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Memphis was the ancient capital of Egypt, from its foundation 3100 BC until around 2200 BC and later for shorter periods during the New Kingdom, and an administrative centre throughout ancient history.


Its Ancient Egyptian name was Ineb Hedj ("The White Walls"). The name "Memphis" is the Greek deformation of the Egyptian name of Pepi I's (6th dynasty) pyramid, Men-nefer, which 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.

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 ruins of Memphis are 30 km south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile.
According to Herodotus, the city was founded around 3100 BC by Menes, who united the two kingdoms of Egypt.

It has also been established that King Menes was most likely just a mythical king similar to that of 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.

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. K. A. Bard is more cautious and estimates the city's population to have amounted to about 6,000 inhabitants during the Old Kingdom.

Memphis reached a peak of prestige under the 6th Dynasty as a centre of the cult of Ptah. It declined briefly after the 18th Dynasty with the rise of Thebes 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.

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-meter ones in alabaster of Ramses II. The Saqqara necropolis is close to Memphis.

The Egyptian historian Manetho referred to Memphis as Hi-Ku-Ptah ("Place of the Ka of Ptah"), which he wrote in Greek as Aί γυ πτoς (Ai-gu-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.



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