CAMBYSES kăm bī’ sez. The eldest son and successor of Cyrus II the Great, the conqueror of Babylon. He is mentioned in both the Nabonidus Chronicle and the Cyrus Cylinder as “son of Cyrus” in Babylon shortly after the conquest of the city in Oct., 539 b.c. (cf. ANET, 306, 316).
He was formerly thought to be the “Ahasuerus” of
After turning the administration of Babylonia over to Gubaru his governor, Cyrus departed for Ecbatana, leaving his son Cambyses as his personal representative to carry on the ritual prescribed for the king at the New Year festival of Nisan 1 (27 March 538 b.c.). Eight years later, Cyrus died in a campaign at the NE frontier, and Cambyses became sole ruler of the great Pers. empire.
Cambyses secured his position on the throne by having his brother Smerdis (or Bardiya) murdered, and by 525 b.c. completed preparations for the long awaited invasion of Egypt. The Egyp. armies under Psammetichus III were totally defeated at the Battle of Pelusium in the eastern delta, and Cambyses took the throne as the first king of the twenty-seventh dynasty, organizing the land as a satrapy of the Pers. empire. However, his efforts to conquer Carthage, Ethiopia, and the Oasis of Ammon in the Egyp. desert failed.
To gain favor with his new subjects, Cambyses took the Egyp. royal name and titulary, wore the royal costume, and antedated his rule in Egypt to the beginning of his rule in Persia. On his way back to Babylon in 522 b.c., he received news that one Gaumata (who claimed to be his murdered brother Smerdis) had usurped the throne and had been widely accepted in eastern provinces. He died near Mount Carmel in Pal., prob. by suicide, leaving no heirs. Darius Hystaspes, a Pers. officer of a collateral royal line, succeeded in killing the Pseudo-Smerdis within a few months, and consolidated the empire. The reign of Cambyses fell within the period of Gentile opposition to the building of the second temple (
W. H. Dubberstein, “The Chronology of Cyrus and Cambyses,” AJSL (1938), 417-419; A. T. Olmstead, The History of the Persian Empire (1948); R. Ghirshman, Iran (1954); K. M. T. Atkinson, “The Legitimacy of Cambyses and Darius as Kings of Egypt,” JAOS (1956), 167-177; J. C. Whitcomb, Jr.,(1963).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The older son of Cyrus, king of Persia. Some have thought that he is the Ahasuerus of
Ancient authorities differ as to who was the mother of Cambyses. It is variously said that she was Cassandane, a Persian princess, Amytis, a Median princess, or Nititis, a daughter of Apries king of Egypt. He had one brother, Bardes or Smerdes, whom he put to death secretly shortly after his accession, probably because of an attempted rebellion. Cambyses organized an expedition for the conquest of Egypt, which was rendered successful by internal treachery and by the aid of the Phoenician, Cyprian and Greek fleets. During this campaign Cambyses seems to have acted with good generalship and with clemency toward the conquered. After the subjugation of Egypt, Cyrene and Barca, the modern Tripoli, submitted to his sway. He then desired to undertake the conquest of Carthage, but was compelled to give it up, because his Phoenician allies, without whose ships it was impossible for him to conduct his army in safety, refused to join in an attack upon a country that had been colonized by them. He is said to have sent an army of 50,000 men against the oasis of Jupiter Ammon. This army is said to have perished in the sands. A little less unsuccessful expedition was made against Ethiopia. After some initial successes, Cambyses was forced to return to Egypt with the shattered remains of his army. He found that the Egyptians were in revolt, led by their king Psammetichus III, whose life he had formerly spared. This revolt was put down with great harshness, the Egyptian king being taken and executed, and many of the temples being destroyed. Shortly after this, Cambyses heard that a certain Magian, who claimed to be his brother Smerdes whom he had secretly put to death, had set himself up as king of Persia, and that almost the whole of his Asiatic dominions had acknowledged him as king. With the fragments of his army he started toward Persia to attack the usurper, but on the way was killed by a wound inflicted by himself, it is uncertain whether by accident or with intention. His general and cousin, Darius Hystaspis, soon put down the false Smerdis and reigned in his stead.
For two or more years Cambyses was king of Babylon, while his father was king of the lands. The son was a drunkard and subject to fits of unbridled passion, but seems to have been of good capacity as a general and as an administrator. Many of the tales that have been told against him were doubtless invented by his enemies, and he has left us no records of his own. That he married his own sisters is probable; but it must be remembered that this was the custom of the Egyptian kings of that time and may have been of the Persian kings as well. As to his conduct in Egypt, the only contemporary Egyptian authority says that he worshipped before the holiness of Neit as all the pious kings had done, that he ordered that the temple of Neit should be purified, and that its revenues should be restored as they had been before they had been confiscated by Akhmes for his Greek troops. He adds also that not merely were the strangers who had taken up their abode in the temple of Neit ejected from her sanctuary, but that their goods were taken away and their houses destroyed. Darius Hystaspis, the only other contemporary source of information, says of him simply that he was the son of Cyrus, of the same father and mother as Bardes, whom he slew secretly at some time before he set out on his Egyptian campaign; and that he died by suicide shortly after he had heard of the rebellion of Persia, Media and the other provinces against him, and of the establishment of Gaumata the Magian as king under the claim that he was "Barzia, the son of Cyrus and brother of Cambyses."
The name of Cambyses is found in three of the Elephantine papyri recently published (September, 1911) by Professor Sachau of Berlin. The fragment numbered 59 1 is so broken that it is impossible to make out the connection or the sense. In papyrus I, we are told that when Cambyses came to Egypt he found in the fortress of Yeb (Elephantine) a temple or synagogue (’agora’), which had been built in the days of the Egyptian kings; and that although he had torn down the temples of the Egyptian gods, he had allowed no harm to be done to that of Yahweh. The third papyrus is so interesting, because of its mention of Bagoas, the Persian governor of Jerusalem in 407 BC, who had hitherto been known only from Josephus, and of Dalayah the son of the Sanballat who opposed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in the time of Ezra-Nehemiah, that we shall now give a translation of it in full: "A memorial of that which Bagoas and Dalayah said to me: Thou shalt say in Egypt unto Arsames with regard to the house of the altar of the God of heaven that was built in the fortress of Yeb before the time of Cambyses and which the accursed(?) Waidrang destroyed in the 14th year of Darius the king, that it shall be built again upon its place as it was before, and that meal-offerings and incense-offerings shall be offered upon that altar as they used to be."
For further information as to the history of Cambyses see Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies; Prasek, Geschichte der Meder und Perser; the Behistun inscription in the editions of the various recensions by Bezold, Spiegel, Weisbach, Thomson, and King; Herodotus; Josephus; the Sachau papyri; and Petrie, History of Egypt, III.
R. Dick Wilson