Manetho (/ˈmænɪθoʊ/; Greek: Μανέθων, Manethōn, or
Μανέθως, Manethōs) is believed to have been
an Egyptian priest from
Sebennytus (ancient Egyptian: Tjebnutjer) who
lived during the Ptolemaic era in the early 3rd century BC.
2 Life and work
3.1 Authorship and date of composition
3.2 Content and Structure
3.3 Transmission and reception
3.4 Sources and methods
3.5 King lists
3.6 Transcriptions of Pharaonic names
3.7 Similarities with Berossos
3.8 The effect of the Aegyptiaca
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
The original Egyptian version of Manetho's name is lost, but some
speculate it means "Truth of Thoth", "Gift of Thoth", "Beloved of
Thoth", "Beloved of Neith", or "Lover of Neith". Less accepted
proposals are Myinyu-heter ("Horseherd" or "Groom") and Ma'ani-Djehuti
("I have seen Thoth"). In the Greek language, the earliest fragments
(the inscription of uncertain date on the base of a marble bust from
the temple of
Serapis at Carthage and the Jewish historian Flavius
Josephus of the 1st century CE) writes his name as Μανέθων
Manethōn, so the Latinised rendering of his name here is given as
Manetho (the same way that Platōn is rendered "Plato"). Other Greek
renderings include Manethōs, Manethō, Manethos, Manēthōs,
Manēthōn, and Manethōth. In
Latin it is written as Manethon,
Manethos, Manethonus, and Manetos.
Life and work
Although no sources for the dates of his life and death remain,
Manetho is associated with the reigns of
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter (323–283
Plutarch (c. 46–120 AD) and according to George Syncellus
Manetho links himself directly with
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246
BC). If the mention of someone named
Manetho in the Hibeh Papyri,
dated to 241/40 BC, is in fact the celebrated author of the
Manetho may well have been working during the reign
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–222 BC) as well but at a very advanced
age. Though the historicity of
Sebennytus was taken for
Josephus and later authors the question as to whether he
actually existed remains problematic. The
Manetho of the Hibeh Papyri
has no title and this letter deals with affairs in
Upper Egypt not
Lower Egypt where our
Manetho is thought to have functioned as a chief
priest. The name
Manetho is rare but there is no reason a priori to
assume that the
Manetho of the Hibeh Papyri is the historian from
Sebennytus who is thought to have authored the Aegyptiaca for Ptolemy
Manetho is described as a native Egyptian and Egyptian would have been
his mother tongue. Though the topics he supposedly wrote about dealt
with Egyptian matters, he is said to have written exclusively in the
Greek language for a Greek-speaking audience. Other literary works
attributed to him include Against Herodotus, The Sacred Book, On
Antiquity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Preparation of Kyphi, and
the Digest of Physics. The treatise
Book of Sothis has also been
attributed to Manetho. It is important to note that not one of these
works are actually attested during the Ptolemaic period when Manetho
Sebennytus is said to have lived. In fact, they are not mentioned
in any source prior to the 1st century AD. This would be a gap of
three centuries between the time the Aegyptiaca was supposedly
composed and its first attestation. The gap is even larger for the
other works attributed to
Manetho such as The Sacred Book which is
mentioned for the very first time by Eusebius in the 4th century
Sebennytus was an historical figure he was probably a
priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis (according to George Syncellus,
he was the chief priest). He was considered by
Plutarch to be an
authority on the cult of
Serapis (a derivation of
Osiris and Apis).
Serapis itself was a Greco-Macedonian version of the Egyptian cult,
probably started after Alexander the Great's establishment of
Alexandria in Egypt. A statue of the god was imported in 286 by
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter (or in 278 by Ptolemy II Philadelphus) as
Plutarch attest. There was also a tradition in antiquity that
Timotheus of Athens (an authority on
Demeter at Eleusis) directed the
project together with Manetho, but the source of this information is
not clear and it may originate from one of the literary works
attributed to Manetho, in which case it has no independent value and
does not corroborate the historicity of
Manetho the priest-historian
of the early 3rd century BC.
Manetho is believed to have authored the Aegyptiaca
(Αἰγυπτιακά, genitive Αἰγυπτιακῶν)), or
History of Egypt, at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The
work is of great interest to Egyptologists for evidence of the
chronology of the reigns of the ancient pharaohs. It may have been the
largest of all the works attributed to Manetho, and it is certainly
the most important. It was organised chronologically and divided into
three books (see below). The division of rulers into dynasties was an
innovation. The term "dynasty" (Greek: δυναστεία dynasteía,
abstractly meaning "governmental power") is employed to refer to a
group of kings with a common origin. Thus, the author did not use the
term in the modern sense, by bloodlines, but rather, introduced new
dynasties whenever he detected some sort of discontinuity whether
Dynasty IV from Memphis,
Dynasty V from Elephantine), or
genealogical (especially in
Dynasty I, the author sometimes refers a
successive pharaoh as the "son" of the previous to define what he
means by "continuity"). Within the superstructure of a genealogical
table, he fills in the gaps with substantial narratives of the
Pharaonic kings. Some have suggested that Aegyptiaca was written as a
competing account to Herodotus' Histories, to provide a national
history for Egypt that did not exist before. From this perspective,
Herodotus may have been an abridged version or just a part of
Aegyptiaca that circulated independently. Unfortunately, neither
survives in its original form today.
