Ancient ruins surrounded by palm groves, not particularly noticeable and noticeable. Now it is even difficult to imagine that it was once a majestic city with palaces and temples. This is Memphis – the first capital of the united state of Egypt (Ta-Kem). It was not just a capital, but a large cosmopolitan center.
Where is Memphis
The ruins of Memphis are located on the left bank of the Nile in northern Egypt. Several settlements are located nearby: the current capital of Cairo (about 19 km), the city of El Badrashine and the village of Mit Rakhin.
Localization of Memphis on the map in modern Egypt
The city was founded presumably at the beginning of the third millennium BC. exactly as a capital. For many centuries it was the political, economic, cultural and religious center of Ancient Egypt.
Memphis is the Greek name officially adopted by historians. But in ancient times, the city had several Egyptian names that changed in connection with the era or significant events.
- It was originally called “Inbu-hej” – “White Walls”, because of the white limestone walls built around the city;
- Then its name was changed to “Men-nefer” – in translation “strong and beautiful”, this name Memphis received thanks to the pyramid of the same name of Pharaoh Pepi I;
- During the construction of the temple of the god Ptah and the strengthening of his cult, the city began to be called “Hut-ka-Ptah” – “Temple of Ptah”.
There were many more names, both Egyptian (Mehat-ta-ui) and Coptic (Menfe), but we know it as Memphis. A kind of irony can be traced here, because this name is the Greek word form of the Egyptian “Men-nefer”, meaning “strong (or durable) and beautiful.” Such a name did not bring the city eternity – now it is solid ruins.
History of the founding of Memphis
The founding of Memphis is associated with the emergence of the first dynasty of the pharaohs of united Egypt (about 5 thousand years ago). Its location on the border between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms was not accidental.
There are several versions of the founding of the city, we will cite here one, the most reliable from the point of view of the official history.
In pre-dynastic times, the lands of Ta-Kem (Black Earth) were divided into two kingdoms: Upper and Lower. Two different rulers, two different patron gods – and the wars between them did not stop.
As a result of one of these wars, the king of Upper Egypt Menes managed not only to defeat, but also to completely subjugate the enemy. And since the people were still one, the king decided to unite the two states into one, thus becoming the first pharaoh of the first dynasty of all of Egypt.
Both gods became the patrons of the new state:
- Wajit (goddess-cobra, symbol of power, patroness of the Lower Kingdom),
- Nehbet (falcon goddess, symbol of the power of the pharaoh, patroness of the Upper Kingdom).
Their images (cobra and falcon) began to be used together on the crown of the state.
To consolidate the merger of the country, Menes ordered the construction of a new capital. In the neutral area between the two former kingdoms, where the Nile splits into sleeves, Memphis – Inbu-hej was founded. True, its foundation was preceded by the construction of a dam and the transfer of one of the branches of the Great River.
Historical and religious significance
Memphis was not only a capital during the Early and Old Kingdoms, but also a political and economic center. A large number of representatives of other peoples permanently lived in the city: Greeks, Syrians, Jews, Phoenicians, etc., national communities flourished.
Handicraft and industrial production was established at a high level: the best war chariots, jewelry, weapons, carpets, fabrics, dishes and much more were created here.
And thanks to the muddy soil, agriculture flourished around Memphis: huge herds of sheep and goats were grazed, cotton, crops, grapes, olives and even roses were grown. Olives and roses were used to produce olive and rose oil on the spot.
Along with the status of a political center, Memphis was also the religious capital of the country. In the city, as in all of Egypt of that period, the cult of the god Ptah flourished (the god-creator of the gods, the patron saint of architects and artisans), whose earthly embodiment was the bull Apis.
A huge temple complex dedicated to Ptah was located outside the city walls; in Memphis itself there was a separate temple of Apis and other, less significant gods.
And even when during the New Kingdom the capital was moved to Thebes, and then to other cities, Memphis did not lose its importance and remained the “northern capital”. The decline of the city began with the coming to power in Egypt of the Greek dynasty and the construction of Alexandria. And the complete destruction of the former capital was brought by the Mamluks, who dismantled palaces and temples for building materials.
Now Memphis is an ancient ruins, most of which are covered with silt or flooded. But, nevertheless, a lot of interesting things can be seen by visiting this city-museum:
- The dilapidated temple of Ptah, built by Ramses II;
- Serapium – the burial place of the mummies of sacred bulls;
- Special table for mummification of animals;
- 13-meter statues of Ramses II, which were earlier in front of the Ptah temple;
- Remains of the avenue of the sphinxes of the time of Pharaoh Amenophis II;
- Memphis necropolis.
Excavations and research work on the site of the city and its suburbs are still ongoing, but only one-twentieth of the entire territory has been studied. Frequent rise of groundwater and flooding slows down the process. Excursions may not be available for the same reason.
In whatever form this ancient city has not come down to our days, it is incredibly lucky, although in ruins, but it exists (unlike Thebes, Heliopolis and other less famous and significant cities).
Having visited it, one can imagine the greatness and antiquity of this city, imbued with the spirit of the era. Maybe it was not for nothing that they called him “Men-nefer”? Or did the ancient gods more than others preserve this symbol of the great state, which became the united Egypt?