Immense progress has been made in unravelling the intricacies of Egyptian history since the time when Champollion, profiting by the discovery of Young, first translated the hieroglyphical inscriptions that cover the walls of Egyptian buildings. Of late years it has been too frequently assumed that his works, with those of Rosellini, of Wilkinson, and Lepsius, and the numerous other authors who have applied themselves to Egyptology, had told us all we are ever likely to know of her history. In so far as the epochs of the great Pharaonic dynasties of Thebes are concerned this may be partially true, but it is only since M. Mariette undertook the systematic exploration of the great Necropolis of Memphis that we have been enabled to realize the importance of the older dynasties, and become aware of the completeness of the records they have left behind them. Much as we have learned during the last forty years, recent explorations have taught us that the soil of Egypt is not half exhausted yet; and every day our knowledge is assuming a consistency and completeness as satisfactory as it is wonderful.
Although there are still minor differences of opinion with regard to the details of Egyptian chronology, still the divergences between the various systems proposed are gradually narrowing in extent. The sequence of events is certain, and accepted by all. The initial date, and the adjustments depending on it, are alone in dispute. The truth is that every subsequent step in the investigation has tended more and more to prove the correctness of the data furnished by the lists of Manetho, and the only important question is, "what is Manetho?" His work is lost. The only real extracts we have from the ortginal are those in "Josephus contra Apion." The lists in Eusebius and Syncellus or Africanus have avowedly been adjusted to suit preconceived theories of Biblical chronology; but on the whole a great preponderance of evidence seems in favor of assuming that he really intended to fix the year 3906 as the initial year of the reign of Menes, or some year within a very short distance of that date. Some years ago this would have seemed to suffice, but so many new monuments have been disinterred of late, so many new names of kings added to our lists, that the tendency is now rather to extend than to contract this Ihnit of duration.
Be this as it may, what we really do know absolutely is that there was an old kingdom of pyramid-builders, comprising the first ten dynasties of Manetho, who reigned at Memphis. These, after a period of decadence, were superseded by kings of a different race coming from the south; and that these, after a short period of glory, were conquered by an Asiatic race of hated Shepherd Kings.
After five centuries of foreign domination, the Shepherds in their turn were driven out, and the new kingdom founded. This, after
- Syncellus, Chron. p. 98, od. Dindoiff, Bonn, 1829.