Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Hyrcanians

Geographical definition
Hyrcania (O.P. Verkâna or Varkâna, "land of wolves") was the lowland around the southern and southeastern shores of the Caspian, corresponding roughly to the modern Iranian provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestān and the southwestern corner of Turkmenistan.  It is well-watered and heavily-forested.

Hyrcania was apparently added to the empire very early.  It enters history with the Behistun inscription, where it along with Parthia joined the rebellion of Phraortes, pretender to the throne of Media, during the first half of 521 BC.  Darius' father, Hystaspes, was in Parthia at the time and defeated the Parthians and Hyrcanians at the Parthian city Višpauzâtiš.  Darius sent reinforcements from Rhagae to join Hystaspes and inflict another defeat on the rebels at Patigrabanâ, Parthia.

According to Adrian Bivar (Encyclopaedia Iranica), Hyrcania "seems to have been administered as a sub-province of Parthia and is not named separately in the provincial lists of Darius and Xerxes."  It is certain that their histories overlap heavily and that many Achaemenid satraps of one would also be regarded as satraps of the other.  Herodotus says that Hyrcanians participated in Xerxes' invasion as infantry under Megapanus, separately from the Parthians, though (as is frequently the case) I find no mention of what if any role they played in the campaign.

Later Greek sources mention a Hyrcanian named Artabanus (not to be confused with Xerxes' uncle) as the man who assassinated Xerxes in 465 and either killed or engineered the death of Crown Prince Darius.  He then either ruled as king or as regent for Artaxerxes I, who killed Artabanus in turn.

Artaxerxes died in 424.  Ctesias tells a unique variant of the succession, in which the throne was first held by its lawful heir Xerxes II, who was soon murdered by his half-brother Sogdianus.  A third half-brother, Ochus, was then ruling as satrap of Hyrcania and rebelled against Sogdianus, killed him and declared himself Darius II.

Hyrcania becomes less prominent Classical histories for a long while afterward.  A small number of Hyrcanians are said to have fought at the Battle of Gaugamela, where they formed part of the cavalry under Mazaeus, governor of Babylon.  It was through Hyrcania that Darius III fled in July of 330 and was murdered by his own officers.

It was therefore a transformative period in Alexander's kingship that he passed in Hyrcania; he now sought legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian aristocracy.  From Zadracarta (modern Gorgan) he pursued a campaign against Bessus, on whom the blame for the Great King's assassination was chiefly laid.  It was also here that he began to take Iranians into his court and wear certain Persian royal vestments.

His generals Craterus and Coenus launched strikes against the Tapurians and Mardians, tribes of the Elburz Mountains overlooking the region.  He reaffirmed Darius' satrap Phrataphernes, who served for most of the 320s, sending Alexander supplies out of Hyrcania to relieve the new Great King during his disastrous crossing of the Gedrosian desert.

Phrataphernes retained his post still during the first partition of the Macedonian empire after Alexander's death, but in 321 the satrapy was given to Philip, formerly of Sogdiana; it is unclear whether Phrataphernes died or was ousted.

In 318, Philip was ousted and executed by Macedonian general Peithon during the Wars of the Diadochi.  After much political bloodshed, Hyrcania and Parthia emerged in the early third century as possessions of the Seleucids.  In the second century, these regions became the homelands of the Parni, who integrated with the Parthians and founded the Arsacid dynasty.  The Sassanid dynasty inherited it as a province, and it became a center of resistance to the Arabs in the post-Sassanid period.

In the ensuing centuries, the name of Hyrcania was discarded as a general name for the region and today it is identified as several distinct provinces populated by the Gilaki and Mazanderani peoples, Persian-speakers in the east and Turkmens who settled during the Safavid period.  The modern form of Verkâna, Gorgān, is retained as the name of the provincial capital of Golestān.

I can discover no evidence regarding the language(s) of Hyrcania for our time, or any pre-Islamic time.  However, as the languages of its immediate neighbors in Achaemenid times, Media and Parthia, and the modern languages of the region, Gilaki and Mazanderani, are all Northwestern Iranian languages, I would suppose Achaemenid Hyrcanian to have been as well.

I have little to go on but would speculate that the names of Artabanus the Hyrcanian and Mithridates (borne by several Arsacid kings) indicate that people in northeastern Iran followed religious traditions not unlike those in Persia.

