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allegory relative to pantheistic metaphysics, which
formed, although they knew it not, the basis of their
It is only from Sethos that Herodotus begins a
history at all credible; and it is important to note that
this history begins with a fact agreeing with the
Hebrew annals, namely, the destruction of the army of
Sennacherib, king of Assyria;(1) and this agreement
continues under Necho(2) and under Hophra or Apries.
Two centuries after Herodotus (about 260 before
Christ) Ptolemy Philadelphus, a prince of a foreign
race, was desirous of knowing the history of a country
which circumstances had called him to govern. A
priest, called Manetho, undertook to write it for him.
It was not from records or archives that he pretended
to have drawn his information, but from the sacred
book of Agathodæmon, son of the second Hermes, and
father of Tat, who had copied it upon pillars or
columns, erected before the deluge by Tat, or the first
Hermes in the Seriadic land;(3) and this second
Hermes, this Agathedæmon, this Tat, are personages of
whom no one had ever before spoken, nor even of this
Seriadic land, nor of these columns. This deluge is
itself a fact entirely unknown to the Egyptians of early
times, and of which Manetho points out nothing in
what remains to us of his dynasties.
The production resembles the source; not only is the
whole filled with absurdities, but they are peculiar
absurdities, and such as it is impossible to

(1) Euterpe, cxli.
(2) ibid., clix., and in the 4th book of Kings, chap. xix., or in
the 2nd of Paral. chap. xxxii.
(3) Syncell. p. 40.



reconcile with those which the more ancient priests had
related to Solon and Herodotus.
Vulcan is the first of the divine kings. He reigns
9000 years; the gods and demi-gods reign 1985 years.
Neither the names, nor the successions, nor the dates
of Manetho, coincide with what was published before
or after him; and his accounts must have been as
obscure and confused in themselves as they were with
the statements of other authors, if we may credit the
extracts of Josephus, Julius Africanus, and Eusebius.
They do not even agree about the total of years of his
human kings. According to Julius Africanus, they
reached 5101; and according to Eusebius, to 4723;
according to Syncellus, to 3555. We may believe that
the differences of names and figures was made by
copyists; but Josephus cites at length a passage, the
details of which are manifestly contradictory to the
extracts of his successors.
A record, called the Antique,(1) and which some
call anterior and others posterior to Manetho, gives
other calculations; the whole duration of the kings is
36,525 years, of which the sun reigned 30,000, the
other gods 3,984, the demi-gods 217, only leaving for
the human race 2,339 years: which gives only 113
generations, instead of the 340 of Herodotus. The
astronomer Eratosthenes, a learned man of an order
different from that of Manetho, discovered and
published under Ptolomoeus Evergetes, about 240
years before Christ, a particular list of thirty-eight
kings of Thebes, beginning with Menes, and continuing
for 1024 years. Of this we have

(1) Syncell. p. 51.



an extract copied by Syncellus in Apollodorus. (1)
Scarcely any of the names which are there corres pond
with the other lists.
Diodorus went to Egypt under Ptolomæus Auletes,
about sixty years before Christ, and consequently two
centuries after Manetho, and four after Herodotus. He
also gleaned from th priests themselves the history of
the country, and he obtained it again in an entirely
new form. (2)
It was not now Menes who built Memphis, but
Uchoreus; and long before his time Busiris III. had
built Thebes. The eighth ancestor of Uchoreus,
Osymandyas, obtained possession of Bactria, and
subdued revolts there. Long afterwards, Sesostris made
still more extended conquests; he reached to the
Ganges, and returned thence through Scythia and the
Tanais. Unfortunately these names of kings are
unknown to all previous historians, and no people that
they had conquered preserved the least remembrance of
them. As to the gods and heroes, according to
Diodorus, they reigned 18,000 years, and the human
sovereigns 15,000; four hundred and seventy were
Egyptians, four Ethiopians, without counting Persians
and Macedonians. The tales with which the whole is
intermingled do not other wise yield in childishness to
those of Herodotus.
In the eighteenth year of Christ, Germanicus,
nephew of Tiberius, attracted by a desire of knowing
the antiquities of this celebrated country, went to
Egypt, at the risk of displeasing a prince as suspicious
as his uncle. He ascended the Nile as far as Thebes. It
was not Sesostris nor Osymandyas

(1) Ibid. p. 91. et seq. (2) Diodorus Sic. lib. i. sect. 2.



of whom the priests told him as qf a conqueror, but of
Rhameses, who with an army of 700,000 men had
invaded Lybia, Ethiopia, Media, Persia, Bactria,
Scythia, Asia Minor, and Syria. (1)
Finally, in the famous article of Pliny on the
Obelisks,(2) we find names of kings mentioned no
where else: Sothies, Mnevis, Zmarreus, Eraphius,
Mestires, or Semenpserteus, contemporary of
Pythagoras, &c. A Ramises, who may be the same as
Rhameses, is there made contemporary with the siege
of Troy.
I am aware that it is attempted to reconcile these
lists, by supposing that the kings have had other
names. To me, considering not only the contradiction
of these different accounts, but particularly the
mixture of facts attested by vast monuments and
childish extravagancies, it seems much more natural to
conclude that the Egyptian priests had no history; that,
inferior even to the Indians, they had not congruous
and connected fables; that they only kept lists, more or
less defective, of their kings, and some recollections of
the chief amongst them, of those in particular who had
taken care to inscribe their names on their temples and
other large monuments which adorned the country; but
these recollections were confused, and were only
founded on the traditional explanations which they
gave to the representations painted

