Menes (/ˈmiːniːz/; Ancient Egyptian: mnj, probably pronounced
*/maˈnij/; Ancient Greek: Μήνης) was a pharaoh of the
Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt credited by classical tradition
with having united
Upper and Lower Egypt
Upper and Lower Egypt and as the founder of the
The identity of
Menes is the subject of ongoing debate, although
mainstream Egyptological consensus identifies
Menes with the Naqada
III ruler Narmer (most likely) or First Dynasty pharaoh
Hor-Aha. Both pharaohs are credited with the unification of Egypt
to different degrees by various authorities.
1 Name and identity
Narmer and Menes
3.2 Cultural influence
4 In popular culture
5 See also
9 External links
Name and identity
The Egyptian form, mnj, is taken from the Turin and Abydos King Lists,
which are dated to the Nineteenth Dynasty, whose pronunciation has
been reconstructed as */maˈnij/. By the early New Kingdom, changes in
the Egyptian language meant his name was already pronounced
*/maˈneʔ/. The name mnj means "He who endures", which, I.E.S.
Edwards (1971) suggests, may have been coined as "a mere descriptive
epithet denoting a semi-legendary hero [...] whose name had been
lost". Rather than a particular person, the name may conceal
Naqada III rulers: Ka,
Scorpion II and Narmer.
The commonly-used name
Menes derives from Manetho, an Egyptian
historian and priest who lived during the pre-Coptic period of the
Manetho noted the name in Greek as Μήνης
(transliterated: Mênês). An alternative Greek form, Μιν
(transliterated: Min), was cited by the fifth-century-BC historian
Herodotus, is a variant no longer accepted; it appears to have
been the result of contamination from the name of the god Min.
Narmer and Menes
Main article: Narmer
The ivory label mentioning
Hor-Aha along with the mn sign.
The almost complete absence of any mention of
Menes in the
archaeological record and the comparative wealth of evidence of
Narmer, a protodynastic figure credited by posterity and in the
archaeological record with a firm claim to the unification of Upper
and Lower Egypt, has given rise to a theory identifying
The chief archaeological reference to
Menes is an ivory label from
Nagada which shows the royal Horus-name Aha (the pharaoh Hor-Aha) next
to a building, within which is the royal nebty-name mn, generally
taken to be Menes.[a] 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
Menes (as one person or as successive pharaohs) have arisen.
The Turin and Abydos king lists, generally accepted to be correct,
list the nesu-bit-names of the pharaohs, not their Horus-names, and
are vital to the potential reconciliation of the various records: the
nesu-bit-names of the king lists, the Horus-names of the
archaeological record and the number of pharaohs in Dynasty I
Manetho and other historical sources.
Flinders Petrie first attempted this task, associating Iti with
Djer as the third pharaoh of Dynasty I,
Teti (Turin) (or another Iti
Hor-Aha as second pharaoh, and
Menes (a nebty-name)
Narmer (a Horus-name) as first pharaoh of Dynasty I. Lloyd
(1994) finds this succession "extremely probable", and
Cervelló-Autuori (2003) categorically states that "
Menes is Narmer
and the First Dynasty begins with him". However, Seidlmayer (2004)
states that it is "a fairly safe inference" that
Menes was Hor-Aha.
Egyptologists, archaeologists, and scholars from the 19th century have
proposed different dates for the era of Menes, or the date of the
John Gardner Wilkinson
John Gardner Wilkinson (1835) – 2320 BC
Jean-François Champollion (1840)[contradictory] – 5867 BC
August Böckh (1845) – 5702 BC
Christian Charles Josias Bunsen
Christian Charles Josias Bunsen (1848) – 3623 BC
Reginald Stuart Poole (1851) – 2717 BC
Karl Richard Lepsius
Karl Richard Lepsius (1856) – 3892 BC
Heinrich Karl Brugsch
Heinrich Karl Brugsch (1859) – 4455 BC
Franz Joseph Lauth (1869) – 4157 BC
Auguste Mariette (1871) – 5004 BC
James Strong (1878) – 2515 BC
Flinders Petrie (1887) – 4777 BC
Modern consensus dates the era of
Menes or the start of the first
dynasty between c. 3200–3030 BC; some academic literature uses c.
By 500 BC, mythical and exaggerated claims had made
Menes a culture
hero, and most of what is known of him comes from a much later
Ancient tradition ascribed to
Menes the honour of having united Upper
Lower Egypt into a single kingdom and becoming the first
pharaoh of the First Dynasty. 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. 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 Hellenistic period, demonstrating that, even
that late, he was regarded as an important figure.
Menes was seen as a founding figure for much of the history of ancient
Egypt, similar to Romulus in ancient Rome.
Manetho records that
Menes "led the army across the frontier and won great glory".
Manetho associates the city of
Thinis with the Early Dynastic Period
and, in particular, Menes, a "Thinite" or native of Thinis.
Manetho in stating that
Menes founded the city
of Memphis as his capital after diverting the course of the Nile
through the construction of a levee.
Manetho ascribes the building
of Memphis to Menes' son, Athothis, and calls no pharaohs earlier
than Third Dynasty "Memphite".
Herodotus and Manetho's stories of the foundation of Memphis are
probably later inventions: in 2012 a relief mentioning the visit of
Memphis by Iry-Hor—a predynastic ruler of
Upper Egypt reigning
before Namer—was discovered in the Sinai Peninsula, indicating that
the city was already in existence in the early 32nd century BC.
