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Manetho

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Background

Manetho was a famous Egyptian priest and historian who is one of the best primary sources for life during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. He likely worked in the famous Library of Alexandria during the 3rd century BCE and was responsible for writing Aegyptiaca or History of Egypt which later went on to influence many other famous historians such as Josephus in his Against Apion.

Manetho was originally from the town of Tjebnutjer or Sebennytos to the GreeksName[edit]The original Egyptian version of Manetho's name is now lost to us, but some[who?] speculate that it means "Gift of Thoth", "Beloved of Thoth", "Truth of Thoth", "Beloved of Neith", or "Lover of Neith". Less accepted proposals are Myinyu-heter ("Horseherd" or "Groom") and Ma'ani-Djehuti ("I have seen Thoth"). In the Greek language, the earliest fragments (the Carthage inscription and Flavius Josephus) write his name as Μανεθων Manethōn, so the rendering of his name here is given as Manetho (the same way that Platōn is rendered "Plato"). Other Greek renderings include Manethōs, Manethō, Manethos, Manēthōs, Manēthōn, and even Manethōth. In Latin we find Manethon, Manethos, Manethonus, and Manetos.Life and work[edit]Although no sources for the dates of his life and death remain, his work is usually associated with the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter (323–283 BC) and Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC). If the mention of Manetho in the Hibeh Papyri, dated to 241/40 BC, is in fact Manetho the author of Aegyptiaca, then he may well have been working during the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–222 BC) as well. Although he was Egyptian and his topics dealt with Egyptian matters, he wrote in the Greek language. Other works he wrote include Against Herodotus, The Sacred Book, On Antiquity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Preparation of Kyphi, and the Digest of Physics. The astrological treatise Book of Sothis has also been attributed to Manetho. In Aegyptiaca, he coined the term "dynasty" (Greek: dynasteia, abstractly meaning "governmental power") to refer to a group of kings with a common origin.He was probably a priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis (according to George Syncellus, he was the chief priest), and was also considered an authority on the cult of Sarapis (a derivation of Osiris and Apis). Sarapis itself was a Greco-Macedonian version of the Egyptian cult, probably started after Alexander the Great's establishment of Alexandria in Egypt. A statue of the god was imported between 286 and 278 BC[citation needed] by Ptolemy (probably Ptolemy Soter, as Tacitus and Plutarch attest,[1] although Ptolemy Philadelphus is possible, and there was a tradition in antiquity that it was Ptolemy Euergetes) where Timotheus of Athens (an authority on Demeter at Eleusis) and Manetho directed the project.Aegyptiaca[edit]The Aegyptiaca (Ἀιγυπτιακά, Aiguptiaka), the "History of Egypt", may have been Manetho's largest work, and certainly the most important. It was organised chronologically and divided into three volumes, and his division of rulers into dynasties was an innovation. However, he did not use the term in the modern sense, by bloodlines, but rather, introduced new dynasties whenever he detected some sort of discontinuity whether geographical (Dynasty IV from Memphis, Dynasty V from Elephantine), or genealogical (especially in Dynasty I, he refers to each successive Pharaoh as the "son" of the previous to define what he means by "continuity"). Within the superstructure of a genealogical table, he fills in the gaps with substantial narratives of the Pharaonic kings.Some have suggested that Aegyptiaca was written as a competing account to Herodotus' Histories, to provide a national history for Egypt that did not exist before. From this perspective, Against Herodotus may have been an abridged version or just a part of Aegyptiaca that circulated independently. Unfortunately, neither survives in its original form today.

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