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Memphis, capital of ancient Egypt

Today, you will find that the ruins of Memphis are overgrown with palm groves and surround the village of Mit Rahina. The site is located on the west bank of the Nile, 24 km south of Cairo.

The Greeks named Memphis as one of the oldest towns in the country, Menefer/Mennofre, which the Egyptians also called Hut-ka-Ptah because "this is where the god Ptah created the world." The founder of the city is probably Menes, and during his reign they were called Inebu-hedj ("White Wall"). During the reign of the Pharoh Djoser, Memphis became the capital of Egypt. Pepi I built his pyramid in Saqqara, which he called Men-Nefer-Pepi or Mennofre, the name was then taken over by the city that played a very important role in the State.

The city's highest point was the reign of the 4th and 6th dynasties, this period is even called Memphitic. Even when it ceased to be the capital of Egypt (First Intermediate Period), it did not allow itself to be pushed to the background and remained the capital of the nome, ruling the delta. Ramses II illuminated it with a new splendor, it became the most common city in the country.

According to the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero (1846-1916) "Memphis was for the Greeks of that period (the 19th dynasty) what Cairo is for us, an oriental city in the full sense of the word." Syrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Jews flocked to this city, and even sanctuaries dedicated to Asiatic gods such as Baal and Astarte were established in the city of the bull of Apis.

The founding of Alexandria in 32 BC had a negative effect on Memphis. Most of the foreigners moved to a new, thriving city and Memphis lost some of its importance, however, it continued to flourish over the centuries. In the 13th century, after the Arab invasions, it fell into decline and was abandoned after four millennia of uninterrupted living.

Most of this magnificent garden city was built of mud bricks, which after a while reverted back to the silt from which they were built. From the Romans onwards, all invaders treated stone structures as a source of cheap building material. What remains of Memphis is in a small garden. The main attraction hidden in a concrete building is the colossus of Ramses II, found in 1820. The alabaster sphinx weighing 80 tons is also quite impressive. Both statues probably stood in front of the mighty temple of Ptah, the chief god of Memphis.