Legends of Babylon and and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition


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[1] See Breasted, /Ancient Records/, I, p. 4, II, pp. 163 ff.

Drawn up as early as the Vth Dynasty, its historical summary proves
that from the beginning of the dynastic age onward a yearly record was
kept of the most important achievements of the reigning Pharaoh. In
this fragmentary but invaluable epitome, recording in outline much of
the history of the Old Kingdom,[1] some interesting parallels have
long been noted with Babylonian usage. The early system of time-
reckoning, for example, was the same in both countries, each year
being given an official title from the chief event that occurred in
it. And although in Babylonia we are still without material for
tracing the process by which this cumbrous method gave place to that
of reckoning by regnal years, the Palermo Stele demonstrates the way
in which the latter system was evolved in Egypt. For the events from
which the year was named came gradually to be confined to the fiscal
"numberings" of cattle and land. And when these, which at first had
taken place at comparatively long intervals, had become annual events,
the numbered sequence of their occurrence corresponded precisely to
the years of the king's reign. On the stele, during the dynastic
period, each regnal year is allotted its own space or rectangle,[2] arranged in horizontal sequence below the name and titles of the
ruling king.

[1] Op. cit., I, pp. 57 ff.

[2] The spaces are not strictly rectangles, as each is divided
vertically from the next by the Egyptian hieroglyph for "year".

The text, which is engraved on both sides of a great block of black
basalt, takes its name from the fact that the fragment hitherto known
has been preserved since 1877 at the Museum of Palermo. Five other
fragments of the text have now been published, of which one
undoubtedly belongs to the same monument as the Palermo fragment,
while the others may represent parts of one or more duplicate copies
of that famous text. One of the four Cairo fragments[1] was found by a
digger for /sebakh/ at Mitrahîneh (Memphis); the other three, which
were purchased from a dealer, are said to have come from Minieh, while
the fifth fragment, at University College, is also said to have come
from Upper Egypt,[2] though it was purchased by Professor Petrie while
at Memphis. These reports suggest that a number of duplicate copies
were engraved and set up in different Egyptian towns, and it is
possible that the whole of the text may eventually be recovered. The
choice of basalt for the records was obviously dictated by a desire
for their preservation, but it has had the contrary effect; for the
blocks of this hard and precious stone have been cut up and reused in
later times. The largest and most interesting of the new fragments has
evidently been employed as a door-sill, with the result that its
surface is much rubbed and parts of its text are unfortunately almost
undecipherable. We shall see that the earliest section of its record
has an important bearing on our knowledge of Egyptian predynastic
history and on the traditions of that remote period which have come
down to us from the history of Manetho.

[1] See Gautier, /Le Musée Égyptien/, III (1915), pp. 29 ff., pl. xxiv
ff., and Foucart, /Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie
Orientale/, XII, ii (1916), pp. 161 ff.; and cf. Gardiner, /Journ.
of Egypt. Arch./, III, pp. 143 ff., and Petrie, /Ancient Egypt/,
1916, Pt. III, pp. 114 ff.

[2] Cf. Petrie, op. cit., pp. 115, 120.

From the fragment of the stele preserved at Palermo we already knew
that its record went back beyond the Ist Dynasty into predynastic
times. For part of the top band of the inscription, which is there
preserved, contains nine names borne by kings of Lower Egypt or the
Delta, which, it had been conjectured, must follow the gods of Manetho
and precede the "Worshippers of Horus", the immediate predecessors of
the Egyptian dynasties.[1] But of contemporary rulers of Upper Egypt
we had hitherto no knowledge, since the supposed royal names
discovered at Abydos and assigned to the time of the "Worshippers of
Horus" are probably not royal names at all.[2] With the possible
exception of two very archaic slate palettes, the first historical
memorials recovered from the south do not date from an earlier period
than the beginning of the Ist Dynasty. The largest of the Cairo
fragments now helps us to fill in this gap in our knowledge.

[1] See Breasted, /Anc. Rec./, I, pp. 52, 57.

[2] Cf. Hall, /Ancient History of the Near East/, p. 99 f.

