Travel Impressions XII. The end.

After the military failure of Darius at Egypt, Greece and Scythia, his successor Xerxes proposed himself ending the streak, starting for reconquering Egypt,  imposing to this country right away, a substantial tax increase, yet insignificant, given the economic moment that Egypt was going through,  thanks to the Suez Channel. Then he employed himself  in quelling the revolt of Babylon, which was unhappy with the limited commercial significance, at  which had been called since Darius ended  the channel , but he was not conform simply with a punishment, so flattened the city in such way that it never again would be what it was and to make sure it would be in that way, he ordered to deport the effigy of the god Marduk to Susa. Trade routes, those linking contacts the Ionian  with the coast of India, would had broken after the destruction of the Great City, so the Phoenician cities took over the Babylonian commercial network, because they had lost much of its fleet after military disasters of Darius and unable to compete with the clear naval hegemony of the Greeks , they were pushed to continental trade.

Although the extravagant alliance of Sparta and Athens was initially defeated in the famous battle of Thermopylae, (that of the film of “Meet the Spartans “), this conflict was but a buffer designed to curb the violence of the first blow, actually the population of Athens had been evacuated to the islands, remaining in the city only a handful of soldiers to be a real pain in the neck(*) in order to hinder the looting, developing a deliberate strategy of attrition, only way to deal with the huge army of several hundred thousand men that Xerxes, according to Persian custom, had mobilized; an effective plan that led to the invaders to Salamina naval disaster and the subsequent defeat of Plataea, the Athenian army comparatively negligible even got to snatch the Jonica coast to the Persians.
After that, Xerxes lost interest in Greece, apparently yearning  the pleasures of the palace, to which is devoted with fruition until he was assassinated by his deputy, Artabanus, who handed over his command to Artaxerxes, one son of Xerxes.

Giving up  to military deployments, Artaxerxes chose  intrigue and diplomacy, so that, throughout to his reign  funded successively to Spartans against Athenians first and then vice versa, a game that the Greeks knew well and that however could not avoid.
Egypt had revolted again at early reign of Artaxerxes, but Persians remained embroiled in conflicts with the Greeks and at that time have not capability to do anything else, part of the problem was that the Persian army itself,  did not have to worry about just  the border security, besides it found the need to face internal rebellions, the satrapies regime had led to the monarchy to authorize the military autonomy of the satraps, which gradually became more independent, thus assuming many of them the title of king of his territory, a symptom of feudalisation of the monarchy since then, much less absolute.

The Egyptian revolt was a singular event because it was only possible thanks to the Athenian fleet and had nothing to do with the  anonymous rebellion occurred during the reign of Darius, this had names; Inhor, who apparently was serving as governor of Delta, seconded by Amyrtaeus of Sais, a descendant of the Saite dynasty, they both seized control of Egypt, achieving reject the Persian troops in Papremis, whose remains were able to entrench themselves in Memphis, although the city was taken by the Greco-Egyptian army combined, The Citadel of this city continued in Persian hands. At the moment seemed to have been achieved the goal, but soon, practically all of the Athenian fleet had to leave Egypt, urgently required in its own city, which was being besieged by a coalition of Aegina, Boeotian and Sparta led by Corinth, leaving only six thousand Athenians to support Inhor, figure quite inadequate to cope with the exorbitant amounts of soldiers that in occasions like this, used to mobilize the Persians. When Artejerjes came again to  Egypt, Greeks had no choice but to burn their own ships to prevent them falling into enemy hands after the inevitable defeat, after which Inhor wounded would be sent to Susa, where he was eventually executed, not well Amyrtaeus who could resist, maintaining much of the Delta, waiting for Athens would be willing to help again, but a peace accord of historic importance that marked the end of the “median wars“, prevented  Athens support to Egypt, despite which the eastern Delta remained independent. The Peace of Cimon, as became known, the agreement between Greeks and Persians, meant abandoning the dream for the Persian monarchy of the “universal empire” of Cyrus and for the Athens of Pericles and the future society, the triumph of  “democratic” party .

