second king of the twenty-sixth Saite dynasty, Late period. A son of Psamtik I, he was one of the most vigorous and far-sighted of Late period rulers. Sources on Necho are dominated by his foreign policy, where the major issue was the threat of Chaldean expansion. He relied heavily on Greek and Carian mercenaries, who were permanently based in Egypt. This situation is reflected in his calculated policy of donations to major shrines in eastern Greece, which included dedications to Athena Polias at Ialysus on the island of Rhodes and the major Ionian oracular shrine at Branchidae. His military resources on land were supplemented by a force of ramming warships, which may have been triremes (a galley having three tiers of oars on each side). This fleet was intended to counter any attempt to mount a two-pronged attack by land and water on Egypt and also to support the western flank of Necho's forces in the Near East.

His campaign in Syria-Palestine was initially designed to assist the Assyrians in forcing out the Chaldeans, and Necho enjoyed some early success. He defeated Josiah, King of Judah, at Megiddo in 609 BCE, thus guaranteeing his freedom of movement up the grand trunk road to Mesopotamia, and he established a base at Carchemish, which he held until his catastrophic defeat there in 605 BCE. The Chaldeans subsequently pushed the Egyptians south to the eastern frontier of the Delta, but the Egyptians held there. Necho's operations in this area were reflected in Herodotus' fifth-century BCE account of his successes against Migdol and Gaza in 601–600 BCE. Necho also focused his foreign policy efforts on the Red Sea, in which the Egyptians had longstanding commercial interests, and he began the construction of a canal through the Wadi Tumilat to join it to the Nile. He also based a force of warships there, presumably to guarantee safe passage for his ships in the face of threats from Edomite or Sabean raiders.

Research in the latter twentieth century indicates that Necho also dispatched a military force into Nubia, where the Saites were more deeply involved than previous scholarship indicated.

Bibliography

  • The Cambridge Ancient History. 2d ed. Cambridge, 1991. Includes an excellent survey of the twenty-sixth dynasty, with much on Necho.
  • Lloyd, Alan B. “Triremes and the Saite Navy.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 58 (1972), 268–279. A discussion of the development of the Saite navy and the part that Greeks may have played in it.
  • Lloyd, Alan B. Herodotus Book II. Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, 43. 3 vols. Leiden, 1975–1993. A discussion of the Herodotean data on Necho II in the light of all other evidence.
  • Lloyd, Alan B. “Necho and the Red Sea: Some Considerations.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 63 (1977), p. 142–155. The evidence for the circumnavigation of Africa allegedly instigated by Necho is analyzed in detail with skeptical results.
  • Lloyd, Alan B. “The Late Period, 664–323 BC.” In Ancient Egypt: a Social History. Cambridge, 1983. Necho placed firmly within the history of twenty-sixth dynasty.

Alan B. Lloyd