Page images
PDF
EPUB

but none belonging to the native princes, their tributaries. Not one pyramid, obelisk, temple, palace, or tomb, nor the fragment of one, can be found for the whole period. Not that Egyptian art had as yet no existence, for the works of the IVth and XIIth dynasties attest its progress up to the time in question. Not that it was then suddenly and permanently quenched under the inroad of the barbarians, for Bunsen himself observes that, 'at the end of this period, which is longer, perhaps, than the duration of the historical life of most modern people, the old Egyptian empire comes forth again in renovated youth, and in fact, as the monuments prove, with its national peculiarities, its religion, its language, its writing, its art, in precisely the same condition as if no interruption had occurred, or, at most, nothing beyond the temporary inroad of some Bedouin robbers!'” Nay, more; the tablet of Abydos clearly shows that such a period never existed. The escutcheon or cartouche, bearing the name and titles of Amosis, the first sovereign of the XVIIIth dynasty, stands there immediately after that of Ammenemes, the last of the XIIth. Not a single monument remains which can positively be assigned a date ea lier than Sesonchosis, or Sheshonk, of the XXIld dynasty — the Shishak of the Scriptures, who was contemporary with Rehoboam, about B. C. 972. Doubtless the pyramids and many other structures are much older, but they bear no independent data of their own by which their real age can be determined, much less that carry us back within 500 years of the flood.

But, while these lists of Manetho are thus, by numerous proofs, shown to be utterly unreliable, as establishing a positive chronology of Egypt, we do not think it necessary, on the other hand, to discard them altogether. The truth seems to be that, originally, they were a collection of names of sovereigns, handed down by tradition, with such exaggerations and additions as would naturally be made in the progress of time, who were believed to have reigned somewhere and at some time in that country. That portion which is earlier than the XVIIIth dynasty may be related to true history, much as the names transmitted from the semi-fabulous periods of England, the Briton, Welsh, and Saxon chieftains, who for a thousand years before the Norman conquest exercised a sway more or less extensive in that island, are related to the authentic records of later times. But what historian would gravely undertake, by grouping these names into "dynasties,” and counting up their number, and the alleged years of their reign, to arrive at the foundation of monarchy in England, or the exact date at which its first inhabitants came thither!

• There is another consideration of much impor

tance in this connection. Even if we concede that the persons embraced in the lists really existed and reigned in Egypt, it does not follow that their reigns. were all consecutive. The contrary supposition. seems every way probable. " Egypt,” says Osborn (Mon. Hist. vol. i. p. 183), " on its first settlement, was divided into nomes or provinces. The boundaries of these nomes, and the customs and usages of each of them, were component parts of the common law of Egypt at all periods of its history. What, therefore, is more probable, - we had almost said more certain, — than that, in the first place, the founder of each new city would be accounted the king of it, and of the nome or district that surrounded it? This was the case on the settlement of all other countries in the ancient world,* and that Egypt would not depart from this universal rule is the highest of all conceivable probabilities.” It has been claimed, however, that Manetho has made due allowance for this state of things, and excluded from his list all merely contemporary reigns. Says M. Mariette, " It would certainly be contrary to established facts to pretend that, from the days of Menes to the Greek conquest, Egypt always formed one united kingdom, and it is possible that unexpected

* Gen. chaps. 10, 14, 36, etc.

discoveries may one day prove that throughout nearly the whole duration of this vast empire, there were even more collateral dynasties than the partisans of that system now contend for. But everything shows us that the work of elimination has been already performed on the lists of Manetho, in the state in which they have reached us. If, in fact, these lists contained the collateral dynasties, we should find in them, either before or after the XXIst, the dynasty of high priests who reigned at Thebes, while the XXIst occupied Tanis. In the same way we should have to count, either before or after the XXIIId, the seven or eight independent kings who were contemporary with it, and who, if Manetho had not rejected them, would have added as many successive royal families to the lists of the Egyptian priest, the dodecarchy for one, at least, between the XXVth and XXVIth dynasties, and, finally, the Theban kings, rivals of the Shepherds, would have taken rank before or after the XVIIth. There were, therefore, incontestably contemporaneous dynasties in Egypt; but Manetho has thrown them out, and admitted those only whom he regarded as legitimate, and his lists contain no others. If it were not so, it would not be thirty-one dynasties that we should have to reckon in the list of royal families previous to Alexander, but probably nearer sixty.”

We submit that this reasoning is not conclusive. If the unsettled state of the monarchy, during its long existence, was such as to make necessary the cutting down of its royal annals one hall,- from sixty to thirty-one dynasties, - what evidence is there that it did not require a further curtailment? That such is the fact, is agreed by the great body of Egyptologers, though they may differ as to how much and where it should be made.

Our conclusion, then, is very certain. We look in vain into the history and antiquities of Egypt for any evidence whatever of the existence of man earlier than the time of Noah. According to the Septuagint chronology, we may allow full thirty centu- · ries between that time and the Christian era, a period amply sufficient to account for every known trace of man in the valley of the Nile.

« PreviousContinue »