Imagine visiting your city 2000 years from now and there is nothing left but a few statues.
This was the fate of Memphis; ancient Egypt’s oldest and largest city.
Memphis was located in Lower Egypt, at the apex of the Nile Delta. According to Egyptian myths and classical legends, the first king of Egypt, Menes, united the two warring lands of Upper and Lower Egypt and founded Memphis, symbolically on the spot where the Nile Delta (Lower Egypt) met the valley (Upper Egypt). This would place the beginnings of Memphis around 3100 BC.
The city was the royal residence and capital of Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom, and remained a prosperous centre throughout Egypt’s long history, with many fine temples. It was only with the foundation of Alexandria in 331 B.C. that Memphis fell into second place before finally being abandoned during the first Arab invasions in the 7th century A.D.
Since then Memphis has been thoroughly picked-over, plundered and ploughed under, and has almost completely vanished. Today only scattered ruins remain around the cultivated fields of the modern town of Mit Rahina around 15 kilometres south of Cairo.
This photo of a toppled statue amongst the plantations around Memphis was taken in 1982. Photo: JiPR