Narmer (c. 3150 BCE) to be the very first king of Egypt who unified the country peacefully at the start of the an initial Dynastic duration (c. 3150 - 2613 BCE). He has also, however, been cited together the last king the the Predynastic duration (c. 6000 - 3150 BCE) before the increase of a king called Menes who merged the country through conquest. In the beforehand days that Egyptology these queens were considered to be two different men. Narmer was thought to have actually attempted unification at the end of one duration and Menes to have succeeded him, beginning the following era in Egyptian history.

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This theory ended up being increasingly problematic as time walk by and tiny archaeological proof supported Menes" presence while Narmer was well attested to in the archaeological record.The good Egyptologist Flinders Petrie (1853 - 1942 CE) asserted Narmer and also Menes together the first pharaoh the the an initial Dynasty in that the two names designated one man: Narmer to be his name and also Menes an honorific.

This same knowledge holds for the various other pharaoh connected with Menes, Hor-Aha (c. 3100 BCE), the second king that the very first Dynasty who is also said to have united Egypt under central rule. If Hor-Aha was the leader who accomplished unification that Upper and Lower Egypt, then `Menes" was simply his honorific, meaning "he that endures". Part scholars claim there is no factor to argue end which the these majesties may have united Egypt as the nation wasn"t truly unified until the reign of Khasekhemwy (c. 2680 BCE), last king the the second Dynasty and also father that the king Djoser who began the 3rd Dynasty. This insurance claim has been repetitively challenged, however, since there is clear proof of the king Den (c. 2990-2940 BCE) attract the crown the Upper and also Lower Egypt, indicating unification under his reign. An ext significantly, the Narmer color board (an ancient inscribed slab that siltstone) just as clearly shows Narmer put on the war crown of top Egypt and the red wicker crown of reduced Egypt and so that is generally accepted that unification first took ar under the regime of the king Narmer.

Scholars now believe the first king may have been Narmer who joined Upper and also Lower Egypt at some allude c. 3150 BCE.

The Written record & Unification

According to the chronology the Manetho (3rd century BCE), Menes was the very first king that Egypt. He to be a king of upper Egypt possibly from the city the Thinis (or Hierkanopolis), who overcame the various other city states about him and then go on to overcome Lower Egypt. This king"s name is well-known primarily through written records such together Manetho"s chronology and the Turin King List, (however that is not corroborated by any extensive historical evidence), i m sorry is why scholars now think the an initial king may have actually been Narmer that peacefully joined Upper and also Lower Egypt in ~ some allude c. 3150 BCE. This insurance claim of a peaceful unification is challenged owing to the Narmer Palette i beg your pardon depicts a king, positively figured out as Narmer, together a armed forces figure overcoming a region which is plainly Lower Egypt. Historian Marc valve de Mieroop comment on this:

That Egypt was created through military means is a an easy concept to express in the art of the period. A sizeable set of rock objects, including cermonial mace-heads and also palettes, contain scenes of war and fighting between men, between animals, and also between men and animals.Whereas in the previous Egyptologists review the scene of war literally as records of really events, this day they like to see them as stereotypical declaration of kingship and also the king"s legitimacy (33).

This new an approach of interpreting ancient inscriptions, however an important some may consider it, walk not typical such interpretations space accurate. The argument versus such interpretations asks why, if these engravings are to it is in taken symbolically, others of later on periods - such as those of Rameses the great at the fight of Kadesh - proceed to be check out literally as historic record. Van de Mieroop comment further, stating, "This brand-new approach provides it impossible to day the marriage of Egypt or attribute it come a particular individual on the basis of these representations" (33-34) however notes that, every little thing the case about the first ruler, "the art of the period shows the the Egyptians connected unification v conflict" (34).


Scholar Douglas J. Brewer, top top the other hand, does not see any type of problem in about the inscriptions symbolically. The name `Menes" way "He who endures" and, as noted above, can possibly be a title, not a personal name, in which instance there is no challenge in identifying the an initial king together Narmer "who endured". The name "Menes" has additionally been discovered on one ivory engraving from Naqada linked with Hor-Aha, which might mean the title was passed down or that Hor-Aha to be the an initial king. Brewer notes the these old inscriptions, such as the Narmer Palette, perpetuate "a culturally embraced scenario and, therefore, must perhaps be regarded as a monument commemorating an achieved state of unity fairly than depicting the process of marriage itself" (141). To scholars such as Brewer, the method by which marriage came around are no as essential as the truth of marriage itself. The details of the event, prefer those of any type of nation"s origins, may have been largely embellished upon by later writers. Brewer writes:

Menes most likely never existed, at the very least as the separation, personal, instance responsible for all the attributed feats. Rather he is most likely a compilation of real-life people whose deeds were recorded through oral tradition and also identified together the occupational of a single person, thereby creating a central hero number for Egypt"s unification. Favor the personalities of the Bible, Menes was component fiction, component truth, and also the years have actually masked the borderline, developing a legend of marriage (142).

