Damien F. Mackey
“The Chronicle of John of Nikiu who wrote of Cambyses[’] exploits after his name change to Nebuchadnezzar. He wrote of how Cambyses under his new name Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and desolated Egypt. It becomes apparent therefore that John gave credit to Cambyses for what Nebuchadnezzar accomplished”.
Previously I wrote, regarding likenesses I had perceived between Cambyses and my various alter egos for king Nebuchednezzar II (including Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus):
Common factors here may include ‘divine’ madness; confounding the priests by messing with the Babylonian rites; and the conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia.
I was then totally unaware of this name claim about Cambyses by John of Nikiu.
Named Nebuchednezzar, and can be Nebuchednezzar
… my enlargement of the historical Nebuchednezzar II, through alter egos,
to embrace Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus – and now, too, Cambyses – provides
a complete ‘profile’ of the biblical king that ‘covers all bases’, so to speak.
For some time, now, I have suspected that the mad but powerful, Egypt-conquering Cambyses had to be the same as the mad but powerful, Egypt-conquering Nebuchednezzar II.
And now I learn that the C7th AD Egyptian Coptic bishop, John of Nikiû (680-690 AD, conventional dating), had told that Cambyses was also called Nebuchednezzar.
This new piece of information has emboldened me to do – what I have wanted to – and that is to say with confidence that Cambyses was Nebuchednezzar II.
That Nebuchednezzar II also reigned in Susa is evidenced by (if I am right) my identification of him with the “king Artaxerxes” of the Book of Nehemiah, who was a “king of Babylon”.
See my series: “Governor Nehemiah’s master “Artaxerxes king of Babylon”,”, especially Part One:
and Part Two:
Whilst critics can argue that the “king Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel may not necessarily be a good match for the historico-biblical Nebuchednezzar II, but that he seems more likely to have been based on king Nabonidus, my enlargement of the historical Nebuchednezzar II, through alter egos, to embrace Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus – and now, too, Cambyses – provides a complete ‘profile’ of the biblical king that ‘covers all bases’, so to speak.
‘Sacred disease’ (read madness) of King Cambyses
“In view of all this, I have no doubt that Cambyses was completely out of his mind;
it is the only possible explanation of his assault upon, and mockery of,
everything which ancient law and custom have made sacred in Egypt”.
When subjecting neo-Babylonian history to a serious revision, I had reached the conclusion that Nebuchednezzar II needed to be folded with Nabonidus, and that Nebuchednezzar II’s son-successor, Evil-Merodach, needed to be folded with Nabonidus’s son, Belshazzar.
That accorded perfectly with the testimony of the Book of Daniel that “Nebuchednezzar” was succeeded by his son, “Belshazzar”.
One of the various traits shared by Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” and King Nabonidus was madness.
Useful in a discussion of this subject, I found, was Siegfried H. Horn’s article, “New light on Nebuchadnezzar’s madness”, which helpfully provided some possible evidence for madness in the case of Nebuchednezzar II.
Horn also proved useful in paving the way for my parallel situation of Evil-Merodach son of Nebuchednezzar II, and Belshazzar son of Nabonidus, when writing of Evil-Merodach’s possibly officiating in the place of a temporarily incapacitated king (as Belshazzar is known to have done in the case of Nabonidus).
Thus Horn wrote:
…. Since Daniel records that Nebuchadnezzar was “driven from men” (Dan. 4:33) but later reinstated as king by his officials (verse 36), Evilmerodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s eldest son, may have served as regent during his father’s incapacity. Official records, however, show Nebuchadnezzar as king during his lifetime.
Books, articles and classics have been written about the madness of King Cambyses, he conventionally considered to have been the second (II) king of that name, a Persian (c. 529-522 BC), and the son/successor of Cyrus the Great.
The tradition is thought to have begun with the C5th BC Greek historian, Herodotus, according to whom (The Histories)
[3.29.1] When the priests led Apis in, Cambyses–for he was all but mad–drew his dagger and, meaning to stab the calf in the belly, stuck the thigh; then laughing he said to the priests: [3.29.2] “Simpletons, are these your gods, creatures of flesh and blood that can feel weapons of iron? That is a god worthy of the Egyptians. But for you, you shall suffer for making me your laughing-stock.” So saying he bade those, whose business it was, to scourge the priests well, and to kill any other Egyptian whom they found holiday-making. [3.29.3] So the Egyptian festival ended, and the priests were punished, and Apis lay in the temple and died of the wound in the thigh. When he was dead of the wound, the priests buried him without Cambyses’ knowledge.
