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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee

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Kabujiya / Cambyses II

Kabujiya / Cambyses II

Gaumata the Usurper

Tomb of Kabujiya / Cambyses II at Zendan-e Soleyman

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Suggested prior reading:
» Early Persian History. Formation of Persia and the Achaemenian Dynasty
» King Cyrus II, the Great. Formation of the Achaemenian Persian Empire


Kabujiya / Cambyses II (530-522 BCE)

Kabujiya / Cambyses II, was Cyrus II, the Great's son. Following Cyrus' conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE inscriptions appear naming Kabujiya / Cambyses as crown prince, which has led many to believe that Kabujiya / Cambyses was Cyrus' eldest son.

Book 3 of Herodotus' Histories begins with an account of Cambyses, one of the few accounts we have of the monarch's life. According to Herodotus, after Cyrus' demise, Kabujiya / Cambyses launched a campaign for the addition of Egypt to the empire created by his father. The war for Egypt took place in 525 BCE in a decisive battle at Pelusium. Egypt was ruled by Psamtik III who had just assumed the throne from his father Amasis II. Anticipating the Persian invasion, King Amasis had earlier sought to forge an alliance with the Greeks. Cambyses on his part had prepared for the march through the desert with the assistance of Arab chieftains allied with him. The Arabs assisted by supplying Cambyses' army with water.

The Greeks, however abandoned the Egyptians. The Cypriot towns and the tyrant Polycrates of Samos, who possessed a large fleet, joined the Persians, and the commander of the Greek troops, Phanes of Halicarnassus, went over to the Persian side as well. In the battle at Pelusium, the Egyptian army was defeated, after which the Persians took the city of Memphis. Egyptian inscriptions indicate that Cambyses assumed the title and the garments of the Pharaohs.

The inscription of Darius quoted below inform us that after the death of King Cyrus, Cambyses had his brother Bardiya (Smerdis) murdered, an event that was kept secret from the people of Persia. Then while Cambyses was in Egypt, Persia succumbed to lawlessness and the throne was left vulnerable.


Gaumata the Usurper

Darius I, the Great's, inscription at Behistun, gives the following account of palace intrigue, that followed the death of Cyrus:

"A son of Kuraush (Cyrus), Kabujiya (Cambyses) by name, of our family was king here. Cambyses had a brother, Bardiya (Bardia, Smerdis) by name, who had the same mother and the same father as Kabujiya (Cambyses). Kabujiya (Cambyses) slew Bardiya (Smerdis). When Kabujiya (Cambyses) slew Bardiya (Smerdis), it did not become known to the people that Bardiya (Smerdis) had been slain. Afterwards, Kabujiya (Cambyses) went to Mudrayam (Egypt). When Kabujiya (Cambyses) was in Mudrayam (Egypt), the people became evil and drauga (the Lie) waxed great in the country, both in Parsa (Persia) and in Mada (Media) and in the other provinces.

"Afterwards, there was a man, a Magush (Magian), named Gaumata, who rose up from Paishiyauvada. From there at a mountain named Arakadri, on the fourteenth day of the month ,Viyakhna, he rose (to take power). He lied to the people saying, "I am Bardiya (Bardia, Smerdis), the son of Kuraush (Cyrus), brother of Kabujiya (Cambyses)." After that, all the people joined him in rebellion against Kabujiya (Cambyses) in both Parsa (Persia), Mada (Media) as well as in the other provinces. On the ninth day of Garmapada, he (Gaumata) seized the kingdom. After that, Kabujiya (Cambyses) died by his own hand.

"The kingdom which Gaumata the Magush (Magian) took away from Kabujiya (Cambyses) had from long ago been ruled by our family, and Gaumata the Magush (Magian) took (the rule) from Kabujiya (Cambyses) and took for himself the possession of both Parsa (Persia), Mada (Media) as well as in the other provinces, and made himself king.

There was not a man, neither a Parsa (Persian) nor a Mada (Mede), nor anyone in our family, who sought to remove Gaumata the Magum (Magus) from his kingship. The people feared him greatly and he slew in numbers people who previously had known Bardiya (Bardia, Smerdis). He slew these people "lest they know me, that I am not Bardiya (Bardia, Smerdis) the son of Kuraush (Cyrus)." Nobody dared say anything against Gaumata the Magum (Magus) - until I took action. I sought help of Ahuramazda and Ahuramazda bore me aid. On the tenth day of the month Bagayadi, together with a few men, I slew Gaumata the Magum (Magus) and those who were his foremost followers. I slew him in a fortress of Sikayauvati, in the district of Nisaya, in Media. I took back the kingdom from him and by the grace of Ahuramazda I became king. Ahuramazda bestowed the kingdom upon me."


Tomb of Kabujiya / Cambyses II at Zendan-e Soleyman

The tomb of  Cambyses II, known mistakenly in folklore as the Zendan-e Soleyman (the prison of Suleiman). The building shares similarities with the Kaba-e Zarthosht
The tomb of Cambyses II, known mistakenly in folklore as
the Zendan-e Soleyman (the prison of Suleiman)
The building shares similarities with the Kaba-e Zarthosht

The Tomb of Kabujiya / Cambyses II ia said to be a structure in Pasargadae historic site known locally as Zendan-e Suleiman (the prison of Solomon). The ruins are also sometimes called Zendan-e Eskandar, the prison of Alexander. The ruins originally consisted of an almost square, 4-meter-high tower in which a single, raised room that was accessed by a projecting monumental stone staircase and closely resembles an Achaemenid era building at the Naqsh-e Rostam historical site known as Kaba-e Zarthosht (see the Kaba-e Zarthosht section on our page on Naqsh-e Rostam where we also discuss the various alternative theories about the function of the building).

Pieces a stone slab, found by farmers some hundred metres from Tall-e Takht (see Pasargadae page) in March 2006, have been identified by archaeologists of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center in Tehran, as the entrance door to the mausoleum. The entrance door was made of two stone leaves, 1.75 meters in height, each within a 35 by 59 cm rectangular frame. The top and bottom of the frames were decorated with three 12-petaled flowers. The door was 8 centimetres shorter than the height of the door opening and Center's archaeologists believe that the gate was intentionally made shorter in order to permit air to circulate in and out of the mausoleum.


Reconstruction image of the tomb of Cambyses II
Reconstruction image of the tomb of Cambyses II

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