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    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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    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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    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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    5. Egypt, Persia and Macedon 340-335
  • 5. Egypt, Persia and Macedon 340-335

    The falcon flies south

    The good god Nakhthorheb – life, prosperity, health – Lord of the Two Lands, Chosen of Anhur, beloved by the gods, ordered me to construct a shrine for his father Amun-Ra in the land of Wawat at the place that is called Baki. I, his servant, Horemsaf, son of Ameny, iry-pat, chief lector-priest at the temple of Thoth at Khmun, did what His Majesty desired. I brought granite from Swenet and cedarwood from the land of the Fenekhu to Wawat and constructed the shrine at Baki. It is a shrine beyond compare, never before has its like been seen, and as reward His Majesty made me Overseer of Wawat.

    - Inscription in the Tomb of Horemsaf at Khmun [1]

    Late in 339 an envoy from Babylon arrived in Memphis, where he was first received by the vizier Wennefer, and afterwards by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt himself. He carried with him a proposal for peace from the new Great King Artabazus; Phoenicia, Palestine and Cyprus would be recognised to be part of the Egyptian sphere of influence, Syria and Cilicia would be part of the dominions of the Great King. The proposal was accepted and gifts were also exchanged, lapis lazuli from Bactria was traded for Egyptian gold. For the first time in 60 years Egypt and Persia were at peace.

    Egypt prospered during this period, trade with both the Aegean and, thanks to the peace treaty, Mesopotamia increased significantly. Several excellent inundations meant large agricultural surpluses which could be exported for profit. It also meant that large amounts of flax was grown, which was used to make linen; another valuable export. Nakhthorheb’s efforts at growing Tjebnetjer into a major city included the settling of artisans, many of whom were weavers; consequence of which the city became known for its exquisite dyed linen. Cotton too was grown, but Egyptian cotton textiles were not as highly regarded as its linen. Another highly praised Egyptian export was its faience. Imports seem to mostly have been Greek wine, olive oil, pottery and silver. Iron was imported for the production of weapons. Egyptian rule over Phoenicia also meant that it was now easy to import cedarwood, the Egyptians’ preferred building material for ships and coffins for the elite. Another consequence of Egyptian dominance in the region was that all the trade from the Arab peninsula, caravans laden with Indian spices, incense from Himyar and Hadramaut and less exotic goods such as sheep and goats, now had to pass through Egyptian territory, paying their dues into the treasury of the pharaoh. Especially Gaza seems to have been the terminus for many caravans, there their precious loads were transferred to Egyptian or Phoenician trade ships and transported to Anatolia, the Aegean or beyond.

    Nakhthorheb’s construction projects continued apace, work was underway at the new temple of Anhur-Shu at Tjebnetjer and at the first pylon of Ipetsut. Increasingly Hellenic styles can be seen in the architecture of the era, with marble becoming more common and Greek style statues starting to appear. In order to acquire the resources for his construction projects several quarries were reopened, such as the limestone quarry at Royu (Tura) and the granite quarries at Swenet (Aswan). The king also ordered the construction of an obelisk at Gaza, which featured an inscription on one side urging loyalty to the king and on the other side commemorating the peace treaty with Persia. Another building project that was started at this time was the palace at Hebyt, but it would not be completed in Nakhthorheb’s lifetime.

    While Tjebnetjer (and its surroundings, like Hebyt) was the focal point of many of his building projects Nakhthorheb mostly seems to have resided at Memphis. There, in the region the Egyptians themselves called ‘the Balance of the Two Lands’, was the ideal place to rule Egypt, close to Delta with access to all branches and upriver to Upper Egypt, and not too far from the border in case of an emergency. Pharaoh Wahibre had built a large palace in the city which was once the seat of the Persian satrap and now was the place from where Nakhthorheb held sway over the land of the Nile. The royal family seems to have resided at a palace at Tjebnetjer, but later on would relocate to the new palace at Hebyt. Increasingly during this era we see the pharaoh’s family come to the forefront: his sons Nakhtnebef and Tjahapimu and his daughter Iaret [2]. Their mother, a daughter of Djedhor named Khedebneithirbinet, had passed away early in Nakhthorheb’s reign, around 350. The middle son, Tjahapimu, named after his grandfather, was initiated as priest at the Great Temple of Ptah in Memphis. Iaret was send to Waset where she would serve as a Chantress of Amun at Ipetsut. It is Nakhtnebef, eldest son and eventual successor of Nakhthorheb, of whom most is known. Born around 358 from his earliest depictions onward he is shown as a vigorous and active figure, he is often depicted riding horses or engaging in sports. While he would have been very young he might have been part of his father’s military expedition in 344, but it is unlikely he was present at Hamath, he probably stayed behind in Sidon. His first major appearance is in 336, during his father’s Nubian expedition.

    Egypt’s relationship with its southern neighbour since the end of the Kushite Twenty-Fifth Dynasty had been troublesome. After their expulsion from Upper Egypt Psamtik I was quite conciliatory to the Nubians, even allowing the Nubian princess Amenirdis to continue serving as God’s Wife of Amun (she did however adopt Psamtik’s daughter Nitiqret as her successor). The other Saite pharaohs did not appear to share this attitude, Nekau I send an army to Nubia to defeat a rebellion and Psamtik II send a large military expedition south, where it violently sacked the capital of Napata and reached the fourth cataract. Unlike during the New Kingdom Nubia was not incorporated into Egypt, the army returned with the spoils of war and the border remained at Abu (Elephantine). The Persians too during the reign of Cambyses invaded Nubia and established a garrison at Dorginarti near the second cataract. In their inscriptions Persian kings often claimed Nubia as one of their lands, but actual Persian control was practically non-existent and any Nubian territories they might have occupied were treated as part of the satrapy of Egypt. After becoming independent in 401 Egypt was far too occupied with fending off the Persians to attempt any kind of conquest of Nubia, but trade continued and the presence of Nubian mercenaries in the Egyptian army is still attested.

    Nakhthorheb’s expedition in 336 was no large scale invasion. A force around 8000 strong was gathered at Swenet and sailed upstream past Abu into Lower Nubia, known to the Egyptians as Wawat. The towns in the region submitted without fighting and the Egyptian army reached the second cataract, where they established a stronghold at Dorginarti. It was not long afterwards that a Kushite army under King Nastasen [3] showed up. After the sack of Napata by Psamtik II the Kushite capital was relocated further south, to Meroë, which can explain the delayed reaction by the Nubians. Not willing to give up lands that he considered rightfully his Nastasen ordered his army to assault Dorginarti. The fortress was located on an island so it was as much a clash on water as one on land. According to the Egyptian campaign records it was prince Nakhtnebef who led the defence of the fortress, where he performed several acts of bravery. The battle ended in an Egyptian victory after Khababash with a reinforcement flotilla caught the Nubians off-guard and drove away a large part of their fleet, trapping many of their warriors on the island. Not long afterwards Nastasen called for a truce, which Nakhthorheb, who had arrived by now, accepted. All the lands between the second and first cataract were ceded to Egypt, and in order to improve relations Nakhthorheb ordered all captured Nubian soldiers to be released. On the way back home Nakhthorheb had a settlement built at a site called Baki, already settled in the Middle and New Kingdom but now abandoned. Baki was to serve as the capital of Lower Nubia and was located near the entrance to the Wadi Allaqi, a dry riverbed which gave access to many gold mines in the Eastern Desert. Not long after Nakhthorheb’s conquest the first mining expedition is already attested, perhaps revealing the reason for the conquest of Lower Nubia in the first place.

    Returning from Nubia in 335 Nakhthorheb first made a stop at Waset, where he oversaw the final construction work being done on the first pylon of Ipetsut. Now that the Precinct of Amun-Ra was surrounded by a wall the first pylon was effectively its gate and this forced everyone who wanted to enter Egypt’s most holy temple to gaze upon the works ordered by (and glorifying) Nakhthorheb, something the king must have been quite pleased about. He also ordered a construction of a shrine, small but elegantly decorated, including a small garden and portico. The shrine was dedicated, of course, to Amun-Ra, in thanksgiving for the conquest of Lower Nubia. This shrine is also the first of place where two regnal dates are mentioned: of Nakhthorheb and Nakhtnebef II, his son and now co-regent. Nakhthorheb was not getting any younger, and it was probably not long after his return from Nubia that his son was elevated to the rank of co-regent, so that the succession would go smoothly in case the king unexpectedly died. Just after the inundation (in August) 335 Nakhthorheb returned to Memphis, probably quite pleased with the current state of his kingdom, which had now had reached a size and prosperity unseen in centuries, and probably hoped that it would last.

    The reign of Artabazus

    In a year Artabazus had gone from refugee at a foreign court to Great King, but while he did pursue that position vigorously, as the bloodstained fields of Thapsacus can testify, he appeared to have no plans about what to do once he achieved what he desired. To Artabazus, it seems, the kingship itself was a goal, not a means to greater things.

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

    After his triumphant entrance into Babylon Artabazus spent little time in Mesopotamia’s largest city, but while he was there he opened up the treasury and used some of the Achaemenids’ significant reserves of gold and silver to mint coins. These were used to pay his mercenaries and a large amount (some sources say 500 talents of silver [4]) was given to his son Arsames, who was appointed by his father as satrap of a new combined satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia, Lydia and Ionia, most of Western Anatolia. The large amount of silver was needed to bribe local potentates, gather mercenaries and finance the construction of defences. Artabazus was no fool, he knew that despite his earlier support Philip of Macedon would not, could not, ever be a friend to the Great King of Persia. Even now despite their children’s marriage and an ostensible alliance he knew that if the opportunity presented itself Philip would leap at the chance of seizing at least Western Anatolia for himself, posturing as liberator of the Greeks of Asia.

    His other son Pharnabazus was send in the opposite direction, to Bactria, greatest of the eastern satrapies and often given to the crown prince to rule. Oxyathres, brother of Artashata who handed over Bagoas to Artabazus was given his brother’s old satrapy of Armenia. Atropates was allowed to keep the satrapy of Media and Pherendates was allowed to keep Syria, to which Cilicia was now added. The old satrap of Cilicia, also named Arsames, who turned the tide at Thapsacus with his charge, was granted the satrapy of Babylonia in recognition of his service. Orontobates, a Persian nobleman who was married to the daughter of Pixodarus (the Carian satrap who was deposed by Artabazus) but had joined Artabazus and became a close confidante of him, was appointed chiliarch.

    Leaving Babylon Artabazus travelled to Susa and then to Pasargadae, where his coronation ceremony took place. Afterwards he visited Persepolis (or Parsa, as it was known to the Persians), where he ordered the construction of a palace complex. A certain Ariobarzanes was appointed as satrap of Persia, the first time that the homeland of the dynasty got a satrap of its own. For several months he stayed in Persia itself, where he oversaw the raising of new regiments of the royal guard and apparently spent quite a lot of time hunting and drinking with the local nobility, enjoying the excellent wines Persia was famous for. Halfway 338 however grim news arrived; an uprising had taken place in Babylonia, led by a certain Nidin-Bel who claimed the kingship of the ancient kingdom. Unrest in Babylon was largely a consequence of the indifference of several Great Kings to Babylon itself, they rarely took part in the rituals that were necessary to be regarded a rightful king of Babylon. This alone was probably not enough to incite revolt in Babylon, but Artabazus was also particularly disliked because during his entrance into the city several of his mercenary contingents, whose pay had been overdue, had looted their way across the city. Even some temples were looted, and while the perpetrators were harshly punished, it must have given the Babylonians a bad impression of their new king.

    The Babylonian countryside thus rose in revolt in 338, and while the eponymous city itself did not fall many others did. Both Opis and Uruk fell to the rebel king Nidin-Bel, who also managed to occupy the roads leading towards Babylon itself, blocking access to the outside world from the city. The satrap Arsames lead his army out of the city, weakening the garrison, and confronted Nidin-Bel somewhere south of the city. Nidin-Bel’s revolting farmers were no match for Arsames’ professional mercenaries and the would-be king himself also fell on the battlefield. With a large part of the garrison away however now the city of Babylon itself revolted, under a man who took the throne of Babylon under the name Shamash-sar-usur [5]. A man of uncertain origins, he apparently had military experience and was a native Babylonian, he led an uprising against the remaining garrison in Babylon which he managed to expel. An attempt at recapturing the city ended in a disaster for the Persians when the satrap Arsames was hit by a javelin while overseeing an assault on the city’s impressive walls. A well timed Babylonian sally managed to drive away many of the Persian troops. Arsames was captured while still alive and was subject to a grisly execution. The still present mercenaries were bribed by Shamash-sar-usur, who used the still sizeable amounts of silver and gold that Artabazus had left behind to hire the services of the mostly Ionian and Carian contingents.

    Confronted with the spectre of a resurgent Babylon Artabazus acted decisively, sending a messenger to Syria to order Pherendates to gather an army; forcing Shamash-sar-usur to fight on multiple fronts. Artabazus settled himself in Susa where he gathered an army to reclaim Babylon, marching out in the spring of 337. Near the site of ancient Nippur Artabazus confronted a Babylonian army and defeated it, but the victory was probably closer than Artabazus wanted to admit because instead of marching on Babylon itself he returned to Susa. An attempt at reclaiming Opis by the chiliarch Orontobates, who marched in from Ecbatana in Media, ended in disaster with the Persian army decisively defeated. Pherendates’ march down the Euphrates was disrupted by Shamash-sar-usur’s ordering a scorched earth policy. For a while it must have seen like that an independent Babylonia was inevitable, sadly for Shamash-sar-usur it was not to be. Artabazus was determined to shore up his position as king, and confronted with all the resources that the Achaemenids could muster Babylon alone could not keep them out forever. A renewed offensive on multiple fronts in 336 broke the rebellion’s back. Pherendates reached Babylon and surrounded the city, with Shamash-sar-usur outside the city with his army. Instead of attempting to lift the siege of Babylon he gambled everything on an open battle with Artabazus. The exact location of this battle is unknown, but the king of Babylon’s army was defeated decisively, and he fled to Uruk. The people of Uruk let him into the city, but killed him not long afterwards and offered his head to Artabazus as a sign of loyalty. It seems to have worked for Uruk was not sacked or plundered.

    Babylon itself fell relatively quickly, in 335 after a year of siege, especially considering its extensive fortifications. The city was plundered but not excessively so, the ringleaders of the revolt were executed and several thousands deported. Despite this relatively mild treatment there was still extensive damage to the city, including to the important temples of the Esagila and the Etemenanki (only recently renovated by Mazaeus) and the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, and for the remaining years of his reign Susa would be Artabazus’ primary residence. Three years of warfare had left large parts of Babylonia in ruins, a disaster for the Persian exchequer for Babylonia was among its most prosperous and valuable provinces.

    For the rest of his reign Artabazus would spend quite a lot of time and effort at rebuilding Mesopotamia. For better or for worse the Babylonian War was the defining part of his reign, and it showed that even in its core unrest and rebellion could wreck the Achaemenid Empire. Artabazus would die in 333, after only six years of rule. He never really recovered from the wounds that he had suffered at Thapsacus and after the Babylonian War increasingly indulged in wine and other vices, never venturing far from Susa and letting his satraps rule the empire. His death in 333 without clearly appointing a successor was the the end for the Achaemenid dynasty.


    Is not Philip our enemy? And in possession of our property? And a barbarian? Is any description too bad for him?

    - Demosthenes, Olynthiac 3, section 16

    In the last decade Philip had gone from strength to strength, culminating in the siege of Athens in 339, which more or less confirmed Macedonian supremacy over the Hellenic states. When Philip returned to Pella during the spring of 338 he received news that Byzantion had finally surrendered, without Athenian support there was little hope for the city on the Bosporus. With the surrender of Byzantion and the cession of the Thracian Chersonese by Athens Macedon now controlled the entire European side of the Propontis, allowing them to control trade between the Aegean and the Black Sea.

    Shortly after his return to Pella Alexander was married to Artabazus’ daughter Artakama. The marriage, although it would have big consequences, was not much more than an diplomatic gesture, emphasizing the ties between the Argead line and Artabazus’ branch of the Achaemenid dynasty. Many among the Greeks were appalled by the marriage, and others (such as Demosthenes) saw it as confirmation that Philip was nothing more than an Persian-style despot. After the festivities ended Philip and Alexander left Macedon again, to campaign in Thrace, where he attacked the Scythians who lived near the mouth of the Danube and attacked the Triballi, who lived more upstream. With Thrace secure once again the army returned to Macedon in 337.

    Not long after their return news reached the Macedonian court that several Greek states were conspiring to end Macedonian hegemony. A Theban force had managed to occupy Thermopylae and the new Spartan king Agis III had gathered an army in the Peloponnese. In Athens Demosthenes incited rebellion against the Macedonian garrison on the Acropolis, who were put under siege. Much of the funds for the rebellion were provided by the new satrap in Sardis Arsames, who also started the construction of a fleet in Ionia.

    Philip and his army rushed south and reached Thermopylae in May of 337. Alexander personally led the elite hypaspists and elite light troops supplied by the Agrianians, a Paeonian tribe allied to Macedon, over the trail that the Persians took to outflank the Spartans. The Thebans, who could have known this, decided to retreat when it became clear that they were about to be surrounded. In the meantime Agis III had left the Peloponnese with his army, consisting of Spartan and allied hoplites, light troops and Persian sponsored mercenaries. He had managed to expel the Macedonian garrison on the Acrocorinth (the citadel of Corinth) and had installed a pro-Spartan government in the city. He then crossed the isthmus and was preparing to aid the Athenians in their siege of the Acropolis, but news had reached Agis that the Theban defenders of Thermopylae had retreated. He marched north into Boeotia and joined forces with the Thebans, hoping that their combined army, in total probably around 40000, would be able to stand up to the Macedonian war machine. Philip crossed into Boeotia in July 337, where the two armies would meet at Ocalea.

    The battle that followed only confirmed the Macedonian hegemony over Hellas. Unable to break through the pike phalanx that confronted them on the narrow plains of Ocalea the Thebans attempted to outflank them by using the hills, but there they were slaughtered by the Macedonian light troops and hypaspists. The Spartans and their allies managed to hold their own on the plains, but even they had to relent in the end. At that moment the Hetairoi cavalry struck, shattering the enemy formation. Agis III fell on the field. Before the battle ‘on to Macedonia!’ had been the rallying cry of the forces opposed to Philip, but now even his greatest opponents must have realised that the cities of Greece had little choice but to submit. Thebes opened its gates and was treated mildly, the Athenians, after hearing of the defeat at Ocalea, gave up their siege of the Acropolis and managed to sign a treaty with Philip. Demosthenes was exiled and Athens had to pay a high indemnity to Macedon. The Peloponnese was invaded and Corinth reoccupied, after which Philip send his armies south to ravage Laconia. Several of the towns that made up Sparta were plundered, as were some temples. Now even the famed Lacedaemonians had to give up. With the war practically over it was now time for Philip to organise his hegemony over Greece, and he called for a general meeting of Greeks states at Corinth in 336.


    1.Iry-pat roughly means ‘member of the elite’ and denotes the hereditary nobility, a lector priest is a priest whose primary task is the reciting of hymns and spells in ceremonies. The chief lector priest was also in charge of the temple archives.
    2. OTL practically nothing is known of Nakhthorheb’s family, one of the few references to them is the presence of an unnamed son at the Persian side during the battle of Issus.
    3. OTL King Nastasen on one of his stelas mentions defeating an invader in Lower Nubia named Kambasuten, which could quite possibly be Khababash during his brief kingship after the death of Artaxerxes III.
    4. A talent of silver is about 26 kg and was equivalent of 6000 drachmae. A mercenary during the Hellenistic era or a skilled worker or artisan made about 1 drachma a day. The construction of one trireme cost 1 talent, and for 1 talent the crew could be paid for a month. According to Herodotus the annual income of the Persian Empire was 14560 talents of silver. In comparison the tribute that Athens received through the Delian League amounted to 1000 talents a year.
    5. Meaning ‘Shamash protect the king’ in Akkadian
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    6. From Corinth to Gordion
  • 6. From Corinth to Gordion

    The League of the Hellenes

    I swear by Zeus, Gaia, Helios, Poseidon and all the gods and goddesses. I will abide by the common peace and I will neither break the agreement with Philip, nor take up arms on land or sea, harming any of those abiding by the oaths. Nor shall I take any city, or fortress, nor harbour by craft or contrivance, with intent of war against the participants of the war. Nor shall I depose the kingship of Philip or his descendants, nor the constitutions existing in each state, when they swore the oaths of the peace. Nor shall I do anything contrary to these agreements, nor shall I allow anyone else as far as possible. But if anyone does commit any breach of the treaty, I shall go in support as called by those who need and I shall fight the transgressors of the common peace, as decided (by the council) and called on by the hegemon.

    - Oath sworn at Corinth

    Near Ocalea, on the shores of Lake Copais in Boeotia, the power of the old city-states of Hellas was crushed decisively. A generation of Spartans fell underneath the hooves of the hetairoi while the Theban Sacred Band was picked off one by one in the hills. Macedonia, once but a pawn in the power-politics of Greece, had overcome all its foes. Now the time had come for consolidation, to focus the efforts of the Hellenes outwards, against their ancestral foe; the Great King of Persia. In order to achieve this Philip called for a general meeting of Greek states at Corinth early 336.

    Apart from Sparta all mainland Greek states attended. A league would be established with the King of Macedon as its Hegemon and all its members would be able to send a representative to the Synedrion (congress). Macedon itself would not be a member, but with its king as Hegemon it did not need to be. While not explicitly stated at first, it was an open secret that the league’s actual purpose was to unite the manpower and resources of the Greeks to facilitate an invasion of the Achaemenid Empire. Sparta’s stubborn refusal to cooperate was not a big problem, its military was crushed for a generation, and both of its kings seemed unlikely and unable to challenge the newfound Argead hegemony. Besides Sparta there was one other notable Greek state that did not attend the Congress, not because it did not want to but because it was unable to. That state was Rhodes.

    Rhodes in the early 330’s was increasingly prosperous, Egypt’s economic revival meant more trade between the Aegean and the land of the Nile, between which Rhodes was a critical link. Rhodes had been an ally of Maussolos, satrap of Caria, with whose help they rebelled from Athens. Later on it had supported Thebes against Athens and Macedon against Thebes and Sparta. When the satrap Arsames arrived in Sardis in 338 he immediately made contact with some of his acquaintances on the island. His mother, sister of Mentor and Memnon of Rhodes, had been a Rhodian herself and Arsames himself must have been well known with the island. Winning Rhodes over to the Persian side was critical to Arsames’ plans for the Aegean. With the loss of Phoenicia and Cyprus Persia’s navy now heavily depended on the Cilicians and Ionians, and in any future conflict with Macedon a powerful fleet could be decisive factor. Rhodes with its excellent harbour and large fleet would thus be a welcome addition to Persia’s collection of vassal states. In 336, without any warning, a mostly Carian army landed on Rhodes and seized its eponymous capital. A short campaign followed, during which the other Rhodian poleis, Ialysos, Lindos and Kameiros, surrendered. Rhodes was put under supervision of the Satrap of Caria, Ada, but was granted substantial autonomy over its internal affairs.

    Arsames while in command of the western satrapies turned out to be a capable ruler. He managed to raise a fleet and gathered a sizeable army. Knowing that by now war was inevitable he meant to time his assault on Macedonia in concert with the revolt in Greece, but Agis III had acted rashly and was crushed, potentially jeopardizing Arsames’ plans. His contacts with other Greek states indicated that any organised uprising against Philip was not possible in the near future. It was then that he ordered Rhodes to be seized and he send forward a force into the Thracian Chersonese under the command of Spithridates and Rhosaces, two brothers, where they occupied several towns. This was tantamount to a declaration of war on Macedon and thus the recently founded Hellenic League. The exact reason why Arsames decided to act is not known, but it is quite possible that it was a pre-emptive strike, attacking before Philip could gather all his forces. The news of the occupation of Rhodes and the attack on the Thracian Chersonese arrived at Corinth at one of the last days of the Congress, and the synedrion unanimously voted for war.

    War in the Aegean

    It was thus for the sake of Rhodian liberty that the Hellenes waged war on Asia.

    - Excerpt from ‘The Life of Philippos Nikator’ by Bomilkar of Malakka

    Philip quickly returned to Macedon, where Parmenion had already gathered the army. Attalus, an important Macedonian noble whose daughter Cleopatra Eurydice was married to Philip [1], was send forward with an advance force. Arsames had also send agents into Thrace, handing out gold and promising aid if the Thracians were to rise up against the Macedonians. While not a great success there were still 5000 Thracians who joined up with the army of Spithridates and Rhosaces. At Maroneia Attalus encountered the Persian army, and an inconclusive battle was fought, both sides suffered losses and the Persians returned to Asia, but on the Macedonian side Attalus had fallen. Antipater, his second in command, commanded the remaining forces and occupied the Chersonese, blocking any other Persian advance into Europe. The Persian fleet had in the meantime occupied the straits, making it impossible for Philip to invade Asia. Winter was now fast approaching, and new campaigns had to wait for the spring of 335.

