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LONDON QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.-Egypt's Place in Universal History: An Historical Investigation. By CHRISTIAN C. J. BUNSEN, D.PH., and D.C.L. In Five Books. Translated from the German by CHARLES H. COTTRELL, ESQ., M.A. 8vo. Vol. I., 1848; Vol. II., 1854. London: Longmans.
WHEN a subject so rich in archæological interest, and bearing so important a relation to sacred and profane history, as the annals of Ancient Egypt, is fully investigated by a person so profoundly versed in history, possessing such acknowledged lingual attainments, so eminent as a philosopher, and so respected throughout Europe for his sound scholarship, as the Chevalier Bunsen, his researches demand from every considerate and inquiring mind the most respectful attention; and warrant the hope that they will afford us the means of increasing the sphere of our knowledge, and of promoting the interests of truth and the cause of sound learning.
For ourselves, we freely avow, that, having long looked into this great subject as into a vast store-house of ancient treasure, and panted with eager anxiety to see all its riches brought out into the light, for the benefit of the world, we hailed the effort of the learned Chevalier with deep interest, and entered on the perusal of these important volumes with sanguine expectation. As we proceeded, various and sometimes conflicting sentiments were called forth; and our present object is to place these, with a rapid sketch of the work, before our readers.
In attempting this digest, we are greatly aided by the copiousness of the materials, and the lucidness of the Chevalier's arrangement and style. Nothing, in fact, is left us to desire in
these essential respects; our only doubt being whether we can simplify what is so difficult, and condense what is so diffuse, within the compass of the few pages which we can allot to the purpose.
Without further preface, we invite attention to the ultimate object which the author proposes to himself in his work; namely, "by persevering in a course of Egyptian research,based, in the strictest sense of the word, on historical principles, -to obtain for the history of mankind a surer foundation than we at present possess." The local inquiry he therefore obviously regards as only preliminary to much more extensive deductions thence ensuing. He would read correctly this single chapter of the history of nations, that he may from it draw large inferences respecting the ethnography of the whole world.
Our author is sanguine as to the eventual success of modern research in the realms of Egyptian antiquity :
"We are convinced that it may and will be the lot of our age, to disentangle the clue of Egyptian chronology, by the light of hieroglyphical science and the aid of modern historical research, even after the loss of so many invaluable records of the Old World; and thus to fasten the thread of universal chronology round the apex of those indestructible Pyramids which are no longer closed and mysterious. Admitting, however, that we do succeed in this, one portion only of our task, though certainly the most difficult and toilsome, is accomplished; the original problem, the definition of the position of Egypt in general history, still remains to be solved. We cannot claim the introduction of a period of more than thirty centuries, of the chronology of Egypt, into the general chronology of the world, without submitting it to the test of that general chronology. We shall commence, therefore, with the lowest point in general history, the foundation of the Macedonian Empire,-and proceed upwards in an unbroken line, along the turning points in the history of those nations with which that of Egypt is connected. The epochs of the Persian and Babylonian dominion, both of which are fixed by astronomical and historical records, will first be noticed; and then we shall pass on beyond the Olympiads, the limits of Grecian chronology, and the threshold of the Jewish, the dedication of Solomon's temple. Prior to the latter [last-named] event, there is no systematic computation by years; nothing save mere scattered dates, in which frequent contradictions occur, and requiring consequently to be verified and adjusted themselves, instead of furnishing us any guarantee in the prosecution of our chronological researches. Even this, however, shall not deter us from making further investigation. We must still go onward, beyond the commencement of the Assyrian Empire and the days of the great Legislator of Israel, in order to arrive at last, through seemingly barren ages, the supposed nonage of human civilization,-at the starting-point of all Egyptian chronology, the foundation of the Empire of Upper and Lower Egypt by Menes."
This point being thrown back to a date more than 2,500 years before the building of Solomon's temple, a.c. 1,000, may give
Foundation of his Chronological System.
an idea of the extreme antiquity which the author is prepared to claim for the history on which he has expended his labours.
Our author is not only sanguine that he shall be able to sustain the claims of Egypt to this great antiquity, but believes that the recognition of it will have an important effect on general history: that, when he has established the succession and names of the various ancient Dynasties that ruled over that country, he may hopefully endeavour to connect its history with the traditional history of the other ancient peoples of the world, his Egyptian data receiving confirmation from them where they are right, and correcting them where they are wrong:
"The gaps and flaws which have been dexterously glossed over will re-appear; and many portions of history, which have been dissected and artfully torn asunder, will, on the re-establishment of the natural connexion, fall back at once, like dislocated members of an organic body, into their places, and mutually co-operate to restore to the ancient history of the world the vital energy of which it has been so long deprived."
The leading point to which all others are subordinate, and which may be regarded as the foundation of our author's chronological system, is, that Egypt possessed a historical King, Menes, (introductory to a whole series of reigning Dynasties, lasting down to the death of the younger Nectanebo, the last Pharaoh of the Egyptian race, A.c. 340,) from a period so far back as the year before Christ 3895; in other words, contemporaneous with Adam, the progenitor of the human race, and only a hundred and nine years after the creation of the world, according to the common but incorrect chronology of the margin of our Bibles. On these statements we shall bestow an observation or two further on; for the present, we confine ourselves to a representation of our author's design and method, that our readers may enter with us into a due appreciation of the difficulty of his task, and more worthily estimate the ingenuity and pains bestowed on its discharge.
