Nectanebo II (Manetho's transcription of Egyptian
Nḫt-Ḥr-(n)-Ḥbyt, "Strong is
Horus of Hebit"), ruled in
360—342 BC[b]) was the third and last pharaoh of the Thirtieth
Dynasty of Egypt as well as the last native ruler of ancient Egypt.
Under Nectanebo II, Egypt prospered. During his reign, the Egyptian
artists delivered a specific style that left a distinctive mark on the
reliefs of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Like his indirect predecessor
Nectanebo II showed enthusiasm for many of the cults of
the gods within ancient Egyptian religion, and more than a hundred
Egyptian sites bear evidence of his attentions. Nectanebo II,
however, undertook more constructions and restorations than Nectanebo
I, commencing in particular the enormous
Egyptian temple of
For several years,
Nectanebo II was successful in keeping Egypt safe
from the Achaemenid Empire. However, betrayed by his former
servant, Mentor of Rhodes,
Nectanebo II was ultimately defeated by the
combined Persian and Greek forces in the Battle of Pelusium (343 BC).
The Persians occupied Memphis and then seized the rest of Egypt,
incorporating the country into the Achaemenid Empire. Nectanebo fled
south and preserved his power for some time; his subsequent fate is
2 Rise to power
4.1 Building campaigns
4.2 Nectanebo and the Alexander Romance
7 External links
The greywacke statue of Nectanebo II.
Except for the small-scale greywacke statue in the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, which shows
Nectanebo II standing before the image of Horus,
no other annotated portraits of
Nectanebo II are known. In the
Nectanebo II is shown in a nemes and uraeus. His
bent arm with the sword stands for the hieroglyph nakht, the falcon
represents Horus, while the hieroglyph in Nectanebo's right hand
stands for heb. Other portraits attributed to
Nectanebo II (all
featuring the khepresh) include a quartzite head in the museum of the
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, a
basalt head in Alexandria, a granite head acquired by the Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston and a damaged quartzite head.
Rise to power
In 525 BC Egypt was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. Because of
internal struggles for the Persian imperial succession, Egypt managed
to regain independence in 404 BC. In 389 BC,
a treaty with Athens and for three years (from 385 to 383 BC) managed
to withstand Persian aggression. However, following the conclusion
Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC between the Achaemenids and the
Greek city-states, Egypt and
Cyprus became the only obstacles to
Persian hegemony in the Mediterranean.
In the beginning of 360 BC, Nectanebo's predecessor Teos started
preparations for war against intruders. In the same year, the Egyptian
army set off, traveling along the coast by land and sea. Nectanebo II
accompanied his uncle Teos in that campaign and was in charge of the
In an attempt to raise finances for the war quickly, Teos imposed
taxes on Egyptians and seized temple property. Egyptians,
particularly the priests, resented those measures but supported
Nectanebo II. Teos asked Spartan military leader
Chabrias to preserve support for him. Agesilaus,
however, said he was sent to aid Egypt and not to wage war against
Chabrias returned home with his mercenaries. Teos decided
to flee to the Achaemenid court, where he ultimately died of natural
Nectanebo contended with an unnamed pretender to the throne from the
town of Mendes, who proclaimed himself pharaoh. The revolt was
probably led by one of the descendants of Nepherites I, whose family
had ruled the town before. The claimant sent messengers to
Agesilaus in an attempt to persuade
Agesilaus to his side.
Agesilaus remained loyal to Nectanebo, fearing to become a turncoat.
At one of the towns in the
Nile Delta the troops of Nectanebo and
Agesilaus were besieged by the usurper, who had gained many
sympathisers. Despite the enemy's numerical superiority, Nectanebo and
Agesilaus were victorious and the revolt was put down in the fall of
360 BC. Acknowledging Agesilaus, Nectanebo sent him 220 talents of
Obverse of an
Egyptian gold stater
Egyptian gold stater of Nectanebo II.
Religion played an important part in Nectanebo's domestic policy. He
began his reign by officiating over the funeral of an Apis bull in
Memphis. There Nectanebo added a relief decoration to the eastern and
western temples of Apis. Among notable sanctuaries, erected under
Nectanebo II, are a temple of
Khnum in Abu and a temple of
Sekhtam. He also dedicated a diorite naos to Anhur-Shu (a fragment of
it was found in the temples of Tjebnutjer).
Nectanebo II was
responsible for the increasing popularity of the
Buchis cult. Under
Nectanebo II a decree, forbidding the stone quarrying in the so-called
Mysterious Mountains in Abydos, was issued.
