Memphis (Egypt)

The ancient names of Memphis include Men-nefer ('established and beautiful') and Ineb-hedj ('white walls'). The city is said to have been founded by the First-Dynasty king Menes, and was the capital of Egypt during the Early Dynastic period (about 3100-2613 BC) and Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC). Memphis is located to the south of the junction between the Nile valley and the Delta. The necropolis (cemetery) associated with the city stretches for over thirty kilometres along the west bank of the Nile and includes the famous sites of Giza and Saqqara.

The ancient site is that of the modern town of Mit Rahina; little of Memphis can now be seen, as most of it is buried under thick deposits of silt laid down by the Nile inundation and modern habitation. The position of the city probably changed periodically, with different areas thriving at different times. Today, the visible remains date from the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC) and later, including the temple of the local god Ptah, and the embalming houses of the Apis bull. The cult of Ptah was very important, as he was regarded as one of the creators of the world.

Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Memphis from Akhetaten in Middle Egypt when he denounced the religious changes made by his predecessor, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). In fact, the location of the capital changed frequently from the Nineteenth Dynasty to the Twentieth. Memphis was superseded in importance by Alexandria at the beginning of the Ptolemaic period (332 BC).

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