Sebennytos) by Akanosh, the Chief of the Meshwesh, Sau (Saïs) was ruled by Nekau, Great Chief of the West. These were the most prominent of the dynasts but doubtlessly there were other dynasts of towns that were less important or just not mentioned in the sources. It really shows the fragmentation that was so endemic during the Third Intermediate Period, and that Egypt, which often is referred to as a very centralised land, could easily fracture under the right circumstances.
  5. The Karnak Temple Complex at Luxor
  6. As quoted in Trouble in the West by Stephen Ruzicka on page 24
  7. As quoted in The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson on page 465
  8. His name means “Amun causes him to be given”
  9. The Pharaoh who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and the New Kingdom
  10. Also known by his Greek name Nepherites, his name meaning “the Great Ones prosper”
  11. As quoted in Trouble in the West by Stephen Ruzicka on page 66
  12. Also known as Achoris
  13. Psammuthis in Greek
  14. Xenophon, Hellenica 5.1.3
  15. Isocrates Panegyric 4.121
  16. “Are not Egypt and Cyprus in revolt against him [Artaxerxes]? Have not Phoenicia and Syria been devastated because of the war? Has not Tyre, on which he set great store, been seized by his foes?” Isocrates Panegyric 4.161
  17. AKA Nectanebo I, his Egyptian name means ‘Strong/Victorious One of his lord’
  18. As quoted in Trouble in the West by Stephen Ruzicka on page 188
  19. This is an older building than the famous one from OTL that you can still visit today, which was built under the Ptolemies
  20. Also known under his Hellenised name Teos or Tachos, in Egyptian Djedhor means ‘Horus says’ and it might be a shortened version of Djedhoriufankh which means ‘Horus says he will live’
  21. AKA Nectanebo II, Nakhthorheb means Strong/Victorious One of Horus of Hebyt
  22. Not an OTL inscription, but largely based on the inscription on the naos of Nakhtnebef found at Per-Sopdu, see also footnote 18
  23. Both illustrious Old Kingdom pharaohs, Sneferu (the father of Khufu) in particular was a great builder and remembered as a stereotypical ‘good king’
  24. Persian walled royal gardens, often including animals for hunting, origin of the word paradise
  25. He was a member of the Hecatomnid dynasty who ruled over Caria as hereditary satraps, and was brother to Mausolos, whose famous tomb he completed
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2. The Sidonian War
2. The Sidonian War

In the seventeenth year under the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Senedjemibra, the Son of Ra, Nakhthorheb - may he live forever! - , his majesty crossed over into the lands of Retjenu [1], and all the Asiatics came to him to offer tribute. Thereafter his majesty went north into the lands of the Fenekhu [2] and overthrew the Ruler of Foreign Lands, the wretched Darius.

- Inscription on the victory stele of Nakhthorheb at Tjebnetjer (Sebennytos)

In 346 BC the Achaemenid Great King Artaxerxes III was marching west from Babylon, his objectives being, first, the subjugation of Phoenicia, and second, the reconquest of Egypt. In the aftermath of his failed attack on Egypt in 351 the Phoenician city of Sidon, which gave its name to the war, had revolted against him with support of the Egyptian pharaoh Nakhthorheb. Several Phoenician and Cypriot cities had joined the revolt, and Artaxerxes was in danger of losing his western satrapies. Having crossed the Euphrates he now marched on Phoenicia itself, where he made camp not far from Sidon. In the meantime he had send envoys to Greece to gather mercenaries, Sparta and Athens refused but Thebes, Argos and the Ionian cities complied, sending a large force of hoplites east to join up with Artaxerxes. Looking forward to the coming campaign the king must have been quite pleased, with such a vast force Phoenician resistance could not last long and even Egypt itself might fall. But it was then that for the Persians disaster struck. One day while out hunting with several high ranking noblemen the Great King was thrown off his horse while chasing a boar, supposedly his horse was panicked by the sudden appearance of a snake (in later Egyptian folk tales this was presented as nothing less than an appearance of Wadjet, the snake goddess that protected lower Egypt). The fall broke the king’s neck and killed him instantly, depriving the army of its leader and the Achaemenid Empire of its king [3].

The death of Artaxerxes III must have been a profound shock to both the army and the empire as a whole. While not a young man there was no reason to expect his death so soon, and there were apparently no arrangements made for the succession. The great army, which must have seemed unstoppable to the Phoenicians, retreated back behind the Euphrates, there was no commander present with the necessary prestige and status to command such a large force and the operation had largely been the brainchild of Artaxerxes himself. Two men in particular come to the forefront during this crisis, the satrap of Cilicia Mazaeus [4] and the high ranking eunuch Bagoas. Mazaeus, who had failed to suppress the Phoenician revolt and was defeated by Mentor of Rhodes, still was in favor with the king and was part of the expedition and probably the highest ranking Persian present after the Great King. Bagoas too was a close confidant of the late king, and it seems that together they now held the balance of power in the empire. It was probably them that decided that the throne should go to Bisthanes, one of the sons of Artaxerxes III, who decided to rule under the name Darius III. It seems that Darius III was not as forceful and authoritative as his father was, and throughout his reign he would be overshadowed by Mazaeus and Bagoas. Early in 345, after burying Artaxerxes III in his tomb, Darius III was coronated in Pasargadae, and afterwards he returned to Babylon to oversee preparations for the resumption of the campaign, which were complete by spring 344. Unfortunately for the new Persian king however several problems had emerged between his father’s death and his own ascent to the throne.

