People - Ancient Egypt: Psammetichus II
LATE KINGDOM 26th Dynasty (595-589) The Nubians fall under the Assyrians invasion. The Greeks help re-establish order. A
renaissance in the arts of the 25th Dynasty shows a return to the Old Kingdom style.
Psammetichus II in Tour Egypt
KING PSAMMETICHUS II (PSAMTIK II)
OF EGYPT'S 26TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN
Of the Late Period Pharaohs prior to the Persian Conquest of Egypt, some are fairly well known to us, while others are not. Of this
latter group, Psammetichus II (Psamtik II) must be included. His birth name was Psamtik, while his throne name was Neferibre, meaning
"Beautiful is the Heart of Re".
Psammetichus II was almost certainly the son of Nekau (Necho) probably by a Queen Chedebnitjerbone I. He ascended to the throne of
Egypt we believe as the third king of Egypt 26th Dynasty (Saite Dynasty), probably in the year 595 BC at a time when Egypt was
traveling down the road to eventual decline, though his reign is seen as a short respite; a reversal of his father's misfortunes. He
probably only ruled for a period of about six years. We know a little about his family. He married a Queen Takhout (Takhut) of
Athribis who provided him with a daughter named Ankhnesneferibre. We also know of a princess Herynebti Menekhoubaste and of course,
Apries (Wahibre Haaibre), who succeeded him on the throne.
Limestone quarries in the Makattam Hills near Cairo were clearly worked during this king's reign.He may have founded the temple at
Hibis in the El-Kharga Oasis, and the oldest known remains at Philae belong to his reign. It seem that he made additions to the
Temple of Neith at Sais, monuments at Ausim (Letopolis) and the Temple at El-Mahalla el-Kubra, and blocks from his reign have also
been found at Abydos, Karnak (where he also usurped the kiosk of Taharqa), Elephantine and El-Naharya.
Perhaps the best known of his monuments, originally erected at Heliopolis as one of two, was an obelisk that was carried off to Rome
by Augustus, who placed it as a sundial in a vast square (Horologium Divi Augusti) where its shadow indicated the hours of the day
and the days of the year. It was found broken into five pieces in 1748. It was later repaired, and in 1789, Pius VI moved the obelisk
to Piazza di Montecitorio where it was put on top of what remained of a column erected by Antoninus Pius. There, he crowned it with a
reminder that it had once been used as a sundial.
We also know that Psammetichus II led a foray into Nubia in 592, marching as far south as the Third or even the Fourth Cataract. A
well known graffito inscribed in Greek on the left leg of the colossal seated statue of Ramesses II, on the south side of the
entrance to the temple of Abu Simbel, records that:
"When King Psammetichus came to Elephantine, this was written by those who sailed with Psammetichus the son of Theocles, and they
came beyond Kerkis as far as the river permits. Those who spoke foreign tongues (Greek and Carians who also scratched their names on
the monument) were led by Potasimto, the Egyptians by Amasis."
The military leaders mentioned in this reference are also known to us from other sources. This was the first confrontation between
Egypt and Nubia since the time of Tantamani. A Kushite king named Anlamani had revived the kingdom of Napata, and according to
Egyptian records, the campaign during Psammetichus II's reign was made in order to put down a Nubian rebellion, though in fact it may
have been due as much to the foreign aspirations of the Pharaoh as much as any Kushite attempt to reconquer Egypt.
The Egyptian army seems to have advanced to Pnubs and according to Reisner, perhaps Napata, where they looted the temples and
destroyed the royal Kushite statues. As a result, Kush's power was crushed, and their kings had no real possibility of ever regaining
control of Egypt. In fact, they seem to have been pushed to remove their capital further south. Curiously, however, Psammetichus II
does not appear to have capitalized much on his victory. His troops retreated back to the First Cataract, and Elephantine continued
to be the southern border of Egypt.
One outcome of this campaign was the deliberate slighting of monument, not only of the 25th Dynasty Kushite kings, but unexplainably,
also of Psammetichus II's father, Necho.
