2. King of Egypt, succeeded Apries, the last king of the line of Psammetichus, in B. C. 569.
He was of comparatively low origin (Herodotus, 2.172
, calls him δημότης
), and was born at Siuph, a town in the Saitic nome. When the Egyptians revolted against Apries, Amasis was sent to quell the insurrection, but went over to the side of the rebels, and was proclaimed king by them.
He defeated Apries in a battle near Momemphis, and took him prisoner.
He seemed disposed to treat his captive with great mildness, but was induced to deliver him up into the hands of the Egyptians, who put him to death.
It was probably to strengthen himself against a powerful party formed against him amongst the warrior-caste, that he cultivated the friendship of the Greeks.
He not only gave up to them the city of Naucratis, which had hitherto been their only mart, but opened all the mouths of the Nile to them, and allowed them to build temples to their own deities.
He contracted an alliance with the Greeks of Cyrene, and himself married Ladice, a Cyrenaic lady. (Hdt. 2.181
He removed the Ionians and Carians, who were settled on the Pelusiac mouth of the Nile, to Memphis, and formed them into a body-guard for himself. (2.154.)
He also entered into alliance with Croesus (1.77) and with Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos (3.39, 40), who is said to have introduced Pythagoras to him by letter. (D. L. 8.3
.) Amasis also sent presents to several of the Greek cities. (Hdt. 2.182
.) Solon in the course of his travels visited him. (1.30; Plut. Sol. 26
; Plat. Timaeus,
It would appear from Xenophon (Xen. Cyrop. 8.6.20
) that, after the overthrow of Croesus by Cyrus, Amasis was compelled to pay tribute.
He strove to win the favour of the priest-caste by building them temples. During the reign of Amasis agriculture, commerce, and the arts flourished greatly.
The extension of Egyptian commerce was much favoured by the conquest of Cyprus, which he made tributary. His reign was one of almost uninterrupted peace and prosperity, which gave him leisure for adorning Egypt with several magnificent buildings and works of art. (2.175, 176.)
The plans of conquest which Cyrus had been unable to carry into effect, were followed out by Cambyses, who in B. C. 525 led an army against Egypt.
According to the story told by Herodotus (3.1
), Cambyses had been incensed by a deception practised upon him by Amasis, who, pretending to comply with a demand of the Persian king, that he should send him his daughter to adorn his harem, substituted the daughter of Apries for his own. Amasis however did not live to see the fall of his country.
He died before Cambyses reached the borders, after a reign of 44 years, and was buried at Sais in the tomb which he had constructed in the temple of Athena. (3.10, 2.169.) His corpse was afterwards taken out of the tomb and shamefully insulted by the order of Cambyses. (3.16.)
As a governor he exhibited great abilities, and was the author of several useful regulations (2.177), but he appears to have indulged in more familiarity towards those about him than was altogether consistent with his kingly dignity. (Hdt. 2.161
; Diod. 1.68