The first problem was that the large army that Artaxerxes had gathered, largely consisting of levied subject people, required large amounts of foods, fodder and other supplies. It was for this reason that Mazaeus and Bagoas had decided to disband a substantial part of the army after their return from Phoenicia. They hoped to shore up this deficit in numbers by employing the Greek mercenaries that Artaxerxes had summoned from the various Greek cities. For a while this seemed to work, but inaction and irregular pay led many of the Greeks to become unruly. Harsh measures were taken against misbehaving Greeks, for example Mazaeus had several Greeks who had killed a local man during a drunken brawl in Tarsus crucified. Several Greek contingents are known to have defected to Mentor, who was generously subsidized by Nakhthorheb and made sure that this was known among Persia’s mercenaries, which directly leads to another problem that the Persians now faced: their enemy had managed to drastically improve their position. Nakhthorheb had apparently chosen this moment to put his full support behind the rebels in Phoenicia and Cyprus, subsidizing them with gold and supplies. He had also sent an Egyptian fleet, originally built under Djedhor, to aid the beleaguered Cypriots against Phocion, an Athenian general in Persian service. The focus of the Persian war effort on the island is the siege of its most important city, Salamis, ruled over by king Pnytagoras, a descendant of Evagoras, Hakor’s ally. With the assault on Phoenicia postponed because of Artaxerxes’ death the Egyptian fleet transported Mentor and a sizeable force of Greek mercenaries to Cyprus, where they managed to break the siege of Salamis and routed Phocion. The Athenian general managed to escape from the island with some of his forces, but several remaining mercenary contingents were left behind and joined Mentor. With Cyprus secure Egypt and its allies were now in control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The final problem for the Persians were the more southern provinces, sandwiched between Phoenicia and Egypt, the lands of Philistia and Judea. They were part of the same satrapy as Phoenicia and Syria, the satrapy of Eber-Nari (‘Beyond the River’) and thus technically under supervision of Mazaeus. The unrest that had caused the revolt in Phoenicia had also spread south, but there apparently it did not manifest in complete independence, probably because of the larger Persian garrisons due to the proximity of Egypt. With the death of Artaxerxes and the retreat of his army it seems that Nakhthorheb was now confident enough to send an army to expel the Persians from the region. Unlike Djedhor Nakhthorheb had spent many years building up his forces and treasury and thus did not overly burden the Egyptian taxpayer, preventing the unrest that in the end proved fatal for his uncle’s regime. Nevertheless Nakhthorheb did not, for now, himself venture forth from Egypt, the command of the army was granted to the general Khababash [5]. From Pelusium set out an army consisting of 15000 machimoi, 2000 Greek hoplites and 5000 Libyan and Nubian mercenaries, marching across the northern Sinai while being supported by both a fleet that glided along the coast and the local Arabs, who once again changed sides. The fortress at Gaza surrendered without a fight, and it seems that most Persians garrisons retreated from the region after becoming aware of the size of the force that was confronting them, like during the campaign of Djedhor. Only the garrison of Ashkelon held out for some time, but the city fell after a short siege, probably due to treachery. The local rulers of the region, such as Hezekiah of Jerusalem, pledged their loyalty to Nakhthorheb. Khababash levied troops and supplies, but not in excess, not wanting to offend these new allies. He then marched north, but before linking up with the rebels in Phoenicia he established a strong garrison at Megiddo. That city, site of a famous victory of Thutmose III, had long since been abandoned but its location was of great strategic importance, it commanded the intersection of the road from Damascus to the Mediterranean and the road from the Egypt towards Phoenicia. After establishing the garrison he marched north, past Akko and Tyre, to Sidon, where he arrived at the end of 345.

Early in 344 the Achaemenid army, accompanied by king Darius III and Bagoas, crossed the Euphrates at Carchemish. There they were joined by Ariarathes, satrap of Northern Cappadocia, and his troops. All in all the combined army was probably 40000 strong. In the meantime Mazaeus was in Cilicia, gathering a fleet of Cilician and Ionian ships to reclaim the Eastern Mediterranean. The army then moved to the coast and marched first on Tripoli (known as Athar to the Phoenicians). The leading men of the city, after seeing the great size of the host just outside its walls decided to negotiate. They met with Bagoas, who promised clemency if they opened the gates and handed over the city’s ships to the Persians. They decided to comply and opened the gates, after which the Persians marched in. Despite his promise Bagoas had the leading citizens of the city arrested and executed, and confiscated all gold and silver in the city. The local ships were combined with those of Mazaeus and sailed down towards Byblos, where they managed to defeat a combined Egyptian-Phoenician squadron. Byblos too threw open its gates when the Persians appeared, and it must have seemed as if all Phoenicia would fall to the Persians without much resistance.

Sidon however would be a different story. The city was reinforced by Khababash and Mentor, who had returned from Cyprus. Several ditches were dug in front of the city walls in order to impede the advance of Persian siege engines. The fortifications of the city were strengthened and it could, despite some setbacks the Egyptians still had naval supremacy, still be supplied by sea, ensuring Sidon could last through a long siege. Despite this strong position there were those in the city who rather opened the gates and allow the Persians to march in, hoping that they would be merciful in exchange for a quick surrender. Among those was the king of Sidon, Tabnit, who had entered into clandestine negotiations with Bagoas. Sadly for him a messenger who attempted to sneak out of the city was caught by several of Mentor’s Greek mercenaries, who then discovered Tabnit’s treachery and shared this with Khababash and the most prominent Sidonian citizens. Tabnit was deposed and executed, and one of his relatives, a certain Abdashtart, was put on the throne of Sidon. The city, as starting point and centre of the revolt, could not and would not expect mercy from the Persians. After filling in the ditches the Persians brought forward their siege towers and rams, knowing that starving the city was impossible so it had to fall by assault. Several attempts were made to seize the walls, but none were successful. Meanwhile an attempt to break into the harbour by the Persian fleet also ended in disaster, with many of their ships lost. Not long after that the defenders managed, in a daring sortie in the middle of the night, to torch much of the Persian siege equipment. And it would get worse, grain and fodder meant for the army was gathered in Cilicia, probably under supervision of the satrap Mazaeus, and send by sea to the army besieging Sidon, but near the mouth of the river Sarus the Persian fleet was attacked by a combined Egyptian-Cypriot fleet under king Pnytagoras. Much of the fleet was destroyed, denying crucial supplies to the army of Bagoas and Darius III. With their supply stocks almost empty and winter fast approaching it was in the Autumn of 344 that, after only several months of siege, the Persians gave up their siege of Sidon and retreated back north, plundering the countryside for supplies in their wake.

