Over the past few weeks I’ve talked quite a bit about the Alexandrian chronographers Panodorus and Annianus, and I have discussed some of the sources they used in compiling their influential discussion of world history, one that included the Fallen Angels as a key pivot point in antediluvian events. To that end, it’s interesting to note that the two authors seem to differ from their source material a bit. It is widely assumed, for example, that Panodorus relied on the so-called Book of Sothis, a forgery wrongly assigned to the Egyptian priest Manetho, for his Egyptian chronology, not least because this forgery has distinctly Judeo-Christian elements, identifying various pharaohs with their Biblical counterparts and identifying the first king of Egypt as Mizraim, the son of Ham, son of Noah. This is noteworthy primarily because Eusebius, in his Chronicle, makes that same identification, but does not attribute it to Manetho.
Eusebius wrote that all of the Egyptian claims for earlier kings before Mizraim were lies, and the surviving summary of the Book of Sothis seems to suggest that Egyptian history begins with Mizraim but that there had been a time before the Flood when Hermes studied the stars in Egypt. Too bad that too little survives to know what the book said about history before the Flood. We know from George Syncellus, though, that Panodorus “endeavours to demonstrate that the Egyptian books, which are quite at issue with our inspired and sacred books, may be reconciled with them, passing censure upon Eusebius” (Chronicle 42, anonymous 1855 trans.). In other words, he accepted the gods and demigods, who don’t appear in the Book of Sothis, and identified them with the Watchers of Enoch. In fact, Syncellus chides Panodorus for accepting such fictions as antediluvian kings of Egypt. “For neither had Babylon and Chaldea any kings before the Deluge, nor Egypt before Mizraim, nor, as I think, was it inhabited at all before that time.” In this, he echoes Augustine, who in his City of God (12.10) railed against the “highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed” (trans. Marcus Dods).
While Christians were divided on this issue, I thought it interesting to look into what the pagan Greeks and Romans had to say about the chronology of the world just before the time that our authors wrote. There is surprisingly little information about their efforts at chronology outside of what the Christian Fathers wrote of them, but one relevant piece of information comes from the Roman grammarian Censorinus, who composed a book called On Birthdays in 238 CE, just before Eusebius and Panodorus wrote. In chapter 18, he offers a very familiar discussion that echoes much of what we know from Christian and Islamic views of history:
There is also a year which Aristotle calls Perfect, rather than Great, which is formed by the revolution of the sun, of the moon and of the five planets, when they all come at the same time to the celestial point from which they started together. This year has a great winter called by the Greeks the Inundation and by the Latins The Deluge; it has also a summer which the Greeks call the Conflagration of the world. The world is supposed to have been by turns deluged or on fire at each of these epochs. According to the opinion of Aristarchus this year was composed of 2484 solar years; according to Arestes of Dyrrachium, it was 5552 years; according to Heraclitus and Linus it was 10,800; according to Dion it was 10,884; according to Orpheus it was 10,020 years; and according to Cassandrus it was 3,600,000 years. Others have thought it infinite; and that it would never recur. (trans. William Maude)
Many Classical authors believed that there had been fires and floods and would be again. Most of the authors that Censorinus references and the other Classical writers who wrote of this issue did not specifically attribute the fire and flood to a specific star cycle, though Plato implied as much in his Timaeus. The Babylonian priest Berossus had said much the same, and did attribute the claim to the stars:
Berosus, who thus interprets the Babylonian tradition, says that these events take place according to the course of the stars; and he affirms it so positively as to fix the time for the (general) conflagration of the world, and the Deluge. He maintains that all terrestrial things will be consumed when the planets, which now are traversing their different courses, shall all coincide in the sign of Cancer, and be so placed, that a straight line could pass directly through all their orbs. But the Flood will take place (he says) when the same conjunction of the planets shall take place in the constellation Capricorn. The summer is in the former constellation, the winter in the latter. (Seneca, Natural Questions 3.29, trans. I. P. Cory)
Thus, it seems that the claim moved from Babylon to Egypt via the Greeks and through astrology, and the Greek version found fertile fields in Late Antiquity among Christians like Panodorus who already believed in the Enochian Pillars of Wisdom and the prophecy, born of the Watchers or Adam or the angels, that fire would follow flood. This prophecy was probably a reflection of the Babylonian, like the Greek. However, Censorinus’ testimony shows us that by the period when our Christian authors wrote, the astrological interpretation of history had come to dominate, and as he indicates, the periods of that great year were likened to the seasons of the Mediterranean basin. There, winter is the wet season and summer the dry, and so this translated into flood and fire.
The growing tendency to see the stars as the arbiters of history seems to help connect the Book of Enoch to chronography, for Enoch’s corpus of literature has a lengthy astrological treatise. It seems that astrology helped to tie together formerly disparate traditions.
