The Reign of the Gods

(Problems with extant fragments)


Ptah Ptah - - - Hephaestus
Ra Ra - - - Helius
Su Su Shu Agathodaemon
Seb Seb Keb Cronus
Osiris Hosiri Ausar Osiris
Set Set Sht - - -
Horus Hor Hwr Typhon
Thoth Tut Djehuti Horus
Ma Ma Mch - - -
Horus Hor Hwr - - -

Comparing the above king-lists with one another leads me to believe, since we have only fragmented and corrupted copies of Manetho's original Aegyptiaca, that at several points his redactors have introduced telling inaccuracies. If we accept the oldest fragments that we have of Manetho—that of Josephus—it appears that Manetho's original work was composed in narrative style. One of the early redactors apparently took it upon himself to alter the format into the above tabular form (which became known among scholars as the "Manetho Model"). It was this basic change that most likely led to the errors described below.

In addition to this, it seems that certain redactors seemed to be hung up on "sacred numbers": some redactors tended to group names into Enneads (groups of nine); others in Octads (groups of eight), neither of which accurately represented reality. By the time copies got down to us, there were only seven of the god-kings.2

The first thing we notice is the gap between Osiris and Typhon (top of page). What was the purpose of this gap? It appears that the "Manetho Model" available to Eusebius and Africanus called for eight kings in each dynasty; but having only seven names of god-kings available to them, they created a gap. And since the tradition was strong that Horus was the last of the god-kings, they arranged it as you see above. So, what is the problem with the above arrangement?

To begin with, using only eight kings (as is specified in our "fragments") we can see that in reality it is the eighth king that is missing. For instance, we know that "Typhon" is the Greek equivalent for King Set (vide infra). So if we move the last two names up one notch (shifting the gap down to slot 8), then Typhon equates correctly with Set, Horus moves up to his proper place, and all the names match. But this creates another problem. What about the tradition that Horus is the last (eighth) and final god-king?

Thoth- - -

This was most likely the reason the redactor created the gap in the first place: so Horus would be the eighth god-king—but the process put both Horus and Typhon totally out of sync with the older, more complete, Egyptian king-lists. So how can both problems be solved? Fortunately, now that we have discovered older and more complete king-lists, we can be confident of the correct order, and we can be certain as to how many god-kings there really were!

It is from these older king-lists that we learn that there were in reality ten god-kings, not eight. We learn also that the rulers "Thoth" and "Ma" followed this first king named "Horus"; and finally of a second "Horus" (the tenth king) who closed out the "Reign of the Gods" in agreement with ancient Egyptian tradition.

So the tradition carried down that Horus was the last of the god-kings remains intact; but the appearance of two separate kings in the list, both named "Horus," evidently triggered a simple scribal error (known as haplographic error), which led in turn to subsequent errors in copying Manetho's original king-list. Here is what happened.

At some point early on, an ancient Greek copyist, using an originally complete, but tabular form (i.e., the "Manetho Model"), inadvertently skipped from the first "Horus" following Set (i.e., the seventh king) to the last "Horus" (i.e., the tenth king), thereby leaving out three kings! Once this mistake was made, the above described corruptions were then passed on to posterity.

In view of the foregoing, I'm suggesting the following correlation to be the correct one, and therefore use it throughout this website. I've recently learned that others, possibly using other means, have reached this same correlation (Pharaoh List-1).

The Turin Papyrus Manetho's King-list
Horus. . .
Thoth. . .
Ma. . .


I am sure many modern scholars would love to know what, in Manetho's mind, dictated the equating of Agathodaemon (simply a Greek word meaning "good" or "benevolent" deity) with the god-king "Su" in the Egyptian list. Although the Greeks generally equated the Egyptian "Thoth" with Hermes (Trismegistos), we can't be sure what Greek name Manetho actually used in his original Aegyptiaca for King Thoth. And we can't help but wonder what Greek equivalent Manetho had originally chosen to represent the "Ma" of the Egyptian list. With the information we presently possess, we are forced to be satisfied with the above reconstruction.


1 This translation of the Turin Papyrus can be found on p. 290 of the famed Assyriologist George Smith's "Chaldean Account of Genesis" (Whittingham & Wilkins, London, 1872). It appears in a chart comparing the "dynasty of the gods" with a Chaldean king-list. [Back]

2 It also might be pointed out that when comparing the available "fragments" of Manetho's Aegyptiaca (i.e., Josephus, Eusebius, Africanus, Syncellus, and Castor) other minor differences are also noticed. Judging from these it appears that the ancient authors were less than careful with their sources. [Back]

Issued by Atlantek Software Inc.
25 July 2003: Version 1.6