6. The Ancient World’s Most Influential Mercenary
Few people in history have led an existence as adventurous as that of Phanes of Halicarnassus (flourished 6th century BC). A Greek mercenary general of great renown, Phanes rose high in service to Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis II (570 – 524 BC). However, he turned on his employers, and during a war between Egypt and Persia, switched sides. He abandoned the Egyptians, joined the army of Persia’s King Cambyses II, and played an instrumental role in the defeat of his former employers and paymasters.
The conflict between a then-declining Ancient Egypt and a rising Persian Empire was reportedly instigated by a disgruntled Egyptian doctor in the Persian court. He was angry at Pharaoh Amasis for selecting him, out of all of Egypt’s physicians, to get dragged away from his family and sent to Persia when Cambyses wrote Amasis asking for an eye doctor. So the doctor got his payback by devising a scheme, that began with his advising the Persian king to ask for Amasis’ favorite daughter.