Authorship and date of composition
The earliest known mention of the Aegyptiaca is by the Jewish
Josephus in his work
Contra Apionem ("Against Apion"), which
can be dated after C.E. 94. Before this, no writer whose work survives
mentions the Aegyptiaca in at least 300 years; this raises a serious
question and legitimate doubt as to its real date and authorship. The
notion that an official and authoritative history of Egypt composed in
Greek at the request of
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus could go unnoticed or
ignored by several professional scholars and Alexandrian librarians
for centuries until
Josephus is hardly credible. The work may have
instead been written in the Roman period and not that long before it
is first mentioned. If so, the real author, who some scholars
speculate was the historian Ptolemy of Mendes, an educated Greek
who was born and raised in Egypt and became a priest, attributed the
contents of the three-volume history to
Manetho in order to give the
work credibility. According to Clement of
Alexandria (c. 150 – c.
215 AD), Ptolemy of
Mendes composed a history of Egypt in three books,
during the time of emperor Augustus. Clement cites numerous authors
in his writings and he had access to the library of
Alexandria but he
Manetho or Manetho's history in three books. The same
may be said for
Tatian (c. 120 – c. 180 AD), another extremely well
read Christian author of the 2nd century AD. In his Oratio ad Graecos
(Address to the Greeks),
Tatian mentions only Ptolemy of
"the interpreter of their [Egyptian] affairs." He mentions virtually
every writer who touched upon his subjects of interest, such as
historical chronology, but no direct mention of
Manetho is ever made.
Of the Egyptians also there are accurate chronicles. Ptolemy, not the
king, but a priest of Mendes, is the interpreter of their affairs.
This writer, narrating the acts of the kings, says that the departure
of the Jews from Egypt to the places whither they went occurred in the
time of king Amosis, under the leadership of Moses. He thus speaks:
"Amosis lived in the time of king Inachus." After him, Apion the
grammarian, a man most highly esteemed, in the fourth book of his
Aegyptiaca (there are five books of his), besides many other things,
says that Amosis destroyed Avaris in the time of the Argive Inachus,
as the Mendesian Ptolemy wrote in his annals.
The name Amosis (Άμωσις) is the Greek rendering of the royal
Egyptian name of Ahmose and it was used for the first king of the
XVIIIth dynasty in the edition of the Aegyptiaca that Eusebius
consulted in order to make his epitome of the work. According to
Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD), Ptolemy of
Mendes wrote later than
and "followed" Manetho. This statement has usually been taken to
mean that Ptolemy of
Mendes consulted and commented on
Manetho in his
writings. It may also mean that Ptolemy of
Mendes is responsible for
everything we currently think we know about Manetho. It is very
unlikely that Tatian, Apion, and Clement were unaware of Manetho's
history in three books, but according to
Tatian Apion read and
followed Ptolemy of
Mendes when he wrote his own history of Egypt in
five books. Hence it may be plausibly suggested that Tatian, Apion,
and Clement all understood that Ptolemy of
Mendes was the actual
composer of the work entitled the Aegyptiaca in three books and that
Mendes claimed to be the transmitter of Manetho's words. In
this case the work was not an anonymous or pseudonymous work, but one
wherein Ptolemy of
Mendes explicitly claimed he was reproducing the
words of an important Egyptian high priest who lived three centuries
The above theory of authorship and date of composition is further
supported by a confusion in the Suda, a massive Byzantine encyclopedia
made during the 10th century. According to the Suda, there were two
authors named Manetho: one from
Mendes and one from either Sebennytus
or Diospolis (Thebes). Yet the
Suda does not attribute the Aegyptiaca
to either one. The Mendesian
Manetho wrote about the preparation of
kyphi, while the
Sebennytus or Diospolis wrote "Enquiries
into Nature; Apotelesmatica in verse; and other astrological works."
Suda mentions authors who composed works in Greek during the time
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus (such as the comic poet Aristonymos) but
does not include Manetho. Hence the most that can be said is that the
author of the
Suda confused Ptolemy of
Sebennytus and that he did not agree with the story repeated by
Syncellus that the Aegyptiaca dates to the time of Ptolemy II
Philadelphus in the 3rd century BC. The work is first attested in the
Roman period. Nor are any of the other literary works in Greek that
have been attributed to
Manetho ever attested during the Ptolemaic
Content and Structure
Book 1 of Manetho's history began with an introduction or preamble
that undoubtedly gave a brief biography of
Manetho and stated the
purpose for writing the work. In the preamble the author stated that
the first Hermes who is identified as the god
writing. The writings of this first Hermes were then translated
into a new script called hieroglyphics by his son Hermes Trismegistus
who is the second Hermes. The books written by this second Hermes were
later collected and arranged by his son, the god Agathodaemon.
