Late Period

747 BC
332 BC

When the Kushite kings conquered Egypt, one of the line of rulers that had emerged in Egypt was the Twenty-fourth Dynasty, based in Sais in the western Delta. The Nubians killed their king, Bakenrenef (Bocchoris to the Greeks). After the Assyrians conquered Egypt and the Kushite king Tanutamani retreated to Nubia, King Assurbanipal installed the Saite kings to rule Egypt on his behalf.

          Once the Assyrians’ grip on Egypt loosened, the Saite king Psamtik I (664–610 BC), began to consolidate his power throughout the country. Thus began the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and Late Period, when Egypt was once again a major world power. Trade flourished, and trading ports on and near the Mediterranean enriched the coffers of the nation. Greek merchants and artisans played a particularly important role in this regard. With a strong economy, monumental construction projects resumed all along the Nile Valley. Some of the most beautiful ancient Egyptian art was produced in this period. The kings of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty looked to Egypt’s already very ancient past, the Old Kingdom (c.2686–2181 BC) in particular, for inspiration. The result were objects that were influenced by old traditions, and that were yet very new. The reign of King Ahmose III (better known as Amasis; 570–526 BC) was particularly prosperous.

           The situation abroad, however, was growing difficult. The defeated Neo-Assyrian Empire was replaced by the rapidly expanding Neo-Babylonian. Egypt had become militarily very powerful, both on land and at sea. Campaigns in both Nubia and especially the Levant (the area of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria) were undertaken. Alliances were made to oppose the Babylonians and their powerful king, Nebuchadnezzar II (605–562 BC), whose attack on the Egypt was successfully repulsed.

          The Neo-Babylonian Empire was defeated by the rising Achaemenid Persian Empire under the leadership of King Cyrus the Great (559–530 BC). The Saite kings contended with this new threat, but Psamtik III (526–525 BC) was defeated by the Persian king Cambyses. The Twenty-seventh Dynasty consists of the Persian rulers. Although this was a prosperous period, the Egyptians wanted independence, and revolted when they could.

           In this, King Amunirdis (Amyrtaios to the Greeks; 404–399 BC) of Sais was successful. He ruled the whole country, founding the Twenty-eighth Dynasty. He was the only ruler in this line, however, as his throne was usurped by Nepherites I (399–393 BC), who founded the Twenty-ninth Dynasty. This new line successfully defended Egypt against the Persians, but the throne was usurped from them as well, this time by their general Nekhtnebef.

           With Nekhtnebef (Nectanebo I to the Greeks; 380–362 BC) began the final, Thirtieth, Dynasty (380–343 BC), one of the most prosperous periods of ancient Egyptian history. The capital was the Delta city of Sebennytos (modern Samannud). Monumental construction projects were undertaken in the whole country, from the Delta in the north to Philae in the south, and art continued to flourish. Although the Dynasty successfully defended Egypt against the Persians, Nekhtherhebit (Nectanebo II to the Greeks; 360–343 BC) was ultimately defeated. The second Persian occupation, sometimes called the Thirty-first Dynasty, was less tolerant than the first, but it would last only ten years.

Late Period