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redirectpeople Cambyses Cambyses II ( Kambūjia, Persian: کمبوجیه, d. 522 BC) was the son of Cyrus the Great.
When Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC he was employed in leading religious ceremonies, and in the cylinder which contains Cyrus' proclamation to the Babylonians his name is joined to that of his father in the prayers to Marduk. On a tablet dated from the first year of Cyrus, Cambyses is called king of Babylon, although his authority seems to have been quite ephemeral; it was only in 530 BC, when Cyrus set out on his last expedition into the East, that he associated Cambyses on the throne, and numerous Babylonian tablets of this time are dated from the accession and the first year of Cambyses, when Cyrus was "king of the countries" (i.e. of the world). After the death of his father in August 530, Cambyses became sole king. The tablets dated from his reign in Babylonia run to the end of his eighth year, i.e. March 522 BC. Herodotus (3.66), who dates his reign from the death of Cyrus, gives him seven years five months, i.e. from 530 BC to the summer of 523.

The traditions of Cambyses

The traditions about Cambyses, preserved by the Greek authors, come from two different sources. The first, which forms the main part of the account of Herodotus (3. 2-4; 10-37), is of Egyptian origin. Here Cambyses is made the legitimate son of Cyrus and a daughter of Apries named Nitetis (Herod. 3.2, Dinon fr. II, Polyaen. viii. 29), whose death he avenges on the successor of the usurper Amasis. Nevertheless, (Herod. 3.1 and Ctesias a/i. Athen. Xiii. 560), the Persians corrected this tradition:
Cambyses wants to marry a daughter of Amasis, who sends him a daughter of Apries instead of his own daughter, and by her Cambyses is induced to begin the war. His great crime is the killing of the Apis bull, for which he is punished by madness, in which he commits many other crimes, kills his brother and his sister, and at last loses his empire and dies from a wound in the thigh, at the same place where he had wounded the sacred animal. Intermingled are some stories derived from the Greek mercenaries, especially about their leader Phanes of Halicarnassus, who betrayed Egypt to the Persians. In the Persian tradition the crime of Cambyses is the murder of his brother; he is further accused of drunkenness, in which he commits many crimes, and thus accelerates his ruin.
These traditions are found in different passages of Herodotus, and in a later form, but with some trustworthy detail about his household, in the fragments of Ctesias. With the exception of Babylonian dated tablets and some Egyptian inscriptions, we possess no contemporary evidence about the reign of Cambyses but the short account of Darius in the Behistun Inscription. It is impossible from these sources to form a correct picture of Cambyses' character; but it seems certain that he was a wild despot and that he was led by drunkenness to many atrocious deeds.

Darius' account

Conquest of Egypt

It was quite natural that, after Cyrus had conquered the Middle East, Cambyses should undertake the conquest of Egypt, the only remaining independent state in that part of the world. Before he set out on his expedition, he killed his brother Bardiya (Smerdis), whom Cyrus had appointed governor of the eastern provinces. The date is given by Darius, whereas the Greek authors narrate the murder after the conquest of Egypt. The war took place in 525 BC, when Amasis II had just been succeeded by his son Psammetichus III. Cambyses had prepared for the march through the desert by an alliance with Arabian chieftains, who brought a large supply of water to the stations. King Amasis had hoped that Egypt would be able to withstand the threatened Persian attack by an alliance with the Greeks.
But this hope failed, as the Cypriot towns and the tyrant Polycrates of Samos, who possessed a large fleet, now preferred to join the Persians, and the commander of the Greek troops, Phanes of Halicarnassus, went over to them. In the decisive battle at Pelusium the Egyptian army was defeated, and shortly afterwards Memphis was taken. The captive king Psammetichus was executed, having attempted a rebellion. The Egyptian inscriptions show that Cambyses officially adopted the titles and the costume of the Pharaohs.

