Herodotus on Menes
The name of Menes (Min, Meni or the like) appears first in New Kingdom documents, at the top of the Abydos list, which dates to Seti I and in the Turin Papyrus, written during the reign of Ramses II. Herodotus follows this tradition, as does Manetho. The Turin list refers to him as King of [Upper and] Lower Egypt:
Manetho credits him with having reigned - or perhaps lived - for some 60 years. (The Turin Papyrus gives 2nd Dynasty kings similar spans: Anedjib -74 years, Semerkhet - 72, Hotepsekhemwi - 95 etc. From the 3rd Dynasty onwards their spans become much shorter). In view of the short life expectancy, which was less than 40 years, this seems to be improbable but not impossible.
Still, one cannot be sure that Menes existed at all as an individual, either as Aha, as an inscription in the Neithhotep mastaba at Naqada seems to suggest, or as Narmer, who, on the basis of seal impressions in the tombs of Den and Qaa, is considered by many to have been the founder of the first dynasty. The name may have been an epithet, given to a number of kings.
Of Min, who first became king of Egypt, the priests said that on the one hand he banked off the site of Memphis from the river: for the whole stream of the river used to flow along by the sandy mountain- range on the side of Libya, but Min formed by embankments that bend of the river which lies to the South about a hundred furlongs above Memphis, and thus he dried up the old stream and conducted the river so that it flowed in the middle between the mountains: and even now this bend of the Nile is by the Persians kept under very careful watch, that it may flow in the channel to which it is confined, and the bank is repaired every year; for if the river should break through and overflow in this direction, Memphis would be in danger of being overwhelmed by flood.
When this Min, who first became king, had made into dry land the part which was dammed off, on the one hand, I say, he founded in it that city which is now called Memphis; for Memphis too is in the narrow part of Egypt; and outside the city he dug round it on the North and West a lake communicating with the river, for the side towards the East is barred by the Nile itself. Then secondly he established in the city the temple of Hephaistos a great work and most worthy of mention. Herodotus Histories II, 99,1-4
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Last Updated: June 29th, 2011
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