During the 1st century BCE, Diodorus Siculus reported claims of an “Aithiopian” origin for Egyptian civilization. This theory of Aithiopian antecedence was then repeatedly invoked by numerous ancient, medieval, and modern authors for the next two millennia until the middle of the 19th century CE, when Egyptologists drew its premises into question. For the nonspecialist reader, this article will include a brief epilogue summarizing current research on the earliest relations between Egypt and its neighbors to the south. Yet this study will not treat Diodorus as a source for prehistory, exploring instead some mnemohistorical questions about his account that have received less attention in the published literature: When was the theory of Aithiopian antecedence invented? By whom? And upon what grounds was it advanced and accepted during antiquity?
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