Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

EGYPT AND PHOENICIA IN THE PERSIAN PERIOD:
PARTNERS IN TRADE AND REBELLION

John W. Betlyon


Introduction

The close connections between Egypt and Phoenicia are well documented as far back as the Late Bronze age, if not further. The Lebanon range of mountains was an important source for timber, and cities such as Byblos were famous for their purple dye valued by Near Eastern and Egyptian royalty. Trade between the Nile Delta and the Canaanite city-states of the Levant followed the political and military developments of the time. In the Iron Age and Persian Periods, both Egypt and Phoenicia sought commercial power and stability-nothing more, nothing less. The changes which engulfed the region after the fall of Assyria swept the merchants of the eastern Mediterranean along with them. Once partners in trade, Egypt and Phoenicia would find themselves enemies in war and allies in rebellion by the time Alexander's Hellenistic armies took overall control.

Persian Conquests and Administration: ca. 539–470 BCE

By 574 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Near East from Babylon. Although he attempted to conquer Lower Egypt, his efforts failed. Providing for his army across long desert supply lines meant certain failure. Had the Babylonian king sought and favored Bedouin assistance in his Egyptian campaign, he might well have been successful. By the end of his reign, problems in the North preoccupied his mind, including the threat of war between Cyxares of Medea and Alyattes of Lydia. Nebuchadnezzar negotiated a truce between the two sides, and put himself in a position of power and political leverage in the region (Roux 1992:380). But reaching that point had not been easy.

Egypt did not hide its anti-Babylonian position. In 592 BCE, Psammetichus II led a procession of his priests, court, and army to Philistia and Judah. Then they traveled up the coast to Tyre and Byblos, “to lift the spirits of the anti-Babylonian resistance and to cement alliances”

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