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mede-persian-soldiersAs regular port-swillers will recall, I mentioned a few weeks back that I was rereading my Herodotus and enjoying every word of his accounts of the wide world in general and the rise of the Persian Empire in particular.  In Book III, Herodotus relays a chilling story of an army send by the mad ruler Cambyses (son of Cyrus the Great) to sack and destroy the oracle of Zeus Ammon, far out in the western part of Egypt in about the middle of the 6th Century B.C.  According to this account:

The force which was sent against the Ammonians started from Thebes with guides, and can be traced as far as the town of Oasis, which belongs to Samians supposed to be of the Aescrionian tribe, and is seven days’  journey across the sand from Thebes.  The place is known in Greek as the Island of the Blessed.  General report has it that the army got as far as this, but of its subsequent fate there is no news whatever.  It never reached the Ammonians and it never returned to Egypt.  There is, however, a story told by the Ammonians themselves and by others who heard it from them, that when the men had left Oasis, and in their march across the desert had reached a point about mid-way between the town and the Ammonian border, a southerly wind of extreme violence drove the sand over them in heaps as they were taking their mid-day meal, so that they disappeared forever.

 What a way to go.  I’ve always had a mental picture of this lost legion being swallowed up by the sands, obliterated by the Sahara and lost to all human knowledge.

Well, apparently not any more, for in one of those articles that just makes my day, it is reported that this long-lost Persian army may have been found again.

The remains of a mighty Persian army said to have drowned in the sands of the western Egyptian desert 2,500 years ago might have been finally located, solving one of archaeology’s biggest outstanding mysteries, according to Italian researchers.

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II. The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

Go and read the rest.  It seems from the article that many of the men tried to take shelter behind a large rock formation, the only one in the area.  Apparently, their bones only recently have come back to the surface where they were buried for so long.



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November 2009