Joseph's granaries

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Joseph's granaries is a designation for the Egyptian pyramids often used by early travelers to the region. The notion of a granary (horreum, θησαυρός) being associated with the Hebrew patriarch Joseph derives from the account in Genesis 41, where "he gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities ... And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured" (vv. 48-9, RSV). "So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses (horrea Vulgate, σιτοβολῶνας LXX)[1] and sold to the Egyptians" (v. 56). Similarly, in the Quran: "(Joseph) said: 'Give me charge of the granaries (خَزَائِنِ) of the land. I shall husband them wisely'" (12:55).[2] The designation was used throughout the Middle Ages and only really abated in the Renaissance when travel to the region became easier and closer investigation revealed the implausibility of the structures serving as storehouses for foodstuffs.

Joseph, Overseer of Pharaoh's Granaries by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1874)

Classical antiquityEdit

Pyramids at Giza as rendered by David Roberts (1846)

The great antiquity of the Pyramids caused their true nature to become increasingly obscured. As the Egyptian scholar Abu Ja'far al-Idrisi (died 1251), the author of the oldest known extensive study of the Pyramids, puts it: "The nation that built it lay destroyed, it has no successor to carry the truth of its stories from father to son, as sons of other nations carry from their fathers what they love and cherish among their stories."[3] As a result, the oldest discussion of the Pyramids that has survived is from the Greek historian Herodotus, who visited them soon after 450 BCE. He describes "the underground chambers on the hill whereon the pyramids stand", which "the king meant to be burial places for himself".[4] Several later classical authors, such as Diodorus Siculus, who visited Egypt c. 60 BCE, also recorded that the "kings built the pyramids to serve as their tombs";[5] and similarly Strabo, who made his visit in 25 BCE, explicitly noted that they were "the tombs of kings";[6] yet in 77 CE the well-read natural historian Pliny the Elder simply says they were "a superfluous and foolish display of wealth", built by the kings so as "to avoid providing funds for their successors or for rivals who wished to plot against them, or else to keep the common folk occupied."[7]

Early Middle AgesEdit

View across the Nile by David Roberts (1846)

Early Christian commentators on Genesis never make the association of Joseph's granaries with the Pyramids in Egypt; nor do Jewish commentators. Jean-Antoine Letronne (1787-1848), the successor to Jean-François Champollion at the Collège de France, thought the ultimate source was the Jewish community at Alexandria: "As for the idea that Joseph was the author of these granaries, it is due, I think, to the Alexandrian Jews, who showed themselves always very jealous of linking the history of Egypt to theirs, and to have the Hebrews play a role in this country."[8] However, the first actual evidence of the use of the phrase is found in the early travel narratives of pilgrims to the Holy Land. The female Christian traveler Egeria records that on her visit between 381 and 384 CE, "in the twelve-mile stretch between Memphis and Babylonia [= Old Cairo] are many pyramids, which Joseph made in order to store corn."[9] Ten years later the usage is confirmed in the anonymous travelogue of seven monks that set out from Jerusalem to visit the famous ascetics in Egypt, wherein they report that they "saw Joseph's granaries, where he stored grain in biblical times."[10] This late 4th-century usage is further confirmed in a geographical treatise of Julius Honorius, perhaps written as early as 376 CE,[11] which explains that the Pyramids were called the "granaries of Joseph" (horrea Ioseph).[12] This reference from Julius is important, for it indicates that the identification was starting to spread out from pilgrims' travelogues.

Beginning in the early 6th century, commentators on the orations of Gregory of Nazianzus record that it was known there were competing explanations for the purpose of the Pyramids.[13] For example, Pseudo-Nonnus writes: "The Pyramids are themselves worthy of viewing, and were built in Egypt at great expense. The Christians say they are the granaries of Joseph, but the Greeks, among whom is Herodotus, that they are the tombs of certain kings."[14] In the 8th century Bishop Cosmas of Jerusalem repeats this almost verbatim;[15] and also, less closely, Nicetas of Heraclea in the later 11th century.[16] In the late 6th century Gregory of Tours recorded the kind of reasoning that made the idea seem plausible to those who had never traveled to the sites themselves: in Babylonia "Joseph built wonderful granaries of squared stone and rubble. They are wide at the base and narrow at the top in order that the wheat might be cast into them through a tiny opening."[17]

View of the Pyramids by Olfert Dapper (1670)

The term continued to be used by pilgrims: the Piacenza Pilgrim in c. 570, who notes "they are still full";[18] Epiphanius the Monk (using Ancient Greek: ἀποθῆκαι, romanizedapothēcae, lit.'storehouses') in c. 750;[19] and the Irish monk Dicuil in his report of the travels of a fellow monk named Fidelis in 762-65. Fidelis says that "after a long voyage on the Nile they saw in the distance the Granaries made by Saint Joseph. There were seven of them, to match the number of the years of plenty; they looked like mountains, four in one place and three in another."[20] A hundred years later (870) the French monk Bernard the Wise records that his party "went aboard a Nile boat and after sailing for six days reached the city of Babylonia in Egypt. Pharaoh once reigned there, and during his reign Joseph built seven granaries which remain standing to this day."[21]