Hyrcanians don't appear in any ancient art that I've come across (at least clearly differentiated from Parthians), but given their location between Media and Parthia, it seems likely that they dressed in a similar manner.  Both their neighbors wore closed tunics, and the Parthians and many other Iranians wore the tiara.  I'd consider it equally plausible that they wore either fitted or loose trousers and either mid-calf boots like the Parthians or Medo-Persian low shoes.

Herodotus says that Hyrcanian weapons were the same as Persian ones, presumably to include recurved bows carried in gorytoi, spears, akinakes and wicker shields (all the more likely as he lists them among the infantry in Xerxes' army).  As they do not appear under their name in Achaemenid art, there's no way of checking that claim.  Archaeologist Roger Moorey believed that the finds from Deve Hüyük belonged to Hyrcanians; these (including things like the akinakes and round spear butt) are mostly in line with what is seen in Achaemenid portrayals of Medes and Persians.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Gandharans

Geographical definition
Gandhara (O.P. Gandâra) was located in the Peshawar and Kabul River valleys in modern Pakistan and Afghanistan, north of the Indus Valley, northeast of Arachosia and east of Bactria.  It was regarded more as part of South Asia than of Greater Iran.  The name is possibly related to Sanskrit gandha, meaning "perfume."

Gandhara grew out of Indo-Aryan settlements known as the Gandhara grave culture beginning around 1600 BC.  Gandharis are mentioned in the Vedas, and in the Puranas they are said to be Druhyus who followed King Gandhara north of the Sapta Sindhu.  The country enters the annals of the Persian empire in the Behistun inscrption.  Darius did not conquer it, so he presumably inherited it from his predecessors, likely starting with Cyrus.  In ancient times, its capital was at Pushkalavati, modern Charsadda in the Peshawar Valley of Pakistan.

Gandhara was among the eastern parts of the empire surveyed by Scylax of Caryanda, a Carian navigator sent by Darius in preparation for an invasion of the Indus Valley.  Herodotus places Gandhara in the seventh and poorest tax district, with the Sattagydians, Dadicae and Aparitae, taxed 170 talents all told.  At the Persepolis apadana, the Gandharans are shown together with the Sattagydians bringing a water buffalo in tribute.  They also bring spears and a shield, either as tribute or because the delegation was unusually heavily-armed.  In his Susa palace inscription, Darius says that he obtained yakâ wood (possibly teak) from Gandhara and Carmania.

Gandharans participated in Xerxes' invasion together with the Dadicae under the command of Artyphius, a son of Darius the Great's brother Artabanus.  I have not found mention of them in the major battles.  If they are grouped with the Indians then they may have took part in Plataea.

The history of Gandhara in the latter fifth and fourth centuries is largely unknown.  The Achaemenids may have pulled out of the region by the time of Alexander the Great.  When he arrived in 329, he found no Persian satraps, but instead a number of small states.  He re-founded the old Achaemenid settlement Kapisa (near modern Bagram) as "Alexandria in the Caucasus."  During 326, he and Hephaestion led armies along two routes, himself along the Kunar and Swat rivers and Hephaestion along the Kabul, conquering the Gandharan states one by one.

After Alexander, the country belonged for a time to Seleucus, but in 304 he handed it to Chandragupta Maurya, then a resident of Taxila and advisee of the famous Gandharan political scientist Chanakya.  For about 120 years the country remained part of the Mauryan empire.  Like other southwesterly parts of the Persian empire, it became a frontier between Indian and Hellenistic civilizations.  In the ensuing centuries, a myriad of different powers took control, including (among others) Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, the Sassanid Persian empire and finally the Kabul Shahi, a dynasty of native or perhaps Kambojan origin.

In the early 11th century AD, the Kabul Shahi was laid waste by the Ghaznavids of Afghanistan.  Historians generally consider this the end of Gandhara as well as that particular dynasty. 

I can find nothing on Gandharan religion in our period.  Gandhara was historically a center of Buddhism, but at this time Buddhism had only begun as a teaching and may not have even reached Gandhara.  More likely, the Gandharans followed early Vedic traditions.

Gāndhārī was an Indo-Aryan prakrit, attested first by several edicts of Ashoka written in the local language in the third century BC.  Iranica Online's article has a section comparing the morphology of the recorded stages of Gāndhārī to Vedic Sanskrit which could give some idea of how the language might have looked during the Achaemenid period.  It is possible that the Kharoṣṭhī script was already in development at that time.  Kharoṣṭhī was used from at least the mid-third century BC until about the third century AD.

