Click on the footnote number and you will jump down to that note. Once there and enlightened, then click on that number and you will return to where you were in the text.


From An Introduction to the History of History, by James T. Shotwell; Columbia University Press; New York; 1922; pp. 51-65.




THE historians of ancient Egypt and Babylonia are not ancient Egyptians or Babylonians but modern archæologists. Their achievement — one of the greatest in all the history of scholarship — piecing together the annals of centuries which often left no conscious record of their own, has obscured the poorness of the sources out of which the history of the earliest civilizations is made. In reality the written history of the first nations of the ancient worlds was a very slight affair. In all that vast spoil of the East which now lies in our museums, there is a surprisingly small amount of genuine historical record.

It is possible, of course, to make too confident statements about the scope of a subject of which our knowledge depends almost entirely upon chance. For it is chance which has preserved what has been preserved of the material of this early history. The statement is true of all history, but is especially applicable where thousands of years and changing civilizations have in turn devastated and used again the material of earlier ages. Moreover, the permanence of such a record does not depend upon its importance — as is the case, more or less, with traditions. It is due rather to the durability of the substance upon which the record is inscribed, and the chance that the inscription lies undisturbed. Mortgages for garden plots, baked into the clay of Babylon, have survived long after the plot was desert sand and Babylon itself a heap of ruins. Sometimes chance plays strange tricks, preserving frail papyri or parchment while the stone disappears. A building inscription was placed upon a huge stone stela by Sesotris I, in his temple at Heliopolis, nearly two thousand years before Christ. “The great block itself has since perished utterly; but the practice-copy made by a scribe, who was whiling away an idle hour in the sunny temple court, has survived, and the fragile roll of leather upon which he was thus exercising his pen has transmitted to us 52 what the massive stone could not preserve.”1 The stone had been there five hundred years before the copy was made; but now stela and temple have alike disappeared. The student of history can never know how much of what was set down in distant ages has been blotted out in a similar manner. Archæology, it must not be forgotten, is a science of ruins.

By taking the sources as we have them, the striking fact remains that history, the one branch of literature which one might expect to find develop first, seeing that it carries on tradition and that its poetic counterpart is the epic, nevertheless is hardly to be found at all in these early cultures, except where a mythic content contributes the interest of marvels and wonders, — a world flood or something of that sort. In all the inscriptions of ancient Egypt there is no work that can be termed a “history of Egypt.” There are some annals that are expansions of the lists of royal names; and there are boastful notices of contemporary pharaohs, but of the idea of a history of the successive ages of Egyptian civilization there is not a trace.

One reason which has been advanced for this absence of history in ancient Egypt is that the pharaoh of the time was so intent upon his own greatness that his courtiers did not venture to exalt the deeds of his ancestors for fear of belittling his own.2 The path to royal favor lay rather in covering the walls of monuments with inscriptions describing what the present pharaoh had done or could do. In any case, no successor of even the great monarchs of the eighteenth dynasty ever deigned to record their exploits in the form of history. The court scribes busied themselves with the more profitable enterprise of depicting the events or scenes of their own day. In the literature of ancient Egypt, history, as we understand it, is absent.

Mention of “the scribes” recalls the high esteem in which their work was regarded. It was the profession for ambitious men, who might rise even to princely state by means of it.3 Scribes kept the accounts of either government or nobles, for everything in the large establishments was recorded by these busy forerunners of the modern lawyers or trust companies. “Nothing was done under the Egyptian government without documents; lists and protocols 53 were indispensable even in the simplest matters of business. The mania for writing . . . is not characteristic of the later period only; doubtless under the Old and the Middle Empire the scribes wrote as diligently as under the New Empire.”4 In the case of legal texts we have almost the whole modern machinery. “The documents were then given into the care of the chief librarian of the department they concerned, and he placed them in large vases and catalogued them carefully. . . .”5 and so had them readily available for reference, in case the lord called for them. But so completely was this bureaucracy under the thumb of the ruler that it does not furnish a starting point for that criticism which is the beginning of historical knowledge. The old writings were sometimes appealed to in the practice of government, as when the founder of the twelfth dynasty, in deciding upon the boundaries of the provinces, fell back upon “what was written in the books and what he found in the old writings” “because he so loved the truth.”6 But the love of the truth for its own sake, in the unpractical fields of scientific research, was left for a later age.

