If you visit Egypt, this is one of the must see place to experience ancient Egyptian history. Memphis, the city which once served as a capital of ancient Egypt for hundreds of years has disappeared off the face of the earth. A forgotten City!
History of Memphis
Memphis is the Greek adaptation of the original name during the New Kingdom – Men-nefer. The original name of the city was Ineb-Hedj which means ‘The White Wall’. The city was founded by Pharoah Menes of the first dynasty which is considered to be approximately 3000 BC. It served as the capital of Egypt predominately during the Old Kingdom. During the Middle Kingdom, the capital was moved to Thebes (present day Luxor). The city lost its importance when the Romans invaded Egypt and made Alexandria (331 BC) the capital city. After this, the city had a gradual decline to the point of abandonment. It ceased existence when the Muslim rulers built the new capital city Fustat (app 650 AD) by destroying what remained of Memphis and using its stones for the new city construction.
Check out this research article. This is a very interesting study on Memphis history!
The ruins of Memphis is a part of present day town of Mit Rahina. It is located 12 miles (20 kms) south of Cairo. What we see today is just a glimpse of a huge and mighty city. There is very little of the former capital city. Ptah was considered to be the god who was worshiped during the olden days in Memphis. The remains of a grand temple dedicated to Ptah can be found here. It is considered to be the largest and most important temple in ancient Egypt. Even after Thebes became the capital during the Middle Kingdom, Memphis continued to remain important due to its religious significance.
The colossus of Rameses II
Along with the ruins of the great temple, we get to see a 10m statue of Ramesses II. It has no feet, so the statue lies on its back. The attention to minor details is just mind blowing. It is impossible to imagine how the sculptors could have carried out this just by using simple tools.
There is another statue of Ramesses II which is in much better shape. Here, Ramesses seems to be in a walking stance with his left foot forward. On careful examination, many statues sculptured during the ancient Egyptian time also has the same posture. According to our guide, the reason behind this is because the heart is located on the left side of the body. Left foot forward means they think with the hearts and this portrays them as compassionate rulers to their subordinates.
A considerably smaller sphinx compared to the Great Sphinx of Giza is also located here. It is also referred to as the Alabaster Sphinx of Memphis. It is believed to have been carved during the 18th dynasty (1700 – 1400 BC). There is no inscription on it. However it is largely intact and lived through all these years when other sculptures and buildings around it has perished.