Mythological narrations from Egypt, recorded by Diodorus Siculus; an analysis

In this post we present and originally analyze Egyptian Mythological narrations, recorded during the first century B.C. by Diodorus Siculus.


Now as to who were the first kings we are in no position to speak on our own authority, nor do we give assent to those historians who profess to know; for it is impossible that the discovery of writing was of so early a date as to have been contemporary with the first kings. But if a man should concede even this last point, it still seems evident that writers of history are as a class a quite recent appearance in the life of mankind. 3 Again, with respect to the antiquity of the human race, not only do Greeks put forth their claims but many of the barbarians as well, all holding that it is they who were autochthonous and the first of all men to discover the things which are of use in life, and that it was the events in their own history which were the earliest to have been held worthy of record. 4 So far as we are concerned, however, we shall not make the attempt to determine with precision the antiquity of each nation or what is the race whose nations are prior in point of time to the rest and by how many years, but we shall record summarily, keeping due proportion in our account, what each nation has to say concerning its antiquity and the early events in its history. 5 The first peoples which we shall discuss will be the barbarians, not that we consider them to be earlier than the Greeks, as Ephorus has said, but because we wish to set forth most of the facts about them at the outset, in order that we may not, by beginning with the various accounts given by the Greeks, have to interpolate in the different narrations of their early history any event connected with another people. 6 And since Egypt is the country where mythology places the origin of the gods, where the earliest observations of the stars are said to have been made, and where, furthermore, many noteworthy deeds of great men are recorded, we shall begin our history with the events connected with Egypt.

[NovoScriptorium: Humans must have had shorts of hierarchy in their societies since very deep Antiquity, like all mammals do, by Nature. Therefore, some short of leader or ‘king’ cannot be at all excluded in the deepest of our Pre-History. Diodorus appears to share our present belief that Writing in Human History appeared very recently, comparatively speaking. Hence, Humanity’s recorded stories -and even more, properly recorded as ‘History’- should be even more recent  than its first attempts of Writing. Then he informs us that almost every different people had a bold and proud claim of their past, especially in comparison to ‘others’. This is a very sensitive point in our opinion. The Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times were characterised by a vast and widespread syncretism. Let’s not forget that even though, in the majority of time, things were very civilized and beneficial for all, Greeks and Romans were conquerors and the upper-class (for many years, and for sure during the times Diodorus writes) of the new societies. Hence, as a natural phenomenon, the native populations wanted to ‘prove their worth’ and ‘have a say’ in these multi-ethnic societies. Antagonism, as it was impossible to be brought in the fields of battle due to the vast superiority of Greek or Roman armies, was moved to the field of ‘Writing’, mainly through the invention of narrations presented as ‘Old Tradition’. ‘Tradition’ whose only purpose was to bring up a ‘patriotic’ feeling of a supposed ‘great past’ before these ‘present days of weakness and submission’. Especially for Egypt which we are to examine in this article, it is quite obvious that the majority of the stories are products of a suppressed patriotism, copying, mainly, the ancient Greek Tradition, reversing/altering narrations and changing the main names from Greek to Egyptian. Why we are so sure about this? Well, archaeological evidence of pre-Hellenistic and pre-Roman Egypt has not provided us with any such stories of ‘Egyptian global grandeur’. Almost all ethnic groups reacted in a similar way back then – quite naturally, in our opinion. What is of some importance is the testimony of Diodorus that Ephorus (c. 400 – 330 BC), an ancient Greek historian and writer, believed that the barbarians were earlier than the Greeks -whatever this really meant. The vast majority of Greek writers, before the syncretic years, did not share such views at all. Diodorus himself wrote about Ephorus:

(Library, Book I, 39 13) “However, under no circumstances would any man look for strict accuracy in Ephorus, when he sees that in many matters he has paid little regard for the truth.”]


