Egypt: Nekau II (Necho II), of Egypt's 26th Dynasty

Nekau II, of Egypt's 26th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

Nekau (II), who we know better as Necho, was either the 2nd or 3rd king of Egypt's 26th Dynasty, depending on whether we allow the rule of a nominal king Nekau I at the beginning of the Dynasty. Nekau was his Birth name, and Necho is actually his Greek name. His Throne name was Wah-em-ib-re, which means "Carrying out the Wish of Re Forever".

He came to the throne, succeeding his father, Psammetichus I in about 610 BC., and probably ruled Egypt until about 595 BC. He continued the foreign involvement of his father, and Palestine once more became an Egyptian possession. In fact, much of Egypt's involvement in that area is found in the Biblical account of the Book of Kings. Initially things went well for Nekau II and we find the Egyptian forces campaigning east of the Euphrates river against the Chaldaeans, defeating Josiah of Judah in 609 BC. at Harran. This allowed the Egyptians to establish themselves on the Euphrates for a short while, though apparently the Egyptians did not end up controlling that city. He then intervened in the kingdom of Israel and deposed Josiah's son Jehoahaz, replacing him with his brother Eliakim (Jehoiakim (II Kings 23: 29-35). Afterwards, we are told that Jerusalem paid tribute to Egypt. He also ruled Syria at least as for as Carchemish.

But this position was also soon lost, when in 605 BC, the king suffered a catastrophic loss. The son of the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar was sent to deal with Syria. This was Nebuchadrezzar, and he captured Carchemish from the Egyptians, and then pursued the fleeing army as far as Hamath, where he apparently overwhelmed them. Hence, this was followed by a retreat to by the Egyptians to their eastern frontier at Gaza.

Necho is known to have been responsible for monuments honoring the Apris Bull in Memphis. We also find inscriptional evidence of the king in the quarries of the Mokattam Hills.

But in many ways, Necho was a very foresighted individual who's vision included a "Suez Canal" almost 2,500 years prior to the modern construct. He had a navigable canal dug, using some 12,000 workers, through the Wadi Tumilat between the Pelusiac branch of the Nile (where the great frontier fortress of Pelusium was located) and the Red Sea. He caused a great port city, Per-Temu-Tjeku ("the House of Atum of Tjeku", modern Tell el-Mashkuta) west of modern Ismailia to be built on the canal, and like Suez later, its fortunes were inevitably linked with this new waterway. Tradition held that this was the Biblical city of Pithom, but recent excavations have shown this to be incorrect.

At this time, Greece was expanding her trading contacts and Necho took the opportunity to recruit displaced Ionian Greeks to form an Egyptian Navy. This was, militarily, revolutionary, for the Egyptians had an inherent distaste for and fear of the sea. While this new navy was probably not much threat to his rivals, it did lead to other benefits, such as the creation of a new African trade route. He also encouraged some Greek settlement in the Delta.

When Nacho II died in 595 BC., he left behind a son and three daughters. His son, Psammetichus II, only ruled for a brief period.

See also:






Reference Number

Atlas of Ancient Egypt

Baines, John; Malek, Jaromir


Les Livres De France

None Stated

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas



None Stated

Monarchs of the Nile

Dodson, Aidan


Rubicon Press

ISBN 0-948695-20-x

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Who Were the Phraohs? (A history of their names with a list of cartouches)

Quirke, Stephen


Dover Publications

ISBN 0-486-26586-2

Last Updated: June 9th, 2011