    Both sides were now strengthening themselves, in Greece a fleet was brought together under the auspices of the Hellenic League, consisting mostly of Athenian ships. In Sardis the satrap Arsames had received some reinforcements from his father, by now the Babylonian uprising was practically over, and several elite detachments were send west to support Arsames. These included contingents of the Royal Guard (Immortals) and the elite cavalry known as the Royal Kinsmen. His offensive had failed because of the quick Macedonian reaction, now Arsames’ strategy was to draw them into Asia and defeating them with superior numbers on a terrain of his choosing. In March 335 the fleet of the Hellenic League set sail eastwards and engaged a smaller Ionian fleet near Mykonos, who were defeated. The fleet that guarded the Hellespont now returned south, to defend the Ionian coast against a possible landing. A small flotilla was left behind, but it was swept aside by the Macedonian fleet, who then proceeded to ferry over Philip’s army to Asia, where they landed near Abydos.

    Arsames did not contend their landing and kept his forces at Sardis. Philip and his army marched south, stopping at the site of Troy to hold funeral games in honour of Achilles and Patroclus, and then went onwards to Adramyttion, which opened its gates without resistance. Another force, consisting of mostly mercenaries and soldiers send by the Hellenic League, was send east to Daskyleion under Kalas, but was ambushed by a Persian cavalry detachment and destroyed near the river Granicus. Despite that this threatened his rear Philip decided to press on, the fleet of the League had defeated the Persians near Chios which enabled them to supply Philip by sea. Near a place called Hyrkanis, just north of Sardis, Arsames had gathered his forces. The Macedonians marched south by the coast and then marched up the Hermus Valley, which led towards Sardis. Philip by then must have heard from his scouts about the army at Hyrkanis and fully confident in his battle-hardened army he decided to confront them.

    Arsames however was not so confident of his situation, and several of his commanders thought it better to retreat to Eastern Anatolia, destroying crops and driving away the cattle, so that the Macedonians must chase them over scorched earth. While it might be a sensible strategy it was certain that the locals would turn against them if they tried it, many of whom were part of Arsames’ army. Noblemen like Spithradates and Rhosaces had large amounts of land in Western Anatolia, and thus were unlikely to continue their support for the satrap if he decided to torch their fields. It was thus at Hyrkanis that they decided to make their stand. Arsames’ army was slightly outnumbered, his 35000 men had to face off against Philip’s 37000. He had 8000 Greek mercenaries, 3000 men of the ‘Immortals’, a 1000-strong squadron of the Royal Kinsmen, 3000 Thracians, 5000 cavalrymen from all over Anatolia (mostly Lydians and Cappadocians), 10000 local light troops and 4000 Persian troops from the local garrisons. Philip’s army consisted of 12000 Macedonian infantry, 8000 Greek troops send by the League, his cavalry was equal in numbers to the Persians’, around 5000 (mostly Macedonian and Thessalian) and 12000 light troops, a mix of mercenaries and Thracians and Illyrians who were allies/subjects of Macedon.


    The Macedonian phalanx at Hyrkanis

    On the 15th of June 335 the armies met at the open plains at Hyrkanis. At the eve of such a large battle both sides made offerings to the gods and had omens observed. Both armies took up their positions in the morning dew, the Macedonians deployed their phalanx flanked by the Thessalians under Parmenion on the left and the hetairoi under Alexander on the right. The Greeks were kept in reserve, the light troops were split between those who were posted in front of the phalanx to harass the enemy and those who were detached with the cavalry to support them. Philip himself was positioned with a elite bodyguard behind the hypaspists on the right flank of the phalanx. Arsames gambled everything on a charge of his cavalry, which he concentrated on his right flank opposing Parmenion and the Thessalians, while his centre consisted of the Greek mercenaries and Persian troops, with the Immortals in reserve. The left flank was guarded by a smaller cavalry detachment under Spithradates. Arsames himself commanded the cavalry on the right and Rhosaces the centre.

    The battle started with the phalanx advancing in echelon, with the left flank advancing forward. The light troops exchanged missile fire, attempting to disrupt the opposing formation. Hoping to settle the battle quickly Arsames launched his charge, managing to put pressure on the Thessalians, and on the Macedonian extreme left even managed to outflank them. Philip send in the Greeks, who formed a second line, to repel the Persian advance. The light troops, mostly Thracian and Illyrian peltasts, also proved tenacious and managed to rally despite the Thessalian retreat. The Persians, having lost the impetus of their charge, were now getting bogged down fighting the Greek hoplites and supporting light troops. Meanwhile on the Macedonian right Alexander had defeated the cavalry force, personally killing Spithradates, and now could threaten the Persian rear. The phalanx in the meantime had engaged the Persian main line, and because of its positioning (the line was now diagonal because of the advance in echelon) exposed the Persian left flank, which required it to be covered by the Immortals. Now Philip himself, with his bodyguard and supported by the hypaspists, charged into the enemy flank and drove back the Immortals. Alexander now had a free hand, and he charged his hetairoi in the rear of the Greek mercenaries. The Persian line now collapsed completely, the light troops fled the field, Parmenion had managed to rally the Thessalians and now drove away the Persian cavalry, completing the victory for Macedon. Arsames was captured, Rhosaces managed to escape the field with a cavalry squadron, and fled north to Daskyleion. The Achaemenid army suffered around 6000 death, the Macedonians had around 1200 death to mourn. Philip of Macedon had achieved his greatest victory, and after the battle was often given the epithet ‘Nikator’, meaning victor.

    With Arsames in chains and his army shattered Sardis opened its gates for the victorious king. The city was renowned for its wealth, but Philip did not allow it to be plundered, hoping to win the population over to his side. He installed a Greek garrison and rededicated the local temple to Ahura Mazda to Zeus (ironically later on it became a shrine to Zeus Oromazdes). The news of the Macedonian victory at Hyrkanis spread fast and the Ionian cities were now rife with unrest, eager to overthrow the Persian-backed oligarchies that ruled them. Philip quickly marched to the coast, leaving Asandros, a brother of Parmenion, as his satrap in Lydia (the first sign that Philip would, at least partially, incorporate Persian methods of government). The Ionian cities opened their gates to the Macedonians, who expelled both Persian garrisons and their oligarchs or tyrants. In a particularly gruesome example, the tyrant Syrpax of Ephesos was stoned to death together with his family by an angry mob [2]. Miletus intended to resist, but surrendered when the Macedonian fleet appeared in its harbour. In many cities, with the elite often having supported the Persians, a democratic government was now installed. These democracies almost always voted in line with the wishes of Philip (or Alexander, later on).

    Philip now split his forces, he himself would march into Caria while Parmenion and Alexander would head back north, to capture Daskyleion and stop Rhosaces, who from Hellespontine Phrygia had launched several raids into Lydia. In October 335 they approached Daskyleion, and Rhosaces, heavily outnumbered, decided to retreat to Kyzikos. There he was put under siege, which would drag on until early 334 when the city finally fell, Alexander was reportedly the first over the wall, Rhosaces fell during the fighting. Philip had it a lot easier in the south, where the ruler of Caria, Ada, was allowed to keep her throne in exchange for naming Philip or his eventual successor as her heir. The complete collapse of Persian hegemony in western Anatolia is not hard to understand, with their armies gone and without a fleet to support coastal cities Macedon was now the local hegemon. The rest of 335 Philip spend campaigning in Lycia and Pamphylia, where most towns also surrendered without resisting. Afterwards he marched back inland through Pisidia, where he defeated a small force at Sagalassus before marching into Phrygia, where he settled himself in Gordion for the coming winter. In the meantime Rhodes was reconquered by a small army under the command of Amyntas, son of Antiochus, where he started his days of misrule. Western Anatolia was now secured for Macedon. In April 334 Philip would be re-joined by Alexander and Parmenion, planning to campaign further east.


    1. The marriage of Philip and Cleopatra still took place, but Attalus’ drunken boast and subsequent fight between Philip and Alexander, and thus Alexander’s temporary exile to Epirus, did not.
    2. Also happened OTL.
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    7. The Cilician campaign
  • 7. The Cilician campaign

    Philip, who if his life had only gone slightly different would be ruling over nothing, now held supreme power over both Hellas and Anatolia, something no other man had done before. Later on Alexander would claim that it was his father’s wisdom and strength that had forged that empire, but there he forgot a crucial element, something Philip often had: luck.

    - Excerpt from ‘The Life of Philippos Nikator’ by Bomilkar of Malakka

    In April 334, when Alexander and Parmenion finally joined forces with him again at Gordion, Philip must have looked forward to driving the Persians away completely from Anatolia. News had reached him that in Syria the chiliarch Orontobates was gathering an army to stop Philip’s advance. An envoy was send to Orontobates, proposing the cession of Asia beyond the Taurus to Philip in return for a peace treaty and the release of Arsames, who was held in captivity by Philip. Orontobates, who did not bother sending the message through to Artabazus, rejected the offer. After the news of the defeat at Hyrkanis reached Susa the Great King gave Orontobates the supreme command over the defence of the empire. Despite the recent wars he could still gather a sizeable army, but it was now increasingly drawn not from Babylonia, Syria and Anatolia but from the Empire’s Iranian heartland itself. This provided Orontobates with excellent cavalry, hardened hillmen and capable archers, but aside from several royal regiments there was not much heavy infantry. Like Bagoas before him Orontobates made Aleppo his base of operations, and it was there that he gathered his forces.

    Just before departing Gordion Philip received the welcome news that Holophernes, satrap of Cappadocia, had offered his subjugation to Philip, something he gladly accepted for this secured his flank. In Gordion Philip left Antigonos [1] behind as his satrap, and then marched his army to the Cilician Gate, a narrow pass in the Taurus Range between the Anatolian highlands and the Cilician plains. The pass was heavily fortified by the Persians, who had built a wall across the pass. They managed to hold up the Macedonian army for several days, which were used by Philip’s troops to construct ladders. In a daring midnight assault the elite hypaspists and Agrianians stormed the wall and defeated the Persian garrison, giving Philip access to the Cilician plain. In June 334 he marched into Cilicia and besieged Tarsus, which quickly surrendered. On Orontobates’ orders most of the local garrisons retreated to Syria, taking whatever supplies they could with them and burning the rest.

    It was then that things took a turn a turn for the worse for Philip. Atropates, satrap of Media, invaded Cappadocia in July 334 with a army mostly consisting of Median and Armenian cavalry, defeating and killing Holophernes in battle and capturing the Cappadocian capital Mazaka. He then launched raids into Phrygia, where he defeated Antigonos in battle near Ankyra, and then marched south towards the Cilician Gate, cutting off Philip and isolating him in Cilicia. Now it was Philip’s turn to fortify the Cilician Gate, he had his engineers repair the Persian wall and had towers topped with torsion catapults and ballista’s constructed, which would rain deadly projectiles on anyone who tried to storm the pass. He also left behind a garrison 5000 strong under the command of Philotas, son of Parmenion, making sure that the pass could not fall. With most of Cilicia pillaged there were relatively little supplies available and it must have seemed as if Orontobates managed to successfully trap Philip. Supplies could of course be brought in by sea, but Philip had after the conquest of Lycia ordered a large part of the fleet to be disbanded, the upkeep off a fleet was expensive after all and the Persians were already defeated at sea. Orontobates had fortified the passes into Syria, daring Philip to march east and fight Orontobates, who by now had gathered around 60000 men, on his own soil. Philip however must have known that marching into Syria now was unwise, having now at most 35000 men at his disposal. His army, increasingly hungry, desperate and unruly, called on their king to act and urged him to march into Syria anyway. Faced with this conundrum Philip in the end decided to turn not to warfare but to diplomacy to solve his current situation. An envoy was send south, not to Persia but to Egypt.

    Opinions on Egypt among the Greeks were divided in this era. Many had respect for the country’s ancient customs, traditions and religion. Others ridiculed the animal-headed gods and saw the pharaoh as no better than the king of Persia, a cruel despot ruling over a slave-like population. Among those with a positive opinion of the Egyptian state there were some who even urged Philip to cooperate with them in order to open up a southern front against the Persians. Parmenion was among those who urged cooperation, not out of fondness for Egyptian culture but because of the military implications, he urged Philip to contact Nakhthorheb:

    Is his country not, besides ours, the foremost foe of the Persians? Has he not defeated the Persians in battle and has he not instigated rebellions against them? His country overflows with grain and gold, what harm could be done by asking him for aid?

    The envoy arrived first at Cyprus and then travelled further to Egypt itself, where he was received by Nakhthorheb in Memphis. Military aid would not be forthcoming, at least not soon, Nakhthorheb was a cautious man and not eager to intervene in foreign lands if he could avoid it. Egyptian interests were, for now, not at risk. He did however agree to sell grain to the Macedonians, allowing the army to be resupplied without harassment because of the Persian lack of a navy. Orontobates became aware of the Egyptian support and, unaware of Nakhthorheb’s reluctance, expected the Egyptian military to come to the aid of Philip. If he wanted to prevent being caught in a pincer between the Egyptians in Phoenicia and the Macedonians in Cilicia he needed to act quickly. Orders were send to Pherendates, satrap of Syria, to launch raids into Palestine and Phoenicia. Orontobates himself gathered his forces and left his defensive positions, marching his 65000 strong army into the Cilician plains in September 334.

    Philip, while surprised by the sudden Persian advance, must have been pleased that now his enemy would come to him, allowing him to choose the battlefield. He pulled his men back behind the Sarus river, which bisects Cilicia from north to south, and had all bridges that crossed it destroyed. Now that he was on the offensive it was Orontobates who started to have supply problems, especially since Cilicia was already plundered which made feeding his large army exceptionally hard. He could thus not afford to wait. His scouts reported to him that there was an fordable part of the Sarus just north of Adana, but when he arrived there he found the Macedonian army in battle formation just across the river. Orontobates was not an experienced commander, and because of his numerical superiority he thought he could force his way through. His second-in-command, Mazaces, tried to persuade him not to try it, but to no avail.

    On the morning of the 25th of September 334 BC the Persian army started fording the Sarus river, and immediately came under fire by not only Philip’s light troops but also by around 20 torsion ballistae that Philip had his engineers construct on the riverbank. The Macedonian phalanx held the front, and despite some losses, managed to keep the Persians at bay. Orontobates however had one trick up his sleeve, several miles north there was another ford in the river, and he had send a small but elite force under Mazaces [2] there to outflank the Macedonians. Panic thus gripped the Macedonian line when they were suddenly assaulted in the flank by Persian cavalry. The Macedonian left, now surrounded on three sides, started to fall back. Philip himself rode in to rally his forces, which momentarily seemed to work. The Persian assault was finally repelled when Alexander along with the hetairoi managed to drive away the Persian cavalry. He followed the fleeing Persians with his hetairoi and a contingent of the hypaspists and also crossed the Sarus, and repaid the Persians in kind by charging into their flank. When he saw his son assaulting the Persian positions Philip ordered the phalanx onward, driving the Persians back. Orontobates now decided to retreat and managed to escape with most of his elite forces intact.


    Persian heavy cavalry engaging Macedonian peltasts

    Philip and his army chased after the retreating Persians and catched up to them at the village of Issus two weeks later, where Orontobates decided to make his stand. Both armies were around 30000 strong. The narrow coastal plain was an advantage for the Macedonian phalanx. They faced the Persian Immortals, with their scale cuirasses and large shields, who put down their shield wall and fought the Macedonians first with their bows, and then with their lances, swords and axes. In the end they too had to relent and were forced back. Orontobates himself led a desperate charge of the Royal Kinsmen, but this failed to change the tide of battle. In the hills on the flanks of the battlefield the Iranian troops held out against the Macedonian light troops, but were routed when the hypaspists outflanked them. Now they managed to strike the Persian rear, the chiliarch Orontobates died on the field, a javelin from an Illyrian peltast struck his unguarded neck. The Macedonian phalanx then made way for the charge of the hetairoi under Alexander, who utterly routed the Persians. Once again Philip had won. Cilicia was now his and the way was cleared for an advance into Syria.


    1. Not known as Monophthalmos in this timeline because he didn’t lose his eye at Perinthus
    2. OTL satrap of Egypt under Darius III
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    8. Nikator
  • 8. Nikator

    Marching east

    Therefore, since the others are so lacking in spirit, I think it is opportune for you to head the war against the King; and, while it is only natural for the other descendants of Heracles, and for men who are under the bonds of their polities and laws, to cleave fondly to that state in which they happen to dwell, it is your privilege, as one who has been blessed with untrammelled freedom, to consider all Hellas your fatherland, as did the founder of your race, and to be as ready to brave perils for her sake as for the things about which you are personally most concerned.

    - Isocrates’ To Philip, 5.32

    Philippos Nikator, King of Macedonia and Hegemon of the Hellenic League

    The victories at Hyrkanis, Adana and Issus had made Philip master of the western satrapies of the Persian Empire. Especially Issus had been a decisive victory, a large part of the professional core of the Persian army was destroyed and Philip had captured the Persian baggage train, which included many talents of silver. Most Syrian cities, left without any meaningful protection, submitted to Philip without resistance. Philip himself with most of his forces then marched to Thapsacus on the Euphrates, where he made camp. Upon reaching the river offerings were made to the gods, and Philip ordered a missive to be send to the synedrion in Corinth, detailing the campaign. An envoy was also send to Artabazus in Susa, Philip wanted to negotiate with his former guest and was willing to sign a treaty if the current conquests were ceded to Macedon. Parmenion in the meantime was send further south to seize Damascus and thus the rest of Syria.

    Meanwhile in Anatolia Antigonos had received reinforcements from Macedonia and managed to expel Atropates from Phrygia and thus restored the overland route to Cilicia and Syria. Atropates decided to retreat back to Armenia, perhaps he received a message from the Great King to join the large army that was now being gathered in northern Mesopotamia. Cappadocia was now more or less ignored by both warring parties, and after several years of anarchy in the end it would be Ariarathes, son of the last satrap Holophernes, who would claim dominion of the land.

    In Damascus the satrap Pherendates decided to surrender, but not to the Macedonians. In October 334 a Egyptian force, 5000 strong, under the command of Khababash arrived at Damascus and took possession of the city. Pherendates and his garrison left the city and travelled to Egypt, to prostrate himself before the Lord of the Two Lands and receive a new position for himself and his troops. He was send to Sau (Saïs) where he would oversee the local garrison and the Western Delta, which bordered Libya and thus vulnerable to raids from that direction. Envoys were also send first to Parmenion and then to Philip, bringing with them a large sum of gold. The Egyptians seizing Damascus must have agitated Philip, but he could not risk antagonizing them now. He accepted their gold and confirmed the Egyptians in their possession of Damascus and the land that the Greeks called Koile Syria (‘Hollow Syria’). The Egyptians also agreed to once again supply grain to the Macedonians.

    Having secured his position and supplies Philip, who had received no reply from Artabazus, could now plan his new campaign. With the road through Anatolia clear once again Philip received reinforcements, Macedonian phalangites, Thracian horsemen, Illyrian peltasts and Carian hillmen joined up with the army at Thapsacus. His scouts indicated that the Persians had managed to gather another army, now under the command of Pharnabazus, satrap of Bactria and heir apparent to the empire. It was gathering at Arbela and surpassed Orontobates’ army in size, around 80000 men strong. It consisted mostly of troops from Iran and the eastern satrapies; heavily armed Bactrian lancers, horse archers from the steppes, infantry from the villages on the Iranian plateau and cavalry supplied by its nobility, the remnants of the Immortals, scythed chariots and also 20 Indian elephants. A second force, under the command of the satrap of Persia Ariobarzanes, was positioned just north of Babylon to counter a Macedonian march down the Euphrates.

    The Great King Artabazus did not command his armies personally, as one might have expected since the situation was dire. The king however was very ill, and according to the records rarely left his bed anymore, and was thus unable to command the defence of his empire. His heir Pharnabazus, while capable, was not especially popular among the nobility. Defeat after defeat had significantly eroded support for Artabazus and his son, who after all only recently ascended to the throne and there were probably still many Persians who saw them as illegitimate.

    In contrast to his former guest Philip had several strokes of luck in the final months of 334. First was the arrival of a reinforcement force 6000 strong, not from Macedonia but send by Nakhthorheb, king of Egypt. It consisted of Greek and Nubian mercenaries and several contingents of the machimoi, under command of Khababash. The presence of the Egyptian force was intended to show to Philip and the Macedonians that Egypt was a willing ally of what now appeared to be the new great power of the region. Philip and most his army, 40000 strong, departed in November 334. The army under Pharnabazus represented a greater threat to the Macedonians and had to be dealt with before marching on Babylon, so instead of marching down the Euphrates Philip and his army marched north from Thapsacus. Parmenion was left behind with 10000 Macedonians and the Egyptian force to guard the fords at Thapsacus, he was to march down the Euphrates if such a command was send by Philip.

    The main army under Philip and Alexander first arrived at Urhai, which the Macedonians named Edessa after a city in their homeland the surroundings of which reminded them of the area, and Harran. It was there that Philip was informed of a large cavalry force nearby, which must have alarmed him, perhaps Pharnabazus was already on the march. Not long afterwards an envoy appeared in the Macedonian camp, send by the satraps Atropates and Oxyathres. They had seen the writing on the wall and must have realized the hopelessness of clinging on to the Achaemenid house. They promised to recognise Philip as king and join him with their forces in exchange for them keeping their satrapies. Philip, who could not believe his luck, accepted immediately. His army now reinforced by 5000 Median and Armenian horsemen he marched east, through the old Assyrian heartland, until he reached the banks of the Tigris.

    Once he arrived there, at the start of December 334, he received news from his spies that Pharnabazus had left Arbela and had crossed the Tigris. The Achaemenid prince was confident in his ability to defeat the invaders, and with his father’s fragile health and recent decline in mind, eager to establish himself as a great general. Defeating this invasion would go a long way in establishing his line’s legitimacy as rightful kings of Persia. Philip thus marched south and encountered the Persian army on the banks of the Tigris near a village called Mepsila, already mentioned by Xenophon 70 years before. It would be the decisive battle of his campaign.

    The battle of Mepsila

    Message from His Majesty’s servant, Overseer of the Troops in the lands of Retjenu, iry-pat, Khababash, to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Senedjemibra, the son of Ra, Nakhthorheb, may he have all life, health and dominion! As commanded by His Majesty I have placed myself and your army at the service of Philip, ruler of the Greeks, who tasked us with guarding a ford in the Inverted Waters [1]. Philip and his son have marched east, seeking to confront the Ruler of Foreign Lands and defeat him in battle. Word has reached me that they found the army of the Asiatics, and that a great battle was fought. Beware though, Your Majesty, these are but rumours, and none of the stories I have heard could agree on who had won the battle or even its location. As soon as I have made certain what had happened I will let Your Majesty know. May this message reach Your Majesty in the Residence in life, prosperity and health.

    Early in the morning of the 14th of December 334 Philip of Macedon stood solemnly before an altar, burning incense to Zeus, Athena and Ares. Seers informed the king of good omens, the day would certainly be his. On the opposite side of the battlefield, several kilometres away Pharnabazus’ wise men informed him of the same, he only needed to fight and the enemy would melt away. Truth be told, Philip was in more danger than Pharnabazus, if his army was defeated and shattered its unlikely he (and his heir) would make it out alive. Both men must have realised that, one way or another, this would be the decisive battle of the war.

    Once again at the core of the Macedonian army was the phalanx, anchored on it’s left side by the river Tigris, on the right of the phalanx stood the hypaspistai. To their right stood the Thracian and Thessalian cavalry, led by Philotas, son of Parmenion. Behind them, unseen by the Persians, there was a second, smaller, pike phalanx. The phalanxes were supported by light troops from Thrace, Illyria and Caria. Philip was positioned with his bodyguard behind the main phalanx, Alexander with his hetairoi accompanied by Oxyathres and Atropates together with the Medians and Armenians were positioned even further back. The Greeks were kept in reserve, guarding the supply train.

    The Persian formation was less sophisticated, hoping to use their numerical superiority in cavalry to outflank and surround the Macedonian formation. The great mass of the Persian infantry was concentrated on the right, near the river, their role was to pin down the phalanx while the Persian cavalry overwhelmed the flanks. Their assault was to be preceded by a charge of the scythed chariots, posted in front of the Persian infantry. The Persian right was under the command of Bessus, a distant relative of Oxyathres who remained loyal to Pharnabazus. Pharnabazus himself commanded the Persian left, composed of the Bactrian, Iranian and steppe cavalry and 20 elephants. They were also supported by the remaining regiments of the Immortals and the remaining Greek mercenaries of Artabazus.

    The battle started with the charge of the scythed chariots which was terrifying to behold, but not very effective. The well-trained phalangites simply opened up the phalanx and let the chariots pass through, after which the light troops behind them dealt with the chariot crews. Afterwards the Persian infantry engaged the phalanx, but did not manage to gain any ground except on the muddy riverbanks, where the heavily armed phalangites were outflanked by axe-wielding Persian hillmen, who started to hack away at the Macedonian flank. On the Macedonian right Philotas commanded his cavalry onward, to engage the assembled Iranian cavalry in front of them. Here the fighting was fierce, and no quarter was given. In the meantime the hypaspists, who were under the command of Alexander’s dearest friend, and possibly lover, Hephaistion, had moved forward to support the phalanx against the Persian infantry. The Persian infantry in the centre, now under pressure from two fronts, started to fall back. This advance of the hypaspists however did expose their flanks, something Pharnabazus, or one of his lieutenants, had noticed. Now the Bactrian lancers charged forward, plunging into the flanks of the hypaspists, putting many of them to flight. Pharnabazus, sensing an opportunity, also send forward his elephants, hoping to put the entire Macedonian centre to rout.


    The Battle of Mepsila

    Philip, seeing that the outcome of the battle was hanging in the balance, decided to act. He first ordered the Greeks to reinforce the phalanx near the river, to stall the Persian advance there. Then he ordered the Agrianians, trained as elite light infantry, forward to harass the elephants with their javelins. Finally Philip himself would join the fray, charging in with his bodyguard and rallying his troops to hold the line.