According to the author, Agathodaemon only finished his editorial work
of arranging the "sacred books" written by his father Hermes
Trismegistus after the accession of Ptolemy Philadelphus. It was only
at this point that
Manetho was given access to these sources and then
he utilized them to write his own detailed history of Egypt in Greek
for the reigning Ptolemaic king.
In the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus he was styled high-priest of the
pagan temples of Egypt, and wrote from inscriptions in the Seriadic
land, traced, he says, in sacred language and holy characters by
Thoth, the first Hermes, and translated [by the second Hermes] in
hieroglyphic characters. When the work had been arranged in books by
Agathodaemon, son of the second Hermes and father of Tat, in the
temple-shrines of Egypt,
Manetho dedicated it to the above King
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus in his
Book of Sothis ...
Book of Sothis
Syncellus must mean the Aegyptiaca by another title,
for the actual
Book of Sothis does not discuss the mythic reigns of
the gods, demigods, and the spirits of the dead. Nor does it group the
kings of Egypt into thirty dynasties as
Syncellus says the Book of
Sothis does. It appears
Syncellus preferred to call Manetho's
Aegyptiaca by the alternative title
Book of Sothis but the reasons are
not clear. A close study of the material in the actual Book of Sothis
reveals that its author relied upon but intentionally deviated from
the Aegyptiaca and is likely a forgery or hoax of unknown date. Every
king in the
Book of Sothis after
Menes is irreconcilable with the
versions of Africanus and Eusebius.
Despite this confusion caused by Syncellus, the inferences being made
in the preamble of the Aegyptiaca are nonetheless clear: the accession
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus was considered by the author to be a major
turning point in Egypt's history because it was only during this
king's reign that the god Agathodaemon completed editing the "sacred
books," and this was a prerequisite for
Manetho to compose a history
of Egypt in Greek. The chain of cultural transmission spans three
generations of gods (Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, and Agathodaemon) to
Manetho and the Greek script is now on a par with the
hieroglyphs. Greek has now become the language and script through
which Egypt's entire history is to be officially recorded in three
books for Ptolemy II Philadelphus. It is as if the goal of Egyptian
civilization was that it was destined to become the property of Greek
civilization and be eclipsed by Hellenism. The author depicts Manetho
as having helped facilitate this transfer in a most significant way by
translating the contents of the "sacred books" of supernatural
authorship into Greek, something which had not been done in any of the
languages spoken by the various foreigners who dominated Egypt before
the Greek conquest. Greek is now Egypt's new language and divinely
ordained for translating the hieroglyphic writings of the god Hermes
After this the author reproduces a letter supposedly written by
Manetho to Ptolemy II Philadelphus:
To the great King Ptolemy Philadelphus Augustus. Greeting to my lord
Ptolemy from Manetho, high-priest and scribe of the sacred shrines of
Egypt, born at
Sebennytus and dwelling at Heliopolis. It is my duty,
almighty king, to reflect upon all such matters as you may desire me
to investigate. So, as you are making researches concerning the future
of the universe, in obedience to your command I shall place before you
the sacred books which I have studied, written by your forefather,
Hermes Trismegistus. Farewell, I pray, my lord King.
The letter is obviously a forgery, because in it
Ptolemy Philadelphus with the title Augustus, which was not used for
Ptolemaic kings. This slip of the pen allows one to determine the
terminus post quem or earliest possible date of composition, which is
the reign of emperor
Augustus (BC 28-14 AD) when Ptolemy of
active. After this letter the author proceeded to discuss the earliest
times in Egypt, listing the reigns of the gods and demigods and the
spirits of the dead as kings of Egypt. There were seven god-kings,
then four lines of demigods, and then the spirits of the dead
(evidently another type or different class of demigods) but the number
and their names are not preserved in the fragmenta.
Helios (son of Hephaestus)
Orus (son of
Osiris and Isis)
Total: 13,900 years
Demigods for 1255 years
Demigods for 1817 years
Demigods of Memphis for 1790 years
Demigods of This (Thinis) for 350 years
Total: 5,212 years
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
Spirits of the dead for 5,813 years
Total: 5,813 years
Total for gods, demigods, and spirits of the dead: 24,925 years
The author does not transliterate the names of the gods, demigods, or
the spirits of the dead but gives the Greek equivalents by a
convention that predates him: (Egyptian)
Ptah = (Greek) Hephaestus; Ra
= Helios; Shu, son of Ra = Sosis;
Geb = Cronos; Asar = Osiris;
Demeter; Set = Typhon;
Horus = Orus;
Thoth = the first Hermes; etc.
Stories about each of these gods, and possibly others, most likely
would have been found here. This is one of the clues as to how
syncretism developed between seemingly disparate religions.
