|Manetho: A Study in
How Ancient Scribes Garbled an Accurate Chronology of Dynastic Egypt
|by Gary Greenberg|
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From the Midwest Book Review
Informatively written by ancient history, mythology, and Biblical studies expert Gary Greenberg, Manetho: A Study In Egyptian Chronology explores how ancient scribes may have misinterpreted the chronology of Egyptian history, and offers a carefully researched survey of the landmark events of Egyptian history. Straightforward writing adds life to the trek through years and centuries, in this fascinating study of dynasties, war, achievements, and lasting cultural legacy. . . Manetho is a thoughtful and iconoclastic contribution to the field of Egyptology and is very highly recommended reading for academia as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in ancient Egyptian history.
About Manetho and His Chronology
Ancient Egypt left us with a reasonably full chronological record that reached back to about 3000 BCE. But there are many gaps and problems that prohibit full agreement among modern scholars as to the correct dates for all of Egypt’s dynasties. Prior to the first millennium BCE, cross references between Egypt’s chronological record and Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures provide historians with the means of filling out the chronological records of these other nations. Filling in these historical holes can help resolve not only issues in Egyptian history but those in their neighboring countries.
In the third century BCE, an Egyptian priest named Manetho wrote a history of ancient Egypt that contained a detailed chronology of the country’s kings and dynasties. His work was highly influential in subsequent centuries and formed the basis of many ancient views about the world’s chronology. Jewish and Christian scholars were especially interested in his works because of their concerns with scriptural chronology.
Although no copies of his original manuscript have survived, excerpts and summaries, mostly relating to Egyptian chronology, appeared in ancient writings. Portions of his text have been preserved by the first century Jewish historian Josephus, the second century Christian scholar Africanus and the third century Christian historian Eusebius. Unfortunately, their chronological summaries are wildly inconsistent with each other and in many cases greatly at odds with the historical record. If we can resolve these contradictions, we might be able to resolve many questions about the history of Egypt and its neighbors.
Much of modern Egyptological studies are built around Manetho’s apparent division of pre-Alexandrian Egypt into a sequence of thirty dynasties. Although it is apparent to scholars that Manetho relied (at least in some cases) on accurate sources, they are puzzled by the many bizarre inconsistencies in the surviving accounts and have proposed many solutions to the more puzzling problems.
In this detailed study of Egypt’s archaeological and historical records, Gary Greenberg attempts to reconstruct Manetho’s Chronological history of the first nineteen Egyptian dynasties, utilizing the archaeological records as a cross check against Manetho’s writings. In many instances he demonstrates that much of the confusion over Manetho’s history comes from misunderstandings by ancient scribes as to coregencies, concurrent dynasties, and dynastic summation totals. When corrections are allowed for these misreadings, Greenberg shows that the original Manetho chronology provided a highly accurate account of Egyptian dynastic history consistent with other archaeological evidence.
An excellent and well-written analysis that makes a valuable contribution to the study of Egyptian chronology and king-lists. Greenberg shows that Manetho originally had a highly accurate record of Egyptian chronology but that it was severely altered in the course of transmission. Of particular interest is his reconstruction of Manetho’s original Twelfth Dynasty and Second Intermediate Period chronologies and his demonstration that Manetho’s chronology paralleled that of the Turin Canon far more often than previously recognized. - Frank Joseph Yurco, Egyptologist, Field Museum, Chicago.
An intriguing approach to a
long-debated problem. - Dr. Aidan Dodson,