Back in Egypt Nakhthorheb was making preparations to join his forces for an offensive that was meant to push the Persians back across the Euphrates. Another 10000 machimoi were called up, together with another 1500 Greek mercenaries, mostly Argives, under command of Nicostratus. He was originally recruited by Artaxerxes III for his campaign but after the king’s death and the confusion that followed he went over to the Egyptian side, mostly because of promises of higher (and more consistent) pay by Mentor. Instead of remaining in Phoenicia he was send through to Egypt with his 3000 strong mercenary corps. Nakhthorheb settled half of them in a fortified camp near the dynastic capital at Tjebnetjer, to serve as his enforcers in case one of the dynasts decided to rise up. It is also around this time that he ordered the construction of a road spanning the Delta from west to east, from Naucratis to Sau (Saïs) then to Tjebnetjer followed by Djedet (Mendes) and ending at Pelusium. Permanent ferry points were to be established and embankments laid down in order to cross the marsh-like environment of Lower Egypt. While the project would only be completed near the end of Nakhthorheb’s reign it would serve to make Lower Egypt more accessible, allowing forces to quickly transfer from Pelusium and Tjebnetjer to any troublesome spots in the Delta. Fearful as he was of another uprising by some Delta dynast while he was away in Syria he employed both the carrot and the stick, he distributed gold and important priesthoods to several Delta families but he also took several sons of those families with him on campaign, ostensibly to serve as officers but the actual reason was that they were hostages. While Nakhthorheb was away he left Egypt in care of Wennefer, his close confidante and someone who had proven himself to be loyal to ruling dynasty, who had recently been promoted to the rank of vizier. In the Spring of 343 Nakhthorheb set sail towards Sidon, while most of his army would take the land route towards Phoenicia. There he joined up with Khababash and Mentor and started his offensive.

The army that marched out of Sidon in 343 consisted of 25000 machimoi, 5000 Phoenicians and other local levies, 3000 Greek mercenaries and 4000 Nubian and Libyan mercenaries, numbering 37000 in total. From Sidon they marched north, reclaiming Byblos and Tripoli, and then northeast until they reached the Orontes. They intended to follow the river north and then turn east towards the Euphrates. From his base at Carchemish Darius III had heard of the Egyptian advance, and decided to march south to confront them, probably thinking that the imperial army, with its superior cavalry, could easily overcome the Egyptians in an open battle. He was accompanied by Mazaeus and Ariarathes, Bagoas had recently left and had returned to Babylon to oversee the administration of the empire. The Persian force was of comparable size to its opponent, consisting of 25000 levied troops, 5000 Persian heavy infantry, 4000 cavalrymen and 4000 Greek mercenaries. It was probably in May 343 BC that the Persian and Egyptian armies faced each other on the left bank of the Orontes, just south of the city of Hamath.

The Egyptians, facing north, anchored their right flank on the river, where they placed the Phoenicians. To the left of the Phoenicians, in the centre, was located the bulk of the army, the Egyptian machimoi infantry. Occupying the Egyptian left flank were the Greek mercenaries and a large part of the Nubian and Libyan mercenaries and the Egyptian cavalry, only 2000 strong. Pharaoh Nakhthorheb had his vantage point behind the centre, with Mentor in charge of the left wing and Khababash leading the troops near the river. The Persians too had placed the bulk of their forces in the centre, with the levied troops and behind them the infantry of the royal guard protecting the Great King and Mazaeus. They had deployed their mercenaries near the river, under command of the Theban Lacrates. The cavalry was deployed on the Persian right under command of Ariarathes, where they could take advantage of the broad plains to outflank the Egyptians. The battle started with an exchange of missile fire and a general advance of the Persian centre against the Egyptian centre, but the tenacious machimoi did not give up much terrain to the Persians. On the left flank they were harassed by the Persian cavalry under Ariarathes, who tried to outflank the Egyptian line but was pinned down by the Libyans and Nubians, who assailed the cavalry with javelins. Despite being their greatest strength the Persian cavalry was routed when a lucky Egyptian archer managed to take out Ariarathes, which caused consternation among the Persian ranks. Afterwards a well-timed charge of the Egyptian cavalry managed to drive the Persian cavalry from the field. Near the river the fight was not going well for the Egyptians, with the Phoenicians under Khababash being driven back by Lacrates. Darius then dispatched a large part of his royal guard to support the hoplites and thus outflank the machimoi. It was then that Mentor made his move, advancing forward with his hoplites and driving back the Persian centre. He then must have noticed that much of the royal guard was gone and that there weren’t many troops between him and the Persian king. Nakhthorheb in the meantime managed to rally his troops to hold the line against Lacrates’ assault, who started to struggle to gain ground after the arrival of the Libyans and Nubians from the left flank. With the Persians stuck and without cavalry now Mentor advanced on Darius’ position, who held out for some time but lost his nerve and fled from the battlefield. The sight of the royal banner fleeing the field must have been the final straw for the hard-pressed Persians, who started to flee the field. The day had been won by Nakhthorheb and Egypt.

The victory at Hamath however was not the end of the war. Several weeks afterward an Egyptian force under command of Khababash advanced on Carchemish, already not a name associated with Egyptian victory, but was beaten back by a Persian army under Mazaeus. The dream of an Egyptian border on the Euphrates would not be realised, at least not for now. Nakhthorheb, always cautious, now decided to consolidate his gains instead of gambling everything on a conquest of Syria. Envoys were send to Babylon, however they encountered a court in chaos, for shortly after his return from his disastrous campaign the Great King Darius III had mysteriously passed away, leaving a 1 year old infant to rule the empire. It seemed that for Persia the hard times were not over yet.


1. The ancient Egyptian name for the entire Syria-Palestine area.
2. As you might have guessed the Fenekhu are the Phoenicians, it literally means carpenters or woodcutters, as the inhabitants of ancient Lebanon were associated with lumber trade (especially the cedar tree) by the Egyptians.
3. The POD, it’s basically man falls of horse and dies, except it’s the Persian king.
4. I have to be honest, the campaign is pretty poorly documented and besides Artaxerxes and maybe Bagoas the presence of high ranking Persians is not really attested. To me it seemed logical to place Mazaeus in Artaxerxes’ army since he had been placed in charge of Phoenicia and would know the terrain fairly well.
5. OTL Khababash was a man of uncertain origins who started a failed revolt in Egypt after the death of Artaxerxes III in 338. Not much is known of him, but in this timeline I’ll assume he was a general in the Egyptian military.
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The updates are a bit long (seriously, 17 footnotes? :p ) but I like it. I really ought to find time to continue my own Egyptian TL ;)

I wonder how it goes from here?
Awesome! Looking forward to where this goes. Given all the butterflies how does Alexander III Argead fit into all of this?

Also I’m in the opposite mind, the more footnotes the better, Helps me keep track of things. :)
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Well this is... impressively detailed! Though I'm sad you left out the story that Cambyses nailed cats to the shields if his men during the Egyptian invasion!

