(The following is a draft of the first chapter of Manetho's Chronology
Restored. It may vary slightly from the published version. Footnotes are also
1. The Problem of Manetho’s Chronology
In the third century B.C., an important and influential Egyptian priest named
Manetho wrote an account of his country’s history. It contained a wealth of
information about ancient Egypt and included a chronological record of all
Egyptian kings from the beginning of the first dynasty (c. 3100 B.C.) down to
the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Unfortunately, no
extant copy of Manetho’s original manuscript has yet been found.
We do have three ancient texts—one from the first century Jewish historian
Josephus, another from the third century Christian chronographer Africanus, and
another from the fourth century Christian historian Eusebius—that claim to be
based on Manetho’s history, but they are frequently and substantially
inconsistent with each other in many respects and all three are often at great
odds with the known chronological record for ancient Egypt.
Among the problems found in these accounts are that many of the king names
are unrecognizable, a number of kings have reigns that are too long, several
dynasties have more kings than actually ruled, in some cases kings appear to be
listed out of order, several dynasties have no kings listed at all, many
dynasties have durations far in excess of that allowed by the chronological
record, and some dynasties seem to be spurious.
Nevertheless, studies of the Manetho texts reveal that Manetho’s original
chronology must have been based at least in part on accurate chronological
accounts from Egyptian records. Manetho, himself, served as a priest at the city
of Heliopolis, and legend holds that the temple at Heliopolis had a picture of a
tree with the names of every Egyptian king inscribed on a separate leaf. Until
the advent of modern Egyptology the Manetho texts heavily influenced our
development of a chronological history of ancient Egypt.
Manetho’s history also had a strong influence on biblical studies. His long
chronological history provided a potential anchor point around which dates for
biblical events could be established, particularly with regard to the chronology
of the Exodus from Egypt under Moses and the chronology of civilization after
the flood in Noah’s time. In fact, Josephus’s identification of the Exodus with
Manetho’s account of the expulsion of the Hyksos kings at the start of what
would have been the Eighteenth Dynasty, deeply influenced centuries of biblical
We should also note that because much of our development of chronology in the
nations outside of Egypt, particularly in Canaan and Mesopotamia, depended upon
chronological links to events inside of Egypt, Manetho was an early influence on
our development of chronology in those other nations as well.
Manetho and the Dynastic Structure
The present practice of dividing Egyptian dynastic history into a period of
30 or 31 dynasties, from the start of the first dynasty down to Alexander’s
conquest of Egypt, is known as the Manetho or Manethonian Model. Derived from
the Africanus and Eusebius accounts of Manetho’s history, it is nearly
impossible to discuss Egyptian history without adhering to this Manethonian
structure, even though there might be some minor quibbles as to whether the
division between certain dynasties should be adjusted up or down by a couple of
kings. For example, should the Nineteenth Dynasty begin with Ramesses I, as
generally accepted, or with his predecessor, Horemheb, with whom he shared a
coregency. Or, should the Eighteenth Dynasty began with Ahmose, the pharaoh who
expelled the Hyksos kings and united Egypt under his own rule, or with the
earlier members of Ahmoses’s family who ruled from Thebes and initiated the
struggle against the Hyksos kings?
On the other hand, it is not thoroughly clear that Manetho, himself, adhered
to this thirty-dynasty structure. He does seem to have had occasions where he
summarized the lengths of reigns for a group of kings, based on some sort of
political context, but may have done so well in excess of thirty occasions. The
subsequent redactors of his text may have chosen particular summaries to
represent dynastic divisions and ignored others.
Still, the Manethonian Model reflects a reasonably good guide to some broad
political divisions within Egyptian history and many of the dynastic divisions
seem to be somewhat in accord with Egypt’s political history. Within the context
of the Manetho Model, though, Egyptologists have, by convention, grouped certain
dynasties together to reflect larger political developments. The standard scheme
is as follows:
Dynasties I-VI The Old Kingdom
Dynasties VII-X First Intermediate Period
Dynasties XI-XII Middle Kingdom
Dynasties XIII-XVII Second Intermediate Period
Dynasties XVIII-XX New Kingdom
Dynasties XXI-XXV Third Intermediate Period
Dynasties XXVI-XXXI Late Dynastic
Some Egyptologists have also further subdivided the Old Kingdom, separating
out the First and Second Dynasties—more recently, some would also include the
Third Dynasty—and referring to them as the Archaic Period.