An important expedition had visited the Pyramids several years earlier (832), led by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mūn, and had explored the interior of the Pyramid of Khufu, finding (breaking into) a new passageway.[22] Accompanying him on this adventure was the Syrian archbishop of Antioch Dionysius of Tell Mahre, who left some important observations: "In Egypt we also beheld those edifices mentioned by the Theologian [Gregory of Nazianzus] in one of his discourses. They are not, as some believe, the granaries of Joseph. Rather, they are marvelous shrines built over the tombs of ancient kings, and in any event oblique and solid, not hollow and empty. They have no interior, and none has a door. We noticed a fissure in one of them and ascertained that it is approximately 50 cubits deep. Evidently the stones [in this place] had been solidly packed, before being broken by people who wanted to see whether the pyramids were solid."[23] However, despite this solid refutation of the notion, "this knowledge fell on deaf ears."[24] The great French orientalist Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838) cited the account of Dionysius as proof that the belief "was common in the East in the 9th century."[25] Over a hundred years later, the Arab traveler Ibn Hawqal (d. 988) wrote an influential book on geography, wherein he spoke of the Pyramids at Giza: "Some report that they are tombs; but this is false." Rather, the builders "had foreseen the flood and knew that this cataclysm would destroy everything on the surface of the earth, with the exception of what could be stored in the safety of such buildings; and they hid their treasures and their wealth therein; then came the flood. When the waters dried up, all that was in the two Pyramids passed to Bansar son of Mizraim, son of Ham, son of Noah. Some kings, centuries later, made them their granaries."[26] Al-Muqaddasi (d. 991), a great contemporary geographer, confirms the identification: "Varying accounts have been given me about both structures [the two great pyramids], some saying that they are both talismans, others that they were the granaries of Joseph; others say no, rather, they are their burial grounds."[27]


Etymologicum Magnum manuscript (c. 1300)

There were additional reasons that may have made the notion of the Pyramids being granaries seem plausible to people in the past. First, there was the murky issue of the etymology of the word pyramid (Ancient Greek: πυραμίς, romanizedpyramis, lit.'pyramid'). Writing in c. 390 CE, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus explained that "the figure pyramid has that name among geometers because it narrows into a cone after the manner of fire, which in our language is called πῦρ."[28] Later lexicographers would derive it alternately from the Greek word for cereal grain (Ancient Greek: πυρός, romanizedpyros, lit.'wheat'). Stephen of Byzantium c. 550 CE wrote: "They were called 'pyramids' (πυραμἰδες) from the grain (πυρῶν), which the king collected there."[29] This derivation was repeated in the mid-12th century by the compiler of the Etymologicum Magnum, the largest Byzantine lexicon, with the addition that these royal granaries (ὡρεῖα) "were constructed by Joseph";[30] and it was still repeated 400 years later by Johann Scapula in his Lexicon Graeco-Latinum (1580), which was still in print in the 19th century.[31]

Modern Egyptologists for the most part have endorsed an etymological relationship to cereal grain, but in a different aspect. As I. E. S. Edwards explains: "In the absence of any more convincing explanation, it seems better to regard pyramis [πυραμίς] as a purely Greek word which had no etymological connection with the Egyptian language. An exactly similar word exists with the meaning 'wheaten cake', and the suggestion has been made that the early Greeks used this humorously as a name for the Egyptian monuments, possibly because, when seen from a distance, they resembled large cakes."[32]

Another interesting etymological conundrum that may have some relevance here is the origin of the Arabic word for pyramid, haram (هرم).[33] Years ago, when noting the identification of the Pyramids with granaries, Charles Clermont-Ganneau speculated: "It is not impossible that this strange legend had originated in a kind of pun on ahrâm (أهرام), pyramids, and ahrà (أهراء), barns/granaries," noting that it is a "word that does not appear to have Arabic ties and is perhaps simply the Latin horreum."[34] More recent scholarship has suggested that it was derived from the South Arabic word haram meaning "a tall building."[35]

Joseph as SerapisEdit

Marble bust of Serapis wearing a modius decorated with "ears of corn"

The second reason that the notion may have seemed plausible was that Joseph was often identified with the Egyptian God Serapis. The first account of this identification comes from the late 2nd century from either Melito of Sardis c. 170 CE, if his Apology is to be accepted as authentic,[36] or from Tertullian in 197 CE. However, it is Tertullian that goes on for some length in explaining the identification: "They called him Serapis, from the turban which adorned his head. The peck-like shape of this turban marks the memory of his corn-provisioning; whilst evidence is given that the care of the supplies was all on his head, by the very ears of corn which embellish the border of the head-dress."[37] The identification then persisted in Christian tradition with Firmicus Maternus c. 350, adding an etymological argument that "because he was the great-grandson of Sara, the nonagenarian by whom Abraham through God's favor had begotten a son, he was called in Greek Serapis, i.e. Σάρρας παῖς ["Sara's son"]";[38] next was Rufinus in 402;[39] then just a few years later Paulinus of Nola puts into verse another more expansive explanation: "Thus he [Satan] fashioned holy Joseph into Serapis, hiding that revered name beneath a name of death; yet all the time the statue's shape revealed the faith, for a bushel overtops its head, the reason being that in ancient days corn was collected at the inspiration of the Lord before a famine, and with the grain from Egypt's fruitful breast Joseph fed countless peoples and filled up the lean years with years of plenty."[40]