Gandhara played a noteworthy role in the development of Indian linguistic studies, as it was here, in the fourth century BC or earlier, that the famous Pushkalavati grammarian Pāṇini documented and codified Classical Sanskrit in his book the Aṣṭādhyāyī.

At Naqs-e Rostam, the Gandharans and Sattagydians are dressed in only a knee-length, wraparound dhoti.  The party at Persepolis are more heavily dressed in short-sleeved tunics which also appear to wrap around, as well as long cloaks whose upper corners are not pinned together but instead hang in front of both shoulders down to past the waist and end in small tassels or gathers.  On their feet are flat-soled sandals with thongs around the heel, high on the instep and around several or all of the toes, as well as one connecting the toe and instep straps.  Both representations wear belts or narrow sashes and flat headbands.

Herodotus claims the Gandharans had the same equipment as the Bactrians ("reed bows and short spears"), while at Persepolis they and/or the Sattagydians are portrayed carrying only spears and a large, round double-gripped shield, and at Naqš-e Rostam the Gandharan wears a long sword of some kind.  The spears of Persepolis are of a generic Achaemenid appearance (short with small points and round finials) and may not accurately reflect Gandharan styles.  The shield superficially resembles an Argive shield, but this may mean nothing; apart from anything else, it has a fixed hand grip instead of an antilabe.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Ethiopians

Geographical definition 
In ancient Greek geography, Aithiopia (literally "land of Aithiops" but commonly interpreted "land of burned faces") refers broadly to all of Africa south of Egypt and "Libya" (all the desertified regions of North Africa).  However, the Greeks apparently weren't aware of just how vast an area this is.

The "Ethiopians" in the Persian empire were mainly from Kush (Kaš, or in Persian Kušâ-), which consisted of the Nile Valley south of Elephantine to some ways south of the confluence of the White and Blue Nile at modern Khartoum.  Thus this article would better be called "The Kushites," but in keeping with the lists presented by Herodotus, we'll stick with "Ethiopians" at least for the title.  Today histories often refer to the ancient land as Nubia, named after the Nuba people who settled there in late antiquity.

Herodotus also refers to "Ethiopians of Asia" or "of the East," who are armed like Indians, and have straight hair as distinguished from Ethiopians of Africa.  As they are presumably also dark-skinned, one is tempted to identify them with South Indians like the Tamils, but circumstantial geographic references seem to place them north of India.  I can find too little information to give them their own article.

While archaeology and Egyptian annals indicate the existence of kingdoms in the southern Nile Valley coeval with Egypt itself, Kush enters history as an Egyptian province early in the New Kingdom.  With the disintegration of the New Kingdom in the 11th century BC, a state emerged centered at Napata (modern Karima, North Sudan).  Heavily Egyptianate in character, it became a rival to Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period and conquered its northern neighbor in the mid-eighth century, comprising the 25th dynasty of Egypt.

The Kushites were driven out of Egypt by Assyrian invasions in the early seventh century.  When Egypt regained its independence under the 26th dynasty, it began launching raids into Kush.  King Aspelta (ruled c. 600-580) moved the capital of Kush to Meroë, although dead kings continued to be interred at Napata until about 300 BC.

After conquering Egypt in 525, Cambyses II set off to invade Kush, but was forced to turn back when logistical problems resulted in many of his army starving.

Ethiopia was both a part and not a part of the Persian empire:  It was never conquered and retained native rulers, but was still involved enough that Darius seems to have regarded them as among his peoples (for example, at the table of nations at Naqš-e Rostam), so it is possible that Kush at least nominally acknowledged Persian suzerainty; alternately, the Kushites regarded the Persians as allies or neighbors in good standing.  Kush was not taxed, but according to Herodotus, it did send gifts every two years, amongst them ivory, seen prominently at the Persepolis apadana and used by Darius in the construction of the palace at Susa.

Ethiopians participated in Xerxes' invasion of Greece together with the Arabians under the command of Arsames, Darius' son by Artystone and thus the great king's half-brother (Herodotus, VII.69).  I cannot find testimony of which battles they participated in.

