Memphis (Egypt)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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Memphis (مَنْف), known as Men-nefer during antiquity, was the ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, the first nome of Lower Egypt that was known as mḥw (the "North"). The remnants of ancient Memphis are situated near the contemporary village of Mit Rahina, in the Badrashin district of Giza, Egypt. The current name likely originates from the ancient Egyptian term for Memphis, "mjt-rhnt", signifying the "Road of the Ram-Headed Sphinxes".


In antiquity, Memphis held a crucial location at the entrance of the Nile Delta, bustling with activity. The primary port, Peru-nefer (distinct from the Peru-nefer at Avaris), was characterized by a dense concentration of workshops, factories, and warehouses, facilitating the distribution of goods and provisions across the ancient kingdom. During its zenith, Memphis prospered as a focal point for regional commerce, trade, and religious affairs.

During the ancient times the sacred city of Memphis was believed to enjoy the protection of god Ptah, the deity revered by craftsmen. Among the city's noteworthy structures, the grand temple named Hut-ka-Ptah, meaning "Enclosure of the ka of Ptah", stood prominently. Manetho's Greek rendering of the temple's name as Aἴγυπτoς (Ai-gy-ptos) is believed to be the etymological origin of the modern English term Egypt.

The ancient history of Memphis closely intertwines with the history of the people as well. Its eventual decline is attributed to the waning economic importance it experienced during the late antiquity, with the ascendancy of coastal Alexandria playing a significant role. The city's religious significance diminished after the abandonment of the ancient faith following the Edict of Thessalonica (380 CE), which declared Nicene Christianity as the official and sole religion of the Roman Empire.

Notable Structures


Hathor Temple
Discovered in the 1970s to the south of the extensive Hout-Ka-Ptah wall by Abdullah al-Sayed Mahmud, this petite temple devoted to the goddess Hathor hails from the era of Rameses II. Unlike a significant shrine, its dimensions suggest it might not have been a major center for the goddess, but it currently stands as the sole structure dedicated to her found amid the remnants of the city.

This shrine is thought to have served predominantly for ceremonial processions during major religious festivities. While there is speculation about the existence of a more substantial temple dedicated to Hathor elsewhere in the city, potentially one of the preeminent shrines to the goddess in the entire country, such a structure has not been uncovered thus far. A depression in the terrain, akin to the one near the grand temple of Ptah, is believed to offer a clue to its possible location. Archaeologists propose that it may contain the remnants of an enclosure and a substantial monument, a hypothesis supported by ancient sources.

Open Air Museum and Lapidarium


The Memphite Open Air Museum and Lapidarium, nestled on the storied grounds of Ancient Memphis, Egypt, beckons visitors into an immersive journey through the remnants of a bygone era. This unique museum complex stands as a testament to the meticulous preservation and display of the region's rich archaeological treasures, offering a captivating narrative of the city's historical and cultural legacy.

Mit Rahina Museum

circa 1279-1213 BCE

The Mit Rahina Museum is a purpose built museum, in the modern day Mit-Rahina (ancient Memphis) which was constructed to house one of the two colossal statues of Ramesse the Great. The colossal statue bears a number of inscriptions and carvings. The king wears the white crown of Upper Egypt, Hedjet. This enormous statue (Memphite Colossus of Ramesses II) was carved with limestone and stood more than ten meters in height. It was one of the two statues (other one is now displayed in the newly built Grand Egyptian Museum) that once stood at the entrance of the Memphite Ptah temple.

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