Some Notes on the Historical background Surrounding the Cambyses Romance

Habaj Michal

The Cambyses Romance addresses the Persian/Assyrian attack on Egypt and Israel. In the text the attack is led by a king who is alternatively referred to as Cambyses and Nebuchadnezzar. The enemies do not attack Egypt directly; instead, they use trickery. They are afraid to launch a direct attack because they consider the Egyptians fearless warriors comparable to bears or lions. In this way, the story blends heroic narrative with Egyptian and Biblical traditions. To this day, the story and its historical background have been of interest to a number of experts, who have searched ancient historiographies to find the roots of the tradition which is evident within the Romance. In the present study the author recapitulates some of the conclusions that have been reached to date and presents a thesis of his own. He shows that the historical background of the Romance does not have direct roots in any classical tradition; instead, they reveal much about the persistent collective memory of the Egyptians, wherein many reports of Cambyses were preserved. Under the influence of Old Testament tradition and only indirectly affected by Herodotus, these Egyptian stories had been molded into the form they took in the Romance.

Keywords: Coptic literature, Cambyses Romance, Egyptian tradition, classical sources, Herodotus, Cambyses II

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