Menes - First King of Egypt

Detail of the Narmer Palette
Detail of the Narmer Palette. Captmondo

In Egyptian legend, the first king of Egypt was Menes. At least, Menes is the form of the king's name that was used by the 3rd century B.C. historian Manetho. Two other first dynasty kings' names are associated with Menes, Narmer (as in the Narmer Palette) and Aha.

The Greek historian Herodotus calls Menes Min. The Jewish historian Josephus calls him Minaios and the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus refers to him as Manas.

There are various etymologies for the name, including an attempt to connect Menes with the name of the city he founded, Memphis, which he reclaimed by means of dam construction.

Diodorus Siculus refers to Manas as the first law-giver. Menes is credited with introducing papyrus and writing (Pliny), founding cities, building dikes and more.

Manetho says Menes' dynasty had 8 kings and that a hippopotamus carried off Menes at the end of his life.

How Menes died is part of his legend, with the hippopotamus version being only one possibility. "Pharaoh Menes' death after an anaphylactic reaction - the end of a myth" says Diodorus Siculus wrote he was chased by dogs, fell into a lake, and was rescued by crocodiles, leading scholars to think possibilities include death by dogs and crocodile. The article, as is fitting an article on the topic of allergy, explains why some think Menes was killed by an allergic reaction to a wasp sting.

Source: Steve Vinson "Menes" The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Ed. Donald B. Redford, Oxford University Press, Inc.,

"Pharaoh Menes' death after an anaphylactic reaction - the end of a myth," by J. W. Krombach, S. Kampe, C. A. Keller, and P. M. Wright, [Allergy Volume 59, Issue 11, pages 1234-1235, November 2004]

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Gill, N.S. "Menes - First King of Egypt." ThoughtCo, Oct. 10, 2021, Gill, N.S. (2021, October 10). Menes - First King of Egypt. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Menes - First King of Egypt." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).