There is something mediæval in the attitude of later Egypt toward its own past, a sense of dimness, a failure to grasp its reality7 even with reference to such abiding things as religion. This was accentuated by the change which came over hieroglyphics, rendering the old writing hard to understand. Under the circumstances they did what other people have always done under the same circumstances; their learned men, mostly priests, sought in allegory an explanation for the texts, and having found that key to the past had less need of another.8


Egyptians may have done little with history but they treasured myth and legend. In the twentieth century B.C. we already meet with the prototype of Sinbad the sailor. Tales of wonders wrought by ancient wise men and magicians9 were as effective then as now in whiling away hours of leisure, when history would be too forbidding a discipline. There were also myths of origin; stories of the gods, how they came from the Holy Land in the south country.10 But as the centuries passed the myths got strangely mixed. For instance, the misreading of an inscription on the tomb of an early king at Abydos led to a popular belief that Osiris himself was buried there, and thus started a new cult.11 We shall find such local name-myths again in the origins of the Old Testament. But there is no need to follow them here into the tangle of Egyptian religious conceptions.

If Egypt did not produce “history” in our sense of the word, it at least possessed the framework for it in the lists of royal names, which were displayed in magnificent profusion, along with the reigning monarch’s monogram or portrait. Three such tablets, of Abydos, Sakkara, Karnak, may be mentioned for light they throw on Egyptian chronology. In the first, Seti I, of the nineteenth dynasty (about 1300 B.C.), accompanied by his son Ramses II, has before him seventy-five of his predecessors; in the second, Ramses II has some forty-seven names on the list before him;12 while in the third, Thothmes or Thutmose III of the eighteenth dynasty is adoring sixty-one. Modern research has verified the accuracy of the two former lists, by comparison with the monuments.13 No wonder the priests who kept such lists were able to make a lasting impression upon the Greek travellers who were to come at a later date to learn from them the folly of tracing one’s descent from 55 the gods in the sixteenth generation.14 The fact that Egypt was itself a museum, preserving a sort of monumental history of the kings, must also have impressed the mind with an enduring sense of the past; but religion rather than history profited from such curiosity as the spectacle produced. The weight of authority was in the hand of time.

The earliest historical record which has come down to us, however, is a development from just such lists of names. It is the famous Palermo Stone, so-called from the fact that it is in the museum at Palermo,15 — a small stone, of black Diorite, one of the hardest stones, only about seventeen inches high, nine and a half wide and two and a half thick. On this stone, somewhat less than two thousand years before the oldest parts of the Old Testament were written, Egyptian scribes copied the names and recorded the known facts of the reigns of five dynasties before their time. The stone itself, as is apparent from its general appearance and from the character of the text, is but a small fragment, broken from a larger slab. Egyptologists, calculating from the spaces of reigns and their arrangement, have supposed that the original was about seven feet long and two feet high; but this is mere conjecture.

The date when the annals were inscribed upon the stone can be set with confidence as the fifth dynasty, which ruled in Egypt according to a widely accepted reckoning, from 2750 to 2625 B.C. The portion of the stone preserved covers only the last three reigns of that dynasty.16


A picture of this fragment from ancient Egypt stands as frontispiece to this volume. Its claim to such a place of honor is unquestioned, for it contains the earliest of all known annals in the history of History. Fortunately, however, the illustration in this case is much more than a mere picture, for it offers as well the text of the original. At first glance this may not seem of very great interest to those who cannot read the hieroglyphs; and their interest is not likely to be quickened when they learn that even Egyptologists do not quite agree as to the meaning of parts of the text. But a very little study of the original, in the light of the clues offered below, will enable any one, even if he has never read a hieroglyph before, to puzzle out the way in which it was written and even some sections of the text. There can be few more interesting puzzles for the student of history.

