Memphis in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Capital of Lower Egypt, on the W. or left bank of the Nile.
Hebrew "Nowph" (Isaiah 19:13). "Mowph," or Memphis (Hosea
9:6). Second only to Thebes in all Egypt; the residence of
the kings until the Ptolemies moved to Alexandria. Plutarch
makes it mean "the port of good things," the sepulchre of
Osiris, the necropolis of Egypt, "the haven of the blessed,"
for the right of burial was given only to the good. Diodorus
Siculus (i. 4) observes, the inhabitants value little this
brief life, but most highly the name of a virtuous life
after death; they call the houses of the living inns,
because they remain in them only a little while, but the
sepulchers of the dead everlasting habitations; they are not
therefore very careful about their houses, but in
beautifying the sepulchers leave nothing undone. "The good"
may refer to Osiris, whose sacred animal Apis was here
worshipped, and had its burial place the Serapeum, from
whence the village Busiris is named, namely, "the abode of
Osiris," now Aboo Seer.
"Memphis shall bury them" is a characteristic
description, its burying ground extending 20 miles along the
Libyan desert's border. Mem means a foundation or wall, and
nofre "good"; or mam-Phta "the dwelling of Phta" the god
answering to the Greek Hephaestus, Latin Vulcan; or from
Menes its founder. Near the pyramids of Gizeh, and ten miles
to the S. of modern Cairo; the court of the idol bull Apis.
In hieroglyphics called "the city of pyramids." The
monuments of Memphis are more ancient than those of Thebes.
Menes (compare Minos in Crete, Genesis 10:6; Bochart makes
him Mizraim, and thinks Memphis was called Mezri from him,
as the Arabs now call it) its founder dates 2690 B.C. (Sir
G. Wilkinson), 2717 B.C. (Poole), 2200 or 2300 according to
Eratosthenes compare with Dicaearchus. Many of Manetho's
dynasties were contemporaneous, not successive.
"Menes" in hieroglyphics is written as the founder
of Memphis on the roof of the Rameseum near Gournon in
western Thebes, at the head of the ancestors of Rameses the
Great; the earliest mention of the name is on a ruined tomb
at Gizeh, "the royal governor Menes," a descendant probably
of the first Menes, and living under the fifth dynasty.
Caviglia discovered the colossal statue of Rameses II
beautifully sculptured. Before Menes the Nile, emerging from
the upper valley, bent W. to the Libyan hills, and was
wasted in the sands and stagnant pools. Menes, according to
Herodotus, by banking up the river at the bend 100 furlongs
S. of Memphis, laid the old channel dry, and dug a new
course between the hills, and excavated a lake outside
Memphis to the N. and W., communicating with the river. Thus
Memphis was built in the narrow part of Egypt, on a marsh
reclaimed by Menes' dyke and drained by his artificial lake.
The dyke began 12 miles S. of Memphis, and deflected the
river two miles eastward.
At the rise of the Nile a canal still led some of
its waters westward through the former bed, irrigating the
western plain. The artificial lake at Abousir guarded
against inundation on that side. Memphis commanded the Delta
on one hand and...