My only comment might be to break up the updates a little. But very intriguing, and I'm subscribed.
The updates are a bit long (seriously, 17 footnotes? :p ) but I like it. I really ought to find time to continue my own Egyptian TL ;)
25 to be precise, but yeah the first update is a bit too much. Please do continue your timeline, the more Egypt the better!

Awesome! Looking forward to where this goes. Given all the butterflies how does Alexander III Argead fit into all of this?

Also I’m in the opposite mind, the more footnotes the better, Helps me keep track of things. :)
Alexander and his father will show up in the not too distant future (probably the next update)

Well this is... impressively detailed! Though I'm sad you left out the story that Cambyses nailed cats to the shields if his men during the Egyptian invasion!

My only comment might be to break up the updates a little. But very intriguing, and I'm subscribed.
To be honest I was tempted to mention it, as it's probably the most well known anecdote of the Perso-Egyptian wars, but decided against it. Concerning the length of the posts, they'll more in line with update 2 than update 1. Update 1 (which doesn't include any alternate history) ended up so long because I wanted to give an overview of the Perso-Egyptian wars but ended up including a lot more detail than I originally planned.
3. Persia and Egypt after the battle of Hamath
3. Persia and Egypt after the Battle of Hamath

The Achaemenid Succession Crisis

Year 2 of Bisthanes who is called Darius, month 5: the king returned to the city after fighting the Egyptians. He was stricken with disease and died soon after his return to the city. Afterwards the king’s son, the young Artaxerxes, was raised to the throne.

-Excerpt from the Babylonian Astronomical Diary

The defeat at Hamath had dire consequences for the Achaemenid Persian Empire, not only had it lost many men on the battlefield but once again an army under the personal command of a Great King had suffered a loss, a blow to the prestige of the dynasty. Leaving Mazaeus behind to hold the line against Egyptian incursions, something he proved to be adequate at, Darius III returned to Babylon in the sweltering heat of the Mesopotamian summer of 343 BC. Whatever his plans were it is unlikely that they included signing a peace treaty with Egypt and ceding the lost territories to them. Despite all accounts describing him as young [1] and fit, if somewhat inexperienced and timid, not long after his arrival in Babylon Darius fell ill. In an age before modern medicine it was not unheard of for someone perfectly healthy to suddenly fall ill and die, but since Darius III was the Great King of Persia his case was always suspect. Some sources point to the eunuch Bagoas as the one that masterminded his death. However this seems unlikely, Bagoas had a lot of influence on Darius, who was for all intents and purposes his and Mazaeus’ puppet. Whatever the case Darius III, after a reign lasting only two disaster-filled years, was laid to rest alongside the other Persian kings in a rock-hewn tomb at Naqsh i-Rostam.

His successor would be his one year old son, who became known as Artaxerxes IV. His mother, a relative of Mazaeus, had died in childbirth. While the person on the throne changed, the power behind it was still the same, with Mazaeus and Bagoas practically functioning as co-regents. Both had been granted high ranks by Darius III, with Bagoas named chiliarch, which meant he was the commander of the 1000-men strong royal bodyguard and which by this period morphed into a more or less vizier-like position. Mazaeus was given the satrapy of Babylonia, the most affluent in the entire empire. However not everyone was happy with the rule of Mazaeus and Bagoas, many among the Persian nobility must have distrusted the eunuch in particular, who was most likely of common birth. He had shown himself to be quite cunning, and from his lowly position as eunuch manoeuvred himself into the position of de facto ruler of the empire, which might have infuriated some noblemen. It is not unsurprising than that shortly after the ascent of Artaxerxes IV there appeared to be an attempt at a coup, which was crushed by Bagoas, the only hint of this happening being the Babylonian Astronomical Diary: Year 1 of Artaxerxes, son of Bisthanes who was called Darius, month 3, rebels plotted evil against the king, the regent Bagoas commanded the guard and restored order, afterwards crushing the rebels who had fled to the land of Elam. Apparently some among the Persian nobility tried to overthrow Bagoas and Mazaeus, but the attempt was thwarted and afterwards they fled to Elam, where they were defeated. It is also around this time that Arses [2], brother of Darius III and son of Artaxerxes III, disappears from the record. It is most likely that the noblemen who tried to overthrow Bagoas wanted to install Arses on the throne afterwards, and so he was caught up in the purges after the attempted coup. Artaxerxes IV, a one-year old infant, was now the only male in the main Achaemenid line.

The largest problem that faced Mazaeus and Bagoas was the war with Egypt, overtures for peace had been made by Nakhthorheb, who had send envoys to Babylon, but they were rebuked. To recognize that Egypt was independent and that Phoenicia, Judea and Philistia, areas won by Cyrus the Great himself, were lost to the Empire was anathema to everything the Achaemenid dynasty stood for. The Egyptian pharaoh might think himself a god, but the Great King was the intermediate between humanity and the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda himself. It was his duty to uphold Order and Truth, and to confront and destroy the Lie wherever it might be found. On a practical level the loss of those lands effectively ceded the Eastern Mediterranean to Egypt and would put the border not far from Cilicia, which would mean that Egyptians could bisect the empire at will, splitting Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Politically too it would be suicidal for Bagoas and Mazaeus, who had only just managed to defeat a coup, to cede those lands. For them the solution to the Egyptian problem was the same solution that had been tried ever since its independence 60 years ago, an army was to be gathered and dispatched to subdue the rebellious satrapies and bring them back into the empire.

During 342 and 341 much time and effort was spend by Bagoas to gather a new army to campaign in the Levant. Cavalry contingents from the eastern satrapies, infantry from the cities of Babylonia, fierce tribesmen from the highlands of Iran, all were corralled around the city of Babylon itself, waiting for the campaign to start. Bagoas would lead the army personally, with as his second-in-command the satrap of Armenia, Artashata [3]. He was a distant cousin of the king, a great-grandson of Darius II, and was renowned for his stature and fighting skill. During a war against the Cadusians during the reign of Artaxerxes III he personally fought many of their champions, which made him a famed warrior. Mazaeus would remain in Babylon, where the records show he oversaw new irrigation projects and ordered several renovations for temples in the city, most prominently the Esagila and the Etemenanki, probably to shore up support for the regime among the Babylonians. The army set out late in 341, marching alongside the Euphrates and crossing at Thapsacus. Then the army turned south, towards Damascus, probably intending to bypass Phoenicia and march through the Jezreel Valley, past Megiddo, straight into Philistia and then onwards to Egypt. It was somewhere on the road between Thapsacus and Damascus that Bagoas received news of another crisis, after which the army turned north again, towards Cilicia and Anatolia beyond.