As for the dynasties that followed the spirits of the dead, the author
states that Egypt was ruled by five native or indigenous Egyptian
tribes, and further that the country was ruled by a total thirty
mortal dynasties (but in subsequent editions the number is thirty-one)
prior to the Greek conquest by Alexander the Great. Book One discussed
the first eleven dynasties: Dynasties I–XI. These dynasties fall
into the periods of Egyptian history Egyptologists refer to as the Old
Kingdom, the First Intermediate Period, and the early Middle Kingdom.
Book 2 covered Dynasties XII–XVIII in the first edition which
grouped the kings of
Dynasty XIX in with
Dynasty XVIII. Book Two
discussed the end of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate
Hyksos invasion, and then their expulsion and the
establishment of the
New Kingdom by Ahmose I, the founder of Dynasty
XVIII. This dynasty, in the first edition of the work, would have
ended with Thouoris (Egyptian: Twosret, Twosre, or Tausret) who is
erroneously mistaken by the author for being a male king and the same
person as the
Polybius mentioned by Homer. The author dates the fall
of Troy to the reign of Thouoris.
Book Two was also of particular interest to Josephus, where he equated
Hyksos or "shepherd-kings" with the ancient Israelites who made
their exodus out of Egypt (Apion 1.82–92).
Josephus even includes a
brief etymological discussion of the word "Hyksos" by noting that the
term is defined differently by
Manetho in the conflicting editions of
Josephus favored Manetho's "captive shepherds" (Apion
1.91), apparently from the first edition, over his "shepherd-kings"
(Apion 1.82-83) in the subsequent second and third editions. Evidently
in the first edition the
Hyksos were suspected by the author of being
invaders from Arabia, but in the second and third editions they are
confidently identified as Phoenicians (i.e. Canaanites). According to
Manetho, they were the builders of Jerusalem (previously known as
Salem) after their expulsion from Egypt. This tradition may suggest
Hyksos were the same as the
Jebusites (a Canaanite tribe) of
the biblical record.
Book Two also included the Leper Story, at least in the earliest
Josephus quoted and criticized at considerable
length. The Egyptian grammarian Apion (BC 30-20 – c. 45-48 AD)
knew a modified version of this story but he dated the episode not to
New Kingdom but to the first year of the 7th Olympiad (i.e. 752
BC). Since it is difficult to believe Apion would contradict
"Manetho" it is reasonable to assume that the author of the Aegyptiaca
revised this tale and moved it into the reign of one of the kings
listed in Book Three in the subsequent editions of his work. Apion
would thus have been relying upon the revised second or third edition
of the Aegyptiaca for the Leper Story and his dating the episode to
the 8th century BC.
Book 3 continued with the "XIXth dynasty" of Egypt (i.e.
Dynasty XX in
the second and third editions) and concludes with the "XXXth dynasty"
Dynasty XXXI in the second and third editions). The Saite
Renaissance occurs in the "XXVth dynasty" (i.e.
Dynasty XXVI), while
the "XXVIth dynasty" (i.e.
Dynasty XXVII) involves the Persian
Anshanite rule of Cambyses and then Barziya, sons of Cyrus the Great.
Barziya was denounced as a Magian (the Magians were a tribe of Medes)
fraud by his successor who overthrew him and the author accepted this
charge and chose to call him simply Magi. This king is omitted
altogether in the author's third edition which Africanus used. The
Achaemenid regime of Darius Hystaspes and his descendants
follow. Three more local dynasties are mentioned, though they must
have overlapped with Persian rule despite the sequential order in
Manetho. The "XXXth dynasty" consisted of three more Persian rulers,
and some have suggested this dynasty was added to Manetho's history by
a later editor. Both
Moses of Chorene
Moses of Chorene and
Jerome end at Nectanebo II
("last king of the Egyptians" and "destruction of the Egyptian
monarchy" respectively), but the Persian
Dynasty XXX = XXXI fits
within the author's schemata of narrating Egyptian history from the
earliest times down through the dynasteia to the eve of the Greek
supremacy and is most likely original.
The numbering system for the dynasties used in the first edition was
revised by the author in subsequent editions but he almost certainly
concluded Book Three with Darius III. He also mentioned the capture
and execution of Darius III by Alexander the Great, but this was
an error on the author's part and removed by him in the final
Three editions of this work by a single author is further evidenced in
the names given to the founder of
Dynasty XVIII. In the first edition
his name is erroneously and curiously called Tethmosis
(Τέθμωσις). In the second edition the author revised this
to Amosis (Άμωσις). Finally, in his third edition he
corrected this to Amos (Άμως) which is the most accurate of
all three Greek renderings of the name Ahmose in ancient Egyptian.
For more exact composition dates, if 28 BC is taken as the earliest
date possible for the first edition then the second and third editions
were probably made in ca. 18 BC and ca. 8 BC, respectively. These
dates can be backed up by the story of the oracular prophetic lamb.
