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English Bible Dictionary

Memphis

 

(haven, of the good), a city of ancient Egypt, situated on that western bank of the Nile, about nine miles south of Cairo and five from the great pyramids and the sphinx. It is mentioned by (Isaiah 40:14,19) and Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 30:13,16) under the name of Noph. Though some regard Thebes as the more ancient city, the monuments of Memphis are of higher antiquity than those of Thebus. The city is said to have had a circumference of about 10 miles. The temple of Apis was one of the most noted structures of Memphis. It stood opposite the southern portico of the temple of Ptah; and Psammetichus, who built that gateway, also erected in front of the sanctuary of Apis a magnificent colonnade, supported by colossal statues or Osiride pillars, such as may still be seen at the temple of Medeenet Habou at Thebes. Herod. ii, 153. Through this colonnade the Apis was led with great pomp upon state occasions. At Memphis was the reputed burial-place of Isis; it has also a temple to that "myriad-named" divinity. Memphis had also its Serapeium, which probably stood in the western quarter of the city. The sacred cubit until other symbols used in measuring the rise of the Nile were deposited in the temple of Serapis, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The Necropolis, adjacent to Memphis, was on a scale of grandeur corresponding with the city itself. The "city of the pyramids" is a title of Memphis in the hieroglyphics upon the monuments. Memphis long held its place as a capital; and for centuries a Memphite dynasty ruled over all Egypt. Lepsius, Bunsen and Brugsch agree in regarding the third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth dynasties of the old empire as Memphite, reaching through a period of about 1000 years. The city's overthrow was distinctly predicted by the Hebrew prophets. (Isaiah 19:13; Jeremiah 46:19) The latest of these predictions was uttered nearly 600 years before Christ, and a half a century before the invasion of Egypt by Cambyses (cir, B.C. 525). Herodotus informs us that Cambyses, engaged at the opposition he encountered at Memphis, committed many outrages upon the city. The city never recovered from the blow inflicted by Cambyses. The rise of Alexandria hastened its decline. The caliph conquerors founded Fostat (old Cairo) upon the opposite bank of the Nile, a few miles north of Memphis, and brought materials from the old city to build their new capital, A.D. 638. At length so complete was the ruin of Memphis that for a long time its very site was lost. Recent explorations have brought to light many of its antiquities.

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