In addition, another foray was made under Psammetichus II during the following year into southern Palestine. In 602 BC, Jehoiakim of
Jerusalem rebelled against Babylon. However, after his son, Jehoiachin succeeded him in 598, Jerusalem was almost immediately
recaptured by Nebuchadrezzar II, who pillaged the temple and deported the new Judah ruler to Babylon, replacing him with Zedekiah,
Jehoiachin's uncle. Though Jehoiachin remained in exile for thirty-seven years, his supporters constantly struggled against Zedekiah.
Psammetichus II's campaign, that was perhaps more peaceful then otherwise, though recorded as a traditional military campaign,
encouraged Zedekiah to embark upon a rebellion that ultimately proved to be catastrophic for Jerusalem when the city fell in 587 BC.
At home, we also know that Psammetichus II made sure that Ankhnesneferibre (Neferibre lives for her), his daughter, by a Queet
Takhut, was adopted by the Divine Adoratice Nitocris, who she eventually succeeded as Wife of Amun at Thebes in 584. Ankhnesneferibre
managed to hold this office until the Persian conquest of Egypt in 525 BC. Otherwise, there were some magnificent tombs, such as
those of the Stewards of Amun, Shoshenq son of Harsiese (TT27) Padineith (TT197) and Ankh-hor (TT414) that attest to the fact that
there was a certain amount of wealth and splendor during this king's reign.
Psammetichus II is believed to have died in February of 589 BC, and was succeeded by his son, Apries.
Psamtik II in Wikipedia
Psamtik II (also spelled Psammetichus or Psammeticus) was a king of the Saite based Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt (595 BC-589 BC). His
prenomen, Neferibre, means "Beautiful is the Heart of Re." He was the son of Necho II.
Campaigns and battles -
Psamtik II led a foray into Nubia in 592 BC, marching as far south as the Third or even the Fourth Cataract of the Nile according to a
contemporary stela from Thebes (Karnak) which dates to Year 3 of this king's name and refers to a heavy defeat that was inflicted upon
the kingdom of Kush. A well-known graffito inscribed in Greek on the left leg of the colossal seated statue of Ramesses II, on the
south side of the entrance to the temple of Abu Simbel, records that:
“ "When King Psammetichus (ie. Psamtik II) came to Elephantine, this was written by those who sailed with Psammetichus the son
of Theocles, and they came beyond Kerkis as far as the river permits. Those who spoke foreign tongues (Greek and Carians who also
scratched their names on the monument) were led by Potasimto, the Egyptians by Amasis. ”
Kerkis was located near the Fifth Cataract of the Nile "which stood well within the Cushite Kingdom."
This was the first confrontation between Egypt and Nubia since the reign of Tantamani. A Kushite king named Anlamani had revived the
power of the kingdom of Napata. Psamtik II's campaign was likely initiated to destroy any future aspirations the Kushites may have had
to reconquer Egypt. The Egyptian army advanced to Pnubs (Kerma) and the capital city of Napata in a series of fierce battles, where
they looted its temples and destroyed the royal Kushite statues. The Kushite capital was sacked under the reign of the native
Kushite king Aspelta who was the younger brother of Anlamani and the son of Senkamanisken. The Year 3 Karnak stela is dated to II
Shemu day 10 of Psamtik II's reign and states that:
“ The army that your Majesty sent to Nubia has reached the land of Pnubs....Nubians from all parts [of Kush] had arisen against
him, their hearts full of anger when he attacked those who had rebelled against him there; because he was furious at those who had
arisen against him. His Majesty took part in the combat as soon as he reached the battle. The rebels capitulated before a single arrow
was unleashed against them....Those who tried to flee did not succeed and were brought back as prisoners: four thousand two hundred
As a result of Psamtik's devastating campaign, Kush's power was crushed, and its kings from Aspelta onwards lost any opportunity of
ever regaining control of Egypt. Instead, the Nubian rulers decided to shift their capital further south from Napata to the relative
safety of Meroë. Curiously, however, Psamtik II does not appear to have capitalized on his victory. His troops retreated back to the
First Cataract, and Elephantine continued to be the southern border of Egypt.