Artaxerxes, interested in avoiding future riots and following the  Achaemenian custom, reinstated to Tanniras, a son of Inhor, and to Pausiris, son of Amyrtaeus in the domains of his fathers and probably also tolerated that such a Psamtik, another son of Amyrtaeus perhaps, would remain independent, from him we know that sent him forty thousand measures of wheat to Athens, on one occasion when the city went through a time of need. Apparently the Upper and Middle Egypt remained in the hands of the Persians, in fact,  what has happened since the conquest, we know thanks to Greek and Latin sources, rather confusing and often contradictories, because almost nothing of this time has been recorded, apart from the brief inscriptions on some effigy or sarcophagus, which might escape from the Persian reprisals .

At the death of ArtaXerxes I,  succeeded him Xerxes II , who came to reign month and a half or so, until he was murdered by his brother Sogdianus, who enjoyed the power just six months or so, since Oco, satrap of Hyrcania took up arms against him, defeating him. Dario II, as it was called, on  international issues, recognized the independence of Egypt and continued the policy of Artaxerxes, financing and promoting rivalries between the Greek cities, in fact  Sparta signed an agreement with Susa by which it undertook to deliver all cities of Ionia in exchange for funding to defeat Athens, a miserable rematch of the oligarchic party, which led to the infamous Peloponneso Wars.
On the death of Darius II Oco, his son Arsaces, aka Artaxerxes II was played  the throne with his younger brother Cyrus the Younger, who was supported by Sparta with ten thousand mercenaries, but the Greeks could not get before Cyrus succumbed and had to flee in disarray, the Spartan leader of the expedition ended in the hands of Amyrtaeus, who decided to execute him without meditate too. Amyrtaeus with the support of Sparta, now a foe of the “Great King” because the matter of the ten thousand, would regain Fenicia, but died in the attempt, depending on what version. Manetho says Amyrtaeus founded the XXVIII  Egyptian dynasty, others say no, since  Nepherites, who moved the capital to Mendes, was not his relative and was not even from Sais.  So Nepherites  began the XXIX dynasty that came to reign less than a decade, so while on the other side of the Mediterranean, Athens  was being remade in front of Sparta, with the support of Persian financial machine, in Egypt, the brief and almost unknown Muthis and Psammutis that  just ruled a few months each, were followed by Hakor, who resumed relations with Athens, sending large quantities of wheat as a gift, because at that time was been threatened  by the Sparta, who to vary, had promised to Persians, delivering the Cyprus island in return of that the persians stopped funding to the Athenians, fact which directly affected Egyptian interests for who this island was of neuralgic interest , so Hakor strove to keep Egyptian hegemony on the island and also sponsored riots in Caria and Ionia, which  for a while, kept to Persians occupied.

In reality the struggle between the Greeks, was essentially a clash of economic background (what a weird, isn’t it?), Athens was using commercial techniques certainly imperialists, that drowned the commerce of other Greek cities, like Corinth,  moreover Sparta and Boeotia ,  represented the last remnants of oligarchic and aristocratic party, facing the enormous power they had acquired democracies,in fact, at those moments, the owls from Athenian coins made disappear the daric from the Mediterranean.

But the war activities of the Persians, were never driven by economic interests, since from the very beginning of the Achaemenid Empire, its rulers have always been nauseatingly rich because of its tax system, which taxed land and not the wealth of one country, namely the Persian economic system, that fed from taxes like all empires, imposed their rates based on estimated production from the amount of arable land, and this explains the interest of Cyrus, after the conquest of Lydia, to take over the vast steppes of the north and east, before venturing to the West. What really moved the Achaemenid dynasty was a pure desire for domination, the desired universal empire by Cyrus, an absurd chimera in which some powerful people are still  stubborn stupidly, which in that moment of enormous cultural expansion, led humanity to a vortex of violence, in which  is burnt the energies that should be used for anything else.
In Egypt also  did not lack internal struggles, the monarchy relying on trade relations with foreign and supporting itself on the citizenship , on arrival of the Persians,  bumped with a wall, whenever  tried an approach to the clergy, its traditional enemy since the reforms of Saite kings. There was even a moderate recovery of the discredited god Amun, and most of the kings  built at Karnak and Luxor again, with the dual purpose of catering to the clergy perhaps, while affirming its sovereignty. The negligible shape of divine wife disappears from the cult of Amun and the clergy  developed a new theology as from the Memphite, by substitution,  Amun-Ra instead of  Atum-Ptah and Amun-Min instead of Ptah-Osiris. In reality the priestly class was too far from the popular sentiment, and everybody ignored the official religious system, each one followed his particular god indeed, although it appears the fact that the devotee does not mention the name of the god yet, when he directed to the deity  refers to him as “god”, “my god” which it seems to hide a monotheistic conception,  to which always tended Egyptian religion. From the Saite dynasty, an old concept as the eternal conflict between Horus or Osiris, in the role of goodness, and  Seth in the role of evil, is now represented by the struggle of the gods (Seth included) against the demons, it is a symptom of the influence of theologies outside the Egyptian tradition, in fact by then, were accumulated throughout Egypt, temples dedicated exclusively to foreign deities in an atmosphere of tolerance and syncretism widespread, despite which, the Jewish temple of Yahweh at Elephantine was destroyed after a popular revolt led by the clergy, since the Jews were absolutely refractory to certain aspects of  the Persian religion or the Greek or Egyptian, primarily in relation to the afterlife, which the Jews refused, though in all probability the last reason was a conflict of economic nature between the Hebrew and Egyptian which have not reached us.

