The Late Period is considered by many to be the last gasp of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. It begins during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (which partially overlaps with the Third Intermediate Period) and runs until the victory of Alexander the Great pushed the Persians out of Egypt. During this period there were times when native Egyptians ruled over the two lands, but there were also significant periods of foreign rule.
Following their defeat of the Nubian king Tanutamani, the Assyrians withdrew from Egypt leaving the country in the control of the Saite dynasty (Dynasty Twenty-Six). At first, these rulers were little more than Assyrian vassals but Psamtik I reasserted power over southern Egypt, and soon the Saite dynasty grew in power becoming more like an ally than a subject nation.
The Saite kings revered the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom and emulated their forms in art and architecture. The Saite period was in turn regarded by many as the last truly Egyptian period. However, the Saite rulers increasingly relied on foreign mercenaries to prop up the Egyptian army and the Greeks were allowed to establish a trading settlement within Egyptian territory at Naukratis.
After the fall of Assyria the Babylonians invaded Egypt. After a short civil war, an alliance was agreed against the other major player, the Persians. However, the allies were unable to contain the aggressive expansion of the Persians and both Babylon and Egypt were conquered. For the first time in over two and a half thousand years Egypt was no longer an independent nation.
Although they were recognised as a separate dynasty (Dynasty Twenty-Seven) the Persians in fact ruled through a resident governor – the Satrap – supported by local chiefs. Despite the bad press they receive in many near contemporary documents (such as the writings of Herodotus) the Persian kings built temples and public works, strengthened the economy, and followed many Egyptians traditions in art and architecture.
For the most part the Persians seem to have been happy to allow many cultural and religious practices to continue without much interference. However, when the Greeks defeated the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC simmering resentment of the foreign rulers led to increasing resistance which refused to subside for almost a century.
In 404 BC, a coalition of local rulers succeeded in defeating the Persians and Egypt was ruled by Amyrtaios of Sais (the single ruler of Dynasty Twenty-Eight) followed by a series of rulers based in Mendes (Dynasty Twenty-Nine) and finally rulers based in Sebennytos (Dynasty Thirty).
Dynasty Thirty was relatively peaceful and prosperous with a marked increase in construction, but the calm was short lived. The Persians were not prepared to give up on Egypt and (after a few failed attempts) they took back control in 343 BC. They had little time to celebrate their success, however, as Alexander the Great defeated them in 332 BC ushering in the period of Greek control.
Dynasty Twenty Six; Saite
(O.C 664 – 525 B.C)
- Nekau Wahemibre (Necho)
- Wahibre Haaibre (Apries)
- Ahmose II Khenemibre (Amasis)
- Psamtik II Ankhare (Psammetichus)
Dynasty Twenty Seven First Persian Period
(O.C 525 – 404 B.C)
- Darius I (Setutre)
- Artaxerxes I
- Darius II
- Artaxerxes II
Dynasty Twenty Eight
(O.C. 404 – 399B.C)
Dynasty Twenty Nine
(O.C. 399 – 380 B.C)
- Hakor Maatibre (Achoris)
(O.C. 380 – 343 B.C)
- Djedhor Irmaatenre (Teos)
- Nakhthoreb Snedjemibre Setepeninhur (Nectanebo II)
Dynasty Thirty One Second Persian Period
(O.C. 343 – 332 B.C)
- Darius III
Copyright J Hill 2015