CHRONOLOGY

CHRONOLOGY

 

Egypt is surpassed by no other nation in point of antiquity. Pre-historic remains, it is true, carry us back to a much more remote period, but if we seek monuments, that bear the stamp of an already refined civilization, the most ancient are certainly to be found in Egypt. But easy as it may be to believe in the tradition which assigns to Egypt so prodigious an. antiquity, it is equally difficult to bring forward scientific proofs of that antiquity. Records of eclipses and other astronomical phenomena, which are still wanting, could alone furnish the required testimony. In the meantime, we have no other source but the lists of Manetho and the dates inscribed in these lists. Unfortunately, disorder reigns supreme here. Not only the dates taken from Manetho are not in accordance with extracts taken from Julius Africanus and Eusebius, but we possess two versions of the Qlironide of Eusebius, the dates of which do not agree with each other. On the other hand, it too often happens that the hieroglyphs themselves furnish us with dates which contradict the duration assigned to certain reigns by the national historian. It will be easily understood, therefore, to how much error we are exposed when we wish, for example, to fix the date of the foundation of the Egyptian monarchy. And yet, for all that, it must be admitted that the authority of Manetho, an Egyptian priest, writing the history of his own country from tharchives of the temples, should always carry great weight. In vain is it alleged that several of the dynasties which he cites as successive were contemporaneous. If the fact were proved, we must evidently deduct from the total amount the entire duration of those dynasties which have thus grafted themselves, like so many branches, upon the main stem. But the system of contemporaneous dynasties is as yet supported by no really trustworthy proof ; on the contrary, it seems certain that Manetho was well aware that at various epochs Egypt was governed simultaneously by several dynasties, and he availed himself of the means of control at his disposal to strike out of his work all such dynasties as did not belong to the genuine series of royal houses who succeeded each other on the throne, so that the latter were alone officially enrolled in due order on the register of kings.It is true, Manetho’s figures have undoubtedly suffered serious alterations. But if we consider that they have come down to us through Christian writers, who had an evident interest in curtailing them, we shall see that, as a matter of fact, far from ascribing too wide a range to those figures, we are bound, as fair critics, to accept them as having been systematically reduced in their total amount. The authority, then, of Manetho as a chronologist remains unshaken, but on condition that we only take the dates which he gives us as approximate. Certain as it is that those dates are not absolutely exact, yet it is difficult to believe that they have been so radically altered as not in any degree to come near to the truth. Anyhow, the nearer we approach the source of those alterations, the more we shall feel compelled to admit that if the lists could have reached us intact from the hand of Manetho, we would find them extending over a still wider range of time

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