An outcome of this campaign was the deliberate destruction of monuments belonging to the 25th Dynasty Kushite kings in Egypt "by
hacking out their names and the emblems of royalty from their statues and reliefs." Later, in 591 BC, during the fourth year of his
reign, Psamtik II launched an expedition into Palestine "to foment a general Levantine revolt against the Babylonians" that involved,
among other, Zedekiah of the Kingdom of Judah.
Psamtik II was both a dynamic warrior pharaoh as well as a prolific builder in his brief 6 year reign. A significant Saite sanctuary
was likely built by Psamtik II and his son Apries at the village of El-Mahalla El-Kubra which lies equidistant from Sebennytos and
Behbeit El-Hagar in the Lower Nile Delta. Officials from the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt observed "an extraordinary number of
pharaonic building elements of granite and turquoise reused in modern buildings" at this site; this discovery was subsequently
confirmed by Nestor L'Hôte in 1828 who counted more than 120 granite columns built into this village's mosque alone. A 1.8
metre long fragment of red granite with the name of Psamtik II and a door lintel of Apries was also seen at El-Mahalla El-Kubra.
Under Psamtik II's reign, a pair of more than 21.79 metre high obelisks were erected in the temple of Heliopolis; the first Emperor of
Rome, Augustus later had one of the obelisks, which had probably been thrown down by the Persian invaders in 525 BC, brought to Rome
in 10 BC. Psamtik II also constructed a kiosk on Philae island. This kiosk today "represents the oldest known monument known on
the island" and consisted "of a double row of four columns, which were connected by screen walls."
Psamtik II was also responsible for founding the Temple-house at Hibis in El-Kharga Oasis for the triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu with
significant installations for the cult of Osiris. This 19.5 X 26 metre temple was originally situated on the bank of an ancient
lake which has now disappeared and its temple decorations were only completed under the Persian kings Darius I and possibly Darius
II. The Hibis temple consisted of a hypostyle hall with two-by-two papyrus capital columns, a hall of offerings, three sanctuaries
in the rear section of the temple and a chapel at the side of the sanctuaries for the cult of Psamtik II. The front of the temple
house of Hibis featured:
"a pronaos with four papyrus bundle columns and screen walls. During the construction of the pranaos, the side walls were extended for
the addition of a court[yard]. This extension, was, however, only carried out in the 30th Dynasty [by Nectanebo I and Nectanebo II.]
The eight papyrus columns of the pronaos still show the New Kingdom type of open, bell-shaped capitals."
A massive sandstone gateway through an outer enclosure wall still stands almost 5 metres tall and was constructed during the Ptolemaic
or Roman periods. Many inscriptions and decrees were carved on the gateway on a wide variety of topics such as taxation,
inheritance, the court system and the rights of women, with the earliest text dating to 49 AD.
The Temple of Psamtik II at Hibis was completely preserved until 1832 when its roof and portions of the temple were removed for the
construction of an aluminium factory. Only excavation work by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1910-1911 and restorations
performed by the Egyptian Antiquities Service arrested its decline. Today, the Hibis temple remains—together with the Oracle or
Ammoneion of Siwa--as "the best preserved and best-documented temple of the early Egyptian Late Period and is therefore a primary
monument to the history of [Egyptian temple] building."
When Psamtik II died in 589 BC, he was succeeded by Apries who was his son by Queen Takhut, a Princess of Athribis. Psamtik and Queen
Takhut were also the parents of Menekhubaste, a Priestess of Atum at Heliopolis, and Ankhnesneferibre, a God's Wife of Amun who was
served in this powerful office in Upper Egypt through to the remainder of the Saite period in 525 BC when Egypt was conquered by the
Persians. The date of Psamtik II's death is mentioned in the Adoption stela of Ankhenesneferibre: Year 6, I Akhet day 23.
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