People > Manetho



Manetho was a famous Egyptian priest and historian who is one of the best primary sources for life during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. He likely worked in the famous Library of Alexandria during the 3rd century BCE and was responsible for writing Aegyptiaca or History of Egypt which later went on to influence many other famous historians such as Josephus in his Against Apion.

Manetho was an ancient Egyptian priest, historian, and scholar who lived during the Ptolemaic period, around the 3rd century BCE. He is best known for his work "Aegyptiaca" (History of Egypt), which is a significant source for the chronology and history of ancient Egypt. Although Manetho's original writings have not survived, his work is known through later historians such as Josephus, Eusebius, and Syncellus.

Early Life and Background

  1. Background:
    • Manetho was an Egyptian priest from Sebennytos in the Nile Delta. His exact dates of birth and death are not well-documented, but he is believed to have lived during the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter and Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
    • He served as a high priest and was well-versed in Egyptian religion, culture, and history.


  1. Purpose and Composition:

    • Manetho wrote "Aegyptiaca" in Greek, at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The work aimed to provide a comprehensive history of Egypt, written in a way that would be accessible to Greek-speaking audiences.
    • The "Aegyptiaca" was divided into three volumes and covered the history of Egypt from mythical times to the Persian conquest.
  2. Chronology:

    • One of Manetho's significant contributions was the division of Egyptian history into dynasties. He categorized the pharaohs into 30 dynasties, a system still used by modern Egyptologists.
    • This dynastic system helped to organize and structure the complex history of Egypt, providing a chronological framework that is still referenced today.
  3. Sources:

    • Manetho's work was based on temple records, royal inscriptions, and other historical documents available to him as a priest. His access to these primary sources made his work highly valuable for understanding Egyptian history.

Influence and Legacy

  1. Historical Significance:

    • Although Manetho's original texts have been lost, his work survives through the excerpts and summaries of later historians such as Josephus, Eusebius, Africanus, and Syncellus.
    • These later historians used Manetho’s dynastic lists and historical accounts to compile their own works on Egyptian history, ensuring that Manetho’s contributions were preserved.
  2. Challenges and Controversies:

    • The reliability of Manetho's accounts has been a subject of debate among scholars. Some discrepancies exist between Manetho’s chronology and the archaeological record.
    • Despite these challenges, Manetho’s work remains a cornerstone for the study of ancient Egyptian history, providing a framework that has been built upon by subsequent research and discoveries.
  3. Cultural Integration:

    • Manetho's work represents a significant cultural bridge between Egyptian and Greek traditions. By writing in Greek and framing Egyptian history in a way that was accessible to Hellenistic audiences, Manetho helped to integrate Egyptian culture into the broader Hellenistic world.


Manetho was a pivotal figure in the documentation and preservation of ancient Egyptian history. His work "Aegyptiaca" provided a comprehensive and structured account of Egypt's past, divided into dynasties, which has been invaluable for both ancient and modern historians. Despite the loss of his original texts, Manetho's contributions have endured through the works of later historians, ensuring that his legacy remains a fundamental part of the study of ancient Egypt. His efforts to bridge Egyptian and Greek cultures highlight the interconnectedness of the ancient world and the enduring impact of his scholarship.


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