2. Son of Psammetichus, whom he succeeded on the throne of Egypt in B. C. 617. His reign was marked by considerable energy and enterprise, both in following up the career of conquest towards the north-east, for which his father had opened the way by the capture of Azotus, and also (as connected with this) in the formation of a navy, and the prosecution of maritime discovery.
It was probably with a view to war at once, and to commerce, that he began to dig the canal intended to connect the Nile with the Arabian Gulf.
He desisted, however, from the work, according to Herodotus, on being warned by an oracle, that he was constructing it only for the use of the barbarian invader.
But the greatest and most interesting enterprise with which his name is connected, is the circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians, in his service, and acting under his directions, who set sail from the Arabian Gulf, and accomplishing the voyage in somewhat more than two years, entered the Mediterranean, and returned to Egypt through the Straits of Gibraltar. His military expeditions were distinguished at first by brilliant success, which was followed, however, by the most rapid and signal reverses. On his march against the Babylonians and Medes, whose joint forces had recently destroyed Nineveh, he was met at Megiddo, in the tribe of Manasseh, by Josiah, king of Judah, who was a vassal of Babylon.
In the battle which ensued, Josiah was defeated and mortally wounded, and Necho advanced to the Euphrates, where he conquered the Babylonians and took Carchemish or Circesium, where he appears to have established a garrison. Herodotus tells us that, after the battle at Megiddo, he took the town of Cadytis, which, therefore, it has been argued, can hardly be identified with Jerusalem, according to the usual opinion, since that place lay far out of the line of his progress (See Ewing in the Classical Museum,
vol. ii. p. 93, &c.)
But the objection vanishes if we suppose it to have been taken by one of his generals immediately after the battle with Josiah, or afterwards by himself on his triumphant return homeward from the Euphrates, when we know that he deposed Jehoahaz and placed Eliakim (Jehoiakim) on the throne of Judah, as the tributary vassal of Egypt, B. C. 610.
In the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, B. C. 606, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Carchemish, defeated Necho, who had marched thither to meet him, and, advancing onward with uninterrupted success, reduced to subjection all the country between "the river of Egypt" and the Euphrates.
He would appear also to have invaded Egypt itself. From this period certainly Necho made no effort to recover what he had lost, if we except a preparation for war with Babylon (B. C. 603, the third year of Jehoiachim), which was soon abandoned in fear. In B. C. 601, Necho died after a reign of sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Psammis or Psammuthis (Hdt. 2.158
; Larch. ad ll. cc.; Diod. 1.33
; Wess. ad loc.; Strab. i. p.56
, xvii. p. 804; Plin. Nat. 6.29
; J. AJ 10.5
Kings 23.29, &c., 24.7; 2 Chron. 35.20, &c., 36.1-4 ; Jerem. xlvi.; comp. Heeren, African Nations,
vol. ii. pp. 374, 389, &c.; Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte,
vol. iii. p. 141, &c.)