Vatican Museums

An Egyptian collaborator. When Cyrus’s son and successor Cambyses conquered Egypt, local priests, such as Udjahorresnet (shown here, carrying a small statue of the god Osiris), gave their conqueror the title of pharaoh—that is, “King of Upper and Lower Egypt.” Udjahorresnet was priest of an important temple to the goddess Neith (mother of Re) in the city of Sais. In the late-sixth-century B.C.E. autobiographical inscription that covers this statue, the priest lauds the conquering Persians for cleansing his temple of pernicious foreign influences and for restoring the worship of Neith.

Udjahorresnet certainly benefited from Cambyses’s beneficence to the Temple of Neith. But the priest did not support the Persian regime simply out of self-interest: Udjahorresnet likely believed the foreign conqueror had a divine mandate to rule in Egypt. According to Fried, a similar belief may well have influenced Isaiah’s celebration of Cyrus as messiah.