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PELU´SIUM (Πηλούσιον, Ptol. 4.5.11, 8.15.11; Steph. B. sub voce Strab. xvii. p.802, seq.: Eth. Πηλουσιώτης, Eth. Πηλούσιος), was a city of Lower Aegypt, situated upon the easternmost bank of the Nile, the Ostium Pelusiacum, to which it gave its name. It was the SIN of the Hebrew Scriptures (Ezek. 30.15); and this word, as well as its Aegyptian appellation, Peremoun or Peromi, and its Greek (πήλος) import the city of the ooze or mud (omi, Coptic, mud), Pelusium lying between the seaboard and the Deltaic marshes, about two and a half miles from the sea. The Ostium Pelusiacum was choaked by sand as early as the first century B.C., [p. 2.573]and the coast-line has now advanced far beyond its ancient limits, so that the city, even in the third century A. D., was at least four miles from the: Mediterranean. The principal produce of the neighbouring lands was flax, and the linum Pelusiacum (Plin. Nat. 19.1. s. 3) was both abundant and of a very fine quality. It was, however, as a border-fortress on the frontier, as the key of Aegypt as regarded Syria and the sea, and as a place of great strength, that Pelusium was most remarkable. From its position it was directly exposed to attack by the invaders of Aegypt; several important battles were fought under its walls, and it was often besieged and taken. The following are the most memorable events in the history of Pelusium:
    1. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, B.C. 720--715, in the reign of Sethos the Aethiopian (25th dynasty) advanced from Palestine by the way of Libna and Lachish upon Pelusium, but retired without fighting from before its walls (Isaiah, 31.8; Hdt. 2.141 ; Strab. xiii. p.604). His retreat was ascribed to the favour of Hephaestos towards Sethos, his priest. In the night, while the Assyrians slept, a host of field-mice gnawed the bow-strings and shield-straps of the Assyrians, who fled, and many of them were slain in their flight by the Aegyptians. Herodotus saw in the temple of Hephaestos at Memphis, a record of this victory of the Aegyptians, viz. a statue of Sethos holding a mouse in his hand. The story probably rests on the fact that in the symbolism of Aegypt the mouse implied destruction. (Comp. Horapoll. Hieroglyph. 1.50; Aelian, H. An. 6.41.)
    2. The decisive battle which transferred the throne of the Pharaohs to Cambyses, king of the Medo-Persians, was fought near Pelusium in B.C. 525. The fields around were strewed with the bones of the combatants when Herodotus visited Lower Aegypt; and the skulls of the Aegyptians were distinguishable from those of the Persians by their superior hardness, a fact confirmed by the mummies, and which the historian ascribes to the Aegyptians shaving their heads from infancy, and to the Persians covering them up with folds of cloth or linen. (Hdt. 2.10, seq.) As Cambyses advanced at once to Memphis, Pelusium probably surrendered itself immediately after the battle. (Polyaen. Stratag. 7.9.)
    3. In B.C. 373, Pharnabazus, satrap of Phrygia, and Iphicrates, the commander of the Athenian armament, appeared before Pelusium, but retired without attacking it, Nectanebus, king of Aegypt, having added to its former defences by laying the neighboring lands under water, and blocking up the navigable channels of the Nile by embankments. (Diod. 15.42; Nepos, Iphicr. 100.5.)
    4. Pelusium was attacked and taken by the Persians, B.C. 309. The city contained at the time a garrison of 5000 Greek mercenaries under the command of Philophron. At first, owing to the rashness of the Thebans in the Persian service, the defendants had the advantage. But the Aegyptian king Nectanebus hastily venturing on a pitched battle, his troops were cut to pieces, and Pelusium surrendered to the Theban general Lacrates on honourable conditions. (Diod. 16.43.)
    5. In B.C. 333, Pelusium opened its gates to Alexander the Great, who placed a garrison in it under the command of one of those officers entitled “Companions of the King.” (Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3.1, seq.; Quint. Curt. 4.33.)
  • 6. In B.C. 173, Antiochus Epiphanes utterly defeated the troops of Ptolemy Philometor under the walls of Pelusium, which he took and retained after he had retired from the rest of Aegypt. (Polyb. Legat. § 82; Hieronym. in Daniel. xi.) On the fall of the Syrian kingdom, however, if not earlier, Pelusium had been restored to its rightful owners, since
  • 7. In B.C. 55, it belonged to Aegypt, and Marcus Antonius, as general of the horse to the Roman proconsul Gabinius, defeated the Aegyptian army, and made himself master of the city. Ptolemy Auletes, in whose behalf the Romans invaded Aegypt at this time, wished to put the Pelusians to the sword; but his intention was thwarted by Antonius. (Plut. Ant. 100.3; V. Max. 9.1.)
  • 8. In B.C. 31, immediately after his victory at Actium, Augustus appeared before Pelusium, and was admitted by its governor Seleucus within its walls.

Of the six military roads formed or adopted by the Romans in Aegypt, the following are mentioned in the Itinerarium of Antoninus as connected with Pelusium:--

  • 1. From Memphis to Pelusium. This road joined the great road from Pselcis in Nubia at Babylon, nearly opposite Memphis, and coincided with it as far as Scenae Veteranorum. The two roads, viz. that from Pselcis to Scenae Veteranorum, which turned off to the east at Heliopolis, and that from Memphis to Pelusium, connected the latter city with the capital of Lower Aegypt, Trajan's canal, and Arsinoe, or Suez, on the Sinus Heroopolites.
  • 2. From Acca to Alexandreia, ran along the Mediterranean sea from Raphia to Pelusium.

Pelusium suffered greatly from the Persian invasion of Aegypt in A.D. 501 (Eutychii, Annal.), but it offered a protracted, though, in the end, an ineffectual resistance to the arms of Amrou, the son of Asi, in A.D. 618. As on former occasions, the surrender of the key of the Delta, was nearly equivalent to the subjugation of Aegypt itself. The khalifs, however, neglected the harbours of their new conquest generally, and from this epoch Pelusium, which had been long on the decline, now almost disappears from history. Its ruins, which have no particular interest, are found at Tineh, near Damietta. (Champollion, l'Egypte, vol. ii. p. 82; Dénon, Descript. de l'Egypte, vol. i. p. 208, iii. p. 306.)



hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.42
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.43
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.10
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.141
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.1
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.5
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.1
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