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The White Walls

Memphis - Capital Cities

The White Walls were located at a strategic juncture between the Nile River, the Delta area of Egypt, the Sahara Desert routes, the Red Sea Desert routes and the Mediterranean Sea. 

Much of the original Old Kingdom Capital City is lost under the original Flood Plain, new Towns or robbed away due to the walls of buildings being reused on later buildings.

Old Kingdom Period

  • The Golden Age. Memphis was the location where Pharaohs were crowned with the Double Crown, Jubilees were held, and the Cult of Ptah was at its height. The High Priests worked in pairs until the reign of Pharaoh Teti in the 6th Dynasty
  • It was spread over several kilometres with Temples connected together with sacred roadways and Ports connected together by roads and canals
  • The Artisans. Lived and worked in camps which surrounded the Necropolis in Saqqara, they were dedicated to the completion of the Royal Tombs


Middle Kingdom Period

  • Pharaoh and the Court moved to Thebes removing the political weight from Memphis, but it remained critically important on a commercial and trade front; and the artisans remained
  • When the Hyksos “invaded” and captured Memphis in approx. 1650BC much was robbed or at the very least damaged by the invaders. Some of the buildings were physically removed from Memphis to Avaris


New Kingdom Period

  • At the start of the Period, when the 18th Dynasty began, the Theban community overthrew the “invading” Hyksos and Memphis gained back some of its political importance
  • Memphis became the centre of education for the Royals and Nobles, especially the Princes:
    • Future Pharaoh Amenhotep II was born and educated in Memphis, becoming the High Priest of Lower Egypt during his father’s reign
    • Future Pharaoh Thutmose IV followed his father’s upbringing in Memphis
    • As did future Pharaoh Amenhotep III; his sons, Crown Prince Thutmose and future Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, better known today as Pharaoh Akhenaten
  • Pharaoh Akhenaten founded a Temple of Aten and his son Pharaoh Tutankhamun relocated from Amarna to Memphis after his father’s death and restored many of the Memphite Temples
  • Pharaoh Ramses II and his son and successor, Pharaoh Merenptah, erected many monuments and developed walls at the Great Temple of Ptah which was in easy reach of their Capital at Pi-Ramses
  • Memphis continued in its prominence during the 3rd Intermediate Period and the Pharaohs of that period, who had their capital at Tanis, had their own Memphite Cult and worked with the Priests in Memphis to legitimise their own Cult Sites


Late Period

  • The Kushites
    • As Egypt fell into the less unified decline of the Third Intermediate Period and was ruled by the Libyan 22nd Dynasty starting with Pharaoh Shoshenq I, a rival dynasty setting itself up, the Libyan dynasty began to erode within itself
    • 711BC: the Pharaoh made Memphis his Northern Capital bringing further prosperity back to the city
    • 744BC: The Kushite King, Piye, conquered and enthroned himself Pharaoh of a united Egypt and went on to rule for 30 years, the first in the 25th Dynasty
  • The Assyrians
    • 671BC: invade and capture Memphis. After looting and raiding the city the troops slaughtered much of the population and made a gruesomely large pile of their heads. As soon as the Assyrians returned to their capital in Nineveh, the Egyptians rebelled against the foreigner’s rule
    • 664BC: the son of the previous invading King took up the mantle and invaded with a huge invasion force into Memphis ending the Kushite rule in Egypt after they chased the King into Nubia
  • The Persians
    • 525BC: the aftermath of the Battle of Pelusium, Memphis and the rest of Egypt were captured for the Persian King, Cambyses. The Persians strengthened Memphis’ defensive structures and it was made the Administrative Centre of the new regime
    • 404BC: Egyptian National, Pharaoh Amyrtaeus, successfully ended the Persian occupation but was beheaded in 399BC by Pharaoh Nepherites I who founded the 29th Dynasty s
  • Pharaoh Nectanebo I rebuilt a Wall and added to the Temples and Chapels inside the Temple of Ptah. His successor Pharaoh Nectanebo II built and enhanced the Necropolis in Saqqara with Pylons, Roadways lined with Sphinx and Statues
  • 343BC: Pharaoh Nectanebo II was defeated by Persians at Pelusium, hid in Memphis but was eventually forced under siege to flee to Nubia
  • 338-335BC: Pharaoh Khababash with his son and potential help from exiled Pharaoh Nectanebo II, liberated Memphis but the Persian King Darius III overthrew the Egyptians once more


Ptolemaic Period

  • 332BC: the Greek invasion ended Egyptian rule with Alexander the Great being enthroned as Pharaoh of all Egypt in the Temple of Ptah, Memphis. On Alexander’s death, Ptolemy had his body embalmed by the Priests of Ptah in the Temple at Memphis
  • 216BC: Decree of Memphis was issued by Pharaoh Ptolemy IV after a meeting between Pharaoh, the Royal Court and the Priests which established an Egyptian Religious Policy, the Fees and the Taxes which Egypt would follow; these Rulings were issued via Stelae throughout the realm
  • 196BC: The Second Decree of Memphis was issued by Pharaoh Ptolemy V as the rulings issued by Stelae as well
  • The most famous of these decrees was recorded on what we now call the Rosetta Stone

 The later periods of Christian and Muslim occupation, before the modern era, brought the full decline of Memphis and meant that many of the building’s bricks were carried away to be reused in Fustat and later Cairo itself.


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