Memphis and Alexandria

By maximus09


Memphis about 24 km (15 miles) south of Cairo was the first capital of the united lands of Egypt and remained an important religious and administrative centre throughout the Pharaonic Period. It was the chief cult centre of the god Ptah, and in Egyptian mythology it was the place where he preformed the act of creation. It was also where the goddesses Isis and Nephthys took the body of their brother Osiris from the Nile after he had been murdered by his jealous brother Seth, and where Osiris entered the Underworld to become a judge of the dead. The divine court, which finally decided that Horus should inherit the throne of Egypt from his father, Osiris, was said to have sat at Memphis.

During the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), the new city of Alexandria overtook Memphis in importance. Memphis never recovered its old status, and the ancient buildings were used as a quarry during the building of the new capital Cairo, after the Arab invasion in the ninth century AD. Today there is little to see of the ancient capital city. However the remains of the tombs of the kings and commoners at Saqqara, the cemetery site for Memphis, are spectacular. According to Herodotus, the city of Memphis was founded by Min, the legendary first king of Egypt, who would appear to be the Menes of the Egyptian kinglists. First, he prepared the site by building a dam to divert the Nile River. He then built the city and embellished it with the large and very remarkable temple of Hephaestus, otherwise known as Ptah, the creating god of Memphis, for whom the Greeks equated with their own god.

The name Memphis may be diverted from Men-nefer, the name of the pyramid town of Pepi I at Saqqara. It means "Established and Beautiful". Other names include "White Walls" a reference to the city"s fortifications, and "Balance of the two lands", referring to its position at the meeting point of the Nile Valley and the Delta.


According to the Greek historian Plutarch (46-126AD) and Arrian (86-160 AD), the city of Alexandria was not only named after but also founded by Alexander the Great, who rules Egypt from 332-323 BC. In the history of Alexander"s campaigns, Arrian wrote "He designed the general layout of the new town, indicating the position of the market square, the number of temples to be built, and what gods they would serve" and the precise limits of its outer defenses". Alexander however did not live to see the city take its full shape, and it fell to the Ptolemies to carry out his plans. Strabo (63 BC-21 AD), the Greek geographer, described the city in such detail, that is was possible to draw a plan of it, including island of Pharos, with its famous lighthouse.

The lighthouse was one of the earliest buildings to be created. The island of Pharos was chosen as the site and gave its name to the lighthouse itself. The construction began under Ptolemy I, and was completed by his successor. The Pharos was an enormous building said to be over 330 ft. high, built in three tiers, and was described in ancient and later Islamic sources. The lowest level was a square tower, 200 ft. high, and was surmounted by a second tier 100 ft. high and octagonal in shape. The top level was about 50 ft., and was crowned by a statue of Zeus the Savior. This new city on the Mediterranean coast, designed by Deinocrates of Rhodes, was built on a strip of land between Lake Maroitis and the sea. It consisted of a network of streets lying at right angles to one another, embellished with many impressive buildings, of which some as still standing today.

Source: Ancient Egypt, Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin, Annes 2003.
And my fantastic brain, from which info from Ancient Civ. class in school is stored.