Manethos Seventh and Eighth Dynasties: A Mystery Solved
Presented at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in
Egypt, Toronto, Canada 1994
According to Manetho (Africanus version), Egypts Seventh
Dynasty consisted of seventy kings of Memphis who reigned for seventy
days, and his Eighth Dynasty consisted of twenty-seven kings of
Memphis who reigned for 146 years. These two claims are not only
wildly inconsistent with the archaeological record, but no other
king-list corroborates the existence of these two Manetho dynasties,
although other king-lists do present a wide diversity of views about
how many kings there were in the Sixth Dynasty, ranging from four
kings in the Table of Sakkara to twenty-three kings in the Table of
Abydos. To reconcile Manethos Seventh and Eighth Dynasties with
the other king-lists, it is the general practice to identify the
Sixth Dynasty with the Turin Canons listing of twelve or
thirteen kings, and to distribute the additional kings in the Table
of Abydos to Manethos Seventh and Eighth Dynasties. These
differences among the king-lists are generally assumed to be the
product of bad record keeping during the First Intermediate Period,
which began during the Sixth Dynasty.
This paper will argue for a different solution to the problem of
Manethos Seventh and Eighth Dynasties, and also present a new
explanation for why there is such a range of differences among the
king-lists for the Sixth Dynasty. The argument regarding
Manethos two extra dynasties will be that they were originally
lines of summation, to wit: What Manetho (or more likely his
redactor) called the Seventh Dynasty was originally a line of
summation enumerating how many kings ruled from Memphis, beginning
with the First Dynasty and ending with the Sixth Dynasty; and what
was called the Eighth Dynasty was the result of a confused reading of
the Sixth Dynasty roster and its attendant line of summation.
In support of that argument, it will be noted that the number of
kings assigned by Africanus to the first five dynasties is 43 (= 8 +
9 + 9 + 8 + 9) and that when the twenty-seven kings of Dyn. VIII are
added to the total, the sum is seventy. In addition, it will be
argued that the reason for the different views concerning the end
point of the Sixth Dynasty was the existence of a theological dispute
among the various cult centers, specifically: At what point in the
Sixth Dynasty did Horus cease being the king of Memphis and become
instead the king of Thebes?
The only direct evidence for the existence of a Seventh and Eighth
Dynasty in Egyptian history appears in two inconsistent, badly
garbled, and heavily redacted copies of Manethos history of
Egypt. One copy was prepared by Africanus in the third century and
the other by Eusebius in the fourth century. According to Africanus,
the Seventh Dynasty consisted of seventy kings of Memphis, who
reigned for 70 days (1) and the Eighth Dynasty consisted of
twenty-seven kings of Memphis, who reigned for 146 years
(2) Eusebius has a slightly different account. He has a Seventh
Dynasty that consisted of five kings of Memphis, who reigned
for 75 days(3) and an Eighth Dynasty that consisted of
five kings of Memphis, who reigned for 100 years. (4)
These descriptions present Egyptologists with some problems. Not only
does the description of the Seventh Dynasty appear to be either
spurious or badly garbled, but no archaeologists would allow much
more than a quarter of a century for both dynasties combined. Adding
to the difficulty is that there are three additional Egyptian
king-lists that encompass this period, and while all have a different
number of Memphite kings beginning with the Sixth Dynasty, none of
them indicates any sort of dynastic break for a Seventh and/or Eighth Dynasty.
These two dynasties fall into Egypts First Intermediate Period,
and because of the great chaos in this time and the scarcity of
records, Egyptologists generally assume that the differences among
the two Manetho copies and the various king-lists simply reflect the
confusion among the various scribes who attempted to recreate the
political records of this earlier era. In this paper, I am going to
argue for a different interpretation of the evidence. The original
authors of the king-lists, I maintain, had a very clear picture of
the First Intermediate Period and that the differences among the
king-lists reflect not confusion but political/theological
alternatives. More specifically, the political/theological problem
involved the determination of when Horus stopped ruling in Memphis
and started ruling in Thebes. Different cult centers, as reflected in
the king-lists, had different answers. In addition, I am going to
argue that the original Manetho king-list never had a Seventh and
Eighth Dynasty and that what appears in the Africanus and Eusebius
copies are garbled transmissions of lines of summation. Dyn. 7 was
originally a line of summation for the entire Memphite line of kings,
beginning with the First Dynasty and ending with the Sixth Dynasty;
Dyn. 8 was a line of summation for just the Sixth Dynasty.
