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Achoris


Map of Egypt at the end of the sixth century BCE. Design Jona Lendering. Lower Egypt
Achoris (Maatchnumra Setepemchnum Hakor): pharaoh of the twenty-ninth, Mendesian dynasty (392/391-379).

In the fifth century BCE, Egypt was part of the Achaemenid empire. However, in 404, a quarrel started between king Artaxerxes II Mnemon and his younger brother Cyrus, which lasted until 401. The Egyptians, led by Amyrtaeus, seized the opportunity and regained their independence. His reign, however, was unstable, and he was removed from the throne by Nepherites I, the first pharaoh of the twenty-ninth or Mendesian dynasty. He stabilized the country.

After his death in 392/391, his relative Achoris succeeded him. However, another relative named Psammuthis was able to expel him briefly. We do not know why and how. After a year, Achoris was able to eliminate Psammuthis and was sole ruler again of a reunited Egypt.

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He was by far the most capable pharaoh of the twenty-ninth dynasty. Until then, Egypt had been allied to the Greek town Sparta. After 400, both had fought against Persia. However, the Spartan king Agesilaus had been recalled to Greece, and Achoris understood that he had to find a new ally. In fact, he concluded not one but two alliances. His first ally was Euagoras, the king of Salamis on Cyprus, who had revolted against Persia. The second treaty was concluded in 389 with Athens, which possessed a large navy. The three allies controlled the eastern Mediterranean, and this made Egypt almost unvulnerable to a Persian attack. If king Artaxerxes wanted to recover his lost territory, he would have to send his army along the coast between Gaza and Pelusium, where the soldiers would be exposed to attacks from the sea. At the same time, the allies could strike everywhere along the Syrian and Phoenician coast. Egypt was a great power again.

Artaxerxes realized this, and decided that he had to conclude peace with Sparta and the other Greek towns, so that he could concentrate on a war against Egypt. In 386, the peace treaty was signed, and in 385 and 383, the Persian generals Pharnabazusand Tithraustes lead an army against Egypt. At the same time, the Persians suppressed the revolt of Euagoras. Their Egyptian expedition, however, was less successful. They were thrown back by Egyptian soldiers and Greek mercenaries, commanded by the Athenian general Chabrias. (In order to pay the mercenaries, Achoris ordered the first Egyptian coins to be minted.) Achoris was able to retaliate, and Egyptian soldiers and troops of Euagoras were briefly fighting in Phoenicia and Cilicia. To Egypt, this victory was the beginning of forty years of great prosperity.

Achoris was responsible for an ambitious building program. The results have come to light during excavations at (a.o.) Letopolis, Memphis, Saqarra, Medinet Habu, Karnak, and Elephantine.

Achoris was succeeded by his son Nepherites II, but after rule of only four months, he was killed by Nectanebo I, the first pharaoh of the thirtieth (and last) dynasty of independent Egypt.





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