The 26th dynasty was known as the "Saite Dynasty". Psamtek I reunified Egypt. His father, Nekau I, had been ruler from Sais with protection from the Assyrians. Psamtek continued to be supported by the Assyrians when he had taken on his fathers role. The important administrative centres were at Sais, Memphis and Athribis. Buto was an important religious centre. The Assyrians were being stretched to the limit in trying to maintain influence over such a large area. In 658 BC Psamtek managed to remove the Assyrian control having had military assistance from Ionian and Carian mercenaries Psamtek had also established trade agreements with Greece and Phoenicia.

The whole of the Delta region was under Psamtek's control by 660 BC. Following a further four years of diplomatic efforts he again controlled the whole of Egypt. In an effort to take control of the Theban Priesthood of Amun-Ra, his daughter, Nitiqret, was named as the next "God`s Wife of Amun".

Psamtek I maintained a strong military force many of whom had been the mercenaries that had helped him to overthrow the Assyrians. They helped to protect Egypt from the threat of external enemies e.g. Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. They also maintained control within Egypt by reducing the threat of the Machimoi (The Libyan warriors who had settled in Egypt).

Over a period of time the Machimoi became more and more annoyed at the preferential treatment received by the Greek and Carian troops.  This eventually led to the later king, Apries, being removed from the throne by the Machimoi in 570 BC.

The Pharaoh needed to restore the old style respect for kingship in order to obtain the support of the Egyptian people. By reunifying the country Psamtek I had managed to achieve one of the major responsibilities of the Pharaoh in the restoration of order, known as Maat. He supplied the estate of "God`s Wife of Amun" with generous gifts and began numerous building programmes to honor the gods. It is thought that Psamtek I built the Southern Pylon of the Temple of Ptah at Memphis and developed the shrine to the Apis Bull here too.

Nekau II, Psamtek`s successor, constructed further monuments honoring the Apis Bull in Memphis. Ahmose II had a pylon constructed at the Temple of Neith, along with many statues and sphinxes to form a processional way. The sacred enclosure of Neithconsisted of the "Mansion of Neith" (the main cult centre) as well as areas Neith other gods, e.g., Osiris, Horus, Sobek, Atum, Amun, Bastet, Isis, Nekhbet, Wadjet and Hathor

The burial place of Osiris was thought to be here and the "Festival of Resurrection of Osiris" was celebrated on a sacred lake at Sais. Ahmose also erected colossi and constructed a Temple to Isis in Memphis further buildings were erected at Philae, Abydos, Elephantine and Nebesha. Additions and alterations were also made to buildings at Karnak, Mendes, Edfu and other sites.

The kings of the Saite dynasty were buried in Chapel Tombs within the Temple of Neith at Sais. These were made up of a mortuary chapel built above ground level, which could be entered through a double door from a columned Portico. The Royal sarcophagus was buried below ground within a decorated Royal Burial Chamber.

Throughout the 26th dynasty Egypt constantly had to keep a close eye on events around her borders.In the early years the threat of repeated invasions from the Assyrians were high on the list of potential enemies. This never actually happened as the Assyrians had problems defending their own territory. At one stage the Assyrians actually formed an alliance with Egypt in order to combat the newest threat by the Chaldaeans from southern Iraq.

Under the kingship of Nekau II, Egypt expanded their territories along the Euphrates.This position was only maintained for a short time before the Egyptian's were forced to return within their original borders by the Chaldaean forces. Egypt`s borders were not penetrated by them at this time.

Psamtek II led an expedition into Palestine. His diplomatic skills negotiated a revolt of most of the Levant against Babylon. His successor, Apries, led further attacks on the Chaldaeans with the support of Phoenicia and Judah. Ahmose II managed to defeat the Chaldaean's attempts to invade Egypt in the early part of his reign. Persia developed into the next threat for Egypt to worry about. Another alliance of nations, this time Egypt, Sparta, Croesus of Lydia and even the Chaldaeans,tried to counteract this new threat. Unfortunately for Egypt, Cyrus destroyed Lydia in 546 BC before capturing the Chaldaean`s capital of Babylon in 558 BC. This left Egypt with no allies from the Near East. In an attempt to protect Egypt from the attack that was expected by the Persians, Ahmose tried to strengthen relations with the Greeks. Ahmose died in 526 BC before such an attack had taken place.

