aPPenDix 2
Sais: Capital of Egypt
[405] I would like to describe here three short themes that emerged during
my third trip to Egypt,1 which took place in December 1994: (1) the so- called
philosophy of Memphis; (2) chapter 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead; and
(3) some commentaries regarding the city of Sais, the metropolis of the Athe-
nian colony in the region which helped open up millenarian Egypt to the
Greek periphery.
The Philosophy of Memphis
Memphis, in Greek (Mennofré in Egyptian), was probably founded by the
legendary Menes, its first monarch, sometime before 3000 bc, and was re-
sponsible for the construction of the first great pyramids, not far from the
place where they were ultimately erected. It reached its acme during the Third
Dynasty (around 2700 bc) during the reign of the pharaoh Djeser. In the
eighteenth dynasty (from 1580 bc onward) it was still the most cosmopolitan
city in the Middle East. The city continued to be the religious capital of Egypt
until the reign of the Roman emperor Theodosius, who did not proscribe the
Coptic cults2 until aD 389. The “philosophy of Memphis,” whose mythical
content should be situated at the beginning of the fourth millennium before
Christ, is reflected in a text known from a version carved into granite3 at the
temple of Ptah in the days of King Shabaka (700 bc). According to James
Breasted, “There is in the British Museum a sad deteriorated stone which in
the opinion of this author contains the most ancient formulation of a philo-
sophical vision of the world [philosophical Weltanschaung].”4 Breasted con-
cludes his reading and commentary by noting that “the Greek tradition re-
garding the origins of its philosophy in Egypt without a doubt contains more
truth than it has been accorded in recent times.”5 In effect, the whole text is
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