Hakor was succeeded by Nepherites II,  but was overthrown after four months of reign by the governor of Sebennytos, Nectanebo, with the support of the clergy of Sais, but may even would reign in life of Hakor, founding Dynasty XXX. The clergy of Sais was largely rewarded with ten percent of customs duties and other substantial perks, at the expense of citizens, of course. Nectanebo also made generous donations to temples, restored and built everywhere, but failed to get the support of the clergy, who only wanted the return of its privileges, which Nectanebo did not want to give or  was not in his hands to grant. Meanwhile, Arsaces tried again invade Egypt with an army of hundred thousand troops, but committed a major miscalculation to do it during the flood,  so was forced to withdraw. Various authorities Persians rebelled against the king due to the outrageous fiasco in Egypt: the satrap of Phrygia, Ariobarzanes, the Chief of the troops in Asia Minor Autophradates, and Dadamis who founded a kingdom on the shores of the Euxine. At that time and taking advantage of the situation, Athens, allied to Thebes,  its old enemy, defeated to  Sparta, who might not get help from the Persians, because they were engrossed in their own internal conflicts, however Athens, exhausted, might no longer finance a long war, so that it reached an agreement with the king of Sparta, who was ruined, and was selling his services as mercenary to the highest bidder.
The Peace of Callias and internal conflicts in Persia, brought respite to the Greek world. The new situation should have allowed to Nectanebo remake the country, but had to leave power in the hands of his son Teos, in front of the absence of support from citizens, who felt betrayed and  the priesthood, always unsatisfied. Immediately after ascending the throne, Teos resumed relations with the Greeks, preparing to recruit a sufficient army, for which launched a serie of administrative mechanisms desperated, which brought him no sympathy from no social sector: increased taxes exorbitantly, and expropriated the priests of the privileges purchased and plus, all the Egyptians were “invited” to donate their jewelry to the state and military service was reactivated, the idea was win or die, Teos was willing to sacrifice all for all, so with the eighty thousand soldiers and two hundred and fifty triremes which he could gather, he wanted to reconquer Syria and initially did well, until in Egypt, drawing the absence of the army, the clergy led an insurrection at which joined the governor of the country during the campaign, the own brother of Teos, who ordered get back to his dutiful son Nectanebo, dragging with him to Spartan mercenaries, whom the other hand, did not like fight alongside the Athenians, which in view circumstances chose to return to Athens. Teos, abandoned by all, surrendered to the Persians.

Meanwhile in Persia, Artaxerxes III , came to power amid a series of intrigues, assassinations and even suicides so in order to not distune ordered the execution of all his brothers. He failed in a first attempt to reconquer Egypt, being  claimed urgently his army in Asia Minor, to quell a rebellion motivated by a recent edict which obliged to Satraps get rid of their Greek mercenaries, an order enacted with the clear intention of disarming the satraps, to restore the imperial authority, whose credibility was undermined  because of the excesses of the own Achaemenid monarchs , who have passed into history with a reputation of sybarites, heartless and inveterate vicious .
The priesthood got what they wanted from the nephew of Teos, Nectanebo II, they regained their privileges and also obtained an important part of the taxes, provisionally increased  by his uncle about the Syrian campaign, and definitively established under avarice of the priests, who prepended their own interests of class to the country´s needs, so obviously the popular classes, the only ones who pay taxes rebelled, but the Spartans of Agesilaus crushed the revolt. Nectanebo obviously lost the support from the cities and was forced to recruit more mercenaries to replace the troops that the cities denied him, with a consequent increase in costs that forced him to sacrifice the fleet, his real unique force indeed. To say the truth when Artejerjes was presented at Pelusio, commanded the usual army of hundreds of thousands of warriors, the king was betrayed by senior management, by his generals and by the Spartans, so he went to retreat to Memphis before fleeing further south, disappearing into Nubia finally.

