– Chapter 3 –
Egypt’s New Empire
Egypt’s New Empire
The era known as the New Kingdom (1550-1069BC) is a period of empire and expansion. Egypt, once again a reunited state, conquers new territories from northern Syria into modern-day Sudan. Some of Egypt’s best-known Pharaohs come from this period including Tutankamun, Akhenaten, and the famous Ramesses II.
During this period, Memphis is a northern capital of Egypt, with Luxor as the capital of the South. The city grows to almost 600 hectares, meaning that is now one of the largest cities in the world. It plays a key administrative, economic and military role in Egypt. Its famous port, Perunefer (which translates as ‘bon voyage’) is a crucial center of commerce, its dockyards devoted to shipbuilding, its arsenals completely filled. People such as Huti (a merchant), Paser (standard bearer of the ship ‘Khaemope’) and Piay (an army scribe), work feverishly to keep these operations running. Memphis leads the way in the forging of a new empire.
When Ramesses II becomes Pharaoh he begins to carry out an extensive building program at Memphis, erecting temples, chapels and colossal statues. This great builder constructed many of the structures that can still be seen today, including the beautiful temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
At the core of this vast city lies the Great Ptah Temple. This enormous structure covers an area of 500m by 600m and is dedicated to the main god of the city, Ptah. So huge is this temple that it contains a series of smaller temples and chapels, including the Seti I Chapel and probably an early version of the Apis House.
The most enduring legacy of Memphis is that it later gave its name to the entire country, Egypt. Ancient Egyptians called this administrative center ‘Hwt-ka-Ptah’, meaning, ‘The House of the Ka of Ptah’. The Greeks pronounced this as Aigyptos, which in turn became Egypt. The fame of Memphis was spreading around the world and the eyes of foreign invaders became fixed on this great city.