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Memphis and its Necropolis - the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Egypt-Hieroglyphs.jpg
Hieroglyphs in Memphis with a statue of Ramses II in the background
State Party  Egypt
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, vi
Reference 86
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.


Memphis (Arabic: منف‎) was the ancient capital of the first nome of Lower Egypt, and of the Old Kingdom of Egypt from its foundation until around 2200 BC and later for shorter periods during the New Kingdom,[1] and an administrative centre throughout ancient history.[2][3]

Contents

Names

Its Ancient Egyptian name was Ineb Hedj (translated as "The White Walls") because of its majestic fortifications and crenallations[4]. The name "Memphis" (Μέμφις) is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian name of Pepi I's (6th dynasty) pyramid, Men-nefer[5], which became ⲙⲉⲛϥⲉ Menfe in Coptic. Memphis was also known in Ancient Egypt as Ankh Tawy ("That which binds the Two Lands"), thus stressing the strategic position of the city between Upper and Lower Egypt. The Egyptian historian Manetho referred to Memphis as Hi-Ku-P'tah ("Place of the Ka of Ptah"), which he approximated in Greek as Aί γυ πτoς (Ai-gy-ptos), giving us the Latin AEGYPTVS and the modern English Egypt. The term Copt is also believed to be etymologically derived from this name. In the Bible, Memphis is called Moph or Noph. Memphis was founded to combine lower and upper Egypt.

Location

The ruins of Memphis are 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. The modern cities and towns of Mit Rahina, Dahshur, Saqqara, Abusir, Abu Gorab, and Zawyet el'Aryan, south of Cairo, all lie within the administrative borders of historical Memphis (29°50′58.8″N 31°15′15.4″E / 29.849667°N 31.254278°E / 29.849667; 31.254278). The city was also the place that marked the boundary between Upper and Lower Egypt. (The 22nd nome of Upper Egypt and 1st nome of Lower Egypt).

History

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Founding

According to Herodotus,[6] the city was founded around 3100 BC by Menes, who united the two kingdoms of Egypt. It has been theorized that King Menes was possibly a mythical king, similar to Romulus and Remus, the mythical first rulers of Rome. Most likely Egypt became unified through mutual need, developing cultural ties over time and trading partnerships though it is still understood that the first capital of Ancient Egypt was the lower Egyptian city of Memphis. The story most likely just got passed on to Herodotus.[7] However. Egyptologists have also identified the legendary 'Menes' with the historical King Narmer, who is represented in the Palette of Narmer conquering the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt and establishing himself as pharaoh. This Palette has been dated to ca. 3000 BC, and would thus correlate with the story of Egypt's unification by Menes.

Population

Estimates of population size differ widely. According to T. Chandler, Memphis had some 30,000 inhabitants and was by far the largest settlement worldwide from the time of its foundation until around 2250 BC and from 1557 to 1400 BC.[8] K. A. Bard is more cautious and estimates the city's population to have amounted to about 6,000 inhabitants during the Old Kingdom.[9]

Significance

Memphis became the capital of Ancient Egypt for many consecutive dynasties during the Old Kingdom. Memphis reached a peak of prestige under the 6th Dynasty as a centre of the cult of Ptah, the Egyptian god of creation and artworks. The approximately 80-ton alabaster sphinx that guards the Temple of Ptah serves as a memorial of the city's former power and prestige.[10][11] It declined briefly after the 18th Dynasty with the rise of Thebes and the New Kingdom, and was revived under the Persian satraps before falling firmly into second place following the foundation of Alexandria. Under the Roman Empire, Alexandria remained the most important city. Memphis remained the second city of Egypt until the establishment of Fustat (or Fostat) in 641. It was then largely abandoned and became a source of stone for the surrounding settlements. It was still an imposing set of ruins in the 12th century but soon became little more than an expanse of low ruins and scattered stone.

Remains

The remains of the temple of Ptah and of Apis have been uncovered at the site as well as a few statues, including two four-metre ones in alabaster of Ramesses II. The Saqqara necropolis is close to Memphis.

There is now an open-air museum in Memphis. This museum has many Ancient Egyptian statues on display, the most notable one being the 10m (33ft) Colossus of Ramesses II, which is held in a small indoor building on the site.

References

  1. ^ Katheryn A. Bard, Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.694
  2. ^ Lynn Meskell, Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt, Princeton University Press 2002, p.34
  3. ^ Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press 2003, p.279
  4. ^ National Geographic Society: Egypt's Nile Valley Suppliment Map. (Produced by the Cartographic Division)
  5. ^ Bridget McDermott, Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs: How to Read the Secret Language of the Pharaohs, Chronicle Books 2001, p.130
  6. ^ Herodotus, Euterpe, 2.99.4
  7. ^ The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt by bill manley (1997)
  8. ^ Tertius Chandler, Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth, 1987
  9. ^ Katheryn A. Bard, Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.250
  10. ^ National Geographic Society: Egypt's Nile Valley Supplement Map. (Produced by the Cartographic Division)
  11. ^ David Roberts, National Geographic: Egypt's Old Kingdom, Vol. 187, No.1, January 1995

Sources

  • Baines & Malek Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt, 2000. ISBN 0-8160-4036-2

External links

Preceded by
--
Capital of Egypt
3100 BC - 2180 BC
Succeeded by
Herakleopolis

Coordinates: 29°50′40.8″N 31°15′3.3″E / 29.844667°N 31.250917°E / 29.844667; 31.250917


