People > Cambyses II

Cambyses II

Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration


Cambyses II was a king of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 530 to 522 BCE. He is most well-known for his conquest of Egypt, which marked the beginning of the 27th Dynasty in Egypt and the incorporation of Egypt into the Persian Empire. Here is an overview of Cambyses II and his interactions with ancient Egypt:


  1. Achaemenid Empire:

    • The Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, was one of the largest empires of the ancient world, spanning three continents and encompassing diverse cultures and peoples.
    • Cambyses II was the son of Cyrus the Great and succeeded him as king, continuing his father's expansionist policies.
  2. Early Life and Accession:

    • Cambyses II was born into the royal Achaemenid family and was well-prepared for kingship through his upbringing and military training.
    • He became king in 530 BCE after the death of Cyrus the Great, taking over a vast and powerful empire.

Conquest of Egypt

  1. Motivation for Conquest:

    • Cambyses II sought to expand Persian control and secure valuable resources and strategic locations. Egypt, with its wealth and agricultural productivity, was a prime target.
    • The conquest of Egypt would also prevent potential threats from the west and consolidate Persian dominance over the region.
  2. Campaign Against Egypt:

    • In 525 BCE, Cambyses II launched a military campaign against Egypt. He assembled a large and well-equipped army, including Greek mercenaries, and advanced through the Sinai Peninsula.
    • The decisive battle took place at Pelusium, a strategic point in the Nile Delta. Cambyses II's forces defeated the Egyptian army, led by Pharaoh Psamtik III, through superior tactics and possibly the use of psychological warfare, such as exploiting Egyptian reverence for cats.
  3. Fall of Egypt:

    • After the victory at Pelusium, Cambyses II marched to Memphis, the capital of Egypt, where he captured Psamtik III and consolidated his control over the country.
    • Psamtik III was initially treated with respect but later executed after an attempted rebellion against Persian rule.

Rule over Egypt

  1. Establishment of the 27th Dynasty:

    • Cambyses II established the 27th Dynasty, also known as the First Persian Period in Egypt. He assumed the title of Pharaoh, incorporating Egypt into the Achaemenid Empire.
    • He implemented administrative reforms, appointing Persian officials and maintaining existing Egyptian structures to ensure effective governance.
  2. Relations with Egyptians:

    • Cambyses II's rule in Egypt was marked by attempts to integrate Egyptian traditions and respect local customs. He participated in traditional ceremonies and made offerings to Egyptian gods.
    • Despite these efforts, his rule was also characterized by harsh measures against rebellions and perceived disrespect for some Egyptian religious practices, which created tension with the local population.

Death and Legacy

  1. Death:

    • Cambyses II died in 522 BCE under mysterious circumstances, possibly from an accident or assassination while returning from an expedition in the eastern part of the empire.
    • His death led to a period of instability and succession struggles within the Achaemenid Empire.
  2. Historical Significance:

    • Cambyses II's conquest of Egypt was a significant milestone in the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire, marking the incorporation of a major and wealthy civilization.
    • His rule over Egypt set a precedent for the subsequent Persian rulers and influenced the administrative practices and policies of the empire.
  3. Cultural Impact:

    • The Persian conquest of Egypt introduced new cultural and administrative influences, although the integration of Persian and Egyptian traditions was complex and often fraught with tension.
    • The legacy of Cambyses II in Egypt is mixed, with his successful military campaign contrasted by the challenges of maintaining stable and respectful rule over a culturally rich and ancient civilization.
  4. Archaeological Evidence:

    • Archaeological evidence from Cambyses II’s reign includes inscriptions, administrative documents, and artifacts that reflect the Persian influence in Egypt.
    • Notable sites include the Serapeum of Saqqara, where Cambyses is mentioned in inscriptions, and various fortifications and administrative centers established during his rule.


Cambyses II, who ruled from 530 to 522 BCE, was a king of the Achaemenid Empire known for his successful conquest of Egypt in 525 BCE. This conquest marked the beginning of the 27th Dynasty in Egypt and the incorporation of Egypt into the Persian Empire. Cambyses II’s reign in Egypt was characterized by attempts to integrate Persian and Egyptian traditions, administrative reforms, and efforts to maintain control over a culturally rich and diverse population. Despite his military success, his rule faced challenges and tensions, leading to a complex legacy in both Persian and Egyptian history.

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