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MANETHO ° (third century b.c.e.), Greco-Egyptian historian. Manetho, native of Sebennytos, *Egypt, served as priest in Heliopolis. Thoroughly versed in Egyptian lore, he was also associated with the religious policy of the Ptolemaic dynasty, in particular with the introduction of the cult of Serapis. Manetho was the first Egyptian to give an account of the history of his country in Greek. A number of fragments from this work are preserved in Contra Apionem of *Josephus, who apparently did not draw from Manetho's work at first hand, but from extracts in Hellenistic Jewish historians. The fragments fall into two categories, the first of which describes the origin of the rule of the *Hyksos in Egypt (Jos., Apion 1:73ff.). Manetho (in accordance with later Egyptian accounts) writes that the Hyksos were a nation of alien conquerors who set fire to Egyptian towns, razed the temples of the gods, and treated the natives with cruelty. After their expulsion from Egypt, the Hyksos crossed the desert on their way to Syria, and in "the country called Judea" built a town, which they named Jerusalem. Although Manetho does not mention the Jews by name, he is clearly referring to them. Josephus himself distinguishes between the first group of fragments of Manetho's writings and the second (ibid., 1:228ff.), "where he had recourse to fables and current reports." In this second group of fragments it is stated that the Egyptian king Amenophis wished to be granted a vision of the gods and on the advice of his namesake, Amenophis son of Paapis, decided to purge the country of lepers and other polluted persons. He collected 80,000 people and sent them to work in the quarries east of the Nile. Afterward, acceding to their request, he assigned them Avaris, the ancient capital of the Hyksos, for settlement. Here they appointed as their leader one Osarsiph, a former priest of Heliopolis. Osarsiph decreed that his people should neither worship the gods nor abstain from the flesh of animals reverenced by the Egyptians, and cultivate close connections only with members of their own confederacy. Similarly, he sent representatives to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who had been expelled from Egypt. Osarsiph's people defeated the Egyptians in a concerted effort, their behavior to the inhabitants being far worse than that of the Hyksos in their day. Here Manetho identifies Osarsiph with Moses.

Some historians completely deny the authenticity of Manetho's entire Osarsiph story, while some object only to his identification of Moses with Osarsiph. However, there are no convincing reasons for doubting the intended identification. The Osarsiph story throughout has much in common with such Egyptian tales as the "Prophecy of the Lamb" or the "Potter's Oracle," which could easily be fused with anti-Jewish elements. The biblical account of the Exodus challenged the Egyptians to provide a suitable answer, and anti-Jewish feelings were common in Egypt even before its conquest by the Greeks. It is therefore unnecessary to postdate Manetho's account to the later Ptolemaic period. The descriptions of the historian *Hecataeus show how easily the story of the Exodus was assimilated into the tale of the expulsion of the strangers because of calamities visited on the Egyptians. Nor was Manetho necessarily the first to combine the story of the lepers with Moses and the Jews. A synthesis, similar though not completely identical, is encountered in subsequent writers. Nevertheless, Manetho may undoubtedly be considered a central figure in the emergence of the anti-Jewish polemical writings of Alexandrian-Greek literature.


V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959), 361–4; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 529–31; A. von Gutschmid, Kleine Schriften, 4 (1893), 419ff.; E. Meyer, Aegyptische Chronologie (1904), 71ff.; Meyer Gesch, 2 pt. 1 (1928), 420–6; F. Staehelin, Anti-semitismus des Altertums (1905), 9ff.; W. Helck, Untersuchungen zu Manetho und den aegyptischen Koenigslisten (1956), 38ff.

[Menahem Stern]