Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, once stood on the fertile west bank of the Nile Delta. Menes of Tanis founded the city in about 3100 b.c. To secure the city from seasonal Nile flooding, he built a complex system of dikes and canals for protection and as a symbolic entity—“the white wall”—around the city. Memphis reached its peak of prestige as administrative and religious center during the Sixth Dynasty. It was believed to be the largest city in the world. It was here that Ramses II, son of King Sethos and Queen Tuya, first rode beside his father and engraved his lasting legacy.
Stone towers, colorful domes, obelisks as tall as oil derricks, and graceful swans and swooping pelicans enriched the Memphis landscape. There were great universities and bustling jewelry shops laden with gold, turquoise, and lapis lazuli. Politics and gossip were discussed over beer and wine in cool, shaded recesses. Date palms, sycamores, and acacia trees shadowed verdant parks adorned with gigantic pink granite statues. Sweet- smelling lotus scented reflecting ponds and tantalized the fish. The cult of Ptah, god of artists, had a glorious stone temple, as did that of the god Apis, the sacred bull. Nearby was the Saqqara, a necropolis for royalty, minor burials, and cult ceremonies—the oldest complete hewn-stone complex known in world history.
Pharaohs, such as King Sethos, and wealthy nobles lived in magnificent palaces or sumptuous villas with spacious courtyards and gardens of fruit trees and flowers. They dined on alabaster dinnerware and drank from exquisitely designed faience cups served by scores of servants. Lesser Egyptians and the poor lived in mud houses. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles tangled fishing lines in the Delta canals.
Scholarly writers have connected Ramses II with Moses. According to the Bible, Memphis was called Moph or Noph. Taking this a step further, it was the seat of the pharaoh in the time of Joseph of Nazareth, foster father of Jesus. Some historians believe that Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus and place him as befriending Moses.