Foreign affairs under
Nectanebo II were thwarted by repeated
Achaemenid attempts to reoccupy Egypt. Before the accession of
Nectanebo II to the throne, Persians attempted to reclaim Egypt in
385, 383, and 373 BC. Nectanebo used the peace to build up a new army
and employed Greek mercenaries, which was a usual practice at the
time. In about 351 BC the
Achaemenid Empire embarked on a new attempt
to reclaim Egypt. After a year of fighting, Nectanebo and his allied
generals, Diophantus of Athens and Lamius of Sparta, managed to defeat
the Achaemenids. Having scored a resounding victory,
Nectanebo II was
acclaimed "Nectanebo the divine falcon" by his people and cults were
set up in his name.
In 345/44 BC Nectanebo supported the Phoenician rebellion against the
Achaemenid Empire led by the king of Sidon, Tennes, and dispatched
military aid in the form of 4000 Greek mercenaries, led by Mentor of
Rhodes. However, having heard of the approach of the forces of
Artaxerxes III, Mentor opened communication with the Persians in
collusion with Tennes.
Black siltstone obelisk of
Pharaoh Nectanebo II. According to the
vertical inscriptions he set up this obelisk at the doorway of the
sanctuary of Thoth, the Twice-Great, Lord of Hermopolis. Today, it is
located in the British Museum, London.
At the end of 344 BC, ambassadors of
Artaxerxes III arrived in Greece
asking for the Greeks' participation in a campaign against Egypt.
Sparta treated the ambassadors with courtesy, but refrained
from concluding an alliance against Egypt. Other cities, however,
decided to support the Persians: Thebes sent 1000 hoplites and Argos
In the winter of 343 BC, Artaxerxes set off for Egypt. The Egyptian
army, headed by Nectanebo, consisted of 60,000 Egyptians, 20,000 Libu
and as many Greek mercenaries. In addition Nectanebo had a number
of flat-bottomed boats to prevent an enemy from entering the Nile
mouths. The vulnerable points along his Mediterranean sea border
and east boundary were protected by strongholds, fortifications and
entrenched camps. Persian forces were strengthened by Mentor and
his men, well acquainted with the eastern border of Egypt, and by 6000
Nectanebo II was ultimately defeated and, in the summer of 342 BC,
Artaxerxes entered Memphis and installed a satrap. Nectanebo
Upper Egypt and finally to Nubia, where he was granted asylum.
He, however, preserved a degree of power there for some time. With the
help of Khabash, Nectanebo made a vain attempt to regain the
Though placed in an unfortunate period of Egyptian history, and with
his legacy perhaps marred by being "the last pharaoh" to rule an
autonomous Egypt, Nectanebo was an extensive builder, likely on a
scale that would equal many kings of the glory days of the New
Kingdom. References to either
Nectanebo II or his grandfather have
been found almost ubiquitously at the premier religious centres,
and the piety of the two kings matched those of the great kings of the
past, attested to by the numerous monuments across Egypt bearing their
names. Nectanebo II, specifically, built and improved temples
across the country, and he donated extensively to the priesthoods of
the plethora of sites which he donated to. Nectanebo's name has been
found at Heliopolis, Athribis, and
Bubastis in the Nile Delta, among
other places, but he built most extensively at Sebennytos,
including the modern site of Behbeit El Hagar. The reliefs of the
Sebennytos would leave a sincere mark on the art of the
later Ptolemaic Kingdom. The religious focus of his building
campaigns, however, may not be solely due to sheer piety; because
Nectanebo was an usurper, he likely sought to legitimise his rule over
Nectanebo and the Alexander Romance
Main article: Alexander romance
There is an apocryphal tale appearing in the pseudo-historical
Alexander romance that details another end for the last native
pharaoh. Soon after Alexander the Great's godhood was confirmed by the
Libyan Sibyl of Zeus Ammon at the Siwa Oasis, a rumor was begun that
Nectanebo II, following defeat in his last battle, did not travel to
Nubia but instead to the court of
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon in the guise of
an Egyptian magician. There, while Philip was away on campaign,
Nectanebo convinced Philip's wife
Amun was to come to
her and that they would father a son. Nectanebo, disguising himself as
Amun, slept with
Olympias and from his issue came Alexander.
This myth would hold strong appeal for the Egyptians, who desired
continuity and harbored a strong dislike for foreign rule. In art of
this event, Nectanebo is usually depicted as having dragon-like
features, for example in the Speculum Historiale.
Papyrus of the Dream of Nectanebo, ca. 160–150 BC
In the early Ptolemaic tale of Nectanebo and Petesis, only
preserved in a Greek fragment from the Memphis Serapeum, the Pharaoh
has a prophetic dream of
Isis in which the god
Onuris is angry with
him because of his unfinished temple in Sebennytos. Nectanebo calls in
the best sculptor of the realm, Petesis, to finish the job, but he
bungles his assignment when he gets drunk and chases a beautiful girl
instead. The narrative ends abruptly here, but this is probably the
preface to the fall of Egypt. Al-Biruni's A History of India
reproduces the story.
a ^ : The Dictionary of African Biography notes that "Precise
details of Nectanebo II's death are lacking, although it is assumed
that he died shortly after 341 BC." b ^ : According to J. von
Beckerath & A. Dodson; 360–343 BC according to N. Grimal and
359/58–342/41 BC according to D. Arnold.
