The Chronology of and Sources for Egypt’s Second Revolt (ca. 487-484 BC)

Wijnsma, Uzume. 2019. “And in the fourth year Egypt rebelled …” The Chronology of and Sources for Egypt’s Second Revolt (ca. 487-484 BC),” Journal of Ancient History 7 (1): 32-61.

Scholars continue to give different dates for Egypt’s second revolt against the Persians: Classicists generally date the revolt to 487-485 or 487/ 486-485/484 BC; Egyptologists and historians of the Achaemenid Empire generally date it to 486-485/484; while some scholars date it to 486/485-485/484. Such chronological differences may sound small, but they have important consequences for the way the rebellion is understood. The purpose of the present article is therefore twofold: first, it aims to clarify what we can and cannot know about the rebellion’s exact chronology. After a review of the relevant evidence, it will be argued that the best chronological framework for the rebellion remains the one provided by Herodotus’s Histories, which places the rebellion in ca. 487-484. Second , the article will show how this chronology influences our understanding of the geographical extent and social impact of the rebellion. The adoption of Herodotus’s chronological framework, for example, results in a larger number of Egyptian sources that can be connected to the period of revolt than was previously recognized. These sources, it will be argued, suggest that some people in the country remained loyal to the Persian regime while others were already fighting against it. Moreover, they indicate that the revolt reached Upper Egypt and that it may have affected the important city of Thebes.