In addition, some Egyptologists have suggested extending the Middle Kingdom
into that part of the Thirteenth Dynasty that ruled Egypt before rival dynasties
successfully challenged Thebes for control over all of or portions of Egypt. The
chief rivals of Thebes during the Second Intermediate Period were the Hyksos
kings, a group of foreigners who successfully established political bases within
Egypt, dominated much of the country for almost two centuries, and may have
established total control over the entire country for at least a short period of
It should be noted that while the term First Intermediate Period encompasses
Dynasties VII-X, it may be more accurate to say that it should include part of
the Sixth Dynasty and also include that part of the Eleventh Dynasty that
preceded the unification of Egypt during the latter part of the Eleventh
Dynasty. Some Egyptologists suggest that Dynasties VII and VIII are little more
than a continuation of the Sixth Dynasty and others suggest they may never have
The First, Eleventh and Eighteenth Dynasties each signify a period of
unification after a time of division and are placed at the head of the Old,
Middle and New Kingdoms. The Three Intermediate Periods reflect times of turmoil
and division and are poorly documented, greatly frustrating our efforts to
reconstruct the history of these troublesome eras. That Egyptians saw these
first three unifications as inaugurating important periods of renewal can be
inferred from an inscription from a Nineteenth Dynasty temple inscription
joining together the names of these three unifiers, Menes of Dynasty I,
Menthotpe of Dynasty XI, and Ahmose of Dynasty XVIII.
In the dynastic outline above, I have avoided mentioning the dates applicable
to each of these dynasties and eras as there are differences of opinion
regarding many of the applicable dates and I didn’t want to clutter this
introductory text with numerous alternatives and explanations. I provide a broad
overview in the next chapter and present detailed analysis in the subsequent
The Transmission of Manetho
Manetho’s history began with a mythical period ruled by various gods,
demigods, spirits, and mythical kings, and continued through an Egyptian
historical period beginning with what we now refer to as the First Dynasty and
ended with the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great. It is the only known
ancient document to have covered such a vast period of Egyptian history with
both historical commentary and chronological detail about the various rulers of
that nation. He probably wrote in Greek to suit the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic
rulers of Egypt.
As noted above, there are three main sources for Manetho’s history, Josephus,
Africanus, and Eusebius. Differences in content and style suggest how the
Manetho history was redacted and transmitted.
The Josephus account, which appears in his book Against Apion, covers
only a portion of Manetho’s history, spanning approximately from the Fifteenth
through the Nineteenth Dynasties. His account appears in narrative form and
contains no reference to numbered dynasties or any direct reference to dynastic
divisions, although it does describe shifts in control from one political
faction to another that is somewhat consistent with the corresponding dynastic
divisions. It also includes some sequences of named Egyptian rulers along with
lengths of reign and some collective durations for groups of kings. His
recitation of the named kings and their lengths of reign frequently disagree
with what we know from the archaeological record. We will discuss these
variations and their causes in more detail in subsequent chapters.
He appears to have had at least two versions of Manetho’s history to work
from and these earlier copies of Manetho already exhibit evidence of
inconsistencies in transmission. For example, referring to Manetho’s account of
a group of kings known as the Hyksos, Josephus says that in one account the
definition of Hyksos means "king-shepherds" but that in another version it means
"captive shepherds." In another instance, in one place he gives one set of
personal names to the Egyptian kings who defeated the Hyksos and elsewhere he
gives another set of personal names to these same kings.
Some of the inconsistencies in the Manetho texts seem to have led Josephus to
believe that the conflicting accounts described two separate events rather than
differing accounts of the same event. As a result, his narrative appears to
include both accounts, treating them as if they were part of a single Manetho
narrative, but he doesn’t tell us that the combined accounts come from separate
sources. In one instance, for example, he tells us about a rebellious group of
priests. On two separate occasions in the narrative, he tells us that the
priest’s followers called him Osarseph, but on the second occasion he tells us
this as if he had never previously told us what the priest’s followers called
Africanus and Eusebius
The two later accounts by Africanus and Eusebius are similar to each other in
that they both take the form of tabular accounts of the various dynasties in
sequential order along with, in most cases, a list of kings within each dynasty
and their lengths of reign. And, in most instances, they parallel each other
closely as to the sequence of dynasties and kings contained within. Neither
contains much narrative material about the kings although a few very short
anecdotes are preserved.