In general, he says that if in the flood which occurred in the time of Deucalion most living things were destroyed, it is probable that the inhabitants of southern Egypt survived rather than any others, since their country is rainless for the most part; or if, as some maintain, the destruction of living things was complete and the earth then brought forth again new forms of animals, nevertheless, even on such a supposition the first genesis of living things fittingly attaches to this country. 5 For when the moisture from the abundant rains, which fell among other peoples, was mingled with the intense heat which prevails in Egypt itself, it is reasonable to suppose that the air became very well tempered for the first generation of all living things.

(NovoScriptorium: This excerpt, if compared to the Greek narration, it does have a strong similarity.

Diodorus in his Fifth Book writes:

57 1 The Heliadae, besides having shown themselves superior to all other men, likewise surpassed them in learning and especially in astrology; and they introduced many new practices in seamanship and established the division of the day into hours. 2 The most highly endowed of them by nature was Tenages, who was slain by his brothers because of their envy of him; but when their treacherous act became known, all who had had a hand in the murder took to flight. Of their number Macar came to Lesbos, and Candalus to Cos; and Actis, sailing off to Egypt, founded there the city men call Heliopolis, naming it after his father; and it was from him that the Egyptians learned the laws of astrology. 3 But when at a later time there came a flood among the Greeks and the majority of mankind perished by reason of the abundance of rain, it came to pass that all written monuments were also destroyed in the same manner as mankind; 4 and this is the reason why the Egyptians, seizing the favourable occasion, appropriated to themselves the knowledge of astrology, and why, since the Greeks, because of their ignorance, no longer laid any claim to writing, the belief prevailed that the Egyptians were the first men to effect the discovery of the stars. 5 Likewise the Athenians, although they were the founders of the city in Egypt men call Saïs, suffered from the same ignorance because of the flood. 

This is a parallel indication that when the ‘Cataclysm of Deukalion’ took place, Egypt was one of the places in the wider region that someone could survive. A global devastation doesn’t show up in our Palaeoclimatic records, at least in Humanity’s presence. We do know though of a number of localized or wider catastrophes in many places on Earth,  explained by sea-rising levels due to glacial melting, while there are indications of a few asteroid impacts, too. It appears rather impossible to accurately link the recorded stories of ‘Cataclysms’ from various ancient peoples to actual Palaeoclimatic periods. We can only make assumptions really. The simplistic story in the end of the excerpt cannot stand serious criticism. On the other hand, it could be perceived as an indication of the ancient beliefs that Life is linked with Water and Heat (the Sun), which is substantially true)


For the Egyptians consider Oceanus to be their river Nile, on which also their gods were born; since, they say, Egypt is the only country in the whole inhabited world where there are many cities which were founded by the first gods, such as Zeus, Helius, Hermes, Apollo, Pan, Eileithyia, and many more.

(NovoScriptorium: Archeological evidence shows that these cities were inhabited during the well known ancient Egyptian History (The, apparently, oldest habitation of Heliopolis, dates back to the Predynastic Period, c. 6000-3150 BC) instead of being ‘founded by the first gods’. Unless the ‘first gods’ (Men of great deeds and benefactions) of Egypt indeed ‘appeared’ somehow during those Predynastic years. What is very interesting to discuss is the belief that Nile was…the Ocean. This view clearly lacks any scientific spirit at all. The name ‘Oceanus’ (‘Ωκεανός’) was used by Homer in the same way we use it today, to denote a very wide area covered by Sea. The etymology of the name is very interesting. It derives from the words ‘Ωκύς’ ( =rapid/fast) + νέω ( =sail, float). This type of Sea demands from us to use ‘fast ships’. This has nothing to do with a river, of course)


13 1 And besides these there are other gods, they say, who were terrestrial, having once been mortals, but who, by reason of their sagacity and the good services which they rendered to all men, attained immortality, some of them having even been kings in Egypt. 2 Their names, when translated, are in some cases the same as those of the celestial gods, while others have a distinct appellation, such as Helius, Cronus, and Rhea, and also the Zeus who is called Ammon by some, and besides these Hera and Hephaestus, also Hestia, and, finally, Hermes. Helius was the first king of the Egyptians, his name being the same as that of the heavenly star. 3 Some of the priests, however, say that Hephaestus was their first king, since he was the discoverer of fire and received the rule because of this service to mankind; for once, when a tree on the mountains had been struck by lightning and the forest near by was ablaze, Hephaestus went up to it, for it was winter-time, and greatly enjoyed the heat; as the fire died down he kept adding fuel to it, and while keeping the fire going in this way he invited the rest of mankind to enjoy the advantage which came from it.