    On the Macedonian right the Thracians and Thessalians under Philotas were now falling back, unable to face the numerically superior Iranian and steppe cavalry they retreated. Eager in their pursuit, and with their vision impaired by the dust clouds thrown up by the fighting armies, they charged forward. But instead of catching up with and slaughtering Philotas’ cavalry they charged into the second phalanx. Both horses and riders were skewered on the long Macedonian sarrisae, who were also supported by peltasts and other light troops. Philotas, far from being defeated, had received messages about the situation in the centre and regrouped his cavalry, who now rode out to support Philip. It was there in the centre that fighting was at its fiercest, with Pharnabazus’ mercenaries and Immortals now marching in to exploit the gap made by the lancers and elephants. The remnants of the hypaspists and the phalanx managed to hold out, the elephants had been driven off by the Agrianians. But the situation was dire, and for a moment Philip might have thought that all was lost.

    It was then that Alexander led his combined cavalry force into the enemy rear. At the start of the battle he, Atropates and Oxyathres had ridden off with their cavalry, on order of Philip, and went west. They encountered and overwhelmed a Persian patrol and then rushed south, reaching the Tigris south of the Persian camp. The large amounts of dust thrown up by the fighting armies had for the Persians obfuscated the dust cloud on the horizon that belonged to Alexander’s cavalry. Alexander made sure he rode to the south of the Persian camp to ensure he would not accidentally charge into his own army. Now, at exactly the right moment, they rode onto the battlefield again, torching Pharnabazus’ camp and assaulting the unprepared Persian reserves. Panic now spread throughout the Persian ranks, and while Pharnabazus rushed back to organise defences it was already too late. Philip, seeing the Persians wavering, ordered to phalanx to advance once again and the Persian infantry broke, fleeing across the field. Their commander Bessus fell trying to rally his troops. Pharnabazus himself, with an elite bodyguard, tried to turn the tide of battle by repelling Alexander’s charge but was heavily outnumbered, and was slain in battle supposedly by his brother-in-law Alexander. Victory once again belonged to Philip.

    The fall of the Achaemenids

    And thus ends the rule of the House of Achaemenes, the first dynasty to rule over Asia.

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

    At Mepsila the military might of the Achaemenid dynasty was finally broken. Having only suffered setbacks since the death of Artaxerxes II, it is actually quite remarkable that it managed to hold out as long as it did. But the defeat at Mepsila, in the imperial heartland against the heir to the throne himself, was too great a setback to overcome. In the aftermath of the battle the Persian baggage train was plundered, many talents of silver and gold were distributed among the Macedonian troops. After several days of rest the army packed up and continued its march south. A message was also send to Parmenion that he could now advance down the Euphrates. The situation in Babylon itself must have been confusing, many were unsure about Philip’s intentions, did he intent to destroy the city or was he willing to spare them? The local commander, the satrap of Persia Ariobarzanes, had far too few troops to put up any kind of effective resistance. He thus decided to negotiate with Philip, an envoy was send to him and a meeting arranged, which took place at Sippar, north of Babylon.

    Ariobarzanes had negotiated well, Philip agreed not to plunder Babylon, Ariobarzanes himself would stay satrap of Persia. Philip would make a formal entrance into the city and would be recognised as its rightful king. Despite the grandeur and wealth of Babylon Philip’s visit was very short, only a couple days. He would of course return later, but there were more pressing concerns at the moment. As his satrap in Babylon he left behind Parmenion, by now more or less Philip’s second-in-command and a trusted advisor. Atropates, who wanted to regain his satrapy, was send to Ecbatana together with 5000 Macedonians under the command of Krateros, a promising commander who had managed to rally the phalanx at Mepsila. Philip set out of Babylon at the start of 333, marching on Susa, where the last Achaemenid Great King was now holed up in his palace. Before he could reach the city however news arrived that Artabazus had died, finally succumbing to his wounds and to his alcoholism. His heirs Pharnabazus and Arsames were both dead, Pharnabazus died on the fields of Mepsila and Arsames had died in Macedonian custody, the chances are high that his death was not natural.


    Philip meeting Ariobarzanes at Sippar

    Strangely enough, despite the death of Artabazus, Susa did not decide to surrender to Philip. Perhaps they were too confident in their own fortifications, but is unlikely we’ll ever know the true reason. The city was put under siege and Philip had his engineers construct towers and rams, and after several weeks the city was stormed. Philip’s soldiers, having been denied their plunder in Babylon, were now granted the city of Susa to sack. Violent scenes of rape and plunder were enacted all over the city, the inhabitants either murdered or enslaved, but in Philip’s eyes they had paid the price for their resistance. Other cities would now think twice before deciding to close their gates to Philip. Thousands of talents of silver were ‘liberated’ from the vaults at the palace of Susa, Philip took some of it with him for his campaign but most of it was send to Babylon, where Parmenion would watch over the minting of new coins. Several works of art taken by the Persians from Greece during the wars of Xerxes, notably the statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton [2], were send back to Greece, reminders that Philip’s war was also a Panhellenic endeavour.

    In March 333, accompanied by Ariobarzanes, Philip marched east from Susa, through Elam and towards the Zagros. He paid off the local Uxians [3], as was always done by the Persian kings, and then passed through the Persian Gate and marched on Persepolis. Promising clemency, and with its own satrap present in Philip’s camp, Persepolis opened its gates to the new king. Once again denied plunder some of Philip’s troops rioted, but they were harshly punished, publicly executed to show to all the new king’s dedication to order and justice. Once again he ordered to mostly empty the treasuries with the contents send to Babylon. At the great palace complex Philip ordered the destruction of the palace of Xerxes, vengeance for his burning of Athens. He left behind a strong garrison under command of Philotas, and then turned around and returned to Babylon. Philip was now at the height of his glory, he had made his peripheral kingdom into a great power and had defeated and subjugated the worlds largest empire. In May 333 he returned to the metropolis of Mesopotamia, to great acclamation and festival.


    ''At that moment in time, as famous amongst the Hellenes as the capture of Troy by Achilles, Philip was beloved by all''

    - Excerpt from ‘The Life of Philippos Nikator’ by Bomilkar of Malakka

    Egypt during the late 330’s

    In the twenty-sixth year under the majesty of the Living Horus, Beloved by the Two Lands, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Senedjemibra [4], the Son of Ra, Nakhthorheb, - may he live forever! - , an envoy from Philip, ruler of the Greeks, arrived at the Residence, carrying with him gifts of oil, wine and silver vessels. The ruler of the Greeks, who was waging war in the land of the Asiatics, requested a treaty with the Lord of the Two Lands and grain because there was hunger among the Greeks, and His Majesty, ever magnanimous, opened up the granaries of Egypt to them. Their hunger was sated, and Egypt became rich in silver. All of this was done under the orders of His Majesty, may he be given all life, stability, dominion, health and happiness and may he arise on the Throne of Horus like Ra forever!

    - Record of the vizier Wennefer, describing Philip’s diplomatic mission during the Cilician campaign

    Egypt was not just a spectator to Philip’s conquest of the Achaemenid Empire but an active participant, it had gained land and had supported the Macedonians with food and soldiers. Perhaps hoping to gain favour with the new great power in the region and to prevent future war, Egypt went to great lengths to provide the Macedonians with grain and even gold. Still, the land prospered during these years, the harvests were bountiful, gold once again flowed from Nubia and ever more exquisite works of art were produced in the royal workshops.

    Rather unexpectedly however Egypt did end up in a military crisis during this period. When Philip marched into Anatolia he had left Amyntas, son of Antiochus, in command of the isle of Rhodes. He turned out to be incredibly corrupt, and in January 333 the Rhodians filed a complaint with Philip. Alexander, who for some reason or another hated Amyntas, managed to convince his father to replace Amyntas as governor. Amyntas, when he heard of this, decided to leave the island with several regiments of loyal soldiers (or, at least loyal to Amyntas’ silver) and the island’s full treasury. He sailed first to Crete, where he gathered mercenaries, probably intending to sail back to Rhodes and seize it by force from its new governor. But while on Crete he had received some interesting news from Egypt.

    A minor Delta nobleman, supposedly unhappy because he was passed over for a high position at court, named Padiamun [5] rose up in the Western Delta in March 333, inciting the local population against the king. Being a local nobleman he also had a force of machimoi at his disposal, which he used to seize the city of Sau (Saïs). The local garrison, partially consisting of the Persian soldiers of Pherendates, was surprised and routed. Padiamun, now victorious, entered the temple of Neith and proclaimed himself the rightful King of Upper and Lower Egypt. He then used the substantial treasures stored at the temple to hire Amyntas, who sailed from Crete to Egypt with his mercenary force.

    Quite suddenly a credible threat to Nakhthorheb’s kingship had arisen. To his credit, he did manage to successfully contain the rebellion. Several skirmishes took place in the Delta, but no other major towns were captured by the rebel forces. After several months Padiamun and Amyntas, frustrated by the lack of any progress, decided to concentrate their forces and marched out against Tjebnetjer itself. A threat to the dynastic capital could of course not be tolerated, and Nakhthorheb now had to react. His army, under command of his son and co-regent Nakhtnebef, caught up with the rebels at Djedu (Busiris). Cavalry harassed the flanks of the rebel force and, unknown to Padiamun and Amyntas, Nakhthorheb had managed to bribe the Cretan mercenaries who turned against their former comrades. The rebel army fell apart, Amyntas died in battle and his men fled into the marshes where they were picked off one by one. Padiamun was captured and subjected to torture and execution, his lands seized and given to the estate of the temple of Neith in compensation.


    A pharaoh brandishing his mace to smite his foes, an enduring image of Egyptian kingship

    The uprising had shown to Nakhthorheb that there were still Delta noblemen who dreamt of claiming the throne for themselves, despite everything he had done to bring the country prosperity. Not long afterwards Nakhthorheb ordered the decoration of a new gateway in Sau, on which he was depicted smiting his foes. This time however the foe that was smitten was not a Asiatic or Nubian but an individual labelled as an ‘arrogant nobleman’. Everyone off course knew who was meant with this, and the king showed with this image that foreigners and barbarians were not the only opponents of ma’at, the Egyptian concept of order and truth, that he would oppose and destroy.

    The small gateway in Sau, part of a minor shrine to Amun, however important, did not measure up to the king’s next building project. Nakhthorheb was nearing his thirtieth year on the Throne of Horus, which would be celebrated in a grand ceremony known as the Sed festival. Just north of Memphis, on the banks of the Nile, he ordered the construction of a complex of buildings, including several shrines and a festival hall. It would be the last of the king’s major building projects but in many ways the most enduring.


    1. The Egyptian name for the Euphrates, named that way because it flows north to south instead of south to north like the Nile.
    2. The Athenian tyrannicides, whose death paved the way for the eventual introduction of democracy to Athens
    3. A local nomadic tribe in the Zagros.
    4. I probably should have mentioned this earlier but Senedjemibra is Nakhthorheb’s throne name, part of the pharaonic titulary, and means ‘who pleases the heart of Ra’.
    5. His name means ‘he who is given by Amun'
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    Map of Philip's campaign
  • Please close your eyes if you're allergic to bad Microsoft Paint maps, you've been warned!


    I've used my non-existent map making skills to make this map, it shows the campaign of Philip with some dates (black line is the main campaign, the red lines actions by Parmenion and Alexander) and it shows Egypt with its current borders and some important cities.
    9. Consolidation and celebration
  • 9. Consolidation and celebration
    Philip in Babylon

    Year 1 of Philip, month 3: the king of the world, Philip, to the city he returned after punishing the land of Elam. Into the city was brought gold and silver, and the restoration of the temples was ordered by the king.

    -Excerpt from the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries


    The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way

    In May 333 BC Philip made his triumphant entrance into the city of Babylon. His first visit in the previous year was short and without spectacle, he entered the city, installed a garrison and satrap and then left. This was of course unbecoming of a new king of Babylon, but at the time he had other things to worry about. Now, with the Persian heartland subjugated and the Achaemenid dynasty utterly defeated, he could make a worthy entrance in Mesopotamia’s largest city. Standing on a gilded chariot, escorted by a cavalry guard under command of his son Alexander, Philip entered the city through the famous Ishtar Gate and then followed the great Processional Way. Along them marched a contingent of the hypaspistai and several hundred of the pezhetairoi [1], also present were three hundred Persian cavalrymen under Oxyathres. The path before them was littered with rose petals and the air was heavy with the smell of perfumes and incense. The sides of the Processional Way, and the flat rooftops of adjoining buildings, were packed with people, all hoping to catch a glimpse of this new and exotic king from the far west. Brought along with the parade were cages with panthers and lions, showing that king had not only triumphed over men but over nature as well. The parade continued until it reached the Esagila, the temple of Marduk. Here Philip made offerings to this Babylonian Zeus, who created the world and had triumphed over chaos. The festivities continued for several days afterwards, but Philip took no part. He settled himself in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar in order to dedicate himself to the administration of his new empire.

    There were some Macedonians and Greeks who rather would just leave Babylon behind, who wanted to plunder the east and then return to the Aegean. Initially this even might have been Philip’s plan, to secure Western Anatolia, launch some raids to gain plunder east and then return to Macedon. This changed when he saw with how much ease the Persians were swept aside, outside of the pitched battles against Arsames, Orontobates and Pharnabazus there wasn’t much resistance. He must have known that the political situation in Persia was not ideal, but he never would have suspected the situation was this dire. Thus when he noticed the Achaemenids were at the point of collapse anyway he decided to seize it all for himself, not wanting to risk a new and more vigorous dynasty taking root in the east. His whirlwind conquest, from Abydos on the Hellespont to Persepolis in only two years, was aided greatly by defections among the local satraps who saw which way the wind was blowing. Aside from Susa there were no large sieges during his campaign, and aside from some tense moments at Mepsila the Macedonian army had shown itself to be the superior to the Persian one. The combination of Achaemenid collapse and Macedonian military supremacy ensured Philip’s victorious march on Persepolis.

    It was there at Persepolis that Philip had seen what a monarch could achieve, and it is hard to imagine that it didn’t impress him. The vast palace complex, beautiful mosaics and frescoes, the elaborate and well-kept gardens in midst of a desert, all were examples of the legacy that a supreme kingship could leave behind. Even more impressive must have been Babylon itself. Ancient [2] and cosmopolitan like no other, Babylon with its 150000 inhabitants [3] was a bustling city and a centre of trade, with people from all corners of the world coming to sell and buy goods. Here you could find Phoenician traders selling Egyptian trinkets to a curious Bactrian, or encounter men from India eager to buy Scythian horses from an Ionian merchant. Babylon was also famed as a centre of astronomy, its ziggurats provided a vantage point for watching the stars and planets above, whose movements on the firmament were eagerly recorded. This had been done for centuries and the Babylonians, who believed that events on earth were always preceded by signs in heaven, had catalogued their data which enabled them to know what sign in the sky would precede which event on earth. Off course, so they told Philip, his rise too was written in the stars. Seated in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, it is unknown whether Philip believed the ‘Chaldeans’, as the Babylonian astronomer-priests were known to the Greeks, but with him being a pious man it is not unlikely.

    As he watched the city from his palace’s famed terraced gardens, he might have pondered over what he had achieved and over what was in store for the future. In the distance he could have seen massive structure known as the Etemenanki [4], a seven-story 90 meter high ziggurat, which towered over the city and which was being restored on Philip’s orders[5]. What was Pella in comparison to such a city? The home of a dynasty perhaps, but it could certainly not function as capital of an empire which spread from the Adriatic to the Iranian highlands. Here amongst the barbarians of Asia Philip had found opulence and wealth, and contrary to what the hardened Macedonian might have thought beforehand, its allure did not escape him. Sadly for Philip, in the end it would not be him who would make the crucial decisions for the future of his newly founded empire, but in many ways he did lay the foundations of what was to come.


    The Etemenanki at Babylon

    His first priority was the organization of his empire. Parmenion had done quite well during his time as satrap in Babylon, and in recognition of that and his services during the campaign he was promoted to the rank of chiliarch. This meant that he was now the third most important man in the empire, behind the king and crown prince. He would be stationed in Babylon and had the command over the military in the eastern satrapies, in the king’s absence he would effectively be the viceroy over the east. Oxyathres would succeed Parmenion as satrap of Babylonia, his old satrapy of Armenia would be given to a local Armenian dynast named Orontes. Media was already ruled by Atropates and Persia itself by Ariobarzanes, Antigonos held Phrygia and Asandros Lydia. Syria, which was a crucial satrapy for it connected Mesopotamia and the East with the Mediterranean and Anatolia, was given to Kleitos. He was an officer of obscure origins, who rose to prominence as a member of Alexander’s guards during the battle of Hyrkanis, during which he showed great bravery. He was promoted and became a cavalry commander, he fought at both Adana and Issus and turned out to be quite adept at logistics, managing the Macedonian supply train during the campaign in Northern Mesopotamia. At Mepsila he was part of Alexander’s flanking force, but sadly for him he was heavily wounded in the fighting and lost his right hand to a Persian axe. He could no longer be of much use on the battlefield, but his skills in administration could still serve Philip well. Under Philip’s arrangements Cilicia would be part of the Syrian satrapy, and during the first years of his rule Kleitos would govern from Tarsus. The border between Parmenion’s Babylonian satrapy (which included Assyria) and Syria was the river Euphrates. In Syria the valley of the Orontes belonged to the Macedonians, and the border between Phoenicia (under Egyptian sovereignty) and Syria was the Eleutherus River, with exception of the city of Aradus, which lay on an island north of the mouth of the Eleutherus but was also under Egyptian control. Emesa (Homs) and its surrounding area were also Macedonian, but Damascus had an Egyptian garrison.

    In Anatolia the Ionian cities had been granted autonomy by Philip, but for military affairs they depended on the satrap of Lydia Asandros. Caria (to which Lycia was added) was still ruled by Ada from Halicarnassus. Hellespontine Phrygia was placed under the command of Polyperchon, who had distinguished himself at Adana, commanding several battalions of the phalanx that guarded the ford against the Persian advance. In Macedonia itself the supreme command was still in the hands of Antipater, who was appointed as regent in Philip’s absence. The Greek mainland was nominally independent under the Hellenic League, of which Philip was Hegemon, the only Greek state not part of the alliance was Sparta.

    With his empire organised now Philip could turn his attention to other projects. In Babylon itself he oversaw traditional Hellenic Games, several weeks after the festival in honour of his entrance into the city. They were held on a plain just outside the city. There was an athletics contest, wrestling and chariot racing. Dancing and singing contests were also held. These clearly Hellenic cultural activities were meant to give the Macedonian army a clear confirmation of their own cultural heritage, to heighten the morale of the Graeco-Macedonian troops and to demonstrate Hellenic culture to the local population. We do not know the opinions of the locals on these strange newcomers, who were now running around naked and wrestling just outside the city walls. But whatever they might have thought, they would need to get used to the sights and behaviours of these westerners. Already Philip had ordered the architect Deinocrates of Rhodes to design a Hellenic district for the city, complete with temples, agora’s and gymnasia. Once finished it could house 20000 people, adding a distinct Hellenic element to the already cosmopolitan mix of Babylonian society. When Philip left Babylon again in July 333 BC, to both escape the humid summer heat and to oversee another construction project, Deinocrates’ men were already marking out the grid pattern on which the new district was to arise.

    New Foundations

    Philip, King of Macedonia, of Babylon, of Persia and of all the lands of Asia, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, near this city he won the throne of Asia, and thus in honour of that great victory it was named Nikopolis.

    - Inscription on the base of Philip’s statue at Nikopolis (Mepsila/Mosul)

    Philip travelled east, to the now destroyed city of Susa. Having destroyed the city several months prior, now he ordered its reconstruction. Re-founded as Philippi-in-Susiana, although in practice it was still mostly called Susa, the core of this new city was a Hellenistic settlement build on a grid pattern centred around the city’s citadel. This citadel was built on the place of the palace build by Darius the Great, which was damaged during the siege and now ordered demolished by Philip. It was built on an artificial platform and thus towered over the city. The city was to be settled by veterans of the Macedonian army and settlers from the Hellenic world. Agathon, a brother of Parmenion, was appointed satrap of Susiana and was put in charge of the construction of the new city. Subsequently Philip travelled north, to Ecbatana in Media, where he was received by the satrap Atropates. He remained in Ecbatana for several months, its climate during the summer, nestled between snow-capped mountains, was much more pleasant than the sweltering heat on the Mesopotamian plains. In Ecbatana Philip also received envoys from Phrataphernes, satrap of Hyrcania and Parthia, and Satibarzanes, originally satrap of Aria but after the battle of Mepsila he had also seized Bactria, Drangiana and Arachosia, becoming the pre-eminent ruler in the Eastern Satrapies. They were willing to, at least nominally, submit themselves to Philip. They would continue sending tribute to Babylon, as they had done during the rule of the Achaemenids. Both satraps were also forced to accept a Macedonian garrison in their capitals, at Zadracarta in (Hyrcania) and at Bactra. Philip, who was eager to avoid a great eastern campaign, was pleased at this outcome. He now ruled, at least in name, most of the old Achaemenid Empire.

    Late in 333 Philip returned from Ecbatana to Babylon. Once again his entry was triumphant, and a week-long celebration followed. One notable absence at Babylon during Philip’s return was his son Alexander. During Philip’s stay in Ecbatana some complaints had reached Babylon about the Uxians, who had attacked and robbed some trading caravans who travelled between Persia and Babylon. Eager for some action, and after having send an envoy to his father for permission, Alexander had set out with 6000 men of the hypaspists and 2000 light infantry of the Agrianians. He had informed the Uxians of his arrival, telling them that he would bring them the tribute that they were due for allowing the Macedonians to make use of the passes. The Uxians then occupied the main road, waiting for Alexander to come to them. Unbeknownst to them Alexander himself had taken a different route, having bribed local goatherds who showed him another route that led to the stronghold of the Uxians, which Alexander followed. Despite the harsh conditions in the mountains he force-marched his troops to the Uxian stronghold, which fell to the surprise attack. Meanwhile on the main road the Uxians were confronted by an army under Hephaistion, who let them know he had no intention of paying them tribute. The Uxians then prepared for battle, but were startled when another enemy force appeared behind them. Alexander, after capturing the Uxian stronghold, marched his troops troops behind the Uxian position, trapping them. He had brought prisoners from the Uxian settlements with him, to make clear to the Uxian warriors that their homes had already fallen. Despairing at their situation the Uxians then chose to surrender. Alexander did not allow them to return to their mountain homes, instead forcing them to relocate to the Mesopotamian lowlands. He also captured their treasury, which included the gold Philip had given them the year prior, which allowed him to reward his troops handsomely and then returned to Babylon.

    A Macedonian hypaspist

    Alexander returned to Babylon in February 332, and Games were held in honour of his return. Philip was apparently impressed by his son’s victory, which was achieved with barely any casualties on the Macedonian side, but was also displeased at his distribution of gold and silver among the troops as reward. He saw it as solely a king’s prerogative to reward troops like that, and in his opinion Alexander should have waited until after returning to Babylon. Alexander, unfazed by his father’s anger, replied that if his father wanted his gold back he should ask his troops himself. Several weeks later at a banquet in honour of the satraps Satibarzanes and Phrataphernes, who personally travelled to the city to swear their loyalty to Philip, the matter of tribute was discussed. Alexander, inebriated, remarked that paying tribute was no great shame, for it could always be won back, referring to his own recapture of Philip’s tribute to the Uxians. Philip, furious at his son, stood up to confront him, but in true Macedonian fashion he too was heavily inebriated. Philip stumbled and fell, and in an action that quite possibly saved him, instead of laughing at him Alexander helped his father back on his feet. Despite these tense moments father and son reconciled. When Phrataphernes and Satibarzanes left Babylon Alexander remarked to them that he would like to see their satrapies for himself one day, a remark that would prove to be prophetic.

    Philip himself left for Macedon in May 332, eager to visit his homeland where he doubtlessly would be given a hero’s welcome. Before he returned to Europe however there were several other things he needed to attend to. He first travelled to the village of Mepsila, the place of the final defeat of the Achaemenids, and ordered the construction of a new city on the site, aptly named Nikopolis (Greek for ‘City of Victory). Then he travelled west, to Syria, where on the west bank of the Euphrates he founded the city of Zeugma [6] and ordered his engineers to construct a bridge across the river, improving the communications and logistics between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. The final city founded by Philip in this period was on the river Orontes near where it flows into the Mediterranean [7], which in due time would become the metropolis of Syria. It was named Nikatoris, after Philip’s now famous epithet. Afterwards Philip went to Cilicia, where a fleet awaited him and his army, to quickly transport them back to the Aegean and Macedon. Accompanying Philip were Macedonian veterans who had served their time and opted to return to their homeland. Also with him were troops from the Hellenic League, the goal of the war had been reached and thus Philip could no longer keep the league’s army with him without good cause. He offered those who wanted to join his army just that, which some accepted, but most of them wanted to return home. In September 332 Philip and his army boarded the fleet and set sail to the Aegean. He made a stop at Ephesos, where he oversaw the final work being done on the now restored temple of Artemis and inaugurated it in a elaborate ceremony. Afterwards Philip crossed the Aegean and reached Macedon in November 332.