The identification was also known in the Jewish tradition, for the Babylonian talmud preserves a saying most likely also from the late 2nd century, this time relying on Semitic etymology: "Serapis [סר אפּיס‎] alludes to Joseph who became a prince [sar סר‎ (= שַׂר‎)] and appeased [meiphis מפּיס‎] the whole world."[41] G. Mussies thinks that the reason for the identification was "that Sarapis and Joseph were both, though each in his own way, suppliers of corn, Sarapis because he was practically identical with the Nile, the cause of the annual irrigation and thus fertility itself," and Joseph because of his overseeing the storage of corn during the years of plenty.[42] He argues that it is clear "it was Jews who first propagated the identity of Joseph and Sarapis," rather than the Egyptians.[43] At any rate, the identification persisted for hundreds of years, as is evidenced by its inclusion in the Suda in the late 10th century.[44]

High and Late Middle AgesEdit

Joseph Gathering Corn (San Marco, c. 1275)

The period of the crusades brought a new wave of adventurers, some of whom would visit the sites in Egypt. The first we know of in this period was not a Christian, but rather the greatest Jewish traveler of the Middle Ages, Benjamin of Tudela. He recorded in his travel narrative of 1160-73 that "the storehouses of Joseph of blessed memory are to be found in great numbers in many places. They are built of lime and stone and are exceedingly strong."[45] By and large, Arabic writers discussed other theories for the origin of the Pyramids,[46] though the great world geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi (d. 1166) left an interesting comment concerning the Pyramids: "It is said that these monuments are the tombs of kings, and that before being used for this purpose, they were used as granaries."[47] The German Dominican Burchard of Mount Sion traveled about the region in 1274-85, entering Egypt on 8 September 1284.[48] He later produced a very popular account, which reported: "Five leagues from Babylon are lofty triangular pyramids, which are believed to have been Joseph's granaries."[49] Some forty years later (1307–21) the Venetian Marino Sanudo Torsello wrote a book on crusading – Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis – and included Burchard's statement, though without attribution.[50]

Joseph Gathering Corn (Histoire ancienne manuscript, c. 1375)

The fall of the Crusader Kingdom in 1291 and the ruin of Acre had a significant impact on navigation in the Mediterranean and the travel of Europeans to the Middle East. Italian merchants, especially the Venetians, established new outlets in Alexandria and as a result it became the starting point for travelers to the Holy Land.[51] Around this time artists included the image of grain being stored in the Pyramids as part of the Joseph cycle that adorns the mosaics in the atrium of St Mark's Basilica (San Marco) in Venice. In the third Joseph cupola in the north narthex there are two scenes that show Joseph in front of five pyramids.[52] In the one usually titled "Joseph Gathering Corn" we see Joseph standing at the left giving orders and one of the men involved in the task standing inside an opening in the pyramid collecting the sheaves. Most of the images in the Genesis mosaics at San Marco derive from the so-called Cotton Genesis, one of the earliest illustrated Christian manuscripts.[53] "However there is one very basic difference," writes Weitzmann, "in Cotton Genesis the corn is deposited in granaries that have the shape of beehives, the traditional form of an Egyptian granary, whereas in San Marco the granaries are depicted in the shape of pyramids, of which three in front might suggest a knowledge of the pyramids of Gizeh." An identical image of the pyramids does appear in Cotton Genesis in a different scene, "Joseph Selling Corn," where "they are not meant to be granaries but form the background to indicate, topographically, that this scene takes place in Egypt."[54] As to why the Venetian mosaicist has used the pyramids in both scenes, Dale thinks it "may suggest a fresh inspiration from the experience of Venetian merchants who regularly traveled to Egypt."[55] There is also a late 14th-century copy of the Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César that contains similar imagery, and like the San Marco mosaics, "replaces the beehive granaries of Cotton Genesis with pyramidal buildings borrowed from the scene of Joseph Selling Corn."[56]

Map of the Nile from Breydenbach, Peregrinatio (1486)

