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Menes (Greek: Μήνης;[1] Egyptian: Meni) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the early dynastic period, credited by classical tradition with having united Upper and Lower Egypt, and as the founder of the first dynasty (Dynasty I).[2]

The identity of Menes is the subject of ongoing debate, although mainstream Egyptological consensus[3][4][5] identifies Menes with the protodynastic pharaoh Narmer (also credited with the unification of Egypt) as the first pharaoh, evidenced by different royal titularies in the historical and archaeological records respectively.

Name and identity

in hieroglyphs

The commonly used Menes derives from Manetho, an Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the Ptolemaic period. Manetho used the name in the form Μήνης (transliterated: Mênês).[1][6] An alternative Greek form, Μιν (transliterated: Min), was cited by the fifth-century BCE historian Herodotus[7], a variant no longer considered the result of contamination from the name of the god Min.[8]

The Egyptian form, Meni, is taken from the Turin and Abydos king lists (dated Dynasty XIX).[6]

The name, Menes, means "He who endures", which, Edwards (1971) suggests, may have been coined as "a mere descriptive epithet denoting a semi-legendary hero [...] whose name had been lost".[1] Rather than a particular person, the name may conceal collectively the protodynastic pharaohs Ka, Scorpion and Narmer.[1]

Menes and Narmer

The almost complete absence of any mention of Menes in the archaeological record,[1] and the comparative wealth of evidence of Narmer, a protodynastic figure credited by posterity and in the archaeological record with a firm claim[4] to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, has given rise to a theory identifying Menes with Narmer.

The chief archaeological reference to Menes is an ivory label from Naqada which shows the royal Horus-name Aha (the pharaoh Hor-Aha) next to a building, within which is the royal nebty-name mn,[9] generally taken to be Menes.[10][1] From this, various theories on the nature of the building (a funerary booth or a shrine), the meaning of the word mn (a name or the verb endures) and the relationship between Hor-Aha and Menes (as one person or as successive pharaohs) have arisen.[3]

The Turin and Abydos king lists, generally accepted to be correct,[3] list the nebty-names of the pharaohs, not their Horus-names,[4] and are vital to the potential reconciliation of the various records: the nebty-names of the king lists, the Horus-names of the archaeological record and the number of pharaohs in Dynasty I according to Manetho and other historical sources.[4]

Petrie first attempted this task,[4] associating Iti with Djer as the third pharaoh of Dynasty I, Teti (Turin) (or another Iti (Abydos)) with Hor-Aha as second pharaoh, and Menes (a nebty-name) with Narmer (a Horus-name) as first pharaoh of Dynasty I.[4][3] Lloyd (1994) finds this succession "extremely probable",[4] and Cervelló-Autuori (2003) categorically states that "Menes is Narmer and the First Dynasty begins with him".[5]


Ancient tradition ascribed to Menes the honour of having united Upper and Lower Egypt into in a single kingdom[11][6] and becoming the first pharaoh of Dynasty I.[12]

However, his name does not appear on extant pieces of the Royal Annals (Cairo Stone and Palermo Stone), which is a now-fragmentary king's list that was carved onto a stela during the Fifth dynasty. He typically appears in later sources as the first human ruler of Egypt, directly inheriting the throne from the god Horus.[13] He also appears in other, much later, king's lists, always as the first human pharaoh of Egypt. Menes also appears in demotic novels of the Graeco-Roman Period, demonstrating that, even that late, he was regarded as important figure.[14]

Menes was seen as a founding figure for much of the history of Ancient Egypt, similar to Romulus in Ancient Rome.[15]

Manetho records that Menes "led the army across the frontier and won great glory".[12]


Manetho associates the city of Thinis with the first dynasties (Dynasty I and Dynasty II) and, in particular, Menes, a "Thinite" or native of Thinis.[12] Herodotus contradicts Manetho in stating that Menes founded the city of Memphis as his capital[16] after diverting the course of the River Nile through the construction of a dyke.[17] Manetho ascribes the building of Memphis to Menes' son, Athothis,[12] and calls no pharaohs earlier than Dynasty III "Memphite".[18]

Cultural influence

Diodorus Siculus states that Menes introduced the worship of the gods and the practice of sacrifice[19] as well as a more elegant and luxurious style of living.[19]

For this latter invention, Menes' memory was dishonoured by the Dynasty XXIV pharaoh Tefnakht, and Plutarch mentions a pillar at Thebes on which was inscribed an imprecation against Menes as the introducer of luxury.[19]

Crocodile episode

Diodorus Siculus recorded a story of Menes,[20] related by the priests of the crocodile-god Sobek at Crocodilopolis,[21] in which the pharaoh Menes, attacked by his own dogs while out hunting,[22] fled across Lake Moeris on the back of a crocodile and, in thanks, founded the city of Crocodilopolis.[21][22][23]

Edwards (1974) states that "the legend, which is obviously filled with anachronisms, is patently devoid of historical value",[23] but Maspero (1910), while acknowledging the possibility that traditions relating to other kings may have become mixed up with this story, dismisses the suggestions of some commentators[24] that the story should be transferred to the Dynasty XII pharaoh Amenemhat III and sees no reason to doubt that Diodorus did not correctly record a tradition of Menes.[22]

Joseph (2004) interprets the story as an allegory for the victory of Menes and his allies in his war of unification, and in which Menes' enemies are symbolised insultingly as dogs.[21]

Faber (1816), taking the word campsa to mean either crocodile or ark and preferring the latter, identifies Menes with Noah and the entire story as a deluge myth.[25]


According to Manetho, Menes reigned for 62 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.[12][26] Waddell (1930), although widely dismissed,[27] claims Menes died in Ireland of a wasp sting.[28]

In popular culture

Alexander Dow (1735/6 - 1779), a Scottish orientalist and playwright, wrote the tragedy Sethona, set in ancient Egypt, in which the lead part of Menes is described in the dramatis personæ as "next male-heir to the crown" now worn by Seraphis, and was played by Samuel Reddish in a 1774 production by David Garrick at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.[29]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Edwards 1971: 11
  2. Beck et al. 1999
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Edwards 1971: 13
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Lloyd 1994: 7
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cervelló-Autuori 2003: 174
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Etheredge 2008
  7. Herodotus: 2.4.1, 2.99.1ff.
  8. Lloyd 1994: 6
  9. Gardiner 1961: 405
  10. Originally, the full royal title of a pharaoh was Horus-name x nebty-name y. For brevity's sake, only one element might be used, but the choice varied between circumstances and period. In Dynasty I, the Horus-name was used for a living pharaoh, the nebty-name for the dead. (Lloyd 1994: 7)
  11. Maspero 1903: 331
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Verbrugghe and Wickersham 2001: 131
  13. Shaw and Nicholson 1995: 218
  14. Ryholt 2009
  15. Manley 1997: 22
  16. Herodotus: 2.99.4.
  17. Herodotus: 2.109
  18. Verbrugghe and Wickersham 2001: 133
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Elder 1849: 1040
  20. Diodorus (n.d.): 45
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Joseph 2004: 99
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Maspero 1910: 235
  23. 23.0 23.1 Edwards 1974: 22
  24. e.g. Elder 1849: 1040: in defiance of chronology
  25. Faber 1816: 195
  26. Sayce and Gibbon 1906: 15
  27. Hesse 1969: 188 n. 1
  28. Waddell 1930: 60
  29. Dow 1774


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Menes. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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