The Kushite throne was inherited matrilineally and thus most kings (qore) are considered to only probably be the sons of their predecessors.  They constructed stelae recording their deeds and regnal names, which were based on the Egyptian regnal naming system, and thus the names are known of most rulers of the kingdom (of which the first phase of the Meroitic period temporally corresponds to the Achaemenid period).  The queens or queen-mothers known as kandakes or kentakes also seem to have had an unusual degree of authority in the ancient world, and made a strong impression on Greeks and Romans in fighting on the frontier in the following centuries.

Kushite monarchs were buried in pyramids imitating the ancient Egyptian ones, though smaller and of different shape.  The burial chambers at the bases of these pyramids included reliefs describing the monarchs, stelae and some portions of the Book of the Dead.

The third-century AD "Alexander romance" tells that when Alexander invaded Egypt, he pressed south and only retreated upon seeing the strength of the Kushite armies.  However, more contemporary accounts of Alexander's life have him content to travel no farther south than the Siwa Oasis, and retreating in the face of a strong enemy strikes one as pretty out-of-character for him.  Arrian and Diodorus say that an embassy from Ethiopia visited Alexander in Babylon on his return from India in 323 BC.

Being essentially independent of Persia, Kush continued on its own throughout the Hellenistic period.  After the capital was fully moved to Meroë, the kingdom is recorded by that name in Graeco-Roman sources.  The country went into economic decline in the early centuries AD, possibly partly due to deforestation as the flourishing iron industry demanded a constant supply of charcoal.  In the fourth century, Meroë was conquered by the rising empire of Axum.

Around this time, the Nuba settled and began to found the Nubian kingdoms.  This was followed in the late Middle Ages by gradual Islamicization and Arabization of northern Nubia.  It was under Arab influence that the region acquired the name Sudan, said to derive from Bilad al-Sudan, "land of blacks," which makes an interesting latter-day reiteration of Aithiopia.  In the meantime, the Classical denotation ceased to be applied to Nubia and parts west, and was retained only in Axum, modern Ethiopia.

Kushites presumably spoke an earlier phase of Meroitic, recorded from the third century BC onward in the Meroitic alphabet (prior to this, Egyptian hieroglyphs were used).  Meroitic is poorly-understood and of uncertain classification.  It went extinct around the turn of the fifth century AD with the spread of Nubian languages.

Kushites were polytheistic and shared many of the pantheon and certain beliefs with the Egyptians, as indicated by the use of the Book of the Dead.  Known deities specific to Kush included Apedemak and Dedun, Mandulis (apparently equated with Horus), and Arensnuphis, attested from the third century BC.

Ethiopian clothing is shown at Persepolis and Naqš-e Rostam as including a cloak semicircling the body from the left under the arm and secured (probably with pins) over the shoulders, being left open down the right side.  It had a plain hem but its vertical edges were fringed.  The Ethiopian at Naqš-e Rostam wears a knee-length garment under his cloak, but whether it's a tunic or kilt is impossible to tell.  At Persepolis the Ethiopian delegation wear sandals of very open construction, secured by thongs over the heel and upper instep and just above the toes.  One member appears to be barefoot.  No headwear is attested.  Herodotus writes that Ethiopians at war dressed in lion and leopard skins, and painted their bodies with gypsum on one half and vermilion on the other.

A famous group of alabastrons (Greek alabaster vases) shows two black men in Iranian dress wearing tube-and-yoke corslets.  It is possible that they represent Kushites in the Persian military.  Rather than footed Medo-Persian trousers, they wear open-ankled ones of a looser cut typical of eastern Iranian peoples.

Ethiopians were particularly well-known archers, known in early Egyptian writings as Ta-Seti, "people of the bow."  Herodotos says that their bows were made of strips of palm wood and were four cubits long (more than 80 inches/200cm), at which size they were presumably longbows rather than recurved.  Their arrows were "short" (mikroús) and stone-tipped.  The Museum of Fine Arts Boston's Warfare, hunting, & fishing category has examples of both early Napatan and Meroitic arrowheads, but (assuming the dating is all right) none specific to our period.

As for what to buy, Crazy Crow offers Neolithic bird points from America that are often very close in shape (both teardrop and barbed).  They're a bit too small and unfortunately you don't get to pick what they send you, but I would consider them acceptable as a non-custom item because no current production arrowheads I've been able to find come even that close.

