Monday, December 29, 2008

Manetho and a present day writer who should have known better.
An extract from Manetho c. 200 B.C.E.
Sometimes a reputable and very capable Scientist will venture into an area that is not his / her field and make a fool of him / her self. The below is a study of one example. The book is The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century,1 and the author is the Geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zagger. In this case Zagger’s use of the ancient historian Manetho is to put it politely questionable.

In the third century B.C.E., the Egyptian priest Manetho wrote a History of Egypt in Greek for the new Greek rulers of Egypt. Volume one of the History consisted of the rule of Gods, demigods and the dynasties down to the end of the 11th dynasty. Volume two covered Dynasty 12 to 19 and volume three consisted of dynasty 20 to 31. Much of Manetho seemed to consist of bare king lists, which mention merely the name and reign length of the king. The rest included a great deal of folklore. What is fascinating though is that his dynastic lists seem to be fairly accurate; certainly Manetho's division of dynasties are the basis for modern ancient Egyptian chronology.

Manetho seems to have been a Priest of Thoth, whose name may have meant "Beloved of Thoth". He apparently came from Sebennytos in the Nile delta and lived c. 300 B.C.E. - 220 B.C.E. He apparently was a Priest of the God Ra at Heliopolis, and was involved in the creation and setting up of the cult of the syncretic god Sarapis. Manetho apparently wrote his History of Egypt, and in greek, in three books to acquaint the new rulers of Egypt with the country they ruled, it appears to have been in imitation of the Babylonica, of Berossos. Manetho was credited in antiquity with the following books. History of Egypt, Against Herodotus, Sacred Book, On antiquity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Preparation of Kyphi, Digest of Physics, and The Book of Sothis. Several of these books like The Book of Sothis, were not by Manetho and Against Herodotus, apparently never existed has a separate book by Manetho but was a collection of excerpts created later.Manetho seemed to be of no great interest in antiquity, which preferred Herodotus and Diodorus, and unfortunately like his contemporary Berossos, a Babylonian priest who wrote a history of Babylonia in Greek, called forth no reaction from either his country men to write and publish research in greek or among Greek speakers to do likewise. The result was that the Greco-Roman intellectual world remained cut off, in my opinion to its detriment, to a large extent from the intellectual riches of Egypt and Babylonia. We owe the survival of Manetho (and Berossos) mainly to the work of Justin Africanus (third century C.E.), who wrote an extensive chronology and Eusebius (4th century C.E.), who did likewise, Unfortunately neither survives in the original form, but we have extensive quotes from George Syncellus and the anonymous Armenian version of Eusibius. It does appear however that to some extent Manetho was mangled by the copyists.2

Mantho’s history thus survives in only a severely truncated mangled version. The writer and Geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zagger has endeavoured to use Manetho to make some pretty far out speculations about ancient history and Atlantis.

In Eberhard Zagger's The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century, we read the following concerning the Egyptian priest Manetheo and his History of Egypt:

…Atlantis apparently existed 8000 years before Solon's visit to Egypt,and therefore some eleven thousand years before the present day. The opponents of a historical Atlantis suggest that Plato had set his metaphorical tale in dim and distant prehistory, to emphasize that this was not a truly historical account but a myth. Franz Susemihl, for example, wrote in the year 1855:

"At the same time, however, setting the myth in that extremely far-off time, no historical recollection of which remained, even among the Egyptians, avoids any misunderstanding that a real historical fact was the basis."

Five generations later (and after 150 years of research), historical linguistics continue to rely on arguments from the century before last. The Tubingen scholar Alexander Slezak, for example, recently wrote:

"It does take some literary ignorance to overlook the fact that these statements [about dates] ... are there to simply exclude the questions that may arise concerning any possible historical content of the story."

If, however, we examine the statements of historians from Plato's own time, it is obvious that they employed the same time reckoning. The suggestion that they intended to 'simply exclude' the 'questions that may arise concerning any possible historical content' from their statements, is hardly likely to convince anyone. Herodotus, the 'father of historical writing', maintains that the pharaohs had reigned for 11,340 years. This statement rests, like those of Solon, on discussions with Egyptian temple priests, who claimed that their written records covered this whole period of time.

A completely similar timescale is present in another work of Plato's, namely in the Laws, which was written later. There, the philosopher states that the Egyptian culture is 10,000 years old - and at this point we may absolutely exclude any suggestion that the information is given in a mythological context. One person, who would, after all, be in a position to know best, because he was himself an Egyptian temple priest, was the historical writer Manetho. He also reckoned the age of the Egyptian civilization as either 11,000 or 11,985 years - in other words, his figures are nearly identical to those given by Plato and Herodotus. Manetho, however, states extremely clearly - and not once, but three times - how these apparently incomprehensible numbers arise:

We may assume that in statements about dates we are dealing with lunar years, which consist of thirty days. What we now describe as a 'month', was previously known to the Egyptians as a 'year'.

Overall it was 11,000 years, but this means lunar years, and thus months.