    The return of the victorious king was celebrated all over Macedon. The mood in the Greek cities was different, in the eyes of many (not the least Demosthenes, who from this point onward often referred to Philip as ‘Xerxes’) there was now no difference between the old Persian kings and the new Macedonian king of Persia. Still there were some cities where celebrations were held, in honour of the king but most often to thank the gods for returning their men alive from the East. Philip visited the synedrion of the Hellenic League, where he gave an account of the campaign. The king, who because of the vast amounts of wealth captured in Persia could afford to be generous, absolved all Greek cities of any tributes they owed Macedon for the next 5 years. Philip himself apparently enjoyed being back in his homeland, and more importantly he could now once again enjoy the company of his great love Eurydice. Olympias was his first wife and the official queen, but their marriage had long been strained and after Philip’s return they lived separated, only appearing together on official occasions. Using the funds captured in Persia he ordered the construction of a new and much grander tomb for himself at Aigai, and the construction of a colossal temple of Zeus at Pella. Philip remained in Macedon for the time being, corresponding with Parmenion and Alexander in Babylon, where for the moment everything was going well. In April 331 the Isthmian Games were held at Corinth, and Philip used the opportunity to make a proclamation in public. He addressed the assembled crowd and told them that extensive farmlands and estates in Syria and Mesopotamia were to be granted not only to his army veterans but to citizens of Macedon’s loyal Hellenic allies as well. Cities were constructed in the east, and it must have seemed as if the entire old Achaemenid Empire was now opened up to colonization. Some cities that were struggling with overpopulation eagerly used this opportunity to rid itself of its unwanted subjects, other cities that did not want to lose its manpower passed laws that created barriers to migration to the east. At first there were not many that dared to restart their lives in distant Syria or Mesopotamia, but eventually the trickle would turn into a flood, altering the cultural landscape of the Near East forever.


    The Temple of Zeus at Pella

    Philip remained in Corinth to watch the Isthmian Games after his proclamation, and it was on the third day that, after leaving the tribune, a man approached the king. For some reason the king had few bodyguards that day, and when the man suddenly brandished a knife and lunged at the king they could not stop him before he managed to strike him. Thankfully for him Philip only suffered superficial wounds, and his bodyguards managed to catch the would-be assassin. He was horrifically tortured, but did not name any co-conspirators, and from what we know of him it seems that the man was just mad, he claimed that the gods ordered him to kill Philip in order to save the world. Despite that the wounds were only superficial Philip caught a fever, and was thus not seen in public for several days. It was probably then that the rumour spread that the king was dead, which did not contain itself to just Greece and Macedon. It spread to many Greek cities, there was rioting in Athens and Thebes, but this was put down by the local garrisons. Soon however it became clear that Philip was still alive, which calmed the situation. However the rumour had also spread north, where it would have more grave consequences.

    The Dardanians and the Taulantians, both Illyrian tribes subject to Macedon, rose up as soon as they heard of Philip’s ‘death’. Glaukias, king of the Taulantians, captured the settlement of Pelion, halfway Illyria and Macedonia and then proceeded onward to Bylazora, where he was joined by Kleitos, the King of the Dardanians. According to some sources their combined army was 100000 strong, but this is probably a gross exaggeration. Nevertheless it was a threat to Macedon, one that Philip needed to deal with quickly. The mood among the combined Illyrian army was apparently festive, they now saw a chance to reclaim their independence and plunder the rich lands of Macedon, who were now certainly the site of a bitter struggle for succession. Surprised they must have been then when Philip himself and an army 25000 strong appeared before them in June 331. Despite this shock the Illyrians did not retreat, they knew they occupied a strong position and that they outnumbered the Macedonians. Negotiations were started but nothing came of it, and the opposing armies took up their positions on the field on the 20th of June 331. The Illyrians held the high ground, where they had set up stakes and carts to make a palisade, and managed to keep the phalanx at bay for some time. After an hour of fighting however the phalanx seemed to relent and started falling back, the Illyrians, who could not believe their luck, launched an all-out charge to completely shatter the Macedonians. The phalanx, under command of Antipater’s son Cassander, rallied again when the Illyrians had left their fortifications. Now exposed, the Macedonian cavalry struck the Illyrian flanks, causing them to falter and rout. In the meantime Philip had ordered the Agrianians, who were excellent mountaineers, to flank the Illyrian position by climbing some unguarded steep cliffs. They were unopposed and now assailed the Illyrian camp, cutting off the escape route for the Dardanians and Taulantians. Philip’s victory was complete, both Glaukias and Kleitos fell on the field. The survivors were sold into slavery.


    The Battle of Bylazora

    Philip then marched west, ravaging the territory of the Taulantians and reaching the Adriatic, where he negotiated the submission of the cities of Epidamnos and Apollonia, giving Macedon access to the Adriatic. The Taulantians were utterly broken by this defeat, their land annexed, and never again would become prominent. The Dardanians were once again reduced to vassal status, and were now obligated to send men to serve in the Macedonian army. Philip, eager to secure Macedon’s position and its newfound access to the Adriatic also ordered the construction of a road connecting Epidamnos to Pella, but it would not be completed in his lifetime. Philip returned to Pella on the 20th of September 331, which coincided with an eclipse. Some were afraid that this was a bad omen, but one of Philip’s seers, a Babylonian, ensured his king that this was not the case. According to the Babylonian it was a sign that a king from the west would triumph over the east. Philip, who was already planning to return to Babylon, was now steeled in his resolve. He would gather reinforcements in Macedon and then would return east, where there still were some areas that once recognised the Achaemenids but did not recognise his kingship. It was time to complete his conquest. Then tragedy struck for Philip, Eurydice died in childbirth, the new-born child did not long survive its mother [8]. Philip, in his grief, delayed his departure. He remained in Macedon for the winter, spending his time hunting and drinking with the aristocracy, drilling his new troops and supervising the construction of his new and spectacular tomb, where he had Eurydice buried in one of the antechambers. It was only in March 330 that Philip would depart Pella, he marched east to the Hellespont, joined by new troops send by his Thracian allies at Amphipolis, and was then ferried over to Asia. Philip’s stay in Macedon would be the last time he would see his homeland.

    Asia in Philip’s absence

    It was in his father’s absence that Alexander could prove himself to the Asians, and during this period they saw both his magnanimity and his cruelty, his ambitions and his vices.

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

    During Philip’s absence power in the east was shared between the crown prince Alexander and the chiliarch Parmenion. Thankfully for the Macedonians they had a good working relationship, with Parmenion taking care of the civil administration and Alexander was in charge of the military affairs. Parmenion oversaw the minting of coins, disputes between communities and/or cities, the courts and Philip’s various infrastructural and construction projects. Parmenion did not do all of this alone , of course, he was greatly aided by Philip’s chief secretary who also stayed behind in Babylon, Eumenes of Cardia. Alexander in the meantime used his position and freedom to travel through Babylonia and Persia, with a group of companions including Ptolemaios, Lysimachus and Hephaistion. One of the reasons was a genuine interest in the country that he would once rule, but it was also a convenient excuse to get out of the palace. Tourist and prince in equal measure, he and his friends visited, among other places, Uruk, Susa, Persepolis and Pasargadae, where Alexander lamented at the dilapidated state of Cyrus’ tomb. Doubtlessly while in the region he and his friends had a taste of Persia’s finest wines, something that Macedon and Persia, despite their differences, had in common.

    The time however for drunken trips across the Persian countryside was coming to an end. In May 331 the rumour of Philip’s death also reached the east. Here too it was quickly disproven, by a letter from the king himself, but like in Illyria in Asia too were people who were quick to act now that they sensed an opportunity. The city of Aspadana [9], which lay at the crossroads of several important trading routes, was given by Philip to the Persian Mazaces to rule. Mazaces was a Persian nobleman who fought at Adana, but was captured and had shown himself to be capable and dependable. Mazaces was granted Aspadana to rule, but a Macedonian garrison was present under the command of Meleagros, whose authority exceeded that of Mazaces. The Macedonian garrison at Aspadana was unruly and rebellious, with several instances of murder, rape and looting recorded. Meleagros however did nothing, and allowed his men to do as they please, they continued to terrorize the population of the city. When the rumour of Philip’s death reached Aspadana Mazaces saw an opportunity. He incited a revolt in the countryside around the city, after which the garrison marched out to supress it. With fewer soldiers in the city Meleagros was on edge, and when a riot started and he was unable to suppress it he gave orders to Mazaces to do something about it. Mazaces requested, and received, weapons to set up a city guard, which he promptly used to occupy the city’s citadel and expel the garrison. Meleagros he had executed.

    When news of Mazaces’ uprising reached Babylon the army was immediately mobilized. Fearing a general Persian uprising, it was of the utmost importance to quickly suppress the rebellion before it could spread. Thankfully for the Macedonians Mazaces’ uprising did not have much appeal beyond Aspadana itself. Alexander and a force 10000 strong first beat Mazaces in the field, his peasant levy could not stand up to a charge of the hetairoi, and subsequently he laid siege to the city. The city’s desperate defence lasted several months, until a breakthrough was achieved in November 331. Alexander himself led the assault, and the city was mercilessly sacked. Alexander returned to Babylon in December, but soon afterwards headed out again, to aid the Median satrap Atropates. The Cadusians, a warlike people who lived in the mountains on the south-western shore of the Caspian Sea, had long been a menace to the Achaemenid kings. Now, for one reason or another, they decided to rise up against Atropates, who could not manage to contain them with his own resources. They had occupied parts of northern Media, and from the city of Ganzak they launched raids towards the south. Even the outskirts of the city of Arbela, in northern Mesopotamia, were plundered. Something needed to be done.

    Gathering his forces at Arbela, Alexander marched out in February 330. After marching north into Media he was joined by Krateros, who was military governor of the area, who had some valuable information for Alexander. Krateros’ men had managed to ambush a Cadusian raiding party, and had captured many of them, who revealed that the main Cadusian force was currently located near the Amardus river, preparing for a raid deep into Media. Alexander, seeing an opportunity for a quick and decisive victory, force-marched his army to the Amardus and stumbled across the Cadusians. The sudden appearance of the Macedonian army caused panic in the Cadusian camp, which Alexander exploited by immediately ordering his cavalry and the hypaspists to charge. Unable to form a line in such a quick order the Cadusians were broken and defeated, pinned against the river by Alexander they could not hope to win against him in the open plains. A live of slavery now awaited them, except some of their chiefs, who Alexander had executed. Alexander himself went east towards the Caspian, storming and burning several Cadusian settlements, hoping to break them utterly and making sure they would never raid again. He had send Krateros north to Ganzak, where he showed the Cadusian garrison the heads of their chiefs. Seeing the hopelessness of their situation they surrendered. In July Alexander had completed his campaign of terror, he had broken the back of Cadusian resistance and dragged many of them along in chains. During the campaign Atropates had shown himself a valuable ally, managing supplies and sending along as many reinforcements as possible. The Median satrap was rewarded with the territory around the city of Ganzak, which in due time became known as Atropatene. During the summer Alexander remained in Ecbatana, returning to Babylon in the Autumn, to rendezvous with his father.

    The Two Lands in festival

    It was especially during the later years of the reign of King Nektanebos II (Nakhthorheb) that the land of Egypt reached a level of prosperity unseen since the heydays of Ahmose II, 200 years before, most aptly demonstrated at Nektanebos’ great jubilee feast in 330.
    - Excerpt from Antikles of Massalia’s History of the land of Egypt

    The suppression of Padiamun’s revolt in 333 was not the start, as one might suspect, of a purge of the Egyptian elite. There was no evidence that Padiamun was aided, outside of the mercenaries he hired. The other dynasts in the Delta remained loyal, and Egypt’s military strength still relied largely on them. Even if Nakhthorheb wanted, he could not act against them. In this period of his government there were relatively little changes made, with one large exception.

    In January 332 Nakhthorheb sailed south on his royal barge, a large partially gilded boat with purple-lined sails, every farmer working besides the river would have known who it was that sailed by. From Memphis he sailed south, past the Fayyum and Henen-nesu (Herakleopolis), past the ruined but storied site once known as Akhet-Aten, past Khmun and the sacred burial sites at Abdju (Abydos), past Tjenu, once the home of Narmer, he sailed onwards to Waset. There he would attend the inauguration of his own daughter Iaret, once a Chantress of Amun, now she would become the God’s Wife of Amun. This office, abolished by Cambyses after his invasion, was the most important in the Cult of Amun since the abolishment of the High Priesthood. By appointing his own daughter Nakhthorheb made sure that his dynasty would have a powerbase in Upper Egypt. His daughter, now officially Iaret-Merytamun (‘Beloved of Amun’) would now oversee the daily rites and the revenues of the Cult of Amun. While no longer as powerful as it once was, its estates were still widespread and prosperous, especially in Upper-Egypt. Being married to Amun of course meant that she could not get children herself, but the tradition of adopting an heir from within the royal family developed over time.

    The following years were quiet and prosperous, with Egypt facing no threats from within or outside. The borders were watched of course, and fortifications at several sites, including Sidon, Damascus and Dorginarti, were strengthened during this period. The economy still did well, and these years also featured high inundations, making sure that harvests were bountiful. The high point of this period of prosperity, and of the Thirtieth Dynasty as a whole, was Nakhthorheb’s Sed Festival.

    In 332 Nakhthorheb had appointed a special ‘Overseer of the Jubilee Feast’, a man named Sematawytefnakht, to acquire the provisions and goods necessary for a great celebration. He also was tasked with searching out ancient texts, both on papyrus and stone, detailing the proceedings of past Sed-festivals. He ordered the construction of granaries near the Festival Hall north of Memphis to store the various provisions, and according to Sematawytefnakht’s tomb inscriptions the preparations were done quick and efficiently. Late August 330, just after the start of the inundation and the start of Egyptian year the festival took place over a period of three days, which were unmatched in splendour.

    Nakhthorheb had stayed the night at a pavilion on the eastern side of the Nile, across from the festival complex. At the dawn he boarded his royal barge, and with the rising sun at his back the king, clad in the tight-fitting gleaming white sed-robe, crossed the river, emulating the journey of Ra across the firmament. He was awaited at the docks on the western bank by the kingdom’s high ranking men, priests of the major cults and high officials of the palace, all clad in their finest clothes. First the king proceeded to two shrines who stood on the south side of the processional road. At one shrine he made offerings to Nekhbet, protector goddess of Upper Egypt, and at the other he made offerings to Amun. He then received from the hands of the God's Wife of Amun, his daughter Iaret-Merytamun, the white crown of Upper Egypt. Then he proceeded to two shrines on the northern side of the processional road, where he made offerings to Wadjet, protector goddess of Lower Egypt, and Ra, and he received the red crown of Lower Egypt from the High Priest of Ra.

    Then the king made his way back to the processional road, where the gathered crowd of notables hailed him as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands. They now formed a large procession, at the front of the procession was a man holding a standard bearing the image of the jackal god Wepwawet, whose name translates to ‘The Opener of Ways’. His presence at the head of the procession showed that the festival was now opened and that the king was under his protection. Behind him was the king, carried in a carrying-chair, and behind that the banner-carriers of all the sepat [10] of Egypt. Each sepat had a symbol, which were present on the banners carried by the banner carriers. First came the banner carriers of Upper Egypt, then those of Lower Egypt. Giving precedence to Upper Egypt is a common theme during the festival, reflecting that it was from Upper Egypt that the country was unified in the distant past. The solemn procession then made its way to the great festival hall, were the other guests had already taken their seats. The presence of the king was announced by the blaring of trumpets and the pounding of drums. Upon his entrance all bowed before him. He took his place on a throne on a raised dais. He was once again crowned and acclaimed by all the guests, ritual dances and the singing of hymns took place. The king also dispensed gifts to the guests present. It was after this public ceremony in the great hall that the most important, but also most private, ceremony of the festival took place. In a small chapel behind the festival hall the king, his eldest son and the highest ranking priests of the land took part in an arcane ceremony known as the raising of the Djed-pillar. Aided by priests the king raised a wooden pillar that was a symbol of Osiris, symbolising the connection between the king of the living, Nakhthorheb, and Osiris, ruler of the underworld and eternal king of Egypt. After raising the pillar offerings were made before it, and afterwards the king and the priests returned to the great hall, where a great banquet was held for all present guests.


    Raising of the noble Djed-pillar at the jubilee-feast of His Majesty, given all life, health and dominion!

    Inscription from the tomb of Sematawytefnakht​

    Less is known about the other days of the festival. On the second day there was a reception for foreign dignitaries, who had come to congratulate the king and to exchange gifts. On that day there was also a parade of the army, probably to impress the foreign dignitaries. There was also a great procession of the cattle of the region, symbolising the fertility and wealth of the land, a herd of several thousand cows and donkeys was driven around the perimeter of the festival hall. To some foreigners it might have appeared somewhat rustic, but for the Egyptians it was a connection with their ancient past, reminiscent of the bi-annual cattle counts that kings like Khufu and Sneferu undertook. On the third day the king sailed up the Nile into Memphis, where a public festival was now celebrated. Details are sparse, but it surely included large amounts of beer, wine and food. For Nakhthorheb, and his dynasty, this was the zenith, Egypt was prosperous and jubilant. Sadly for them, it would not last forever.


    1. Literally foot-companions, the Macedonian phalangites.
    2. Well not exactly, the city of Babylon is off course very old, but was destroyed completely in 689 BC by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, and was rebuilt afterwards.
    3. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t find a source that stated the population of Babylon in the 330’s BC. This number is an educated guess, based on that it once had 200000 inhabitants but was now past its prime.
    4. Which means ‘the House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth’ in Akkadian
    5. It was made of mudbrick, which is easy to produce but also rather fragile, and thus required almost constant repair works.
    6. Same site as the OTL city, the name means ‘bridge’ or ‘crossing’.
    7. OTL site of Antioch.
    8. ITTL Caranus is not born, this was Philip and Eurydice’s first child.
    9. OTL modern day Isfahan
    10. The Sepat, or nomes in Greek, were the districts in which Egypt was divided.
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    10. The death and succession of Philippos Nikator
  • 10. The death and succession of Philippos Nikator

    Philip’s last year

    A most curious omen occurred during Philip’s journey back to Babylon while staying at Zeugma on the Euphrates. At dawn he was making sacrifices near the riverbank, praying for a safe crossing, for he was still a pious man. After sacrificing a goat and burning incense on an altar something caught the king’s eye. Where at first the river was empty now Philip could see a man, as if appeared out of nowhere, crossing the river on a boat. Philip, who was not above conversing with commoners, decided to make a chat with the man. By now the man had moored his boat on the riverside, but was already making preparations to cross over to the other side again. He noticed the approach of the king, and called out to him in perfect Attic Greek: ‘Oh King, I am but a simple ferryman and will soon be gone, but do not worry, our next meeting is not far off’. Philip, startled, wanted to call out to the man, demanding he name himself, but he and his boat were already gone. Philip retired to his tent for the rest of the day, delaying the journey, in quiet contemplation of his future. He did not consult any of his seers, not even Aristandros, for he knew well what this omen meant.

    To this day there still stands an altar on the banks of the Euphrates at Zeugma, I have seen it myself during my service in the east, which is the altar upon which Philip made his offerings. A small shrine has been built around it, and locals still make offerings upon it, in honour of the great king himself.

    - Excerpt from ‘The Life of Philippos Nikator’ by Bomilkar of Malakka

    After having crossed the Hellespont in March 330 Philip and an army 10000 strong marched quickly through Anatolia, first making way to Gordion. There he met the satrap Antigonos of Phrygia, an able administrator of impressive stature. After resupplying at Gordion the army travelled further to Cilicia and then to Syria itself, where Philip inspected the work being done at Nikatoris. Afterwards he crossed the Euphrates at Zeugma and then followed the river south towards Babylon, only stopping to find another city, Eurydikeia on the Euphrates [1], named for his recently passed wife. He arrived at Babylon in June, while Alexander was away fighting the Cadusians. In Babylon Philip passed most of his days either leading the army in exercises, inspecting building sites or touring the countryside, most notably its hunting grounds. The drudgeries of administrating such a vast realm he left to Eumenes of Cardia, his secretary, and the chiliarch Parmenion. In October Alexander returned triumphantly from Media, and his return was celebrated throughout the city. Hellenic Games were held and Alexander and his forces were allowed to enter the city through the Processional Way, cheered on by jubilant crowds while behind them the unfortunate Cadusians were dragged through the streets in chains.

    Philip after Alexander’s return became increasingly close to him, in a degree that hadn’t been seen before. Now father and son went out hunting together and, according to some sources, often discussed matters of the army and the state till deep in the night. Often Alexander’s close companions, such as Hephaistion and Ptolemaios, were also present. The new bond between father and son could be explained by the loss of Eurydice, and the realization of Philip’s part that Alexander was definitely his successor. On the other hand there had never been an indication that Alexander, as eldest son, would not be his successor. Another explanation could be that Philip, confronted with omens of his death, wanted to be close to his son in order to make his wishes for the future clear and to prevent any succession struggle by clearly indicating that it is Alexander who should succeed him. In January 329 Philip fell ill, and rarely left his bed. The exact nature of the affliction is unknown, but after several weeks the king recovered somewhat, but was still not healthy enough to perform his duties. Confined to the palace, now Philip also entrusted some tasks that traditionally a king would perform to Alexander.

    In February Alexander travelled to southern Mesopotamia, into the marshlands where the Euphrates and the Tigris pour into the Persian gulf, in order to find a city that would serve as harbour and entrepot of trade between India, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Persia. At the confluence of the Eulaios and the Tigris Alexander founded the city of Herakleia on the Tigris, which had a great location but was prone to flooding [2]. Alexander thus also ordered the construction of embankments and a great artificial platform, upon which the Hellenistic centre of this new city was to arise. Peaceful trade was not the only purpose of this new city, a naval base was also to arise on the banks of the Tigris, allowing the Macedonians to construct a fleet to both control and safeguard trade in the region. Another purpose for a fleet exploration and supplying the land army, were it to venture east or south along the Arabian coast. Having established this new settlements Alexander returned to Babylon, where preparations were underway for a great expedition to the east. Envoys had been send to Phrataphernes and Satibarzanes, ordering them to set up supply depots and to marshal their forces to join their king when he marches east. Philip planned to first march on Sogdia and Chorasmia, old Achaemenid satrapies who did not submit to him, and then march further east to subdue India, reunifying what was once the empire of Cyrus. It is unknown whether or not Philip was aware of the distances involved but it was certainly an ambitious plan. Unfortunately for him he would never see it come to fruition.


    A coin of Philippos Nikator

    Alexander returned to Babylon in April 329, and at the time Philip seemed to be healthy again. He once again personally oversaw the exercises of the army, just outside the city. There the phalanx practiced its manoeuvres and the cavalry its charges. One day Philip returned to the city when suddenly the wind started blowing, and his kausia (a wide-brimmed sun hat) was blown into a nearby irrigation channel. A soldier retrieved it for him, and at the time it was probably not seen as an omen, but the day after Philip fell ill again. Despite his weakened health the week after he once again ventured out of the city, inspecting the reinforcements from Macedonia that had arrived under Balakros. Several days after that, on the 15th of April 329, Philip decided to go hunting, and left the city through its western gate. After a day of hunting he and his hunting party were approached by a group of Babylonian priest while on their way back to the city. They urged Philip not to enter the city again, bad omens had been observed, and the king leaving through the western gate, associated with the sunset and thus death, only reinforced their belief. Philip however decided to ignore them, the next day he was expected to attend a ceremony consecrating the new temple of Zeus that was built in the Philippeion (the Hellenic district of Babylon). He returned to the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, but that night Philip’s condition worsened. He got a fever, and had increasingly trouble with breathing. On the 16th his condition only worsened, and on the 17th it was clear that he would not recover. On his own wish he was brought out of the palace on a litter, and visited the temple of Zeus and oversaw a parade of the army, giving a last salute to their king. All this greatly weakened Philip, and in the night of the 18th of April 329 he passed away, he was 53 years old.

    The struggle for succession

    The Great King Philippos Nikator, king of the Macedonians, Babylonians, Persians and all the peoples of Asia, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, died not long after his son’s return to Babylon. The city was in mourning, the army passed by the sarcophagus in solemn procession, the Persian priests put out their sacred fires and foreign rulers send their condolences and congratulations to Alexander. Soon, the news spread to the far corners of the world, and Alexander’s succession, once so certain, was looking increasingly precarious.

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

    Philip’s death, which came quite sudden, was a shock to his nascent empire. His succession, at least in Babylon, was off course undisputed. His son, Alexander, would succeed Philip as king. The day after Philip’s death Alexander was acclaimed as king by the assembled army, just outside Babylon. But king of what? Macedonia, off course, but Philip’s dominions were much more extensive than that. Conscious of the fact that he was much more than just king of Macedonia, but also aware that it the army, which largely consisted of rather xenophobic Macedonians, that granted him his position, he adopted some minor Persian and Babylonian customs. He made offerings to Marduk at the Esagila, he send gifts to the Persian aristocracy and he summoned the satraps to Babylon, to let them affirm their loyalty to him. For now he did not differ much from his father, he did not adapt eastern dress nor did he demand the proskynesis from his Macedonian subjects. Alexander’s first priority was securing his hold over Macedon itself, which was still the bedrock of his military strength.

