You are on page 1of 2


Manetho, Egyptian Manetho’s criticism as encountered in the

Aigyptiaka (cf. JOSEPHUS’s remark in Contra
historian Apionem 1.73 regarding Manetho’s refutation
THOMAS SCHNEIDER of HERODOTUS), can no longer be established.
The text of Manetho’s Egyptian History is not
Manetho was an Egyptian priest and preserved except in a few excerpts relating to the
chronographer (ca. 250 BCE), famed for his Fifteenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth dynasties
Egyptian History (Aigyptiaka), which continues in Josephus’s work Contra Apionem, and later
to assume a prime place in the modern chrono- copies of the Epitome, the digest of reigns of
logical reconstruction of ancient Egypt. There kings arranged in dynasties with intermittent
is hardly any reliable evidence on his life and brief notes on individual kings or events,
professional career, apart from the fact that preserved with Christian chronographers
he was born in Sebennytos in the central Nile (Africanus, Eusebius). The elusiveness of the
Delta. Whether a certain Manetho mentioned in original Manetho in the later history of the text
a document dealing with the disappearance of has led August Böckh to his famous statement
the seal of the temple of Herakles at Phebichis that “never has occurred to me a more inextrica-
in 241 BCE (P.Hib. 1.72.4 ff.) is to be identified ble object of inspection than Manetho” (Böckh
with the chronographer is very uncertain. The 1845: 10).
label of a (lost) marble bust from the sanctuary As is clear from the extant excerpts, Manetho
of Serapis at Carthage, probably depicting gave a chronological arrangement from the pri-
this “most distinguished among the Egyptians” meval reign of the gods to the last indigenous
(Synkellos Ekloge chronographike 97), preserves kings of Egypt prior to Egypt’s conquest by
the name “Manethon.” This affiliation and the ALEXANDER III, THE GREAT, covering in book 1 the
conspicuous story provided by PLUTARCH (De Is. time from divine rule to dynasty 11, in book 2,
et Os. 28), whereby Timotheus of Eleusis and dynasties 12–19, and in book 3, dynasties 20–30.
“Manetho of Sebennytos” helped Ptolemy According to one of the later tradents of the
Soter to appropriate for the cult of Serapis a Christian excerpts from Manetho, Synkellos
statue of Pluto stolen from Sinope on the Black Georgios, the complete Aigyptiaka listed 473
Sea, have been used to advocate a leading role rulers, referred to either by their proper name
for Manetho in the establishment of the cult of or their throne name (the official name adopted
Serapis in Egypt. In a fictional letter from the by Egyptian rulers upon ascension to the
Roman imperial period (Pseudo-Manetho), throne). Manetho arranged rulers of the same
Manetho introduces himself to Ptolemy II as lineage or place of residence in dynasties,
the high priest of Egypt residing in Heliopolis extending the meaning of the Greek term
who brings to the king’s attention the sacred dynasteia, which had been confined to the
books written by Hermes-Trismegistos. meaning of power/rule in a way that would
Antique tradition credits Manetho with the enrich political terminology until today. As a
authorship of nine books: the Aigyptiaka, work intended, like the slightly earlier Baby-
Against Herodotus, the Sacred Book, On Antiq- loniaka of Berossos, to be a work of reference
uity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Prepara- on Egypt for the Hellenistic koine, it drew on
tion of Kyphi, the Digest of Physics, the Book a variety of texts available to Manetho in temple
of Sothis, and the Apotelesmatika. The latter libraries, most of which were presumably in
two were wrongly attributed to Manetho (see DEMOTIC (the form of language and cursive
MANETHO, ASTROLOGER); whether On Antiquity script used in Egypt since the seventh century
and Religion, On Festivals, and On the Prepara- BCE) – from king lists to legends and aetiologies
tion of Kyphi were part of the Sacred Book, and of cults and monuments. While there has been
Against Herodotus was a compilation of a tendency to distinguish between Manethonian

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, First Edition. Edited by Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine,
and Sabine R. Huebner, print pages 4254–4255.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah08106

and Pseudo-Manethonian material in the (ca. 1070–180 BC): trends and perspectives:
excerpts of the Aigyptiaka, recent scholarship 191–225. London.
has shown this to be based on premises that Helck, W. (1956) Untersuchungen zu Manetho
can no longer be upheld; equally, the anti- und den ägyptischen Königslisten. Berlin.
Krauss, R. (2006) “Manethos ägyptische
Jewish polemics in the fragments preserved in
Geschichte: eine ptolemäische oder römische
Josephus are likely to be from Manetho him-
Kompilation?” In E. Czerny et al., eds., Timelines:
self. Recent research has also been able to studies in honour of Manfred Bietak, 3: 227–34.
reassert the overall reliability and accuracy of Leuven.
the chronological data given by Manetho Redford, D. B. (1986) Pharaonic king-lists, annals,
against earlier claims that they are of limited and day-books: a contribution to the study of the
historical value. Egyptian sense of history: 297–332. Mississauga, ON.
Schneider, T. (2008) “Periodizing Egyptian history:
SEE ALSO: Ethnicity, Greco-Roman Egypt. Manetho, convention, and beyond.” In K.-P.
Adam, ed., Historiographie in der Antike: 183–97.
Verbrugghe, G. P. and Wickersham, J. M. (1996)
Böckh, A. (1845) Manetho und die Berossos and Manetho, introduced and translated:
Hundssternperiode. Berlin. native traditions in ancient Mesopotamia and
Gozzoli, R. B. (2006) The writing of history in Egypt. Ann Arbor.
ancient Egypt during the first millennium BC Waddell, W. G., trans. (1940) Manetho. London.

Related Interests