Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt

The Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt (notated Dynasty XXVII, alternatively 27th Dynasty or Dynasty 27), also known as the First Egyptian Satrapy (Old Persian: Mudrāya[8]), was a province (Satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire between 525 BC and 404 BC. It was founded by Cambyses II, the King of Persia, after the Battle of Pelusium (525 BC) and the Achaemenid conquest of Egypt, and his subsequent crowning as Pharaoh of Egypt. It was disestablished upon the rebellion and crowning of Amyrtaeus as Pharaoh. A second period of Achaemenid rule in Egypt occurred under the Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt (343–332 BC).

Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt
Mudrāya (Old Persian)
Province of the Achaemenid Empire
525 BC–404 BC
Flag of Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt
Standard of Cyrus the Great

Western part of the Achaemenid Empire, with the territories of Egypt.[1][2][3][4]
• 525–522 BC
Cambyses II (first)
• 423–404 BC
Darius II (last)
Historical eraAchaemenid era
525 BC
• Rebellion of Amyrtaeus
404 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt
Twenty-eighth Dynasty of Egypt
The Svenigorodsky cylinder seal depicting a Persian king thrusting his lance at an Egyptian pharaoh, while holding four captives on a rope.[5][6][7]



The last pharaoh of the 26th Dynasty, Psamtik III, was defeated by Cambyses II at the battle of Pelusium in the eastern Nile delta in May of 525 BC. Cambyses was crowned Pharaoh of Egypt in the summer of that year at the latest, beginning the first period of Persian rule over Egypt (known as the 27th Dynasty). Egypt was then joined with Cyprus and Phoenicia to form the sixth satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, with Aryandes as the local satrap (provincial governor).

As Pharaoh of Egypt, Cambyses' reign saw the fiscal resources of traditional Egyptian temples diminished considerably. One decree, written on papyrus in demotic script ordered a limitation on resources to all Egyptian temples, excluding Memphis, Heliopolis and Wenkhem (near Abusir). Cambyses left Egypt sometime in early 522 BC, dying en route to Persia, and was nominally succeeded briefly by his younger brother Bardiya, although contemporary historians suggest Bardiya was actually Gaumata, an impostor, and that the real Bardiya had been murdered some years before by Cambyses, ostensibly out of jealousy. Darius I, suspecting this impersonation, led a coup against "Bardiya" in September of that year, overthrowing him and being crowned as King and Pharaoh the next morning.

As the new Persian King, Darius spent much of his time quelling rebellions throughout his empire. Sometime in late 522 BC or early 521 BC, a local Egyptian prince led a rebellion and declared himself Pharaoh Petubastis III. The main cause of this rebellion is uncertain, but the Ancient Greek military historian Polyaenus states that it was oppressive taxation imposed by the satrap Aryandes. Polyaenus further writes that Darius himself marched to Egypt, arriving during a period of mourning for the death of the sacred Herald of Ptah bull. Darius made a proclamation that he would award a sum of one hundred talents to the man who could produce the next Herald, impressing the Egyptians with his piety such that they flocked en masse to his side, ending the rebellion.[9]

Egyptian statue of Darius I, discovered in the Palace in Susa.[10]
Modern impression of an Achaemenid cylinder seal from Iran, with king holding two lion griffins at bay and Egyptian hieroglyphs reading "Thoth is a protection over me". Circa 6th–5th century BC.[11][12]

Darius took a greater interest in Egyptian internal affairs than Cambyses. He reportedly codified the laws of Egypt, and notably completed the excavation of a canal system at Suez, allowing passage from the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, much preferable to the arduous desert land route. This feat allowed Darius to import skilled Egyptian laborers and artisans to construct his palaces in Persia. The result of this was a minor brain drain in Egypt, due to the loss of these skilled individuals, creating a demonstrable lowering of quality in Egyptian architecture and art from this period. Nevertheless, Darius was more devoted to supporting Egyptian temples than Cambyses, earning himself a reputation for religious tolerance in the region. In 497 BC, during a visit by Darius to Egypt, Aryandes was executed for treason, most likely for attempting to issue his own coinage, a visible attempt to distance Egypt from the rest of the Persian Empire.[13][14] Darius died in 486 BC, and was succeeded by Xerxes I.

