views updated Jun 08 2018


CAMBYSES (Pers., Kambujiya ; Bab., Kam-bu-zi-(ia) ; Aram., Kanbuzi ; Greek, Cambyses ), the son of *Cyrus, king of Persia (530–522 b.c.e.). It appears that in 538, several months after Cyrus conquered Babylon, Cambyses was appointed king of Babylon by his father, but was removed from this position at the end of the same year. Cambyses was again proclaimed a co-regent when Cyrus went out to fight against the Massagetae near the Aral Sea – a battle in which Cyrus died (530 b.c.e.). Cambyses' greatest war was the conquest of Egypt (525 b.c.e.), which was then incorporated into the Persian Empire. In a carefully planned military campaign, Cambyses crossed the Sinai Desert with the help of Arab tribes who supplied his armies with water. At Pelusium he inflicted a heavy defeat on the forces of King Psammetichus iii of Egypt, conquered the Delta, and established control over the whole of Egypt. Cambyses was aided in the war by Greek mercenaries, and by an Egyptian general who betrayed Psammetichus and delivered the Egyptian navy into the hands of the Persians. Cambyses' attempt to conquer Nubia failed, but his rule extended all the way to Aswan in the south. He considered himself the legitimate ruler of Egypt, and Egyptian inscriptions composed in his honor refer to him with the traditional Egyptian royal titles. He ruled wealthy Egypt harshly. Classical historians claim that Cambyses committed acts of sacrilege against the Egyptian cult and religious practices, and at the end of the fifth century the Jews of *Elephantine refer to the destruction of all the temples of Egypt at the time of his invasion. Contemporary Egyptian sources, however, assert he was concerned for the gods of Egypt and their temples. It seems that Cambyses curtailed the income of many Egyptian temples, but exempted others from taxes. He was favorably disposed toward the Jewish military colony at Elephantine in southern Egypt and allowed no harm to come to their temple. In the spring of 522, while Cambyses was still in Egypt, a rebellion against him broke out in Persia. Ancient sources and modern scholars differ in identifying the rebel who captured the throne. It is not clear whether the usurper was Bardiya (Smerdis in the Greek tradition), Cambyses' brother or, as Darius claims in the Behistun Inscription, it was Gaumāta who pretended to be Bardiya. According to Darius, Cambyses murdered his brother Bardiya before leaving for the conquest of Egypt, but this is doubtful. On his way to Persia to fight the rebels, Cambyses died suddenly and additional rebellions broke out in the empire, but ultimately Darius, a member of a lateral branch of the Achaemenids, gained control of the kingdom (see *Dariusi). Cambyses is not mentioned among the Persian kings in Ezra 4. Some scholars claim that "Ahasuerus" (4:6) is another name for Cambyses, since Josephus assigned the libel in Ezra 4 to the time of Cambyses. This is, however, unlikely. It is also unlikely that the return of the Jews to Judah from the Babylonian Exile took place, as suggested by Galling, under Cambyses rather than Cyrus.


F.H. Weissbach, Die Keilinschriften der Achaemeniden (1911), 9–17; K. Galling, Syrien in der Politik der Achaemeniden (1937), 40–49; A.T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire (1948), 86–93; R.G. Kent, Old Persian; Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (19532), 116–20; J. Liver, in: Eretz Israel, 5 (1959), 119; idem, in: Sefer Segal (1964), 130–4; M.A. Dandamayff, Iran pri pervikh Akhamenidov (1963), 114–6. add. bibliography: l.P. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander (2002), 49–61.

[Hayim Tadmor]


views updated May 17 2018

Cambyses (d.522 bc), king of Persia 529–522 bc, son of Cyrus. He is chiefly remembered for his conquest of Egypt in 525 bc, and as the subject of a play (1569) by Preston which became proverbial for its bombastic grandiloquence.