Negotiating authority: The Acceptance of Cambyses as Egyptian Pharaoh as Means of Constructing Elite Identity

Wasmuth, M. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The Persian empire features a very special case study regarding the issue of authority and elite identity. In contrast to most other areas of the empire, legitimate rule over Egypt was explicitly negotiated: the Persian Great King was established and crowned as Egyptian pharaoh. Though the contemporary primary evidence for creating and displaying this double role is very scarce for any other king than Darius I, this practice starts already with Cambyses (II) quite soon after the conquest of Egypt. In his case, we are in the lucky position to actually have sources indicating how his authority was established and how this effected Egyptian elite identity between local and cross-regional or global identity constructions.
The most informative source on Cambyses as conqueror and king of Egypt is framed within a monument of private elite representation: the famous statue of Udjahorresnet, which was probably originally set up in a semi-public place at Sais and later included into the once more semi-public context of a Roman villa near Tivoli, is now on semi-public display in the Musei Vaticani in Rome.
The contribution discusses to which extent this local elite statue is to be viewed as an official state or a private monument. In fact it is both: It is the primary memorial monument of Cambyses as first pharaoh of the Egyptian 27th dynasty as well as one of the major representative monuments of Udjahorresnet, fleet commander and local advisor of kings. Elements to be considered include the impact of negotiating cross-regional authority on the individuals Udjahorresnet and Cambyses, on the regnal role and functions of the Persian king, and on the historiographical struggle to address such questions.
Period9 Jan 2019
Event titleThe Persian Empire, the Social Sciences, and Ancient Historiography: null
Event typeWorkshop
LocationHelsinki, Finland