Egyptian soldier of the Achaemenid army, circa 470 BCE. Xerxes I tomb relief.

Upon the accession of Xerxes, Egypt again rebelled, this time possibly under Psamtik IV, although different sources dispute that detail. Xerxes quickly quelled the rebellion, installing his brother Achaemenes as satrap. Xerxes ended the privileged status of Egypt held under Darius, and increased supply requirements from the country, probably to fund his invasion of Greece. Furthermore, Xerxes promoted the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda at the expense of traditional Egyptian deities, and permanently stopped the funding of Egyptian monuments. Xerxes was murdered in 465 BC by Artabanus, beginning a dynastic struggle that ended with Artaxerxes I being crowned the next King and Pharaoh.

In 460 BC another major Egyptian rebellion took place, led by a Libyan chief named Inaros II, substantially assisted by the Athenians of Greece.[15] Inaros defeated an army led by Achaemenes, killing the satrap in the process, and took Memphis, eventually exerting control over large parts of Egypt. Inaros and his Athenian allies were finally defeated by a Persian army led by general Megabyzus in 454 BC and consequently sent into retreat. Megabyzus promised Inaros no harm would come of him or his followers if he surrendered and submitted to Persian authority, terms Inaros agreed to. Nevertheless, Artaxerxes eventually had Inaros executed, although exactly how and when is a matter of dispute.[16] Artaxerxes died in 424 BC.

Artaxerxes successor, Xerxes II only ruled for forty-five days, being murdered by his brother Sogdianus. Sogdianus was consequently murdered by his brother Ochus, who became Darius II.[17] Darius II ruled from 423 BC to 404 BC, and nearing the end of his reign a rebellion led by Amyrtaeus took place, potentially beginning as early as 411 BC. In 405 BC Amyrtaeus, with the help of Cretan mercenaries expelled the Persians from Memphis, declaring himself Pharaoh the next year and ending the 27th Dynasty. Darius II's successor, Artaxerxes II made attempts to begin an expedition to retake Egypt, but due to political difficulty with his brother Cyrus the Younger, abandoned the effort. Artaxerxes II was still recognized as the rightful Pharaoh in some parts of Egypt as late as 401 BC, although his sluggish response to the situation allowed Egypt to solidify its independence.

During the period of independent rule, three indigenous dynasties reigned: the 28th, 29th, and 30th Dynasty. Artaxerxes III (358 BC) reconquered the Nile valley for a brief second period (343 BC), which is called the 31st Dynasty of Egypt.

The Achaemenid rule over Egypt had been often viewed as either weak or oppressive. H. P. Colburn (2019) analyses suggest Achaemenid legacy there was significant and the Egyptians had a wide variety of experiences in this period.[18][19]

Pharaohs of the 27th Dynasty

Egyptian alabaster vase of Darius I with quadrilingual hieroglyphic and cuneiform inscriptions. The hieroglyph reads: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Darius, living forever, year 36".[20][21]

The pharaohs of the 27th Dynasty ruled for approximately 121 years, from 525 BC to 404 BC. Rulers with violet background were native Egyptian pharaohs who rebelled against the Achaemenid rule.

Name of pharaoh Image Reign Throne name Comments
Cambyses II   525–522 BC Mesutire Defeated Psamtik III at the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BC
Bardiya/ Gaumata   522 BC Possible impostor
Petubastis III   522/521–520 BC Seheruibre Rebelled against the Achaemenid Pharaohs
Darius I the Great   522–486 BC Seteture
Psamtik IV 480s BC Proposed rebel against the Achaemenid Pharaohs
Xerxes I the Great   486–465 BC
Artabanus 465–464 BC Assassinated Xerxes I, later killed by Artaxerxes I
Artaxerxes I   465–424 BC
Xerxes II 425–424 BC Claimant to throne
Sogdianus 424–423 BC Claimant to throne
Darius II   423–404 BC Last pharaoh of the 27th Dynasty

