is the Greek form of the name of the legendary first human king of Egypt, as given by the third-century BCE Egyptian historian Manetho; alternative forms are Min (as given by Herodotus), Minaios (as given by Josephus), and Menas (as given by Diodorus Siculus). Other variants are also attested. The various Greek forms undoubtedly render the Egyptian name Mni, found in the Abydos and Turin king lists, although the etymology of the name is uncertain. Some have proposed a connection with the verb “to endure”; others have wished to connect it with the Egyptian indefinite pronoun mn, meaning “so-and-so”—that is, as a substitute for a forgotten name. James Allen (1992) has sought to link the name Meni with the Egyptian name of the city of Memphis (Mn-nfr), which Menes is said to have founded.

It is unclear which, if any, of the known first dynasty kings is to be equated with Menes. Both Narmer and Aha have been identified with Menes. Narmer's claim rests on his earlier historical position and on the Narmer Palette, which has been interpreted as showing the king in the act of conquering Lower Egypt. Aha's claim is based on the occurrence of the game-board hieroglyph (phonetic mn) on objects bearing Aha's name, the interpretation of which is not entirely certain. The New Kingdom king lists and the Manethonian tradition do preserve at least some genuine material on the first dynasty, but it is uncertain whether there exists an unbroken tradition of knowledge on the part of the Egyptians about the foundational king that could connect the name Mni with any historical person. What can be affirmed is that it is probably Narmer, rather than Aha, who is to be regarded as the first king of the first dynasty, since the name Narmer heads the sequence of kings given in the necropolis sealings of the kings Den and Ḳaʿa.

According to Manetho, Menes founded a dynasty of eight kings from This. Manetho gives Menes a reign of about sixty years (sixty-two years in Africanus, sixty in Eusebius); his principal achievement is said to have been the foundation of Memphis, on land reclaimed from the Nile by means of the construction of an immense dike. Manetho reports that Menes campaigned abroad; he is said by Pliny to have invented writing, and by Diodorus Siculus to have been the first law-giver and to have established the divine cults in Egypt. Finally, again according to Manetho, Menes was carried off by a hippopotamus.

See also NARMER.

Bibliography

  • Allen, J. P. “Menes the Memphite.” Göttinger Miszellen 126 (1992), 19–22.
  • Wilkinson, T. A. H. Early Dynastic Egypt. London, 1999.

Steve Vinson