The 14th century saw a wave of travelers who left records of their travels. In 1323 the Anglo-Irish friar Simon Fitzsimon (Symon Semeonis) visited the area with his friend Hugh (who died in Cairo) and observed "the granaries (granaria) of Joseph mentioned in Genesis. They are three in number, of which two are of such size and height that at a distance they look more like the summits of mountains than repositories of corn."[57] In 1349 the Tuscan monk Niccolò Poggibonsi noted that "three miles outside Babylon there are granaries, which are called Pharaoh's granaries. Joseph, the son of Jacob, had them built." He continues: "three are outside Babylon, which are so big that coming from Alexandria they can be seen 60 miles away. The said seven granaries are diamond shaped and within is a large house, above and below of porphyry; and within there is a deep pit. And many a time we threw in stones and did not hear them strike the bottom and it looked very dark, and we left at once through fear, having our little torch quenched from the wind, which came from there."[58] The year 1374 saw thirteen Tuscan travelers make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, three of which left accounts: Leonardo Frescobaldi, Simone Sigoli, and Giorgio Gucci. Frescobaldi makes a brief mention of "the granaries which Joseph had made at the time of Pharaoh king of Egypt, in the days of the famine."[59] Sigoli offers a fuller and more literary account, noting that "Joseph found means to have from every side as much corn as he could, and quickly he collected a very great number of bushels, and this grain he put in these granaries. And they are among the biggest edifices to be seen: and they are three and distant one from another a stones throw; and they are built of very great long thick stones and in shape like a diamond; the base is very wide and the summit pointed ... and each has four sides, and the corn was placed inside: just imagine the very great amount amount that inside would take."[60] Gucci appears to have reflected a bit more on what he saw: "These granaries, which are of giant structure, are said to have been made by Pharaoh at the time of the great famine at the time of Joseph, though to see them they appear to be works for perpetual memory rather than granaries.[61] In 1392 Thomas Brygg, an Englishman who later became mayor of Bordeaux, noted the "famous granaries of wondrous size which Joseph, the son of Jacob, had built in the days of Pharaoh."[62] In 1395 the French lord Ogier d'Anglure described the challenges of getting to the foot of the Pyramids and the commotion of workers stripping the smooth facing: "the great stones falling like so many vine plants that these masons were chopping down." "It should be explained," he continues, "that these granaries are called Pharaoh's Granaries; and the pharaoh had them built in the time when Joseph, the son of Jacob, was governor over all the kingdom of Egypt ... As for describing the inside of these granaries, we could hardly speak of it, since the entrance from above is walled up and there are enormous tombs in front of it ... [for] the entrances were closed up because people had been using the places to make counterfeit money."[63]

In a rather different notice written in 1350, Ludolph of Sudheim, a parish priest from Westphalia, correctly refers to the Pyramids as sepulchers, and says "these tombs are called by the natives Pharaoh's granaries."[64] Some twenty years earlier the German Dominican William of Boldensele had traveled about Egypt and left (1336) a very critical account of the notion: "the simple people of the country say that these were Pharaoh's barns and granaries in which Joseph had the wheat kept in the time of the great famine mentioned in the Bible ... But this cannot be true at all, for no place for putting in the wheat can be found there, and there is in inside these columns no empty space where anything can be placed. For from top to bottom they are closed and made entirely of huge stones well joined to one another—except that there is a very small door quite high above the ground and a very narrow and very dark little passage through which one descends there for a certain distance, but it is not all wide enough to put grain in, as those of the country say and believe."[65] The German knight's memoir would provide the framework, and many of the details, for one of the most popular books of the late Middle Ages, the Travels of John Mandeville (1356). The supposed author most likely did not visit the locales in his narrative, and in the case of his account of the Pyramids, he actually reverses the conclusions and reasoning of William: "these are Joseph's Granaries, which he had made to store the wheat for hard times ... Some say that they are tombs of the great lords of antiquity, but that is not true, for the common word through the whole country near and far is that they are Joseph's Granaries, and they have it written thus in their chronicles. On the other hand, if they were tombs, they would not be empty inside, nor would they have entrances for going inside, nor are tombs ever made of such a large size and such a height—which is why it is not to be believed that they are tombs."[66]

Joseph's granaries in the German version of Mandeville's Travels (1481)

During the 15th century opinion was more evenly split as to the nature of the Pyramids. An anonymous traveler in 1420 speaks of going "to see the most marvelous fourteen granaries of Pharaoh, five or six miles distant from Cairo." He continues, "you must cross the river Nile that flows from the Earthly Paradise ... and from the top [of the granary] there is a good view of the very large city of Cairo. But there, around these granaries, there is such a great colony of rats that it sometimes seems as if they cover the entire ground."[67] In 1436 the Spaniard Pero Tafur visited and left a rather fanciful account: "We went to see the Granaries of Joseph, which are three leagues from the mouth of the river, in the desert. Although they say that there are many more further inland, there are only three here, two great ones, and one lesser one. They are diamond shaped, with the apex raised, and they must be much higher than the Great Tower at Seville. As one enters through the door there is a wall joined to another, making a circular stairway which reaches to the top, with many windows. And the beasts, when they are laden, climb up and are unloaded through those windows, and so they fill the granaries to the top. Certainly I never thought that there was such a great building in the world to-day, nor have I seen the like before or since."[68] Another curious interpretation was offered by Georges Lengherand, Mayor of Mons, who visited in 1486: "These granaries are very marvelous buildings and there used to be fourteen and now there are only six or seven. It is impossible to enter, and they are all of dressed stone ... and are in the manner of a hill ... And while we were there, we found four wolves asleep on the stones ... And around these granaries are small little chambers, several cut into the rock; I do not know what could be their use, unless at the time theses granaries were in existence there were guards in these little chambers."[69] The German traveler Arnold von Harff paid a visit in 1497 and left a fairly objective report: "We went across the Nile to these three Kassa Pharaonis. As we approached near these three towers we saw that they were very strange buildings ... We climbed up outside for three full hours to the top, which is about two roods square. From there we saw far out over the whole of the land of Egypt, and over the country to Alexandria and the western sea ... They say that King Pharaoh caused the towers to be built during the lean years, and kept them full of corn. That is why they are called the Kassa Pharaonis. But I could find no entrance. Some say that they are the tombs of the old kings of Egypt."[70]

