The Assyrian, Persian And Greek Conquest Of Ancient Egypt

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Meeting Between Cambyses II and Psammetichus III by Adrien Guignet (Public Domain)

The Assyrian, Persian And Greek Conquest Of Ancient Egypt

During the eighth century BC, ancient Egypt was experiencing turbulent times. The country was split with a pharaoh ruling in Lower Egypt, but powerful priests of Amun were ruling Middle and Upper Egypt. The Nubian Kingdom took advantage of the split in Egypt.  Piye (744-714 BC) an ancient Kushite king of Nubia, regarded his campaign against Lower Egypt as a Holy War in the name of Amun. He invaded and conquered Lower Egypt and became the founder of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. After his conquest he returned to the city of Napata, located deep in Nubia, (modern-day Sudan), from where he ruled, but his absence on Egyptian turf meant the local kings of Lower Egypt—especially Tefnakht—were left unattended. It was up to Piye's successors to restore the Nile valley empire to its magnificence since the New Kingdom.

The Assyrian army attacking the Egyptian city of Memphis and commemorates the final victory of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal II over the Egyptian king Taharqa in 667 BC. British Museum. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Assyrian Invasion

However, trouble was brewing in Mesopotamia with a new superpower arising. The Assyrians expanded their empire and invaded the region of the Near East. By 701 BC, the kings of Judah, Sidon, Ascalon and Ekron formed an alliance with Egypt against Assyria. However, they were no match for the Neo-Assyrian ruler Sennacherib whose forces swept the region, conquering Ascalon, Sidon and Ekron.  Esarhaddon (the son of Sennacherib) raided Egypt in 673 BC, but he was defeated. He returned with a larger army in 671 BC, sacked Memphis and captured Pharaoh Taharqa’s royal family as hostages, but the pharaoh himself had escaped and fled to Thebes. Ashurbanipal, (son of Esarhaddon) sacked Thebes and installed a vassal ruler Necho I, in Egypt. The Egyptians revolted and a year later Ashurbanipal returned and together with Necho's son Psamtik I, (who had been educated at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh during Esarhaddon's reign) they sacked Thebes completely. The Twenty-sixth or Saite Dynasty (after its seat of power at the city of Sais where his father Necho was king) was founded by Psamtik I.

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