At the top of the stone there is a simple row of oblong spaces, with relatively few signs in them. The lower section of each of these furnishes the clue to their meaning, for it contains the sign for the king of lower Egypt, a figure wearing the red crown and holding one of the royal insignia, the flail. Consequently, each symbol in the space above must be the name of a king. This row, therefore, is the list of the names of early kings of lower Egypt, of whose reigns apparently nothing had come down to the scribes 57 of the fifth dynasty but the royal names themselves. In any case, no events are recorded. It should be noted here that these, like all Egyptian hieroglyphs, are to be read from right to left.

With the second row or series, however, one comes upon entirely different data. The dividing lines, curling over at the top, are themselves the hieroglyphic signs of palms, signifying years. If one looks carefully one can see a short cross-mark on each one, about three quarters of the way up the stem, which definitely establishes their meaning.17 But in a few instances the line is also run straight up, through the intervening long parallel space, the series above. These long straight lines are taken to indicate the close of reigns, and are accompanied by some specific reckoning, as may very well be seen by glancing a moment at the spaces on each side of the first one. On the right of it one can easily distinguish six new-moons, one above the other, which mean six months, and a circle representing the sun and seven strokes, which indicate seven days. On the other side of the vertical line one sees four months and thirteen days, — the symbol for ten being the two strokes joined at the top instead of crossed as in Roman counting. Consequently, here is obviously some detail as to the time when the reign ceased. The name of the king is given in the long horizontal space above the yearly records, although only two such are visible on this side of the fragment, one at the extreme right above the third row, and the other at the left above the fourth row.

The measurements in the little square below each yearly record are supposed to register the height of the Nile flood. The forearm represents a cubit, the other indications stand for hands and finger-lengths.

The general character of the material here preserved is of great interest, however one may regard the details; for on this little block of stone one can see how history grows out of the thin data of the earliest lists. At first there are only rows of unknown kings, mere names, and even these of strange archaic sound.18 It is supposed 58 that the lost portion may have contained the kings of upper Egypt or a list of the gods. Then, in the second line we come upon the story of a reign of the first dynasty, giving the events year by year.

The first of all annals reads as follows:

“Year  1     Fourth month; thirteenth day.19 Union of the two lands. Circuit
                   of the wall.
                   Six cubits [the height of the Nile.]
              2   Worship of Horus.20 Festival of Desher.
              3   Birth of two children to the King of Lower Egypt.
                   Four cubits, one palm.
              4   Worship of Horus; [undeciphered].
              5   [Plan] of the House, ‘Mighty of the Gods.’ Feast of Sokar.
                   Five cubits, five palms, one finger.
              6   Worship of Horus. Birth of the goddess Yamet.
                   Five cubits, one palm.
              7   Appearance [or coronation] of the King of Upper Egypt.
                   Birth of Min.
                   Five cubits.
              8   Worship of Horus.
                   Birth of Anubis.
                   Six cubits, one palm.
              9   First appearance of the Festival of Zet.
                   Four cubits, one span.
             10  [Destroyed.]”21

These are still mainly the data of religion, — festivals of the gods and scraps of divine history. The chief human activity is the building of temples. In the fourth line, however, we come upon the second dynasty, and the items recorded steadily grow more secular. We even come upon the regular system of the numbering 59 of the land and its resources, which may be viewed, if one so wishes, as the earliest trace of economic history.22 It is not until the third dynasty, however, on the last line of the fragment, that the annal becomes at all detailed. The story depicted in the three years here preserved runs as follows:

“Building of the 100-cubit dewatowe ships of meru wood, and of 60 sixteen [oared?] barges of the king. Hacking up of the land of the negro. Bringing of 7,000 living prisoners, and 200,000 large and small cattle. Building of the wall of the Southland and Northland [called] ‘Houses of Snefru.’ Bringing of 40 ships filled with cedar wood.23

“Making 35 houses . . . of 122 cattle. Building of a 100-cubit dewatowe ship of cedar wood and two 100-cubit ships of meru wood. Seventh occurrence of the numbering.