Diodorus Siculus stated that
Menes had introduced the worship of the
gods and the practice of sacrifice as well as a more elegant and
luxurious style of living. For this latter invention, Menes'
memory was dishonoured by the Twenty-fourth Dynasty pharaoh Tefnakht
Plutarch mentions a pillar at Thebes on which was inscribed an
Menes as the introducer of luxury.
In Pliny's[clarification needed] account,
Menes was credited with
being the inventor of writing in Egypt.
Diodorus Siculus recorded a story of
Menes related by the priests of
the crocodile god
Sobek at Crocodilopolis, in which the pharaoh Menes,
attacked by his own dogs while out hunting, fled across Lake
Moeris on the back of a crocodile and, in thanks, founded the city of
George Stanley 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 flood myth.
Edwards (1974) states that "the legend, which is obviously filled with
anachronisms, is patently devoid of historical value", but Gaston
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 that the story
should be transferred to the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh
Amenemhat III and
sees no reason to doubt that Diodorus did not correctly record a
tradition of Menes.
According to Manetho,
Menes reigned for 62 years and was killed by a
In popular culture
Alexander Dow (1735/6–79), a Scottish orientalist and playwright,
wrote the tragedy Sethona, set in ancient Egypt. 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.
Mannus, ancestral figure in Germanic mythology
Minos, king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa
Manu (Hinduism), Progenitor of humanity
Nu'u, Hawaiian mythological character who built an ark and escaped a
Nüwa, goddess in Chinese mythology best known for creating mankind
^ Originally, the full royal title of a pharaoh was
Horus name x nebty
name y Golden-
Horus name z nesu-bit name a Son-of-Ra name b. For
brevity's sake, only one element might be used, but the choice varied
between circumstances and period. Starting with Dynasty V, the
nesu-bit name was the one regularly used in all official documents. In
Dynasty I, the Horus-name was used for a living pharaoh, the
nebty-name for the dead.
^ Other dates typical of the era are found cited in Capart, Jean,
Primitive Art in Egypt, pp. 17–18 .
^ a b c d e Edwards 1971, p. 13.
^ a b c d e f g h i Lloyd 1994, p. 7.
^ a b c Cervelló-Autuori 2003, p. 174.
^ a b c d e f g Edwards 1971, p. 11.
^ Loprieno, Antonio (1995). Ancient Egyptian: A linguistic
introduction. Cambridge University press.
^ Beck et al. 1999.
^ Heagy 2014.
^ a b Seidlmayer 2010.
^ Loprieno 1995, p. 38.
^ a b c d Manetho, Fr. 6, 7a, 7b. Text and translation in Manetho,
translated by W.G. Waddell (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1940),
^ Herodotus: 2.4.1, 2.99.1ff.
^ Lloyd 1994, p. 6.
^ Gardiner 1961, p. 405.
^ Budge, EA Wallis (1885), The Dwellers on the Nile: Chapters on the
Life, Literature, History and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians,
p. 54, Many dates have been fixed by scholars for the reign of
this king: Champollion-Figeac thought about BC 5867, Bunsen 3623,
Lepsius 3892, Brugsch 4455, and Wilkinson 2320.
^ Kitchen, KA (1991). "The Chronology of Ancient Egypt". World
Archaeology. 23 (2): 201–8. doi:10.1080/00438243.1991.9980172.
^ Frank Northen Magill; Alison Aves (1998). Dictionary of World
Biography. Taylor & Francis. pp. 726–.
^ Maspero 1903, p. 331.
^ a b c d e Verbrugghe & Wickersham 2001, p. 131.
^ Shaw & Nicholson 1995, p. 218.
^ Ryholt 2009.
^ Manley 1997, p. 22.
^ Herodotus: 2.99.4.
^ Herodotus: 2.109
^ Verbrugghe & Wickersham 2001, p. 133.
^ P. Tallet, D. Laisnay:
Narmer au Sud-Sinaï (Ouadi
'Ameyra), un complément à la chronologie des expéditios minière
égyptiene, in: BIFAO 112 (2012), 381-395, available online
^ a b c Elder 1849, p. 1040.
^ a b c Maspero 1910, p. 235.
^ a b Edwards 1974, p. 22.
^ Diodorus: 45
^ Faber 1816, p. 195.
^ Elder 1849, p. 1040, ‘in defiance of chronology’.
^ Dow 1774.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Menes.
Menes, Ancient Egypt .
"The Contendings of
Horus and Seth", Egypt, IL: Reshafim .
"Menes", Ancient Egyptian Civilization (image), Aldokkan .
"Menes". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Protodynastic to First Intermediate Period (<3150–2040 BC)
Narmer / Menes
Narmer / Menes
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II
Neferkare III Neby
Neferkare IV Khendu
Neferkare V Tereru
Neferkare VI Pepiseneb
Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (2040–1550 BC)
Sekhemkare Amenemhat V
Ameny Antef Amenemhet VI
Mershepsesre Ini II
New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550–664 BC)
Osorkon the Elder
Late Period and Hellenistic Period (664–30 BC)
Alexander the Great
Philip III Arrhidaeus
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy V Epiphanes
Ptolemy VI Philometor
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes
Ptolemy IX Soter
Ptolemy X Alexander I
Ptolemy XI Alexander II
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
21st to 23rd
List of pharaohs
First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt
Tomb of Anedjib
Den seal impressions
Mastabas S3503 and S3504