(NovoScriptorium: The deification of Men due to their great deeds and benefactions appears to have been a Tradition shared by the ancient Egyptian Civilization. It is sometimes confusing that Diodorus uses the names of the ‘gods’ in their Greek translations and careful attention is needed on this. The story on ‘Hephaestus’ is an indication of how important the discovery of fire was understood to have been for all peoples)


14 1 Osiris was the first, they record, to make mankind give up cannibalism; for after Isis had discovered the fruit of both wheat and barley which grew wild over the land along with the other plants but was still unknown to man, and Osiris had also devised the cultivation of these fruits, all men were glad to change their food, both because of the pleasing nature of the newly-discovered grains and because it seemed to their advantage to refrain from their butchery of one another.

(NovoScriptorium: The core of the myth indicates that at some distant era cannibalistic practices took place among Men (or among the Egyptians, if we localize it). There is indeed archaeological evidence that suggests such a practice among early human societies. Then, a woman called Isis discovered that wild wheat and barley could be eaten by Humans, and Osiris devised the -obviously, systematic- cultivation of these fruits. The core of the myth has a good chance of being true. Egypt, because of the Nile, indeed was and is a place of great fertility, ideal for Agriculture. It is, hence, very likely, in our opinion, that there had been such a transition from a savage and primitive way of living to, intially Cultivation, and, at some later point, Domestication of wheat and barley in Egypt.

This could be counted as one more myth from Antiquity that rejects the modern belief that every seed and animal had been initially domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. So far we have analysed the Greek myth of Triptolemus, the myths of the Atlantians -from West Africa, where Morocco is nowadays-  and now this myth from Egypt.  If we get rid of the ‘ethnic’ part of the narrations -which includes debates on ‘priority’ and the such- and place them together, instead of separate, as a Mediterranean peoples’ narration, then what we seem to receive is records from this very vivid part of Earth on several aspects of the true -as evidenced by modern Sciences- past of Man. Records which are rather common for all ancient peoples but appear to us blurred due to the ‘ethnic’ prism that had been put on them throughout the years, especially during the syncretic years. Last but not least, let’s check something else.

Isis and Osiris were indeed counted among the ‘first gods’. Then we know that the ‘first gods’ built the ancient cities like Heliopolis -one of the oldest. By the 6th millennium, the Nile society was already engaged in organized agriculture and the construction of large buildings. Therefore, we might be allowed to claim that the 6th millennium appears as a valid candidate for the described transitional era from Cultivation to Domestication and Agriculture. Probably a bit earlier, too. Along the Nile in the 12th millennium, an Upper Paleolithic grain-grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had replaced the culture of hunting, fishing, and hunter-gatherers using stone tools. Evidence also indicates human habitation and cattle herding in the southwestern corner of Egypt near the Sudan border before the 8th millennium BC.  We must not forget that we have to deal with a myth here, i.e. there appears to be a core of truth but not ‘scientific accuracy’ in the narration. Therefore, if we take into account all the evidence and compare them to the myth, it would be reasonable to hypothesize on an abandonnment of cannibalistic practices near the first recorded years of Cultivation, that is, during the 12th millennium. Then, after an evolutionary process of another 6,000 years, Men in Egypt, ‘the first gods’, not only managed to achieve Domestication and Agriculture but started building ‘large buildings’ and cities, too.)


17 1 Of Osiris they say that, being of a beneficent turn of mind, and eager for glory, he gathered together a great army, with the intention of visiting all the inhabited earth and teaching the race of men how to cultivate the vine and sow wheat and barley; 2 for he supposed that if he made men give up their savagery and adopt a gentle manner of life he would receive immortal honours because of the magnitude of his benefactions. And this did in fact take place, since not only the men of his time who received his gift, but all succeeding generations as well, because of the delight which they take in the foods which were discovered, have honoured those who introduced them as gods most illustrious.