“Five cubits, one palm, one finger.

“Erection of ‘Exalted is the white crown of Snefru upon the Southern Gate’ [and] ‘Exalted is the red crown of Snefru upon the Northern Gate.’24 Making the doors of the king’s palace of cedar wood.

“Two cubits, two palms, two and three-fourths fingers.”

The inscriptions on the reverse continue the story, through part of the fourth dynasty and of the three first reigns of the fifth dynasty. The detail is much richer here, but the condition of this face of the stone is so bad as to render decipherment very difficult, and the mere fact that the material is richer on each reign limit’s the scribe to fewer reigns. As a result interest in these sections of the annals hardly extends beyond Egyptologists, and further comment may be omitted here.

So slight a chronicle, even if it be the first, seems hardly worth delaying over, were it not that we have the original text before us, and that its very slightness tempts one to linger. There must have been many such simple, monastic products as this in the possession of the priests of Egypt; but it is hardly to be wondered at that it needed the best of stone to preserve them, for there is little enough in the text itself to enforce immortality. More human interest 60 attaches to the records of single reigns, in which the royal scribe has every incentive to tell a striking story, and dress it up in all the detail of actuality. Such records are less “historic” than the dry-as-dust chronicle we have just been examining, but they are at least of livelier interest for the modern reader.

There is a large number of these. They form the bulk of the great collection of Professor Breasted’s Ancient Records of Egypt. It will suffice to take as an example the most notable of these, the “annals” of the great monarch of the imperial period, Thothmes or Thutmose III.25 As the Palermo stone is the first, this is “the longest and most important historical inscription in Egypt.”26 It was written by the king’s command on the walls of “the corridor which surrounds the granite holy of holies of the great Karnak temple of Amon,”27 and describes some seventeen campaigns which he carried on, year after year, as he maintained the sovereignty of Egypt over western Asia. The most noteworthy of these was that in which the king met and defeated the forces of Syria at Armageddon, or Megiddo; and so detailed is the account of this exploit that modern historians are able to reconstruct the strategy according to the map and to follow the story day by day. The description of the battle itself, which has just a touch of something Homeric in it, is as follows:28

“Then the tents of His Majesty were pitched, and orders were sent out to the whole army, saying, Arm yourselves, get your weapons ready, for we shall set out to do battle with the miserable army at daybreak. The king sat in his tent, the officers made their preparations, and the rations of the servants were provided. The military sentries went about crying, Be firm of heart, Be firm of heart. Keep watch, keep watch. Keep watch over the life of the king in his tent. And a report was brought to His Majesty that the country was quiet, and that the foot soldiers of the south and north were ready. On the twenty-first day of the first month of the season Shemu (March-April) of the twenty-third year of the reign of His Majesty, and the day of the festival of the new moon, which was also the anniversary of the king’s coronation, at dawn, behold, the order was given to set the whole army in motion. His 61 Majesty set out in his chariot of silver-gold, and he had girded on himself the weapons of battle, like Horus the Slayer, the lord of might, and he was like unto Menthu [the War-god] of Thebes, and Amen his father gave strength to his arms. The southern half of the army was stationed on a hill to the south of the stream Kīnā, and the northern half lay to the south-west of Megiddo. His Majesty was between them, and Amen was protecting him and giving strength to his body. His Majesty at the head of his army attacked his enemies, and broke their line, and when they saw that he was overwhelming them they broke and fled to Megiddo in a panic, leaving their horses and their gold and silver chariots on the field. [The fugitives] were pulled up by the people over the walls into the city; now they let down their clothes by which to pull them up. If the soldiers of His Majesty had not devoted themselves to securing loot of the enemy, they would have been able to capture the city of Megiddo at the moment when the vile foes from Kadesh and the vile foes from this city were being dragged up hurriedly over the walls into the city; for the terror of His Majesty had entered into them, and their arms dropped helplessly, and the serpent on his crown overthrew them.”

