Primary Sources: Herodotus, EUTERPE 18 (Science Pharaoh, Science Pharoah, Jr., and Science Pharaoh III)
Science-King Psammetichus! What a guy! Herodotus has already mentioned him in passing a couple of times, because you can’t talk Egypt without talking about Psammetichus.
He’s the guy who stationed over two hundred thousand troops near the Ethiopian border, didn’t pay them, and then stood by as they defected to the nearby Merotic Empire.
He’s also the guy who arranged for a couple of babies to be raised in the total absence of language, on the theory that they would spontaneously begin to speak the supernal tongue of the eldest human culture. To jog your memory: one of the babies started calling bread “bekos” and Psammetichus concluded that the Phrygians were the oldest culture, because bekos is Phrygian for bread.
Back when Sabacos the Ethiopian had been ruler of Egypt, he’d had Psammetichus’s father killed, so Psammetichus grew up on the lam, in Syria, and didn’t come to Egypt as an adult until after Sabacos fled. He came back to be one of the twelve co-kings of the revised Egypt, but accidentally declared himself king of the whole shebang by drinking out of a hat (as described in the previous entry).
The other eleven co-kings did not cotton to this even a little bit, and they chased him off into the marshes where Anysis had hidden (again, in the previous entry). Psammetichus grew tired of living in a swamp, and asked a helpful oracle for advice.
“Don’t worry,” said the oracle. “You’re the rightful king of Egypt on account of the hat thing. Soon the gods will intervene on your behalf, by sending an army of bronze automata-soldiers up from the ocean’s floor.”
“Did I stutter?”
“It just doesn’t seem very plausible,” said Psammetichus.
But! Meanwhile, out in the Aegean Sea, a troop of Greek mercenaries decided to use their ships and their heavy bronze armor to raid the Egyptian coast. Long story short, Psammetichus hired them to help him claim the throne, and then he claimed the throne.
Psammetichus thanked the gods for their intervention by building a temple to a magic cow, but a different magic cow than the one that Mycerinus honored. The Egyptians had a whole bunch of different magic/holy cows, apparently.
He thanked the Greek mercenaries by keeping them on as his personal army, and encouraging them to settle in a special enclave set aside for them. The king of Egypt being kept in power by foreign mercenaries? Turned out to be a problem down the line, in the reign of his great-grandson.
But first, let’s cover Psammetichus’s son and grandson, real quick. Psammetichus’s son was named Necos and he tried to dig the Suez Canal, but quit when an oracle warned him that the main beneficiaries of a Suez Canal would be foreign invaders. Then he conquered Syria for a while.
Necos’s son was named Psammis, and his main claim to fame was his refusal to participate in the Olympics.
Basically this is what happened: an envoy of Olympic officials from Elea (the city where the Olympics took place) arrived in Egypt, inviting them to come play, basically. Psammis had to get the Olympics explained to him, and then, once he understood the concept, refused.
“What? Why?” asked the Eleans.
“You guys, the citizens of Elea, you do all the judging, right?”
“Well, hell, obviously you’ll be biased in favor of your countrymen.”
The Eleans had no answer to that (suck it, Olympics! Herodotus is right there with a STDH story about how corrupt you are!). Wah wah waaaaah!
Primary Sources: Herodotus, EUTERPE 18 (Science Pharaoh, Science Pharoah, Jr., and Science Pharaoh III) — No Comments
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