Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt

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525 BC–404 BC
Capital Susa
Languages Egyptian language
Religion Ancient Egyptian Religion
Government Absolute monarchy
Historical era Classical antiquity
 •  Battle of Pelusium 525 BC
 •  Rebellion of Amyrtaeus 404 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt
Twenty-eighth Dynasty of Egypt

The Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt (notated Dynasty XXVII, alternatively 27th Dynasty or Dynasty 27), also known as the First Egyptian Satrapy was effectively a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire between 525 BC to 404 BC. It was founded by Cambyses II, the King of Persia, after his conquest of Egypt and subsequent crowning as Pharaoh of Egypt, and was disestablished upon the rebellion and crowning of Amyrtaeus as Pharaoh.


The last pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty, Psamtik III, was defeated by Cambyses II in the battle of Pelusium in the eastern Nile delta in May of 525 BC. Cambyses was crowned Pharaoh of Egypt in the summer of 525 BC at the latest, beginning the first period of Persian Rule over Egypt (also known as the 27th Dynasty). Egypt was then joined with Cyprus and Phoenicia to form the sixth satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, with Aryandes as the local satrap (provincial governor).

As Pharaoh of Egypt, Cambyses' reign saw the fiscal resources of traditional Egyptian temples diminished considerably. One decree, written on papyrus in demotic script ordered a limitation on resources to all Egyptian temples, excluding Memphis, Heliopolis and Wenkhem. Cambyses left Egypt sometime in early 522 BC, dying en route to Persia, and was nominally succeeded briefly by his younger brother Bardiya, although contemporary historians suggest Bardiya was actually Gaumata, an impostor, and that the real Bardiya had been murdered some years before by Cambyses out of jealousy. Darius I, suspecting this impersonation, led a coup in September of that year, being crowned as King and Pharaoh the next morning.

As the new King, Darius spent much of his time quelling rebellions throughout his empire. Sometime in late 522 BC or early 521 BC a local Egyptian prince led a rebellion and crowned himself Pharaoh Petubastis III. The main cause of this rebellion is uncertain, but the Ancient Greek military historian Polyaenus states that it was oppressive taxation imposed by Aryandes. Polyaenus further writes that Darius himself marched to Egypt, arriving during a period of mourning for the death of the sacred Herald of Ptah bull. Darius made a proclamation that he would award a sum of one hundred talents to the man who could produce the next Herald, impressing the Egyptians with his piety such that they flocked en masse to his side, ending the rebellion.[1]

Darius took a greater interest in Egyptian internal affairs than Cambyses. He reportedly codified the laws of Egypt, and notably completed the excavation of a canal system at Suez, allowing passage from the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, much preferable to the arduous land route. This construction allowed Darius to import skilled Egyptian laborers and artisans to construct his palaces in Persia. The loss of these skilled individuals contributed to a minor brain drain in Egypt proper, creating a demonstrable lowering of quality in Egyptian architecture and art from this period. Nevertheless Darius was more devoted to supporting Egyptian temples than Cambyses, earning himself a reputation for religious tolerance in the region. In 497 BC, during a visit by Darius to Egypt, Aryandes was executed for treason, most likely for trying to break Egypt away from Persia.[2][3] Darius died in 486 BC, and was succeeded by Xerxes I.

Upon the accession of Xerxes, Egypt again rebelled, this time possibly led by Psammetichus IV, although different sources dispute that detail. Xerxes quickly quelled the rebellion, installing his brother Achaemenes as satrap. Xerxes ended the privileged status of Egypt held under Darius, and increased supply requirements from the country, probably to fund his invasion of Greece. Furthermore Xerxes promoted the god Ahura Mazda at the expense of traditional Egyptian dieties, and permanently stopped the funding of Egyptian monuments. Xerxes was murdered in 465 BC by Artabanus, beginning a dynastic struggle that ended with Artaxerxes I being crowned King and Pharaoh. In 460 BC another major rebellion took place, led by a Libyan chief named Inaros II, substantially assisted by the Athenians of Greece.[4] Inaros defeated an army led by Achaemenes, killing the satrap in the process, and took Memphis, exerting at least partial control of Egypt. Inaros was finally defeated by a Persian army led by general Megabyzus in 454 BC, and sent into retreat. Megabyzus promised Inaros no harm would come of him if he surrendered, which Inaros agreed to do, nevertheless Artaxerxes had Inaros, by one account, executed five years later.[5] Artaxerxes died in 424 BC.

Artaxerxes successor, Xerxes II only ruled for forty-five days, being murdered by his brother Sogdianus, who was consequently murdered by his brother Ochus, who became Darius II.[6] Darius II ruled from 423 BC to 404 BC, and nearing the end of his reign a rebellion led by Amyrtaeus took place, probably beginning as early as 411 BC. In 405 BC Amyrtaeus, with the help of Cretan mercenaries expelled the Persians from Memphis, declaring himself Pharaoh the next year and ending the 27th Dynasty. Darius II's successor, Artaxerxes II made attempts to begin an expedition to retake Egypt, but due to political difficulty with his brother Cyrus the Younger, abandoned the effort. Nevertheless Artaxerxes II was still recognized as Pharaoh in some parts of Egypt as late as 401 BC, but he gradually lost control of those areas.

After an interval of independence, during which three indigenous dynasties reigned: the 28th, 29th, and 30th Dynasty. Artaxerxes III (358 BC) reconquered the Nile valley for a brief second period (343 BC), which is called the 31st Dynasty of Egypt.

Pharaohs of the 27th Dynasty[edit]

Main article: List of pharaohs

The pharaohs of the 27th Dynasty ruled for approximately one hundred and twenty one years, from 525 BC to 404 BC.

Name of Pharaoh Image Reign Throne Name Comments
Cambyses II Cambyses II of Persia.jpg 525-522 BC Mesutire Defeated Psamtik III at the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BC
Bardiya/Gaumata 522 BC Possible impostor
Petubastis III Ignota prov., pannello decorativo del re sehibra, xxiii dinastia, 823-716 ac..JPG 522/521-520 BC Seheruibre Rebelled against the Achaemenid Pharaohs
Darius I the Great Flickr - isawnyu - Hibis, Temple Decorations (III).jpg 522-486 BC Stutre
Xerxes I the Great Xerxes Image.png 486-465 BC
Psammetichus IV 480s BC Proposed rebel against the Achaemenid Pharaohs
Artabanus 465–464 BC Assassinated Xerxes I, later killed by Artaxerxes I
Artaxerxes I Cartouche Artaxerxes I Lepsius.jpg 465-424 BC
Xerxes II 425-424 BC Claimant to throne
Sogdianus 424-423 BC Claimant to throne
Darius II Darius ii.png 423-404 BC Last Pharaoh of the 27th Dynasty

Timeline of the 27th Dynasty (Achaemenid Pharaohs only)[edit]

Darius II Sogdianus Xerxes II Artaxerxes I Xerxes I Darius I Bardiya Cambyses II

Historical sources[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Andrew. "Polyaenus: Stratagems - Book 7". Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  2. ^ "DARIUS iii. Darius I the Great – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  3. ^ Klotz, David (19 September 2015). "UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology - Persian Period". Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  4. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. 
  5. ^ Photius. "Photius' excerpt of Ctesias' Persica (2)". Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  6. ^ S. Zawadzki, "The Circumstances of Darius II's Accession" in Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 34 (1995-1996) 45-49

External links[edit]

See also[edit]