- Historian 305-285 BC.
Manetho was an Egyptian priest who lived at the Temple of Sebennytos in the Delta. Very little is known of his life; he may have had some association with Mendes and the temple at Heliopolis. He lived during the reigns of *Ptolemy I and *Ptolemy II. He knew both Egyptian hieroglyphs and Greek and had personal knowledge of Egyptian religious beliefs and customs. He is credited with the authorship of eight works which dealt with a range of subjects, including religious doctrines, rituals and festivals.His most important work was the Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt), which was based on registers which were compiled by the Egyptian priests and to which he obviously had access. Although the Aegyptiaca was written in the reign of *Ptolemy II, unfortunately no intact version has been discovered to date and it is preserved only in edited extracts in the writings of *Josephus, and in an abridged form in the works of Sextus *Africanus (early third century AD), *Eusebius (early fourth century AD), and George called *Syncellus (AD c.800) in his History of the world from Creation to Diocletian.Manetho's History is essentially a chronicle of Egyptian kings, written in Greek, and if a complete version were available it would provide the best chronological source for ancient Egypt. After the rule of the gods and demi-gods, the kings from *Narmer (Menes) (c.3100 BC) down to the conquest by *Alexander the Great in 332 BC, are divided into thirty dynasties. Estimates are given of the lengths of the reigns and these often differ in the accounts of *Eusebius and *Africanus. Manetho also provides anecdotes about various rulers, and it is evident that he made use of popular stories and legends as well as official records.As they have come down to us, the records of Manetho are therefore often unreliable and inaccurate. The sources of *Eusebius and *Africanus often give divergent accounts, and both the chronology of the kings' reigns and the total years of each reign are unreliable. In particular, the chronology for the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom is too high in almost every instance. Kings' names are sometimes distorted and in some dynasties only the overall number of the rulers is given—for example, in the Seventh Dynasty Manetho states that there were 'Seventy kings who reigned for seventy days'.Nevertheless Egyptologists have accepted Manetho's division of the reigns into dynasties and this continues to be used as the basis for Egyptian chronology. Today, the dynasties are further divided into groups and placed within particular historical periods such as the Old Kingdom (the Third to the Sixth Dynasty), or the Second Intermediate Period (the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Dynasty). More accurate dates for some reigns and dynasties can now be obtained from comparative information from excavated sites and material, and from treaties and other historical texts found in Egypt and neighbouring countries. Manetho's anecdotal details, for which there is often no alternative source, are treated with extreme caution.Despite its shortcomings, it was Manetho's chronology that assisted Champollion in 1828 when he discovered the cartouches of various kings on the monuments and deciphered their names. By using Manetho's lists, he was able to determine their positions within the sequence of rulers and confirm his identifications.BIBL. Manetho, (transl. by Waddell, W.G.) London: 1942.Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David* * *(fl. 270 BC)Egyptian priest and author during the reign of Ptolemy II. He came from Sebennytos and appears to have held the post of high priest at Heliopolis. He wrote Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt penned in Greek based on temple records. The complete text is now lost, but part of it is known from garbled excerpts in the works of other authors. His king list and division of dynasties were instrumental in establishing Egyptian chronology but must be carefully evaluated. The names and reign lengths are often distorted and must be checked against contemporary sources. It is now known that this division of dynasties was based on earlier documents, like the Turin Royal Canon. Manetho was also involved in the establishment of the cult of Sarapis in Egypt.See also DYNASTY 1 – DYNASTY 30.Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier
Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. EdwART. 2011.