Horus of Hebyt victorious

In the eighteenth year under the majesty of Senedjemibra Nakhthorheb, Chosen of Montu, Beloved by the Two Lands, during the first month of the inundation His Majesty returned to the Residence from the lands of Retjenu, and the Two Lands rejoiced in his presence. It was said that on the battlefield he was like Montu, Lord of Waset, and that none could stand before him. The nations of Asia trembled and fled the field. The wealth of the Ruler of Foreign Lands was captured and brought to Egypt. In order to commemorate his victory His Majesty ordered this monument to be built.

-Inscription on the gateway of the Victory Shrine of Nakhthorheb at the Precinct of Montu at Ipetsut (Karnak)

For Egypt the battle at Hamath was a great victory, it finally managed to defeat a Persian army in the field and had thus shown its new allies that it could defend them. Egypt had spent the last 60 years under the perpetual threat of Persian conquest, who were lurking just beyond the border and ready to strike at any sign of weakness. Nakhthorheb had managed to force them back into Syria and had reclaimed the Eastern Mediterranean for Egypt. And yet the victory could have been more extensive, had Khababash’ assault on Carchemish been better supported Nakhthorheb might have planted his banners on the Euphrates. It seems that Nakhthorheb decided against further operations in order to consolidate his gains, knowing from previous experience that the gained territory could easily be lost to a Persian counter attack. He also knew that staying away too long from Egypt could be hazardous. After gathering up the hard won spoils of war on the battlefield of Hamath he marched back to Sidon with an elite bodyguard, leaving Khababash behind to launch his ultimately doomed assault on Carchemish. From Sidon Nakhthorheb sailed back to Egypt, probably in August of 343 BC.

Back in Egypt he landed at Pelusium and first visited Per-Sopdu, the cult centre of Sopdu, god of the Eastern Desert and guardian of Egypt against its Asiatic foes. There he made lavish offerings to the god that had granted him such a victory and he had set up a victory stela, detailing his campaign, copies of which were set up at the dynastic capital at Tjebnetjer and at Ipetsut. After honouring Sopdu Nakhthorheb travelled to Memphis, where adoring crowds lined the streets, hailing their king as saviour of Egypt. He made sacrifices at the Great Temple of Ptah and then headed northwards into the Delta, to his home city of Tjebnetjer. After his arrival he made offerings at the temple of Anhur-Shu but he also ordered a new, much grander temple to be build for the god just outside the city. This was the first of several building projects in Tjebnetjer, for Nakhthorheb was determined to turn his ancestral home into a major city. The temple of Anhur-Shu was indeed an impressive building: it had a marble forecourt, imported at great cost from Greece, colonnaded at the sides but not at the front, at the centre of the forecourt stood a colossal statue of the king himself, made out of diorite, 6 meters tall. Behind that stood the temple’s first pylon, on which the king was depicted making offerings to Anhur-Shu, after that came a hypostyle hall, which included several shrines accessible to laymen, flanked by several storerooms, and at the end of that hall you would end up in an enclosed courtyard. On the left side of the courtyard there was a mortuary chapel, below which lay a vault which would serve as the tomb of Nakhthorheb [4]. After Nakhthorheb the following kings of the Thirtieth Dynasty were also buried in their own chapels this courtyard. Behind the courtyard rose another pylon, which was the entrance to the inner sanctum of the temple, where the cult statue of the god was kept and where many important rituals took place. It also included a small chapel for the goddess Mehit, consort of Anhur.

Another building project of Nakhthorheb at Tjebnetjer was the building of a fort on the location of the camp that the Argive mercenaries of Nicostratus had build near the Nile. He also expanded the city’s harbour and encouraged artisans to settle in the city. It was also during this period that several smaller temples and chapels were built throughout the city, including a temple in the Greek style to Athena, pointing to increasing Hellenic settlement in the area. Where in the first part of his reign the king build all over Egypt it seems that in the period after Hamath, with his legitimacy sufficiently established, he decide to focus much of his building efforts on Tjebnetjer. Other activities of the king during this period include a personal visit to Iunu-Montu (Armant) to oversee the internment of the sacred Bakh-bull and the inauguration of a new one (who, at least so the story goes, was found by the king himself while sailing down the Nile). In 341 he personally visited Waset to take part in the rituals of the Opet festival and to order the construction of a new shrine to Montu at his precinct at Ipetsut, which became known as the Victory Shrine for in it there is an elaborate description of the campaign in Phoenicia and the victory over the Persians.

Abroad the focus of Nakhthorheb’s reign was still on defeating the Persians, who still did not want to consider peace. Khababash was, despite his defeat at Carchemish, still in charge of the troops in Phoenicia. Permanent garrisons were established at Gaza, Megiddo and Sidon. The strongholds at both Gaza and Megiddo had their fortifications strengthened, they had their barracks expanded and large wells were dug. Both also had a shrine of the cult of Nakhthorheb-the-Falcon. The focus was very much on defending what had been gained, and no offensive operations took place after Carchemish. One of Egypt’s greatest assets during the Sidonian War were the services of the Rhodian mercenary Mentor, who left Egyptian service after the battle of Hamath. He was richly rewarded for his deeds by Nakhthorheb, but he did not decide to return to Rhodes. He would instead join-up with his brother Memnon and father-in-law Artabazus at the court of Philip II of Macedon.


