Memphis of Ancient Egypt

Birth of Memphis

Memphis was said to be founded by King Menes after the unification of the two kingdoms of ancient Egypt. Menes intentionally built the city of Memphis in the middle of the two kingdoms to unite the inhabitants of the formerly separated nations and so that it would be more secure from the enemies and invaders.

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Memphis was associated with many names. It was the historian Manetho who named it Memphis. Manetho was the one who shared the story of how King Menes united the two kingdoms and then built Memphis to be its capital city.

Life in Memphis

Menes then built a huge dam and created a new path for the flow of the Nile downstream as protection from the yearly flood. The king started lavish rituals and offerings for the gods in the city and encouraged the luxurious lifestyle among its people. The temples of their gods were said to be grandiosely decorated.

Harmony and cooperation between the two kingdoms, their stable and secured city, and their abundant agriculture made Memphis flourish. The accessibility of the city made them successful in trade and industry. It became the main area of the economic, political, and religious power of Egypt then.

Remnants of the city were found at the Mit Rahinah and Saqqara. Archaeological excavations. Over time, these have revealed the portions of the temple of Ptah, of Merneptah’s palace, and of the temples of Ramses II. Today, only the statue of Ramses II, a former decoration of the temple of Ptah can be found in the once great city.

Downfall of Memphis

The era of the city is not that clear, and the reason for its downfall is still hazy. When the capital of Egypt was moved to Thebes, Memphis still maintained its religious and administrative power. During the 18th Dynasty, the Theban kings such as Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II stayed in Memphis. It was where the children of royal blood and noble lineage were educated. It was also where the next kings were crowned. It was the place of refuge of Tutankhamun after the Amarna-revolution.

But after the Greeks defeated the Persians, the capital city was then moved to Alexandria. There were speculations that collapse of the economic activity in Memphis after the completion of Alexandria started its downfall.


The emergence of the new cults in Egypt and the arrival of Christianity later on erased the Memphite religion. When the Muslim conquerors took over and created their new main city at Fustat, they completely demolished the city and its paganism. The lavish decorations and adornments of its temples were scattered to different places, and its huge boulders were used to help build new cities nearby.

After the Mameluke era, the dikes that Menes built to protect the city from the flood were completely destroyed, so floods gradually plastered Memphis with silt.

The Memphite Triad

Memphite religion is just like the Thebans that focuses on the triad of gods. The Memphite triad was composed of Ptah as the father, his wife Sekhmet, and their son Nefertum.

Ptah was said to be the creator. The story of how he created the universe was seen on the Memphite stone, also known as the Shabaka Stone. The ruins of the temple of Ptah were excavated at the borders of today’s Mit Rahina. It was told that Ptah constructed the universe with his heart and tongue. His temple Hut-ka-Ptah, which is interpreted as Ai-gy-ptos in Greek, was said to be the origin of the name Egypt.

Sehkmet, his wife, was said to be the destroyer. She was the mighty goddess who supports the Pharaohs at war. It was also believed that she was the one capable of bringing in plagues and epidemics. But there’s a ceremony performed that can appease her. Ironically, Sekhmet was also their goddess of healing. She was the god one prayed upon to chase away the evil spirit that caused a person’s sickness.

Nefertum was the preserver. His statue in between Ptah and Sekhmet was replaced by King Rameses II with his statue thus seemingly declaring himself as the son of the two powerful deities of Memphis.

Memphis in the Bible

Hosea 9:6. Those who can escape the destruction will be buried in Memphis.

Ezekiel 30:13. The Lord will destroy the paganism in Memphis.

Jeremiah 46:14. Memphis is associated with  Egypt along with two other nations.

Memphis mentioned in the Bible (New International Version), please refer to:

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3 thoughts on “Memphis of Ancient Egypt

  1. It is Nebachadnezar who destroyed Memphis. Ezekiel 30, 10-13.


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