(NovoScriptorium: No such thing as ‘an Egyptian expedition to all the inhabited earth‘ has ever been documented elsewhere rather than in claims like this one here. Neither archaeological evidence suggests anything even close to this. In our opinion, this is just an imitation -for all the reasons we explained in the beginning- of analogous Greek myths. We may though keep from this excerpt the importance that vine, wheat and barley had and have in Man’s every-day life in the Mediterranean basin)


4 The river in the earliest period bore the name Oceanê, which in Greek is Oceanus; then because of this flood, they say, it was called Aëtus, and still later it was known as Aegyptus after a former king of the land. And the poet also adds his testimony to this when he writes:

On the river Aegyptus my curvéd ships I stayed.

For it is at Thonis, as it is called, which in early times was the trading-port of Egypt, that the river empties into the sea. Its last name and that which the river now bears it received from the former king Nileus.

(NovoScriptorium: It is frustrating that Diodorus does not provide us with the names of the river Nile in the Egyptian language, but, instead, in Greek. The Egyptians called their land Kemet (meaning ‘black soil’) or Misr (meaning ‘country’). The name of the river Nile in the ancient Egyptian language was Hapy or Iteru (meaning ‘river’). There is nothing even close to ‘Greek’ in these names. Therefore, we must conclude that the Greeks had changed the river’s name several times and not the Egyptians themselves. We ignore the exact reason for this. But there is a clue from the Greek Tradition on this that could be proved helpful. There are many recorded cases of toponyms and main names that were different in the ‘era of the gods’. For instance, the Moon was called ‘Σελήνη’ by ‘the gods’, while called ‘Μήνη’ by Men. Taking into account all that we have presented and discussed so far in our analyses, the changing of names most likely denotes a change of era, a different Human epoch. It could be an  indirect way to tell us that there have been four distinct Human eras in ancient Egypt)


5 Now when Osiris arrived at the borders of Ethiopia, he curbed the river by dykes on both banks, so that at flood-time it might not form stagnant pools over the land to its detriment, but that the flood-water might be let upon the countryside, in a gentle flow as it might be needed, through gates which he had built. 6 After this he continued his march through Arabia along the shore of the Red Sea as far as India and the limits of the inhabited world. 7 He also founded not a few cities in India, one of which he named Nysa, wishing to leave there a memorial of that city in Egypt where he had been reared. He also planted ivy in the Indian Nysa, and throughout India and those countries which border upon it the plant to this day is still to be found only in this region. 8 And many other signs of his stay he left in that country, which have led the Indians of a later time to lay claim to the god and say that he was by birth a native of India.

(NovoScriptorium: There is absolutely no archeological evidence or a reference from the supposed ‘conquered and civilised’ peoples, that Egyptians, of any time, have done expeditions like this. Equally, there is absolutely no archaeological evidence or a reference from the supposed ‘conquered and civilised’ peoples for a similar Indian expedition towards the West. There is though a reference from the historian Arrian, in his work The Anabasis of Alexander, Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἀνάβασις, that points to another direction as to who -if anyone at all- had done such an expedition in the distant past of Man:


In this country, lying between the rivers Cophen and Indus, which was traversed by Alexander, the city of is said to be situated. The report is, that its foundation was the work of Dionysus, who built it after he had subjugated the Indians. But it is impossible to determine who this Dionysus was, and at what time, or from what quarter he led an army against the Indians. For I am unable to decide whether the Theban Dionysus, starting from Thebes or from the Lydian Tmolus came into India at the head of an army, and after traversing the territories of so many warlike nations, unknown to the Greeks of that time, forcibly subjugated none of them except that of the Indians. But I do not think we ought to make a minute examination of the legends which were promulgated in ancient times about the divinity; for things which are not credible to the man who examines them according to the rule of probability, do not appear to be wholly incredible, if one adds the divine agency to the story. When Alexander came to Nysa the citizens sent out to him their president, whose name was Acuphis, accompanied by thirty of their most distinguished men as envoys, to entreat Alexander to leave their city free for the sake of the god. The envoys entered Alexander’s tent and found him seated in his armour still covered with dust from the journey, with his helmet on his head, and holding his spear in his hand. When they beheld the sight they were struck with astonishment, and falling to the earth remained silent a long time. But when Alexander caused them to rise, and bade them be of good courage, then at length Acuphis began thus to speak: “The Nysaeans beseech thee, O king, out of respect for Dionysus, to allow them to remain free and independent; for when Dionysus had subjugated the nation of the Indians, and was returning to the Grecian sea, he founded this city from the soldiers who had become unfit for military service, and were under his inspiration as Bacchanals, so that it might be a monument both of his wandering and of his victory, to men of after times; just as thou also hast founded Alexandria near mount Caucasus, and another Alexandria in the country of the Egyptians. Many other cities thou hast already founded, and others thou wilt found hereafter, in the course of time, inasmuch as thou hast achieved more exploits than Dionysus. The god indeed called the city Nysa, and the land Nysaea after his nurse Nysa. The mountain also which is near the city he named Meros (i.e. thigh), because, according to the legend, he grew in the thigh of Zeus. From that time we inhabit Nysa, a free city, and we ourselves are independent, conducting our government with constitutional order. And let this be to thee a proof that our city owes its foundation to Dionysus; for ivy, which does not grow in the rest of the country of India, grows among us.”

All this was very pleasant to Alexander to hear; for he wished that the legend about the wandering of Dionysus should be believed, as well as that Nysa owed its foundation to that deity, since he had himself reached the place where Dionysus came, and had even advanced beyond the limits of the latter’s march. He also thought that the Macedonians would not decline still to share his labours if he advanced further, from a desire to surpass the achievements of Dionysus. He therefore granted the inhabitants of Nysa the privilege of remaining free and independent; and when he inquired about their laws, he commended them because the government was in the hands of the aristocracy. He required them to send 300 of their horsemen to accompany him, and to select and send 100 of the aristocrats who presided over the government of the State, who also were 300 in number. He ordered Acuphis to make the selection, and appointed him governor of the land of Nysaea. When Acuphis heard this, he is said to have smiled at the speech; whereupon Alexander asked him why he laughed. Acuphis replied: “How, O king, could a single city deprived of 100 of its good men be still well governed? But if thou carest for the welfare of the Nysaeans, lead with thee the 300 horsemen, and still more than that number if thou wishest: but instead of the hundred of the best men whom thou orderest me to select lead with thee double the number of the others who are bad, so that when thou comest here again the city may appear in the same good order in which it now is.” By these remarks he persuaded Alexander; for he thought he was speaking with prudence. So he ordered them to send the horsemen to accompany him, but no longer demanded the hundred select men, nor indeed others in their stead. But he commanded Acuphis to send his own son and his daughter’s son to accompany him. He was now seized with a strong desire of seeing the place where the Nysaeans boasted to have certain memorials of Dionysus. So he went to Mount Merus with the Companion cavalry and the foot guard, and saw the mountain, which was quite covered with ivy and laurel and groves thickly shaded with all sorts of timber, and on it were chases of all kinds of wild animals. The Macedonians were delighted at seeing the ivy, as they had not seen any for a long time; for in the land of the Indians there was no ivy, even where they had vines. They eagerly made garlands of it, and crowned themselves with them, as they were, singing hymns in honour of Dionysus, and invoking the deity by his various names. Alexander there offered sacrifice to Dionysus, and feasted in company with his companions. Some authors have also stated, but I do not know if any one will believe it, that many of the distinguished Macedonians in attendance upon him, having crowned themselves with ivy, while they were engaged in the invocation of the deity, were seized with the inspiration of Dionysus, uttered cries of Evoi in honour of the god, and acted as Bacchanals.