According to a Demotic text dated to the reign of emperor
"talking lamb" in the time of Bocchoris (Egyptian: Bakenranef)
predicted a 990-year period of hardships in Egypt following an
invasion from Assyria. It is possible this story has much older
antecedents but positing a 300-year gap in the record would not be
erring on the side of caution. One should rather argue that the
composition of the Aegyptiaka of
Manetho and its subsequent revisions
were made by a single author during the lengthy reign of emperor
Augustus. This author, who is very likely to be Ptolemy of Mendes,
evidently claimed he was reproducing the words of a high priest named
Sebennytus who supposedly lived three centuries earlier and
wrote at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
Transmission and reception
The greatest problem with a close study of Manetho's history, despite
the reliance of Egyptologists on him for their reconstructions of the
Egyptian dynasties, is that not only was the Aegyptiaca not preserved
as a whole, but it is believed to have become involved in a rivalry
between advocates of Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek histories in the form
of supporting polemics, although there is actually no direct evidence
for this. It is however true that during this period disputes raged
concerning the oldest civilizations, and so Manetho's history was
probably excerpted during this time for use in this argument. Material
similar to what has been attributed to Manetho's has been found in
Lysimakhos of Alexandria, a brother of Philo, and it has been
suggested that this material may have been modified and inserted into
Manetho. Again this suggestion is without any real evidence to support
As mentioned, the earliest attestation of Manetho's writings is found
Contra Apionem ("Against Apion") nearly three centuries
after the history of Egypt was supposedly commissioned by Ptolemy II
Philadelphus. Even here, it is clear
Josephus knew and consulted
different editions of the same work and he constructed a polemic
Manetho by exploiting some of these differences. For example,
the earliest edition of the work did not treat the kings of Dynasty
Dynasty XIX as two separate regimes but as one dynasty.
Apion 1.95–97 is a list of kings with no narratives until 1.98,
while running across these two dynasties without any hint of a break.
Manetho for interpolating a fictitious king in this
Amenophis (Άμένωφις), fictitious because he is
listed immediately after the 66-year reign of Ramesses II
Manetho did not give him a reign length, which is
something he did for every other king. Even if this king is the same
Manetho's Ammenephthis in XIX.3 who is credited with 40 years of reign
in the edition Eusebius used and 20 years in the edition Africanus
Josephus seems to have a legitimate point that inconsistencies
between the various editions cast doubt on the validity of the Leper
Josephus wrote, an
Epitome or summary of Manetho's history was
Sextus Julius Africanus in the 3rd century. Eusebius of
Caesarea later made his own summary as well, but he used a version of
the work that differed from the one Africanus used. Both summaries
involved preserving the outlines of the "Manethonian" dynasties and a
few details deemed significant. For the first ruler of the first
Dynasty, Menes, we learn that "he was snatched and killed by a
hippopotamus". The extent to which the epitome preserved the author's
original writing is unclear, so caution must be exercised. The version
of the epitome in Africanus is usually considered more reliable than
the one made by Eusebius, but there is no assurance that this is
always the case. Eusebius in turn was preserved by
Jerome in his Latin
translation, an Armenian translation, and by George Syncellus.
Syncellus recognized the similarities between Eusebius and Africanus,
so he placed them side by side in his work, Ecloga Chronographica.
These last four copies are what remains of the epitome of Manetho.
Other significant fragments include Malalas' Chronographia and
Excerpta Latina Barbari ("Excerpts in Bad Latin").
Sources and methods
The methods of the author of the Aegyptiaca, although he claims
"sacred books" composed by the god Hermes Trismigestus were his
primary source, involved the use of king-lists to provide a structure
for his history. There were precedents to his writing available in
Egypt (plenty of which have survived to this day), and his Hellenistic
and Egyptian background would have been influential in his writing.
Josephus records him admitting to using "nameless oral tradition"
(Apion 1.105) and "myths and legends" (Apion 1.229) for his account,
and there is no reason to doubt this, as admissions of this type were
common among historians of that era. His familiarity with Egyptian
legends is indisputable, but how the author came to know Greek is more
open to debate if we are dealing with a priest who lived in the early
Ptolemaic period. In any case, the author must have been familiar with
Herodotus, and in some cases, he even attempted to synchronize
Egyptian history with Greek (for example, equating King Memnon with
Amenophis, and Armesis with Danaos). This suggests the author was also
familiar with the Greek
Epic Cycle (for which the Ethiopian Memnon is
Achilles during the Trojan War) and the history of Argos (in
Aeschylus's Suppliants). Because it is difficult to believe these
could be from the hand of a native Egyptian priest from as early as
the 3rd century it has also been suggested that they were later
interpolations, particularly when the epitome was being written.
However, if the author was really an educated Greek from
lived and wrote in the time of
Augustus (BC 28-14 AD) then we could
expect him to be interested and thoroughly familiar with the Greek
Epic Cycle. He wrote in fluent Koinê Greek which would be somewhat
unexpected for a native Egyptian who lived in the early 3rd century BC
but not for an educated Greek born in
Mendes in the 1st century BC.
The king-list that the author of the Aegyptiaca had access to is
unknown to us, but of the surviving king-lists, the one most similar
to his is the
Turin Royal Canon
Turin Royal Canon (or Turin Papyrus). The oldest source
with which we can compare to
Manetho are the
Old Kingdom Annals (c.