So it thus came about that the times of the Gods who reigned amongst you over six generations in six dynasties, were reckoned in years, each of which was a lunar year, consisting of thirty days. The overall duration in lunar years amounted to 11,985 or 969 solar years.3

I did some research on Manetho and found out the following: The first apparent quote from Manetho is from the Armenian Version of Eusebius Chronica and the same for the second apparent quote. The third apparent quote is from the Chronology of George Syncellus.4

Zagger then argues that:

So the incomprehensibly large figures given by Manetho, Herodotus and Plato are lunar years - that is, months. In Egypt, various calendars were in fact in use simultaneously, and the temple priests were generally in the habit of using the original lunar calendar. To convert the high figures into the chronology normally used nowadays, they should be divided by 12.37.

If, however, we divide the value of 8000 years given by Plato by 12.37, then the cultures described in the Atlantis story occurred at a time 647 years before Solon's visit to Sais, and therefore about 1200 BC. This date agrees perfectly with the state of cultural development described by Plato. It was only at this period that a culture flourished in Greece that simultaneously possessed bronze weapons, chariots, fortifications, and a knowledge of writing; which excelled in handcrafts, art and warfare; and about which heroic epics circulated hundreds of years later ….5

I found out the following interesting tidbits, the 11,985 year list is apparently from The Book of Sothis, which is at best a corruption of Manetho and contradicts other descriptions of Manetho's works. (Waddell in his Introduction writes "The Book of Sothis, is certainly not by Manetho."6) For example the dedicatory letter in front of the Book of Sothis as quoted by Syncellus refers to Ptolemy Philadelphus as Augustus. 7 Fragment 1, from the Armenian Version of EusebiusChronica, reads:

Thereafter, the kingship passed from one to another in unbroken succession down to Bydis (Bites) through 13, 900 years. The year I take, however, to be a lunar one, consisting, that is, of 30 days: what we know call a month the Egyptians used formerly to style a year(Footnote 2).

Waddell says in footnote 2:

There is no evidence that the Egyptian year was ever equal to a month: there were short years (each of 360 days) and long years (see Fr. 49)8

Fragment 49, From the Scholia to Plato reads:

Saites added 12 hours to the month, to make its length 30 days; and he added 6 days to the year, which thus comprised 365 days.9

Why did it seem that this 1 month year was invented? If you read a little further down you find the following (Armenian Version of EusebiusChronica) : Fragment 1,

-the rule of Gods, Demigods, and Spirits of the Dead – is reckoned to have comprised in all 24,900 lunar years, which make 2206 solar years.

5. Now, if you care to compare these figures with Hebrew chronology, you will find that they are in perfect harmony.10

Which answers the question.

What I also found of interest is that George Syncellus, who Zangger apparently quotes, says the following about interpreting Manetho in this fashion:

Mantheo 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 Berossos, concerning six dynasties or six gods who never existed: these he says, reigned for 11,985 years. The first of them the god Hephaestus, was king for 9000 years. Now some of our historians, reckoning these 9000 years as so many lunar months, and dividing the number of these 9000 lunar months by 365 days in a year, find a total of 727 ¾ years. They imagine that they have attained a striking result, but one must rather say that it is a ludicrous falsehood which they have tried to pit against truth. 11

How Zagger managed to miss Syncellus's dismissal of this idea of the Egyptians ever making a year equal a month is beyond me, esspecially since he seems to quote him.

The other thing is Manetho never said that the figures given were to be interpreted has months, that is an interpretation given his figures latter on.

Frankly Manetho's figures for the length of Dynasties is reduced to nonsense if such a procedure is accepted. For example Manetho apparently gave 263 years for the 18th dynasty, (or 348, Manetho seems to have been mangled in antiquity), well divide by 12.37 and you get 21.26 or28.13. A rather absurd result. 12

It appears that the real aim was to make Manetho's dates work with biblical chronology.

Part of the process by which this was done is out lined as follows:

According to Syncellus, the numbers that the Book of Sothis, had given for those reigns were converted to smaller numbers by Christian chronographers, including by name Panodoros (an Egyptian monk of the late fourth to early fifth century A.D.). ...

What Panodoros did was to regard Sothis's "years" for six reigns of the gods as actually being lunar months (at a rate of ca. 29 and 1/2 days per month) and thus reduce the figures down to solar years.13


Pandoros' basis for reducing the figures for the nine reigns of demigods was different from the one he used on the preceding six reigns of gods. Instead of assuming that the Book of Sothis' "years" were actually lunar months, he assumed this time that they were in fact quarter years (horai "seasons").14

Panodoros has a lot to answer for.