Whoever asks if there is archaeological evidence or references from the ‘conquered and civilised’ peoples about this, well, Arrian, indirectly provides us with beliefs of the local people of Alexander’s time. As for archaeological evidence, we do find a good number of Greek elements in Asia but they date more or less after Alexander’s expeditions. In our opinion, it shouldn’t be excluded a priori that some kind of similar expeditions took place at some distant past. But, as we emphasized before, the whole thing will be more lighted if the ‘ethnic’ parameter is omitted. A movement of Humans from the Mediterranean towards other directions, either due to climatic reasons, catastrophes, curiosity or even chance, in our opinion, should not be excluded at some distant past. The Ancient Tradition seems to insist a lot on this.)


20 1 Osiris also took an interest in hunting elephants, and everywhere left behind him inscribed pillars telling of his campaign. And he visited all the other nations of Asia as well and crossed into Europe at the Hellespont. 2 In Thrace he slew Lycurgus, the king of the barbarians, who opposed his undertaking, and Maron, who was now old, he left there to supervise the culture of the plants which he introduced into that land and caused him to found a city to bear his name, which he called Maroneia. 3 Macedon his son, moreover, he left as king of Macedonia, which was named after him, while to Triptolemus he assigned the care of agriculture in Attica. Finally, Osiris in this way visited all the inhabited world and advanced community life by the introduction of the fruits which are most easily cultivated. 4 And if any country did not admit of the growing of vine he introduced the drink prepared from barley, which is little inferior to wine in aroma and strength. 5 On his return to Egypt he brought with him the very greatest presents from every quarter and by reason of the magnitude of his benefactions received the gift of immortality with the approval of all men and honour equal to that offered to the gods of heaven.

(NovoScriptorium: Again, this looks as another ‘patriotic response’ to the Greek Tradition, claiming that the Egyptians not only campaigned towards all the inhabited Earth, but also that the Greek peninsula itself was under their control at some point in the distant past. There is absolutely no archaeological or other evidence to support such theories. We may only keep from this one the fact that Humans, since very deep Antiquity, found pleasure in alcoholic beverages. And they were producing both wine and beer. As of ‘Thrace’, ‘Lycurgus’ and ‘Maron’, there is nothing ‘barbaric’ in these names, as they are all -etymologically- Greek.)


22 1 Isis, they say, after the death of Osiris took a vow never to marry another man, and passed the remainder of her life reigning over the land with complete respect for the law and surpassing all sovereigns in benefactions to her subjects. 2 And like her husband she also, when she passed from among men, received immortal honours and was buried near Memphis, where her shrine is pointed out to this day in the temple-area of Hephaestus.

(NovoScriptorium: One interesting thing to note is that, at such a distant era, people had no objection at all to be ruled by a woman. Second thing to catch our attention is the reference about the existence of Law. The existence of Law implies an organized State)


23 1 The number of years from Osiris and Isis, they say, to the reign of Alexander, who founded the city which bears his name in Egypt, is over ten thousand, but, according to other writers, a little less than twenty-three thousand.

(24 2)…from the Trojan War less than twelve hundred years have passed

26 1 The priests of the Egyptians, reckoning the time from the reign of Helius to the crossing of Alexander into Asia, say that it was in round numbers twenty-three thousand years. 2 And, as their legends say, the most ancient of the gods ruled more than twelve hundred years and the later ones not less than three hundred. 3 But since this great number of years surpasses belief, some men would maintain that in early times, before the movement of the sun had as yet been recognized, it was customary to reckon the year by the lunar cycle. 4 Consequently, since the year consisted of thirty days, it was not impossible that some men lived twelve hundred years; for in our own time, when our year consists of twelve months, not a few men live over one hundred years. 5 A similar explanation they also give regarding those who are supposed to have reigned for three hundred years; for at their time, namely, the year was composed of the four months which comprise the seasons of each year, that is, spring, summer, and winter; and it is for this reason that among some of the Greeks the years are called “seasons” (horoi) and that their yearly records are given the name “horographs.”