    All satraps hurried to Babylon, except Phrataphernes and Satibarzanes, who claimed to be too busy dealing with nomadic incursions and an uprising by the Sogdian warlord Spitamenes. They did however request help from their new king. Alexander, ridding himself of some of the more recalcitrant elements of the Macedonians army, send east 6000 men under command of Balakros. In honour of his father Alexander held funeral games in Babylon and had Philip’s body embalmed and prepared for the journey back to Macedon, where he would be interred in his new tomb. Alexander would of course accompany his father’s body, a good reason to visit Macedon and to make sure that his homeland too would accept his kingship. Parmenion, who was as loyal to Alexander as he had been to Philip, would stay behind as chiliarch in Babylon and would function as regent over the eastern Empire in Alexander’s absence. Support of Parmenion, a popular general and relative of several satraps, not to mention his son Philotas, was crucial for Alexander. With everything settled in the east Alexander left Babylon in May 329, accompanied by an army 12000 strong he marched up the Euphrates, crossed at Zeugma and then went through Syria and Cilicia, where he and his army would board a ship back to Greece. It was during his stay at Tarsus, in July 329, that Alexander received an envoy from Macedon, bearing most unwelcome news.

    At the start of 329 there had been an uprising by the Triballi, a Thracian tribe, under their king Syrmus. At the same time a group of Scythians had swept across the Danube and allied themselves to Syrmus, who now posed a serious threat to Macedon itself. The regent Antipater had raised his forces, 35000 strong, and confronted the Triballi in battle near Philippopolis in March 329. At first the battle seemed to be going well for Antipater, with the Macedonians forcing back the Triballi, but in their overconfidence (and perhaps inexperience) the phalanx advanced into broken, uneven terrain with hills and patches of forest. Seeing the gaps in the phalanx the Triballi renewed their offensive, and managed to inflict heavy casualties upon the Macedonians. In the meantime the Triballi’s Scythian allies managed to torch the Macedonian baggage train. With his army in chaos Antipater tried to change the course of battle by charging in with the cavalry, but sadly for him he was cut down during the charge, stabbed through the chest by a Thracian spear. Defeat was total for the Macedonians, who had suffered many casualties, Philippopolis was stormed and brutally sacked by the Triballi. A small detachment of the Macedonian army, 5000 men under command of Antipater’s son Cassander, managed to escape.

    Cassander, when he returned to Macedonia with the remnants of the army, encountered a country in chaos. The news of the defeat of the army and the death of the regent was a shock to the population and now from the east the news of Philip’s death had spread to Macedon. While in Babylon it might have seemed clear that it would be Alexander who would succeed Philip, in Macedon itself that was far from certain. Cassander, while young, was an ambitious man, and loathed Alexander. Cassander had served well during Philip’s campaign in the east as commander of a detachment of the phalanx, but for one reason or another he and Alexander seemed to not get along during the campaign. Alexander managed to convince his father to dismiss Cassander, after the battle of Adana, and thus he was send back to Macedon, leading a group of veterans back to their homeland. If Cassander could somehow prevent Alexander’s ascent to the throne he would do so, and luckily for him there was another man with a claim to the throne. In fact, he had already been king. Philip came to the throne by deposing his nephew for whom he was appointed regent, Amyntas IV. Instead of killing or exiling him somewhere far away Philip allowed Amyntas to live, and even married him to one of his daughters, Cynane.

    Cassander thus exploited the power vacuum his father’s and Philip’s death left behind. Using his 5000 soldiers, who were generally loyal to him, he occupied the palace and treasury at Pella. Despite lacking any formal authority he seized the treasury, filled with many talents of Persian gold and silver, and used it to hire mercenaries. He justified this by stating that he hired them to defend the country from the Triballi, who were still a threat. Queen Olympias, who distrusted Cassander and tried to travel east to join up with her son, was caught trying to escape the palace and put under arrest. He also had his soldiers secure Amyntas IV and Cynane. With his coup a success he now marched north again to crush the Triballi, which turned out to be easier than expected. Tensions between the Triballi and the Scythians, supposedly over the division of loot, had led to open warfare between the two. While the Triballi did manage to repel the Scythians they were now weaker than before. Despite this the Triballi king Syrmus was still confident that he could once again beat the Macedonians, and in June 329 he launched his attack, advancing on Macedon through the valley of the river Strymon. The details are sparse, but somewhere on the banks of the Strymon Cassander ambushed the Triballi and defeated them utterly, with most of them killed or captured. He returned to Pella early in July, and in a public ceremony Amyntas IV declared himself the rightful king of Macedon.

    This move was not universally popular, and while some among the Macedonian aristocracy supported Cassander and Amyntas many among them remained loyal to Alexander. Few veterans from the Asian campaign joined up with Cassander when he called them up, and many of them managed to cross the Aegean and joined Alexander in Asia. After hearing the news Alexander, instead of sailing to Macedon from Cilicia, decided to march overland to the Anatolian coast, where he arrived at Sardis in September 329. In the meantime civil strife wrecked Macedon, with some cities now openly revolting against Cassander. Despite his large mercenary force his ramshackle regime did not manage to keep the country under control, and in one infamous incident the rioting in Pella had to be put down by the army, and during the fighting a fire started which ravaged a large part of the city. It was perhaps during this confusion that Olympias managed to escape her detainment, because the next time she shows up is at the court of her brother, the Molossian king Alexander I of Epiros. Amyntas and Cassander then must have decided that their best bet was defeating Alexander in battle, claiming the kingship by virtue of victory.

    Cassander marched his army, mostly consisting of mercenaries but also some Macedonian troops, to the Hellespont, hoping to block Alexander’s advance into Europe. Meanwhile to the south, in Greece itself, Alexander send some troops across the Aegean under his admiral Nearchus, where they reinforced the garrisons of Athens, Thebes and Corinth, ensuring their loyalty. The Macedonian succession struggle was watched with interest by those among the Greeks who wished to rid themselves of their oppressors, but the already present garrisons and the memory of their recent defeats deterred them from rebelling. Alexander spend his time at Sardis waiting, he had requested reinforcements from further east so he would at least have parity with Cassander’s forces. Cassander, who knew that time was not on his side, probably heard of this and decided to strike before reinforcements arrived. Scraping together a small fleet from Macedon itself and by bullying the cities of the Thracian Chersonese and on the European side of the Propontis, he ferried his forces across the Hellespont in October 329. This surprised Alexander, who did not expect Cassander and Amyntas to go on the offensive. He hurried north with 20000 men, and came across Cassander and Amyntas’ army at Adramyttion, who had managed to gather an army 30000 strong. At the fields of Adramyttion, Alexander would be outnumbered.


    Alexander’s phalanx at Adramyttion

    There were some negotiations before battle, with Amyntas offering Alexander Asia beyond the Taurus. Alexander was of course insulted by this, he was Philip’s rightful heir in his entire kingdom or not at all. On the 20th of October 329 the armies met near Adramyttion, the first time that two Macedonian-style phalanxes faced off against each other. After initial skirmishes the two phalanxes clashed, and initially it seemed like Cassander’s more numerous but less experienced phalanx would win the day. Sadly for him the falling back of Alexander’s phalanx was a ruse, and when Cassander committed the rest of his forces to break through Alexander struck with his hetairoi, shattering the flank of Cassander’s phalanx. Now Alexander’s veterans rallied again, and supported by hypaspists, drove back Cassander’s mercenaries. Cassander, seeing the hopelessness of his cause, tried to flee the battlefield but was unlucky enough to catch an arrow in his throat. Late in the afternoon the battle was done, Amyntas had been captured and was unceremoniously executed, and Alexander was once again the undisputed ruler of Macedonia and it’s empire.


    1. OTL Callinicum, modern day Raqqa
    2. The site of OTL Charax Spasinou
    11. Ends and beginnings
  • 11. Ends and beginnings

    Alexander in Europe

    After Adramyttion Alexander visited the site of Ilion, where he ordered a restoration of the local temple of Athena, which would become a marvellous edifice indeed. Offerings were made by the King at the gravesite of Achilles, Hephaistion did the same at the grave of Patroklos. It was only after these events that Alexander crossed over to Thrace.

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

    Alexander’s victory at Adramyttion only confirmed his position as king of Macedon. Captured nobles that had opposed him he had executed, most notably Pausanias of Orestis, a former bodyguard of Philip, and Iollas, brother of Cassander. The common troops he gave a chance to join his army, most of them were Macedonian after all, or to be sold as slaves. Unsurprisingly practically all of them decided to join Alexander, who duly send them east to reinforce the garrisons in Media and Babylonia. His sister Cynane, now widowed, he also forgave, but immediately married her off to Hephaistion, increasing his ties to the royal family. Then he crossed over to Europe in November, and met no resistance during his march on Pella. There he buried his father in a grand ceremony, and was once again acclaimed as king by the assembled army. Knowing his audience, during the ceremony he acclaimed as Great King by his soldiers, but Alexander corrected them, telling them that King of Macedonia was his foremost title.

    Alexander spend the winter at Pella, and when spring arrived he marched his army north. He retook the ruins of Philippopolis and ordered its reconstruction, and then campaigned against the Triballi. They did not dare to confront him in an open battle, so Alexander defeated them by storming several of their settlements. Having sufficiently punished the Triballi Alexander then went north, where he confronted several Scythian groups near the Danube and defeated them in detail, dividing them and dealing with them one by one. One group of Scythian raiders retreated behind the Danube, but in a supreme demonstration of the prowess of the Macedonian engineering corps Alexander had them built a bridge across the mighty river, at the same time he had them build ballista’s, which were used to bombard the Scythian positions. After the completion of the bridge Alexander led the cavalry across and managed to corner the Scythians, bringing them to heel too. Apparently he considered a campaign against the Getai, but decided against it. He demolished the bridge and returned to Macedon, bringing back plunder and slaves.


    Triballi infantry chased down by Macedonian cavalry

    During Alexander’s march back to Macedon he passed through Thrace, which had been subjugated by Philip. Thrace consisted of several client states, the most powerful being the Odrysian Kingdom ruled by king Seuthes III. The overall satrap of Thrace was a general named Zopyrion, who had resisted Cassander during his rebellion and thus kept his position. Zopyrion suspected Seuthes of fermenting unrest in Thrace, possibly in anticipation of a rebellion against Macedonian rule. He reported this to Alexander, who promptly took action. Alexander marched his army to Seuthes’ fortified palace, which was located in central Thrace and called Seuthopolis. Seuthes denied to Alexander that he had any intent of revolting, but was not believed by him. Alexander had him executed, razed his palace and placed his young son Kotys on the Odrysian throne, ensuring that the Thracians would lack any strong central leadership. While this move did not endear Alexander to the Thracians he showed that would not even tolerate the slightest hint of disobedience, and the loyal Thracian aristocracy was richly rewarded with gold and silver. The Thracians supplied the Macedonian army with excellent light infantry and cavalry, so they could not be treated too harshly. Having secured his northern flank Alexander now returned to Pella, where he arrived in June 328.

    Alexander was greeted in Pella by his mother, Olympias, who had returned from Epiros after having fled during Cassander’s rebellion. Epiros was a land of small villages, not large poleis, and was most famous for the Oracle at Dodona, second in importance only to Delphi. The country’s three main tribes, the Chaonians, Thesprotians and, most importantly, the Molossians had only recently been united into a single state. This was done by, confusingly, king Alexander I of the Molossian dynasty, a brother of Olympias who was married to his niece, and Alexander of Macedon’s sister, Cleopatra. Alexander of Epiros’ reign started inauspiciously, he was placed on the throne by Philip II and was more or less a Macedonian puppet, but ended up quite well for the Molossian Kingdom. His marriage to Cleopatra ensured Epiros’ alliance with Macedon, and during his reign Alexander attempted to reform his country and army to resemble Macedon. He reformed the coinage system, introducing a single coin for the whole of Epiros, and introduced the sarissa and Macedonian-style cavalry to the Epirote army. In 334, while Philip and Alexander were in the east, Alexander of Epirus was campaigning in southern Italia, on behalf of the Greek city of Taras (Tarentum) which was threatened by the Saunitai (Samnites). The details of his campaign are sparse, but he successfully managed to defend Taras and even drove back the Saunitai, who he defeated decisively at the battle of Metapontion, where he managed to lure them into the open plains and crushed them with his cavalry. Afterwards he campaigned on the Adriatic coast, capturing several towns that served as bases for pirates who disrupted trade in the Adriatic, which was becoming increasingly important for the nascent Epirote state. The campaign ended with the capture of Sipontum, an important pirate base. Afterwards Alexander of Epiros waged a short war against the Bruttians and Lucanians, who tried to ambush him at Pandosia, but Alexander was forewarned by deserters, and thus managed to defeat the Italic tribes. For him this was enough for now, he had sufficiently cowed the Italians, exacted tribute from them and had enslaved many of their men. He left behind a garrison in Taras and then returned to Epiros.



    Alexander (of Macedon) must have been happy to see his mother in Pella, despite her somewhat eccentric and domineering character. Sadly for mother and son their reunion would not last long. Not long after Alexander’s return to Pella news arrived from Passaron, the Epirote capital, that Alexander of Epiros had died in a hunting accident, he was gored by a boar while hunting near the river Acheron. Cleopatra’s son (and also cousin) Neoptolemos was to succeed his father, but was far too young to take the throne. Cleopatra would thus serve as regent for her son, but Alexander also urged his mother to return to Passaron, so that she and her daughter could exercise a joint regency over the kingdom. He send an ‘escort’ along of 5000 men under the command of Leonnatos, who were to guard the regents and king of Epiros. Using this family tragedy Alexander more or less established Epiros as a Macedonian protectorate, and got Olympias out of the country. During Antipater’s regency over Macedon she had often quarrelled with the old general, which turned out to be an impediment to governing the kingdom. Alexander hoped his mother could at least cooperate with her own daughter. The rest of the year 328 he spend in Macedon and Greece, where he visited the synedrion of the Hellenic League, who he ordered to levy troops for his eastern expedition. Because this was not a war in common defence Alexander would pay the cities for their men, in that respect they were more like mercenaries than levied troops. Around 8000 troops were gathered by the League, mostly by the larger poleis of Corinth, Thebes and Athens. While not a large amount of soldiers Alexander was glad they joined him on his expedition, for they were both warriors and hostages, insurances that the poleis of Greece would behave themselves while the king was in the far east.

    Come Spring 327 Alexander departed his homeland, together with an army 20000 strong. Hephaistion he left behind as regent of Macedon, a position Alexander could only grant to someone he could trust absolutely. Despite the ease of travel by sea Alexander intended to march overland, so that on his way to Babylon he could subjugate Cappadocia. Ariarathes II, a son of the last satrap of Cappadocia Holophernes, ruled Cappadocia and did not intend to submit himself to Alexander. Not content with the title of satrap Ariarathes II declared himself king, and till now had resisted all attempts to subjugate him. Occasionally he launched raids into western Anatolia or Armenia, much to the dismay of the satraps Antigonos and Orontes, who did not manage to stop or contain the raids. In the previous year Antigonos went on the offensive against Ariarathes, and even besieged the Cappadocian capital Mazaka for some time, but had to retreat due to the harsh winter on the Anatolian plateau. Now with his large army Alexander would surely end the problem once and for all. While resupplying in Gordion Alexander received an envoy send by Parmenion, who had travelled west in all haste to relay the king this message. Satibarzanes and Phrataphernes had risen up and joined forces with Spitamenes, and together they now threatened the entire eastern half of the Argead Empire. Balakros and his force had been massacred, betrayed by their own allies. According to the rebelling satraps they did not fight for independence, or to put themselves on the throne. No, they rebelled to support the rightful King of Kings, true descendant of Darius the Great and heir to the House of Achaemenes, the Great King Artaxerxes IV. Still a young boy, only 15 years old, he had disappeared when Artabazus seized the throne for himself in 338. It is unlikely that this boy actually was Artaxerxes IV, who was probably quietly disposed of by Artabazus, and much more likely that he just was a random boy, used as a cynical ploy, a banner to rally behind in order to expel the Macedonians.

    Alexander could not delay his eastern expedition for a campaign in Cappadocia, unless he wanted to risk losing his eastern satrapies. There was also unrest among the troops, who had by now heard rumours of what was going on in the east. Some feared for their relatives who served in the distant east, others were frightful of the stories that circulated about vengeful Persians slitting their throats in the night. Alexander needed to show his army that not all was lost, that he still was the rightful king of Asia. In Gordion stood an ox-cart, supposedly driven there by the first Phrygian king, a man named Gordias, which was tied to a post with an intricate knot. During the ages none had managed to untie the knot, and legend said that he who could would be the rightful ruler of Asia. Alexander, perhaps hoping for a divine omen and confirmation of his rule, decided to solve the puzzle. When confronted with the knot Alexander argued that it made no difference how the knot was untied, and so he drew his sword and sliced it in half, thus solving the mystery. His army now somewhat calmed by this seemingly divine omen, offerings were made to the gods, and the army finally departed. Alexander marched east once again, intending to deal with the eastern satrapies in the same way he dealt with the Gordian knot.

    Horus flies to heaven

    The king dies not, who is mentioned by reason of his achievements.

    - Inscription of Senusret I found at Iunu (Heliopolis) [1]

    Originally the sed-festival, as celebrated by Nakhthorheb, was intended as a ceremony of rejuvenation. The king had to show his fitness and ability to rule, performing athletic exercises, and in some instances even running alongside the Apis bull [2]. This element, although still present, was less prominent during Nakhthorheb’s festival, possibly because he already was past 60 at the time. Much more emphasis was put on the general prosperity of Egypt as a whole, with the parades of the army and cattle symbolising the wealth and strength of the nation. The festival had shown that Egypt was prosperous, its granaries and treasuries were overflowing and its armies were strong.

    Sadly however, its king was increasingly less so. Nakhthorheb was long past his prime, and increasingly relied on his son and co-regent Nakhtnebef. In 329 it is mentioned that the king travelled to Tjebnetjer to oversee the final work being done on the new temple of Anhur-Shu, construction of which started 10 years before. Afterwards it seems the king rarely left his home city of Tjebnetjer anymore, and spend most of his days at the palace in that city. Fittingly during this time one of the king’s great supporters, the vizier Wennefer, also passed away. He was a man that had come far in life, starting as a literal snake doctor, because of his loyalty to the ruling dynasty and a knack for sycophantism he rose to the rank of vizier, and was now interred in a richly decorated tomb of his own, including pylon gateway, an avenue of sphinxes, a four-column hypostyle hall and four small shrines [3]. It was a monument not only to the man himself, but also to a dynasty that was extraordinarily generous to those that would serve it.

    A Greek source from Naukratis mentions that the king, already fragile, fell ill in August 329, a year after the sed-festival. The last regnal date mentioned of the king is at the Serapeum, the burial place of the Apis bulls, where an inscription on a sarcophagus mentions ‘the second month of the inundation during the thirty-first year of Senedjemibra’. This corresponds to October 329, and the Apis bull seems to have died around that time. Nakhthorheb passed away the following month, an event that is mentioned on the walls on his own tomb as ‘Horus flew to heaven’, an euphemism often used in Egyptian texts for the death of a ruler.

    Egypt had lost a great pharaoh, that much was certain. He had successfully defended Egypt, expanded its borders, enriched its temples and reinvigorated its cults. The army was strong and the treasuries full, Egypt was respected at home and abroad. Most important however was that he reinforced the ideological underpinning of his regime, the divine kingship. A strong army and exchequer meant nothing if the common people did not see their ruler as legitimate, at least not for a long lasting state. The long and prosperous rules of Nakhtnebef I and Nakhthorheb, with exception of the period of turmoil during Djedhor’s rule, were essential to restore the majesty of Egyptian monarchy in the eyes of the population. The short rules of their predecessors of the Twenty-Eighth and Twenty-Ninth Dynasty had as effect that their rulers were seen as little more than squabling warlords, and despite their best efforts it must have seemed as if the kingship of the land was a revolving door of would-be tyrants. Nakhtnebef I had changed that by making necessary reforms, donating lavishly to temples and cults, and Nakhthorheb had continued those policies. In the eyes of the Egyptians, in order to be a legitimate king one had to act legitimately, which was exactly what the rulers of the Thirtieth Dynasty did.


    Nakhthorheb under protection of Horus

    To be a pharaoh meant that you were the incarnation of Horus, so his task was upholding ma’at (the cosmic order) and defeating the forces of disorder. He had to ensure the well-being of Egypt, both economically and spiritually, by organizing the irrigation system, defending the country against foreign foes and by enriching the temples of the gods, who would bless Egypt in return. Monuments had to be constructed, as had been done since time immemorial, both to the gods and monuments to the king himself, such as his tomb. By acting legitimately, as a true king of Egypt, the gods in return would bless the ruler with bountiful harvests, success in all his endeavours and jubilees in abundance. Going by these criteria, it is not hard to see why the Egyptians would think that Senedjemibra Nakthhorheb was a good king, although not one of the calibre of Ramesses II, Montuhotep II, Thutmose III or Amenhotep III. Not reaching the heights of those monarchs was no shame, for they were some of the most illustrious rulers the Nile Valley ever saw.

    As had been done since the earliest days of the Old Kingdom the king was mummified in the finest linen, while royal artisans were busy finishing the decorations of his tomb. The mummification process took 90 days, after which the body was placed in a wooden sarcophagus, which in turn was placed in a slightly larger silver sarcophagus. Then, in a solemn procession, the sarcophagus was brought to its burial site, the tomb at the courtyard of the temple of Anhur-Shu. It was then placed in larger stone sarcophagus already located in the burial vault [4], where the king’s successor, Nakhtnebef II, performed the Opening-of-the-Mouth Ceremony, to give the deceased the ability to eat and speak in the afterlife. The burial chamber was not very large, but richly decorated and filled with high-quality burial goods. Then the entourage left the chamber, after which it was sealed. On the door to the burial chamber Nakhthorheb’s royal titulary was inscribed, followed by phrase ‘ankh djet’ meaning ‘living forever’, something the great pharaoh had certainly deserved.

    The ka’s of Ra have appeared

    The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khakaura, the Son of Ra, Nakhtnebef, great in his lifetime, said: I was elevated above millions by Amun-Ra, king of the gods, the Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands. I proceeded amid rejoicing to Ipetsut and was inducted into the presence of the great god, it was he who granted me the beneficent kingship over the Two Lands.

    - Coronation stela of Nakhtnebef II, found at Ipetsut

    Nakhthorheb’s successor was of course long known. Already co-regent for seven years, his son Nakhtnebef, now in his early thirties ascended to the Throne of Horus. It is known that, after his father’s internment, he celebrated two coronations, one at Tjebnetjer and one at Ipetsut. As throne name he chose ‘Khakaura’, which means ‘the ka’s of Ra have appeared’. This was not a unique name, it already had been used by one of Egypt’s more renowned pharaohs, the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Senusret III, a great conqueror and able ruler. Nakhtnebef with this move also imitated his namesake and great-grandfather, founder of the dynasty, who had adopted the throne name Kheperkara, the throne name of Senusret I, another great Middle Kingdom ruler and famous as the founder of the temple of Ipetsut.

    Choosing the throne name of Senusret III was no coincidence for Nakhtnebef, for he too intended to once again turn the attention of the Egyptian state towards warfare and expansion. Already in his youth the king was famous for his physical prowess and feats of endurance. Now he was eager to bring these qualities to the Egyptian state itself. A thoroughly military man, already in the first year he had assembled a strike force at Dorginarti, near the Second Cataract. It consisted of native soldiers, Greek mercenaries and levied troops from the protectorates in the Near East, notably a Judean detachment and a battalion of hoplites from Cyprus, commanded by Stasanor of Soli. Nakhtnebef, citing mistreatment of Egyptian traders as reason, thus invaded Nubia in his first regnal year. Near the Third Cataract he defeated a Nubian army and proceeded further upriver, devastating the land and capturing many locals. For one reason or another he did not press his attack further, and he appeared content with just plundering the land. Nakhtnebef returned to Egypt in May 328, where he made lavish donations to Ipetsut, and he also send some gold further north for the other great shrines of the land.

    Afterwards the king proceeded to Memphis and oversaw the administration of the land for some time, and possibly visited Tjebnetjer to supervise the construction of his own tomb at the temple of Anhur-Shu. Later that year another military campaign was planned, using many of the same forces he utilised against the Nubians. In October of that year Nakthnebef led his forces west, into the Libyan Desert, to assault and occupy the Oasis of Siwa. His father had often paid off the Libyan raiders, making sure they wouldn’t plunder the Valley of the Nile. His son however had no patience for paying off some bandits, and stopped paying them. Pre-empting the raiders he decided to strike at their base at the Siwa Oasis, capturing it by surprise and dealing a heavy blow to the Libyans. He fortified the oasis, giving the Egyptians a base to exert control over the Western Desert. He also launched an attack on the tribes who lived more to the north, near the Mediterranean. Nakhtnebef turned out to be an able commander and scattered the Libyans with ease, and founded at city on the coast to guard the approaches to Egypt, which he named Ineb-Amenti (‘Western Wall’) [5].

    The new king must have been quite refreshing for the Egyptians. Nakhthorheb had been somewhat lethargic and inactive during the later parts of his reign, but his son turned out to be an extraordinarily active ruler. After the Libyan campaign he returned to Memphis, where he oversaw the inauguration of a new Apis bull, and afterwards Nakhtnebef went south to Waset. Uniquely among kings of this era it seems Nakhtnebef preferred the south over the north, spending more time at Waset than at Memphis. It was also at Waset that many of his building projects were concentrated. He ordered the construction of two colossal, 8 meter tall, polished granite statues, one of himself and one of his father, who were to stand beside the gate at the First Pylon at Ipetsut. Another more practical project was the construction of a small palace for himself at the southern city, known as the Hut-Khakaura-em-Waset, ‘Estate of Khakaura at Waset’, a home for the king at his preferred city. He did not however forget the gods of the north, and even gave them a home in the southern city, constructing a complex of shrines just north of Ipetsut, near the Precinct of Montu. It included shrines for Anhur, Neith, Wadjet and Bast. Several statues of the king were also set up at these shrines, and they have a curious appearance. Like his namesake Senusret III the statues of Nakhtnebef II had a dour, severe expression fitting for a military strongman.


