In ancient Egypt, cats were considered sacred and inviolable animals. The cat cult was embodied in the images of the Sphinx, the goddess Bast and even the sun god Ra himself, whom the Egyptians represented in the form of a red cat. Cats were valued for protecting crops from rodents, they were trained to hunt snakes, moles and small birds.
If a cat died in the house, all family members cut their hair and shaved their eyebrows as a sign of grief and reverence for the memory of the animal. In rich families, the corpses of cats were embalmed, and the mummies were placed in the family crypt or in special cemeteries for animals. There was a death penalty for killing a cat.
It was the fanatical worship of the cult of cats that played a cruel joke on the Egyptians during the battle with the army of Cambyses II, who ruled the First Persian Empire in 530-522 BC.
Having become the king of the Achaemenid state, Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus the Great, began his expansion into Egypt. The decisive battle between the troops of Cambyses II and the Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus III took place in May 525 BC. e. near the fortress city of Pelusium. Cambyses ordered each warrior to tie a cat to his shield, which completely demoralized and broke the resistance of the Egyptians.
They simply could not look at the suffering of animals and were afraid to harm the cats or injure them with an arrow. There is also evidence that Cambyses II ordered live cats to be thrown onto the defensive walls of the city and put ibises and dogs in front of his army, which the Egyptians also considered sacred animals.
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