Other Ethiopian weapons mentioned in Herodotus include spears pointed with whole, sharpened gazelle horns, and "studded clubs" (tr. Godley).  Additionally you will note in the MFA collection a number of stone maceheads.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Egyptians, part 2

Nectanebo II secured his throne with the help of the famous Spartan king Agesilaus II, and when Agesilaus died of illness on his way home, the pharaoh paid him the honor of having his body royally embalmed.  Nectanebo's reign was characterized by the building and restoration of even more temples.  When the Persians tried to invade again in 351, he repelled them via Greek mercenaries under Lamias of Sparta and Diophantes of Athens.  When Artaxerxes III began assembling a naval force at Sidon, Nectanebo encouraged the Sidonians to revolt and sent Greek mercenaries under the famous Mentor of Rhodes to help them.  The rebellion began to spread through Phoenicia and Cyprus, before finally being put down in or around 346.

Artaxerxes took Mentor (who had defected), Bagoas and an imperial army into the Nile Delta in 343, and Nectanebo first tried to hold Memphis, then Thebes, and finally to Nubia, where he died a year or two later.  Egypt was now returned to Achaemenid hands.  Greek sources allege that Artaxerxes desecrated temples and killed the Apis bull, as Cambyses had done, though Lendering throws doubt on such rash behavior.

Although the Egyptians resented Persian rule, it appears that Egyptians were still taken into the imperial army, as a stele records how the noble Somtutefnekhet of Heracleopolis (Hwt-nen-nesu) fought at and survived the Battle of Issus.  The last two Achaemenid satraps are recorded in (Latinized) Greek as Sabaces, who died at Issus, and Mazaces, his successor.  As Sabaces' garrison accompanied him to Issus, Mazaces was left with no army and was forced to hand over Egypt to Alexander the Great without a fight when he arrived in 332.

Alexander was received warmly in Egypt.  At the Oracle of Amun in the Siwa Oasis, he was declared the son of Amun (Zeus-Ammon) and rightful pharaoh of Egypt.  It was after this that he began to openly speak of himself as having divine lineage and his portraits to include horns alluding to the ram that symbolized Amun.  Alexander founded Alexandria (modern Iskandariyah) and appointed Cleomenes of Naucratis as nomarch of Egypt's Arabian district and collector of the country's taxes.

With Alexander's death in 323, Perdiccas, regent of the infant Alexander IV, appointed Macedonian general Ptolemy as satrap of Egypt.  Cleomenes was retained as his deputy, but Ptolemy executed him on suspicion of spying for Perdiccas.  In 321, Perdiccas tried to bring Ptolemy to heel with an invasion, but was defeated on the Nile and assassinated by frustrated officers including Seleucus.  Ptolemy held Egypt throughout the Wars of the Diadochi, establishing the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, which remained independent until falling to the Romans under Octavian Caesar in 30 BC.

For more than six centuries Egypt remained in Roman hands.  For a few years, the Sassanid Persians wrested control from the Eastern Roman empire, then lost it again, and then in 641 the country fell to the first Muslim caliphate.  Thereafter, Egypt underwent a process of Arabization, though still recognized as the selfsame historical region of the pharaohs.  A series of native dynasties interspersed with foreign occupation ended with the Revolution of 1952, when army officers under Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser established the current republic.

Egyptian was an Afroasiatic language.  It is thus distantly related to the Semitic, Cushitic and many other subfamilies in the area, but, like Greek in the Indo-European family, formed its own branch.  The phase of the language used in Achaemenid times was Early Demotic Egyptian, which also refers to its writing system, a consonantal alphabet.  The Early Demotic script was used for administrative and commercial purposes while literature and religious texts were written in older scripts (hieroglyphs and hieratic).

From around the turn of the 5th century, the writing system entered the Middle Demotic phase, while the spoken language moved on, evolving into something a bit closer to Coptic.  Coptic itself gradually gave way to Arabic after the Islamic Conquest in the 7th century, but hung on as a daily language for some even after the Middle Ages.  Today it's mostly restricted to liturgical use among the Christian Copts.

Due to its long history, Egyptian polytheism had had plenty of time to develop and change.  As it stood in the late period, the wind god of Thebes, Amun, had long since merged wtih the sun god Re or Ra and assumed the role of supreme god.  Other major deities included Maat, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Ptah, and Bes, who was popularly worshipped on Cyprus.