There were also a number of travelers that saw difficulties with viewing the Pyramids as granaries. Anselmo Adorno traveled from Bruges in 1470 and gives a number of arguments against the prevailing view: "Facing Babylon, beyond the Nile, towards the desert that lies between Egypt and Africa, stand several ancient monuments pyramid-shaped, two of which are edifices constructed of very large stones, which are of considerable grandeur and amazing height. Some say that these were the granaries of Pharaoh, who had them filled with wheat during the seven years of great fertility, in anticipation of the seven lean years. They have not appeared to us to be granaries, but rather the tombs of some ancient personages, because we see no place where one could store, retrieve or preserve a crop for a year. Indeed, from top to bottom they are made of enormous stone well joined to each other, leaving them a little door at a good height above the ground, and a narrow and obscure path by which one descends to a room, not seen anywhere in the interior to be wide and spacious."[71] For Felix Fabri, a Dominican friar from Ulm, who visited in 1483, the notion of them being granaries was the "mistaken opinion of the unlearned common people."[72] Traveling with Fabri was Bernhard of Breidenbach, a wealthy canon of the cathedral at Mainz, who was also quite critical of the notion of granaries: "On the other side of the Nile we saw many pyramids, which long ago the kings of Egypt had erected over their tombs, of which the common people say are the granaries or storehouses that were built there by Joseph in order to store grain. However, this is clearly false, for these pyramids are not hollow inside."[73]


By the 16th century most visitors who left accounts argue against the notion that the pyramids were originally granaries constructed by the patriarch Joseph, if they mention it at all.[74] Many of the visitors inspected the ruins rather closely, often entering the great Pyramid, rather than simply viewing them from a distance. The French traveler Greffin Affagart (Seigneur de Courteilles) visited the Pyramids in 1533 and noted that "some call [them] the granaries of Pharaoh, but this is wrong because they are not hollow on the inside, rather they are sepulchers of some kings of Egypt."[75] The French explorer and naturalist Pierre Belon of Mans, a careful observer, records in 1546 that the great Pyramid "was the sepulcher of the King of Egypt."[76] Another French explorer André Thevet, who visited three years later writes: "The Jews have told me many times that they find in their Chronicles that these Pyramids were the support of the granaries of Pharaoh: that is not likely ... they are sepulchers of kings as appears from Herodotus ... since I saw in one pyramid a great stone of marble carved in the manner of a sepulcher."[77]

Egyptian granaries at Thebes.

Finally, in the 17th century, John Greaves, professor of astronomy at Oxford, published the first truly scientific work on the Pyramids, Pyramidographia (1646).[78] He cites many of the ancient authors mentioned above, and dismisses the erroneous etymologies yielding notions of "receptacles and granaries," and calls attention to the obvious fact "that this figure is most improper for such a purpose, a Pyramid being the least capacious of any regular mathematical body, the straitness and fewness of the rooms within (the rest of the building being one solid and intire fabric of stone) do utterly over-throw this conjecture."[79] No longer could the notion be held credibly, though for over a millennium it had reigned supreme among European travelers.

Egyptian granariesEdit

Ancient Egypt had one of the most successful and stable agricultural economies of the ancient world, and had both a system and facilities for grain storage: larger granaries were attached to temples and palaces, while smaller ones were dispersed within the town.[80] There were essentially two types, one with a circular base, the other with a square or rectangular one. The circular granaries were shaped like beehives and were some 5 meters high and 2–3 meters in diameter. The grain was added through a door in the top by men standing on ladders, and was removed as needed from a similar door near the bottom. Very often these beehive storehouses were in groups of five or six and placed in a walled enclosure. The rectangular style of granary was constructed on similar principles, and though the side walls sloped gradually towards the top, where there was a flat roof, they were never of a true pyramidal form.[81]


