The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Memphis (Egypt)

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For works with similar titles, see Memphis.
1411642The American Cyclopædia — Memphis (Egypt)

MEMPHIS (Coptic, Menfi or Menofre, “good abode” or “the abode of the good one,” supposed to refer to Osiris; in hieroglyphic inscriptions, according to some, Ma-en-Ptah, abode of Ptah; in Scripture, Noph or Moph), an ancient capital of Egypt, on the W. bank of the Nile, 10 m. S. of the modern city of Cairo. Its foundation is ascribed to Menes, the first king of Egypt; it was certainly very ancient, and was the first capital of the united kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt. Its situation commanded the S. entrance to the delta, and it was protected by a dike from the inundations of the Nile. According to Diodorus, Memphis was about 17 m. in circuit, but probably this included much open ground. It was remarkable for its fine climate and the beauty of the view from its walls. It controlled the inland trade of Egypt, ascending or descending the Nile. It was the chief seat of learning and of religion, the principal place of the worship of the god Ptah, and the chosen residence of the sacred bull Apis, whose temple here was celebrated for its colonnades through which the great processions were conducted. The other great temples were: that of Isis, commenced at a very early period, and completed by Amasis, 564 B. C.; the temple of Serapis, to which was attached a Nilometer, in the western quarter of the city; the temple of Phra or the sun; and the temple of Ptah, the most ancient of all, and the largest and most superb.—Memphis was the seat of successive dynasties, the 3d, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th of Egyptian history, who (according to Mariette) reigned, with one interval of 203 years, from 4449 to 3358 B. C. By the 4th dynasty the great pyramids were built. It was also the capital during the supremacy of the shepherd kings. It suffered severely from the Persians, who avenged the murder of their herald by the Memphians. They made it the headquarters of a Persian garrison; and Cambyses compelled Psammetik III., the last of the Pharaohs, to kill himself, slew the sacred Apis with his own hand, massacred the priests, and profaned the temple of Ptah. The Persians made it the metropolis of their African possessions, and it continued to be the chief city of Egypt until the foundation of Alexandria, after which it gradually declined, and in the course of ages sunk into such utter decay that its very site, overwhelmed with drifted sand, was a matter of dispute among antiquaries. Modern researches have proved that the village of Mitrahenny or Mitranieh, S. of Gizeh, marks the site of Memphis. Its remains extend over many hundred acres of ground, and include ruins of temples and of palaces, and statues, bass reliefs, and inscriptions, to the number of several thousand.