Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Last Stand of the 50,000
The remains of 50,000 Persian soldiers all thought to have vanished with out a trace may finally be coming to light after 2,500 years. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus the soldiers disappeared in 525 BC on their way to destroy the oracle located at Siwa. Persian King Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus the Great, sent 50,000 soldiers from Thebes to attack the Oasis of Siwa and destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun after the priests there refused to legitimize his claim to Egypt. After marching in the desert for 7 days the army was supposedly swallowed in a sand storm. No trace of the soldiers has ever been found, until now.
The archeologists worked on a hypothesis that the army had actually traveled an indirect route, because it was not likely that the Persians would have had conceived a military campaign for taking all of the desert oases under Egyptian control on the way to the oracle. After several expeditions over a 13-year period looking along the route, and deciding to follow an ancient story that thousands of bones had been on covered by the wind in a large valley, the archeologists found what they were looking for. Under natural shelters, they found thousands of sun-bleached bones and personal effects and other weapons. It was found that the army had dispersed during the sandstorm over a wide area. Many agree that though much has been found a more in-depth exploration of the area is needed.
The Persian King Cambyses II was not the only military leader that sought recognition as a god from the great oracle of Amun at Siwa. A century after Herodotus wrote his account, Alexander the Great made his own pilgrimage to the oracle in 332 B.C. Alexander was confirmed that he was the divine son of Zeus, the Greek god equated with Amun.