The ancient city of Memphis Egypt
The ancient city of Memphis Egypt was the first capital of the country for most of the Pharaonic period. It was located south of the Nile River delta, near the Giza plateau. The city was founded around 3100 BC and was abandoned around 641 BC, after the founding of Luxor and then Alexandria.
The main god of the capital was Ptah, who was credited with being the one who had given life to the gods, that is, the creator god of everything. Ptah was also considered to have the ability to hear his followers in their prayers, for this reason, he is graphically seen with his large ears.
Don’t miss to read our article about the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
Where is the city of Memphis located?
Memphis is located about 24 kilometers south of Cairo, 3 kilometers from Saqqara on the west bank of the Nile River.
Who built the city of Memphis?
According to historical data, the legendary Pharaoh Narmer unified Upper and Lower Egypt, thus creating Memphis.
Why was Memphis built?
Due to the location where the Nile Delta converged with the valley, the place had a quite strategic geographical location to give importance to the economy and thus the commercial activity due to its port.
According to traces, in the port of this city, there were workshops, shipyards, and even warehouses that were in charge of distributing goods to the Old Kingdom.
It is said that Memphis was full of palaces, gardens, and temples, which made this one of the main cities of antiquity.
In the 5th century BC, much later in its heyday, the Greek historian and traveler Herodotus described Memphis as a prosperous and cosmopolitan city.
Even after Thebes became the capital of the New Kingdom, Memphis remained Egypt’s second city and thrived until it was finally abandoned during the first Muslim invasions in the 7th century AD.
Name and meaning of Memphis Egypt
The historian of the 3rd century BC. C., Manetón, affirms that the first king of Egypt, Menes, built the city after the unification of Egypt.
At this time, the city was known as Hiku-Ptah or Hut-Ka-Ptah, which means ‘Mansion of the Soul of Ptah’.
Ptah was probably an early god of fertility during the Predynastic Period but was elevated to the position of ‘ Lord of Truth’ and ‘ Creator of the World ‘ at the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period.
He was the protector god of the area around the city of Memphis and became the patron deity of the city after it was built in his honor.
Inscriptions attribute the construction of Memphis to Menes’s successor, Hor-Aha, who is said to have visited the site, not the city, and admired it so much that he changed the course of the Nile River to make a wide plain for the construction.
Hor-Aha has been equated with Menes due to various inscriptions, but ‘Menes’ appears to have been a title meaning ‘He who endures’, not a personal name, and may have been passed down from the first king.
The original builder of the city was probably Narmer, the king who unified Egypt, known as Menes. The legend of Hor-Aha’s visit and the diversion of the river is probably a version of an earlier story told about Menes (Narmer) around which many miraculous legends would grow.
The early name of the city of Hut-Ka-Ptah gave Egypt its Greek name for the country. The Egyptians themselves called their country Kemet, which means ” black land,” because of the rich and dark soil of the Nile Valley.
The name Hut-Ka-Ptah was translated by the Greeks as ‘Aegyptus’ which became ‘Egypt’. It is a testament to the power and fame of early Memphis that the Greeks named the country after the city.
History of Memphis Egypt
Founded around 3100 BC by the first pharaoh of Egypt, Menes, the ruins of the city lie 19 km south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. The local god was Ptah.
For much of Egyptian history, Memphis was the most important city in the country and the economic center of the kingdom, undisputed capital from Dynasty I to VIII resurfacing during the reign of Ramses II and Merenptah.
When other cities such as Thebes, Pi-Ramsés, Tanis, or Sais held the capital, it was still called the Balance of the Two Lands, the most important center of the country.
It is estimated that Memphis was the most populated city in the world until 2250 BC, at the height of its peak it could have more than five hundred thousand inhabitants.
Thebes succeeded Memphis, c. from 2040 BC, as capital during the eleventh Egyptian dynasty, being for about fifteen hundred years the capital of Ancient Egypt, except for short periods. Esarhaddon of Assyria, in 661 BC, and Ashurbanipal, sack the city, causing its decline.