Before making the case, let me place the First Intermediate Period
into political context. There were three major political events that
took place during this time frame. One was the termination of the
Memphite line of kings sometime after the start of the Sixth Dynasty.
Two was the foundation of a line of kings in Herakleopolis, which
line belongs to Dyns. 9 and 10. Three was the foundation of the
Eleventh Dynasty in Thebes. There was some overlap between the last
Memphite kings and the earliest Herakleopolitan kings, but where in
the Memphite sequence this overlap began is not known. There was also
some overlap between the Herakleopolitans and the Eleventh Dynasty
Thebans, which period lasted about 100 years, ending when Menthotpe
II defeated his Herakleopolitan rival. Whether or not there was some
overlap between the kings of Memphis and the kings of Thebes is unknown.
Each of the various king-lists for this time period provides a
different roster of kings and dynasties. The three earliest are the
Table of Sakkara, the Table of Abydos, and the Turin Canon of Kings.
All three date to the Nineteenth Dynasty. The other relevant
king-list is Manethos, which dates to the third century B.C.,
about one thousand years later than the others. But his original
manuscript is lost, and for the First Intermediate Period we have to
rely on the badly garbled copies of Africanus and Eusebius.
The most abbreviated account of the First Intermediate Period comes
from the Table of Sakkara. It ends the Sixth Dynasty after the fourth
king, Phiops, and then immediately jumps to the reign of Menthotpe
II, the Theban pharaoh who defeated Herakleopolis and united Egypt.
(5) This list, therefore, omits part of the Sixth Dynasty, all of the
Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Dynasties, and part of the Eleventh
Dynasty. The period omitted comes closest to what we currently
describe as the First Intermediate Period. That the Sakkara list ends
the Sixth Dynasty with the reign of Phiops, who apparently ruled in
excess of ninety years, provides a good clue that whatever went wrong
politically began either during or immediately after the reign of
The Table of Abydos presents a different perspective. Beginning with
the first king of the Sixth Dynasty, it lists 22 Memphite kings, and
there is no indication of any dynastic breaks anywhere in this list.
(6) The Abydos list, like the Sakkara list, omits any mention of the
Herakleopolitans, and also skips the first few Theban kings, jumping
directly to the reign of Menthotpe II. (7)
The Turin Canon shows a Sixth Dynasty consisting of twelve Memphite
kings, and, although the lengths of reign are badly damaged, a
summation line indicates that the total duration was either 181 (8)
or 187 years. (9) There is no indication therein of a Seventh or
Eighth Dynasty from Memphis. (10) Following the Sixth Dynasty
Memphite kings, the Turin Canon allows for eighteen Herakleopolitan
kings, but does not divide them into two separate dynasties as
Manetho does. Many Egyptologists believe that at least one of the two
Herakleopolitan dynasties, Nine or Ten, is spurious. After the
Herakleopolitans, the Turin Canon lists several Eleventh Dynasty
Theban kings prior to Menthotpe II. (11)
While most Egyptologists tend to dismiss these differences as
reflecting the chaotic nature of the First Intermediate Period, I
suggest that a more logical interpretation is that these three
king-lists each present a different political viewpoint about the
legitimacy of various kings. The Egyptians were a very conservative
people and did not approve of abrupt changes in the political order.
The king was thought of as a human aspect of the god Horus, and a
challenge to the legitimate king was the equivalent of a challenge to
the god Horus. During the First Intermediate Period, however, there
were three rival kingdoms, Memphis, Thebes, and Herakleopolis. Only
one could be the legitimate center of power. Horus could only rule
from one throne. The central theological problem of the First
Intermediate Period, then, was When did Horus stop ruling in
Memphis and when did he begin to rule from another city? The
three king-lists, I suggest, each show a different political interpretation.