The Egyptian kingship, like the Persian, rested on a principle encompassing order, truth, righteousness and the universal binding force.  However, unlike aša or arta, Maat could also be personified as a goddess who personally judged the dead.  Both king and commoner had to uphold maat through proper behavior, including charity and maintaining tradition.  Impiousness and injustice could upset the natural order and cause misfortune.  Upholders of maat would be rewarded in the afterlife.  Thus the Egyptian statue of Darius the Great declares in hieroglyphs that the king is "the perfect god who rejoices in maat," along with Persian cuneiform expressing his accustomed veneration of Ahura Mazda.

The struggle of maat versus isfet (evil and untruth) is expressed via the myth of Osiris, the ancient god-king and lifeforce of the land, who was killed by his brother and usurper Set, god of chaos.  In the late period, Set was portrayed negatively though still worshipped in certain religious centers.  He was said to have cut Osiris' body into 42 pieces and scattered them around the country, their landing places corresponding with the 42 nomes.  Thus the resurrection of Osiris by his wife Isis (earlier regarded as the wife of the sky god Horus, now reidentified as his mother) is tied to the unification of Egypt.  Horus became the next king, and Isis' association with the throne (the literal meaning of her name, is.t) may mean that the throne was metaphorically regarded as the king's mother.

Although the pharaoh retained a kind of divine status (to my knowledge, it is only in Egyptian-language documents that the Achaemenids claimed divinity rather than mere divine favor) his role as intercessor between gods and humanity became less important as direct personal devotions on the part of commoners became more so.  The gods were now seen as less distant, more involved in day-to-day human affairs, and individuals sought out divine favor on their own.  Concurrent is the spread of funerary texts like the Book of the Dead among commoners to ensure that they, like the king, would be protected and guided in the afterlife.

The Egyptian at Naqš-e Rostam is clad simply in an ankle-length tunic with long fitted sleeves and a keyhole neckline, worn unbelted (in my estimation it would probably be bloused over a belt for combat, like the ancient Gaels, who wore a similar tunic).  Unfortunately, the Persepolis relief is badly damaged, showing only the Egyptians' lower legs, though they also wear garments with a long hem; a wide embroidered border (or perhaps a fringe) is also visible.  The sculpture, or at least the quality and lighting of the photo, is too indistinct even to tell what kind of footwear they have.  As for women's clothing, Fashion-Era has a guide on wrapping a shawl-type dress Egyptian-style from a rectangular length of fabric.  Ancient Egypt was famed for its production of linen and this is therefore an even more appropriate fabric here than for peoples from elsewhere in the empire, but wool is also fine.  Cotton was not yet grown in Egypt and would have to be regarded as an imported luxury good from India.

Herodotus lists Egyptian arms as "woven helmets," "hollow shields with broad rims, and spears for sea-warfare, and great battle-axes.  Most of them wore cuirasses and carried long swords (machairas)."

The woven helmets may have very ancient precedent.  Headgear resembling woven rope helmets are said to be worn in paintings in the tomb of Ramses III.  However it's equally true that over the centuries between then and the Graeco-Persian wars there is likely to have been changes in style and technology.

The Cyropaedia (VI.2 and VII.1) describes Egyptian shields as very large, covering the body down to the feet, being pushed forward with one shoulder, and used with very large spears.  New Kingdom Egyptian troops had often been portrayed carrying shields with flat bottoms, arched tops and blotchy patterns perhaps indicating that they were covered in hair-on animal hide, and these late period shields are likely an enlargement of those.  If equipped with a telamon they could be used in conjunction with large spears in the same manner as early Mycenaean warriors.

Swords were quite long by 5th century standards, straight, made of iron and with U-shaped pommels.  A few fragments may be seen here.  If Persian art is to be trusted, the Egyptians and many other peoples wore long sword scabbards on slings like rifles, rather than belts or baldrics.

Egyptian cuirasses are believed to have been made of linen; Herodotus mentions that Amasis sent such a one to a temple of Athena on Rhodes.  Although you can still find a lot of sources claiming that linen armor was glued, the people whom I trust most on this (such as Dan Howard, author of Bronze Age Military Equipment) have said unequivocally that linen armor should be quilted, not glued.

A footnote:  Yes, it really is pure coincidence that the "Peoples of the empire" series reached Egypt just as Egypt is dominating international news.  It's things like this that are why I'm not 100 percent atheist.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Peoples of the empire: Part one of...

I'm gonna go ahead and post the first half of what should have been this week's Peoples of the Empire entry because it's a very long one, as befits its subject.

