more photos

site details

0730 -- 1600 summer
0730 -- 1700 winter

£E14 entry fee
£E7 entry student
£E10 camera
£E100 video camera

relevant links

traveloque 2/4


New kingdom

18th Dynasty

Amenemhet III
Thutmose III

Previous Next

this site

city of memphis
alabaster sphinx


by site
by city
by day



Memphis is an ancient necropolis. It is considered the oldest "imperial" city on earth, and was founded at the beginning of the first dynasty (c. 3100 BCE) by Menes. Menes is thought to be the first king of the first dynasty -- truly the founder of the united Egyptian empire. He may have been the "Narmer" of the Narmer Palette, or a mythical collection of early kings -- remember that we're trying to decipher bits and pieces of inscriptions.

It is only 15 km south of Cairo, and was the capital city of Egypt for almost 4,000 years. The city stood at the apex of the great Nile Delta and controlled travel and comunication in the whole region. Remember that the Nile was really a much larger, more dynamic river in the thousands of years before the high dam was built. Memphis was the capital until the New Kingdon, when the pharaohs moved the capital to Thebes (modern Luxor) . Even then, Memphis was still a power in Lower Egypt, up until the Greek and Roman era.

However, it was abandoned after four millenia and all that remains is a fenced in garden area, a few statues, and a few trinket-sellers. Very little of the city actually remains at all -- in fact, it is hard to believe that it was every a city at all, much less the cultural and political center of Ancient Egypt. More people are famliar with the necropolis for the city -- the vast burial grounds of Saqqara.

Cairo has grown over it, and the Nile silt has dissolved the mudbrick city, and buried whatever remained under a few meters of sand.. Most of the city is under cultivated lands now, and what is left is in the middle of the village Mit Rahina. A visit to see the major attractions here -- the Colossus of Ramses II, the Alabaster Sphinx, and some few statues in the gardens -- is a scant hour, and it can be a bit of a letdown if you don't understand the importance of the buried and almost-forgotten city.

The original city was probably here in the first dynasty -- indeed, the first palace was reported here from the time of Djet (greek Atothis -- who comes up with these names?). The city was then called Ineb-hedj, "The White Wall". Later the city was called Ankh-tawy "That Which Binds the Two Lands". According to West, the name of the great temple to Ptah in Memphis (called Hi-ka-ptah) may be the source of the Greek word Aegyptos, from which the name of Egypt comes to us.

maidum Previous Monument prev
middle egypt

© 2003-2005 r. fingerson
send me a note!