Manetho is one of the most famous figures of ancient Egypt. He was a high priest of Heliopolis cult, came from Sebennytos in the Nile Delta and lived during the 3rd century BC. When the first Ptolemies came to Egypt, they needed to familiarize with the ancient culture and understand it. It was Manetho, who told the Greek rulers about his country.
The birth of a new culture
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and freed it from the Persian domination in 332 BC. Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator and Alexander began to behave as a legitimate successor of the Pharaohs. He worshipped cults of ancient Egypt and accepted Egyptian royal protocol. After his death Egypt went over the administration of one of Alexander’s general – Ptolemy.
Ptolemy let crown himself as a Pharaoh and took the name Ptolemy I. Soter (Saviour). Although the capital was Memphis (Mennefer) at that time, he set the royal court in Alexandria, which became the new centre of the Hellenistic world in few decades. Manetho together with Greek Timotheus belonged to the closest advisers of Ptolemy I Soter.
After the death of Ptolemy I. Soter Ptolemy II. Philadelphus (Loving sister) came to the throne. He called the Egyptian high priests together every year to keep certain control over them and to get away from the influence of still powerful Egyptian priesthood.
Egyptian historian Manetho
The new rulers of Egypt had first to get to know the country before they could start with consolidating their power. So Ptolemy asked Manetho, an expert for hieroglyphic writing, to write down the history of Egypt with a summary of events from the first dynasties to the present. This was how the work Aegyptiaca written in Greek. Unfortunately the work didn’t preserved to these days
But we know that it was Manetho, who divided Egyptian history and rulers into dynasties and created a Greek transcription of Egyptian names of rulers. Manetho was a contemporary of Ptolemy I. Soter and Ptolemy II. Philadelphus and he was also a contemporary of another ancient historian of Near East - Berossus. Berossus was a priest of Marduk and he wrote his famous Fragments of Chaldaean History for Antiochus I. at about the same time.
Manetho also wrote a treatise about religion, which was intended to inform Hellenistic rulers. The pieces of work are Sacred Book, On Antiquity and Religion and others. Manetho is stated as the author of total of eight books including Aegyptiaca.
Manetho's "Aegyptiaca" (Zdroj: University of North Dakota)