But what is perhaps of interest, albeit minor, is that Syncellus made use of a pagan chronicle, attributed to Eratosthenes, and recorded by Pseudo-Apollodorus, but which originated with Egyptian priests at Thebes. While its historiography agrees in no way with standard records, it is interesting to see that at least one Greek source listed a pharaoh (the eleventh Theban pharaoh) as Sirius, like the star, which was also know by the Hellenized Egyptian name Sothis. This is only important to me because the fragments of Abenephius, allegedly a medieval Jewish treatise on Egypt, refer to Khufu as “Sothis” and also identify Menes with Mizraim as the Book of Sothis and Eusebius had done. What connection there is, I can’t say, but it does show that there was at least the groundwork for identifying pharaohs with astrological events as far back as the Hellenistic period.
7/18/2017 11:51:19 am
A very good topic to reflect the thesis that Plato believed in the existence of Atlantis, and that his readers took it seriously (although we know today that it cannot be real in a literal sense -- but they in their time could not know this). It was usual in Plato's times to consider Egypt to be 10000 years old, and Atlantis is a story from Egypt.
7/18/2017 04:18:57 pm
Let's all get reacquainted with Mr. Franke, shall we?
7/18/2017 03:13:32 pm
Surely ancient scholars were guessing on these deep time ages of ancient history, knowing nothing at that point how astronomy actually worked, or even basic social history, or scientific history, which had not been invented yet.
7/18/2017 03:35:02 pm
Astronomy, famously, has been studied in detail from very early times. Ancient astronomers may not have understood what the lights in the sky were, or their spatial relationship to the Earth, but the sophistication of their observation and measurement system was beautiful, and at least sufficient to enable them to start thinking in terms of very long cycles.
7/18/2017 04:00:05 pm
No, Plato was most probably *not* guessing. Of course, he was wrong with his datings. Agreed. But Plato is not the man for guessing. It is more probable to listen to him what he himself says about his sources.
7/18/2017 04:34:46 pm
I look forward to the explanation of the distinction between "hearsay" and "what more or less all believed to be true".
7/18/2017 05:04:23 pm
Hello Americanegro ...
7/18/2017 06:33:10 pm
"The 10000 years stuff was more than hearsay in his times. It was what more or less all believed to be true."
7/19/2017 08:11:35 am
7/19/2017 08:37:04 am
@Americanegro, Tony S.
7/19/2017 10:54:37 am
7/19/2017 02:50:29 pm
7/19/2017 04:24:57 pm
"Cuneiform tablets ... nice. But they do not replace Egyptian records. The cuneiform writing did not start before Egyptian writing, or at least not long before." Ass. You might as well say Chinese records don't replace Venezuelan records.
7/19/2017 05:03:15 pm
7/19/2017 05:14:28 pm
"It is not important whether cuneiform still existed at Plato's times." Again, ass.
7/18/2017 06:28:20 pm
Nice article, Jason. It's interesting to see how the fire/flood myth and wisdom literature are brought together by astrology.
7/19/2017 01:27:28 am
Damn, so even the 'catastrophic planetary alignment' books of recent vintage are as recycled as the ancient aliens/ascended masters/nephilim material.
7/19/2017 08:04:30 am
"There is surprisingly little information outside of what the Christian Fathers wrote of them..."
7/19/2017 12:18:56 pm
Don't forget about Clement of Alexandria having Hyapatia Lee flayed alive.
7/19/2017 01:14:16 pm
Ah, yes. Those lovely early Christians, their maniacal intolerance of others, and their pathological hatred of all ancient knowledge.
7/19/2017 01:48:38 pm
You know when Homer Simpson says "I get jokes"? You're no Homer Simpson.
7/19/2017 03:15:59 pm
And you're no George Carlin. ;)
7/19/2017 04:01:16 pm
No, still on the right side of the dirt.
7/20/2017 11:05:56 am
Tony S, Hypatia was a philosopher who was murdered by a mob of Christians in Alexandria; Hyapatia Lee is an ex-porn star who claims that aliens brought cannabis to Native Americans.
7/23/2017 08:02:33 pm
Clement of Alexandria, ancient Christian theologian, (died c. 220,) Hypatia of Alexandria, ancient Pagan philosopher and mathematician, (died c. 415,) Hyapatia Lee, Native American porn star & spiritual leader. (born November 11, 1960). Your scholarship seems a bit suspect. Perhaps, a bit less arrogance might be appropriate.
7/20/2017 02:41:02 pm
Ah. It's been awhile since I kept tabs on porn stars. I took the intellectual route by default.
7/21/2017 01:17:19 am
Hey, I'll take any excuse to talk about adult films. =P
7/21/2017 12:49:41 pm
Hi Jason -
7/21/2017 01:23:23 pm
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