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KRONOS Vol IX, No. 2

Osarsiph

JAN N. SAMMER

The fragments of Manetho's Aegyptica that we possess mostly contain schematic king-lists preserved by chronographers - Eusebius, Hieronymus, Africanus. Only Josephus preserves a few passages from the narrative part of the work, among them the infamous story of Osarsiph. This somewhat confusing tale is not very promising material for a historical study; yet so threadbare are our primary literary sources for Egyptian history that the effort appears justified.

To briefly summarize Manetho's tale, a certain king named Amenophis ordered the expulsion of all lepers and unclean persons from Egypt. They settled on the site of the abandoned Hyksos capital of Avaris and chose as their leader a certain priest named Osarsiph. Soon they were joined by a host of foreigners with whose assistance they invaded Egypt, expelled King Amenophis, and sorely oppressed the population. They ruled in utter disregard of the country's civil and religious laws, "pillaged the temples and mutilated the images of the gods".

The historical period in which these events should be placed is clearly indicated by the prominence given to "Amenophis, son of Paapis, whose wisdom and knowledge of the future were regarded as marks of divinity". This can refer to no one except Amenhotep, son of Hapu, a contemporary of Amenhotep III of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and of his successor Akhnaton. Amenhotep, son of Hapu, lived almost until the end of Akhnaton's reign. In Manetho's tale, "Amenophis, son of Paapis" died shortly before the invasion of Osarsiph and the foreigners.

The end of the Eighteenth Dynasty must have been an enigmatic period in Manetho's time. Accurate historical information was lacking because Akhnaton had become a non-person shortly after his death. In the official chronicles upon which Manetho drew, Akhnaton was invariably referred to as "the criminal of Akhetaton". Manetho was in a position to know that in the time of Amenhotep, son of Hapu - a holy man revered throughout Egypt's history - a criminal individual had committed sacrilegious acts in Egypt's holiest shrines. The official records did not recognize him as a king. It is a fact that in later years Akhnaton's reign was counted as part of the reign of his father, Amenhotep III. The criminal was never named.

If, as seems likely, Manetho's Osarsiph is modeled on Akhnaton, where did Manetho derive this peculiar name for the villain? "Osarsiph" appears to be derived from "Osorkon", a name which makes its first appearance in Egyptian records during the Libyan Period. The ending is evidently a lame attempt on Manetho's part at implicating the Jews - "Joseph" being a common Jewish name. The story of Osarsiph may have been inspired in part by an event that took place in the reign of Takelot II, when Prince Osorkon was expelled from Thebes.(1) The career of Prince Osorkon as recorded on the Bubastite Gate at Thebes presents numerous parallels to Manetho's story of Osarsiph.

According to Manetho, the end of the oppressive rule of Osarsiph came when Sethos ("who is also called Ramses") in alliance with the Ethiopians marched down the Nile and expelled the foreigners. If one admits that Manetho's tale concerns the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the beginning of the Nineteenth, one also has to recognize that it inserts a period of foreign rule in between the two. As the first part of the usurper's name, "Osarsiph", resembles the royal name "Osorkon", borne by several kings of the Libyan period, it is by itself an indication of a Libyan interregnum between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties. This is in agreement with Velikovsky's reconstruction.(2) It should not be overlooked that Manetho's "Ramses" established his dynasty (the so-called Nineteenth) with Ethiopian help. The Ethiopians succeeded the Libyans as rulers of Egypt; in Velikovsky's scheme the Ethiopians were indeed the allies of the earliest kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

It may be worth mentioning the parallel account of Lysimachus, also cited by Josephus. In this version, the king who ordered the expulsion or extermination of the "unclean" was Bocchoris. Now the time when Bocchoris (Wahkare Bekenrinef) reigned is not in dispute: he belongs to the short-lived Twenty-fourth Dynasty that ruled over a part of the Delta in the second half of the eighth century, in the period when the rest of Egypt was under Libyan domination. In the conventional scheme the versions of Manetho and Lysimachus refer to two different periods, separated by five hundred years - the fourteenth and the eighth centuries. The revised chronology places the events in the same general time - the late ninth or eighth centuries B.C.

One other historical event may have influenced Manetho's tale the Assyrian occupation of Egypt. The foreigners coming from Asia and ruining the country have some resemblance to the Assyrian overlords whose destructive acts are so graphically described in the cuneiform texts. Like the Amarna kings, the Assyrian overlords were expunged from official history, but they lived on in popular legend.

REFERENCES

1. This is a view expressed by Velikovsky in his as yet unpublished manuscript The Assyrian Conquest. For Osorkon's inscription, see R. Caminos, The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon, Analecta Orientalia 37 (1958).

2. See I. Velikovsky, "From the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty to the Time of Ramses 11," KRONOS, Vol. III, No. 3 (1978), pp. 3-33.

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