Egypt also needed to monitor it's southern border as the threat of attack from the Nubian's had not been completely removed. A rebellion in Nubia was dealt with by troops in the reign of Nekau and a further military operation was led by Psamtek II.

In 525 BC Egypt was defeated by Persia in the Battle of Pelusium. Psamtek III was captured and the Persian ruler, Cambyses became king of Egypt. This began the First Persian Period and the 27th dynasty.

The 27th Dynasty was also known as the "First Persian Period". Cambyses attempted not to offend the native Egyptians and took on the role of Pharaoh, he respected the Egyptian religion and also included native Egyptians in his government. When he died in 522 BC there was a revolt in Egypt in an attempt to regain self rule. Darius eventually regained control for the Persians in 519 BC. During Darius` reign the medical school at Sais was repaired and a number of temples were built or rebuilt.He also instigated changes in the law. Unfortunately Xerxes did not show the same respect for Egyptian culture and was particularly disliked.

The Persians soon realized that Egypt`s administrative system could not be bettered and the country was absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire. A person called the "Satrap", a type of viceroy,who was a member of the Persian aristocracy, was in charge of the administration of the country. Below the satrap was a chancellor who had a scribe to assist him. The administration used Aramaic as its language therefore a number of Egyptian translators were needed. The Persians utilized the craftsmanship and military skills of the Egyptians in expanding their own Empire.

Although the Persian rule was quite relaxed the fact that the King was based in Iran made the Egyptians feel that he was not a true pharaoh. Many native Egyptians were poised ready for the opportunity to retain native rule for Egypt from the Persians. In c 404 BC Amyrtaios successfully achieved this.

This period of Egyptian independence was full of the potential threat of re invasion by the Persian empire and internal instability.There are records for this period from both Egyptian and classical Greek perspectives. Most of the reigns of the 29th dynasty were brief apart from that of Hakor. Many were overthrown and probably killed in order to take control of the Kingship.

The thirtieth dynasty was founded my an army general called, Nectanebo I. It is thought that he claimed the throne after a successful military coup. He appointed Teos as his co-regent before he died in an attempt to maintain the family succession.His reign did not go smoothly though. He was overthrown following a rebellion by his cousin, Nectanabis. 

Many of these native Egyptian kings wished to honor their gods by building new temples for them.The thirtieth dynasty pharaoh, Nectanebo I, built many additions to or new temples throughout Egypt at sites such as Sais, Karnak, Hermopolois, Philae and Edfu. Nectanebo II was also involved with the burial of an Apis Bull at Saqqara and of a Buchis bull at Armant. 

Great Naos type shrine of Nectanebo II, in the sanctuary of the Temple of Horus at Edfu. It is constructed from a single block of grey granite and stands 13 feet (4 metres) high.

The native Egyptian rule came to an end again when the Persian Empire regained control of Egypt c. 341 BC.

The return of Persian rule saw many of the temples being plundered. The same style of administration system that had existed in the earlier Persian period of Egyptian domination was reintroduced.This short period of occupation was full of various attempts to overthrow the Persians.The rule of the Persians was despised by the majority of the native Egyptians and when in 332 BC Alexander the Great invaded Egypt he had few problems in overthrowing the Persians.This marked the end of the Late Period and the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period.

(1) Statuette of a woman, c 664 - 525 BC. Late dynastic period, dynasty 26. 

(2) Reliefs from the tomb of Nes-peka-shuty, c 656 - 610 BC. Early dynasty 26, late reign of Psamtek I, late dynastic period. 

(3 Head of an antelope c 525-404 BC. Dynasty 27, late dynastic period. 

(4) Pavilion of Nectanebo I with Bell columns and hathor capitals at the Temple of Philae.

(5) The god Horus protecting king Nectanebo II, c 360 - 343 BC dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II, late period.

(6) Great Naos type shrine of Nectanebo II, in the sanctuary of the Temple of Horus at Edfu. It is constructed from a single block of grey granite and stands 13 feet (4 metres) high.

(7) Magical Stela, c 360 - 343 BC, Dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II, late dynastic period.

(8) Son of Nekau I

      (To be continued)


 © Jano El-Kady 2006 

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