While both seem to draw on similar source materials (Eusebius may have
partially drawn on Africanus) and follow the same sequential structure, there
are several points where the two lists diverge with respect to the chronological
information about particular kings and dynasties. Scholars generally consider
Africanus more accurate than Eusebius with regard to the transmission of the
Manetho texts, and it is clear that on occasion Eusebius has a more garbled
source than does Africanus. Consider, for example, a comparison of the Fifth and
Sixth Dynasties in the two works.
Where Africanus lists nine kings (although alleging that there were only
eight kings) for the Fifth Dynasty and lists six more kings for the Sixth
Dynasty, Eusebius says that the Fifth Dynasty had 31 kings but names only one, a
king who served in the Sixth Dynasty. And then, for the Sixth Dynasty he lists
only the last ruler. It is obvious that Eusebius relied on a confused or
confusing transmission of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties that concatenated them
into a single continuum. On the other hand, our examination of Manetho’s history
will show that sometimes Eusebius preserves traces of a better account than does
It should be noted here that both the Africanus and Eusebius lists are
preserved only in copies written down in later times by other writers, allowing
additional opportunities for error in the copying and interpreting process.
The Africanus material comes chiefly from a work by George the Monk, also
known as Syncellus, who wrote it down at about the end of the eighth century.
For Eusebius, we have extracts preserved by Syncellus, but we also have an
Armenian translation of the whole work made between 500 and 800, and a Latin
version made by Jerome toward the end of the fourth century. There are some
differences among these various copies of Eusebius. In Eusebius’s Fourteenth
Dynasty, for example, Syncellus preserves a duration of 184 years (the same as
in Africanus) while the Armenian version has 484 years.
The Africanus and Eusebius lists divided the king-list into a sequence of
thirty dynasties down to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.
Subsequently, one of the redactors tacked on to the end an additional brief
dynasty, making thirty-one in all.
Other Syncellus Accounts
Syncellus also preserves some material that he attributes to Manetho as
independent of and different from Africanus and Eusebius. Known as The Book
of Sothis, it appears to be somewhat of an ancient forgery, a pseudo-Manetho
that does suggest some familiarity with Manetho. It is a clumsy redaction
listing several kings in sequential order without dynastic divisions and with
many kings missing from the sequence of rulers.
Syncellus also preserves another document called The Old Chronicle,
which he believes to have influenced Manetho and led him into error. That
document, however, is probably post-Manetho but may have in fact been a fourth
independent preservation of Manetho’s account. It was concerned primarily with
the reigns of the gods and we need not concern ourselves with it at this point.
Patterns of Transmission
The differences in style and content between Josephus and the later
versions—Josephus writing in a narrative form with lots of historical content
but without numbered dynasties while Africanus and Eusebius have virtually no
historical content and present a simple table of numbered dynasties—strongly
suggests the manner in which the Manetho texts were transmitted.
With Josephus we see that Manetho originally had substantial narrative
accounts about historical events in his nation’s history and did not provide a
list of numbered dynasties. (Africanus and Eusebius note that Manetho’s history
originally encompassed three volumes.) He did have lists of kings with lengths
of reign, but whether these lists were always complete dynasties, portions of
dynasties, or concatenations of dynasties we can not say.
In the Josephus text, for instance, the account runs the Eighteenth and
Nineteenth Dynasties together without any indication of a break between them,
and places scattered pieces of chronological information about the Nineteenth
Dynasty in different parts of the text, again without indicating any dynastic
break between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties.
Africanus and Eusebius partially follow Josephus in attaching portions of the
Nineteenth Dynasty to the Eighteenth but they also have a separate listing for
the Nineteenth Dynasty. Obviously, at least one redactor between Josephus and
Africanus made some new judgments about how to extract and organize data from
Judging from the references in Josephus that show him using more than one
copy of Manetho, we also see that inconsistencies and contradictions had already
crept into the transmissions before Josephus prepared his own work. In some
instances there were slightly different versions of stories that appeared in the
two texts, suggesting that the copiers may have been paraphrasing Manetho rather
than precisely copying from his manuscript, and either Josephus or his source
appears to have concatenated these alternative accounts as if they were separate
sequential events. Josephus’s two copies of Manetho even appear to have
different names for some of the people who performed the acts in questions.