^ Emmanuel K. Akyeampong and Henry Louis Gates, Jr (2012).
""Dictionary of African Biographies - Gooogle Books". Oxford
University Press. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
^ I. A. Ladynin (2009). ""Nectanebos-the-Falcons": Sculpture Images of
Nectanebo II Before the God
Horus and Their Concept". Vestnik drevnej
istorii. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
^ Kipfer, Barbara Ann (2000). Encyclopedic dictionary of archaeology.
Springer. p. 384. ISBN 0-306-46158-7.
^ "Nakhthorhebyt". Digital Egypt for Universities. Retrieved March 1,
^ a b Myśliwiec, Karol (2000). The twilight of ancient Egypt: first
millennium B.C.E. Cornell University Press. p. 173.
^ a b c Grimal, Nicolás; Nicolas-Christophe Grimal (1994). A history
of ancient Egypt. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 379.
^ Sharpe, Samuel (1838). The history of Egypt under the Ptolomies.
E.Maxon. p. 19.
^ a b "An Egyptian Colossal
Quartzite Head of the
II". Christie's. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
^ "The God
Horus Protecting King Nectanebo II". David Rumsey Map
Collection/AMICA Library. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
^ Grimal, p. 374
^ Grimal, p. 377
^ Educational Britannica Educational (2010). Ancient Egypt: From
Prehistory to the Islamic Conquest. The Rosen Publishing Group.
pp. 88–89. ISBN 1-61530-210-7.
^ a b c d e Dandamaev, M. A. (1989). A political history of the
Achaemenid empire. BRILL. p. 301. ISBN 90-04-09172-6.
^ Sharpe, Samuel (1859). The history of Egypt from the earliest times
till the conquest by the Arabs: A. D. 640. Moxon. p. 211.
^ Myśliwiec, p. 171
^ Assmann, Jan (2005). Death and salvation in ancient Egypt. Cornell
University Press. p. 190. ISBN 0-8014-4241-9.
^ Blyth, Elizabeth (2006). Karnak: evolution of a temple. Taylor &
Francis. p. 222. ISBN 0-415-40486-X.
^ Brosius, Maria (2006). The Persians: an introduction. Taylor &
Francis. p. 29. ISBN 0-415-32089-5.
^ a b c H. R. Hall. "Cambridge's Ancient History of Greece". Third
Millennium Library. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
^ a b c Dandamaev, p. 309
^ Dandamaev, p. 310
^ a b Maspero, G. (2003). History of Egypt. Kessinger Publishing.
p. 309. ISBN 0-7661-3512-8.
^ Brosius, p. 30
^ Watterson, Barbara (1998). The Egyptians. Wiley-Blackwell.
p. 182. ISBN 0-631-21195-0.
^ Myśliwiec, p. 177
^ a b c Myśliwiec 2000, p. 170.
^ Myśliwiec 2000, p. 171.
^ Myśliwiec 2000, p. 172.
^ Ogden, Daniel, Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman
Worlds: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press, 2002,
ISBN 978-0-19-513575-6, p. 59 searchable at 
^ "Héros, d'Achille à Zidane". BnF (in French). Vincent de Beauvais,
qui reprend cette tradition légendaire initiée par le
Pseudo-Callisthène à la fin du III e siècle et suivie par un
certain nombre d'auteurs médiévaux, raconte comment Olympias,
abusée par les tours de magie de Nectanebo, a conçu Alexandre avec
lui, sous la forme d'un dragon.
^ Maspero, Gaston, Popular Stories of
Ancient Egypt (1915), p. 239-242
^ Koenen, Ludwig, "The Dream of Nektanebos", The Bulletin of the
American Society of Papyrologists 22 (1985): 171-194.
^ Al Beruni (1910). Alberuni's India. translated by Edward Sachau).
^ "XXXth Dynasty". Narmer.pl. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nectanebo II.
Livius.org: Nectanebo II
Pharaoh of Egypt
Protodynastic to First Intermediate Period (<3150–2040 BC)
Narmer / Menes
Narmer / Menes
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II
Neferkare III Neby
Neferkare IV Khendu
Neferkare V Tereru
Neferkare VI Pepiseneb
Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (2040–1550 BC)
Sekhemkare Amenemhat V
Ameny Antef Amenemhet VI
Mershepsesre Ini II
New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550–664 BC)
Osorkon the Elder
Late Period and Hellenistic Period (664–30 BC)
Alexander the Great
Philip III Arrhidaeus
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy V Epiphanes
Ptolemy VI Philometor
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes
Ptolemy IX Soter
Ptolemy X Alexander I
Ptolemy XI Alexander II
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
21st to 23rd
List of pharaohs