Sfinx statue in the Memphis Open Air MuseumGreek rendering of the name of the ancient city south of modern Cairo that was once the capital of the first Lower Egyptian nome and, from the Early Dynastic Period on, the capital city of Egypt. According to tradition King Menes, the unifier of the Two Lands, founded the city. Its strategic location on the border between the Nile Valley and the Delta regions made it possible to control the entire country from here. The name Memphis is derived from the ancient Egyptian 'Men-nefer'('-Pepi'), the name of the town, which flourished around the pyramid of king Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty, situated in Saqqara.

The Egyptians themselves usually referred to Memphis as 'the White Walls'; probably a reference to an early Dynastic royal palace surrounded by whitewashed walls. However, not much has been found from that period in time, since almost all the archaeological remains date from the New Kingdom and later. Though now best known for its sprawling necropolis, one of the largest in the world that includes such sites as Giza, Abusir, Saqqara, Dahshur and Meidum, Memphis was famed for its great temple of the god Ptah, the creator-god. The modern remains of this edifice were constructed during the New Kingdom using reused blocks from earlier periods. Nearby, the remains have been discovered of a palace of Merenptah of the 19th Dynasty and of an embalming house dating to the 22nd Dynasty for the mummification of the Apis bulls, sacred animals of Ptah. Interesting too, is the discovery of an extensive faience manufacturing industry dating to the Roman Period.