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An early monarch of the line of the Achaemenides, the successor of Teïspes, who was himself the successor of Achaemenes. He must not be confounded with Cambyses the son of Cyrus, who was, in fact, the second of the name in the line of Persian kings (Herod.vii. 11).


A Persian of good family, to whom Astyages, king of Media, gave his daughter Mandané in marriage. The issue of this union was Cyrus the Great (Herod.i. 46, 107).


The son and successor of Cyrus the Great, ascended the throne of Persia B.C. 530. Soon after the commencement of his reign, he undertook the conquest of Egypt, being incited to the step, according to the Persian account as given in Herodotus (iii. 1), by the conduct of Amasis, the king of that country. Cambyses, it seems, had demanded in marriage the daughter of Amasis; but the latter, knowing that the Persian monarch intended to make her, not his wife, but his concubine, endeavoured to deceive him by sending in her stead the daughter of his predecessor Apries. The historian gives another account; but it is more than probable that both are untrue, and that ambitious feelings alone on the part of Cambyses prompted him to the enterprise. Amasis died before Cambyses marched against Egypt, and his son Psammenitus succeeded to the throne. A bloody battle was fought near the Pelusiac mouth of the Nile, and the Egyptians were put to flight, after which Cambyses made himself master of the whole country, and received tokens of submission also from the Cyrenaeans and the people of Barca. The kingdom of Egypt was thus conquered by him in six months. See Aegyptus.

Cambyses now formed new projects. He wished to send a squadron and subjugate Carthage, to conquer Aethiopia, and to make himself master of the famous temple of Zeus Ammon. The first of these expeditions, however, did not take place, because the Phœnicians, who composed his naval force, would not attack one of their own colonies. The army that was sent against the Ammonians perished in the desert, and the troops at whose head he himself had set out against the Aethiopians were compelled by hunger to retreat. How far he advanced into Aethiopia can not be ascertained from anything that Herodotus says. Diodorus Siculus, however (i. 33), makes Cambyses to have penetrated as far as the spot where Meroë stood, which city, according to this same writer, he founded. (See Meroë.) After his return from Aethiopia, the Persian king gave himself up to the greatest acts of outrage and cruelty. On entering Memphis he found the inhabitants engaged in celebrating the festival of the reappearance of Apis, and, imagining that these rejoicings were made on account of his ill success, he caused the sacred bull to be brought before him, stabbed him with his dagger, of which wound the animal afterwards died. He also ordered the priests to be scourged.

Cambyses is said to have been subject to epilepsy from his earliest years; and the habit of drinking, in which he now indulged to excess, rendered him at times completely furious. No relation was held sacred by him when intoxicated. Having dreamed that his brother Smerdis was seated on the royal throne, he sent one of his principal confidants to Persia, with orders to put him to death, a mandate which was actually accomplished. His sister and wife Atossa, who lamented the death of Smerdis, he kicked so severely as to bring on an abortion. These and many other actions, alike indicative of almost complete insanity, aroused against him the feelings of his subjects. A member of the order called the Magi availed himself of this discontent, and, aided by the strong resemblance which he bore to the murdered Smerdis, as well as by the exertions of a brother who was also a Magian, seized upon the throne of Persia, and sent heralds in every direction, commanding all to obey, for the time to come, Smerdis, son of Cyrus, and not Cambyses. The news of this usurpation reached Cambyses at a place in Syria called Ecbatana, where he was at that time with his army. Resolving to return with all speed to Susa, the monarch was in the act of mounting his horse, when his sword fell from its sheath and inflicted a mortal wound in his thigh. An oracle, it is said, had been given him from Butus that he would end his life at Ecbatana, but he had always thought that the Median Ecbatana was meant by it. He died of his wound soon after, B.C. 522, leaving no children. Ctesias gives a different account. He makes Cambyses to have died at Babylon of a wound he had given himself on the femoral muscle, while shaving smooth a piece of wood with a small knife. According to Herodotus (iii. 66), Cambyses reigned seven years and five months. See Persia.

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