The Sakkara list represents a plague on all your houses
point of view. Implying that the outbreak of troubles began either
during or immediately after the reign of Phiops, the fourth king of
the Sixth Dynasty, the Sakkara scribe refuses to recognize any
legitimate authority until Menthotpe II reunites Egypt. The list
omits the entire period in which there were competing claims.
The Abydos list presents a very different perspective, that of the
Memphite loyalist. What we see reflected here is a hard core support
for the Memphite throne, complete rejection of the Herakleopolitan
claims, and some distaste for the Theban upstarts. It is only after
the Memphite throne has ceased to exist and Menthotpe II has reunited
Egypt that the Abydos scribe confers legitimacy on the Theban
monarchy. If any Theban kings ruled between the time that the
Memphite line ended and Menthotpe II reunited Egypt, the Abydos
scribe refuses to recognize their legitimacy.
A still different set of values is reflected in the Turin Canon of
Kings. The Turin Canon is a Theban document, written by a Theban
scribe during a Theban administration. It presents a Theban political
viewpoint. Because it is Theban, it begins the Eleventh Dynasty with
the founders of the Theban line rather than with the later reign of
Menthotpe II. But the Thebans can not allow a document to show
Memphite kings on the throne at the same time as Theban kings. This
would be sacrilege, an affront to Horus in Memphis.
This raises the question of whether the Memphite line ended before
Thebes came to the throne or after. The Turin Canon, however, only
has twelve kings listed where the Abydos list has twenty-two. Since
Thebes had an interest in showing a smooth transition from Memphis to
Thebes, with no gaps, I suggest that the Turin Canons Sixth
Dynasty ended at exactly the point where it began the Eleventh
Dynasty and that the Thebans deliberately omitted the last ten
Memphite kings in order to avoid any appearance of conflict.
On the other hand, the Turin Canon does show a line of
Herakleopolitan kings. This is politically significant. Theban
authority stems from its defeat of the Herakleopolitan kings.
Therefore the Herakleopolitan kings need to be mentioned. But the
inclusion of the Herakleopolitan kings also serves to remind
Egyptians that the Memphites couldnt defeat the
Herakleopolitans, and that Horus must have abandoned Memphis in favor
of those kings who did defeat the Herakleopolitans.
Before turning to Manethos Seventh and Eighth Dynasties, one
more observation about the king-lists is in order. Manetho and the
Table of Sakkara both make Phiops the fourth king of the Sixth
Dynasty. The Turin Canon and the Table of Abydos make him the fifth
king. The latter two lists place an additional king between
Manethos first and second king. This king appears to be named
Usarkare and he is documented in the archaeological record, but his
reign seems to have been relatively brief. This suggests that Manetho
and the Table of Sakkara both omitted Usarkare from the sequence of
Memphite kings. Therefore, if Manetho originally had intended to
include a complete list of Memphite kings in his chronology, he would
have had only 21 kings, instead of the 22 in the Table of Abydos.
This figure of 21 is significant in our reconstruction of Manetho.
Table 1 presents an outline of the first eight dynasties as recorded
in both versions of Manetho. For each dynasty it shows how many kings
were claimed and how many kings were listed by name. Look first at
the Africanus list. There is only one important anomaly. For the
Fifth Dynasty, Africanus has a summation line claiming eight kings,
but nine kings are listed. (12) If we count up the number of kings
listed for the first five dynasties, the total is 43. If we add to
that number the 27 kings in Dyn. 8, we have seventy kings, the number
claimed for Dyn. 7. This strongly suggests that Dyn. 7 was originally
a line of summation, but of what?