Earlier in Verbrugghe, the following is said regarding the whole question of Chronology in Manetho:

After a discussion of Berossos, which includes how in antiquity his years were turned into days to make them fit the "correct" chronology of the age of the Earth, the following is said about Manetho:

Similar slight of hand was applied to what passed for Manetho's chronology, although the procedure was more complicated than for Berossus. Since there was no great flood explicit in Mantheo's account, the manipulators hypothesized that Mantheo's initial era with it reigns of "gods, offspring of gods, and spirits of the dead" (See F2a predynastic) represented the antidiluvian age. The manipulators relied on the spurious Book of Sothis, (see chap. 5) in dealing with "Mantheo's account". This first era was, according to the Book of Sothis, subdivided into six dynasties of gods ruling for 11,985 years plus nine dynasties of demigods ruling for 858 years. Manetho's alleged figures for the number of years before the Flood were, plainly also unacceptably large. As with Berossos, the two figures were reduced on grounds that "year" had meant a smaller unit, but for "Mantheo" two different bases of conversion were applied. The 11,985 years of the gods were interpreted as months of 29 and 1/2 days each and thus reduced to 969 solar periods (this conversion was already being used in antiquity: Diodorus 1.26.5); the 858 years of demigods, however were interpreted as quarter years (or "seasons") and so reduced to 214 and 1/2 solar periods (also an ancient conversion: Diodorus Siculus 1.26.5).15

Further regarding the 11,985 or 969 solar years, the following is of interest.

First, the Book of Sothis, from which these figures come from is almost certainly not by Manetho and in fact may date from the 3rd century C.E. 16 Note the Book of Sothis, is known mainly from George Syncellus.

Secondly the figure is for the total number of "years" that the Gods reigned, and is followed by 858 "years" reigned by demigods. Certain writers calculated the God "years" as months and the demigod "years" as quarter years. "Corrected" you got 969 years and 214 1/2 years for a total of 1183 solar years, and this is before Menes becomes Pharoah of Egypt. Zangger ignores the demigod "years" and converts the 11,985 into years before Manetho.17

Thirdly Zagger ignores the amount of time Manetho gives to the Dynasties from Menes to his own time which is more than 3000 years. 18 Converting them to lunar "years" makes nonsense out of this list by reducing reign and Dynasty lengths to tiny spans of time.

Fourthly Zagger ignores that this method of interpreting the "year" was used to explain solely the "years" of Gods and demigods.

Fifth Zagger seems to ignore that there seems to be no evidence that the Egyptians ever thought of the Lunar cycle as a "year".

As for sources of this error I found this in Diodorus, (Book 1, 26):

But since this great number surpasses belief (23,000 years), some men would maintain that in earlier times, before the movement of the sun had been recognized, it was customary to reckon the year by the lunar cycle. Consequently since the year consisted of thirty days, it was not impossible some men lived twelve hundred years; for in our own time, when our year consists of twelve months, not a few men live over one hundred years. A similar explanation they also give regarding those who are supposed to have reigned for three hundred years; for at their time., namely, the year was composed of the four months which comprise the seasons of each year, that is spring, summer, and winter; and it is for this reason that among the Greeks the years are called "Seasons" ("Horoi") and that their yearly records are given the name

So the one month year is dubious and besides it makes nonsense of Mantheo’s dates.

For example:

The First Dynasty is given a total of 252 years (Syncellus Chronology quoting Justin Africanus)20.

Well divide by 12.37 and you get 20.37 years for the First Dynasty.

Fragment 4, Excerpta Latina Barbari, gives a total of 3620 for the first 17 dynasties. If you divide by 12.37 you get 292.64 years for the first 17 dynasties. 21

Similarily if you do the same for reign dates given by Mantheo:

For example Rampses (Rameses) of the 19th dynasty is given a reign of 66 years (Syncellus Chronology quoting Eusibius) if you divide by 12.37 you get 5.33 years, and the 194 years of the 19th dynasty are reduced to 15.6 years.22

The bottom line is that is that Zagger is simply way wrong on this one. This is still an interesting example of how a Scientist can drift into pseudoscience through lack of detailed knowledge.

1. The Future of the Past: Archaeology in the 21st Century, Eberhard Zagger, Phoenix House, New York,1998
2. Manetho, Loeb Classical Library, Trans, W.G. Waddell, Harvard Universitty Press, Cambridge Mass., 1940, pp. xii-xxvii. Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated, Gerald P. Verbrugghe, John M. Wickersham, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1996, pp. 95-120.
3. Zagger, pp. 190-191.
4. Waddell, Frag. 1, p. 5, Frag. 1, pp. 5-7, Frag. 2, p. 13.
5. Zangger, pp. 191-192.
6. Waddell, pp. xiv-xv.
7. Ibid, p. 211.
8. Ibid, p. 5.
9. Ibid, p. 99.
10. Ibid, p. 7.
11. Ibid, Frag. 3, p. 15.
12. Ibid, pp. 113, 117, 119.
13. Verbrugghe et al, p. 175, footnote 7.
14. Ibid, p. 176 footnote 10.
15. Ibid, p. 126, footnote 15.
16. Waddell, p. 234.
17. Ibid, p. 13.
18. Verbrugghe et al, p. 129 Frag. 2a.
19. Diodorus of Sicily, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. 1, Trans. C.H. Oldfather, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1932.
20. Waddell, Fragment 7 p. 32.
21. Ibid, pp. 21-23.
22. Ibid, Fragment 56, p. 151.

Pierre Cloutier

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