Unification, Brewer (and others) case was "most most likely a slow process stimulated by economic growth" (142). Upper Egypt appears to have been an ext prosperous and their wealth enabled them come systematically absorb the floor of lower Egypt gradually as they discovered they needed an ext resources for their populace and for trade. Whether the king who united the country was Narmer or who of another name, this king place the foundation for the rise of among the greatest people of the ancient world. Flinders Petrie, and also others complying with him, insurance claim that even if it is Narmer unified Egypt by force is taken into consideration irrelevant in that it is almost particular he had to preserve the kingdom through military way and this would certainly account because that his explicate in inscriptions such together the Narmer Palette.

The Narmer Palette

The Narmer color pension (also recognized as Narmer"s victory Palette and also the great Hierakonpolis Palette) is one engraving, in the shape of a chevron shield, a little over two-feet (64 cm) tall, showing Narmer overcoming his enemies and also uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. It attributes some the the more quickly heiroglyphics uncovered to date. The color pension is carved of a solitary piece that siltstone, generally used for ceremonial tablet computers in the first Dynastic duration of Egypt, and also tells the story the Narmer"s occupation c. 3150 BCE.

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Narmer color board
Unknown Artist (Public Domain)

On one side, Narmer is shown wearing the war crown of upper Egypt and the red wicker crown of lower Egypt which signifies that lower Egypt fell to the in conquest. Beneath this scene is the largest engraving on the color pension of two males entwining the serpentine necks that unknown beasts. These creatures have been understood as representing Upper and Lower Egypt but there is naught in this section to justify that interpretation. No one has conclusively taken what this ar means. In ~ the bottom that this side of the palette, the king is shown as a bull breaking v the walls of a city v his horns and also trampling his enemies beneath his hooves.

The other side the the color board (considered the back side) is a single, cohesive photo of Narmer with his battle club around to strike down an opponent he holds by the hair. In ~ his feet room two other guys either dead or attempting to escape his wrath. A bald servant stands behind the king holding his sandals while, in former of him and above his victim, the god Horus is portrayed watching end his victory and blessing that by pass him more enemy prisoners.

The top of the palette is engraved with bull"s heads which some scholars translate as the top of cows. This scholars then translate the cow heads to stand for the goddess Hathor. It seems an ext sound to interpret the engravings as bull"s heads, however, since a bull is featured prominently top top the palette and would represent the king"s strength and also vitality.

Narmer"s Palette

The Narmer palette was discovered in 1897-1898 CE by the British archaeologists Quibell and also Green in the temple of Horus at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis), i m sorry was among the early capitals of the an initial Dynasty the Egypt. As noted above, the was considered an account of an really historical occasion until fairly recently once it has concerned be related to as a symbolic inscription. Over there are many different theories worrying the palette and also each seems rather reasonable till one hears the next and so, to date, there is no agreement on what the inscription means or whether it relates to historical events. It appears clear, however, based on the age of the inscription and the images, that a great king named Narmer had something to do with the marriage of Egypt and also it is assumed that afterward he would have begun his reign.

Narmer"s regime of a united Egypt

Prior come Narmer"s reign, Egypt was split into the areas of top Egypt (the south) and also Lower Egypt (the north, closer come the Mediterranean Sea). Top Egypt was more urbanized through cities prefer Thinis, Hierakonpolis, and also Naqda developing fairly rapidly. Lower Egypt was much more rural (generally speaking) through rich agricultural fields extending up native the Nile River. Both regions emerged steadily over hundreds of years throughout the Predynastic period of Egypt until trade with other cultures and also civilizations resulted in increased breakthrough of upper Egypt who then conquered its neighbor most likely for grains or other farming crops to feed the growing populace or to trade.


Once Narmer developed himself as supreme king that married the princess Neithhotep that Naqada in an alliance to strengthen ties in between the two cities. Neithhotep"s tomb, discovered in the 19th century CE, to be so elaborate regarding suggest she was more than the king"s wife and some scholars case she may have ruled after Narmer"s death. Her name, enrolled in serakhs native the time, supports this claim as do other inscriptions but it is still no universally accepted.

Religious practices and iconography occurred during Narmer"s reign and also symbols such together the Djed (the four-tiered tower representing stability) and also the Ankh (symbol that life) appear more frequently at this time. That led military explorations through lower Egypt to placed down rebellions and expanded his territory right into Canaan and also Nubia. He initiated huge building projects and also under his dominion urbanization increased.

The urban of Egypt never reached the size of those in Mesopotamia perhaps owing come the Egyptians" acknowledgment of the threats such advance posed. Mesopotamian urban were mainly abandoned as result of overuse the the land and pollution of the water it is provided while Egyptian cities, such together Xois (to choose a arbitrarily example), existed because that millenia. Return later advances in urban development ensured the cities" continuation, the at an early stage efforts of emperors like Narmer would certainly have listed the model.

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Details of his regime are vague owing to the lack of records uncovered to day and, as provided above, the difficulty in interpreting those inscriptions which have actually been found and also positively established as relating to Narmer. As much as have the right to be discerned, however, he to be a good king who created a empire which would certainly lay the structure for all the Egypt would eventually become.

Editorial ReviewThis write-up has been reviewed because that accuracy, reliability and also adherence to academic standards before publication.


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A freelance writer and also former part-time Professor of philosophy at Marist College, brand-new York, Joshua J. Mark has actually lived in Greece and also Germany and also traveled with Egypt. He has actually taught history, writing, literature, and also philosophy in ~ the university level.