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DIODORUS SICULUS, wrote in his LIBRARY OF HISTORY, that Egypt for more than four thousand seven hundred years was ruled over by kings of whom the majority were native Egyptians.

The Library of History of Diodorus Siculus (Book I, 69-98 (end))

Now it is maintained by the Egyptians that it was they who first discovered writing and the observation of the stars, who also discovered the basic principles of geometry and most of the arts, and established the best laws. 6 And the best proof of all this, they say, lies in the fact that Egypt for more than four thousand seven hundred years was ruled over by kings of whom the majority were native Egyptians, and that the land was the most prosperous of the whole inhabited world; for these things could never have been true of any people which did not enjoy most excellent customs and laws and the institutions which promote culture of every kind. 7 Now as for the stories invented by Herodotus and certain writers on Egyptian affairs, who deliberately preferred to the truth the telling of marvelous tales and the invention of myths for the delectation of their readers, these we shall omit, and we shall set forth only what appears in the written records of the priests of Egypt and has passed our careful scrutiny.

According to him, The ancient Egyptian believed that their pharaoh kings were divine:

The Library of History of Diodorus Siculus (Book I, 69-98 (end))

In general, they say, the Egyptians surpass all other peoples in showing gratitude for every benefaction, since they hold that the return of gratitude to benefactors is a very great resource in life; for it is clear that all men will want to bestow their benefactions preferably upon those who they see will most honourably treasure up the favours they bestow. 3 And it is apparently on these grounds that the Egyptians prostrate themselves before their kings and honour them as being in truth very gods, holding, on the one hand, that it was not without the influence of some divine providence that these men have attained to the supreme power, and feeling, also, that such as have the will and the strength to confer the greatest benefactions share in the divine nature.

Yet he wrote: "Darius alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime"

The Library of History of Diodorus Siculus (Book I, 69-98 (end))

4 A sixth man to concern himself with the laws of the Egyptians, it is said, was Darius the father of Xerxes; for he was incensed at the lawlessness which his predecessor, Cambyses, had shown in the treatment of the sanctuaries of Egypt, and aspired to live a life of virtue and of piety towards the gods. 5 Indeed he associated with the priests of Egypt themselves, and took part with them in the study of theology and of the events recorded in their sacred books; and when he learned from these books about the greatness of soul of the ancient kings and about their goodwill towards their subjects he imitated their manner of life. For this reason he was the object of such great honour that he alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime, while at his death he was accorded equal honours with the ancient kings of Egypt who had ruled in strictest accord with the laws.

What does he mean by saying : "he alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime"? Was he saying that the Egyptian for more than four thousand seven hundred years never addressed the kings of whom the majority were native Egyptians, as gods, until Darius came?

Isn't that a contradiction of what he already said about the ancient Egyptians believing their kings to be divine and prostrate themselves before them?

Maybe he means that Darius alone of all the Persian kings was addressed as a god by the Ancient Egyptians in his lifetime?

Also, by saying: "he alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime" Does he mean that all other kings were addressed as gods by the Egyptians only after their lifetime?

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It's really a problem with the translation. In Egyptian religion, pharaohs only become truly divine after death, when they journey to the afterlife and consume their ancestral gods (cf. the "Cannibal Hymn"). On earth, they are still technically human.

When Diodorus says that the Egyptians "honour them as being in truth very gods", he is making a statement regarding the difference between what the Egyptians do and what they say they do. The Greek for this phrase is τιμᾶν ὡς πρὸς ἀλήθειαν ὄντας θεούς (timān hōs alētheian ontas theous). That πρὸς ἀλήθειαν (pros alētheian) is a stock idiom in Greek meaning "truthfully" or "in actuality", as opposed to appearances or what's purported.

So, what the line actually means is something like, "they practically worship them as gods (even if they technically don't think they become gods until they're dead).

Now, why Darius is the exception is unclear. There's a bias against Cambyses in Egyptian sources1 that did not extend to Darius. Cambyses was particularly hostile to Egyptian religion, but Darius promoted religious tolerance and pluralism. Perhaps Diodorus is echoing propaganda or other exaggerations in the text that exalt Darius, who was keen on issuing his legitimacy after his usurpation of the throne. It's not quite clear.

1. See e.g. Garthwaite 2008, The Persians, p. 32 for an overview.

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  • thank you. but, doesn't he say, in the first quote: that the Egyptians practically DID worship their kings as gods, even before the kings die? it wasn't that the Egyptians waited till the kings die, then they title them "gods" and worship them. but they already tiltled them "gods" and worshiped them even before they die. isn't it?
    – Ezra2020
    Jun 30, 2023 at 23:04
  • @Ezra2020 I think you're getting hung up on the wording here. Would it be clearer if I translated it like this: "They basically worship them like gods..." Diodorus does not say the Egyptians literally think the Pharaohs are gods, but there's little difference in practice.
    – cmw
    Jun 30, 2023 at 23:10
  • If "They basically worship the kings like gods during their life" then his phrase " Darius alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime" doesn't make sense! if he compares him with all the kings that preceded him. only should make sense if he compare him with the other persian kings who never had as good reputation among Egyptians as him. isn't it?
    – Ezra2020
    Jun 30, 2023 at 23:17
  • @Ezra2020 Let's do an analogy: "He had so much authority that he practically ran the business." vs. "He bought out the company and officially ran the business." That's what's going on here, too, at least with Diodorus' language. That "like gods" does not mean "literally as gods."
    – cmw
    Jun 30, 2023 at 23:26

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