2500-2200 BC). From the
New Kingdom are the list at Karnak
(constructed by order of Thutmose), two at Abydos (by
Seti I and
Ramesses II— the latter a duplicate but updated version of the
former), and the Saqqara list by the priest Tenry.
The provenance of the
Old Kingdom Annals is unknown, surviving as the
Palermo Stone. The differences between the Annals and
great. The Annals only reach to the fifth dynasty, but its
pre-dynastic rulers are listed as the kings of
Lower Egypt and kings
of Upper Egypt. By contrast,
Manetho lists several Greek and Egyptian
gods beginning with
Hephaistos and Helios. Secondly, the Annals give
annual reports of the activities of the kings, while there is little
Manetho would have been able to go into such detail.
New Kingdom lists are each selective in their listings: that of
Seti I, for instance, lists seventy-six kings from Dynasties I to XIX
Hyksos rulers and those associated with the heretic
Akhenaten. The Saqqara list, contemporaneous with Ramesses II, has
fifty-eight names, with similar omissions. If
Manetho used these lists
at all, he would have been unable to get all of his information from
them alone, due to the selective nature of their records. Verbrugghe
and Wickersham argue:
[...] The purpose of these lists was to cover the walls of a sacred
room in which the reigning
Pharaoh (or other worshiper, as in the case
of Tenry and his Saqqara list) made offerings or prayers to his or her
predecessors, imagined as ancestors. Each royal house had a particular
traditional list of these "ancestors," different from that of the
other houses. The purpose of these lists is not historical but
religious. It is not that they are trying and failing to give a
complete list. They are not trying at all. Seti and Ramesses did not
wish to make offerings to Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, or Hatshepsut, and
that is why they are omitted, not because their existence was unknown
or deliberately ignored in a broader historical sense. For this
reason, the Pharaonic king-lists were generally wrong for Manetho's
purposes, and we should commend
Manetho for not basing his account on
These large stelae stand in contrast to the
Turin Royal Canon
Turin Royal Canon (like
Saqqara, contemporaneous with Ramesses II), written in hieratic
script. Like Manetho, it begins with the gods, and seems to be an
epitome very similar in spirit and style to Manetho. Interestingly,
the opposite side of the papyrus includes government records.
Verbrugghe and Wickersham suggest that a comprehensive list like this
would be necessary for a government office "to date contracts, leases,
debts, titles, and other instruments (2000:106)" and so could not have
been selective the way the king-lists in temples were. Despite
numerous differences between the Turin Canon and Manetho, the format
must have been available to the author. As a priest (or chief priest),
he would have had access to practically all written materials in the
temple. This was true of
Manetho assuming he existed and was an
historical chief priest of the 3rd century BC, and of Ptolemy of
Mendes, a priest in Egypt during the 1st century BC and the early
years of the 1st century AD.
While the precise origins for Manetho's king-list are unknown, it was
certainly a Northern Lower Egyptian one. This can be deduced most
noticeably from the author's selection of the kings for the Third
Intermediate Period. The author consistently includes the Tanite
Dynasty 21 and
Dynasty 22 lineage in his
Epitome such as Psusennes I,
Amenemope and even such short-lived kings like
Amenemnisu (5 years)
Osochor (6 years). In contrast, he ignores the existence of Theban
kings such as Osorkon III, Takelot III,
Harsiese A and
Pinedjem I and
Middle Egypt like
Peftjaubast of Herakleopolis. This
implies that the author derived the primary sources for his Epitome
from a local city's temple library in the region of the River Nile
Delta which was controlled by the Tanite-based
Dynasty 21 and Dynasty
22 kings. The Middle and Upper Egyptian Pharaohs did not have any
effect upon this specific region of the Delta; hence their exclusion
from Manetho's king-list.
Transcriptions of Pharaonic names
By the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian kings each had five different names:
The "Horus" name
The "Two Ladies" name
The "Gold Horus" name
The praenomen or "throne name"
A nomen, the personal name given at birth (also called a "Son of Ra"
name as it was preceded by Sa Re').
Some Pharaohs also had multiple examples within these names, such as
Ramesses II who used six
Horus names at various times. Because
Manetho's transcriptions agree with many king-lists, it is generally
accepted that he was reliant on one or more such lists, and it is not
clear to what extent he was aware of the different pharaonic names of
rulers long past (and he had alternate names for some). Not all the
different names for each king have been uncovered.
