Memphis, Egypt - Toponymy


Memphis (mn nfr)
in hieroglyphs

Memphis has had several names during its history of almost four millennia. Its Ancient Egyptian name was Inebou-Hedjou.(translated as "the white walls").

Because of its size, the city also came to be known by various other names that were actually the names of neighbourhoods or districts that enjoyed considerable prominence at one time or another. For example, according to a text of the First Intermediate Period, it was known Djed-Sut ("everlasting places"), which is the name of the pyramid of Teti.

The city was also at one point referred to as Ankh-Tawy (meaning "Life of the Two Lands"), stressing the strategic position of the city between Upper and Lower Egypt. This name appears to date from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1640 BCE), and is frequently found in ancient Egyptian texts. Some scholars maintain that this name was actually that of the western district of the city that lay between the great Temple of Ptah and the necropolis at Saqqara, an area that contained a sacred tree.

At the beginning of the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BCE), the city became known as Men-nefer (meaning "enduring and beautiful"), which became Menfe in Coptic. The name "Memphis" (Μέμφις) is the Greek corruption of this name, which was originally the name of the pyramid of Pepi I, located west of the city.

The Egyptian historian Manetho referred to Memphis as Hut-ka-Ptah (meaning "Enclosure of the ka of Ptah"), which he approximated in Greek as Aί γυ πτoς (Ai-gy-ptos), from which derives the Latin AEGYPTVS and the modern English name of Egypt. The term Copt is also believed to be etymologically derived from this name.

In the Bible, Memphis is called Moph or Noph.


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