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between them. The duration of the reign of the gods, &c., is variously stated to be all the way between thirty-six hundred and fifty and forty-eight thousand eight hundred and sixty-three years. There can be little doubt that these historians faithfully reported the accounts given them, either orally or in the sacred books. How evident it is, then, that those original authorities were utterly untrustworthy! — either that the earlier Egyptian records were not understood in the times of Herodotus, Diodorus, and Manetho,* or that the work of Manetho himself has been so abridged and corrupted by epitomizers, through whose writings alone it appears to have been known after the times of Josephus, that it is now of little or no value for purposes of accurate chronology.
There is, however, a mode of estimating these long prehistoric periods which should be adverted , to in this place. "We know,” says Palmer (Egyp.
* Dr. Samuel Birch, of the British Museum, in his translation of the “ Book of the Dead,” says, “The new exegetical researches into the hieratic papyri have contributed to throw additional light on many obscure passages; but there are others, the meaning of which will probably long remain ambiguous — a circumstance not to be wondered at when it is remembered that the correct or ancient reading was so to the Egyptians themselves at a very early period of their theology.” – Additional Notes, p. 333.
Chron. vol. i. p. 30), " that under the Ptolemies and the Romans the idea existed that the vast periods of the Egyptians, of the Chronicle, and of Manetho in particular, had been swelled to their apparent bulk by counting, for the earlier spaces of time, months under the name of years.” Herodotus and Plato, or Eudoxus, no less than later writers, had heard that the earliest Egyptian " years ” were months of thirty days: “ Ei dè xul o grow 'Evdosos αληθές, ότι Αιγύπτιοι τον μήνα ενιαυιον εκάλουν, ούκ άν ή των πολλών τούτων ενιαυτών απαρίθμησις έχοι τι θαυμαστόν.» * (Proclus. in Tim. p. 31, 1. 50.) Diodorus Siculus adds more particularly that, according to some, the long reigns of the earlier gods, who had above 1200 years each, were composed of months of thirty days, not real years; and those of the later gods, who had over 300 years each, were composed of seasons, f of four months each, the native Egyptian year being divided into three seasons, of spring, summer, and winter, not four, like the Greek. On this ground, Eusebius reduced the whole period of the gods, demigods, and manes, to 2,206 years, which is an approximation to the space from the creation to the deluge, according to the Septuagint chronology. The "Old Chronicle" allots 34,201 years to the ante-human reigns, which, reduced upon the same principle, amounts to 2765 solar years. Thus interpreted, we obtain a clew to the actual duration of the mythological period of the ancient Egyptians, viz., that there had been a space of between two and three thousand years from the creation to the commencement of the Egyptian monarchy.
* " And if Eudoxus reports correctly, that the Egyptians call a month a year, the reckoning of those many years would not contain anything wonderful.”
This, certainly, is a possible explanation of the matter. I know, indeed, that Bunsen mentions it with a. sneer, and dismisses it as not entitled to a moment's thought. He regards it as a mere expedient of Christian chronographers to bring the chronology of Egypt into harmony with that of the Jew- . ish Scriptures. Wilkinson likewise says that this ground is untenable. But the explanation was not first made by Christian writers. When Herodotus, Diodorus, and others spoke of it as an ancient method of reckoning time, they doubtless had evidence of the fact, which may now be lost; and they manifestly give it as a fact, and not as a mere opinion of their own.
Such a mode of reckoning time would, at first, be the most natural and easy. It is, in fact, that of almost all uncultivated nations to this day. The revolutions of the moon are more obvious and definite than those of the earth, the diurnal excepted,
and the supposition is more than plausible, that, in the earliest ages, the lunar measure of time would prevail.
Besides, if this mode of explaining the immense periods of Egyptian chronology be rejected, what is the true one? Let those who sneer at this tell us what those periods do mean. Do those thirteen thousand nine hundred years of the reign of the gods signify a real condition of men and things on earth? Did the twelve hundred and fifty-five years' sway of the demigods — beings whose fathers were gods and mothers women, or vice versa — cover an actual state of affairs in this world? So with the fifty-eight hundred and thirteen years attributed to the demigods and manes. What is the practical meaning of these? Perhaps our friends the "spiritualists” can explain them. I cannot. Perhaps they may find in these old Egyptian legends evidence of the actual participation of departed spirits in the affairs of men. Be it so. But a sober student of history and chronology, when confronted with myths like these, cannot help asking some questions in regard to them which are not so easily disposed of. And the only rational conclusion he can reach is, that as to determining the actual existence of man on earth, unless upon the supposition that they involve other than the usual modes of reckoning, they are utterly worthless.
It has been sometimes said that ancient nations have forged the large periods of their early annals for the express purpose of gratifying their pride of a high antiquity. But I doubt the assertion. Such a motive would imply an appreciation of the value of history in the true sense of the term. And when such an appreciation is reached by any people, it is too late to falsify it; or, if falsification were attempted, it could not be perpetuated. Still, if any one should maintain that, in remote prehistoric times, some bard or story-teller invented these large Egyptian numbers, and gave them currency before the true idea and value of history had been attained, I should have no controversy with him. But I have a controversy with those who accept these numbers as any part of authenticated history, and weave them into systems of chronology claiming our confidence or respect.
Before leaving the prehistoric times of Egypt, I should allude to certain evidence supposed to be derived from astronomical inscriptions upon the temples corroborative of the alleged extreme antiquity of that people. Among these was the famous Zodiac of Denderah, which attracted so much attention a few years ago.* The following narrative concern
* Though the pretensions based upon this zodiac are now so completely exploded, yet it is still adduced by some as proving a