The king of Upper Egypt around 3100 BCE was named Menes. Menes (also known as Narmer, though there are those who think the two names mean two men -surprise!) is credited with founding Dynasty I by violently uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. He established his capital at Menufer (Greek: Memphis) at the border between the Two Lands. The principal evidence for that event is the Narmer Palette, discovered in 1898 by J.E. Quibell and now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (The image seen here on the palette unfortunately is not that of Narmer nor that of Ptah, the creator god worshipped at Memphis, but of your hapless photographer.) Click here for drawings of both sides of the palette.

A note about dynasties: The division of Egyptian rulers into dynasties was begun by an Egyptian priest, Manetho, who compiled the list of thirty dynasties (now thirty-two, including the Roman period) in Greek, most likely for Ptolemy I (305-282). Manetho's list remains the basis for identifying the relation of the various ancient kings to one another, though much refinement of the list has resulted from archaeological and literary research during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The great city of Memphis, which originally extended for more than nine miles from Giza to Saqqara, is no more. Though established by Menes, it was enlarged by subsequent kings, perhaps for a time under the guidance of (Dynasty III) Djoser's architect, Imhotep. It was a ruin even before the time of Alexander the Great and all but nothing remains today. What may be seen by tourists is a museum containing one of the colossal statues of Ramses II that stood before the temple of Ptah. Another is at the Cairo railroad station and fragments of two more are scattered among various world museums. In addition the Memphis museum has various other huge statues, notably the largest known sphinx carved from a single block of alabaster. Bearing the face of Amenophis II, it once guarded the entrance to the Ptah temple.

To Introduction/Map To Saqqara