Geographical definition and names
Ancient Egypt (Egyptian km.t, believed to have been pronounced "Kumat" but usually read as "Kemet") was more-or-less contiguous with the Nile Valley from about the First Cataract northward.  Its name refers to the "black" land of the valley, distinguished in Egyptian discourse from the surrounding t or "red land" of the Sahara.
In Old Persian the country was called Mudrāya, which derives from a Semitic name (compare Hebrew Mizrayim), meaning "two straits," a reference to the ancient division of Upper and Lower Egypt.  In modern Arabic it is Miṣr, or Maṣr in Egypt's common dialect.

In Greek, the country was called Aigyptos (with a hard G and a Y sounding something like U).  Strabo imagined it to be a contraction of Aigaiou huptiōs, "below the Aegean."  In reality it's a twofold metonym dating from the Bronze Age; it derives from Hwt-ka-Ptah, "home of the ka (soul) of Ptah," which was a shrine in Memphis that eventually became a byword for the entire city as Hikuptah.  The name appears in Greece as early as the Mycenaean Linear B tablets, where it is rendered a-ku-pi-ti-yo.

Egypt is perhaps the oldest surviving country in the world, unified out of a collection of city-states about five thousand years ago; these original states long survived as administrative divisions called sepats (better known as nomes, from Greek nomoi).  A royal cult had long since formed around the monarch, identified as an incarnation of the god Horus, and from about the 13th century BC onward referred to indirectly as the pr-aa or pharaoh (meaning "great house" or palace).

At the time of Persia's rise, Egypt was in its 26th dynasty, with its capital at Sais on the Nile Delta, the then-ruler a usurper named Amasis (Ahmose) II.  According to Herodotus, Cambyses II asked Amasis to send an Egyptian opthalmologist to Persia.  The man chosen was unwilling to leave his family, but Amasis basically exiled him.  The doctor convinced Cambyses to ask for the hand of Amasis' daughter.  Amasis, unwilling to let his daughter (as he expected) be made a concubine, sent Nitetis, the daughter of his slain predecessor Apries.  Nitetis, however, revealed the ruse, and Cambyses waged war in revenge.

Amasis died before the Persian army reached Egypt in 525 BC, and his son Psammetichus (Psamtik) III was defeated with much violence near Pelusium (Per-Amun) on the eastern Nile Delta.  Psammetichus retreated to Memphis, which fell after a long siege.  Cambyses captured Psammetichus and executed two thousand citizens of Memphis.

Thereafter, the Achaemenids constituted the 27th dynasty of Egypt.  Egypt, together with Cyprus and Phoenicia, made up the sixth satrapy of the empire, its first satrap Aryandes.  Psammetichus was taken to Susa, where he was executed after allegedly becoming involved in a plot against Cambyses.  The native administrative structure was kept, and Memphis retained as satrapal capital.

Cambyses spent three years in Egypt, and ancient historians presented his reign as brutal and impious; he is said to have mutilated Amasis' mummy and burned it, against both Egyptian and Persian custom; to have killed the Apis, a bull sacred to Ptah in Memphis, then killed the next Apis and a number of the city's nobles, had the priests of Ptah whipped; and openly mocked the Egyptian gods; the totality of which proved in Herodotus' mind that Cambyses was insane.

It is possible that much of this image originates with the Egyptian clergy, who resented Cambyses' revocation of taxes and grants that funded the temples.  An Egyptian statue dating from the period is inscribed with the biography of Wedjahor-Resne, Psammetichus' physician and admiral who maintained his office after the Persian conquest and guided Cambyses and Darius in the proper behavior of an Egyptian pharaoh.

From Egypt, Cambyses launched unsuccessful expeditions against Ethiopia and Carthage before heading home to try to deal with the Gaumâta and winding up dead.  Darius mentions a rebellion in 522 in his Behistun inscription, but doesn't elaborate on it; presumably Aryandes managed to put it down without royal help.  As king, Darius restored the state grants for the temples, ordered the transcription of Egyptian legal codes and translation into Aramaic, and constructed a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea.  According to Herodotus, Aryandes inadvertently ended his own highly successful career and his life by minting silver coins called aryandics in imitation of Darius' darics.  No aryandics have ever been identified, and Lendering speculates that the real cause was Darius' distrust of Aryandes during the Ionian Revolt, feeling that his satrap may have gone native.  He was replaced by Pharandates.