(1) Tacit. Annal. lib. 2. chap. lx.
N. B. According to the interpretation of Ammianus, lib.
xvii. chap. vi., by the hieroglyphics of the Obelisk of Thebes
now at Rome in the place of St. John Lateran, it appears that a
Rhamestes was styled in the eastern manner, "lord of the
habitable world," and that the inscription given to Germanicus
was only a commentary on this.
(2) Pliny, lib. xxxvi. c. 8, 9, 10, 11.



or engraved on their monuments; explanations founded
only on the hieroglyphics, conceived like those which
have been transmitted to us in any general terms,(1)
and which, passing from mouth to mouth, were altered
as to details according to the fancy of those who
communicated them to strangers, and consequently it is
impossible to rest any proposition relative to the
antiquity of the present continents on the fragments of
these traditions, so incomplete even in their own times,
and rendered utterly unintelligible by the pens of those
who have handed them down to us.
If this assertion needed farther proof, it might be
found in the list of the sacred work of Hermes, which
the Egyptian priests carried in their solemn procession.
Clemens Alexandrinus(2) enumerates them, in number
forty-two; and there is not amongst them, as with the
Brahmins, one epic, or one book which has the
pretension of being a narrative, or of fixing in any
way any great action or any event.
The learned researches of M. Champollion, junior,
and his astonishing discoveries concerning the
language of hieroglyphics(3) confirm rather than
destroy these surmises. This ingenious antiquary has
read in a series of hieroglyphical pictures of the
temple of Abydos(4) the prænomina of a certain
number of kings placed in order, one after the other;
and a portion of these prænomina (the ten last)

(1) That of Rhamestes in Ammian. loc. cit.
(2) Stromat. lib. vi. p. 633.
(3) See the 'Précis du Système Hieroglyphic des anciens
Egyptiéns,' par M. Champollion le jeune, page 245; and his
'Lettre à M. le Duc de Blacas,' p. 15 et seq.
(4) This important bas-relief is engraved in the 'Voyage a
Meroe,' by M. Caillaud, v. 2, plate xxxii.



being found on many other monuments, accompanied
with proper names, he concludes that they are those of
kings, who bore those proper names, which has given
him nearly the same kings, and in the same order, as
those of which Manetho composed his eighteenth
dynasty, that which drove out the pastoral kings or
shepherds. The concordance, however, is not complete:
in the painting of Abydos, six of the names found in
Manetho's list are wanting; there are others which do
not resemble them; and, unfortunately, there is a break
before the most remarkable of all — the Rhameses,
who appears the same as the king represented on so
many of the finest monuments, with the attributes of a
great conqueror. It should be, according to M.
Champollion in Mianetho's list, the Sethos, chief of
the nineteenth dynasty, who, in fact, is pointed out as
po ent in ships and horsemen, and as having carried his
arms into Cyprus, Media and Persia. M. Chainpollion
thinks, with Marsham and many others, that it is
Rhameses or this Sethos, who is the Sesostris or
Sesoosis of the Greeks; and this supposition is
probable, in the sense that the representations of the
victories of Rharneses, obtained probably over the
wandering tribes near Egypt, or at farthest, over
Scythia, have given rise to the fabulous tales of the
vast conquests, attributed by some confusion, to a
Sesoostris; but in Manetho it is in the twelfth dynasty,
and not in the eighteenth, which has a prince named
Sesostris, marked as the conqueror of Asia and
Thrace.(1) Marshain pretends that this twelfth(2)
dynasty and the eighteenth form only one. Manetho
could not then have comprehended

(1) Syncell. p. 59. (2) Canon. p. 353.



the lists which he copied. In fact, if we entirely
receive both the historical truth of this bas-relief of
Abydos and its accordance, either with the portion of
the lists of Manetho which appears to correspond with
it, or with the other hieroglyphical inscription, this
consequence would arise, that the pretended eighteenth
dynasty, the first with which the ancient chronologists
can make any agreement, is also the first which has
left out on the monuments any trace of its existence.
Manetho may have consulted this and similar
documents; but it is not the less apparent that a list, a
series of names or of portraits, which every where
occurs, is very far from being history.
May we not then assume of the inhabitants of the
valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, what we have
proved and known with regard to the Indians, and is
made so probable respecting the people of the valley of
the Nile? Established as the Indians(1) and Egyptians
are, on a fine commercial situation, — in extensive
plains which they have been compelled to intersect
with various canals — instructed like them by an
hereditary priesthood, the pretended depositaries of
secret books, the privileged possessors of the sciences,
astrologers, constructors of pyramids, and other vast
monuments(2) — should they not also have a mutual
resemblance in other essential points? May not their
history be similarly reduced to mere legends? I venture
to say, that it

