Herodotus on Anysis

According to Herodotus, Anysis was a blind man from the city of Anysis (which may have been in the Delta area of Lower Egypt) who lost his kingdom to the Ethiopian (Nubian) king Sabachos (Shabaka). Anysis hid on an island of Elbo for fifty years while the Ethiopians ruled Egypt and then took his throne back. The Nubians allegedly left because Sabacos had a dream in which he killed a number of Egyptian priests. As he was a devout supporter of Amun, Sabacos chose to leave the country rather than risk his dream coming true.

Herodotus claims that Anysis was a good king, who did not believe in excessive punishment. If one of his subjects committed a crime he was made to work on the embankments (which protected the city from the rising waters of the Nile and formed irrigation channels) in an early form of community service.

It is generally proposed that Anysis was the Pharaoh Tefnakht, a Saite king of the twenty-fourth dynasty during the Third Intermediate Period. Lower Egypt at that time consisted of a disorganised bunch of city states ruled by local chieftains, one of whom was Tefnakht. He organised a coalition of the northern princes to repel the Nubian Piyi (whose Egyptian name was Piankhi and was actually the predecessor of Shabaka).

When Piyi marched north, Tefnakht hid in the marshes and attempted to broker a peace treaty. Piyi returned to Napata (in Nubia) and ruled from there, installing Tefnakht and three other princes as the governors of their territories, which they governed on behalf of the Nubians. Shabaka actually reunited Upper and Lower Egypt, after defeating the local kings, (including Tefnakht’s successor, Wahkare Bakenrenef of Sais, known to Manetho as Boccoris).

Nubian rule lasted sixty years. It ended when Tanutamun (a nephew of Shabaka) was driven from the country by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who shocked the ancient world by sacking the city of Thebes (in the 4th nome of Upper Egypt).

Herodotus: Pharaohs

Copyright J Hill 2010