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Pelusium

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Pelusium was a city in the eastern extremes of Egypt's Nile Delta, 30 km to the southeast of the modern Port Said. Alternative names include Sena and Per-Amun (Egyptian, Coptic: Paramoun meaning House or Temple of Amun), Pelousion (Greek, {Πηλούσιον), Sin (Chaldaic and Hebrew), Seyân (Aramaic), and Tell el-Farama (modern Egyptian Arabic). Pelusium was the easternmost major city of Lower Egypt, situated upon the easternmost bank of the Nile, the Ostium Pelusiacum, to which it gave its name. It was the Sin of the Hebrew Bible (Ezekiel xxx. 15); and this word, as well as its Egyptian appellation, Peremoun or Peromi, and its Greek (πήλος) connote a city of the ooze or mud (cf. omi, Coptic, "mud"). Pelusium lay between the seaboard and the Deltaic marshes of the Delta, about two and a half miles from the sea. The Ostium Pelusiacum was choked by sand as early as the first century BCE, and the coast-line has now advanced far beyond its ancient limits, so that the city, even in the third century CE, was at least four miles from the Mediterranean.

The principal produce of the neighbouring lands was flax, and the linum Pelusiacum (Pliny's Natural History xix. 1. s. 3) was both abundant and of a very fine quality. It was, however, as a border-fortress on the frontier, as the key of Egypt as regarded Syria and the sea, and as a place of great strength, that Pelusium was most remarkable. From its position it was directly exposed to attack by the invaders of Egypt; several important battles were fought under its walls, and it was often besieged and taken.

History

The following are the most memorable events in the history of Pelusium:

  • Sennacherib, king of Assyria, 720-715 BCE, in the reign of Sethos the Aethiopian (25th dynasty) advanced from Palestine upon Pelusium, but retired without fighting from before its walls (Isaiah, xxxi. 8; Herodotus ii. 141 ; Strabo xiii. p. 604). His retreat was ascribed to the favor of Hephaestus towards Sethos, his priest. In the night, while the Assyrians slept, a host of field-mice gnawed the bow-strings and shield-straps of the Assyrians, who fled, and many of them were slain in their flight by the Egyptians. Herodotus saw in the temple of Hephaestus at Memphis, a record of this victory of the Egyptians, viz. a statue of Sethos holding a mouse in his hand. The story probably rests on the fact that in the symbolism of Egypt the mouse implied destruction. (Compare Horapolis Hieroglyph. i. 50; Claudius Aelianus, De Natura Animalium vi. 41.)
  • The decisive battle which transferred the throne of the Pharaohs to Cambyses II was fought near Pelusium in 525 BCE. The fields around were strewn with the bones of the combatants when Herodotus visited. He noted that the skulls of the Egyptians were distinguishable from those of the Persians by their superior hardness, a fact confirmed he said by the mummies. He ascribed this to the Egyptians' shaving their heads from infancy, and to the Persians covering them up with folds of cloth or linen. (Herodotus ii. 10, seq.); however, according to legend, Pelusium fell without a fight, by the simple expedient of having the invading army drive cats (sacred to the local goddess Bastet) before them. As Cambyses advanced at once to Memphis, Pelusium probably surrendered itself immediately after the battle. (Polyaen. Stratag. vii. 9.)
  • In 373 BCE, Pharnabazus, satrap of Phrygia, and Iphicrates, the commander of the Athenian armament, appeared before Pelusium, but retired without attacking it, Nectanebo I, king of Egypt, having added to its former defences by laying the neighboring lands under water, and blocking up the navigable channels of the Nile by embankments. (Diodorus Siculus xv. 42; Nepos, Iphicr. c. 5.)
  • Pelusium was attacked and taken by the Persians, 369 BCE. The city contained at the time a garrison of 5,000 Greek mercenaries under the command of Philophron. At first, owing to the rashness of the Thebans in the Persian service, the defenders had the advantage. However, the Egyptian king Nectanebo II hastily venturing on a pitched battle, his troops were cut to pieces, and Pelusium surrendered to the Theban general Lacrates on honorable conditions. (Diodorus Siculus xvi. 43.)
  • In 333 BCE, Pelusium opened its gates to Alexander the Great, who placed a garrison in it under the command of one of those officers entitled Companions of the King. (Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 1, seq.; Quintus Curtius iv. 33.)
  • In 173 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes utterly defeated the troops of Ptolemy Philometor under the walls of Pelusium, which he took and retained after he had retired from the rest of Egypt. (Polybius Legat. § 82; Hieronym. in Daniel. xi.) On the fall of the Syrian kingdom, however, if not earlier, Pelusium had been restored to the Ptolemies.
  • In 55 BCE, again belonging to Egypt, Mark Antony, as cavalry general to the Roman proconsul Gabinius, defeated the Egyptian army, and made himself master of the city. Ptolemy Auletes, in whose behalf the Romans invaded Egypt at this time, wished to put the Pelusians to the sword; but his intention was thwarted by Mark Anthony. (Plutarch. Anton. c. 3; Valerius Max. ix. 1.)
  • In 48 BCE, Pompey was murdered in Pelusium.
  • In 31 BCE, immediately after his victory at Actium, Augustus appeared before Pelusium, and was admitted by its governor Seleucus within its walls.
  • In 501 CE, Pelusium suffered greatly from the Persian invasion of Egypt (Eutychius, Annal.).
  • In 618, Pelusium offered a protracted, though, in the end, an ineffectual resistance to the arms of Amr ibn al-As. As on former occasions, the surrender of the key of the Delta, was nearly equivalent to the subjugation of Egypt itself.
  • In ca. 870, Pelusium is mentioned as a major port in the trade network of the Radhanite merchants.
  • In 1117, Baldwin I of Jerusalem razes the city to the ground, but dies shortly afterwards of food poisoning after eating a plateful of the local fish.

The khalifs who ruled Pelusium following the Crusades, however, neglected the harbors generally, and from this epoch Pelusium, which had long been on the decline, almost disappears from history.

Roman military roads

Of the six military roads formed or adopted by the Romans in Egypt, the following are mentioned in the Itinerarium of Antoninus as connected with Pelusium:

  • From Memphis to Pelusium. This road joined the great road from Pselcis in Nubia at Babylon, nearly opposite Memphis, and coincided with it as far as Scenae Veteranorum. The two roads, viz. that from Pselcis to Scenae Veteranorum, which turned off to the east at Heliopolis, and that from Memphis to Pelusium, connected the latter city with the capital of Lower Egypt, Trajan's canal, and Arsinoe, near Suez, on the Sinus Heroopolites (Gulf of Suez).
  • From Acca to Alexandria, ran along the Mediterranean sea from Raphia to Pelusium.

Religion

Pelusium is named (as "Sin, the strength of Egypt") in the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 30:15.

It is also the seat of a metropolitan bishopric in the modern-day Eastern Orthodox church.

Farama is believed to be one of the places visited by the Holy Family during the journey in Egypt.

Site

The ruins of Pelusium, which have no particular interest, are found at Tineh, near Damietta. (Champollion, l'Egypte, vol. ii. p. 82; Vivant Dénon, Description de l'Egypte, vol. i. p. 208, iii. p. 306.)

References

External links

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Pelusium. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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