The founding of Alexandria, in 331 BC, marked the end of the Memphite hegemony.
The Ptolemies and later the Roman emperors regarded Alexandria as the great capital of Egypt, and the rest of the country, including the three-thousand-year-old Memphis, fell into oblivion and poverty.
It was abandoned in 641, and its ruins became a quarry of materials for the nearby settlements. Much of its remains were used to build the new Egyptian capital, Cairo.
The ruins of the temple of Ptah have been excavated, unearthing many statues, like those of Ramses II, exhibited in various museums.
Features & importance of Memphis Ancient Egypt
Memphis Ancient Egypt was the residence of the pharaohs and the capital of Egypt at the beginning of the dynastic period and the Old Kingdom, and many later sovereigns maintained a palace there. The city’s temples were among the most important in the country.
Memphis was always one of the most populous and renowned places in Egypt, and therefore in the entire world, inhabited by a truly cosmopolitan community. Its port and its local workshops played an important role in Egyptian foreign trade.
A reflection of the magnitude and importance of Memphis is the extension of its cemeteries, more than 30 km in length, on the edge of the desert and the western bank of the Nile.
Ancient City of Memphis Museum
In the area where the city of Memphis was built, the town called Mit Rahina is currently located. Containing a great sphinx, several colossal statues of Ramses II and other archaeological remains, the result of various excavations, an open-air museum, and a covered room have been organized to guard them.
1- Alabaster Sphinx
Sculpted from a single piece of alabaster, this sphinx measures 4 meters high, 7 meters wide, and weighs 80 tons. Due to her features and other details, she is believed to represent Queen Hatshepsut.
See also, the great Sphinx of Giza at Giza Pyramids
2- Statue of Ramses II
The most impressive statue is undoubtedly the massive statue of Ramses II, which was discovered there, measuring over 30 meters high. Ramses II ruled from Thebes, near today’s Luxor, around the 13th century BC, the huge statue shows that the city remained important even 1500 years after the completion of the Pyramids of Giza.
There you will also find statues of other rulers like the pharaoh Hatshepsut.
The history of ancient Egypt will never cease to amaze us. If you have the opportunity to make a trip to Egypt, you will no doubt have the chance to admire this fantastic story and many others that are definitely a fundamental part of the construction of our civilization.
Egypt is full of ancient cities, tombs, museums, temples, treasures, and emblematic buildings that provide us with detailed information about thousands of years of history.
If you are thinking of purchasing one of our packages to Egypt, know that we will plan for you a unique and simply unforgettable trip, with quality service, excellent accommodation, and all language speaking guide.
Memphis Egypt Facts:
- Memphis is believed to have been the capital of culture and political power for more than 3,000 years.
- Memphis was originally called Ineb-hedj (white walls), the current name of the city comes from Men-nefer (established and beautiful).
- Although Memphis was a city with many royal pyramids, private tombs, and a necropolis of sacred animals, after centuries of modifications by stone-seeking builders, annual Nile floods, and greedy hunters, today the city is nothing like it. was.
- The city was abandoned around 641 BC, after the founding of Luxor and then Alexandria.
- Memphis consists of a remarkable open-air museum built around a colossal limestone statue of Ramses II, now collapsed.
- Among the highlights of the Memphis, museum are a stone sphinx from the New Kingdom, two figures of Ramses II that adorned Nubian temples, and the huge travertine tables on which the sacred Apis bulls were mummified before being deposited in the Serapeum.
Memphis Egypt as a World Heritage
In 1979, the complex of Ancient City of Memphis Egypt with its necropolis and pyramid fields: Giza, Abusir, Saqqara, and Dahshur was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with the name of Memphis and its necropolis, the area of the pyramids from Giza to Dahshur.
Seeing the open museum of the ancient city of Memphis, and of course, the statues of the Sphinx and Ramses II with your own eyes is a wonderful experience touching the masterpieces created by the Pharaonic civilization. You can book a one-day tour to Memphis, Saqqara, and Giza Pyramids here (Giza Pyramids Tour)
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