first ruler of the twenty-sixth or Saite dynasty, Late period. Psamtik I's origins in the eastern Nile Delta indicate that he belonged to a group of powerful local potentates who had previously opposed the attempts of the Kushite (twenty-fifth dynasty) kings to dominate the whole of Egypt. With probable tacit support from the Assyrians, led by Assurbanipal, Psamtik I consolidated his control over the North of Egypt, with a capital in Sais, before moving south to Thebes in 656 BCE. The inherent weakness of the Kushite dynasts meant that Psamtik's annexation of Upper Egypt was accomplished more by diplomacy than by force of arms. During his long reign, Egypt was once more unified. With a perspicacious talent for solidifying his kingdom, Psamtik set up a series of garrison posts at the various borders of Egypt (northern, western, and southern), and also hired foreign mercenaries, especially Carians and other Greeks. Owing to that policy, Psamtik I became well known to the Greeks, who called him Psammetichus.

At the beginning of his second decade of reign, Psamtik attacked his Libyan neighbors in the northwest, in an effort to diminish their traditional influence in the Delta region. During the same time, a major Jewish quarter was founded at Elephantine, an island in the Nile near the Kushite border in the South. Close to the end of his life, Psamtik aligned his nation with Assyria, possibly through clever diplomacy; then, fearing no opposition from this declining empire, Psamtik marched north into Syria-Palestine. By the close of Psamtik's life, Egypt met the rising Neo-Babylonian Empire on the battlefield (616 and 610 BCE). It is probable that, at his death, Psamtik effectively controlled the shores of Palestine while exercising some commercial influence in Lebanon. Connected with this military activity was his development of a navy.

Psamtik was the son of Necho I, a minor Saite king, who died on the battlefield opposing the Kushites, and who was married to a daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis, making Psamtik's northern ancestry evident. His most famous daughter, Nitokris, was appointed to be the “God's Wife of Amun” at Thebes in 656 BCE, nine years after he took control of the western Delta region. The events of the trip to the religious capital of the South, recorded on a monumental stela, indicate Psamtik's peaceful moves into Upper Egypt, as well as his adherence to the religious norms of Egypt's traditional religious center, Thebes, and of the temple of Amun in particular.


  • Caminos, Ricardo A. “The Nitocris Adoption Stela.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 50 (1964), 71–100. The standard study of Psamtik I's daughter's voyage to Thebes in 656 BCE.
  • Kitchen, K. A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). Warminster, 1973. An extremely detailed and significant work which covers the reign of this pharaoh in some detail.
  • Parker, Richard A. A Saite Oracle Papyrus from Thebes. Providence, 1962. A useful study of a papyrus connected to Psamtik's domination over Thebes.

Anthony J. Spalinger