In 487, another uprising began, which would last until Xerxes subdued it in 484.  He appointed Achaemenes, his brother (per Herodotus) or son (per Ctesias) as the new satrap.  Egypt sent two hundred ships to Xerxes' invasion of Greece, nearly a sixth of the number present, while Achaemenes took charge of the entire imperial fleet.  Mardonius impeached the Egyptian crews for cowardice, along with the other seafaring peoples, in the Battle of Salamis (Herodotus VIII.100).

Yet another rebellion started in 460.  Its leader Inaros, whom Ctesias describes as a Libyan, allied with the Delian League, which was still actively at war with the Persian empire, and defeated and killed Achaemenes at Papremis.  The Persian army was besieged in the citadel of Memphis, but held out until 456, when the satraps Megabyzus of Syria and (per Diodorus) Artabanus of Phrygia drove off the rebel army.  The Egyptians and Greeks retreated to Prosopitis in the Nile Delta, but Megabyzus diverted the river around the island and captured it.  Inaros was executed at Susa.  The defeat was responsible for the relocation of the Delian treasury to Athens.

The last and most successful rebellion during the Achaemenid period began in 411 under Amyrtaeus (*Amenirdisu) of Sais, who may have been a distant descendant of the 26th dynasty.  He declared himself king following the death of Darius II in 405, and made good his claim while Artaxerxes II was busy fighting Cyrus the Younger.  The Persians held on to Upper Egypt until around 400-398.  Meanwhile, Amyrtaeus, sole pharaoh of the 28th dynasty, was defeated in battle and then executed at Memphis by another Egyptian noble, Nepherites (Nefaarud) I of the 29th dynasty.

Nepherites moved the capital of Egypt to his (probably) home city Mendes.  He sent grain and shipbuilding materials to Agesilaus of Sparta for his war with the Persians in Anatolia.  Upon Nepherites' death in 393, a usurper named Psammuthes claimed the throne and warred with Nepherites' son Muthis, but both lost out by the end of the year to an unrelated contender, Hakor or Akoris.  Hakor took part in the Corinthian War, allied with Cyprus and Athens; this alliance induced Persia to switch its support to Sparta, resulting in the Peace of Antalcidas in 387.  Persia then invaded Egypt again from 385-383, but Hakor defeated them with Athenian support.  In 380, Hakor died.  His son Nepherites II reigned less than a year before Nectanebo (Nekhtnebef) I overthrew him and created the 30th dynasty.

Apart from defending against the Persians, Nectanebo was known primarily as a builder and restorer of temples across Egypt, including creating the shrine on Philae (Pilak) in Upper Egypt which would become a major site of worship of Isis.  In 365, his son Teos (Djedhor) assumed co-regency.  Nectanebo died in 362 and Teos succeeded him, but while on a military expedition to Phoenicia two years later, he was overthrown by his nephew Nectanebo II, and lived the rest of his life in exile in Persia.

Fabric dyeing on Orientalism and the Age of Steam

So part four of the "Lady of Susa" series is up, and, wow, I don't think I have the patience or energy needed to carry out something like this, but kudos.

As usual, if you're at work, beware of mildly risqué banner.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Get this

Okay, first I have to announce that there will be no Peoples of the Empire entry tomorrow, as I've been set back by frequent computer crashes and inordinately long reboot times.  Expect it next week at the earliest.

To today's installment:  I've spoken with Lucilla Burns of the University of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum, where the Persian spear butt from Deve Hüyük is held.  She informs me that the object is hollow and very light.

I received my brass hame ball in the mail a week ago and it's eerie how similar this thing is to the Deve Hüyük spear butt.  Seriously, this piece of horse tack looks more like an ancient artefact that it's not trying to resemble than a lot of "historical replicas" look like the things they are supposed to resemble.

And here it is fitted to a certain window brush handle with a nail and some epoxy.

Of course, it lacks the subtle decoration of the original, and is a shade larger, but on balance, I'd call these allowable drawbacks.  It doesn't provide much counterweight, but that's as it should be, and it's still sturdy enough.  Widely available and not too expensive as reenactment kit goes; just look for a two-inch ball with a sharply-defined socket.  The socket on mine is one inch on the outside and 3/4 inch on the inside, meaning that fitting requires shaving off 1/8 inch all around the end of the handle for several inches, but it's flush with the shaft once that's done.