Herodotus on Amasis (Ahmose II Khenemibre)

Herodotus claims that the Egyptians did not warm to Amasis (Ahmose II Khenemibre) because he was not of noble birth, but he proved to be a wise king and they grew to love him. The pharaoh had a golden foot-bowl (which was used regularly by his guests) melted down and made into an image of the god. He placed it in the public streets and people stopped to worship and revere the god as they passed. He then told his subjects that the statue they had been praising was made from the foot-bowl that they had all used. Thus, a common object had become an object to inspire reverence, just as he had been a common man but was now the true pharaoh.

Amasis is described as a fun-loving man who loved to drink. His friends admonished him for his frivolous behaviour and he explained that it was not good to always be solemn and earnest or “he will go mad or be struck with a stupor”. When he was younger, he had stolen goods to pay for his fun. However, when taken before an oracle he was almost always cleared of all wrongdoing. When he became pharaoh, he refused to support any of the temples whose oracles had cleared him of any crime despite his obvious guilt. Herodotus records that he built a temple to Athene in Sais and Isis in Memphis, expanded the temple of Hephaistos (Ptah) and made offerings to Hera.

According to Herodotus, Amasis established a rule that once a year every man had to confirm the source of his livelihood. Failure to confirm an honest income was punishable by death! He also strengthened the relationship between the Egyptians and the Greeks by giving the city of Naucratis to Greek subjects living in Egypt, so that they could establish their own temples and altars there. Apparently, he also gave the people of Delphi twenty pounds of silver to help them rebuild the temple of Apollo, and married a Greek woman (possibly the daughter of Battos, Arkesilaos or Critobulos) named Ladike.

Herodotus claims that the pharaoh was unable to have intercourse with Ladike, despite having a healthy sex life with his other wives. She prayed to Aphrodite to help her, as she feared his wrath if the situation continued. When the goddess enabled their union, Ladike dedicated a statue to her in Cyrene which stands with its face looking away from the city. It is also claimed that when the Persian Cambyses invaded Egypt, he sent her home to Cyrene unharmed.

Herodotus: Pharaohs

Copyright J Hill 2010