Menes (c. 3150 BCE) is the legendary initially king of Egypt that is thmust have actually united Upper and also Lower Egypt with occupation and also established both the First Empire and also the great city of Memphis. His name is recognized from resources such as Manetho"s Chronology (third century BCE), The Turin King List, and also the Palermo Stone as well as from some scant archaeological evidence such as ivory engravings. In the early on days of Egyptology, Menes was welcomed as the initially historical king based upon the created documents. As time went by, but, and archaeological excavations faibrought about rotate up any evidence of such a king, scholars started to question whether he had actually existed or was, probably, a compowebsite number attracted from the memory of the reigns of various other kings.

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The Egyptologist Flinders Petrie (1853-1942 CE) concluded that the name "Menes" was actually an honorific title definition "he who endures", not a personal name, and the initially historical pharaoh of Egypt was Narmer (c. 3150 BCE) whose presence was firmly establimelted both by the composed record and archaeological evidence (many notably, the Narmer Palette, a siltrock engraving portraying Narmer"s victory over Lower Egypt). In the modern day, Petrie"s insurance claim is the the majority of extensively welcomed and also Menes is linked via Narmer (though there are some scholars who associate the name via Narmer"s son Hor-Aha). The legfinish of Menes, but, took on a life of its own fairly independent of whatever the king Narmer may or may not have actually done. Narmer allegedly joined the 2 lands of Egypt peacetotally over time, married a princess to consolidate his power, and then started building jobs and also better developing profession via various other cultures. These achievements, yet, were not grand also enough for the initially king of Egypt who not only required to be larger than life yet likewise to represent an essential principle in Egyptian culture: duality.


Duality in Egyptian Belief

For the Egyptians, life was a matter of balance and also essential to be lived according to the principle of ma"at (harmony). This idea permeated every facet of Egyptian culture consisting of the office of the king. Manetho"s Chronology starts by listing the many type of gods who ruled Egypt prior to Menes and also, when it reaches the first king, provides clear that this man balanced Egypt by overcoming the pressures of chaos and presiding over a land also of order. Whether this actually happened was not as essential as what it symbolized. The scholars Oakes and also Gahlin discuss this, writing:

The crux of the prehistoric Egyptian mechanism of ideas was the connection between order (ma"at) and chaos (isfet). Although a state of order was taken into consideration to be the best, it was recognized that an opposing yet interdependent state of chaos should exist in order for equilibrium to be completed (336).

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The story of Menes" marriage of Egypt is thought about a symbolic representation of this duality so main to Egyptian society. Prior to Menes there was dispute in between the city claims of Upper and also Lower Egypt leading to chaos; then came the excellent king who lugged order and, from that order, prosperity. It was understood that chaos can come aobtain, however, and so the king required to be vigilant and, simply as importantly, had to be a mighty warrior that might subdue the pressures of chaos as soon as the need emerged. Oakes and also Gahlin note:


The conventions of Egyptian art were perfect for portraying the idea of duality, bereason symmeattempt was commonly offered to create a well balanced style. This is finest exemplified by the imaginative depiction of the essentially important principle of the "Unification of the Two Lands" (sema tawy). The prehistoric Egyptians regarded their nation as consisting of 2 unique parts: Upper Egypt (Shemau) and Lower Egypt (Ta-Mehu). These correspond to the South (the Nile Valley from the initially cataract north to just south of Memphis) and the North (the Delta), respectively. The people believed that the beginnings of the state of Egypt could be traced to an act of marriage of these 2 areas by a ruler called Menes (for whom there is no archaeological evidence) at the beginning of the at an early stage Dynastic Period (336).

Menes is shelp to have unified the 2 lands through occupation and, thereafter, instituted policies which brought tranquility and order. As noted, it is now assumed that Narmer was responsible for these developments and also "Menes" was his honorific; yet whatever before facts on Narmer"s regime were accessible to the early historians, they were discarded or embelliburned upon to create the legend of the great king Menes.

Menes: The Legend

Menes came from the city of Hierkanpolis (though it is additionally declared he came from Thinis) and dominated the neighboring cities of Upper Egypt, Thinis and Naqada, before embarking on the campaign to subdue lower Egypt. Manetho credits him via widening the boundaries of his kingdom by marching throughout the frontiers, bringing order out of chaos. He was an excellent warrior however likewise highly cultured and also later on authors (such as the Roguy historian Pliny) declared he designed composed script.


Menes" regime of 62 years was so flourishing that Diodorus Siculus claims Menes designed the concept of luxury.

Once Egypt was combined and at tranquility, he instituted spiritual practices and also formalized ideas. His regime was so flourishing (lasting 62 years) that the Egyptians did not need to work as tough as they provided to and also developed hobbies such as carving, sculpting, sports, imminent beer, cultivating exclusive gardens and also living in luxury. In truth, the later writer Diodorus Siculus clintends Menes invented the concept of deluxe.

