Narmer


Narmer
(Menes) King c.3100-? BC.
    The Egyptian King-Lists provide the name of 'Meni' as the first king of the First Dynasty, and Menes is the Greek form of this name. It is recorded in the later writings of *Herodotus and *Diodorus Siculus, who have preserved legends of this king. It was said that he was the first law-giver and that he brought civilisation to Egypt; also, as a creator-god, he was accredited with the building of the first town and, according to *Herodotus, he drained the plain of Memphis and built the 'White Wall' there, which surrounded the first capital of a united Egypt. At the centre of this town (later known by its Greek name of Memphis), Menes also constructed a temple to the god Ptah. According to Egyptian mythology, the creation of the world was followed by the establishment of a line of god-rulers and they in turn were succeeded by a dynasty of semi-divine kings which culminated in the reign of Menes, the first human ruler.
    Today, historians identify Menes as the king who united Upper and Lower Egypt, bringing together the south and the north, originally ruled as two separate kingdoms, the White Land and the Red Land. In c.3100 BC, Menes (ruler of the southern kingdom) probably completed a process of conquest of the north that had been started by his predecessors, including King *Scorpion. Menes is therefore the symbol of the unification of the Two Lands, and is almost certainly to be identified with King Narmer, who is represented wearing the crowns of both the Red and White Lands. There has been discussion over this identification, since there was also the possibility that Menes could have been King 'Aha, who had a substantial funerary monument at Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis.
    The so-called Narmer Palette is one of the most famous and artistically interesting pieces from this period. These large sculptured slate palettes (of which only thirteen survive) were probably votive offerings, and they provide the earliest known examples of hieroglyphic writing. The Narmer Palette, discovered in the Temple of Hieraconpolis in 1897 and now in the Cairo Museum, has scenes carved on both the obverse and reverse; these commemorate the conquest of the north by the southerners and the subsequent unification of the Two Lands under King Narmer.
    On one side of the palette, the king wears the Upper Egyptian White Crown and holds aloft a macehead, with which he is about to club the head of a kneeling enemy whom he grasps by his forelock. There is a group of hieroglyphic signs associated with these figures which seem to be an embryonic attempt to convey the meaning of the scene: the king's capture of the inhabitants of the Delta. On the verso, there are two entwined composite animals, probably symbolising the union of the Two Lands, and in the uppermost register, the king, who wears the Red Crown, is shown in the company of a number of standards (which represent those confederates who have helped him achieve victory) as he inspects the decapitated corpses of his enemies.
BIBL. Borchadt, L. Das Grab des Menes. ZAS 36 (1898) pp 87-105; Newberry, P.E. Menes: the founder of the Egyptian monarchy, in Brunton, W. et al. Great Ones of Ancient Egypt. London: 1929 pp. 35-53. Petrie, W.M.F. Ceremonial State Palettes. London 1953.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 3100 BC)
   First king of Dynasty 1, as named in the royal seal of the dynasty. He may be identified with the legendary King Menes. He is known from a palette and macehead found at Hierakonpolis, which record his military victories. He was buried at Abydos, where his tombhas recently been reexcavated by a German expedition.
   See also Aha.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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