Outline of Manethos First Eight Dynasties
9 (3 missing)
8 (6 missing)
2 (from Dyn. 6)
The clue is in the 27 kings of Dyn. 8. The number 27 is the sum of 21
+ 6. 21 is the number of kings in the entire Memphite
line, and 6 is the number of kings in Manethos
Sixth Dynasty. This suggests that Manethos Eighth Dynasty was
originally a garbled transmission of a Sixth Dynasty line of
summation. What seems to have happened is that after the list of
Manethos first six Memphite kings, there must have been a line
of summation that indicated that the last 21 Memphite kings belonged
to the last Memphite dynasty. One of Manethos earlier redactors
must have misread the text and thought the 21 kings were in addition
to the six listed kings, getting a total of 27 kings in all. He may
have then written that the last Memphite dynasty had 27 kings. This
line of summation was later misread as a separate dynasty apart from
the six listed Memphite kings. Because of its description as the last
Memphite dynasty, it was placed at the end of the Memphite list and
became identified as the Eighth Dynasty.
This confusion about 27 kings being the last Memphite
dynasty led to an additional error. After the original Sixth
Dynasty listing must have been a line of summation for all six
dynasties combined, which may have read some thing like, number
of kings for first five dynasties plus last dynasty, X days
where X would originally have been the total number of
kings for the first six dynasties and days would have
been a metaphor for a complete reign, the metaphor being
based on the daily circuit of the sun. In effect, the text would have
said there were X number of complete reigns, but it would
not have recorded in that location the total number of years actually
ruled. Manethos intent was to add the 21 kings of Dyn. 6 to the
earlier kings in Dyns. 1-5. The X entry, however, may
have been damaged in transmission, and one of the early redactors
must have thought the last dynasty referred to the
erroneously described Eighth Dynasty of 27 kings and
added that on to the total for the first five dynasties, getting 70
in all. This line of summation was then subsequently misread as a
separate Seventh Dynasty.
If Africanuss Eighth Dynasty was originally a garbled line of
summation for the Sixth Dynasty, where, then, did he get the figure
of 146 years for the Eighth Dynastys duration? The most likely
explanation is that it is connected to the confusion over the
existence of the last Memphite dynasty. Since the
problems between Herakleopolis and Memphis appear to have broken out
during the reign of Phiops, Manetho probably had a line of summation
for the number of years in which Memphis and Herakleopolis were in
conflict, said period of time beginning with the reign of Phiops and
continuing to the end of the Sixth Dynasty. His text probably
indicated something like the last group of Memphite kings ruled
for 146 years, which period began with the reign of Phiops. One
of the redactors, however, appears to have confused this reference to
a last group of kings with the erroneously created
last Memphite dynasty of 27 kings and attached the 146
year figure to the misnamed Eighth Dynasty.
In support of this idea, lets look at the relevant chronology.
According to Africanus, from Phiops to the end of his Sixth Dynasty,
there is a total of 108 years. (13) The Turin Canon has an additional
five kings, the last four of whom ruled just under ten years. (14)
The reign for the fifth one is damaged but no one believes it was any
longer than a year or two. This brings us to a total of about 118 to
119 years. This leaves about 27 to 28 years for the nine additional
Memphite kings in the Abydos list that follow after the Turin
Canons last Memphite king, which coincides quite well with the
traditional view that these nine kings couldnt have ruled for
more than about a quarter of a century.
An examination of the Eusebius list lends some support to our
hypothesis about the Africanus list. Unfortunately, the Eusebius list
is not only corrupt, but it is quite obvious that dynasties were
concatenated together. His Fourth Dynasty of 17 kings, for instance,
certainly is out of proportion, and appears to be the sum of 8 + 9,
the numeric sequence of kings in Africanuss Fourth and Fifth
Dynasty combined. That Eusebius (or more likely his source)
mistakenly combined Dyns. 4 and 5, is evident from Eusebiuss
descriptions of the Fifth Dynasty. He claims that there were 31
kings, but he names the first and fourth kings in the list and they
are from the Sixth Dynasty. His list has obviously attached the Fifth
Dynasty kings to the Fourth Dynasty roster and thereby shifted the
Sixth Dynasty kings into the Fifth Dynasty position. His figure of 31
kings is also suspicious. Not only is it too large, it is the sum of
21 + 5 + 5. This suggests that it is a concatenation of the 21 kings
of the Sixth Dynasty Memphite line with the 5 kings in his Seventh
Dynasty and the 5 kings in his Eighth Dynasty, an error consistent
with his previously described errors.
