Menes ((Min, Meni) was the father of Egypt. The name is also associated with the Middle Kingdom Moeris. Menes is possibly a title, not a name, for ‘founding father’. The name first appears first in New Kingdom documents, at the top of the Abydos list, which dates to Seti I and in the Turin Papyrus, written during the reign of Ramses II.
The Historical Father of Egypt
The commonly used Menes derives from Manetho, an Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the Ptolemaic period. Manetho used the name in the form Μήνης (Mênês). An alternative Greek form, Μιν (transliterated: Min), was cited by the 5th-century BC historian Herodotus, a variant no longer considered the result of contamination from the name of the god Min. The Egyptian form, Meni, is taken from the Turin and Abydos king lists (dated Dynasty XIX).
The name, Menes, means “He who endures”, which, Edwards (1971) suggests, may have been coined as “a mere descriptive epithet denoting a semi-legendary hero […] whose name had been lost”.
Menes can thus be the name given to the founding father whose name has been lost to history. Rather than a particular person, the name may conceal collectively the protodynastic pharaohs Ka, Scorpion and Narmer.
Of Min, who first became king of Egypt, the priests said that on the one hand he banked off the site of Memphis from the river: for the whole stream of the river used to flow along by the sandy mountain-range on the side of Libya, but Min formed by embankments that bend of the river which lies to the South about a hundred furlongs above Memphis, and thus he dried up the old stream and conducted the river so that it flowed in the middle between the mountains: and even now this bend of the Nile is by the Persians kept under very careful watch, that it may flow in the channel to which it is confined, and the bank is repaired every year; for if the river should break through and overflow in this direction, Memphis would be in danger of being overwhelmed by flood.
When this Min, who first became king, had made into dry land the part which was dammed off, on the one hand, I say, he founded in it that city which is now called Memphis; for Memphis too is in the narrow part of Egypt; and outside the city he dug round it on the North and West a lake communicating with the river, for the side towards the East is barred by the Nile itself. Then secondly he established in the city the temple of Hephaistos a great work and most worthy of mention.
Herodotus Histories II, 99,1-4
Memphis was believed to be under the protection of the god Ptah, the patron of craftsmen. Its great temple, Hut-ka-Ptah (meaning “Enclosure of the ka of Ptah”), was one of the most prominent structures in the city. The name of this temple, rendered in Greek as Aί γυ πτoς (Ai-gy-ptos) by the historian Manetho, is believed to be the etymological origin of the modern English name Egypt.
Menes has been placed by some Mneseus, brother of Autochthnon.