The scribe who thus graphically describes the flight to Megiddo evidently repeats a royal regret at the delay of the Egyptians to plunder the enemy, for he devotes the whole of the next section to a description of the spoil. Indeed, as Breasted remarks, being a priest, he is really more interested in the booty than in the strategy, because the booty fell largely to the temples. Hence the annals as set forth “are little more than an introduction to lists of feasts and offerings,”39 which cover adjoining walls of the temple.30 Fortunately, however, he preserves the source of his narrative, showing that it was taken from the daily record kept by the secretaries of Thutmose III, a copy of which, made on a roll of leather, was preserved in the temple of Amon.31 The temple inscription was, therefore, an excerpt from a sort of royal journal, arranged and chosen “as a record for the future,”32 a conscious effort at current history in the grand style, in keeping with the theme and place. Whatever the daily journal of the king amounted to, the official in charge of it was no mean dignitary; and by a strange chance one of them 62 has left in the epitaph on his tomb by Thebes an indication that it was he — Thaneni by name — who followed Thutmose on his campaigns and wrote the original record, to which the inscription refers.33

It is unnecessary here to delay long over annals of this kind. Their detailed study belongs to the history of Egypt rather than to a survey such as this. Although here and there one comes upon notable passages, particularly in the descriptive sections that deal with the administration of the realm,34 we are not yet, strictly speaking, dealing with historical literature, but with semi-religious, semi-biographical epitaphs, intended, like the monuments on which they were inscribed, to preserve the glory of the present for the future, not to rescue a past from oblivion. Their existence, however, made the latter possible so long as the hieroglyphs could be read; and Herodotus shows us how the scribes and priests could profit from living in such pictured archives as their temples had become, as well as from the treasures in their keeping. So, to some extent, they kept the long perspective open.

Finally, in the early third century B.C., when the history of Egypt was already ancient, a priest and scribe set down in Greek the lists of pharaohs, through all the centuries. Manetho, this one Egyptian historian of Egypt of whom we know, was no mean scholar. He shows, by comparison with the monuments now discovered, that he had at his disposal relatively accurate and adequate data for a suggestive outline without a rival in any antique narrative 63 for the length of time it covers. Unfortunately, we can judge of his work only by the fragments which it suited Josephus, the Jewish historian, to preserve, and by the epitomes used by the Christian chroniclers, Julius Africanus and Eusebius.35 Judged by the latter, which is hardly fair, he seems to have made it his chief aim to secure correct lists of the pharaohs, coming like a careful mathematician to add up the items in the long lists now practically closed.36 In doing this he left a device, which Egyptologists still find of use; he divided the names into groups or Dynasties, — the familiar divisions of today.37 What we have in the Christian chronologies is apparently rather a reflection of their interest in Egyptian history than that of Manetho. The same is true of Josephus; but fortunately it suited his purpose, in his defence of Jewish historiography, to quote from Manetho sufficiently to give us an idea — though only one — of the extent to which the work measures up to the standards of history. It is best to quote the opening section of Josephus’ reference, in which he adduces Manetho to prove that the Hyksos were the Hebrews:38

“Manetho was a man who was by race an Egyptian, but had made himself master of the Greek learning, as is very evident; for he wrote the history of his own country in the Greek tongue; translating it, as he himself says, out of their sacred records: he also finds great fault with Herodotus for having given through ignorance false accounts of Egyptian affairs. Now this Manetho, in the second book of his Egyptian history,39 writes concerning us in the following manner. I shall set down his very words, as if I were producing the very man himself as a witness.

