2. A son of Cyrus the Great, by Amytis according to Ctesias, by Cassandane according to Herodotus, who sets aside as a fiction the Egyptian story of his having had Nitetis, the daughter of Apries, for his mother.
This same Nitetis appears in another version of the tale, which is not very consistent with chronology, as the concubine of Cambyses; and it is said that the detection of the fraud of Amasis in substituting her for his own daughter, whom Cambyses had demanded for his seraglio, was the cause of the invasion of Egypt by the latter in the fifth year of his reign, B. C. 525.
There is, however, no occasion to look for any other motive than the same ambition which would have led Cyrus to the enterprise, had his life been spared, besides that Egypt, having been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, seems to have formed a portion of the Babylonian empire. (See Jerem. xliii. xlvi.; Ezek. xxix.--xxxii.; Newton, On the Prophecies,
vol. i. p. 357, &c.; comp. Hdt. 1.77
In his invasion of the country, Cambyses is said by Herodotus to have been aided by Phanes, a Greek of Halicarnassus, who had fled from the service of Amasis; and, by his advice, the Persian king obtained the assistance of an Arabian chieftain, and thus secured a safe passage through the desert, and a supply of water for his army.
Before the invading force reached Egypt, Amasis died and was succeeded by his son, who is called Psammenitus by Herodotus, and Amyrtaeus by Ctesias.
According to Ctesias, the conquest of Egypt was mainly effected through the treachery of Combapheus, one of the favourite eunuchs of the Egyptian king, who put Cambyses in possession of the passes on condition of being made viceroy of the country. But Herodotus makes no mention either of this intrigue, or of the singular stratagem by which Polyaenus says (7.9), that Pelusium was taken almost without resistance.
He tells us, however, that a single battle, in which the Persians were victorious, decided the fate of Egypt; and, though some of the conquered held out for a while in Memphis, they were finally obliged to capitulate, and the whole nation submitted to Cambyses.
He received also the voluntary submission of the Greek cities, Cyrene and Barca [see p. 477b.], and of the neighbouring Libyan tribes, and projected fresh expeditions against the Aethiopians, who were called the "long-lived," and also against Carthage and the Ammonians. Having set out on his march to Aethiopia, he was compelled by want of provisions to return; the army which he sent against the Ammonians perished in the sands; and the attack on Carthage fell to the ground in consequence of the refusal of the Phoenicians to act against their colony. Yet their very refusal serves to shew what is indeed of itself sufficiently obvious, how important the expedition would have been in a commercial point of view, while that against the Ammonians, had it succeeded, would probably have opened to the Persians the caravan-trade of the desert. (Hdt. 2.1
; Ctes. Pers.
9 ; Just. 1.9
; comp. Heeren's African Nations,
vol. i. ch. 6.)
Cambyses appears to have ruled Egypt with a stern and strong hand; and to him perhaps we may best refer the prediction of Isaiah: "The Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord" (Is. 19.4; see Vitringa, ad loc.
); and it is possible that his tyranny to the conquered, together with the insults offered by him to their national religion, may have caused some exaggeration in the accounts of his madness, which, in fact, the Egyptians ascribed to his impiety.
But, allowing for some over-statement, it does appear that he had been subject from his birth to epileptic fits (Hdt. 3.33
); and, in addition to the physical tendency to insanity thus created, the habits of despotism would seem to have fostered in him a capricious self-will and a violence of temper bordering upon frenzy.
He had long set the laws of Persia at defiance by marrying his sisters, one of whom he is said to have murdered in a fit of passion because she lamented her brother Smerdis, whom he had caused to be slain. Of the death of this prince, and of the events that followed upon it, different accounts are given by Herodotus and Ctesias.
The former relates that Cambyses, alarmed by a dream which seemed to portend his brother's greatness, sent a confidential minister named Prexaspes to Susa with orders to put him to death.
Afterwards, a Magian, who bore the same name as the deceased prince and greatly resembled him in appearance, took advantage of these circumstances to personate him and set up a claim to the throne [SMERDIS], and Cambyses, while marching through Syria against this pretender, died at a place named Ecbatana of an accidental wound in the thigh, B. C. 521.
According to Ctesias, the name of the king's murdered brother was Tanyoxarces, and a Magian named Sphendadates accused him to the king of an intention to revolt.
After his death by poison, Cambyses, to conceal it from his mother Amytis, made Sphendadates personate him.
The fraud succeeded at first, from the wonderful likeness between the Magian and the murdered prince; at length, however, Amytis discovered it, and died of poison, which she had voluntarily taken, imprecating curses on Cambyses.
The king died at Babylon of an accidental wound in the thigh, and Sphendadates continued to support the character of Tanyoxarces, and maintained himself for some time on the throne. (Hdt. 3.27
; Ctes. Pers.
10-12; Diod. Exc. de Virt. et Vit.
p. 556, ed. Wess.; Strab. x. p.473
, xvii. pp. 805, 816; Just. 1.9
.) Herodotus says (3.89), that the Persians always spoke of Cambyses by the name of δεσπότης
, in remembrance of his tyranny.