  1. ^ The Masoretic Text is defective here and is missing the noun, having only (lit., "all that was in them"). Many, including the editor of the Hebrew text, would restore the text to אוצרות‎ ("storehouses"); see J. Skinner, Genesis, ICC, 472.
  2. ^ Trans. N. J. Dawood (Penguin Books 1999).
  3. ^ Anwār ... al-ahrām; ed. Haarmann 1991, 105; trans. Mallat 2007, 23.
  4. ^ Historiae 2.124; ed. and trans. A. D. Godley, LCL 117:426-27.
  5. ^ Bibliotheca historica 1.64.4; ed. and trans. C. H. Oldfather, LCL 279:218-19.
  6. ^ Geographica 17.1.33; ed. and trans. H. L. Jones, LCL 267:90-91.
  7. ^ Naturalis historia 36.75; ed. and trans. D. E. Eichholz, LCL 419:58-59; cf. Aristotle, Politics 1313b: "And it is a device of tyranny to make the subjects poor, so that a guard may not be kept, and also that the people being busy with their daily affairs may not have leisure to plot against their ruler. Instances of this are the pyramids in Egypt" (trans. H. Rackham, LCL 264:460-61).
  8. ^ Letronne 1860, 393.
  9. ^ Itinerarium Egeriae Y2 [= Peter the Deacon's citation]; ed. R. Weber, CCSL 175:100; PL 173:1129D; trans. Wilkinson 1999, 94. This passage is not found in the sole surviving manuscript, which is only partially preserved, but appears in a later work by Peter the Deacon that uses Egeria as a source; see Wilkinson 1999, 4, 86. Wilkinson is confident "this is the first text to mention what became the regular Christian explanation of the pyramids" (94 n. 4); cf. Osborne 1986, 115.
  10. ^ Historia monachorum in Aegypto 18.3; ed. Preuschen 1897, 79; ed. Festugière 1971, 115; trans. Russell 1980, 102. There is also a Latin version by Rufinus, which includes "additions and alterations appropriate to a man who had seen the places and people for himself and regarded the experience as the most treasured of his life" (Russell 1981, 6). Rufinus seems a little less clear: "There is a tradition that these sites, which they call the storehouses (thesauros) of Joseph, are where Joseph is said to have stored up the grain. Others say it is the Pyramids themselves in which it is thought that the grain was collected" (PL 21:440; ed. Schulz-Flügel 1990, 350).
  11. ^ Beazley 1897, 73, says "writing in 376"; Nicolet 1991, 96, has "perhaps prior to A.D. 376"; and Brill's New Pauly (Leiden, 2005), s.v. Iulius [= 6:1082] has "4th/5th cents."
  12. ^ Cosmographia 45; ed. Riese 1878, 51.2-4 (B); cf. Osborne 1986, 115. The quote appears only in version B of Riese's ed., a revision from late antiquity, and therefore may not derive from Julius.
  13. ^ The commentaries are on the funeral oration for St. Basil the Great, wherein he lists the seven wonders of the world, including the Pyramids (Oration 43.63; PG 36:580A; trans. NPNF2 7:416.
  14. ^ PG 36:1064D; ed. J. N. Smith, CCSG 27:265; trans. Smith 2001, 121.
  15. ^ PG 38:534.
  16. ^ ed. Billius and Morellus 1630, 2:783.
  17. ^ Historia Francorum 1.10; PL 71:167B; trans. Brehaut 1916, 9.
  18. ^ Itinerarium 43; ed. P. Geyer, CCSL 175:152; trans. Wilkinson 2002, 149; ed. Tobler and Molinier 1879, 116; trans. A. Stewart, PPTS 2/4:34. The author, sometimes identified as Antoninus, says they are twelve in number.
  19. ^ Enarratio Syriae 6; PG 120:265C; ed. Donner 1971, 74; trans. Wilkinson 2002, 211. He says they are thirty-six in number.
  20. ^ De mensua orbis terrae 6.13; ed. Parthey 1870, 26; trans. Wilkinson 2002, 231; ed. and trans. J. J. Tierney, SLH 6:62-63. As a reminder of the danger of travels in those days, Dicuil continues: "At this point, as they were going across to admire the three Granaries they found a dead lioness and, behind her, the dead bodies of eight men and women. The lioness had killed them by her strength and they had killed her with their spears and swords, for both the places in which the seven Granaries had been built were in the desert" (6.14).
  21. ^ Itinerarium 7; ed. Tobler and Molinier 1879, 312; trans. J. H. Bernard, PPTS 3:5; trans. Wilkinson 2002, 261. Bernard's party was treated very poorly by the Egyptians, thrown into prison for six days, had to pay bribes, etc., so much so that "his account may explain ... why there are so few descriptions of travel in Egypt during the next three hundred years" (Greener 1967, 25).
  22. ^ For this entire episode, see Cooperson 2010; cf. Edwards 1972, 83, 87.
  23. ^ Quoted in Michael the Syrian, Chronicle 12.17; ed. Chabot 1910, 526; trans. (French) Chabot 1905, 82; trans. (English) Cooperson 2010, 174. This passage was originally part of the Chronicle of Dionysius, an important work that is now lost; the passage is also preserved in Bar Hebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum; ed. Abbeloos and Lamy 1872, 379-80; trans. Chareyron 2005, 174.
