Egypt: History - Dynasty XXIX (Twenty-ninth Dynasty)

Twenty-ninth Dynasty

After conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC the sole aim of Egypt's foreign policy was to defend her independence against an empire which persisted in regarding her simply as a rebellious province. In this policy Egypt was successful except for a spell of ten years at the very end. A constant obstacle, however, was the rivalry between the different princely families of the Delta. Manetho's TWENTY-NINTH DYNASTY, monuments of which are found as far south as Thebes, hailed from the important town of Mendes and comprises only four kings together totaling barely twenty years (399-380 BC). The first and last kings both have the name Nepherites, of which the etymological meaning is 'His great ones are prosperous' but whereas Nepherites I reigned for six years, Nepherites II ruled for only four months. There is a discrepancy between Manetho's list and that of the Demotic Chronicle which has puzzled some Egyptologists, Manetho placing Achoris, the Egyptian Hakor or Hagor, before Psammuthis (The child of Mut'). The papyrus inverts the order. The probable solution is that the first year of both kings was identical, so that either statement is legitimate. Psammuthis, whose sole existing remains are at Karnak, with the name of Achoris cut above his, reigned only on year. Achoris, whose monuments are numerous and found in all parts of Egypt, maintained his position for thirteen. If we have dwelt at some length on those otherwise none too important Pharaohs, it is on account of the aforementioned moral judgments of the Demotic Chronicle, since these certainly reflect authentic history. Thus of Achoris it is said that he fulfilled the time of his rule 'because he was generous to the temples', but that he 'was overthrown because he forsook the Law, and showed no care for his brethren'.

For less vague information we are wholly dependent upon the Greek authorities. From Xenophon, we learn that Persia had assembled a mighty army in Phoenicia. This had doubtless been intended for the subjection of Egypt, but the project came to naught on account of Cyrus's dangerous and unsuccessful gamble. As a result the Greek cities of Asia Minor, which had sided with him, found themselves in dire peril. To rescue them from Sparta, though deeply in Cyrus's debt, now went to war with his country's still very formidable power (400 BC). The struggle lasted for years. In 396 BC Sparta sought alliance with Egypt, which was readily granted. Diodorus relates that in reply to the Spartan king Agesilaus's request the Egyptian Nephereus, i.e. Nepherites I, placed at his disposal 500,000 bushels of corn, and the equipment for 100 triremes. It was stipulated, however, that this handsome subsidy should be fetched by the Spartan fleet, but before it reached Rhodes that island had gone over to the Persians so that their admiral, the Athenian Conon, was able to annex the whole consignment.

Not long afterwards, in 393 BC, Achoris came to the throne, and the alliance with Sparta having proved unprofitable, he was only too glad to look for assistance elsewhere. This he found through a treaty with Evagoras, the able and ambitious king of Salamis in Cyprus, who had already made himself master of many other towns on the island. Evagoras had been a friend of the admiral Conon, so that collaboration with him carried with it close co-operation with Athens. By this time, however, both Persia and Sparta were tired of war, and in 386 BC the Peace of Antalcidas was arranged, by which a free hand in all the Greek cities of Asia was ceded to Persia in exchange for autonomy in all the other Hellenic states. As a consequence Achoris and Evagoras stood alone, and Artaxerxes was now free to deal with whichever he chose. Egypt was the first to be attacked, but had by this time again become a strong and wealthy country. Chabrias, one of the best generals of the age, left Athens to enter Achoris's service. Little is known about this war except that it dragged on until after 383 BC and was referred to contemptuously by the Athenian pamphleteer Isocrates. Evagoras proved a great help, carrying his arms into the enemy's camp and capturing Tyre and other Phoenician towns. Later, however, his fortune changed and after losing an important sea-battle he was besieged in his own town Salamis. He had defied the Persians for more than ten years, at the end of which dissensions on honorable terms (380 BC). After a considerable time as a faithful vassal of the Persian king he fell victim to a conspiracy. If the Demotic Chronicle can be trusted, misfortune attended Achoris at the last.

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Last Updated: June 20th, 2011