1. Bisthanes’ (TTL Darius III) age is not known, he is the only attested son of Artaxerxes III besides Artaxerxes IV, whose coins indicate he was quite young when he came to the throne (he appears on them without a beard), for the timeline’s sake I’ll assume that Bisthanes was older, in his early to mid-twenties at the time of his reign.
2. OTL Artaxerxes IV
3. OTL Darius III
4. Which is in line with other late period kings, many of whom were buried in temple courtyards, for example the kings of the Twenty-Sixth dynasty were buried in tombs in the courtyard of the temple of Neith at Saïs.
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I hope Nakhtnebef's conquests in the Levant don't put him in the middle of Alexander's path...
That off course depends on whether or not Alexander embarks on his conquest spree. But if the hypothetical Alexander conquest of Persia takes place he could just bypass Phoenicia by passing through northern Syria, which is not under Egyptian control. Egypt (or it's allies) control more or less modern day Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, But inland Syria, including Damascus, and the Orontes valley are still under Persian control. The pharaoh's name is Nakhthorheb by the way, Nakhtnebef was his grandfather. Would you prefer if I used Greek names instead of native Egyptian ones?
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I don't mind them at all. Seeing these names instead of Greek ones is actually pretty refreshing.
Glad to hear it, I personally also prefer the Egyptian names. Something else that I was considering: should I use the Greek version of names or the latinized ones? For example: Philippos instead of Philip, Alexandros instead of Alexander.
Glad to hear it, I personally also prefer the Egyptian names. Something else that I was considering: should I use the Greek version of names or the latinized ones? For example: Philippos instead of Philip, Alexandros instead of Alexander.
Well, I personally think that would make things needlessly complicated. The latinized versions are close enough to the greek ones, plus they're more well known, for obvious reasons. Also, I think you should put put more tags, such as "ancient egypt" or "pharaoh" and so on. The more the merrier, I believe, since it increases the odds of people finding your work while searching them.
Well, I personally think that would make things needlessly complicated. The latinized versions are close enough to the greek ones, plus they're more well known, for obvious reasons. Also, I think you should put put more tags, such as "ancient egypt" or "pharaoh" and so on. The more the merrier, I believe, since it increases the odds of people finding your work while searching them.
Thanks for the tip, I've added some more tags.
Great, the Persian Empire is now in the hands of a one year old boy and an eunuch hated by the entire nobility.

I'm not sure its going to be around much longer...

Interesting timeline - it will be interesting to see what influence, if any, a genuinely independent and powerful Egyptian state has. Maybe even strong enough to counter Alexander...or in the future, maybe even Rome!
Great, the Persian Empire is now in the hands of a one year old boy and an eunuch hated by the entire nobility.

I'm not sure its going to be around much longer...

Interesting timeline - it will be interesting to see what influence, if any, a genuinely independent and powerful Egyptian state has. Maybe even strong enough to counter Alexander...or in the future, maybe even Rome!
Yeah, Persia has seen better days, it is rather unstable but despite that still by far the world's most powerful empire. It's fate will become clear soon enough.

One of the main reasons for writing this timeline was exploring a continuing, native ruled Egypt. During the almost 60 years of independence between 401 and 343 it might seem that Egypt was just a sideshow to whatever was happening in Greece (most of our sources being Greek doesn't help off course) but if you consider the efforts the Persians made to reconquer Egypt it almost seems that it was Egypt that was their main concern in the west. The last native pharaohs were able to repel attempts at reconquest and sometimes even went on the offensive. The 30th dynasty at least appeared to be capable and it was only because of Artaxerxes III gathering the largest army since Xerxes that Egypt fell in the end. Averting that conquest and allowing the 30th dynasty to continue its rule is more or less the premise of this TL, but it doesn't mean that Egypt will never be conquered or occupied again.
4. Seizing the crown
4. Seizing the crown

Aegean Affairs

Consider also what a disgrace it is to sit idly by and see Asia flourishing more than Europe and the barbarians enjoying a greater prosperity than the Hellenes; and, what is more, to see those who derive their power from Cyrus, who as a child was cast out by his mother on the public highway, addressed by the title of “The Great King,” while the descendants of Heracles, who because of his virtue was exalted by his father to the rank of a god, are addressed by meaner titles than they. We must not allow this state of affairs to go on; no, we must change and reverse it entirely.

- Isocrates’ To Philip 5.132

The Kingdom of Macedonia had long been peripheral to the affairs of the Greeks. There were some things that the Macedonians shared with the Greeks, they too worshipped the gods of Olympus, and the Macedonians spoke Greek, although a distinct dialect. Yet the Greeks themselves did not see kinsmen in the Macedonians, whom they derided as barbarians and their country as a rustic backwater. They only made an exception for the Macedonian royal house, who claimed that their line originated in Argos, and thus were known as the Argead dynasty. That Macedon even had a monarchy was something that set them apart from the Greeks, who apart from the Spartans had long since abandoned their monarchies and replaced with oligarchies, democracies or the occasional tyranny. The Macedonian monarchy was unlike that of Persia or Egypt, the king of Macedon was much more a first-among-equals among the Macedonian nobility, and was at least nominally elective with the army acclaiming the next king. Much time was spent hunting, drinking, fighting and settling feuds, which must have given the other Greeks an almost Homeric impression. The country’s proximity to both Greece and the ‘barbarians’ from Thrace and Illyria exposed the country to invasion, something Macedon often had to endure its history.

The Persians, too, were among those invaders. Under Darius the Great the country was vassalized but in the aftermath of the failure of Xerxes’ campaign regained its independence. During the Peloponnesian War they at times supported Sparta and at other times Athens. The kingdom prospered under the rule of Archelaus I, who among other things moved the capital to Pella and sponsored famous artists at his court, such as the painter Zeuxis and the playwright Euripides. The assassination of Archelaus in 399 inaugurated a period of turbulence, with various claimants vying for the throne. Afterwards dynastic instability would be the norm for Macedon, until the relatively stable and prosperous reign of Perdiccas III, who died fighting the Illyrians. Perdiccas was succeeded by his underage son Amyntas IV, who was soon deposed and replaced by his uncle and regent, Perdiccas’ younger brother, Philip II. Probably the most capable monarch of his age, Philip made what was once regarded a semi-barbarian backwater into the greatest power of the Hellenic world. Early in his reign he defeated and killed the Illyrian king Bardyllis in battle and expelled the Illyrians from the district of Lyncestis, avenging his brother’s death. Afterwards he managed to gain control of the city of Amphipolis, east of Macedon, which controlled the Pangaion Hills which were rich in silver and gold. Using the revenue from these mines he reformed the army, professionalizing it and introducing the sarissa-armed phalanx. Almost invincible from the front, the phalanx was supported on the flanks by the hypaspists (‘shieldbearers’), armed more like a traditional hoplite, and other light troops. The phalanx often functioned as anvil, holding the enemy at bay, while the lance-armed shock cavalry, the hetairoi (companions) performed as hammer, striking at the enemy’s flanks or rear.