  24. ^ Chareyron 2005, 174.
  25. ^ See Sacy 1801, 449.
  26. ^ Kitab Surat al-ard; trans. Kramers and Wiet 1964, 150; quoted in al-Maqrizi's (d. 1442) influential Hitat 1.40; ed. Graefe 1911, 13 (Arabic); trans. Graefe 1911, 61 (German); trans. Sacy 1802, 40 (French); trans. Bouriant 1895, 329 (French).
  27. ^ Ahsan al-taqasim; ed. Goeje 1906, 210 (Arabic); trans. Collins 1994, 192.
  28. ^ Res gestae 22.15.29; trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL 315:292-93. Though writing in Latin, Ammianus, who was born in Syrian Antioch, describes himself as "a former soldier and a Greek" (31.16.9).
  29. ^ Ethnica, s.v. πυραμἰδες; ed. Meineke 1849, 540. In his notes on the Ethnica written c. 1650, Lucas Holstenius says, "the same opinion, even today, reigns in many places; but it is without doubt erroneous"; see Notae et castigationes (Leiden, 1692), 267.
  30. ^ Etym. Mag., s.v. πυραμἰς; ed. Sylburg 1816, col. 632;
  31. ^ (Basel, 1580), col. 1416; (Oxford, 1820), col. 1343-44. The next century, Gerardus Vossius mentioned some who saw a connection to wheat, "because Pharaoh had heaped grain into them"; see Etymologicon linguae Latinae (Amsterdam, 1662), 422. Some hundred years later, George William Lemon would nuance the argument: "not that we are to suppose that the pyramids were ever intended for granaries; but that the Greeks, when ... they visited Egypt, and saw those amazing structures, looked on them as store-houses for grain"; see English Etymology (London, 1783), s.v. pyramid.
  32. ^ Edwards 1972, 218; cf. Gardiner 1961, 2; Grimal 1992, 6. The first to make this argument appears to be Kenrick 1841, 176. According to him, the wheat cakes were made in the shape of a pyramid and used in Bacchic rites. Around 200 CE, Athenaeus, in The Learned Banqueters 14.56, mentions these cakes; also about the same time Clement of Alexandria (Protr. 2 [19 P]; ed. and trans. G. W. Butterworth, LCL 92:44-5) mentions their cultic use.
  33. ^ Haram is "a word of doubtful origin" according to The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (Leiden, 1986), s.v. haram.
  34. ^ Clermont-Ganneau 1876, 325. Even earlier, in the famous Description de l'Égypte, a product of Napoleon's expedition, Edme-François Jomard had discussed a different potential confusion with an actual granary in Old Cairo, noted by early travelers, e.g. Frederic Louis Norden (see Norden 1757, 1:72), and referred to as Harâmât Yousef (هرامات يوسف). According to Jomard, "it turns out that this word harâmât is analogous to haram and ahrâm, the name for the Pyramids," and thus, when visitors reported what they had seen, "commentators have imagined" the actual working granary to be the great Pyramid (Descr., 2nd ed., 9:525).
  35. ^ Fodor and Fóti 1976.
  36. ^ Apology 5; orig. Syriac with English trans., Cureton 1855, 43-44; Latin trans. Otto 1872, 426; Mussies 1979, 193, accepts the work as genuine.
  37. ^ Ad nationes 2.8; ed. A. Reifferscheid and G. Wissowa, CSEL 20:109-10; trans. ANF 3:136-37. N.B. in British English "corn" can mean any of various cereal plants or grains, especially the principal crop cultivated in a particular region, such as wheat in England or oats in Scotland.
  38. ^ De errore profanorum religionum 13.2; ed. Ziegler 1907, 32; trans. C. A. Forbes, ACW 37:71.
  39. ^ Historia ecclesiastica 11.23; ed. T. Mommsen, GCS 9/2:1030; trans. Amidon 1997, 82.
  40. ^ Carmen 19.100-6; PL 61:517-18; ed. G. de Hartel, CSEL 30:122; trans. P. G. Walsh, ACW 40:134.
  41. ^ Abodah Zarah 43a (Soncino trans.). For the dating, see Mussies 1979, 190-91. Lieberman presents a slightly different text with heiphis (הפּיס‎) instead of meiphis (מפּיס‎), and argues for an alternate etymology: "The Rabbis interpreted Sarapis to consist of sar which means 'he saw' in Aramaic and appis which means 'he quieted' in this language" (Lieberman 1962, 138 n. 89).
  42. ^ Mussies 1979, 200.
  43. ^ Mussies 1979, 214.
  44. ^ Suidas, s.v. Σάραπις; ed. T. Gaisford, 3259B.
  45. ^ Itinerary 102; ed. Adler 1907, 65 (Hebrew); trans. Adler 1907, 73. In his critical apparatus to the Hebrew text, Adler has an important discussion of the readings in the MSS for Benjamin's discussion of the Pyramids. Earlier translations have errantly taken a passage discussing a "pillar" (עמוד‎ some MSS עמודים‎ pl.) to refer to the pyramids, thus yielding some confusion; cf. Asher 1840, 102 (Hebrew); 153 (English).
  46. ^ See Fodor 1970.
  47. ^ Kitab Nuzhat al-mushtaq 3.4; ed. Dozy and Goeje 1866, 146 (Arabic); trans. Dozy and Goetje 1866, 175.
  48. ^ For the precise date, see Rubin 2014, 181.
