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Who is Cambyses II of the Achaemenid Persia?

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Cambyses II was born as the eldest son of Cyrus the Great, the first king of Achaemenid Empire.

To learn more about Cyrus the Great,

Please read this article.

When his father Cyrus the Great died, Cambyses II succeeded to the throne.

However, his reign was too short.

In fact, there are many rumors about the relationship between Cambyses II and the famous Darius the Great.

Cambyses II killed his own brother and Darius the Great became king by his own trickery, and so on.

What was the life of Cambyses II like?

Who was Cambyses II?

Cambyses II was suspicious of his brother Smerdis.

Mesopotamian (Babylonian) king image

My throne will be taken away from him...

Then, he kills his brother Smerdis.

After committing the crime of killing Smerdis, Cambyses II became addicted to alcohol and committed more crimes.

It is said that he suddenly became corrupt.

Although Historical documents on Cambyses II are scarce,

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Was he a tyrant who behaved as he wished, often indulging in alcohol and committing atrocities?

It is believed that he was a tyrant who behaved as he wished.

To his surprise, Cambyses II married his sister who had the same parents.

Later on, he also married the eldest daughter of the same father and mother who were sisters.

This involves a consanguine marriage that is strongly influenced by Zoroastrianism.

*Consanguine marriage is a marriage between persons of close kinship.

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The sexual union of the family is sacred!

This was believed in Persia.

Incidentally, this practice of consanguineous marriage was also practiced in ancient Egypt.

The famous Cleopatra was actually married to her brother.

Who is Cleopatra? Here is an easy-to-understand summary of what kind of person she was!

If you're curious, here's another article on the subject!

Cambyses II's Conquest and Failure in Egypt

Cambyses II is famous for his conquest of Egypt.

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Because of our alliance with Greece, we can withstand Persian attacks...!

This was how the king of Egypt thought at the time.

However, the Egyptian army was destroyed by reinforcements and betrayal of the Greek army.

According to Egyptian inscriptions, Cambyses decided to wear the title and costume of pharaoh.

This means that Cambyses II was also the pharaoh (king) of Egypt.

From here, however, Cambyses' failures continued.

After Egypt, he attempted to conquer Kush, which was located in present-day Sudan.

However, Cambyses' army struggled against the desert.

They then suffered a serious defeat and were forced to return home.

From that point on, he tried to fight again, but he did not succeed very well.

Incidentally, there is a rumor about Cambyses II.

According to Herodotus, while Cambyses' army of some 50,000 men was crossing the desert on an expedition, a huge sandstorm broke out and they were all buried in the sand.

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This is just a myth, right?

Most Egyptologists think this is a myth, but in fact, many people have searched for the remains of this army.

From Cambyses II to Darius the Great

The story of how Cambyses II to Darius the Great became king is preserved in an anecdote in Herodotus' "Histories" and in his own "Behistun Inscription".

Since the stories are similar, I will write a unified story in the first half and separate versions of the story from the second half.

Common Story of Histories and Inscription

Cambyses II was afraid of his brother Smerdis (Bardiya).

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I am afraid that my throne will be taken away from him...

He was skeptical like this, so he killed his brother in secret.

The death of his brother Smerdis was never known to anyone.

But then, an incident occurred.

During Cambyses II's expedition to Egypt, there was unrest among the people.

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Haven't we seen Prince Smerdis lately?

Then a certain monk rebelled.

We do not know how this monk learned of the death of his brother Smerdis.

But he took a good look at the case, because he had a plan to overthrow the throne.

Recorded by Histories

The monk had a brother who looked exactly like Smerdis.

And his name is the same as that of Smerdis.

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He is (the murdered) Prince Smerdis!

The monk proclaimed this brother so throughout the kingdom and made him king.

Meanwhile, Cambyses II was told this news in Syria on his way back from Egypt.

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Huh? How could these people know something that no one was supposed to know?

He was so flustered and upset that he hurried on his way to defeat the fake Smerdis.

However, this impatience caused a disaster.

When riding his horse, he made a mistake with his sword and was wounded and died.

Thus, the monk and the false Smerdis took control of Persia.

No, it was not!

In the eighth month of their accession to the throne, they were unmasked, and seven comrades, including Darius the Great, dragged the brothers down with them.

Then, these seven then discussed the future of the country.

However, they could not come to an agreement and decided to decide the king by a game.

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He who rides the first horse that neighs at sunrise shall be king.

Based on these rules, Darius the Great adopted a bit dirty maneuver at that time.

The strategy was to connect with the caretaker of the horse.

The scheme succeeded in making him king.

The Behestun Inscription

According to the Behestun inscription, it was not the brother of the monk, but the monk himself.

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I am Bardiya, brother of Kambuziya II!

He falsely declared so.

The people, who were suspicious of Kambujya II, became his allies.

Finally, the monk became king.

Later, Kambujiah II died at the end of his life.

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Go on and exile all those who know this truth!

The monk ordered so to keep this lie hidden.

This made many people fear the monk so much that they stopped saying anything about it.

Darius the Great, who was from a legitimate royal family, asked for help from the gods and received their favor.

The result was the murder of the monk and their entourage.

Thus, Darius the Great took back his kingdom from the monk and became king by the will of God.

Did Darius the Great take the throne?

In recent years, these records have been discredited.

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Darius the Great took the throne, the story made up to justify this fact.

This is the prevailing view.

The reason is that there is a contradiction in the legend of the false Smerdis (Gaumata) case.

So, this story of Darius the Great up to his ascension to the throne is

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Propaganda for him.

It is believed so.

The "Behistun Inscription" about Darius the Great lists all of his ancestors, but none of them became king.

Cyrus the Great, who also became the first king of Achaemenid Empire, declared following.

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I am Cyrus. Great king and son of Cambyses (father of Cyrus the Great).

His claim is based on his family tree up to Cyrus the Great, which shows that he is indeed a descendant of the Achaemenes family.

Darius the Great, after ascending the throne,

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From Cyrus of the House of Achaemenes

He left many inscriptions inscribed in the name of Cyrus the Great in this way.

Furthermore, Darius the Great married all the wives and daughters of Cyrus the Great, Cambyses II, and Smerdis.

Thus, he showed a relentless commitment to his royal lineage.

Darius I was originally a former spear-bearer of Cambyses.

Although being a spearman may sound like a person who had achieved great success, in those days, spearman was a high position that could only be held by a person who was extremely close to the king.

And from his time, the history of Achaemenid Empire started over again.

Darius the Great was also a great historical figure who was involved in the famous Persian War.

To learn more about him,

What did Darius I do? A Summary of 8 Achievements of the Achaemenid Kings

Please also read this article.

Thus, the reign of Achaemenid Empire continued from Cyrus II, the first king, to Cambyses II, and then to Darius I.

For a comprehensive overview of Achaemenid Empire,

What was Achaemenid Persia? How did the Achaemenid Persia unify the Orient?

Please also read this article.

There are many more histories of Mesopotamian civilization.

If you want to know more about the history of Mesopotamian civilization, please read the following article.

What is the Mesopotamian civilization? I explain in detail what kind of civilization it is!

Please also read this article.