It was this well-trained army that gave Philip an edge during his wars in Greece. He defeated the Phocians, who had claimed control over the oracle of Delphi and used the treasure stored there to gather a large mercenary army, in the Sacred War and managed to gain control of Thessaly, where he was chosen as tagus (leader) of the Thessalian League. This greatly enhanced his power because it gave him access to additional manpower and to the famed Thessalian cavalry. A war in Thrace, where he founded a city that he named after himself, Philippi, was followed by the Olynthian War, where he managed to defeat the Athenians and the Chalcidian League thus securing the Chalcidian peninsula for Macedon. Peace only came in 346, the Sacred War had exhausted the various Greek states and only Macedon seemed to able to enforce a final peace treaty. Philip had occupied the pass of Thermopylae, allowing his army to pass into southern Greece, which finally brought Athens to sign peace. Afterwards several minor campaigns were fought by Philip, including a campaign against Pleuratus, king of the Taulantii, an Illyrian people who lived to the west of Macedon and another campaign into Thrace where he defeated a local king named Cersobleptes and founded the city of Philippopolis. Having secured his hold on the Aegean coast of Thrace, now Philip could expand the frontiers of Macedonia towards the Propontis (Sea of Marmara).

A prominent guest at the court of Philip was Artabazus, former satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, who had led a failed revolt against Artaxerxes III. After Artaxerxes’ death he send several messengers to Darius III to ask for forgiveness and the return of his satrapy, which was all rejected. His cause was probably not helped by the fact that Mentor of Rhodes was his son-in-law. Mentor returned to Macedon in 342, carrying with him a substantial amount of gold as payment for his service for Nakhthorheb. Philip at the time was preparing a campaign against Perinthus and Byzantion the most important cities on the European side of the Propontis. He marched against them in 341 and started his siege of Perinthus. Perinthus was aided by the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, which lay just across the sea from Perinthus, Arsites. He had send supplies and troops to support the city because he was wary of Macedonian expansionism. It was then that Artabazus proposed a plan to Philip: he would allow Artabazus to recruit a mercenary force to reclaim his satrapy and expel Arsites. Philip hesitated because allowing Artabazus to return was tantamount to declaring war on the Achaemenid Empire, but in the end he relented. Persian power had faded noticeably in the past decade, and seemed to mostly focus itself on reclaiming Egypt and its own internal struggles. And with Arsites expelled conquering Perinthus and Byzantion would be a lot easier.

Artabazus, using funds of his own, Mentor’s gold and some funds granted by Philip raised a mercenary force and several triremes, and set of towards Asia at the beginning of 340. The army landed at Kolonai and then marched east towards Daskyleion, the capital of the satrapy. Arsites was completely caught by surprise and scrambled to gather a force to counter Artabazus. At Poimanenon, not far from Daskyleion, Artabazus’ mercenary force commanded by Mentor defeated Arsites, who fell in battle. Artabazus marched into Daskyleion and reclaimed his satrapy. At this point Artabazus must have heard of the unpopularity of the regency of Bagoas and perhaps started wondering whether he could attain a higher title than satrap. He did not remain in Daskyleion for long, news had arrived that the satrap of Lydia, Autophradates, an old enemy of Artabazus (he had captured Artabazus during his revolt against Artaxerxes III) had gathered an army to expel him. The armies faced off at Adramyttion, and despite heavy losses (Mentor’s brother Memnon fell on the field) Artabazus was once again victorious. Autophradates fled east and Artabazus subsequently occupied Sardis where he opened up the treasury and used its contents to hire additional mercenaries. In order to keep the Ionian Greeks on his side he offered them funds to rebuild the temple of Artemis at Ephesus and allowed several of them to expel their Persian-backed tyrants, granting them a substantial amount of autonomy. In Sardis he was also visited by Ada, who was ruler of Caria but was expelled by her brother Pixodarus. Artabazus agreed to help her and send a force south under his son Pharnabazus who managed to capture Halicarnassus, the Carian capital, in a surprise attack at night. Pixodarus did not survive the coup and Ada was restored to the throne, and thus Artabazus had secured all of western Anatolia by the autumn of 340. It was then that Artabazus made his full ambitions known to the world: as a grandson of king Artaxerxes II he now claimed the kingship of Persia, accusing Bagoas of having secretly killed Artaxerxes IV and having placed a common infant on the throne to keep his position. Despite his weak claim, he was not a patrilineal descendant of any Achaemenid king, he gained the support of the satraps Arsames of Cilicia and Mithrobuzanes of Cappadocia, testament to the unpopularity of Bagoas’ regime.

Artabazus’ Anabasis

It was upon hearing the news from Sardis that Bagoas, who was an eunuch in physical fact but a militant rogue in disposition, decided to depart his stronghold in Syria and leaving the war against the Egyptians to the satrap Pherendates. He crossed into Cilicia, devastating the land, but was held up at Tarsus, after which Artabazus came down from the Taurus and assaulted his positions.

- Excerpt from The lives of the Great Kings of Asia by Hermocles of Brentesion [1]

Bagoas probably first heard of Artabazus’ incursion on the road from Thapsacus to Damascus after which he turned around and marched north. He made his camp at Aleppo and awaited news from Anatolia, which came when he was visited by the satrap Autophradates. He then must have realised that something needed to be done if he wanted to retain his position. Pherendates [2], satrap of Syria, was left in charge of the war with Egypt, but had too few troops to undertake any offensive operations. Around the same time Artabazus proclaimed his kingship Bagoas marched his army into Cilicia, whose satrap, Arsames, had already declared himself loyal to Artabazus. Arsames attempted to block Bagoas’ advance by fortifying the Syrian Gates but Bagoas, who had foreseen such a move, left the main army behind under Artashata and took an elite force (including hardened mountaineers from the Zagros) north were they defeated a smaller force guarding the Amanian Gate. After travelling through the pass Bagoas rushed south, which caused panic among the garrison of the Syrian Gate when they saw Bagoas’ banner behind them, which allowed an easy victory for Bagoas and Artashata. They now marched across Cilicia, plundering the land and besieging Tarsus, seat of the satrap Arsames.