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MEMPHIS, the capital of Egypt through most of its early history, now represented by the rubbish mounds at Bedreshen on the W. bank of the Nile 14 m. S. of Cairo. As the chief seat of the worship of Ptah, the artisan god (Hephaestus), Memphis must have existed from a very remote time. But its greatness probably began with Menes, who united the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, and is said to have secured the site for his capital near the border of the two lands by diverting the course of the river eastward. Memphis was the chief city of the 1st nome of Lower Egypt; in its early days it was known as "the white walls" or the "white wall," a name which clung to its citadel down to Herodotus's day. The residence here of Pepi I. of the VIth Dynasty, as well as his pyramid in the necropolis, was named Mn - nfr, and this gradually became the usual designation of the whole city, becoming Menfi, Membi in late Egyptian, i.e. Memphis. It was also called Hakeptah, "Residence of the ka of Ptah," and this name furnishes a possible origin for that of Egypt (A'lyvirros). Various dynasties had their ancestral seats elsewhere and individual kings built their palaces and pyramids at some distance up or down the valley, but Memphis must have been generally the centre of the government and the largest city in Egypt until the New Empire (Dyns. Xviii. - Xx.), when Thebes took the lead. In the succeeding period it regained its ancient position. The government of the Persian satrap was seated in Memphis. After the conquest of Alexander the city quickly lost its supremacy to his new foundation, and although it remained the greatest native centre, its population was less than that of Alexandria. In the time of Strabo (xvii. 807) it was the second city of Egypt, inferior only to Alexandria, and with a mixed population like the latter. Memphis was still important though declining at the time of the Moslem conquest. Its final fall was due to the rise of the Arabic city of Fostat on the right bank of the Nile almost opposite the northern end of the old capital; and its ruins, so far as they still lay above ground, gradually disappeared, being used as a quarry for the new city, and afterwards for Cairo. The remains of "Menf" were still imposing late in the 12th century, when they were described by 'Abdallatif. Now the ruins of the city, the great temple of Ptah, the dwelling of Apis, and the palaces of the kings, are traceable only by a few stones among the palm trees and fields and heaps of rubbish. But the necropolis has been to a great extent protected by the accumulations of blown sand. Pyramids of the Old and Middle kingdoms form a chain 20 m. long upon the edge of the valley from Giza to Dahshur. At Saqqara, opposite Memphis itself, the steppyramid of Zoser of the IIIrd Dynasty, several pyramids of the Vth and VIth Dynasties, and innumerable mastaba-tombs of the Old Kingdom, are crowded together in the cemetery. Later tombs are piled upon and cut through the old ones. One of the chief monuments is the Serapeum or sepulchre of the Apis bulls, discovered by Mariette in 1851. From 1905 J. E. Quibell was charged by the Service des Antiquites solely with the excavations in this vast necropolis. His principal discovery has been the extensive remains of the Coptic monastery of St Jeremias, with remarkable sculptures and frescoes. Flinders Petrie began the systematic exploration of the ruins of Bedreshen, and in three seasons cleared up much of the topography of the ancient city, identifying the mound of the citadel and palace, a foreign quarter, &c. Among his finds not the least interesting is a large series of terra-cotta heads representing the characteristic features of the foreigners who thronged the bazaars of Memphis. They date from the Persian rule down to the Ptolemaic period and are evidently modelled by Greek workmen. In the Old Testament Memphis is mentioned under the names of Moph (Hos. ix. 6) and Noph (Isa. xix. 13; Jer. ii. 16; Ezek. xxx. 13, 16).

See J. de Morgan, Carte de la necropole memphite (Cairo, 1897); Baedeker's Egypt; J. E. Quibell, Excavations at Saqqara (2 vols., Cairo, 1908-1909) W. M. Flinders Petrie, Memphis I. and The Palace of Apries (Memphis II.) (London, 1909). (F. LL. G.)


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Simple English

Memphis was the ancient capital of the first nome of Lower Egypt, and of the Old Kingdom of Egypt from its foundation until around 2200 BC and later for shorter periods during the New Kingdom[1]. It was an administrative centre throughout ancient history[2][3].

Its ancient Egyptian name was Ineb Hedj ("The White Walls"). The name "Memphis" (Μέμφις) is the Greek deformation of the Egyptian name of the pyramid of Pepi I (6th dynasty), which was Men-nefer[4], and became Menfe in Coptic. The modern cities and towns of Mit Rahina, Dahshur, Saqqara, Abusir, Abu Gorab, and Zawyet el'Aryan, south of Cairo, all lie within the administrative borders of historical Memphis (29°50′58.8″N, 31°15′15.4″E).

Memphis was also known in Ancient Egypt as Ankh Tawy ("That which binds the Two Lands") because of the strategic position of the city between Upper and Lower Egypt.

The ruins of Memphis are 20 km (12 miles) south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile.

[[File:|thumb|Hieroglyphs in Memphis with a statue of Ramses II in the background]]

In the Bible, Memphis is called Moph or Noph.

References

  1. Katheryn A. Bard, Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.694
  2. Lynn Meskell, Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt, Princeton University Press 2002, p.34
  3. Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press 2003, p.279
  4. Bridget McDermott, Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs: How to Read the Secret Language of the Pharaohs, Chronicle Books 2001, p.130

Sources

Other websites

Preceded by
--
Capital of Egypt
3100 BC - 2180 BC
Succeeded by
Herakleopolis

Coordinates: 29°50′40.8″N, 31°15′3.3″E


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