The author of the Aegyptiaca did not choose consistently from the five
different types of names, but in some cases, a straightforward
transcription is possible. Egyptian Men or Meni (Son of Ra and
king-list names) becomes
Menes (officially, this is
Dynasty I, and "1" means the first king of
that dynasty), while Menkauhor/Menkahor (Throne and king-list names,
Horus names is Menkhau and the Son of Ra name is "Kaiu
Horkaiu[...]") is transcribed as Menkheres (V.7 Menkauhor). Others
involve a slight abbreviation, such as A'akheperen-Re' (Throne and
king-list names) becoming Khebron (XVIII.4 Thutmose II). A few more
have consonants switched for unknown reasons, as for example Tausret
becoming Thouoris (XIX.6 Twosre/Tausret). One puzzle is in the
conflicting names of some early dynastic kings— though they did not
have all five titles, they still had multiple names. I.3/4 Djer, whose
Son of Ra name is Itti is considered the basis for the author's I.2
Athothis. I.4 Oenephes then is a puzzle unless it is compared with
Horus name, Ennebu. It may be that
Manetho duplicated the
name or he had a source for a name unknown to us. Finally, there are
some names where the association is a complete mystery to us. V.6
Rhathoures/Niuserre's complete name was Set-ib-tawi Set-ib-Nebty
Netjeri-bik-nebu Ni-user-Re' Ini Ni-user-Re', but the author writes it
as Rhathoures. It may be that some pharaohs were known by names other
than even just the five official ones.
Thus, how the author of the Aegyptiaca transcribed these names varies,
and as such we cannot reconstruct the original Egyptian forms of the
names. However, because of the simplicity with which the author
transcribed long names (see above), they were preferred until original
king-lists began to be uncovered in Egyptian sites, translated, and
corroborated. The author's division of dynasties, however, is still
used as a basis for all Egyptian discussions.
Similarities with Berossos
Most of the ancient witnesses group the author together with Berossos,
and treat the pair as similar in intent, and it is not a coincidence
that those who preserved the bulk of their writing are largely the
same (Josephus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Syncellus). Certainly both
adopted the historiographical approach of the Greek historians
Herodotus and Hesiod, who preceded them. While the subjects of their
history are different, the form is similar, using chronological royal
genealogies as the structure for the narratives. Both extend their
histories far into the mythic past, to give the gods rule over the
earliest ancestral histories.
Syncellus goes so far as to insinuate that "Manetho" lived later than
Berossos and copied his date for the beginning of history:
If one carefully examines the underlying chronological lists of
events, one will have full confidence that the design of both is
false, as both
Berossos and Manetho, as I have said before, want to
glorify each his own nation,
Berossos the Chaldean,
Egyptian. One can only stand in amazement that they were not ashamed
to place the beginning of their incredible story in each in one and
the same year.
Manetho of Sebennytus, chief priest of the accursed temples of Egypt,
who lived later than
Berossos in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus,
writes to this Ptolemy, with the same utterance of lies as
While it does seem an incredible coincidence, the reliability of the
report is unclear.
Syncellus rejected the reasoning for assuming the
period from the creation down to the Flood was the same number of
years in both histories according to the contortions on the part of
Christian writers who came after Eusebius, writers who rejected
Eusebius' interpretation of Manetho.
Berossos described the period
from the first human-king Aloros to the tenth king Xisouthros who
survived the Flood as having lasted 120 saroi (3,600 year periods),
giving an estimate of 432,000 years from Aloros to the Flood in the
days of Xisouthros. This was unacceptable to all Christian
commentators, but it was assumed by scholars who lived later than
Berossos meant solar days. 432,000 divided by 365 days
gives a rough figure of 1,183½ years before the Flood. According to
Syncellus this was nonsense.
For Manetho, even more numeric contortions ensued. With no flood
mentioned, the monk Pandorus assumed that Manetho's first era
describing the gods represented the part of the ante-diluvian age
beginning with the Watchers who descended from heaven. Secondly,
Pandorus took the period of the gods and demigods for a chronological
count and omitted the spirits of the dead. Six dynasties of gods
totalled 11,985 years, while the nine demigods came to 858 years.
Again, this was too long for the Biblical account, so two different
units of conversion were used. The 11,985 years were considered to be
synodic months of 29½ days each (a conversion used in antiquity, for
example by Diodorus Siculus), which comes out to 969 years. The latter
period, however, was divided by Pandorus into seasons, or quarters of
a year, and reduces to 214½ years (another conversion attested to by
Diodorus). The sum of these comes out to 1,183½ years, a coincidence
Syncellus condemned as being forced.
Syncellus rejected both Manetho's and Berossos' incredible
time-spans he did not dismiss the efforts Eusebius to harmonize their
numbers with the Bible. He only dismissed the efforts of commentators
who disagreed with Eusebius. Ironically as we see,
Manetho used the same starting point for history as
It is not clear how he reached this conclusion. We know
not accept that Egypt and Babylon were ruled by any kings prior to the
biblical Flood. Nor that Egypt was even inhabited before the Flood. He
apparently assumed that the number of years
Berossos stated in Book
One of his history, i.e. the years that had elapsed from creation down
to the Aloros, the first of ten mortal kings who ruled for a combined
total of 120 saroi (432,000 years) in the ante-diluvian period, was
identical to the years
Manetho gave to the mythic kings. Book Two of
Berossos's history began with the reign of Aloros and went down to the
reign of Nabonassaros (747–734 BC).
