One of the most important cities of Ancient Egypt, Memphis was the capital of the unified country during the Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom periods, which lasted about 1,000 years in the 3rd millennium BCE. (As a point of reference – the famous pyramids at Giza were built during the Old Kingdom.) The city was founded by Menes (or Narmer? it’s unclear, they may be one in the same), who united the country and became its first pharaoh.
Located at the head of the Nile delta in the north of the country, Memphis was a major port city and commercial and religious center and remained so, for thousands of years after the capital moved south to Thebes (Luxor today).
Alexander the Great took Egypt in 332BCE and made himself king in the great Temple of Ptah in Memphis. When he died 9 years later in Babylon, his body was brought to Memphis and later moved to Alexandria, the city he established on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The location of his tomb is unknown today.
When Egypt became a Roman province in 30BCE, the commercial power of Memphis was eclipsed by Alexandria, which was more accessible to the rest of the empire.
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE, the city’s status as religious center was finished and it descended into ruin.
Today, Memphis is an open-air museum with scattered remains, including numerous temples, palaces, statues and a sphinx. Memphis is about 12 miles south of Cairo and is usually visited in conjunction with Sakkara, the necropolis of Memphis and site of the Step Pyramid, less than 2 miles away. Most of our Egypt tours include a visit to Memphis.