[3.30.1] But Cambyses, the Egyptians say, owing to this wrongful act immediately went mad, although even before he had not been sensible. His first evil act was to destroy his full brother Smerdis, whom he had sent away from Egypt to Persia out of jealousy, because Smerdis alone could draw the bow brought from the Ethiopian by the Fish-eaters as far as two fingerbreadths, but no other Persian could draw it.
[3.30.2] Smerdis having gone to Persia, Cambyses saw in a dream a vision, in which it seemed to him that a messenger came from Persia and told him that Smerdis sitting on the royal throne touched heaven with his head.
[3.30.3] Fearing therefore for himself, lest his brother might slay him and so be king, he sent Prexaspes, the most trusted of his Persians, to Persia to kill him. Prexaspes went up to Susa and killed Smerdis; some say that he took Smerdis out hunting, others that he brought him to the Red Sea (the Persian Gulf) and there drowned him. ….
[End of quote]
Herodotus’ Comment on Cambyses’ Madness
[3.38] In view of all this, I have no doubt that Cambyses was completely out of his mind; it is the only possible explanation of his assault upon, and mockery of, everything which ancient law and custom have made sacred in Egypt.
[End of quote]
Scholarly articles have been written in an attempt to diagnose the illness of Cambyses, sometimes referred to – as in the case of Julius Caesar’s epilepsy – as a ‘divine’ or ‘sacred’ disease.
For example (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11594937):
Arch Neurol. 2001 Oct; 58(10):1702-4.
The sacred disease of Cambyses II.
Herodotus’ account of the mad acts of the Persian king Cambyses II contains one of the two extant pre-Hippocratic Greek references to epilepsy. This reference helps to illuminate Greek thinking about epilepsy, and disease more generally, in the time immediately preceding the publication of the Hippocratic treatise on epilepsy, On the Sacred Disease. Herodotus attributed Cambyses’ erratic behavior as ruler of Egypt to either the retribution of an aggrieved god or to the fact that he had the sacred disease. Herodotus considered the possibility that the sacred disease was a somatic illness, agreeing with later Hippocratic authors that epilepsy has a natural rather than a divine cause. ….
[End of quote]
The character of Cambyses as presented in various ancient traditions is thoroughly treated in Herb Storck’s excellent monograph, History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period (House of Nabu, 1989).
Messing with the rites
As was the case with King Nabonidus (= Nebuchednezzar II), so did Cambyses apparently fail properly to observe established protocol with the Babylonian rites.
Regarding the rebellious behaviour of King Nabonidus with regard to the rites, I wrote previously:
Confounding the Astrologers
Despite his superstitious nature the “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel – and indeed his alter egos, Nebuchednezzar II/Nabonidus – did not hesitate at times to dictate terms to his wise men or astrologers (2:5-6):
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
And so, in the Verse Account, we read too of Nabonidus’ interference in matters ritualistic in the presence of sycophantic officials:
Yet he continues to mix up the rites, he confuses the hepatoscopic oracles. To the most important ritual observances, he orders an end; as to the sacred representations in Esagila -representations which Eamumma himself had fashioned- he looks at the representations and utters blasphemies.
When he saw the usar-symbol of Esagila, he makes an [insulting?] gesture. He assembled the priestly scholars, he expounded to them as follows: ‘Is not this the sign of ownership indicating for whom the temple was built? If it belongs really to Bêl, it would have been marked with the spade. Therefore the Moon himself has marked already his own temple with the usar-symbol!’
And Zeriya, the šatammu who used to crouch as his secretary in front of him, and Rimut, the bookkeeper who used to have his court position near to him, do confirm the royal dictum, stand by his words, they even bare their heads to pronounce under oath: ‘Now only we understand this situation, after the king has explained about it!’
[End of quote]
Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in his book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), gives another similar instance pertaining to an eclipse (Col. III 2), likening it also to the action of “Nebuchednezzar” in the Book of Daniel (pp. 128-129):
The scribes brought baskets from Babylon (containing) the tablets of the series enūma Anu Enlil to check (it, but since) he did not hearken to (what it said), he did not understand what it meant.
The passage is difficult, but its general implications are clear. Whether Nabonidus had already made up his mind as to the meaning of the eclipse and therefore refused to check the astrological series, or did check them but disagreed with the scribes on their interpretation, it seems that the consecration of En-nigaldi-Nanna [daughter of Nabonidus] was felt to be uncalled for. This alleged stubbornness of the king is perhaps reflected in the Book of Daniel, in the passage where Nebuchednezzar (i.e. Nabonidus), after having dismissed the plea of the “Chaldeans”, states that the matter is settled for him (Daniel II, 3-5) ….
But this does not imply that Nabonidus was necessarily wrong in his interpretation of the eclipse; on the contrary, all the evidence suggests that he was right. However, he may have “forced” things slightly ….