(1) All the ancient mythology of the Brahmins relates to the
plains through which the Ganges flows, and it is evidently
there that their first establishments were formed.
(2) The descriptions of the ancient Chaldean monuments are
very similar to those of the Indians and Egyptians; but these
monuments are not similarly preserved, because they were only
made of sun-dried bricks.



is not only probable, but that it is demonstrated by
Neither Moses nor Homer makes any mention of a
great kingdom in Upper Asia. Herodotus(1) only
assigns to the supremacy of the Assyrians five hundred
and twenty years of duration, and makes its origin
about eight centuries before his own time. After
visiting Babylon, and having consulted the priests, he
did not even learn the name of Ninus, as king of the
Assyrians, and only mentions him as the father of
Asron,(2) first Lydian King of the race of the
Heraclidæ. Nevertheless, he makes him son of Beltis,
so much confusion had then occurred in the oral
traditions. If he speaks of Semiramis as one of the
queens who has left great monuments in Babylon, he
only places her seven generations before Cyrus.
Hellanicus, contemporary with Herodotus, far from
allowing that Semiramis built any thing at Babylon,
attributes the founding of that city to(3) Chaldæus,
fourteenth in order from Ninus.
Berosus, a Babylonian and a priest, who wrote
scarcely one hundred and twenty years after Herodotus,
gives an alarming antiquity to Babylon; but it is to
Nebuchadnezzar, a prince of comparatively recent date,
that he attributes the 'principal monuments. (4)
As far as regards Cyrus, that remarkable prince, and
whose history should be so well known, so common,
Herodotus, who only lived a century after him,
confesses that there were three different opinions; and,
in fact, sixty years later, Xenophon gives us a

(1) Clio, cap. xcv. (2) Clio, cap. vii.
(3) Stephen of Byzantium, at the word Chaldæi.
(4) Josephus (contra App.) lib. 1, cap. xix.



biography of this prince entirely different from that of
Ctesias, nearly contemporary with Xenophon,
pretends to have drawn from the archives of the
Medes, a chronology which renders the origin of the
Assyrian monarchy more remote by eight hundred
years, placing at the head of its kings the same Ninus,
the son of Belus, whom Herodotus had made one of the
Heraclidæ; and at the same time he at tributes to Ninus
and Semiramis, conquests towards the west, of an
extent absolutely incompatible with the Jewish and
Egyptian history of this period. (1)
According to Megasthenes. it was Nebuchadnezzar
who made these incredible conquests. He carried them
through Libya to Spain. (2) We see that, from the time
of Alexander, Nebuchadnezzar had entirely usurped the
reputation which Semiramis had had from the time of
Artaxerxes. But, we must certainly suppose, that
Semiramis and Nebuchadnezzar had conquered
Ethiopia and Libya, nearly in the same manner as the
Egyptians attributed the conquests of India and Bactria
to Sesostris or Osymandias.
It would avail us nothing, if we now entered into an
examination of the different traditions of
Sardanapalus, in which a celebrated learned man has
imagined that he has discerned proof of the existence
of three princes of that name, all victims of similar
misfortunes:(3) and in the same way, ano ther learned
man finds in the Indies, at least three

(1) Diod. Sicul. lib. 2.
(2) Josephus (contra App.) lib. i. cli. vi., and Strabo, lib.
xv. p. 687.
(3) See the Memoir of Freret, on the History of the
Assyrians, in the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres,
vol. v.



Vicramaditjia, equally the heroes of precisely similar
It was doubtlessly from the disagreement of all
these narratives, that Strabo was induced to say that
the authority of Herodotus and Ctesias was not equal to
that of Hesiod or Homer.(1) Ctesias has not been more
fortunate in copyists than Manetho; and it is now very
difficult to reconcile the extracts given us from his
works by Diodorus, Eusebius and the Syncellus.
If so great a state of uncertainty existed in the fifth
century before Christ, how can we imagine that
Berosus could clear them up in the third? And can we
give more credence to 430,000 years which he puts
before the deluge, — to 35,000 years which he places
between the deluge and Semiramis, — than in records
of 150,000 years which he boasts of having
Mention has been made of works raised in distant
provinces, and which bore the name of Semiramis;
they pretend also to have seen in Asia Minor and in
Thrace columns erected by Sesostris.(3) But, as in
Persia at the present day, the ancient monuments,
perhaps even some of these, bear the name of Roustan;
and in Egypt or Arabia they have those of Joseph or
Solomon: a custom appertaining to the Orientalists of
all ages, and, most probably, to all ignorant nations.
The peasantry of our

(1) Strabo, lib. xi. p. 507.
(2) Syncellus, p. 38 and 39.
(3) N. B. It is remarkable, that Herodotus says nothing of
having seen any monuments of Sesostris but in Palestine, and
only mentions those in Ionia from hearsay, adding, that
Sesostris is not named in the inscriptions, and that those who
have seen these monuments attribute them to Memnon. —
Euterpe, chap. cvi.

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