Ancient Egypt, Menes

2925 B.C.

also spelled MENA, MENI, OR MIN, first king of unified Egypt, who, according to tradition, joined Upper and Lower Egypt in a single, centralized monarchy. Manetho, a 3rd-century-bc Egyptian historian, called him Menes; the 5th-century-bc Greek historian Herodotus referred to him as Min; and two native-king lists of the 19th dynasty (13th century BC) call him Meni. Modern scholars have inconclusively identified the traditional Menes with one or more of the archaic Egyptian kings bearing the names Scorpion, Narmer, and Aha.

In addition to crediting Menes with the unification of Egypt by war and administrative measures, tradition attributes to him the founding of the capital, Menphis, near modern Cairo. Excavations at Saqqarah, the cemetery for Memphis, have revealed that the earliest royal tomb located there belongs to the reign of Aha. Manetho called Menes a Thinite--i.e., a native of the Thinite province in Upper Egypt--and, in fact, monuments belonging to the kings Narmer and Aha, either of whom may be Menes, have been excavated at Abydos, a royal cemetery in the Thinite nome. Narmer also appears on a slate palette (a decorated stone on which cosmetics were pulverized) wearing the red and white crowns of Lower and Upper Egypt, a combination symbolic of unification; he is shown triumphant over his enemies, probably an allusion to the wars fought to attain unity. Actually, the whole process probably required several reigns, and the traditional Menes may well represent the kings involved. According to Manetho, Menes reigned 62 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.

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