Egypt stayed broken, socially divided, under of the outrage about citizens subjected to heavy tax burdens for the greater glory of the priestly caste, rich and landowners. Artaxerxes, certainly, got what would had wanted Nectanebo, although his methods were very unorthodox: submitted to all kinds of mistreatment of civilians, razing villages and towns, ravaged the churches, monuments and even dared to take the gods themselves out from the sancta sanctorum, deporting them to Susa, with what generated a feeling of hatred which served to arouse extemporaneous national sentiments, against invaders, pity it was too late. Despite the Persian occupation,  a king, Khabbash, was raised and starred for two years the dreams of a sector of the population who yearned for independence, but the scorched earth policy and the continuous pillage which developed both Artaxerxes III , and Darius III, his successor after the habitual dynastic conflict,  did not allowed no attempt of social unit.

But in the zenith of splendor, the Persian Empire was falling apart, was not able to find the formula that would balance the interests of the maritime world of Mediterranean and continental Asia, the societies of the coastal satrapies moved with a rythm of rapid and profound changes to adapt themselves to the economic and social circumstances that generate the law of offer and demand, a situation that differed from the others and especially of immobile agricultural and livestock continental satrapies from East, the real economic stronghold of the Persian rulers, the result was a divergence of interests that the monarchy, ever more distant and maniac, was not able to cope.
Greece in this moment, was exploding of creativity, bringing its influence to all parts of the Mediterranean, philosophy, science, art, all produced from raw materials, which were the loans taken from the main sources of environment, Egypt and Mesopotamia overall, materials which once filtered through the lens of Greek rationalism, reworked and stripped of hodgepodge, ornaments and mystic wrapper , allowed the ancient science and thought joining in the modern world. However the Greek world was a pure conflict after another, subjected to internal tensions, it was costing to achieve the required balance to project itself into the future. Philip of Macedon taking advantage of the disunion reigning easily took the control of the reluctant cities, including Athens, city that  accused a deep wear at the end of  mede wars , although  the fate of monarchy macedonica almost was break, when Philip was assassinated in Pella.

His son Alexander, succeeded him after eliminated nearly all his relatives rivals, then fell over the Greek cities which had rebelled after the death of his father and immediately launched himself to conquer the world, drawing the internal division of the Persian satraps; seizing with amazing rapidity Asia Minor and the Phoenician coastal cities, except Tyre that suffered due to its resisting, the choleric nature of the Macedonian, as well as Gaza that also resisted. At this point, Alexander chose to continue his adventure in Egypt instead of going directly to Susa.
It appears that Alexander was really of short stature, like some other unfortunate human specimens, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and so on, megalomaniac and bipolar, so that was incredibly cruel to who opposed him, but always liked to show magnanimity and condescending with those who were submitted to his will spontaneously. Alexander would be received in Egypt as could be Ciro in Babylon, hailed as a liberator,  even at no time was considered a foreigner by the Egyptian ruling class, had no difficulty to make named himself Pharaoh, visited the temple of Siwa where he was named  the son of Amun and decided to establish the capital at Memphis, though put all his interest in Pharos, the traditional meeting point of ancient Egypt to the Mediterranean world, where he founded Alexandria, which quickly became the largest city in the world and irradiation point of Hellenism as would be the administrative capital of the Ptolemies and the largest commercial center of the Mediterranean until the Rome of Cato.