  49. ^ Descriptio Terrae Sanctae, pt. 2, c. 3; (Magdeburg, 1587). There are many MSS (over 100), though not all preserve the quoted passage, e.g. Laurent's 1864 ed.; however, many of the printed versions do, and Rubin 2014, 176, argues for its inclusion and reveals the discovery of an additional, even longer section with the phrase (185).
  50. ^ Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, 3.14.12; ed. Bongars 1611, 261:1-2; trans. A. Stewart, PPTS 3/14:60. Elsewhere Sanudo does say that Burchard (frater Broccardus Theotonicus) was a source that he had read (164.40).
  51. ^ Graboïs 2003, 530.
  52. ^ For the location of the cupola, see Dale 2014, 248, fig. 1.; color plates of relevant scenes on pp. 204-5.
  53. ^ British Library, codex Otho B. VI. The 5th-century manuscript is so named for its first known owner Robert Cotton, and was severely damaged by fire in 1731; cf. Weitzmann and Kessler 1986, 3-7. As for the relationship between manuscript and mosaic, Weitzmann 1984, 142, is quite emphatic when he says, "Cotton Genesis was the direct model of San Marco"; cf. Weitzmann and Kessler 1986, 18-20.
  54. ^ Weitzmann 1984, 137. For images, see Weitzmann and Kessler 1986, figs. 451, 452 ("Joseph Gathering Corn", fol. 90v); figs. 458, 459, color pl. VIII, 25 ("Joseph Selling Corn", fol. 91r).
  55. ^ Dale 2014, 262; cf. Weitzmann 1984, 137: "The mosaicist may have known a Western tradition according to which the pyramids were meant to be the granaries built by Joseph."
  56. ^ Weitzmann and Kessler 1986, 20. The manuscript is now preserved in the Austrian National Library, MS 2576. The structures in the Histoire ancienne "are not identical to those of San Marco, however, and in their general shape they retain something of the original beehive form. Still, they do suggest that the illuminator was influenced by San Marco as well as by Cotton Genesis" (ibid.).
  57. ^ Itinerarium 60; ed. Golubovich 1919, 271; ed. and trans. M. Esposito, SLH 4:84-85.
  58. ^ Libro d'Oltramare 193; ed. Lega 1881, 93-96; trans. Bellorini and Hoade 1945, 96-97 (modified slightly).
  59. ^ Viaggio; ed. Mazi 1818, 92; trans. Bellorini and Hoade 1948, 46.
  60. ^ Viaggio; ed. Poggi 1829, 25; trans. Bellorini and Hoade 1948, 169.
  61. ^ Viaggio; trans. Bellorini and Hoade 1948, 104. Gucci also records that "each is so high that no bowman at the foot would reach the top," the same phrase used by Poggibonsi a generation earlier.
  62. ^ Itinerarium; ed. Riant 1884, 381; trans. Hoade 1970, 78.
  63. ^ Saint voyage 249-51; ed. Bonnardot and Longnon 1878, 67-68; trans. Browne 1975, 59-60. Ogier does mention "a doorway into the ground, a long way in front of and below the granary," but it is not very tall, and "a very dark place, and foul-smelling from the beasts that live in it" (ibid.).
  64. ^ De itinere Terrae Sanctae 31, ed. Deycks 1851, 80; trans. A. Stewart, PPTS 12:72.
  65. ^ Itinerarium 3; ed. Grotefend 1855, 252; trans. Higgins 2011, 231. Higgins' English translation (quoted here) is from the 1351 French translation by Long John, monk of Saint Bertin in Saint Omer.
  66. ^ Le Liure Iehan de Mandeuille; ed. Letts 1953, 2:256; trans. Higgins 2011, 32; for authorship issues, see ibid., ix-xix. Another translator C. W. R. D. Mosley notes that "the legend of Joseph's Barns was current for many years after this date—it may, indeed, have been supported by this very passage" (Penguin Books, 2005), 67.
  67. ^ Pèlerinage; ed. Moranvillé 1905, 99; trans. Chareyron 2005, 263 n. 14.
  68. ^ Andanças é Viajes; ed. Jiménez de la Espada 1874, 86-87; trans. Letts 1926, 78.
  69. ^ Voyage; ed. Godefroy-Ménilglaise 1861, 177-178; trans. Chareyron 2005, 177.
  70. ^ Die Pilgerfahrt; ed. Groote 1860, 109; trans. Letts 1946, 126-27.
  71. ^ Itinerarium 61; ed. and trans. Heers and de Groer 1978, 190 (Latin), 191 (French). Adorno has taken most of his wording, often times verbatim, from the Latin of William of Boldensele.
  72. ^ Evagatorium 89b; ed. Hassler 1849, 43.
  73. ^ Peregrinatio in terram sanctam (Mainz, 1486), fol. 116r; ed. and trans. Larrivaz 1904, 23 (Latin), 58 (French).
  74. ^ Dannenfeldt 1959, 13-15; Greener 1967, 34-45.
  75. ^ Relation; ed. Chavanon 1902, 166.
  76. ^ Les Observations (Paris, 1553), fols. 113-115.
  77. ^ Cosmographie de Levant (Lyon, 1556), 154; trans. Greener 1967, 38.
  78. ^ For estimations of his work, see Gardiner 1961, 11; Greener 1967, 54-55.
  79. ^ Miscellaneous Works (London, 1737), 1:3.
  80. ^ Murray 2000, 505, 527-28.
  81. ^ Rickman 1971, 298-99; Murray 2000, 528; Badawy 1954-68, 1:58-59, 2:31-36, 3:128-30.


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