Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt
Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt

Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt

Patrick Lynch - November 14, 2016

Ancient World Conflict- 6 Battles that Changed Ancient Egypt
Ancient History Encyclopedia (Bastet)

6 – Battle of Pelusium – 525 BC

This battle took place near the eastern edge of Egypt’s Nile Delta in 525 BC between Pharaoh Psamtik III and Achaemenid king Cambyses II of Persia. It was the first big battle between the ancient Egyptian and Achaemenid Empires. The Persian ruler was furious that the Egyptian Pharaoh’s father (Amasis) had sent him a ‘fake’ daughter and decided to invade Egypt as retribution. By the time Cambyses was ready to invade, Amasis had died which meant his son had to deal with the invaders.

Psamtik was prepared for the attack and strengthened his position at Pelusium. While he believed his forces could repel attacks and withstand a siege, he was unprepared for his crafty enemy. At that time, Bastet was one of Egypt’s most popular goddesses and was known to be a loving and kind deity unless she was offended. In this case, she would become her wicked and spiteful alter ego Sekhmet. In ancient Egypt, you could be executed for the crime of killing a cat such was the reverence the Egyptians showed for this animal.

On the day of the Battle of Pelusium, it is said that Cambyses ordered his men to paint the image of Bastet on their shields. Another source suggests he told his army to pin cats to their shields as a means of psychologically paralyzing the Egyptians. 2nd Century AD Macedonian writer Polyaenus claimed the Persians placed various animals sacred to the Egyptians on their front line including cats, sheep and dogs. We will never know the precise story but it does appear as if Cambyses used some cunning strategy to win the day.

The Egyptians suffered a terrible defeat and up to 50,000 of them died on the battlefield compared to approximately 7,000 Persians. Once again, it is claimed that the Egyptians surrendered their position due to the sight of cats/Bastet on enemy shields (or clothing). Retreating Egyptians fled to the city of Memphis and a siege ensued. Cambyses finally lifted the siege and killed an estimated 2,000 of his enemies. Egypt was annexed by the Persians and Cambyses became the new Pharaoh. While Psamtik III was initially spared, he attempted a rebellion and was promptly executed.

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