By common consent of all the learned, the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt took place under the Eighteenth Dynasty of the sovereign families which had held rule in Egypt. Are the seventeen preceding Dynasties of Egyptian Kings to be considered as historical,-not fabulous? And can the fact of their existence, the deeds of their life, the orthography of their names, the dates of their reigns, be ascertained, with any thing like reliable precision, out of the conflicting lists of the historians, and the mutilated sculptures on the monuments? This question our author answers in the affirmative; and undertakes to show that the chronologies of Manetho, Eratosthenes, and Apollodorus (their seeming discrepancies notwithstanding) do mutually explain, harmonize with, and supplement, each other; while the carvings of Karnak and Abydos at once serve as a check to the historians,
and confirm their essential truth. As these writers and documents form the subject-matter with which the author deals, and are of perpetual recurrence in his treatise, we shall devote a few paragraphs to a description of them.
Of these the first and most important is Manetho, or Má-n'-thôth,—a Priest of the city of Sebennytus, on a branch of the Nile,-who lived in the time of Ptolemy Soter, son of Lagos, and also in that of Ptolemy II. Philadelphus. For his learning and parts he was held in high estimation at a learned Court, and had the rare merit, in the eyes of a Greek Sovereign, of being able to record the acquisitions of his priestly education and native Egyptian lore, in the language of the civilized world. Of his numerous works on religion, philosophy, history, and chronology, none survive, except a few extracts in some of the Greek writers, all of whom mention Manetho with the utmost respect. Eusebius of Cæsarea, Theodoret, Josephus, Diogenes Laërtius, Plutarch, and Porphyry, pronounce him a man of singular qualifications for the exposition of Egyptian history and manners, and regard his decision on these subjects as authoritative and final.
If the work of such an author had come down to us entire, or even any considerable portion of it, or indeed any portion at all, in the precise form and terms in which it was originally written, we should feel bound to pay great respect and attention to such an interesting ancient record. For although Manetho wrote more than two hundred years after Egypt had been subdued, and her power and institutions trampled into the dust, by the merciless Cambyses, he might notwithstanding have had access to some records of early Egyptian history, if any such existed, and to monuments yet in a tolerable state of preservation. We must not, however, imagine that this scribe lived under the Pharaohs, or that he was himself conversant with the history or antiquities of Ancient Egypt, except through remote and uncertain channels of communication.
The next leading writer upon whom the author relies, is the Greek Eratosthenes. From his position, education, and abilities, this writer is deserving of the highest respect. He, like Manetho, belongs to the distinguished era of the Ptolemies, having been born under Philadelphus, and promoted to the post of Director of the Alexandrian Library, probably under Euergetes, dying in the 146th Olympiad, when eighty or eighty-two years old; before Christ, about 196. With Callimachus he forms the pride of the Greek colony of Cyrene, in Africa, the place of his birth; "for," says Strabo, "if ever there was a man who combined skill in the art of poetry and grammar, common to him and to Callimachus, with philosophy and general learning, Eratosthenes was that man.' He is said to have reduced to a system the two sciences of geography and chronology, becoming thus a guide to such
distinguished geographers as Strabo and Ptolemy; and, in chronology, to Apollodorus and others. Southernmost Africa was not too remote to be embraced in his researches of the one kind, while the legendary history of Greece was not too shadowy to be included in the other. A man of such multifarious ability and rare opportunities might be expected to do much for the chronography of Egypt; and he did. At the command of the King, he compiled a list of early Egyptian Kings from monuments and other sources of the most reliable kind; and his labours are consequently cited as of perfect authenticity by Apollodorus and succeeding chronologers.
But the work of Eratosthenes does not survive in a separate form, any more than that of Manetho; so that we are indebted for the preservation of its most precious fragment to the industry and zeal of a Greck churchman of the ninth century, Georgius Syncellus, or the Chancellor, of the city of Byzantium. In his work on Chronography, he cites the labours of Eratosthenes, with a brief statement of their origin and nature; copying, however, it must be added, from the pages of Apollodorus, as the separate publication of Eratosthenes had by this time perished. So that the solitary fragment of this author which we possess, has come to us through a third hand.
The third independent authority on which Bunsen relies for the establishment of the great chronological facts, the truth of which he advocates, namely, this Apollodorus of Athens, was a chronographer by profession, and quoted as such by Clemens Alexandrinus, Diodorus the Sicilian, and Strabo. He continued the labours, and added a supplement to the calculations, of Eratosthenes, according to the testimony of the Byzantine Monk :— "Here ends the succession of the eight-and-thirty so-called Theban Kings of Egypt, whose names Eratosthenes obtained from the sacred scribes at Thebes, and translated from Egyptian into Greek. It began in the 2,900th year of the world, 124 years after the confusion of tongues, and ended in this the 3,975th. The same Apollodorus has handed down three-and-fifty Kings, immediate successors of the foregoing. We consider it, however, superfluous to transcribe their names."
So wrote Syncellus, in a marvellous slumber of the chronographic faculty; for those very names which, in the exercise of a critical judgment, he has seen fit to exclude from his canon, are just those which modern criticism is most anxious to recover, and which, without this independent testimony, we doubtfully recal from his own looser lists and from monumental inscriptions.
Besides the incidental notice just given, we shall more precisely indicate the spots where these well-springs of Egyptian history are to be found, thus furnishing a valuable clue to further research on the part of any reader disposed to pursue the thread of Egyptian inquiry; and at the same time intimating, in the scantiness of the materials amassed, and in their deposition