The Culture strictly Egyptian since the Ptolemies, entered into a deep decline, from which  will not go back to revival, will disappear drowned in the whirlpool of Hellenism, because unlike Alexander, the Ptolemies were not at all desired by the population, since for them Egypt was only a colony, a place of exploiting and pleasure, despite what the state propaganda ordered enroll in temples and statues,  Ptolemies were Greek and as such were perceived  by the people. The Egyptian authorities and institutions were overlapped with an administrative apparatus managed exclusively by Greeks, indeed Egypt generally passed into the background, overshadowed by the glow of the lighthouse of Alexandria, a city that was predominantly Greek. The Ptolemies tried to appear as the legitimate successors of the pharaohs and in certain respects acted as such, principally in infrastructure and restoration and also even developed a kind of syncretism around Serapis, that was a god of new-style, a mixture of Osiris and Apis, because Amun, the god chosen by Alexander was a god very unpopular, but the manners and ways at the  Palace were foreigners. Ptolemy I Soter, commissioned to Manetho to compose a History of Egypt, fact which might seem that he had some interest in the country´s history, but  only reflected the encyclopedist eagerness of Hellenism, crystallized in the Library of Alexandria which he founded and grew until get nearly a million volumes, spanning all areas of knowledge. Although it is unclear where ended up all those books, from whose disappearance, the Caliph Omar is often blamed , since it seems that ordered the burning of thousands of books, however Aureliano long ago, had already razed the city and probably destroyed the library,  habit that after will continue with Diocletian and Theodosius the Great, even the Christians since Constantine seems to did not show much appreciation for “pagan things”, so probably Omar  just was the last one.

Herodotus has left us his impressions and anecdotes about Egypt, so subjectives, who had visited it during the Persian domination probably, thanks to him we know that ancient Egyptians not hailed with the voice, when meeting someone else in the street, but  putting their hands down to the knees, a fact no less interesting by inconsequential. To Manetho, a priest of Ra, we know him only through Greek and Latin authors, because all his original work has been lost. The Papyrus Insinguer contains a collection of maxims that reflected the way of understanding life in Egypt in the time of the last dynasties, which was none other than that of the petty bourgeois citizen at the time, so similar to that of so many people today.
There were riots, of course, Hugronaphor seized Thebes and remained independent for a couple of years at the times of Ptolemy IV , as Lycopolis as well. Full of palace intrigues, the dynasty of the Ptolemies lasted until the early years of the current era, but converted into a toy of Rome, until  that the center of commerce in the Mediterranean was moved from Alexandria to Rhodes, recently annexed by Rome, in these times, the wars between this city and Carthage, monopolized all the prominence in the area. Egypt was pushed, with the exception of Alexandria, to the closed economy and ostracism until it finally became a Roman province.
Egypt’s history obviously does not end here, although it does not enjoy good health,  still exists a country called Egypt but fortunately or unfortunately has nothing to do with the ancient KMT, however  one thing seems to be unchanged, the ancient Greeks said  that the tipical Egyptian was basically a businessman.

Unfortunately to the generation of those who now are around forty, they were taught that the pharaohs were just oppressors and that the ancient Egyptian culture was wrong, apparently nobody told them correctly from the efforts toward social justice of Sheseskaf or Amenhotep IV, Bocchoris, Psamtik and Amasis, overall was silenced the fact that the ancient Egyptian culture provided levels undreamed of wealth to a great part of the population, never seen from the Arab domination. Under this learned contempt to the past can still see some pride, a feeling somewhat artificial, recently rescued,  about two hundred years ago, from the secular deliberate oblivion imposed  by the Islam, after the discrediting of the Copts, indeed despite of  in a first sight, the Egyptians seem Arabs, they like to think of themselves that are first of all, Egyptians, that they still remain being it, and that they are identified with the Saudis makes them the same pleasure  as an Englishman to be mistaken for a Frenchman. In any case, the voluptuous massive parties and the ancient Osirian rituals have been replaced by the strict Islamic practices, like the Europeans slaughtered the orgiastic Bacchanalia by the pathos of the Easter,   no longer are built impressive hypostyle galleries, as no longer cathedrals are built, but the imams, the current clergy, routinely tramples human rights with the same frivolity that bankers, the priesthood of the new Western religion, while both ones as others, managed and stir up the masses, ones against others, in such way that, in this sense, it not seems that anything has changed much, anywhere.

(*)    …”a handful of soldiers to be a real pain in the neck” is a poor translate for the Spanish said “moscas cojoneras”.  It is so difficult to explain what it means ” moscas cojoneras”, maybe it can make refference to those flies that oblige the donkeys to be constantly moving  their tails or maybe  it concerns of those flies that are so annoying  that make we end pissed off.

Advertisements