“ ‘There was a king of ours whose name was Timaus, in whose reign it came to pass, I know not why, that God was displeased with us, and there came unexpectedly men of ignoble birth out of the eastern parts, who had boldness enough to make an expedition into our country, and easily subdued it by force 64 without a battle. And when they had got our rulers under their power, they afterwards savagely burnt down our cities, and demolished the temples of the gods, and used all the inhabitants in a most hostile manner, for they slew some, and led the children and wives of others into slavery. At length they made one of themselves king, whose name was Salatis. And he lived at Memphis,40 and made both upper and lower Egypt pay tribute, and left garrisons in places that were most suitable for them. And he made the eastern parts especially strong, as he foresaw that the Assyrians, who had then the greatest power, would covet their kingdom, and invade them. And as he found in the nome of Sais a city very fit for his purpose (which lay east of the arm of the Nile near Bubastis, and with regard to a theological notion was called Auaris), he rebuilt it, and made it very strong by the walls he built round it, and by a numerous garrison of two hundred and forty thousand armed men whom he put into it to keep it. There Salatis went every summer, partly to gather in his corn, and pay his soldiers their wages, and partly to train his armed men and so to awe foreigners. When he had reigned nineteen years he died. After him reigned another, whose name was Beon, for forty-four years. After him reigned another, called Apachnas, thirty-six years and seven months. After him Apophis reigned sixty-one years, and then Janias fifty years and one month. After all these reigned Assis forty-nine years and two months. And these six were the first rulers among them who were very desirous to pluck up Egypt by the roots. Their whole nation was called Hycsos, that is shepherd-kings; for Hyc according to the sacred dialect denotes a king, as does Sos a shepherd and shepherds in the ordinary dialect, and of these is compounded Hycsos. But some say that these people were Arabians.’ ”

From this extract, which contains the greater part of the text preserved by Josephus, one can judge the character of the Egyptian history of Manetho. It seems to have been a respectable performance, a work of wide scholarship, extending over a comparative study of the rich materials that lay open to the men of the Hellenic age; the kind of history one might welcome to the reference shelves of the great library at Alexandria. But whatever the content, the enterprise was apparently less Egyptian than Hellenic.

In conclusion, it may be remarked that if the text of Manetho is as good as this in the part that deals with the history of the Hyksos, it probably reached still greater excellence in the more purely Egyptian theme of the great days of the Empire, for which ample materials were at hand. The critic of Herodotus may therefore fairly claim the title of the one historian of Egypt.


Such, in short, is the history of History of Egypt. The student will find much of interest as he turns to that vast descriptive literature which modern scholars have now deciphered. But there are no signs of anything comparable to their own work; no mastery of time perspectives and source criticism such as is now demanded of every one who attempts to recast the ancient story.


The works of J. H. Breasted have been constantly used in this chapter. In addition to his well known History of Egypt (2d ed., 1909) and his shorter History of the Ancient Egyptians (1908), with good selected bibliography, his general surveys in Ancient Times (1916), and the Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (1912), the collection of historical texts, in English translation, Ancient Records of Egypt (5 vols., 1906-1907) contain material which is readily usable as illustrative of the text, by any thoughtful reader. The finely illustrated Reports of the Egyptian Exploration Fund should be referred to, if available, for the graphic quality of their texts. The History of Egypt by Flinders Petrie, although revised in process of publication, follows a chronological scheme now generally not accepted. More elaborate is the History of Egypt by E. A. W. Budge (8 vols., 1902-1904), while the best general description of Egyptian society is that of A. Erman, translated as Life in Ancient Egypt (1894). The works of G. Maspero (also translated) contain much suggestive material. The articles on Egypt in the Encyclopædia Britannica are especially valuable, with good bibliographies; and there is a valuable Introduction in Budge’s elaborate Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (1920). But the student of historiography is indebted most to Professor Breasted.


1   J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, pp. 4-5.

2  Cf. E. A. W. Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians (1914), p. 99.

3  Cf. A. Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, Chap. XIV.

4  A. Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, pp. 52, 112. Cf. J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt (2d ed., 1909), Chaps. V, XI, XIII.