In the case of the kings who ousted the Hyksos rulers from Egypt, for
instance, Josephus in one place gives us one set of names, but in another
location that repeats the story of the expulsion, Josephus’s account has
erroneously substituted a couple of names from the middle of the Eighteenth
Dynasty. On both occasions he has the wrong names for these kings while
Africanus and Eusebius have the correct name for the victorious king, indicating
the multiple independent channels of transmission.
Here, then, we can see that already by Josephus’s time, some redactors were
having troubling accurately understanding what Manetho wrote and they garbled
the historical accounts. Others did better jobs of passing on the information.
This might further suggest that Manetho failed to write in a clear and
unambiguous manner and that many portions were confusing even to the
Greek-speaking redactors reading his Greek account.
With Africanus and Eusebius we see a transformation in the way Manetho’s text
was transmitted, and one which is many times removed from Manetho’s original
manuscript. A number of redactors, probably Hellenistic-oriented Jewish scribes
and Christian writers interested in comparative biblical chronology, concerned
themselves primarily, perhaps exclusively, with Manetho’s chronological
accounts, and extracted out and reordered what they believed to be his
It is among these redactors that we begin to see tabular lists of numbered
dynasties with individual rulers and their lengths of reign, along with
occasional summaries. And it is from these sources that Africanus and Eusebius
must have obtained their accounts.
So, what the various versions show us is that errors were already entering
into the transmission of Manetho’s text not long after he wrote his original
manuscript, and eventually, those interested in what he had to say were
concerned almost exclusively with his chronological accounts. Assorted redactors
attempted to extract chronological material from the already confusing and
contradictory set of manuscripts and compiled lists of rulers in chronological
order. This produced a variety of independent error-ridden sources that found
there way into Josephus, Africanus and Eusebius, and it is from the pattern of
errors that we will attempt to reconstruct Manetho’s original chronology.
Some Chronological Concerns
According to the Africanus and Eusebius texts, Manetho’s chronology from the
First Dynasty to the last encompassed just under 5,500 years, dating the onset
to sometime prior to 5000 B.C. The presently accepted view of Egyptologists is
that the First Dynasty began no earlier than about 3100 B.C., give or take 150
years, approximately two millennia shorter than that established by the Manetho
A good deal of this excess can be confined to the Second Intermediate Period,
a chaotic era that lasted approximately two hundred years. In Africanus, for
example, Dynasties XIII-XVII lasted over 1600 years while Eusebius gives them a
duration of almost 1200 years. Josephus doesn’t include the entire Second
Intermediate Period in his account, but what durations he does give are on the
same order of error as in the other two lists. Even if we allow for the
now-accepted concurrent dynasties within the Second Intermediate Period, the
three sets of Manetho figures are still highly excessive.
Another large erroneous time span can be confined to Manetho’s First
Intermediate Period, which, in its preserved form, has hundreds of years too
many for the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties. Furthermore, the Manetho texts present
these two dynasties in sequential order, falling between the Sixth and Eleventh
Dynasties, when, in fact, the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties were mostly concurrent
with those other dynasties.
It is not uncommon among Egyptologists to dismiss Manetho’s error-laden First
and Second Intermediate Periods as the result of poor documentation for these
eras, a problem which afflicts even modern Egyptologists trying to get an
accurate account of these times. Much of the rest of Manetho, they believe,
comes closer to the mark. Kenneth Kitchen, for example, has written of the
Twenty-First Dynasty, "Here the sequence of 7 kings found in Manetho is fully
substantiated by the first-hand monumental evidence . . .. Their regnal years
can be closely determined from original documents, almost totally agreed-to by
Manetho’s text (well preserved at this point) . . .
Even allowing for the poor state of his First and Second Intermediate
Periods, several other dynasties also present chronological problems. The 277
years assigned by Africanus to the Fourth Dynasty and the 248 years assigned by
him to the Fifth Dynasty are each more than a century in excess of the accepted
parameters. Eusebius is in even worse shape when it comes to these two
dynasties. Manetho’s Third Dynasty is more than twice as long as any accepted
Within that framework it is generally accepted that while there are many
errors in Manetho’s preserved chronology and often major inconsistencies with
other more reliable evidence, the original Manetho chronology does appear to
have been based, at least in part, on authentic and reliable source materials.
As discoveries emerge and debates proceed, there is still a tendency to compare
the conclusions with what appears in Manetho.