(NovoScriptorium: This seems like a decent explanation on the ‘calculating years’ problem. Interestingly, the time distance from Diodorus epoch (1st century BC) from the Trojan War, according to the Egyptians, roughly coincides with the recent astronomical dating of the event. But if this true, then either they did mean solar years, or they were confused themselves, some times referring to lunar and some times referring to solar years. We tend to the latter explanation)


28 1 Now the Egyptians say that also after these events a great number of colonies were spread from Egypt over all the inhabited world. To Babylon, for instance, colonists were led by Belus, who was held to be the son of Poseidon and Libya; and after establishing himself on the Euphrates river he appointed priests, called Chaldaeans by the Babylonians, who were exempt from taxation and free from every kind of service to the state, as are the priests of Egypt; and they also make observations of the stars, following the example of the Egyptian priests, physicists, and astrologers. 2 They say also that those who set forth with Danaus, likewise from Egypt, settled what is practically the oldest city in Greece, Argos, and that the nation of the Colchi in Pontus and that of the Jews, which lies between Arabia and Syria, were founded as colonies by certain emigrants from their country; 3 and this is the reason why it is a long-established institution among these two peoples to circumcise their male children, the custom having been brought over from Egypt.

(NovoScriptorium: Egypt never had colonies as such and, definetly not over ‘all the inhabited world’. It is another ‘patriotic response’ to their conquerors. The peak of the ancient Egyptian Empire can be seen in the following map:


But in this excerpt they do not claim only things Greek as theirs. They claim the Chaldaeans as…Egyptians -which is not even close to reality as well. They reverse the Greek myth of Danaus, Epaphus and Aegyptus; and instead of Egypt being colonized and ruled by Greeks at some unknown past, they claim the opposite for the heart of the ancient Greek Tradition, Argos. They claim that the Colchi in Pontus (a nation that used to live where the modern Georgian coast in the Black Sea is) were…Egyptians. Finally, they claim that the Jews were…Egyptians)


4 Even the Athenians, they say, are colonists from Saïs in Egypt, and they undertake to offer proofs of such a relationship; for the Athenians are the only Greeks who call their city “Asty,” a name brought over from the city Asty in Egypt. Furthermore, their body politic had the same classification and division of the people as found in Egypt, where the citizens have been divided into three orders: 5 the first Athenian class consisted of the “eupatrids,” as they were called, being those who were such as had received the best education and were held worthy of the highest honour, as is the case with the priests of Egypt; the second was that of the “geomoroi,” who were expected to possess arms and to serve in defence of the state, like those in Egypt who are known as husbandmen and supply the warriors; and the last class was reckoned to be that of the “demiurgoi,” who practise the mechanical arts and render only the most menial services to the state, this class among the Egyptians having a similar function.

6 Moreover, certain of the rulers of Athens were originally Egyptians, they say. Petes, for instance, the father of that Menestheus who took part in the expedition against Troy, having clearly been an Egyptian, later obtained citizenship at Athens and the kingship. . . . 7 He was of double form, and yet the Athenians are unable from their own point of view to give the true explanation of this nature of his, although it is patent to all that it was because of his double citizenship, Greek and barbarian, that he was held to be of double form, that is, part animal and part man.

29 1 In the same way, they continue, Erechtheus also, who was by birth an Egyptian, became king of Athens, and in proof of this they offer the following considerations. Once when there was a great drought, as is generally agreed, which extended over practically all the inhabited earth except Egypt because of the peculiar character of that country, and there followed a destruction both of crops and of men in great numbers, Erechtheus, through his racial connection with Egypt, brought from there to Athens a great supply of grain, and in return those who had enjoyed this aid made their benefactor king. 2 After he had secured the throne he instituted the initiatory rites of Demeter in Eleusis and established the mysteries, transferring their ritual from Egypt. And the tradition that an advent of the goddess into Attica also took place at that time is reasonable, since it was then that the fruits which are named after her were brought to Athens, and this is why it was thought that the discovery of the seed had been made again, as though Demeter had bestowed the gift. 3 And the Athenians on their part agree that it was in the reign of Erechtheus, when a lack of rain had wiped out the crops, that Demeter came to them with the gift of grain. Furthermore, the initiatory rites and mysteries of this goddess were instituted at Eleusis at that time. 4 And their sacrifices as well as their ancient ceremonies are observed by the Athenians in the same way as by the Egyptians; for the Eumolpidae were derived from the priests of Egypt and the Ceryces from the pastophoroi. They are also the only Greeks who swear by Isis, and they closely resemble the Egyptians in both their appearance and manners. 5 By many other statements like these, spoken more out of a love for glory than with regard for the truth, as I see the matter, they claim Athens as a colony of theirs because of the fame of that city.