On the top of the new fragment[1] we meet the same band of rectangles
as at Palermo,[2] but here their upper portions are broken away, and
there only remains at the base of each of them the outlined figure of
a royal personage, seated in the same attitude as those on the Palermo
stone. The remarkable fact about these figures is that, with the
apparent exception of the third figure from the right,[3] each wears,
not the Crown of the North, as at Palermo, but the Crown of the South.
We have then to do with kings of Upper Egypt, not the Delta, and it is
no longer possible to suppose that the predynastic rulers of the
Palermo Stele were confined to those of Lower Egypt, as reflecting
northern tradition. Rulers of both halves of the country are
represented, and Monsieur Gautier has shown,[4] from data on the
reverse of the inscription, that the kings of the Delta were arranged
on the original stone before the rulers of the south who are outlined
upon our new fragment. Moreover, we have now recovered definite proof
that this band of the inscription is concerned with predynastic
Egyptian princes; for the cartouche of the king, whose years are
enumerated in the second band immediately below the kings of the
south, reads Athet, a name we may with certainty identify with
Athothes, the second successor of Menes, founder of the Ist Dynasty,
which is already given under the form Ateth in the Abydos List of
Kings.[5] It is thus quite certain that the first band of the
inscription relates to the earlier periods before the two halves of
the country were brought together under a single ruler.

[1] Cairo No. 1; see Gautier, /Mus. Égypt./, III, pl. xxiv f.

[2] In this upper band the spaces are true rectangles, being separated
by vertical lines, not by the hieroglyph for "year" as in the
lower bands; and each rectangle is assigned to a separate king,
and not, as in the other bands, to a year of a king's reign.

[3] The difference in the crown worn by this figure is probably only
apparent and not intentional; M. Foucart, after a careful
examination of the fragment, concludes that it is due to
subsequent damage or to an original defect in the stone; cf.
/Bulletin/, XII, ii, p. 162.

[4] Op. cit., p. 32 f.

[5] In Manetho's list he corresponds to {Kenkenos}, the second
successor of Menes according to both Africanus and Eusebius, who
assign the name Athothis to the second ruler of the dynasty only,
the Teta of the Abydos List. The form Athothes is preserved by
Eratosthenes for both of Menes' immediate successors.

Though the tradition of these remote times is here recorded on a
monument of the Vth Dynasty, there is no reason to doubt its general
accuracy, or to suppose that we are dealing with purely mythological
personages. It is perhaps possible, as Monsieur Foucart suggests, that
missing portions of the text may have carried the record back through
purely mythical periods to Ptah and the Creation. In that case we
should have, as we shall see, a striking parallel to early Sumerian
tradition. But in the first extant portions of the Palermo text we are
already in the realm of genuine tradition. The names preserved appear
to be those of individuals, not of mythological creations, and we may
assume that their owners really existed. For though the invention of
writing had not at that time been achieved, its place was probably
taken by oral tradition. We know that with certain tribes of Africa at
the present day, who possess no knowledge of writing, there are
functionaries charged with the duty of preserving tribal traditions,
who transmit orally to their successors a remembrance of past chiefs
and some details of events that occurred centuries before.[1] The
predynastic Egyptians may well have adopted similar means for
preserving a remembrance of their past history.

[1] M. Foucart illustrates this point by citing the case of the
Bushongos, who have in this way preserved a list of no less than a
hundred and twenty-one of their past kings; op. cit., p. 182, and
cf. Tordey and Joyce, "Les Bushongos", in /Annales du Musée du
Congo Belge/, sér. III, t. II, fasc. i (Brussels, 1911).

Moreover, the new text furnishes fresh proof of the general accuracy
of Manetho, even when dealing with traditions of this prehistoric age.
On the stele there is no definite indication that these two sets of
predynastic kings were contemporaneous rulers of Lower and Upper Egypt
respectively; and since elsewhere the lists assign a single sovereign
to each epoch, it has been suggested that we should regard them as
successive representatives of the legitimate kingdom.[1] Now Manetho,
after his dynasties of gods and demi-gods, states that thirty Memphite
kings reigned for 1,790 years, and were followed by ten Thinite kings
whose reigns covered a period of 350 years. Neglecting the figures as
obviously erroneous, we may well admit that the Greek historian here
alludes to our two pre-Menite dynasties. But the fact that he should
regard them as ruling consecutively does not preclude the other
alternative. The modern convention of arranging lines of
contemporaneous rulers in parallel columns had not been evolved in
antiquity, and without some such method of distinction contemporaneous
rulers, when enumerated in a list, can only be registered
consecutively. It would be natural to assume that, before the
unification of Egypt by the founder of the Ist Dynasty, the rulers of
North and South were independent princes, possessing no traditions of
a united throne on which any claim to hegemony could be based. On the
assumption that this was so, their arrangement in a consecutive series
would not have deceived their immediate successors. But it would
undoubtedly tend in course of time to obliterate the tradition of
their true order, which even at the period of the Vth Dynasty may have
been completely forgotten. Manetho would thus have introduced no
strange or novel confusion; and this explanation would of course apply
to other sections of his system where the dynasties he enumerates
appear to be too many for their period. But his reproduction of two
lines of predynastic rulers, supported as it now is by the early
evidence of the Palermo text, only serves to increase our confidence
in the general accuracy of his sources, while at the same time it
illustrates very effectively the way in which possible inaccuracies,
deduced from independent data, may have arisen in quite early times.