The Subject of This Work
How, then, did the Manetho chronology come to diverge so greatly from what we
know to be the more accurate record, and why do the three Manetho texts diverge
so substantially from each other in many places?
In the present work I examine the extant copies of Manetho’s chronology in
Josephus, Africanus, and Eusebius, and attempt to reconstruct the original
Manetho chronology before it was redacted and distorted by others. The goal is
to show that Manetho had a highly accurate chronology of ancient Egypt that is
consistent with the archaeological evidence and mainstream Egyptological
opinion. The plan is to use the archaeological evidence to show how redacted
copies of Manetho went astray and to trace the logical errors that caused
various redactors to transmit erroneous and inconsistent accounts.
Such a study, unless based on sound logical principles, is subject to
criticism as nothing more than the juggling of numbers to make them say whatever
you want. As the evidence unfolds, however, it will show that the transmission
errors were mostly of a specific type. I hope to convincingly demonstrate that
there were at least three major errors that infected the Manetho transmissions,
1. Manetho’s redactors failed to accurately account for coregencies;
2. Manetho’s redactors frequently confused lines of summation with actual
lengths of reign for either a specific king or additional non-existent groups of
3. Manetho’s redactors occasionally concatenated dynasties or counted
multiple summation lines as if they signified a single dynasty.
There were, too be sure, other sources of confusion too. For example, in a
number of instances several pharaohs in the same dynasty had the same name and
the redactors seem to have had trouble sorting them out. The Twelfth Dynasty,
for example, had three Senwosres and four Amenemhes and the Eighteenth Dynasty
had four Amenhoteps and four Thutmoses. Even when using the same name for more
than one pharaoh, the redactors had variations in spelling.
As we go through the chronological evidence we will see how the divergent
copies of Manetho incorporated these various errors and show why the different
copies of Manetho came to diverge from each other.
To some extent, I see the task as akin to balancing a checkbook, with the
archaeological evidence as the bank records and the Manetho redactions as
clumsily kept check registers. For example, if the bank shows that a withdrawal
was made, and your check register shows your available funds in excess of your
bank balance by twice the amount of your withdrawal, one should look to see if
the amount of the withdrawal was mistakenly placed in the deposit column instead
of the withdrawal column.
Similarly, suppose we had three ancient documents. The first says that a king
ruled for 10 years, his successor ruled for 10 years, and the two kings shared a
3-year coregency. The second document says that one of the kings ruled for 7
years and the other for 10 years, while the third document says that the first
king ruled for 13 years and the other ruled for 10 years. All three would seem
to be based on a common source yet each exhibits a different understanding about
how to allot the years of coregency.
The first document is slightly ambiguous, not indicating if the two 10-year
reigns were independent of each other and the coregency came in between the two
10-year reigns or the two 10-year reigns overlapped during the coregency. In
other words, did each king sit on the throne for 13 years, in which 3 years of
each reign were served concurrently, or did the coregency began in Year 8 of the
first king’s reign. The author may have been unsure of which was the case, or
the author may have been sure of what the situation was but unintentionally
expressed it in this slightly ambiguous manner.
On the other hand, the second document, setting forth a 7-year reign followed
by a 10-year reign, either takes the position that the coregency began in Year 8
of the first king’s reign or the first king only reigned for 7 years, not
realizing that there had been a 3-year coregency. The third document, however,
attached the 3-year coregency to the end of the 10-year reign of the first king
but is unclear if the second king’s 10-year reign includes the 3-year coregency
or began after the coregency.
It is this kind of confusion in both Manetho’s manuscript and the subsequent
redacted copies of Manetho that I think contributed substantially to the
distortion of his historical account. Using the archaeological record, I believe
we can figure out what ambiguities existed and what erroneous interpretations
were transmitted, and we can backtrack to get to Manetho’s original chronology.
The scope of this work will cover Manetho’s chronology from the Fourth
Dynasty through the Nineteenth Dynasty. For the first three dynasties of Egypt
we have insufficient chronological and archaeological evidence for our purposes.
Also, most of the significant debates about Egyptian chronology fall within the
targeted period covered herein. If my case can be made for the period in
question then there is no need to extend the analysis any further. It will, by
implication, resolve or narrow the focus of any remaining debates with regard to
the later chronology.
By utilizing Manetho’s chronology to fine-tune the Egyptian chronology, we
can also use the many cross-references between Egyptian and no-Egyptian events
to resolve a number of pending issues regarding Near Eastern and biblical