5  A. Erman, op. cit., p. 114. The largest and finest of all the papyri, the Harris papyrus, is an enumeration of the benefactions of Ramses III to gods and men during his reign. It is 133 feet long, containing 117 columns, usually of 12 or 13 lines. Cf. J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. IV, pp. 87-88.

6  From R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten and Aethiopien, Sect. II, Vol. IV, Plate 124, quoted in A. Erman, op. cit., p. 91.

7  Cf. A. Erman, op. cit., p. 39. H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East, p. 99, says the names of the pre-dynastic kings were to the men of the nineteenth dynasty like Hengist and Horsa to the English of today.

8  Cf. A. Erman, op. cit., pp. 346-347. “In this respect the Egyptian scholars did but follow the same course as the mystical writers of the Middle Ages, who made out that both Bible and Vergil were allegorical; the Rabbis and many interpreters of the Koran have done the same; reverence for ancient literary works, if carried too far, always bears the same fruit.” Vide infra, the section on allegory in Christian historiography.

9  Cf. J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt, p. 203. A. Erman, op. cit., Chap. XV. E. A. W. Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, Chap. X.

10   Cf. H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East, p. 91.

11  Ibid., p. 103; cf. J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, Sect. 609.

12  Cf. E. A. W. Budge, A History of Egypt (8 vols., 1902-1904), Vol. I, pp. 119 sqq. (Tablets of Abydos, Sakkara and Karnak given in illustrations.)

13  Cf. H. R. Hall, op. cit, p. 12.

14  Vide infra, Hecatæus. Sometimes the names were not safe in the keeping of a jealous descendant. Queen Hatshepsu, “an Egyptian Catherine II,” had the name of her brother, Seti I, who preceded her, erased from his monument. A. Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, p. 43. Thothmes III, in turn, had her obelisk walled up. Cf. J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt, pp. 282-283.

15  A small fragment of it is also at Cairo.

16  Although known to Egyptologists for some forty years, no careful studies of the Palermo stone were made before the twentieth century. The first reference to it was made in 1866 by E. de Rougé in his Recherches sur les monuments qu’on peut attribuer aux six premières dynasties de Manéthon (p. 145), using a print that had been sent him. The stone was then in a private collection, but in 1877 it passed into the possession of the Museum of Palermo, where it was seen by several Egyptologists in the subsequent years, without realizing its significance. Finally, a study of it, accompanied by plates of the text, was published in 1896, by A. Pellegrini, in the Archivio storico siciliano (New Series, Vol. XX, pp. 297-316). Working from this, the eminent French Egyptologist, E. Naville, interpreted the document as a “sort of calendar containing donations made by a certain number of kings of ancient Egypt and the indication of the feasts to be celebrated.” (Les plus anciens monuments égyptiens, in G. Maspero's Recueil de travaux relatifs à la philologie et à l’archéologie égyptiennes et assyriennes, Vol XXI (1899), pp. 112 sq.) In 1899, however, Naville visited Palermo and collated the text, publishing the results — with plates — in 1903, in the same series (Vol. XXV, or Vol. IX of the new series). There his conclusion was that it was a fragment of religious annals, probably drawn up by the priests of Heliopolis, “of which the chronology, at least in the first part, appears to depend upon the periods or cycles which do not correspond with the reigns of kings” (p. 81). Meanwhile an even more detailed study had been undertaken by the German scholars H. Schäfer, L. Borchardt and K. Sethe, the general conclusions of which appeared in 1902 under the title Ein Bruchstück altägyptischer Annalen, in the Abhandlungen der königlichen preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Philosophische und historische Classe), for 1902, with excellent photographic plates of the original. J. H. Breasted’s translation, in Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, pp. 51-72, is based mainly upon Schäfer’s text. A photographic plate of the front face of the stone is also given in Breasted’s History of Egypt, facing p. 46.

