1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Psammetichus

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PSAMMETICHUS (Egypt. Psammelk), the name of three kings of the Saite, XXVIth Dynasty, called by Herodotus respectively Psammetichus, Psammis and Psammenitus. The first of these is generally considered to be the founder of the dynasty; Manetho, however, carries it back through three or four predecessors who ruled at Sais as petty kings under the XXVth, Ethiopian, Dynasty. The name is frankly written so as to mean “ the man of melhek, ” i.e. “ mixed drink, ” whether as a tippler or as a vendor of strong drink. The Egyptian scribes do not conceal the opprobrious elements, but it has been suggested that the name may be due to false etymology of a foreign name (though all the names throughout the dynasty appear to be Egyptian), or that Methek may have been an unknown deity. The story in Herodotus of the Dodecarchy and the rise of Psammetichus is fanciful. It is known from cuneiform texts that twenty local prince lings were appointed by Esarhaddon and confirmed by Assur-bani-pal to govern Egypt. Niku (Necho), father of Psammetichus, was the chief of these kinglets, but they seem to have been quite unable to hold the Egyptians to the hated Assyrians against the more sympathetic Ethiopian. The labyrinth built by a king of the XIIth Dynasty is ascribed by Herodotus to the Dodecarchy, or rule of 12, which must represent this combination of rulers. If the dynasties were numbered thus before Manetho, the numeral may be the cause of Herodotus's confusion. After his father's death Psammetichus I. (664-610 b.c.) was able to defy the Assyrians and the Ethiopians, and during a long reign marked by intimate relations with the Greeks restored the prosperity of Egypt. The short reign of the second Psammetichus (594-589 b.c.) is noteworthy for the graffiti of his Greek, Phoenician and Carian mercenaries at Abu Simbel (q.v.). The third of the name was the unfortunate prince whose reign terminated after six months in the Persian conquest of Egypt (525 b.c.). It has been conjectured that the family of the Psammetichi was of Libyan origin; on the other hand, some would recognize negro features in a portrait of Psamrnetichus I., which might connect him with the Ethiopian rulers.

See above, Egypt: History; on the name, F. Ll. Griffith, Catalogue of the Rylands dernotic papyri; the portrait, H. Schafer in Zeitschrift fur aegyptische Sprache, xxxiii. 116.

(F. LL. G.)