Most of our information about him is derived from Herodotus (ii. 161 et seq.) and can only be imperfectly verified by monumental evidence. According to the Greek historian he was of mean origin. A revolt of the native soldiers gave him his opportunity. These troops, returning home from a disastrous expedition to Cyrene, suspected that they had been betrayed in order that Apries, the reigning king, might rule more absolutely by means of his mercenaries, and their friends in Egypt fully sympathized with them. Amasis, sent to meet them and quell the revolt, was proclaimed king by the rebels, and Apries, who had now to rely entirely on his mercenaries, was defeated and taken prisoner in the ensuing conflict at Momemphis; the usurper treated the captive prince with great lenity, but was eventually persuaded to give him up to the people, by whom he was strangled and buried in his ancestral tomb at Sais. An inscription confirms the fact of the struggle between the native and the foreign soldiery, and proves that Apries was killed and honourably buried in the 3rd year of Amasis.
Although Amasis thus appears first as champion of the disparaged native, he had the good sense to cultivate the friendship of the Greek world, and brought Egypt into closer touch with it than ever before. Herodotus relates that under his prudent administration Egypt reached the highest pitch of prosperity; he adorned the temples of Lower Egypt especially with splendid monolithic shrines and other monuments (his activity here is proved by remains still existing). To the Greeks Amasis assigned the commercial colony of Naucratis on the Canopic branch of the Nile, and when the temple of Delphi was burnt he contributed 1000 talents to the rebuilding. He also married a Greek princess named Ladice, the daughter of Battus, king of Cyrene, and he made alliances with Polycrates of Samos and Croesus of Lydia.
His kingdom consisted probably of Egypt only, as far as the First Cataract, but to this he added Cyprus, and his influence was great in Cyrene. At the beginning of his long reign, before the death of Apries, he appears to have sustained an attack by Nebuchadrezzar (568 BC). Cyrus left Egypt unmolested; but the last years of Amasis were disturbed by the threatened invasion of Cambyses and by the rupture of the alliance with Polycrates of Samos. The blow fell upon his son Psammetichus III, whom the Persian deprived of his kingdom after a reign of only six months.
See Naucratis: also W. M. Flinders Petrie, History, vol. iii.; Breasted, History and Historical Documents, vol. iv. p. 509; Maspero, Les Empires. (F. LL. G.)