The present text is drawn from Breasted’s and Schäfer’s, rearranged somewhat for purposes of clarity.

17  This was not apparent in Pellegrini’s plates, but is clearly brought out in those of Schäfer and Naville.

18  The first line reads: -pu; Seka; Khayn; Teyew; Thesh; etc. It should be recalled that the text is read from right to left. The vocalization is that adopted by Breasted; the Egyptian alphabet noted only the consonants.

19  Dates of the king’s accession. The remainder of the year, which has been interrupted by the death of the last king. On this day the new king ascends the throne. Note the upright line dividing the reigns. The new king’s name was apparently farther to the left, and is lost.

20  Celebrated every two years.

21  Proceeding upon the assumption that the king’s name was placed over the middle years of his reign, and that it would itself spread over six others, Schäfer (p. 187) reckons that since this king’s name is not yet reached in the ten years here shown, he must have reigned at least sixteen years more; and the stone extended at least that far to the left. Similarly the king whose name occurs at the extreme right of the next line must have already reigned as long as the period shown here (13 years + 5 for the name, or 18 in all).

22  In the third space from the right of the fourth line. It reads “Worship of Horus. Fourth numbering. Four cubits, two fingers.” Since this numbering took place every other year, and this is the fourth numbering for this king, the reign probably began seven years earlier.

23  An expedition by sea to Lebanon.

24  The names of two gates or parts of the palace of Snefru. Cf. J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, p. 66 n.c.

25  The spelling of Egyptian names is not standardized yet, owing to the absence of vowels in the hieroglyphs.

26  J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II, pp. 163 sqq. It is 223 lines long.

27  Ibid., note.

28   Translation of E. A. W. Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 104-105. Cf. also J. H. Breasted, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 184, Sect. 430.

29  J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II, p. 166.

30  Ibid., p. 218.

31  Ibid., Sects. 391, 392, 433. Sect. 392, “Now all that his majesty did to this city [Megiddo], to that wretched foe and his wretched army was recorded on each day by its name, under the title of [title not deciphered]. [Then it was] recorded upon a roll of leather in the temple of Amon to this day.”

32  Ibid., Sect. 568, cf. Sect. 392.

33  The inscription runs as follows (J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II, p. 165):

“I followed the Good God, Sovereign of Truth, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkheperre (Thutmose III); I beheld the victories of the king which he won in every country. He brought the chiefs of Zahi as living prisoners to Egypt; he captured all their cities; he cut down their groves; no country remained. . . . I recorded the victories which he won in every land, putting (them) into writing according to the facts.”

34  Note particularly the fine account of the state of Egypt under Ramses III, in E. A. W. Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 114; J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. IV, Sect. 410. Attention might also be called to the famous Punt Reliefs, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II, pp. 102 sqq. J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt, pp. 274-278. A. Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, pp. 510 sqq., etc. The richness of these records kept up to the last. For a description of Egypt under the Ptolemies see The Tebtunis Papyri (2 vols., 1902-1907), edited by B. G. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt.

35  The fragments of Manetho are not readily accessible. The best source is I. P. Cory’s Ancient Fragments of Phœnician, Chaldæan, Egyptian, . . . and Other Writers (2d ed., 1832) where text and translation are given as preserved in fragmentary form. Cf. H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East, p. 13.

Elf.Ed Note: Now Manetho is readily accessible! Bill Thayer has created a high-quality transcription, for the internet, just recently. Now you can read Manetho, translated by W. G. Waddell, (1940, Loeb edition) any time you want.

36  Note especially the correspondence, in the main, with the famous Turin papyrus, a list of great importance to Egyptologists.

37  Whether he took it over from his sources or not, we get it from him.

38  Josephus, Against Apion, Book I, Sect. 14. Cf. H. R. Hall, op. cit., pp. 13, 213, and the section from Josephus below.

39  Αἰγυπτιαχά, the title of Manetho’s work.

40  Cf. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Bk. I, Chap. IX, Sect. 4.


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