    Senusret III

    He was less interested in the administration of his country than his father was, and appointed a certain Ankhefenkhonsu [6], an able administrator from the city of Khent-Min, and a childhood friend of the king, as vizier. He did however show that dissent would not be tolerated. There were rumours of a conspiracy among the Delta nobility, and Nakhtnebef, a keen student of his country’s history, knew that he had to act before he would lose his throne. It might seem cruel and premature, but Nakhtnebef was not one to take risks if it came to his kingship, he would be a powerful and vigorous king or he would be nothing. The suspects were summoned to the palace, arrested and duly executed, their estates seized and added to the royal demesne. Other Delta noblemen fared better, one Bakenanhur [7], a nobleman from Sau, had served valiantly during the Nubian and Libyan campaigns, and had so impressed the pharaoh that he made him his son-in-law, marrying him to his daughter Mutnefret. Besides Mutnefret the pharaoh also had a son, the 16 year old Nakhthorheb, who not long after the Libyan campaign was already named co-regent by his father, ensuring dynastic continuity. Under Nakhtnebef II Egypt changed its course, but for now the future of the land of the Nile seemed bright.


    1. As mentioned on page 10 of Elizabeth Blyth’s Karnak: Evolution of a Temple
    2. There are sadly not many descriptions of sed-festivals left, despite their regular occurrence during Egyptian history, and in some the king has to run along tracks and show his skill in archery, and in others it is absent. The djed-pillar might or might not show up, its quite mysterious. For example Amenhotep III’s festival featured no physical exercise on behalf of the king, but he was rather obese, which might have made it hard for him. On the other hand so was Hatshepsut, but her festival did feature some gymnastics.
    3. More or less OTL except becoming vizier, his tomb is rather impressive, and looks kind of like a miniature temple.
    4. OTL Nakhthorheb’s sarcophagus has been found, and has had a rather interesting history. It somehow ended up in Alexandria, were it functioned as a ritual bath in a mosque until it was discovered by the French during Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. Because of its location they assumed it was the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and Napoleon send it to France, according to some rumours he planned to use it for himself one day. En route to France it was captured by the British, and it can be found at the British Museum today.
    5. On the site of OTL Paraitonion, modern day Marsa Matruh.
    6. His name means ‘His life is for Khonsu’
    7. Which means ‘Servant of Anhur’
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    Map 328 BC
  • 50452878262_0debb9767d_b.jpg

    A map of the current situation of the TL, around 328 BC. It's slightly better than the last attempt, at least in my opinion! Next actual update should be out sometime next week.
    12. Marching east
  • 12. Marching east

    In year 2 of the 113th Olympiad, in the month of Hekatombaion, the people of this city dedicated this shrine to Zeus for the safety, well-being and glory of the Great King Alexander, King of the Macedonians, Persians, Babylonians and all the peoples of Asia, Hegemon of the Hellenic League.

    - Inscription at a shrine of Zeus at Nikopolis (OTL Mosul)

    In June 327 Alexander reached the city of Arbela in northern Mesopotamia, where Parmenion had already gathered reinforcements for the king. His march east from Gordion had gone without incident, but once he arrived at Arbela he received news from further east. An advance force had already been send east, as requested by Alexander, under the joint command of Lysimachos and Aristonous. In March 10000 men had set out from Ecbatana under their command, marching east to confront the rebels, who had by now gathered their forces at Hekatompylos [1]. The army there was under the command of the satrap of Parthia and Hyrcania, Phrataphernes, and consisted mostly of local infantry (many recruited from the hill tribes of Hyrcania), cavalry (both local and from the steppes) and even some Greek hoplites, mercenaries that had fled east after the battle of Mepsila. Phrataphernes probably outnumbered his opponents, but not by much. Satibarzanes and ‘Artaxerxes IV’ remained in Baktra, where they were gathering a larger army for the reconquest of Persia and Mesopotamia. They had managed to destroy Balakros’ force and kill the general himself in a surprise attack in one of the many valleys of Bactria, but a war against Alexander himself would require more preparations.

    Aristonous and Lysimachos were meant to assess the situation and, if possible, delay the enemy advance. Their army largely consisted of fresh recruits, few light troops to guard the flanks and not much cavalry. Reports send to the generals by spies however indicated that Phrataphernes’ army was not large, and conquering Hekatompylos would give the Macedonians an excellent base for campaigns further east. Sensing an opportunity to score a great victory Aristonous urged action, and Lysimachos acquiesced, the army marched thus marched on Hekatompylos. During their march they were almost continually harassed by Phrataphernes’ light cavalry, and the Macedonian light cavalry was ambushed while trying to drive them away. Despite these setbacks the generals decided to push on, and reached Hekatompylos in May, and to their surprise just outside the city they were confronted with the army of Phrataphernes. Because of Macedonian dominance in the open field they had expected that Phrataphernes would let it come to a siege or that he would retreat. Eager as they were the Macedonians formed up their formation and advanced on the Hyrcanian positions, the phalanx advanced while the heavy cavalry attempted to outflank the Hyrcanians. A charge of Phrataphernes’ cavalry forced the Macedonian cavalry to retreat to guard the phalanx, and they came increasingly under fire from Phrataphernes’ light cavalry, which consisted mainly of horse archers from the steppes, mostly supplied by the Dahae, and Iranian cavalry armed with javelins and axes. The Hyrcanian infantry had fallen back, but now struck the flanks of the phalanx while the Greek mercenaries managed to hold back the centre. Often armed with a bundle of javelins and an axe they managed to hack their way into the phalanx, whose long pikes were of no use in a close-hand melee. Many of the phalangites dropped their pikes and drew their swords, but that lead to less pressure against the Greek mercenaries in the centre, who were now no longer being driven back and instead managed to put pressure on the phalanx itself.


    Iranian light cavalry

    Phrataphernes, seeing a great victory in his grasp, now committed his heavy cavalry. The Macedonian cavalry was swept from the field, with Aristonous dying on the field, now the phalanx was isolated and started to fall apart. Despite a spirited resistance from the Macedonian troops victory was total for the rebels. Lysimachos, who was in charge of the phalanx, managed to escape the field with a small bodyguard, but most of the army did not. Lysimachos escaped west, where he relayed the news of the defeat personally to the king himself. Despite what you might expect he was not punished for the defeat, according to later sources hostile to Lysimachos that was because he unduly put all blame for the Battle of Hekatompylos on Aristonous. It is also possible Alexander did not punish him because Lysimachos was a friend of him. The victory emboldened the cause of Artaxerxes IV, and not long after the battle of Hekatompylos Phrataphernes was joined by Satibarzanes, Spitamenes and Artaxerxes IV himself, gathering an army 70000 strong at Hekatompylos. By now they must have heard of Alexander’s return to Asia, and now that they were confident in their ability to defeat the Macedonians they sought to confront him.

    Alexander had now gathered his army at Arbela, which was quite different from the armies that Philip had used to conquer his empire. While still based around the phalanx as anvil and the hetairoi as hammer, Alexander deployed larger amounts of light troops, still mostly Illyrians and Thracians but by now he also employed Persian archers. The rear of the army and the baggage train was to be guarded by the troops levied from the Hellenic League, the flanks would be covered by the hypaspistai. Alexander and Krateros were also joined by Atropates, satrap of Media, with a contingent of Median cavalry. A final addition to the army, under the command of the officer Peukestas, were several thousand Persian heavy infantrymen known as the Kardakes. They were an late Achaemenid experiment in replicating the Greek hoplite infantry, armed with an aspis shield and a spear. Alexander’s cavalry, often the decisive factor in his battles, was diverse in origins. The heavy cavalry, the hetairoi, were Macedonians, and complemented by the excellent Thessalian horsemen. The light cavalry was also partially drawn from Macedon, but also included large Thracian, Armenian and now also Persian contingents. In July, eager to leave the searing heat of the Mesopotamian plains, Alexander and his army marched east, into the Zagros, where they first stopped at Ecbatana. There he was reinforced by Atropates, and he also received some good news. The rebels, emboldened by their recent success, had hoped to seize the old Achaemenid heartland by surprise. A cavalry force had been send south to Persia from Hekatompylos, but was defeated near Pasargadae by Philotas, military governor of Persia. Despite this setback Artaxerxes IV, or more likely Satibarzanes, did not relent, and the with the final confrontation with Alexander on the horizon he decided to act. The satrap’s army marched west from Hekatompylos and occupied the city of Rhagai [2] in northern Iran. It was probably there that the rebels received word from their scouts that Alexander was on his way, and it was there that they decided to confront him.

    The battle was fought just west of the city, on an open plain between some hills, around the beginning of August 327. Showcasing their confidence, the leaders of the rebellion were present on the field, each of them leading their own contingents. The Bactrians and Arachosians were positioned in the centre, under Satibarzanes, on the right stood the Sogdians under Spitamenes and on the left the Parthians and Hyrcanians under Phrataphernes. Apart from a small core of heavy infantry, mostly the remaining Greek mercenaries, the satrap’s armies mostly consisted of lightly armed conscripted infantry and large amounts of cavalry. Alexander, aware that the enemy’s cavalry outnumbered his, changed his formation accordingly. Knowing that being outflanked was the bane of the phalanx he positioned his army between two hills, and stretched his phalanx between them, occupying the hills with both non-phalangite heavy infantry and light infantry. Alexander took a considerable risk by stretching his phalanx so far, but he trusted that his troops would be able to hold the line against the charge of the enemy. Deliberately he had thinned the line the most in its centre, but it was also there that he had placed his most experienced and trusted troops, under the command of his good friend Ptolemaios. The Persian and Greek infantry would form a second line behind the phalanx, to counter an enemy breakthrough, while the hypaspistai were tasked with guarding the hills that anchored the phalanx. The troops on the steep hill on the left of the Macedonian phalanx were under command of Perdiccas, while the troops on the less steep hill on the right side were commanded by Krateros. The Thessalian and Median cavalry, under command of Koinos, was stationed in front of the hill on the left side of the phalanx, tasked with threatening the enemy flank, and thus distracting at least a portion of their cavalry. They were also supported by a group of Thracian light infantry. Another detachment, consisting of Thracian cavalry under command of Seleukos, was to harass the enemy’s advance. Alexander himself and the hetairoi were stationed behind the phalanx on a slight rise, clearly visible for the enemy.

    The satraps, it seems, were confident of their victory. Already twice they had managed to overcome the Macedonians, why wouldn’t they do so another time? Even Alexander’s strong defensive position did not make them hesitate. They outnumbered him almost two to one, they were deploying 70000 men while Alexander had at most 40000. There were no negotiations or parlay between the two sides on the eve of battle, both sides it seems were eager to settle accounts on the battlefield. It started early in the morning, with Parthian and Scythian cavalry darting forward, harassing the Macedonian lines from afar with their bows. They were chased off by the Thracians under Seleukos, but he had to retreat behind the phalanx when the satrap’s infantry advanced. In the meantime Koinos and his cavalry rode forth, assailing the flank of the Sogdian infantry before being chased off by Spitamenes and his cavalry. Koinos then rode west, being chased by the Sogdian cavalry and thus distracting them from the battle. The Sogdian infantry had regrouped, and started assaulting the Macedonian position on the hill to the left, but to no avail. Fighting uphill was not easy, certainly not if it was so steep. Meanwhile the Sogdians were peppered with projectiles from the light infantry further on the hill, while facing off against the prowess of the hypaspistai.

    On the plains the bulk of the satrap’s infantry now started their assault on Alexander’s phalanx. Satibarzanes, himself in a chariot, followed close behind with his cavalry, hoping to exploit any gap that his infantry would make in the Macedonian ranks. On the hill to the right Phrataphernes had commenced his assault, which went noticeably better than the Sogdian assault on the hill to the left. The hill on the right was not steep, it had a relatively gentle slope, and the Hyrcanians, who made up most of Phrataphernes’ infantry, were famed as mountaineers, so they were quite used to fighting on a hillside. Slowly but surely Krateros’ troops were driven off the hilltop. Phrataphernes, seeing that the fight was going well, rode in with his bodyguard and encouraged his troops. Krateros did the same, rallying his troops, while at the same time sending a messenger to Alexander asking for reinforcements. Alexander, upon hearing the news from Krateros, immediately send the Greeks, Persians and the Thracian cavalry under Seleukos to the hill. He knew, or at least hoped, that the phalanx would hold, but he could not risk losing one of the flanks, so he send his second line to shore up Krateros’ position. This seemed to have worked, for Krateros now managed to hold out and, inch by inch, reclaimed the hilltop.

    Now all of Alexander’s troop were engaged, something Satibarzanes must have noticed. He now ordered his heavy infantry onward, straight into the thinned centre of the phalanx, to finally break the Macedonians. At the same time he had some of his cavalry attempt to break through, while he would stay back with most of the cavalry to launch the final charge, making certain that the Macedonians would be routed. Little by little the Macedonian centre under Ptolemaios started falling back, though not in an uncontrolled fashion, but carefully the phalangites seemed to retreat. It was then that Alexander made his move, together with the hetairoi he rode off, seemingly in retreat. Satibarzanes must have seen the royal banner of the Argeads, a sunburst on a purple field, now seemingly moving away from the battlefield. With the Macedonian centre buckling under the weight of his assault and their king abandoning them Satibarzanes saw his chance, and now charged in with the rest of his cavalry, most notably the heavily armoured Bactrian lancers. Despite their king seemingly fleeing, the Macedonians did not rout, they only slowly gave away ground in the centre, while on the flanks the phalanx held firm. Where at first the phalanx formed a straight line, by now it was u-shaped. It is unknown whether Satibarzanes ever realized that he was walking into a trap or not, or whether he saw the royal banner reappearing on the hill to his left. Far from fleeing, Alexander and the hetairoi had ascended, out of Satibarzanes’ view, the hill to their right, from which Krateros had managed to drive away the Hyrcanians. Now Alexander and the hetairoi charged downhill, effortlessly breaking through a meagre cavalry screen and into the rear of the enemy formation, now completely surrounded. A great cheer went up from the ranks of the phalanx when they saw their king, the sun reflecting on his gilded helmet, leading the hetairoi into Satibarzanes’ ranks. Now the phalanx, who had preserved their strength for precisely this moment, started its advance into the startled ranks of their enemies, who not so long ago thought that victory was in their grasp. The satrap’s army, now compressed between the phalanx and Alexander’s cavalry, attempted to resist the Macedonian advance but to no avail, and soon afterwards panic made itself master of the rebel troops. Eager as they were to escape their encirclement many of them fell not to Macedonian arms but in a stampede by their fellow soldiers. Satibarzanes too fell on the field, supposedly after seeing Alexander storm his position he tried to escape, but his driver turned the chariot around too fast, after which Satibarzanes fell out and was crushed to death beneath the hooves of the Macedonian cavalry.


    Alexander confronting Satibarzanes

    Koinos in the meantime had managed to defeat the Sogdian cavalry, who were ambushed by the Thracian infantry while chasing him, after which Koinos turned his cavalry around and charged into the Sogdian ranks. The Sogdians were defeated and Spitamenes was killed in battle. Koinos returned to the field afterwards and assaulted the rebels’ rear guard, which he managed to defeat and afterwards captured their baggage train. Meanwhile Alexander had mopped up the satrap’s main force, the field now littered with the dead and the dying. The satrap’s army was crushed decisively, with thousands death and even more now destined for an inhuman and brutal life of slavery. For Alexander himself and his empire this was a great victory, more or less crushing resistance in a single battle instead of fighting a long campaign. This was mostly because of the satrap’s overconfidence, thinking that because they could beat Balakros and Aristonous on the battlefield they could also best Alexander. After the battle ‘Artaxerxes IV’ once again disappears from the record, now for good. Of the satraps only Phrataphernes survived the battle, he managed to flee the field with a small group of cavalry. He returned to the Hyrcanian capital Zadrakarta, from where he attempted to resist Alexander. The king, who had no time to besiege the city, delegated the subjugation of Hyrcania to Perdiccas, who was given 15000 men to complete his objective.

    After the battle Alexander marched northeast, through the Caspian Gates and afterwards occupying Hekatompylos. After receiving the subjugation of the Parthians, and leaving behind Seleukos as satrap with a garrison, he marched further and occupied the city of Susia [3] in October 327. There he planned to stay for a couple months, waiting for additional supplies and reinforcements from the west, after which he would resume his march. Alexander himself would march north, past Merv, until he would reach the Oxus, after which he would follow the river upstream until reaching Baktra. A second force would be send south from Susia, under command of Krateros, by now a trusted confidante of Alexander, to Areia, Drangiana and Arachosia beyond. These were the plans of Alexander, hoping to finally solidify his grip on the eastern provinces of his empire.

    1. Location is disputed, most likely Shahr-i-Qumis in north-eastern Iran, which for the sake of the TL I assume is true.
    2. Near modern day Tehran.
    3. Modern day Tus in north-eastern Iran.
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    13. Towards the horizon
  • 13. Towards the horizon

    Alexandrou Anabasis

    Having defeated the combined hosts of the eastern satraps at Rhagai, now the Great King Alexander went even further east, not stopping until he reached the Jaxartes, beyond which lies Scythia, and thus Europe. There on the banks of the river Alexander erected three shrines, one to Dionysos, one to Herakles and one to his father, Philippos Nikator, marking the border of his domains.

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

    Alexander’s victory at Rhagai, one of the finest battles of his entire career, had far-reaching consequences for the eastern satrapies. In their recklessness the satraps had gambled everything on a set-piece battle with the Great King, and had lost decisively. If they had retreated and had waged a guerrilla campaign against the Macedonians in the rugged terrain of Eastern Iran, Bactria and Sogdiana their chances of victory would have been much higher. Now though, with a large part of the fighting elite dead or captive, Alexander’s campaign was comparatively much easier. That is not to say it was unopposed, not at all, but the campaign could have been much harsher on him and his army.

    In January 326 Alexander resumed his march, his army now 30000 strong. It was now more multi-ethnic than it had ever been, an image of the empire he and his father had forged. Macedonian phalangites and cavalry were supported by Greek hoplites, Thracian peltasts, Babylonian spearmen, Median horsemen and Persian archers. Despite the great distance that he had covered since returning from Europe the reinforcements arrived without delay, testament to the Persian roads and logistical system, which Alexander now benefitted from. His army now well-supplied and rested the Great King marched north, following the caravan routes into the lands that were called Margiana. He encountered little resistance and in March he reached the oasis city of Merv, the capital of the region. The presence of such a large army made the choice easy for the inhabitants of Merv, they threw open their gates for Alexander, who marched into the city more like a triumphant ruler than a foreign conqueror. In his honour the city was renamed, at least officially, to Alexandria-in-Margiana.

    Alexander did not remain in Margiana for long, and soon restarted his march to the Oxus. The army was rested and well-supplied, but the march through the Karakum Desert to the Oxus must have been gruelling. Upon reaching the Oxus the army once again took several days of rest, and it was probably then that Alexander received reports of what was happening in the rest of Bactria and Sogdia. The local nobility, which by and large had thrown in their lot with Spitamenes and his rebellion, were now divided over how to react to Alexander’s approach. Sensing an opportunity the surrounding nomadic tribes, the Saka, Massagetae and Dahae, launched raids into the rich lands of Sogdia and Bactria. Not long after his arrival on the Oxus Alexander caught up with and defeated a group of Dahae raiders, showing to the local population that at least he could rid of them of the nomadic threat. Marching upstream the Oxus, Alexander encountered almost no resistance and reached Bactra in June 326. Once again no resistance was offered and after some negotiations the city opened it’s gates to the Macedonians, who duly marched in and established a garrison. Using Bactra as his base Alexander led several expeditions into the Bactrian countryside, commanding a cavalry force made up from his own army and local levies. Over several months Alexander managed to drive away the Saka and Massagetae from Bactria. The decisive battle of the campaign took place at the city of Nautaka in northern Bactria, where a local nobleman named Sisimithres had joined forces with the Saka to oppose Alexander.

    Using mounted archers of his own, both hired from the Dahae and recruited locally, to pin down the enemy forces in conjunction with his light infantry suppressing them with their slings, bows and javelins, Alexander managed to charge in with his hetairoi, scattering his enemies with ease. Sisimithres survived the battle and fled to his nearby stronghold, where he was subsequently besieged by Alexander. Seeing the hopelessness of his situation the Sogdian warlord surrendered and was treated gracefully, he was allowed to keep his land and life, but was ordered to hand over his sons to Alexander as hostages. Alexander returned to Bactra in October, where soon afterwards he was joined by Perdiccas and 8000 Persian reinforcements. Perdiccas had successfully concluded his campaign in Hyrcania by capturing Zadracarta, Hyrcania was subsequently added to Seleukos’ satrapy, and had now come to Bactria to reinforce Alexander. Perdiccas had also brought along the former satrap Phrataphernes, who was captured in Zadracarta. The Bactrians had for now shown themselves to be largely loyal, but only the year before the area had been the staging ground of a rebellion against him. He had to set an example so that it would be clear for all what the consequence of disobedience would be. Phrataphernes was tortured horrifically, his nose and nears were cut off, and then tied to a stake just outside Bactra, to die of exposure to the elements and exhaustion. As Alexander marched his army out of Bactra on their way north to Sogdia they marched past the dying Phrataphernes, so that they too could see the consequence of rebellion.


    Death of Phrataphernes

    Alexander’s next target were the lands of Sogdia, to the north of Bactria. Already the territory to Nautaka had been pacified, and Alexander managed to reach Marakanda [1], capital of Sogdia, relatively quickly. At first the city intended to resist the great conqueror, but it relented when the scope of the Macedonian siege works became apparent to them. The gates were opened and the Macedonians marched in, but despite that Alexander showed no lenience to the local rulers. The aristocracy he had decimated for daring to resist their rightful king, and a strong garrison was installed to oversee the city. In February 325 he rode out against the Massagetae who had gathered to the west of Marakanda, and managed to surprise and defeat them while their main force was trying to ford the Polytimetus [2]. Another cavalry force under joint command of Ptolemaios and Koinos defeated the vanguard of the Saka and drove them back, after which the Saka retreated behind the Jaxartes. Not long afterwards the rest of Sogdia, perhaps happy to be rid of the nomad menace, subjugated itself to Alexander.

    The king now marched out again, to the shores of the Jaxartes, where on the opposite shore the Saka had gathered to repel him. Alexander, undeterred, had his engineers construct catapults and ballistae to force away the Saka from the north bank, after which Alexander and an elite corps managed to cross the river without incident. They repelled a Saka counterattack and then routed the rest of their forces. Alexander, now content, returned to the southern bank of the Jaxartes. He ordered the resettlement of Cyropolis [3] as farthest garrison of his empire, to guard against threats from across the Jaxartes. Cyropolis, as its name suggests, was once founded by Cyrus the Great to safeguard the nascent Persian Empire against nomadic threats from the north. Now Alexander imitated, and honoured, him by refounding the city. There were murmurs of discontent among the Macedonians and Greeks about naming a new settlement after a Persian king, but Alexander relented. Here are perhaps the first signs that Alexander increasingly saw himself not just as a Macedonian king but increasingly an ‘Asian’ one, who saw Cyrus as an illustrious predecessor.

    After the battle at the Jaxartes Alexander returned to Bactra, leaving Sogdia behind with several garrisons. Sogdia would be joined to Bactria in a single satrapy, which was granted to Perdiccas. Alexander returned to Bactra in August 325, after which he granted his army a month of rest. In Bactra Alexander received reinforcements send by Parmenion, 8000 mercenaries recruited from Greece and Anatolia. By now the Greeks and Persians in the army must have outnumbered the Macedonians. During his time in Bactria Alexander put down a short-lived rebellion centred around the city of Drapsaka, whose entire male population was put to the sword in retaliation. He also founded the city of Philippi-on-the-Oxus [4] in eastern Bactria. In September 325 he prepared his army to march south, to cross the Hindu Kush through the Khawak Pass and to join up with Krateros in the Kabul Valley. Krateros had managed to subjugate Areia, Drangiana and Arachosia, and had shown himself the capable commander that Alexander saw in him. He was popular among the Macedonian troops but also rather conservative. He encountered little resistance during his march through Eastern Iran, but when he did he crushed it ruthlessly.

    Alexander crossed the Khawak Pass with 30000 men, a great feat of endurance and logistics, and in the southern foothills of the Hindu Kush (known to the Greeks as the Paropamisos) founded the city of Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus, to secure the various passes in the region. There he exacted tribute from local tribes and awaited the arrival of Krateros, after which he would start the final part of his campaign to restore the borders of his empire, the invasion of India.

    The Golden Horus

    In the second regnal year under the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khakaura, the Son of Ra, Nakhtnebef, strong-of-arm, Beloved by Amun-Ra, his Majesty enriched the shrines of the Gods and erected numerous monuments. He was great of strength, and crushed the Nubians and the Asiatics who threatened Egypt. There were none who were like him, the Golden Horus of all lands, who upholds ma’at and smites isfet [5]. His Majesty while in the Residence received envoys from all lands, coming to offer tribute to his greatness. The Gods themselves rejoiced at this sight, and blessed His Majesty with millions of jubilees in life, prosperity and health.