[End of quote]
According to Encyclopaedia Iranica on Cambyses II:
A badly damaged passage in the chronicle of Nabonidus contains a report that, in order to legitimize his appointment, Cambyses participated in the ritual prescribed for the king at the traditional New Year festival on 27 March 538 B.C., accepting the royal scepter from the hands of Marduk in Esagila, the god’s temple in Babylon (III. 24-28; Grayson, p. 111). A. L. Oppenheim attempted a reconstruction of the damaged text (Survey of Persian Art XV, p. 3501); according to his version, Cambyses entered the temple in ordinary Elamite attire, fully armed. The priests persuaded him to lay down his arms, but he refused to change his clothes for those prescribed in the ritual. He then received the royal scepter. In Oppenheim’s view Cambyses thus deliberately demonstrated “a deep-seated religious conviction” hostile to this alien religion (Camb. Hist. Iran II, p. 557).
[End of quote]
Part Five: Cambyses – in your dreams
“Cambyses has a “Nebuchednezzar” like dream-vision
of a king whose head touched heaven”.
Our neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus, was, true to form (as an alter ego for Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”), a frequent recipient of dreams and visions.
For example, I wrote previously:
Nabonidus was, like “Nebuchednezzar”, an excessively pious man, and highly superstitious. The secret knowledge of which he boasted was what he had acquired through his dreams. Another characteristic that Nabonidus shared with “Nebuchednezzar”. Nabonidus announced (loc. cit.): “The god Ilteri has made me see (dreams), he has made everything kno[wn to me]. I surpass in all (kinds of) wisdom (even the series) uskar-Anum-Enlilla, which Adap[a] composed”. ….
[End of quote]
In Beaulieu’s book … we read further of King Nabonidus:
“I did not stop going to the diviner and the dream interpreter”.
And of King Nebuchednezzar II – with whom I am equating Nabonidus – the prophet Ezekiel writes similarly of that king’s omen seeking (21:21): “The king of Babylon now stands at the fork, uncertain whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbah. He calls his magicians to look for omens. They cast lots by shaking arrows from the quiver. They inspect the livers of animal sacrifices”.
[End of quote]
Ashurbanipal, likewise – he being yet another alter ego – gave immense credence to dreams and used a dream book. Ashurbanipal was, like Nabonidus, more superstitious, if I may say it, than Nostradamus being pursued by a large black cat under a ladder – on the thirteenth.
Karen Radner tells of Ashurbanipal’s reliance upon dreams, in Of God(s), Trees, Kings, and scholars (p. 224): https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sargon/downloads/radner_fs_parpola_2009.pdf
In the Biblical attestations, especially in the stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Joseph in Egypt, the ḫarṭummîm17 [wizards] figure prominently as experts in the interpretation of dreams, and it may be this kind of expertise which the ḫarṭibē offered to the Assyrian king; dream oracles were certainly popular with Assurbanipal who used dreams … to legitimise his actions in his royal inscriptions … and whose library contained the dream omen series Zaqīqu (also Ziqīqu). ….
[End of quote]
Now, what of Cambyses in this regard?
Well, according to Herodotus (http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/herodotus/cambyses.htm)
[3.30.1] But Cambyses, the Egyptians say, owing to this wrongful act immediately went mad, although even before he had not been sensible. His first evil act was to destroy his full brother Smerdis, whom he had sent away from Egypt to Persia out of jealousy, because Smerdis alone could draw the bow brought from the Ethiopian by the Fish-eaters as far as two fingerbreadths, but no other Persian could draw it. [3.30.2] Smerdis having gone to Persia, Cambyses saw in a dream a vision, in which it seemed to him that a messenger came from Persia and told him that Smerdis sitting on the royal throne touched heaven with his head. [3.30.3] Fearing therefore for himself, lest his brother might slay him and so be king, he sent Prexaspes, the most trusted of his Persians, to Persia to kill him. Prexaspes went up to Susa and killed Smerdis; some say that he took Smerdis out hunting, others that he brought him to the Red Sea (the Persian Gulf) and there drowned him.
[End of quote]
This is actually, as we shall now find, quite Danielic.
Cambyses has a “Nebuchednezzar” like dream-vision of a king whose head touched heaven. Likewise, “Nebuchednezzar” had a dream of a “tree … which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky” (Daniel 4:20).
Now, given that this “tree” symbolised “Nebuchednezzar” himself, who was also according to an earlier dream a “head of gold (Daniel 2:38), then one might say that, as in the case of Cambyses dream-vision of a king whose head touched heaven, so did “Nebuchednezzar” touch the sky (heaven) with his head (of gold).