Now the edition of the Aegyptiaca that Eusebius used stated that the
period of the gods, demigods, and spirits of the dead was 24,925
years. It is possible that a different edition gave a different
duration for this period, one that agreed with the number of saroi
Berossos assigned to the period before Aloros. If this is correct,
Syncellus would have understood that the first mortal king in
Manetho's list, Menes, began his reign in the same year as Aloros, the
first mortal king in Berossos' list. Hence Syncellus' charge that
Berossos for the year date in which mortals began to
be kings in Babylonia and Egypt, respectively.
The effect of the Aegyptiaca
If it is true that
Manetho wrote a major history of Egypt at the royal
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus the Aegyptiaca was a massive
failure. Herodotus' Histories continued to provide the standard
account in the
Hellenistic world, that is until Diodorus wrote his
voluminous history. It may also have been that some nationalistic
Manetho provided the impetus for his writing, but that
is conjecture. It is clear, however, that when it was written, it
would have proven to be the authoritative account of the history of
Egypt, superior to
Herodotus in every way. The completeness and
systematic nature in which he collected his sources was unprecedented.
This points to the Roman period for the original date of composition,
for Diodorus makes not the slightest mention of
Manetho in his history
and he visited
Alexandria in 60/59 BC. This is not so much an argument
from silence since a professional scholar like Diodorus could not
possibly have intentionally ignored, or been completely ignorant of,
such an important contribution had it existed at the time of his visit
to Egypt. His lengthy and detailed discussion of Egyptian history and
chronology contradicts Mantheo's Aegyptiaca at virtually every turn.
Thus one may safely conclude that the work was not composed until
after Diodorus' visit to Egypt in 60/59 BC, and after his history ends
in 30 BC.
Syncellus recognised its importance when recording Eusebius and
Africanus, and even provided a separate conflicting witness from the
Book of Sothis. But the author of the Aegyptiaca, whether he is
Sebennytus of the 3rd century BC, and this is
unlikely, or Ptolemy of
Mendes of the 1st century BC claiming to
reproduce the words of the celebrated
Manetho from three centuries
earlier, more likely, he should not be judged on the factuality of the
Book of Sothis but on the method he used to record history, and in
this, he was as successful as
Herodotus and Hesiod.
Finally, in modern times, the effect of this work is still visible in
the way Egyptologists divide the dynasties of the pharaohs. The French
explorer and Egyptologist, Jean-François Champollion, reportedly held
a copy of Manetho's lists in one hand as he attempted to decipher the
hieroglyphs he encountered (though it probably gave him more
frustration than joy, considering the way the Egyptian author
transcribed the names in Greek). Most modern scholarship that mentions
the names of the pharaohs will render both the modern transcription
and Manetho's version, and Manetho's names are even preferred to more
authentic ones in some cases. Today, his division of dynasties is used
universally, and this has permeated the study of nearly all royal
genealogies by the conceptualization of succession in terms of
dynasties or houses.
Ancient Egypt portal
History of Ancient Egypt
List of lists of ancient kings
^ Waddell (1940), p. ix, n. 1.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum viii. 1007: "ΜΑΝΕΘΩΝ"
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 188-189.
^ Tacitus, Histories 4.83; Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride 28.
Manetho with an English translation by W. G. Waddell (part of The
Loeb Classical Library:
Manetho – Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos), 1964, pp.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 10-11; 210-211.
^ Palmer (1861), pp. 417 ff.
^ Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 1.21; cf. Eusebius, Praeparatio
^ Tatian, Or. Contr. Graec. 38.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 114-115.
^ Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III, Part I: Chapter XIX.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 208-209.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 208-209.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 210-211.
^ This listing of gods, demigods, and spirits of the dead derives from
the edition of Manetho's history which Eusebius used, cf. Waddell
(1940), pp. 2-9.
Syncellus (Ecloga Chronographica, p. 32) writes that
a different listing, one that omitted the spirits of the dead,
appeared in a different edition of Manetho, cf. Waddell (1940), pp.
Syncellus accepted the former list as given by Eusebius, and
also Eusebius' theory that the Egyptian years were schematic lunar
months of 30 during the period of the immortals, but Syncellus
rejected the other list of immortals which omitted the spirits of the
dead. He also rejected the attempts of Christian writers such as the
Egyptian monk Pandorus (c. 395-408 AD) to manipulate its total of
11,985 years for the gods and 858 years for demigods to be a period of
only 1,183½ solar years.
^ Apion 1.227-287.
^ Apion 2.2 §17.
^ Waddell, pp. 176-177.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 174-175.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 186-187.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 184-185.
^ Apion 1.94, 231.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 114-115.
^ Waddell (1940), pp. 110-111.
^ Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica, p. 30.
^ Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica, p. 32.
^ Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica, pp. 53-56.
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Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Chronologie de Manéthon showing the names given by
Manetho and the
names used now
Manetho: History of Egypt, Sacred Book, etc.
Who's Who in Ancient Egypt: Manetho
"The First Egyptian Narrative History:
Manetho and Greek
Historiography", ZPE 127 (1999), pp.93-116 by J. Dillery
ISNI: 0000 0003 9491 0584
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