    - Inscription found at the Hut-Khakaura-em-Waset

    His first year on the throne more or less set the tone for the rest of Nakhtnebef’s rule, an energetic ruler with a keen interest in military affairs. Late in 328 he travelled to Pelusium, where he oversaw the construction of additional defensive works. The walls were reinforced, extra towers were built, some in such a way that they could house catapults or ballistae. Further to the south, at Per-Atum, he also ordered additional defensive works. Despite his confidence and assertiveness Nakhtnebef still saw it as essential to Egypt’s security that the borders of Egypt itself were well protected.

    Economically Egypt was still doing well, its goods were still sought after and it still sat astride important trade routes, gathering dues straight into the pharaonic exchequer. Somewhat worse for Egypt was a relatively low flood that year, which meant that the harvest, will still sufficient, would not be as bountiful as in previous years. It would not mean famine in Egypt, but it would mean that there was less to export. Luckily for Egypt the floods in 326 and 325 were sufficient, even if not especially good.

    Nakhtnebef’s main construction projects were continuing apace. He ordered some additions to the Great Temple of Ptah at Memphis and at this time the palace at Hebyt was completed. The palace, not far from the dynastic capital at Tjebnetjer, would be the main residence for the rest of the royal family for the remainder of the Thirtieth Dynasty. The king himself did not stay there often, splitting his time between Waset and Memphis if he was not on campaign. Another project that was started around this time was the restoration of the Akh-Menu-Menkheperre [6] at Ipetsut. For Nakhtnebef this must have been an important project, both because it was centred on his favoured city and because it honoured a great conqueror whom he idolised, pharaoh Thutmose III.


    Nakhtnebef II praising Amun [7]

    In 326 Nakhtnebef send his second daughter, Udjashu, to Ipetsut, to be introduced into the Cult of Amun-Ra, where she would one day succeed her aunt Iaret-Merytamun as God’s Wife of Amun. Later that year Nakhtnebef once again marched of to war, although the opponent he sought to destroy was not particularly dangerous. He marched his army, mostly machimoi and Libyans, to Gaza. From there he, supported by the local Philistians and Judeans, launched several punitive expeditions against nomadic Arabs who in the past year had raided some trade caravans. Most of the Arabs opposed to Nakhtnebef evaded his forces, familiar as they were with the local terrain. Through either luck or treachery though he did manage to catch up with and defeat several tribes. Rather arbitrarily some he punished harshly, but others were even granted land in Egypt itself, on the condition that they would faithfully serve in the pharaoh’s army. On one of the walls of the restored Akh-Menu Nakhtnebef recorded this great victory, showing himself victorious over enemies labelled as ‘Shasu’, the ancient Egyptian name for the nomadic Bedouin of the Eastern Desert. The pharaoh triumphantly strides forward, mace held high, while in front of him, much smaller, the Shasu scramble away in terror. It was certainly the way in which Nakhtnebef saw himself, a conqueror in true pharaonic fashion.

    Despite this confident display of his power as a great warrior the pharaoh had suffered a particularly grievous blow during his campaign against the Shasu. During one of the skirmishes his son and co-regent, the by now 18-year old Nakhthorheb II was struck in his leg by an arrow. While at first it did not appear lethal, soon afterwards the wound got infected and after several days of high fever the co-ruler of the Nile passed away. Nakhtnebef then ended his campaign prematurely, returned to Egypt and oversaw the internment of his son in an antechamber of his own tomb at the temple of Anhur-Shu at Tjebnetjer. Nakhthorheb had been the king's only son, and with his passing the eventual succession to the Throne of Horus was once again insecure.


    1. AKA Samarkand
    2. The Zeravshan river
    3. OTL Alexandria Eschate
    4. OTL Ai-Khanoum
    5. Chaos and injustice, opposite of ma’at
    6. ‘Effective are the monuments of Menkheperre’ i.e. the Festival Hall of Thutmose III at Karnak, OTL restorations were made in name of Alexander.
    7. OTL this is actually Alexander in Pharaonic garb worshipping Amun
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    14. On the banks of the Indus
  • 14. On the banks of the Indus

    Crossing the Hindu Kush

    As we travelled east from Media, we came across increasingly alien lands, where no Hellenes had dwelt before. Here in the far reaches of Asia, the very landscape itself seemed to veer towards the heroic, the plains seemed wider, the rivers larger and the mountains reaching up towards the heavens.

    - Excerpt from Ptolemaios’ The Wars of Megas Alexandros

    Having successfully pacified Bactria and Sogdia, Alexander now was poised to march into India, to reclaim those distant lands for his Empire. Settled in the new city of Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus he awaited the arrival of Krateros, who had mopped up the last resistance in eastern Iran and had planned a rendezvous with the Great King at the new city he founded. There had been regular contact between the two Macedonian armies, so Alexander was aware of what had happened on Krateros’ campaign.

    While Alexander marched towards the Oxus in January 326 Krateros had marched south, to suppress the revolt in the regions of Areia, Drangiana and Arachosia. Areia was the region he reached first and was easily subjugated, its satrap Satibarzanes was dead and alongside him a large part of the region’s military levy. The region’s capital, the city Artacoana, fell to a quick and ferocious Macedonian assault, after which the city was plundered and the population deported. Most were send away to Babylon, but some were allowed to stay, the city of was renamed to Alexandria-in-Ariana and would function as the new capital of the region. With this almost Assyrian display of force Krateros hoped to imprint upon the locals that resistance was futile, and that any future revolts would be dealt with in the same manner. The founding of the new city and the razing of Artacoana were probably already approved by Alexander, who would not allow a general to do those things on his own initiative.

    Having dealt with Areia then Krateros proceeded onwards to Drangiana and Arachosia, who were ruled by the same satrap, Barsaentes. He had supported Satibarzanes during his revolt, and thus could not hope for any leniency. The fighting here was fierce, enemy forces had taken to the hills from where they harassed the Macedonians and their supply convoys. Krateros had little patience for this, and divided up his army into several columns who were to subjugate the enemy centres of resistance. During those months the villages of Drangiana burned, at the slightest hint of resistance Krateros ordered the destruction of a settlement and its population. He himself commanded one column, 10000 strong, and two others of the same strength were led by Lysimachos and Nikanor, a son of Parmenion. Brutal though his tactics may be, it was successful and little by little, village by village he wore down Barsaentes’ resistance, until only the satrap’s capital at Zranka remained loyal to him. Zranka fell in February 325, with Barsaentes dying sword in hand, defending his city against the Macedonians.

    Krateros’ campaign in Drangiana was one of the more bloody ones of this period, and unlike Alexander Krateros rarely gave his enemy any respite. The war had left the country decimated but docile. After the fall of Zranka Krateros remained there for a while, awaiting reinforcements, which he received in April 325. His army now 34000 strong he marched into the last rebellious satrapy, Arachosia. Perhaps they had heard of the approaching armies’ brutality, because Krateros’ march through Arachosia was entirely unremarkable, losing more men to the sometimes inhospitable terrain than to its inhabitants. Krateros installed some garrisons during his passage through the area but neglected to impose a proper government on the region. Formally at least Arachosia, Drangiana and Areia were merged into a single satrapy, that of Ariana. Erigyius, a friend and companion of Alexander, was made satrap of Ariana. Krateros, ever mindful of the well-being of his soldiers, (or at least the Macedonians among them) waited till he had confirmation that Alexander was also on the march again, and used that time to gather food and supplies for his army, to ensure it would be well-supplied during their crossing of the mountains. Another city was also founded, probably on orders of the King himself, suitably named Alexandria-in-Arachosia. It seems that for now Alexander did not mind naming cities after himself in the more distant parts of Asia, while in the core of the empire he sticked to his father’s name or more traditional ones.

    In November of 325 the two armies joined up at Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus. It was a momentous occasion, one suited for conspicuous displays of propaganda. Alexander held Hellenic-style games and parades, and ordered the construction of 13 shrines, one to each of the major Olympian Gods and one to his father. The Macedonian elite off course celebrated with the long drinking sessions for which they were famous. Krateros was praised by the King himself for his capability and diligence, and from now onwards was more or less the second-in-command of the Macedonian army. Despite Alexander’s eagerness to march further the advance into India would have to wait several months, crossing the mountains and passes in the heart of winter would a foolish undertaking. It was thus after several months of rest that the Macedonian army gathered itself in March 324, 65000 strong, and marched off again. They would now march east, following the river they named the Cophen, which would bring them to the region known as Gandhara, the north-western frontier of India.

    The march to India however would not be as easy as Alexander might have hoped. The Aspasians and the Assacenes, tribes who lived in the valleys near that of the Cophen, had no intention of just surrendering to the Great King of Asia. While Alexander himself and the main force under his command continued their march downriver Krateros was tasked with teaching the local tribes the meaning of obedience. They had to be subdued, otherwise they could threaten the supply line through the valley, something Alexander could not risk. Once again Krateros employed the brutal tactics he had used in Drangiana, storming and burning any village that dared to resist in a campaign that verged on the genocidal. Despite the brutality it seems his tactics were relatively successful against the Aspasians, especially after the capture and burning of their capital, a settlement the Greeks called Arigaion.


    Storming of a stronghold in Gandhara

    Perhaps forewarned by news about Krateros’ campaign the Assacenes decided not to await an assault on their settlements and decided to confront the invaders head-on. Alexander and the main part of the army, 40000 strong, had crossed the Khyber Pass and was now near the territory of the Assacenes. At a city called Peucelaoitis (Pushkalavati in Sanskrit) near the confluence of the Cophen and the Swat River they had gathered their troops, hoping to prevent either Alexander or Krateros from invading their lands. Alexander, who probably interpreted the situation as the Assacenes challenging him, had his army cross over to the north bank of the Cophen and then marched on Peucelaoitis. It was early May 324, and the Macedonian army, after successfully crossing the river encountered the gathered Assacenes on a plain near Peucelaoitis. Their army, supposedly consisting of 30000 infantrymen, 5000 cavalrymen and 30 elephants, was under the command of a king the Greek sources name Assacenus (probably not his real name). It was brave of Assacenus to try and make a stand against the Macedonians despite being outnumbered, but it was also very unwise. Alexander himself started the battle by attempting to outflank the Assacenes, who responded by sending their cavalry after him. The Assacenes were famed as horsemen but Alexander and his guard managed, after a fierce fight, to best them. Alexander himself was in particular danger during this battle when an Assacenan horseman managed to knock the king’s sword out of his hands with his axe. However, before he could start bludgeoning him Alexander was saved by one of his bodyguards, Hektor [1], who managed to gore the enemy with his spear before he could strike the king. The defeat of the Assacenes’ cavalry was more or less the end of the battle, their infantry could not stand up to the phalanx and when they were flanked by Alexander’s horsemen they were routed decisively. The city of Peucelaoitis surrendered after the battle, opening its gates to Alexander and his army, and was treated mildly by the victorious king.

    After the battle at Peucelaoitis Alexander once again split his army. One part, 20000 men under command of Ptolemaios, were to proceed to the Indus and start the construction of a bridge across that river. Alexander himself and 20000 men would continue onward to Massaga, capital of the Assacenes and would try to rendezvous with Krateros and his army. Alexander proceeded to capture Massaga after a siege lasting a month, after which the city was mercilessly sacked, and king Assacenus himself died during the battle. Contact had been made with Krateros, who had broken the resistance of the Aspasians, and who now joined up with his king at Massaga. Afterwards Alexander subdued the strongholds at Bazira and Ora, both of whom also refused to open their gates, and then crossed the Shangla Pass to reach the Indus River in August 324. Upon reaching the river Alexander granted his men some respite, once again Hellenic Games were held and offerings were made to the gods on the banks of the Indus. After several days of rest the army gathered again and marched south on the banks of the Indus, towards a place called Hund were Ptolemaios and the army’s engineer corps had constructed a bridge across the great river.

    The subjugation of the Indus Valley

    The Great King Alexander, King of the Macedonians, Persians, Babylonians and all the peoples of Asia, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, ordered the construction of this monument to the memory of his father, Philip, who raised up the Macedonians from goat-herders to rulers of the world, and who was the first of his dynasty to rule over Asia.

    - Inscription on a statue of Philippos Nikator found at Taxila

    When Alexander and his army crossed the Indus they were not hindered by an enemy army trying to stop them. Indeed, the contrary was the case. Ptolemaios had already come into contact with Omphis (Ambhi in Sanskrit), the ruler of the wealthy city of Taxila (Taksashila), which was the preeminent power in the region. Omphis had been in conflict with another Indian ruler, Poros, who ruled a kingdom called Puru to the east of Taxila. Omphis had supplied Ptolemaios and his army with food and other supplies but had refused to meet with the Macedonian general. Now that the Great King himself had shown up he acquiesced and agreed to meet Alexander somewhere on the road between the Indus and Taxila itself. Omphis probably would have heard news that the Achaemenid dynasty had fallen to invaders from the far west, but it is unlikely he expected them to show up in his homeland. He must have known their reputation, and if not that he must have noticed the sheer size of Alexander’s army, and thus thought it better to submit and gain an ally than to fight and risk being destroyed altogether.

    Having left his city with a large group of warriors and many members of his court in tow Omphis met Alexander on the road towards the city. Omphis publicly submitted himself to Alexander, throwing himself in the dust at the feet of the Great King. Gifts were exchanged: gold and silver, purple and saffron cloth were exchanged for ivory, spices and other Indian goods. Omphis would remain in charge of Taxila, and even had his domains enlarged. The city of Peucelaoitis, to the northwest of Taxila, where Alexander and Krateros had recently campaigned, was added to the domains of Omphis which meant he now controlled the entirety of Gandhara. Alexander also pledged to support him in his struggle with Poros. He would however need to accommodate and supply a Macedonian garrison at Taxila, a demand to which Omphis agreed. Afterwards Alexander and his army made an triumphant entrance into Taxila itself, where the Great King and his retinue were treated as honoured guests at the court of Omphis.

    India, to the Hellenes, was a distant and almost mythical land, and no less so to Alexander and his troops. It was famed for its wealth and its wisdom, both of which were abundantly present in Taxila, for it controlled important trading routes and possessed a famous university. Alexander, while in Taxila, was apparently hesitant to continue his campaign and he remained in the city for several months. Some sources mention that he heard of the powerful kingdoms further into India, who could supposedly field millions of men and thousands of elephants. Others say that the reason for his hesitance was that he by now had reunified what was once the empire of Cyrus and Darius (at least in the east), and thus had no real justification for continuing to campaign in India. Another reason could be that he justliked the city and its surroundings. Whatever the case, it was while in Taxila that Alexander send envoys to Poros and Abisares [2], who ruled the hill country to the northeast of the city and had only recently succeeded his father, offering them to mediate their conflict with Omphis. Off course this offer of mediation also implied a subjugation to Alexander himself, just like Omphis had done, because they would allow him to dictate the peace. Instead of outright rejecting or accepting Alexander’s offer the Indian monarchs decided to stall, asking for more time to decide. Alexander then asked for a meeting, but the offer was rebuffed by Abisares, who claimed to be too ill to come and visit Alexander. Poros, too, claimed to be unable to meet Alexander.

    Seeing that his attempts at diplomacy were failing Alexander must have decided that a show of force was necessary to convince Poros and Abisares to submit. It was then however that Alexander fell ill. As so often, the precise nature of the illness is unknown, and some argue that it wasn’t illness but in fact a poisoning that almost cost the king his life. Ptolemaios in his work about the campaigns of Alexander says that the reason for Alexander’s illness was a lingering exhaustion of the recent campaigns in combination with his excessive drinking. For several days in November 324 the king was unable to leave his bed and had trouble breathing and speaking. Some of his close companions might have exchanged nervous glances, who would know what would become of them if their king died here? Perhaps thankfully for them, Alexander would not die in India, and even if he had done, the succession was by now secure. Alexander had by now not seen his wife Artakama for more than three years, but their last meeting had been fruitful to say the least. Alexander was visited by his wife while he was in Arbela in June 327, while preparing for the campaign against Satibarzanes. A couple of weeks afterwards it became apparent that the queen was pregnant, and in March 326 Artakama gave birth to a pair of twins, a boy and a girl. The boy was named, unsurprisingly, Philip. The girl was given the name Cleopatra. At the time of their birth Alexander was in Bactria, but at receiving the news of their birth he gave his army a day of rest and personally made lavish offerings to the gods.

    It is not known what Alexander’s original target was when he ordered his armies gathered before his illness, but when he recovered, late in October 324, it had become more than clear what Alexander’s next campaign would be. Perhaps because of rumours of his illness, or perhaps they perceived the Macedonians to be weaker than they actually were, Abisares had renounced any negotiations with Alexander and now decided to take the fight to Taxila itself. Abisares gathered his forces and was marching down the Indus while rumours reached Alexander that Poros was preparing his own army beyond the Hydaspes (Jhelum). Immediately Alexander sprung to action, gathering 20000 of his best troops, personally leading them north to confront Abisares. Krateros and Omphis he left behind in Taxila, with 40000 men of Alexander’s army and an unknown amount of Taxilans they would need to repel Poros in case he would try anything. Alexander marched north and came across Abisares and his army early in November 324.


    Battle of the Indus

    It is unknown how large Abisares’ force was, but probably larger than Alexander’s. Alexander had the elite regiments of the phalanx, the hypasistai and the hetairoi with him. Also present were troops supplied by various allies and subject peoples, most notably horse-archers send by the Dahae and Saka. Abisares’ army consisted of infantry, many of whom were armed with longbows, chariots, some cavalry and elephants. Alexander had marched his army north in all haste, and thus managed to catch Abisares , who probably thought he was still ill or possibly even dead, off guard. Alexander had managed to position his army on a hill, while Abisares and his army were positioned on the riverbank. First Alexander send his horse-archers forward, to harass Abisares’ flanks. Abisares had in the meantime gathered his chariots and had them form up between his main force and the Macedonians on the hill, hoping to prevent the enemy from charging. From his vantage point on the hill Alexander sensed an opportunity for a great victory, he ordered the phalanx (under command of Ptolemaios) forward, supported by the Agrianians and other light infantry. In the meantime Alexander had gathered the hetairoi and charged forward, followed close behind by the hypaspistai. The Indian chariots, large vehicles accommodating up to 6 men, could be a fearsome sight in battle, but here on a muddy riverbank their utility was greatly reduced, many of them got stuck in the mud. Alexander thus smashed through the line of chariots with the hetairoi, after which the hypaspistai dealt with the rest. Abisares, seeing the elite of his army destroyed before his eyes, ordered his infantry forward, supported by 50 elephants, in the hope of breaking through the phalanx.

    The phalanx now clashed with the Indian infantry, which generally lacked heavy armour and had no practical answer to the long sarissa of the Macedonians, and thus was gradually pushed back towards the river. The phalanx did suffer though, the arrows shot with Indian longbows inflicted grievous wounds upon the phalangites, as did some of the elephants who managed to barge into the flank of the phalanx. Most of the elephants however had been successfully countered by Alexander’s light infantry, who pelted them with missiles and tried to take out their riders. Alexander now led the hetairoi into the flank of the Indian infantry and broke them utterly, with their backs against the river many could only try to swim to safety. Abisares had not survived the battle, he died fighting from atop his elephant when he was struck by several arrows. The battle of the Indus was a great victory for Alexander, but its greatest effect would only become apparent when Alexander returned to Taxila in December 324.

    After the battle Alexander did not chase after the remains of Abisares’ army, instead he returned to Taxila to plan a campaign against Poros. Shortly after his return however Alexander received welcome news; Poros was now willing to meet and negotiate with him. Despite possessing a larger domain and army than Abisares it seems that Alexander’s crushing victory convinced Poros that attempting to resist Alexander could only lead to defeat. A meeting was arranged, Poros would come to Taxila and would submit himself to Alexander, who would mediate his conflict with Omphis. The exact nature of the peace treaty between the two Indian princes is unknown, but both appeared to be content with it. Omphis had already seen his domains expanded by submitting to Alexander, and now Alexander promised Poros the same, and also gave him gifts of gold and silver. Poros could thus return home with cartloads of gold and other precious wares and had the promise of aid for expanding his realm in the future. On the other hand he would need to accommodate Macedonian garrisons and would need to deliver men and supplies for Alexander’s further endeavours in India.


    Alexander meeting Poros

    Already preparations were underway for the next part of the campaign. Around this time Alexander received reinforcements from the west, 8000 Macedonian phalangites, 10000 light troops, mostly Persian and Thracian in origin, and 2000 cavalrymen predominantly from Media and Babylonia. Alexander’s army was now, including local troops and garrisons, around 100000 strong, an enormous force for his day and age. The next target of Alexander were the areas downstream from the Indus and Hydaspes. Among the Hellenes there was some confusion about the exact nature of the river, some even believed that the Indus was in fact the same river as the Nile, because both rivers had crocodiles. It must have been in Taxila that Alexander and his men learned that sailing down the Indus did not mean that you would end up in Egypt but instead the river flowed down into the sea that would lead directly to the Persian Gulf and Babylonia. This was promising to the Great King, for it meant that he could link the valleys of Mesopotamia and the Indus together via the sea. Determined to reach the sea he ordered the construction of a fleet on the banks of the Indus. Ptolemaios would command the forces aboard this fleet, 15000 men in total, and had orders to subjugate the lands beside the Indus till the point where it, as far as the Greeks were aware, would join the Acesines. Alexander himself would take a larger army, 40000 in total, and would sail down the Hydaspes and subjugate the lands near that river. Poros had informed him of the presence of powerful tribes further downstream, which was the reason for his larger army. When Alexander reached the Hydaspes he founded a city, not named after himself or his father but after his horse, Bucephalus, who had died the month before. The city would be known as Bucephala [3], and would become an important Macedonian stronghold in the coming years and the site of an important garrison.

    After the founding of Bucephala Alexander and his army, now also reinforced by Poros, sailed down the Hydaspes. At first they encountered almost no resistance, and if they did it was brutally put down. Alexander’s army was well-rested and supplied, consisting mostly of soldiers who did not serve during the short campaign against Abisares. During this part of the campaign Alexander lost more men to the swift currents than to enemy attacks. However upon approaching the confluence of the Hydaspes and the Hydraotis, around March 323, he learned that the two most powerful tribes of the area, the Mallians (Malava) and the Oxydrakes (Kshudraka) had joined forces to oppose his passage through the region. Never one to back down from a challenge, Alexander encamped his army on the north bank of the Hydraotis, opposite the alliance opposing him. He kept most of his forces in place, which meant that the Mallians and their allies did the same, but in the depths of the night Alexander send 5000 men further upstream under the command of Koinos, where they were to cross the river and outflank their enemies. The ruse seemed to work, the Mallians did not suspect anything. The next day Alexander formed up his army and had his soldiers board ships and rafts, to cross the Hydraotis and assault the enemy positions. Siege engines bombarded the Indians, but despite that they formed up on the riverbank to oppose the Macedonians. It was at that moment however that suddenly their rear came under attack from Koinos’ forces. It must have been a shock to the Mallians and Oxydrakes, who expected to fight half-drowned Macedonians on the riverbank. Panic must have gripped their ranks, and in the confusion they probably didn’t notice that their attackers were relatively few in numbers. Alexander in the meantime managed to cross the river with a vanguard and launched his assault, as always he fought in the frontlines. After several hours it was over, the Mallians and Oxydrakes fled the field but soon afterwards send envoys to Alexander, to offer him their surrender. Alexander accepted and subsequently marched his army to the citadel of the Mallians, where he received tribute and installed a garrison. Alexander renamed the city Artakameia, after his wife, and then left the area. For now its government was not yet arranged, but in due time it would become part of the satrapy of the Lower Indus.

    Alexander proceeded onwards, determined as he was to reach the ocean, and reached the confluence of the Acesines and the Indus, where he was awaited by Ptolemaios, who had subjugated the lands beside the Indus without much trouble. At this location he founded the city of Alexandria-on-the-Indus. After making offerings to the gods and overseeing the founding of the city Alexander already left again, not granting his army much respite. He invaded the territory of a certain king Musicanus (Mûshika) who quickly submitted, and not long afterwards other local rulers such as Oxicanus and Sambus also offered their submission. Alexander then marched further south, where he besieged and captured the city of Patala, and not long afterwards he reached the shores of the ocean itself. Once again offerings were made to the gods in thanksgiving for what was achieved. At Patala Alexander had another fleet constructed under supervision of Nearchus, his most trusted admiral, who was to lead a flotilla back to Babylonia and thus establish a naval route between the two river valleys. The lower Indus was organised in a single satrapy, to be governed from Alexandria-on-the-Indus, with Lysimachos named its first satrap. Alexander himself however would not yet return to the west. Instead he returned to Taxila, where he arrived in June 323, just before the onset of the monsoon. Alexander had heard during his campaigns of a mighty kingdom further to the east, on the banks of the river Ganges. He had also heard that while it possessed a large army and was very rich its current ruler was hated by his own people and inept. For Alexander, now seeing a chance to outdo his Achaemenid predecessors, it must have seemed like a perfect opportunity.


