Ancient Egypt
Facts and Fictions
by Stephen E. Thompson
November 2019, 241pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5493-4
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5494-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Much of what the average person believes about ancient Egypt is actually based on sources from classical Greek and Roman authors and the Bible, rather than on actual Egyptian sources.

Comprising a unique collection of primary sources, this book critically examines several topics relating to ancient Egypt that are of high interest to readers but about which misconceptions abound.

With its pyramids, mummies, and sphinxes, ancient Egypt has fascinated us for centuries. It has been the setting of many films and novels, figuring prominently in popular culture. Much of what the average reader believes about this civilization, however, is mistaken. Through a unique collection of primary source documents, this book critically examines several topics related to ancient Egypt and about which misconceptions abound.

Primary sources, many in new translations by the author, are drawn from ancient Egyptian, classical Greek and Roman, Muslim, early Christian, and modern European documents. These sources shed light on popular misconceptions. Such topics include the divinity of the pharaoh, the role of animals in ancient Egyptian religion, the purpose of the Egyptian pyramids, the use of slave labor, the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system, the role of Cleopatra in the defeat of Marc Antony and the fall of the Roman Republic, and the influence of Egyptian religion on the development of early Christianity. By studying these documents, users will be able to develop their skills interpreting and evaluating primary sources.


  • Provides an accurate view of the role of slavery in ancient Egyptian society
  • Discusses the ancient Egyptian conception of divinity and how it applied to the pharaoh and the use of animals in Egyptian worship and religious iconography
  • Critically examines the controversial proposition that Jesus never existed but was a myth created from ancient Egyptian stories about Osiris and Horus
  • Explains the purposes for which the pyramids were built, based on ancient Egyptian texts found within the pyramids themselves
  • Provides evidence for how misconceptions about ancient Egypt developed and spread, along with support for what we now believe to be the historical truths
  • Directs users to additional sources of information for further study
Stephen E. Thompson, PhD, is associate director for student life at NSU University School, Davie, Florida. He has taught at Brown University, Boston University, Rhode Island College, Florida Atlantic University, and Brigham Young University. He is coeditor of Egypt and Beyond: Essays Presented to Leonard H. Lesko, published by the Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies of Brown University. He has published articles or reviews in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, and the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, and in several reference works on ancient Egypt.


"This book and the series will provide a great introduction to primary sources and critical thinking for advanced high school and college students. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers through upper-division undergraduates."—Choice, May 1, 2020

Historical Facts and Fictions

Did Nero really fiddle while Rome burned? Did the Egyptians really worship animals and gods with animal heads? History is full of misconceptions that have been passed down as historical facts and become rooted in the popular imagination. This series explores historical fictions and what we now believe to be historical truths. Each book focuses on a particular topic, such as a period, event, civilization, movement, religion, or person, and explores roughly 10 misconceptions. Chapters summarize the misconception, discuss how it arose and was propagated, and explain what is now taken as historical fact. The series helps readers think critically about the past and prepares them to be equally critical of the present.
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