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Menes was an Egyptian pharaoh of the First dynasty of Egypt, to some authors the founder of this dynasty, to others the second. He lived ca. 3100-3000 BC, to some lists ca. 3050 BC. He is generally credited with uniting Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom. Manetho, a 3rd-century-BC Egyptian historian, called him Menes; the 5th-century-BC Greek historian Herodotus referred to him as Min; and two native-king lists of the 19th dynasty (13th century BC) call him Meni. However, the discovery of the Narmer Palette in the late 19th century showing the pharaoh Narmer, possibly pre-dating Menes, wielding the unified symbols of both Upper and Lower Egypt has caused some controversy. Some Egyptologists hold that Narmer and Menes are in fact the same person; others hold that Menes inherited an already-unified kingdom from Narmer; still others hold that Menes completed a process of unification started either unsuccessfully or only partially successfully by Narmer. In either case, Menes is credited with the foundation of Memphis, which he established as the Egyptian capital.

Another name for Menes has various spellings: Hor Aka, Hor-Aka and Hor Aha; Hor-Aka can be translated as "Horus of the Reeds", possibly in allusion to the legend in which Isis hid Horus in the Nile Delta among papyri and reeds. From this name arises speculation: it is difficult to forget the legendary battle between Horus (a patron deity of Lower Egypt) and Set (patron deity of Upper Egypt). In this mythological unification of the two Egypts, Set was defeated and the kingdom was unified under the rule of Horus, the first king of all Egypt. It is easy to be sceptical about the conversion of this war into a myth, but it is a matter of record that the unification of Egypt occurred, and it probably did not occur peacefully. However, to say that this historical event was transmuted into the Set-Horus myth is stretching the bounds of what can be safely said.

It seems not unreasonable to suggest that a grain of history, giving birth to this myth, could also be found in the events of Pharaoh Khasekhemwy reign, ruling several hundred years later; he crushed a civil war between the followers of Set and Horus.

According to Manetho, Menes reigned 62 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04