    1. Youngest son of Parmenion, OTL he drowned in the Nile during Alexander’s conquest of Egypt. That obviously didn’t happen in this timeline, so he’s still alive.
    2. Not OTL Abisares, who was dead by this point, but his son, whose name is unknown but since the names of Indian rulers as recorded by the Greeks was often a reference to their territory I assume he too would be called Abisares.
    3. Same place as OTL, rather convenient, isn’t it?
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    Alexander's eastern campaign
  • 50688009067_2a2c4b86e9_o.jpg

    A map of Alexander's eastern campaign, up until May 323. The line with interruptions represents Alexander's path, the solid lines are campaigns by his subordinates. Not everything is shown, the various back and forths from Bactra are not shown and neither is the campaign in the Kabul Valley.
    15. Conquerors
  • 15. Conquerors

    The march on the Ganges

    After our return to Taxila the rains started, and they were unlike anything we had ever seen or even heard of. The King, impatient to start his next campaign, ordered the construction of a magnificently decorated shrine to Zeus, hoping that the supreme god who commands the heavens would cease the rains. Alexander spared no expenses, and even the locals admitted that never before had such a beautiful building been seen in India, and yet the rains did not cease. Lavish offerings were made and the rains did not cease. For several days the King sulked in his apartment in Omphis’ palace, indulging in wine. One day, while it was still raining, one of the brahmans approached the King, and told him tersely that patience, too, was a virtue. The rains would cease in a month, as they had always done, and men could not always expect nature to bend to their will even if the man in question is the Great King of Asia. Alexander acquiesced, praised the brahman for his wisdom and decided to patiently await the end of the rains.

    - Excerpt from Ptolemaios’ The Wars of Megas Alexandros

    After returning to Taxila from his march down the Indus in June 323 Alexander already started preparations for his next conquest, this time it would be the lands to the east, located on the banks of the Ganges and the Yamuna, that were to be subjugated by the armies of the Great King. The Greeks were convinced that by conquering those lands they would have reached the great eastern ocean, practically the end of the world. After informing with Omphis and Poros however Alexander was quickly disabused of this notion. The Ganges wasn’t a small stream but a mighty river, easily the equal of the Nile or the Tigris, and located on it’s banks were not some petty chieftains but a powerful kingdom, which could field thousands of elephants in battle. Alexander had by now only operated on the margins of Indian civilization, but by marching east he would reach its heart on the Indo-Gangetic plain, where resistance to his invasion would be much more determined. If he wanted to succeed he would need to prepare well and strike hard and fast.

    The need to establish garrisons had diminished Alexander’s forces somewhat, from the 100000 of the year before to around 80000 by June 323. Over several months however the Great King had managed to increase the size of his army once again, a 12000-men strong reinforcement force arrived from the west, mostly Persians, 4000 of which were now trained as phalangites, under the command of Peukestas. Omphis and Poros also pledged troops, including 80 elephants, combining around 10000 strong. Alexander also levied troops from the rulers of the Lower Indus and the Assacenes and hired practically any mercenary he could find. All of this meant that when it was ready to march out in October 323 Alexander’s army was 110000 men strong, a truly gargantuan force. Nikanor was left behind in Taxila with a force 10000 strong, he would function more or less as military governor of the area while Omphis had civilian and administrative authority over Gandhara. Poros also stayed behind in his domains, but his eponymous son would accompany Alexander, partially as commander of his father’s forces but also as hostage, an insurance that Poros would stay loyal.

    Alexander once again crossed the Hydaspes, now by bridge, which he had his engineers construct. After a short stay in Bucephala he continued onward, crossing the Acesines and Hydraotis in short succession, testament to the capability of his engineering corps. Now however he entered lands that were not necessarily friendly to him. Some communities decided to submit to the army passing through their homeland but others fled when they heard of the invasion. This the Macedonians interpreted as resistance, and many villages burned during his passage through the region. Many of the refugees must have gathered at the area’s most important city, Sagala, which decided to resist Alexander when his army arrived. Sadly for them however their city and its defenders were not able to withstand the Macedonian siegeworks, and after only several weeks a portion of the city’s walls collapsed when the Macedonians managed to dig a mine underneath, after which the city was stormed and brutally sacked. According to Greek sources 17000 inhabitants perished and 70000 were enslaved, while the Macedonians only suffered 100 dead. The city was destroyed, but in its location Alexander founded a new one, naming it Philippopolis Indike after his father [1]. The founding of the city was also meant to safeguard the supply lines which ran from Bucephala and Taxila. Around December 323 Alexander was on the march again, and soon reached the Hyphasis (Beas). The territory between the Hyphasis and the Acesines he granted to Poros, fulfilling his promise of enlarging the lands belonging to his Indian ally, making Poros practically the satrap over the eastern Punjab.

    The Hyphasis was crossed without incident and soon afterwards the Zaradros (Sutlej) was too. Once again Alexander’s army cut a bloody swath across the countryside, meeting any resistance with merciless slaughter. In one infamous incident Alexander had a group of local brahmans, whom he suspected had incited the local population against him, crucified in public. Now his army advanced further, and reached the banks of the Yamuna, known to the Greeks as the Ioames, in January 322. All the rivers he had crossed till now flowed into the Indus, but now for the first time he entered lands where the rivers went in a different direction, towards the east, to where the Greeks believed they flowed into the eastern ocean. Alexander made offerings while on the banks of the Yamuna, to Zeus, to Dionysus, who according to the Greeks conquered India in a distant past, and to Herakles and Achilles, both illustrious ancestors of the king. While the engineers were preparing a bridge across the Yamuna the Macedonians and Greeks held games in honour of the gods, the army was granted several days of rest by the King, who engaged in long drinking sessions together with the Macedonian nobility. On the fifth day after the arrival at the Yamuna Alexander had his army form up on the riverbank, and with the blaring of trumpets and with Alexander at its head the army crossed the river more like a parade than as an invading force.

    To the onlookers on the other side of the river it must have been an unusual sight, seeing the strange and foreign soldiers crossing the river. They did not however contend the crossing, nor did they seem to oppose Alexander, who met with representatives from local communities and negotiated with them, promising not to harm them and arranging supplies. For Alexander, whose campaign in India was remarkable because of its brutality, this must have been an welcome change. However it would not last long, for news of Alexander’s invasion had travelled ahead of him, and had already reached Pataliputra, capital of Magadha and the mighty Nanda dynasty, who held sway over the Ganges. Whether or not Dhana Nanda, ruler of the dynasty, was aware of the invasion of the Indus Valley is unknown, but with Alexander’s march east he could no longer ignore the Macedonians. Forces were gathered when the news reached the Gangetic heartland that the conqueror was on his way. Elephants, cavalry, chariots and infantry were the core components of an Indian army, and while largely consisting of levied men a not insignificant amount of soldiers were supplied by the Sreni guilds, and were highly experienced and well-armed. Dhana Nanda had send west an advance force under his minister and army commander Shriyaka, who commanded 60000 men, 200 elephants, a 3000 strong cavalry detachment and 400 chariots. A sizeable force, but Shriyaka’s mission was not to charge headlong into battle but to ascertain the situation and if possible block Alexander’s advance while Dhana Nanda could gather a larger army and then march west to defeat the invaders.

    Alexander had heard that there were rich cities on the banks of the Yamuna if he followed the river south, but this he did not do. By now he must have known that the political centre of the Magadhan realm was downstream the Ganges, and by seizing that he could seize power over the entire region, or so he believed. Alexander thus marched east after crossing the Yamuna in January 322, giving his army no rest till they reached the banks of the Ganges at the start of February 322. There he made offerings on the riverbank and had several shrines constructed, but instead of crossing the river now the Macedonians remained on the west bank and marched south, and after several days they reached the walls of the city of Hastinapur, which is located on the west bank of the Ganges. Just north of the city Alexander had left behind 20000 men under Ptolemaios, who were tasked with constructing a pontoon bridge across the river and guarding it against enemy attacks, while Alexander and 80000 men would go to Hastinapur.


    Storming of Hastinapur

    The garrison and local leaders of Hastinapur refused to open the gates to the Great King of Asia when he demanded their surrender. Thus Alexander saw no other solution then to storm the city. Ladders and siege towers were constructed, and upstream, where Ptolemaios and his forces were building a bridge, Alexander had his engineers construct several ships so that they could assail the city from the Ganges and prevent the resupplying via the river. Despite a spirited and determined resistance by the city’s inhabitants Hastinapur fell after several weeks. According to Greek sources Alexander could not sleep one night, and while surveying the enemy fortifications under the light of the moon he spotted a section of the wall that was not well guarded and close by a gate. He personally led a detachment of troops to the wall and was the first on the ladder, and in a quick and decisive action they managed to overrun the few defenders that were there and managed to open the gate to the rest of the army. Hastinapur was mercilessly sacked, precious goods from its temples plundered and a large part of its population was enslaved and carted away, many of whom would never see their homeland again.

    Emboldened by this victory Alexander marched north to Ptolemaios’ bridge and, after granting his soldiers several days of rest, crossed the Ganges in March 322. He left behind a garrison to guard the bridge and marched east, through the lands that were known as Panchala, towards the city of Ahicchatra, which was the capital and largest city of the region. It was somewhere between the Ganges and Ahicchatra however that Alexander heard that the road was blocked, a large army had marched in from further east and now blocked the Macedonian advance. This army was commanded by Shriyaka, whom the Greeks called Sirakes, and was about equal in size to Alexander’s. Shriyaka perhaps hoped that the large size of his host would make Alexander pause and perhaps even turn around. This was however the precise opposite of what would happen, Alexander was pleased that for once his enemy would not hide in fortresses or cities, or attempt to wage a guerrilla campaign from the hills. Now he finally had an enemy that would face him in open battle, he force marched his troops east and in early April 322 confronted Shriyaka and his army just west of Ahicchatra.

    The Battle of Ahicchatra and its aftermath

    Having thus arranged his army in its regular formation Alexander left me and Krateros in charge of the phalanx, ordering us to hold our ground and halt the elephants in their advance while he himself would lead the hetairoi forward to strike the Indian chariots and beyond that their commander, Sirakes.

    - Excerpt from Ptolemaios’ The Wars of Megas Alexandros

    After some attempted negotiations, which led to nothing, Alexander decided to fight. Offerings were made to the gods and omens observed, which were positive for the Great King. On a morning in April 322 he ordered his army to take up their positions. The battlefield was just west of Ahicchatra, and consisted of mostly flat terrain with only a couple hills crossed by several small irrigation canals. Alexander used his standard formation, with the phalanx in the centre, the hetairoi on the right wing and the Thessalians, now under Koinos, on the left wing. The Thessalians were supplemented by allied cavalry, mostly send by the Assacenes and Omphis, and elephants under Poros’ son of the same name and a detachment of Saka horse archers. The hetairoi, under the Great King himself, were also supplemented by a squadron of cavalry recruited among the Persian nobility. Also present were the hypaspistai and the light troops: archers, slingers and javelineers. The Greeks of the Hellenic League were kept in reserve together with a substantial amount of Indian infantry send by the vassal rulers of the Indus and a squadron of Median cavalry. Alexander was lucky in the regard that he quickly set up his formation, for not soon afterwards Shriyaka, perhaps hoping to catch his enemy off guard, launched his assault.

    For the phalangites it must have been a terrifying sight, Shriyaka’s 200 elephants were now charging their position, followed close behind by infantry, hoping to exploit any gaps that the elephants make. Alexander’s light troop attempted to take out the elephants, but there were far too many to effectively neutralize this way. The fighting, especially in the Macedonian centre and the left wing, was fierce. At several points in the phalanx the elephants managed to break through, trampling men and giving the Nanda infantry an opportunity to advance. Alexander, seeing that his centre was now under enormous pressure, send orders to the troops in the rear to advance and reinforce the centre. He would in the meantime advance and engage the chariots that guarded the Nanda flank, and afterwards charge the Indian infantry’s rear.


    Battle of Ahicchatra

    The rear however could not advance, because it had come under attack by a flanking force send by Shriyaka, who clearly knew how to fight a battle. Consisting of his cavalry and some chariots that hey travelled south of the Macedonian lines and now managed to surprise the Macedonian rear. Fighting was fierce, but in the end the Greeks, Indians and Medians managed to repel the Nanda cavalry, but not without grievous losses. They also plundered the baggage train and torched a lot of siege equipment. On the Macedonian left the Thessalians managed to repel an attack by another flanking force, mostly consisting of chariots, after which the way was clear for the Saka to harass Shriyaka’s flanks. On the Macedonian right, where there were located less elephants than on the centre or the left, Ptolemaios led his phalangites and the hypaspistai in a counter-attack, driving back the Indian infantry.

    It was in the centre, where Krateros commanded the phalanx, that fighting was still at its fiercest. Not only did the Macedonians face mighty war elephants but also the well armoured and experienced troops of the Sreni guilds. The phalanx started to buckle under the weight of their assault. The left wing of the Macedonian phalanx held firm, and was supported by Poros’ cavalry and elephants, who managed to stall the Nanda advance. Alexander had in the meantime charged forward with his hetairoi, who were now confronted with a chariot force that was meant to cover the Indian infantry’s flank, and just beyond them was Shriyaka himself with his bodyguard. Upon approaching the chariots Alexander split his forces in two, he himself would lead his squadron to the right, attempting to outflank the chariots, while Hektor would lead a squadron to the left, where he could assault the flank of the Nanda infantry. The chariots thus had to split, which led to them thinning their line, which Alexander utilised by turning his squadron around and then charged the chariots, breaking through and then confronting Shriyaka himself.

    Despite his initial advantage the tide of battle was now turning against Shriyaka, the Thessalians and Saka had outflanked and harassed his infantry and now his own position was under attack by Alexander himself. He ordered a retreat into the city and ordered his remaining cavalry and guild infantry to advance and cover the retreat. Alexander halted his own advance and regrouped his cavalry, hoping to exploit the enemy retreat, but to no avail, most of Shriyaka’s army managed to reach the city, which was well supplied and fortified. While Alexander had won it was not the crushing victory he had hoped for, and he must have known that he was lucky to be victorious at all. The battle was more costly in lives than any up until now for the Macedonians, 3500 had perished on the fields of Ahichattra, Nanda losses were higher, but off course easier to replace since they are fighting in their homeland [2]. A large part of the baggage train was ransacked and the siege equipment was largely lost, making it hard to besiege Shriyaka now that he had fortified the city.

    Still, Alexander had the city surrounded, perhaps hoping that the city was not well supplied. Soon however news reached Alexander that made him reconsider his campaign. The first was that a second, even larger, army was on its way to Ahichattra, now under the command of Dhana Nanda himself. The second news was that a rebellion had broken out in Sogdia and Bactria, potentially endangering Macedonian rule in those lands. For the first time in his kingship Alexander now needed to face the fact that his empire would not be limitless, that, at least for now, there would be lands that would remain outside it. Showing that he was still a Macedonian Argead king he ordered a general meeting of the army, where he proposed withdrawing back beyond the Yamuna to his army, which despite some murmurs among the troops, agreed to the king’s proposal. He had several priests, Greek, Babylonian, Persian and also Indian, observe omens, which supposedly all indicated that it was better for the Great King to retreat. Alexander send messengers to both Shriyaka and Dhana Nanda, proposing peace, but did not await their response. Perhaps fearing being trapped between their armies he marched his army back to the Ganges, where the pontoon bridge was still intact and guarded, and crossed over. After a day of rest he resumed his march and crossed the Yamuna in May 322. While on the other side of the Yamuna he met with representatives send by Dhana Nanda, who surprised Alexander by accepting his peace proposal. Substantial amounts of gold and silver were send east to Pataliputra, but most of it was plunder from lands ruled by the Nanda themselves. The Aravalli range was decided upon as the new border between the two empires. Alexander and his army returned to Philippopolis Indike in June, where he left behind a larger garrison to guard against future Nanda incursions, and arrived in Taxila in July.

    At Taxila he received both good and bad news. Good news came in from Bactria and Sogdia, where the rebellion turned out to be badly organised. The satrap Perdiccas had managed to corner the rebels and defeated them, clearing away the threat of secession in those lands. Bad news however had come from the Lower Indus, where Musicanus had risen up against Macedonian rule. It was the last bit of news however that must have had the largest impact on the King, because from Babylon the news had arrived that Parmenion had passed away. The second man of the Empire, he and his family had been a bedrock of support for both Philip and Alexander, he would be hard to replace. Alexander thus did not have much time to grant rest to his troops, and marched down the Indus in July 322, he managed to besiege Musicanus in his stronghold and defeated him there, ending the rebellion and bringing the Lower Indus back under Macedonian control. Larger garrisons were now deployed at Alexandria on the Indus, Artakameia and Patala. It was from Patala that Alexander would make his way back to Babylon. Nearchos had explored the Persian Gulf and now commanded a small flotilla, which would transport Alexander and a small part of his forces to Herakleia-on-the-Tigris from where he would return to Babylon, where he had a triumphant entrance in late August 322. The largest part of the army however would take the long route back to Babylonia, crossing the Bolan Pass into Arachosia and then back through Drangiana, Areia, Parthia and Media, after which they finally would reach the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris. Originally Alexander had planned for this army to march to Persia through the Gedrosian desert, but this was ultimately deemed too dangerous.

    Ruling from Babylon

    Year 7 of Alexander, month 6: Alexander, King of the World, returned to the city after subduing the land of India. He displayed the wealth of India, bringing elephants, ivory and spices from that distant land. Afterwards he made donations to the temples and ordered the construction of a temple to his father, King Philip.

    - Excerpt from the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries

    Alexander’s return from India was triumphantly celebrated in Babylon, the capital had not been visited by the king since just after his ascent to the throne 7 years before. In those 7 years he had managed to dramatically expand the borders of the empire and acquired riches and exotic goods, which he now paraded through the streets of Babylon. This was also the first time he saw his son and daughter, already 4 years old. Alexander remained in the city for several months, engaging in the day-to-day government of his empire, hearing petitioners and settling disputes. In this he was supported by his secretary Eumenes, who was also given the rank of chief treasurer, overseeing the many talents of silver and gold in tribute that flowed into the treasury. Eumenes was an able administrator, but somewhat distrusted by the Macedonian nobility because of his Greek origins. He, much more than Parmenion, had been responsible for the government of the empire in Alexander’s absence.

    Several infrastructural projects were started around this time by Alexander. He ordered the destruction of several artificial barrages in the Tigris near Herakleia, once constructed by the Persians as a defensive measure against raids from the Persian gulf, which would allow large ships to sail from Babylon to Herakleia. He also ordered the expansion of the Pallacotas canal which provided water for agriculture around Babylon. Expanding agriculture and trade showed that Alexander had an interest in improving the material conditions of his subjects, or at least in increasing tax revenues. Afterwards Alexander went to Susa, where Parmenion’s brother Agathon was satrap. One of the garrison commanders of the area was a certain Sitalces, a Thracian nobleman who was appointed by Philip. Sitalces however had shown himself to be incredibly corrupt, he had plundered several local temples and extorted money from the Elamite population. Complaints were filed by the population with Agathon and Alexander, who now personally visited to take care of the problem. Sitalces he ordered executed for his transgressions, and Agathon was dismissed for his incompetence. Menes, another Macedonian general, was now appointed as satrap of Elymais. Alexander’s visit of Susa was followed by a visit to Pasargadae, where he ordered the restoration of Cyrus’ tomb. While in Persia he also oversaw the training of 6000 Persians as phalangites, showing their prowess to their king on the fields just outside Persepolis. Philotas, son of Parmenion and garrison commander of Persepolis, had shown himself to be a capable leader in the preceding years and was now promoted to serve directly under Alexander, becoming commander of the hetairoi.

    Alexander returned to Babylon in November 322 and called for a meeting of the army. The Macedonian veterans over 45 he discharged, offering them a pension and a return to Macedonia or, if they wanted, a farm in Babylonia or Syria. Most who were eligible went back to Macedonia, but there were some who decided to stay in the east. There were also those who did not want to retire, and who, despite their age, could still serve valiantly on the battlefield. For them Alexander set up a separate division, the Argyraspides, ‘silver shields’ so named for their silver-plated shields, which would be an elite unit of his army in the coming campaigns, serving both in the phalanx and as hypaspistai. Not long afterwards Antigonos, satrap of Phrygia, visited Babylon on invitation of the Great King. During Alexander’s absence it was Antigonos who dealt with the problem of Ariarathes of Cappadocia. Luckily for Antigonos Ariarathes fell victim to in-fighting among the Cappadocian nobility, dying during an ‘hunting accident’. With his death the Cappadocian resistance was divided and the land was subdued piece-by-piece by Antigonos, who appointed a certain Ariamnes, a local nobleman, as satrap. While Cappadocia was still a restless it was at least not actively dangerous, and so would not threaten the routes through Anatolia. Alexander appointed Antigonos to Parmenion’s old position of Chiliarch, becoming effectively the second man of the empire, testament to the man’s capabilities. Sibyrtios was appointed satrap of Phrygia in Antigonos’ place. Another activity of Alexander during the last months of 322 was sending an embassy to Egypt, with as most prominent member Hieronymos of Cardia, cousin of Eumenes. His mission was to ascertain Egypt’s strength, improve trade relations and finding the Great King an Egyptian wife.

    Nakhtnebef’s second Nubian campaign

    It was during the fourth regnal year under the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Khakaura, the Son of Ra, Nakhtnebef – may he live forever! – that an envoy reached His Majesty whilst in the Residence at Hebyt. Vile Kush had assaulted men of Egypt and had raided across the border, carrying away the treasuries of temples. Upon hearing this His Majesty’s rage was like that of Sakhmet. He ordered the Admiral of the Fleet of Upper Egypt, Usermontu [3] to advance on the Land-of-the-Bowmen, to evict the vile Kushites.

    - Description of the start of Nakhtnebef’s second Nubian campaign, found at Abu Simbel

    The death of Nakhthorheb, his heir and co-ruler, must have been a profound shock to Nakhtnebef, but soon afterwards it seems the King of Upper and Lower Egypt had something else to worry about. It is unknown whether or not there actually was a Nubian assault on Egyptian settlements in Lower Nubia, but it doesn’t seem likely. The justification for this second campaign looks a lot like the reason for the first, but whatever the case Egypt was once again at war with its southern neighbour. The campaign of 325 however would not be as quick as the one of 328, and had a different goal altogether. Usermontu, Admiral of the Fleet of Upper Egypt, was send ahead in August 325 with a force consisting mostly of mercenaries, recruited from Nubia itself, Greece and the Near East. From the border fortress at Dorginarti Usermontu advanced upstream, first occupying the old fortress at Semna and afterwards advancing to the Third Cataract, apparently without encountering much resistance.

    Nakhtnebef himself remained in Egypt, gathering the machimoi forces and the Greeks settled in the Delta, and sailed upstream in October 325 where he first made a stop at Waset, where he made offerings at Ipetsut. Gathering more troops, by now his army was 30000 strong, and a group of royal artisans, he sailed upstream and joined up with Usermontu at Semna. The fort of Semna was once founded by Nakhtnebef’s namesake, the 12th Dynasty ruler Senusret III, and included a shrine to him, which Nakhtnebef now had restored. Now the army, around 40000 strong, marched past the Third Cataract, and in December 325 encountered the Nubian army under King Nastasen at Kawa on the east bank of the Nile. The Egyptian army, commanded by Nakhtnebef and his close confidantes Usermontu and Bakenanhur, managed to defeat the Nubians thoroughly. Early in the battle Bakenanhur, commanding a cavalry force consisting of Egyptians, Greeks and Persians who settled in Egypt, managed to defeat the Nubian cavalry and flank the Kushite army. This cavalry force, trained to fight as shock cavalry like Alexander’s hetairoi, wreaked havoc on the Nubian lines. Meanwhile the Kushite infantry, often only lightly armoured, could not stand up to the machimoi and hoplites, and were swept off the field. Nastasen fell in battle, and the Nubian army was effectively destroyed.


    Temple of Ramesses-Meryamun

    After the battle Nakhtnebef remained in Kawa for some time, ordering the restoration of local temples to Amun, some of whom were built under Tutankhamun [4] and Amenhotep III. Afterwards Nakhtnebef advanced further upstream until he reached the Fourth Cataract and the city of Napata, which he captured without much of a fight. He had Nastasen buried at the royal cemetery at Napata, and installed a relative of him, a man named Aryamani, as new King of Kush. The Kingdom of Kush however was severely diminished, the lands from the Second Cataract to Napata were annexed to Egypt, with Kush reduced to a vassal state around Meroë. Vast tracts of land in Nubia were donated to the cult of Amun-Ra, tying them further to the King personally. During his journey home Nakhtnebef searched the riverbank for a suitable place for a monument commemorating his victory, which he eventually found near the second cataract of the Nile, at a rockface near the impressive edifice of the Temple of Ramesses-Meryamun [5]. Associating himself with Egypt’s most famous ruler turned out to be irresistible to Nakhtnebef, and the inscription he ordered was full of superlatives not unlike the ones Ramesses himself used. Returning to Memphis in April 324 he was just in time for the birth of his son, who he named Usermaatra, after the throne name of Ramesses II. Nakhtnebef during the campaign had showed himself to be an able commander, and he brought Egypt to its largest extent it had seen since the end of the New Kingdom, but only time could tell whether or not his arrangements in Nubia would turn out to be successful.


    • [1.]Located at modern day Sialkot in Pakistan, the new name means ‘Indian Philippopolis’
      [2 ]Among the dead on the Nanda side at Ahicchatra was a young nobleman named Chandragupta.
      [3.]Whose name means ‘Montu is Strong’, referring the Upper Egyptian war god.
      [4.]It’s unlikely though that Nakhtnebef II would know who Tutankhamun was.
      [5.]‘Beloved of Amun’ i.e. Abu Simbel
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    Updated campaign map
  • 50712975193_3458010716_o.jpg

    An updated map of Alexander's campaign, now including his campaign towards the Ganges and the return to Babylon.