He rode on the ago of a crocodile to escape rabid searching dogs (beginning the city of Crocodilopolis), started the great city of Memphis, and establimelted his resources tright here. According to Herodotus, he developed Memphis after creating a dam on the Nile to draw away water ameans from the preferred site of his city and created his great palace and also administrative buildings on land which had been under water (which accounted for the fertility of the neighboring plains). He instituted the practice of sacrificing to the gods and also ensured that harmony was observed throughout the land. After a long and also thriving regime, he was brought off (or killed) by a hippopotamus.


It is not surpincreasing that a hippomotamus have to function in Menes" finish. The hippopotamus in Egyptian culture was a fearsome creature that was consistently hunted and eliminated and also fatality by hippopotamus was taken into consideration among the worst. Further, the pet was connected through the god of chaos, Set, the initially murderer who had eliminated his brother Osiris and been beat by Osiris" child Horus. In keeping through the principle of duality, however, Set had actually a consort, Taweret, pictured as a woman with the head of a hippopotamus that was taken into consideration a protector. The dual nature of these two entwined gods was derived from the Egyptians" observations of the hippopotamus: the females safeguarded and also nurtured their young while the males were more aggressive and damaging.

Menes" death by hippopotamus could have been understood by an audience as meaning chaos had come and also lugged him amethod and, if such a point could happen to so excellent a king, it can happen to anyone; people, therefore, must reprimary vigilant at all times. Tawaret was not associated with global security however only of mothers and also kids so it is unlikely that Menes" death would certainly have actually been seen as a protective gesture by the gods who took him from earth at the proper time; but the association of the hippo through defense might have actually encouraged such an interpretation.

Menes: The History

However Menes" death was perceived, his power was considered a type of golden age for Egypt when life was excellent and also the land also flourishing. The scholar Douglas J. Brewer writes:


These composed accounts of Menes" accomplishments, yet, date hundreds of years after his fatality, whereby time he had been transdeveloped right into a cult hero whose life and accomplishments were embellished via semi-mythical anecdotes (126).

The actual king who a lot of more than likely united the two lands of Egypt was Narmer who was nearly certainly from the city of Thinis. Narmer establimelted himself as supreme king of Upper and also Lower Egypt and also married the princess Neithhotep of Naqada in an alliance to strengthen ties between the two cities. Although he is thought to have actually unified Egypt peacefully, tright here is proof he did so through armed forces occupation. The Narmer Palette plainly depicts this king subduing Lower Egypt by force; though whether the inscriptions on the palette have to be read as history or symbollically continues to be discussed. Even so, he a lot of likely led army expeditions through lower Egypt to put dvery own rebellions and, as via the Menes" legend, crossed the frontiers and broadened his area right into Canaan and also Nubia. He initiated large building projects and the tiny cities of the Predynastic Period of Egypt thrived in dimension and also scope.

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Narmer would certainly not have actually instituted spiritual practice but the majority of most likely formalized it. He certainly is responsible for the buildings dated to his time which, prefer all those that followed, expressed the spiritual beliefs of the Egyptians through their style. When Narmer was born or just how he died is unknown but it is quite clear that such a king existed whereas the same cannot be said for Menes. Brewer writes:

Menes probably never existed, at leastern as the individual responsible for all the attributed tasks. Rather he is many most likely a compilation of real-life people whose deeds were taped with dental legacy and also figured out as the job-related of a solitary perchild, thereby creating a central hero figure for Egypt"s unification. Like the characters of the Holy bible, Menes was component fiction, part fact, and also the years have masked the borderline, creating a legfinish of marriage (142).

Unification of Egypt, whether completed or only initiated by Narmer, was most likely a slow-moving process which took many years. The chaos obvious during the Second Empire (c. 2980 - c. 2670 BCE) supports the case that marriage was not accomplished in a solitary stroke by one king. Egyptian culture, but, necessary the legend of Menes and the marriage of Egypt in order to create a connection between the initially king and the enthroughout principle of duality. Oakes and also Gahlin write:


This specific facet of the notion of duality manifested itself incredibly clearly in the royal titles. The king"s chief titles were "Lord of the Two Lands" (Neb Tawy) and also "King of Upper and also Lower Egypt" (Nesw Bity)...The regalia of kingship additionally reflected the idea of duality. The king can be illustrated wearing the white crown linked with Upper Egypt, the Red Crvery own of Lower Egypt, or sometimes the Double Crown which integrated the crowns of both areas. So north and also south were distinctive but both were important to create a whole (337).

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The legend of Menes offered to indicate that totality. A excellent king qualified of remarkable accomplishments who establiburned a harmonious gold age at the beginning of tape-recorded history was much more meaningful to later on generations than a mere man that might or might not have linked the nation. Like any kind of founder of a nation throughout history, Menes served as a perfect of the culture"s worths and what it aspired to. Whether an actual male called Menes existed was irrelevant; what mattered was what his story supposed to the people of his nation.


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A freelance writer and former part-time Professor of Philosophy at Marist College, New York, Joshua J. Mark has actually resided in Greece and also Germany type of and also traveled via Egypt. He has actually taught history, writing, literary works, and also ideology at the college level.