Artabazus used the autumn of 340 to gather an army, consisting of his own mercenaries and local levies. In the spring 339 he passed through the Cilician Gate, defeating the small garrison that guarded it and descending into the Cilician plain. There were some skirmishes with Bagoas’ army, but the eunuch, who now feared encirclement decided to retreat from Cilicia back into Syria. Not confident in his troops ability to confront Artabazus experienced mercenaries he send word to Mazaeus for extra troops. In the meantime Bagoas ordered a scorched earth policy in the Syrian countryside, denying crucial supplies to Artabazus. It was then that Mentor’s Egyptian contacts were useful, this allowed Artabazus to buy Egyptian grain to feed his army. Mentor also managed to gain a loan from Nakhthorheb, which Artabazus needed if he wanted to pay his mercenaries, on the condition that Artabazus would recognise Egypt’s independence. This allowed Artabazus to resume his offensive, and he reached the Euphrates at Thapsacus in April 339. It was there that Bagoas and Mazaeus, who had come over from Babylon with reinforcements, decided to confront Artabazus.

It would end up being quite possibly the bloodiest day in Achaemenid Persian history. The battle started with a charge of Mithrobuzanes’ Cappadocian cavalry, who almost overran Bagoas’ flank but were repelled after the satrap himself fell in battle. Mentor of Rhodes led his phalanx, stationed on the right of Artabazus’ line, forwards and drove back the Babylonians opposing them. All over the line clashes now started, and several men of high rank fell in battle: Mazaeus fell to a javelin thrown by a Thracian mercenary while commanding the Babylonians, Ariobarzanes and Cophen, both sons of Artabazus, fell underneath the spears of Bagoas’ troops. Artabazus himself was hit by several arrows, one struck his neck, while leading a charge of his personal guard. Artabazus survived, but had to break of his assault and did not participate in the rest of the battle. When he saw Artabazus retreating Bagoas must have thought he had won the day, and ordered the Persian Royal Guard (also known as the Immortals) forward to deliver the decisive blow. Perhaps too eager in their pursuit they left their flank unguarded, and while they attempted to force back Artabazus’ Carian mercenaries the Cilician satrap Arsames struck with his cavalry, routing the Immortals. Artashata, satrap of Armenia, tried to turn the tides with a charge of his own but ended up skewered on an Ionian spear and his cavalry shattered across the field. Bagoas then must have realized that the day was lost, and attempted to retreat across the Euphrates. He was however captured by one of his own men, Artashata’s brother Oxyathres, and handed over to Artabazus who quickly had him put to death.

Now there was none who could stand before Artabazus, who quickly marched down the Euphrates to Babylon, which offered no resistance and opened its gates to the new Great King. Having set out to regain his satrapy Artabazus had gained an empire, but not without paying a price. He was supported by both the king of Macedon and the pharaoh of Egypt, and thus was regarded with suspicion by many of the nobility, who only supported him because they hated Bagoas. Shortly after their arrival in Babylon Mentor of Rhodes passed away, he was heavily wounded during the battle of Thapsacus and had contracted malaria in Babylon. He left behind his widow Barsine, who then was married to Atropates, satrap of Media, to secure his support for the new regime. Atropates wasn't the sole son-in-law that Artabazus would gain that year, for his younger daughter Artakama was send to Macedon to marry Alexander, son and heir of Philip II.

War in Greece

But if some slave or superstitious bastard had wasted and squandered what he had no right to, heavens! how much more monstrous and exasperating all would have called it! Yet they have no such qualms about Philip and his present conduct, though he is not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honour, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave!

- Demosthenes describing Philip II of Macedon, Third Philippic, section 31

With Arsites unable to support Perinthus the city fell after several months of siege in the summer of 340. It was now only Athens who supported Perinthus and Byzantion, for the Athenians were highly dependant on grain shipments from the Black Sea. The great orator Demosthenes managed to persuade the Athenian assembly to declare war on Macedon, but this was too late to save Perinthus. Philip left half of his army at Byzantion under Parmenion and he himself returned to Macedon to prepare the army to campaign in Greece, sensing an opportunity to deal with Athens once and for all. Athens too prepared for war, but had trouble finding mercenaries (many were hired by Artabazus) and so had to rely on its own levied hoplites.

In the spring of 339 Philip marched south, much earlier than the Athenians expected because they thought he was still at Byzantion. He marched into Phocis and ordered the city of Elateia restored, earning him the gratitude of the local population and a base of operations. The Athenians tried to ally with the Thebans but were rebuked, as they too were surprised by the sudden appearance of Philip south of Thermopylae. The Corinthians and Megarans however did send their troops to support Athens. In order to show his magnanimity to the Greeks Philip send several offerings to the oracle of Delphi. He then marched south through Boeotia and confronted the Athenian army at Eleusis in August 339.

While their resistance was brave the Athenian levied militia stood no chance against Philip’s professional army. The cavalry charge that broke the Athenian army’s back was led by Philip’s seventeen-year old son Alexander. Afterwards Philip put the city under siege, and eventually the Athenians surrendered when at the end of the year Philip managed to break through the Long Walls by assaulting it with siege towers and ballistas, cutting the Athenians off from the harbour at Piraeus, thus showing the Macedonians’ mastery of siegecraft. Demosthenes rallied the Athenians to the defence of the city and encouraged them to keep on resisting, but most other Athenians were ready to throw in the towel. Afterwards Philip campaigned on the Isthmus and the northern Peloponnese, forcing Corinth and Megara to surrender. The defeated were treated rather leniently, all had to accept garrisons and Athens would lose its maritime empire, but all their prisoners were released without ransom. He then returned to Macedon to celebrate his victory and the wedding of his son to the daughter of the new Persian king, intending to return south the next year.


1. An TTL historian
2. OTL he was satrap of Egypt under Artaxerxes III
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Can I ask for what reason Barsine (who was older than Alexander and already widowed) was sent as bride for Alexander? Artabazus had at least two younger daughters (Artakama, OTL wife of Ptolemy and Artonis who married Eumenes)
Can I ask for what reason Barsine (who was older than Alexander and already widowed) was sent as bride for Alexander? Artabazus had at least two younger daughters (Artakama, OTL wife of Ptolemy and Artonis who married Eumenes)
No particular reason, I know Artabazus had more daughters, I'll think about changing it.
This is really superb stuff. I never knew about the Egyptian uprisings against Persia, thinking that they were a spent force after vying for the Levant with the Neo-Babylonians. Watched with great interest.