Look now at the sum of kings in Eusebiuss first five dynasties.
It is 73. But his Third Dynasty has only 8 kings where Africanus has
9 kings. If we make that upward adjustment, the new total is 74.
Additionally, Eusebiuss Sixth Dynasty contains only one king.
Adding on the single Sixth Dynasty king to the previous total for the
first five dynasties gives a sum of 75.
This brings us back to our earlier suggestion that the use of the
term days in the Seventh Dynasty, was a metaphor for
complete reigns. Africanuss Seventh Dynasty has 70
kings ruling for 70 days. Eusebius has 5 kings ruling for 75 days.
Note that the Africanus sum for Dynasties 1-5 and 8 equals
70 and the Eusebius reigns for Dyn. 1-6 add up to 75,
each corresponding to the number of days ruled in the Seventh
Dynasty. Since Africanuss Eighth Dynasty appears to be a
summation line for the Sixth Dynasty, both the Africanus and Eusebius
lists appear to have confused a line of summation for the first six
dynasties with a description of a Seventh Dynasty. In sum, then,
Manethos Seventh Dynasty was nothing more than a summation line
for the first six dynasties, and Manethos Eighth Dynasty was
nothing more than a garbled summation line for the Sixth Dynasty, in
which the first six kings were accidentally double counted.
One last note on Eusebius: He gives the Eighth Dynasty a duration of
100 years where Africanus had 146 years. It was suggested earlier
that the Africanus figure represented the sum of Memphite years
beginning with Phiops. We note, however, that in the Africanus list,
Africanuss source mistakenly confused Phiopss 100th
birthday with his 100th year on the throne. (15) The Eusebius figure,
therefore, may represent the erroneous total for Phiopss reign,
with the balance of the reigns omitted.
In summation, we can say the following: Ancient Egyptian records
clearly preserved a list of 22 Memphite kings beginning with the
Sixth Dynasty. Some king-lists, however, such as Manethos and
the Table of Sakkara, omitted the second king on this list, who
apparently had a very brief reign. Because of different political
views about when moral authority departed from Memphis and alighted
in Thebes, different king-lists had different listings of which kings
they thought had moral authority. Some, as in Sakkara, thought that
from Phiops to Menthotpe II all were illegitimate. Others, as in
Abydos, were Memphite loyalists and rejected Theban claims until the
reunification. And the Thebans claimed the earliest possible moment
for their legitimacy, showing no break between the Memphite Sixth
Dynasty and the Theban Eleventh Dynasty. Manetho, attempting a
complete history, tried to list everybody. He listed the first six
kings in the Sixth Dynasty and indicated that there were 21 kings in
the last Memphite Dynasty. This ambiguous description of
a last Memphite dynasty led to a series of errors by
Manethos redactors. The end result was to create a Seventh
Dynasty out of a line of summation for the first six dynasties and to
create an Eighth Dynasty out of a line of summation for the Sixth Dynasty.
Since the misinterpretation of Manetho is the sole evidence for the
existence of a Seventh and Eighth Dynasty, those two dynasties should
disappear from the Egyptian history. Furthermore, the First
Intermediate Period should probably now be defined more precisely in
accordance with the description in the Table of Sakkara, beginning
during the reign of Phiops and ending with Menthotpe IIs
conquest over Herakleopolis. More specifically, the First
Intermediate Period should be defined simply as the period in time
when Herakleopolitan kings ruled independently of Memphis and Thebes.
1. Manetho, 57.
2. Manetho, 59.
3. Manetho, 57.
4. Manetho, 59.
5. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, 436-8.
6. Gardiner, 102, 436-8.
7. Gardiner, 436-8.
8. Gardiner, 102, 436.
9. Hayes, Cambridge Ancient History, I:1:179.
10. Gardiner, 101-2.
11. Gardiner, 438.
12. Manetho, 51.
13. Manetho, 55.
14. Gardiner, 436.
15. Manetho, 53-5.