In general, the Egyptians say that their ancestors sent forth numerous colonies to many parts of the inhabited world, the pre-eminence of their former kings and their excessive population; 6 but since they offer no precise proof whatsoever for these statements, and since no historian worthy of credence testifies in their support, we have not thought that their accounts merited recording.

(NovoScriptorium: Let’s highlight the interesting parts of the above delirium.

There is not even the slightest suspicion in the Greek Tradition about a supposed Egyptian origin of the Athenians. On the contrary, in, for instance, Plato’s Critias we read:

[21e]“In the Delta of Egypt,” said Critias, “where, at its head, the stream of the Nile parts in two, there is a certain district called the Saitic. The chief city in this district is Sais—the home of King Amasis,—the founder of which, they say, is a goddess whose Egyptian name is Neith, and in Greek, as they assert, Athena. These people profess to be great lovers of Athens and in a measure akin to our people here. And Solon said that when he travelled there he was held in great esteem amongst them; moreover, when he was questioning such of their priests[22a] as were most versed in ancient lore about their early history, he discovered that neither he himself nor any other Greek knew anything at all, one might say, about such matters.

[23d]Upon hearing this, Solon said that he marvelled, and with the utmost eagerness requested the priest to recount for him in order and exactly all the facts about those citizens of old. The priest then said: “I begrudge you not the story, Solon; nay, I will tell it, both for your own sake and that of your city, and most of all for the sake of the Goddess who has adopted for her own both your land and this of ours, and has nurtured and trained them,—yours first by the space of a thousand years, when she had received the seed of you from Ge[23e] and Hephaestus, and after that ours. 

Archaeological evidence also does not support a supposed Egyptian colony anywhere -and at anytime- in the Aegean. The Egyptian cultural elements in Athens of the 1st century B.C. can be explained through the strong connection of Ptolemaic Egypt with Athens.

Let’s also see what the Athenians themselves claimed through the words of Isocrates (Ισοκράτης), in the era before Alexander’s expedition:

[24] for we did not become dwellers in this land by driving others out of it, nor by finding it uninhabited, nor by coming together here a motley horde composed of many races; but we are of a lineage so noble and so pure that throughout our history we have continued in possession of the very land which gave us birth, since we are sprung from its very soil and are able to address our city by the very names which we apply to our nearest kin; [25] for we alone of all the Hellenes have the right to call our city at once nurse and fatherland and mother.

Isocrates leaves no doubt as to what was the official belief on the origins of the  population in ancient Athens.

Going back to Diodorus, if we get rid of the ‘patriotic’ elements of the text, there is a possibility to find some core truth, as always. We have here a description of a ‘great drought‘ which was followed by ‘a destruction both of crops and of men in great numbers’

We assume that this drought refers to the Mediterranean region, most likely the Eastern Mediterranean region. In theory, if we could have a list of Paleoclimatic (and arhcaeological) evidence on droughts in this specific region, then it would be probable to make further assumptions about the time this drought took place, combining all the available elements from the ancient text(s).

Athenians indeed agreed that: “it was in the reign of Erechtheus, when a lack of rain had wiped out the crops, that Demeter came to them with the gift of grain. Furthermore, the initiatory rites and mysteries of this goddess were instituted at Eleusis at that time“. If we take this for granted and then combine it with what we know about Triptolemus, we are led to the conclusion that this drought must have taken place at some point during the (Early) Neolithic Age.

Then, in the end, we read Diodorus conclusion on the Egyptian stories which doesn’t differ much from ours)

(Source: “The Library of History”, Book I, by Diodorus Siculus, Loeb Classical Library)


Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos



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