[1] Foucart, loc. cit.

In contrast to the dynasties of Manetho, those of Berossus are so
imperfectly preserved that they have never formed the basis of
Babylonian chronology.[1] But here too, in the chronological scheme, a
similar process of reduction has taken place. Certain dynasties,
recovered from native sources and at one time regarded as consecutive,
were proved to have been contemporaneous; and archaeological evidence
suggested that some of the great gaps, so freely assumed in the royal
sequence, had no right to be there. As a result, the succession of
known rulers was thrown into truer perspective, and such gaps as
remained were being partially filled by later discoveries. Among the
latter the most important find was that of an early list of kings,
recently published by Père Scheil[2] and subsequently purchased by the
British Museum shortly before the war. This had helped us to fill in
the gap between the famous Sargon of Akkad and the later dynasties,
but it did not carry us far beyond Sargon's own time. Our
archaeological evidence also comes suddenly to an end. Thus the
earliest picture we have hitherto obtained of the Sumerians has been
that of a race employing an advanced system of writing and possessed
of a knowledge of metal. We have found, in short, abundant remains of
a bronze-age culture, but no traces of preceding ages of development
such as meet us on early Egyptian sites. It was a natural inference
that the advent of the Sumerians in the Euphrates Valley was sudden,
and that they had brought their highly developed culture with them
from some region of Central or Southern Asia.

[1] While the evidence of Herodotus is extraordinarily valuable for
the details he gives of the civilizations of both Egypt and
Babylonia, and is especially full in the case of the former, it is
of little practical use for the chronology. In Egypt his report of
the early history is confused, and he hardly attempts one for
Babylonia. It is probable that on such subjects he sometimes
misunderstood his informants, the priests, whose traditions were
more accurately reproduced by the later native writers Manetho and
Berossus. For a detailed comparison of classical authorities in
relation to both countries, see Griffith in Hogarth's /Authority
and Archaeology/, pp. 161 ff.

[2] See /Comptes rendus/, 1911 (Oct.), pp. 606 ff., and /Rev.
d'Assyr./, IX (1912), p. 69.

The newly published Nippur documents will cause us to modify that
view. The lists of early kings were themselves drawn up under the
Dynasty of Nîsin in the twenty-second century B.C., and they give us
traces of possibly ten and at least eight other "kingdoms" before the
earliest dynasty of the known lists.[1] One of their novel features is
that they include summaries at the end, in which it is stated how
often a city or district enjoyed the privilege of being the seat of
supreme authority in Babylonia. The earliest of their sections lie
within the legendary period, and though in the third dynasty preserved
we begin to note signs of a firmer historical tradition, the great
break that then occurs in the text is at present only bridged by
titles of various "kingdoms" which the summaries give; a few even of
these are missing and the relative order of the rest is not assured.
But in spite of their imperfect state of preservation, these documents
are of great historical value and will furnish a framework for future
chronological schemes. Meanwhile we may attribute to some of the later
dynasties titles in complete agreement with Sumerian tradition. The
dynasty of Ur-Engur, for example, which preceded that of Nîsin,
becomes, if we like, the Third Dynasty of Ur. Another important fact
which strikes us after a scrutiny of the early royal names recovered
is that, while two or three are Semitic,[2] the great majority of
those borne by the earliest rulers of Kish, Erech, and Ur are as
obviously Sumerian.

[1] See Poebel, /Historical Texts/, pp. 73 ff. and /Historical and
Grammatical Texts/, pl. ii-iv, Nos. 2-5. The best preserved of the
lists is No. 2; Nos. 3 and 4 are comparatively small fragments;
and of No. 5 the obverse only is here published for the first
time, the contents of the reverse having been made known some
years ago by Hilprecht (cf. /Mathematical, Metrological, and
Chronological Tablets/, p. 46 f., pl. 30, No. 47). The fragments
belong to separate copies of the Sumerian dynastic record, and it
happens that the extant portions of their text in some places
cover the same period and are duplicates of one another.

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