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42 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

 

in a long series to an almost incredible antiquity; and that even of a mythical age preceding this, when gods and demi-gods ruled the people, accredited traditions were recited.

After the time of Alexander the Great, the monuments of Egypt were opened to the researches of the Greeks. Eratosthenes, the famous librarian of Alexandria, transcribed from the sacred books of Thebes the names and histories of thirty-eight kings who had reigned in that city; and this list was afterwards carried out and completed by Apollodorus, who added the names of fifty-three additional Theban monarchs, making ninety-one in all.

A short time previous to this, about the year 250 B. C., a learned Egyptian, named Manetho, a scribe in the temple of Thebes, produced in three books a work on the history of Egypt. The book itself, in the confusion of after times, was lost; but fragmentary chapters of it were copied into the works of other historians, notably Josephus, Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and Syncellus, and were thus preserved for posterity. According to Manetho, the rule of the Egyptian kings began with Menes and extended through thirty dynasties, down to the time of Artaxerxes Ochus, a period of 5,366 years. The date of the reign of Artaxerxes is 340 B. C., which gives for date of the accession of Menes the year 5706 B. C. This reckoning, however, is in Egyptian years, the same giving, when reduced to the Julian calendar, the year 5702 as the date of Menes.

The next view of the case is that presented by the historian Diodorus, already referred to. Further investigations among the priests and temples of Thebes revealed to him many sources of error in the traditional accounts first given of the lists of kings. The corrections and reductions of dates thus suggested, contracted the extravagant computations accredited by the priests, until the accession of Menes was brought down to a date somewhat more recent than the year 5000 B. C. One account gave Diodorus assurance that "for more than 4,700 years, kings, mostly native, had ruled, and the land had prospered greatly under them". Another narrative stated clearly that the oldest pyramid was built 3,400 years before the time of Diodorus's travel. The corrected view of this historian, therefore, fixes the date of Menes at about the year 4800 B. C.

It will thus be seen that the problem presented to modern research is this: Laying side by side the lists of kings given by Manetho and preserved by Josephus, Eusebius, Africanus, and Syncellus; the lists of the same as contained in the works of Diodorus; the lists of the same given by Eratosthenes; the lists of the same as preserved in what is known as the Turin Papyrus (belonging to a period somewhere between 1000 and 1500 B. C.); the lists of the same as deciphered from the existing monuments of Egypt to determine by comparison and equation of dates the true chronology of the period. The chief difficulty which confuses the problem is this: Whether any, a few, or many of the kings belonging to the thirty dynasties extending from Menes to the subjugation of Egypt by the Persians were contemporaneous reigning in different parts of the country at the same time, or whether all the dynasties were consecutive succeeding each other in chronological order from first to last. For it is easy to conceive that one dynasty might have had dominion in Lower while another was reigning in Middle or Upper Egypt.

Some archaeologists and historians have decided this question in one way and some in another. Some have held that a few of the dynasties were contemporaneous and most of them consecutive; while others have reversed the order. The lists given by Manetho were evidently intended to be given in consecutive order, and the same may be said of those of Eratosthenes, and of those transcribed from the monuments. But a comparison of one list with another always shows discrepancies. The archaeologist Mariette, accepting the lists of Manetho, has placed the accession of Menes at 5004 B. C. The historian Brugsch has fixed upon 4400 B. C. as the true date of that event; and Professor Lepsius, following a somewhat different line of investigation, has reduced the latter estimate by 508 years, setting the era of Menes at the year 3892 B. C. This last date is accepted by Dr. Duncker as the best approximation which is possible in the present state of historical re