Timeline of the 27th Dynasty (Achaemenid Pharaohs only)

Darius IISogdianusXerxes IIArtaxerxes IXerxes IDarius IBardiyaCambyses II

Satraps of the 27th Dynasty

Name of satrap Rule Reigning monarch Comments
Aryandes 525–522 BC;
518–c.496 BC
Cambyses II, Darius I Deposed following a revolt in 522 BC, later restored in 518 BC then deposed again by Darius I
Pherendates c.496–c.486 BC Darius I Possibly killed during a revolt
Achaemenes c.486–459 BC Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I A brother of Xerxes I, later killed by the rebel Inaros II
Arsames c.454–c.406 BC Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, Artaxerxes II Longest ruling satrap of Egypt

Historical sources



  1. ^ O'Brien, Patrick Karl (2002). Atlas of World History. Oxford University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 9780195219210.
  2. ^ Philip's Atlas of World History. 1999.
  3. ^ Davidson, Peter (2018). Atlas of Empires: The World's Great Powers from Ancient Times to Today. i5 Publishing LLC. ISBN 9781620082881.
  4. ^ Barraclough, Geoffrey (1989). The Times Atlas of World History. Times Books. p. 79. ISBN 0723003041.
  5. ^ "a Persian hero slaughtering an Egyptian pharaoh while leading four other Egyptian captives" Hartley, Charles W.; Yazicioğlu, G. Bike; Smith, Adam T. (2012). The Archaeology of Power and Politics in Eurasia: Regimes and Revolutions. Cambridge University Press. p. ix, photograph 4.6. ISBN 9781139789387.
  6. ^ "Victor, apparently wearing the tall Persian headdress rather than a crown, leads four bareheaded Egyptian captives by a rope tied to his belt. Victor spears a figure wearing Egyptian type crown." in Root, Margaret Cool (1979). The king and kingship in Achaemenid art: essays on the creation of an iconography of empire. Diffusion, E.J. Brill. p. 182. ISBN 9789004039025.
  7. ^ "Another seal, also from Egypt, shows a Persian king, his left hand grasping an Egyptian with an Egyptian hairdo (pschent), whom he thrusts through with his lance while holding four prisoners with a rope around their necks." Briant, Pierre (2002). From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Eisenbrauns. p. 215. ISBN 9781575061207.
  8. ^ "ACHAEMENID SATRAPIES – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  9. ^ Smith, Andrew. "Polyaenus: Stratagems - Book 7". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  10. ^ Razmjou, Shahrokh (1954). Ars orientalis; the arts of Islam and the East. Freer Gallery of Art. pp. 81–101.
  11. ^ "Museum item, accession number: 36.106.2". Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  12. ^ Giovino, Mariana (2006). "Egyptian Hieroglyphs on Achaemenid Period Cylinder Seals". Iran. 44. Iran, vol. 44: 105–114. doi:10.1080/05786967.2006.11834682. JSTOR 4300705. S2CID 193426061.
  13. ^ "DARIUS iii. Darius I the Great – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  14. ^ Klotz, David (19 September 2015). "UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology - Persian Period". UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  15. ^ Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War.
  16. ^ Photius. "Photius' excerpt of Ctesias' Persica (2)". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  17. ^ S. Zawadzki, "The Circumstances of Darius II's Accession" in Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 34 (1995-1996) 45-49
  18. ^ Colburn, Henry P. (2020). Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9781474452366. JSTOR 10.3366/j.ctvss3wvv.
  19. ^ Colburn, Henry Preater (2014). The Archaeology of Achaemenid Rule in Egypt (PhD thesis). hdl:2027.42/107318.
  20. ^ Goodnick Westenholz, Joan (2002). "A Stone Jar with Inscriptions of Darius I in Four Languages" (PDF). ARTA: 2.
  21. ^ Qahéri, Sépideh (2020). "Alabastres royaux d'époque achéménide". L’Antiquité à la BnF (in French). doi:10.58079/b8of.

See also