Attempts to conquer south and west of Egypt

From Egypt Cambyses attempted the conquest of Kush, i.e. the kingdoms of Napata and Meroe, located in the modern Sudan. But his army was not able to cross the deserts and after heavy losses he was forced to return. In an inscription from Napata (in the Berlin museum) the Nubian king Nastesen relates that he had defeated the troops of "Kembasuden", i.e. Cambyses, and taken all his ships (H. Schafer, Die Aethiopische Königsinschrift des Berliner Museums, 1901). Another expedition against the Siwa Oasis failed likewise, and the plan of attacking Carthage was frustrated by the refusal of the Phoenicians to operate against their kindred.

The death of Cambyses

Meanwhile in Persia the king's brother Smerdis (Bardiya) rose against him and was acknowledged throughout Asia, although it was later claimed by Darius, after he had killed him and claimed the throne for himself, that this was not in fact the genuine Smerdis but an impostor, a Magian named Gaumata, Smerdis having been murdered some three years previously.
Cambyses attempted to march against him, but, seeing probably that success was impossible, died by his own hand (March 522). This is the account of Darius, Cambyses' lance-bearer at the time, which certainly must be preferred to the traditions of Herodotus and Ctesias, which ascribe his death to an accident, although it has also been speculated that Cambyses may in fact have been murdered by Darius as the first step to usurping the empire for himselfhttp://www.herodotuswebsite.co.uk/darius.htm. According to Herodotus (3.64) he died in Ecbatana, i.e. Hamath; Josephus (Antiquites xi. 2. 2) names Damascus; Ctesias, Babylon, which is absolutely impossible.
Cambyses was buried in Pasargadae. The remains of his tomb were identified in 2006.

The Lost Army of Cambyses

According to Herodotus, Cambyses sent an army to threaten the Oracle of Amun at the Siwa Oasis. The army of 50,000 men was halfway across the desert when a massive sandstorm sprung up, burying them all. Although many egyptologists regard the story as a myth, people have searched for the remains of the soldiers for many years. These have included Count László Almásy (on whom the novel The English Patient was based) and modern geologist Tom Brown. Some believe that in recent petroleum excavations, the remains may have been uncovered.
A 2002 novel by Paul Sussman The Lost Army Of Cambyses (ISBN 0-593-04876-8) recounts the story of rival archaeological expeditions searching for the remains.

Fictional representations of Cambyses

Thomas Preston's play King Cambyses, a lamentable Tragedy, mixed ful of pleasant mirth was probably produced in the 1560s. A later tragedy by Elkanah Settle, Cambyses, King of Persia, was produced in 1667.

Literature

Notes

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cambyses in Afrikaans: Kambuses
cambyses in Bulgarian: Камбиз II
cambyses in Catalan: Cambises II de Pèrsia
cambyses in Czech: Kambýsés II.
cambyses in German: Kambyses II.
cambyses in Spanish: Cambises II
cambyses in Esperanto: Kambizo la 2-a (Persio)
cambyses in Persian: کمبوجیه
cambyses in French: Cambyse II
cambyses in Galician: Cambises II
cambyses in Korean: 캄비세스 2세
cambyses in Italian: Cambise II di Persia
cambyses in Hebrew: כנבוזי השני
cambyses in Dutch: Cambyses II
cambyses in Japanese: カンビュセス2世
cambyses in Norwegian: Kambyses II av Persia
cambyses in Polish: Kambyzes II
cambyses in Portuguese: Cambises II da Pérsia
cambyses in Russian: Камбиз II
cambyses in Slovak: Kambýses II.
cambyses in Slovenian: Kambiz II.
cambyses in Serbian: Камбиз II
cambyses in Finnish: Kambyses II
cambyses in Swedish: Kambyses II
cambyses in Vietnamese: Cambyses II của Ba Tư
cambyses in Yiddish: כנבוזי דער צווייטער
cambyses in Chinese: 冈比西斯二世
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