Ancient Egypt had several capitals throughout its history. Explore Egypt Tours presents this article about the capitals of ancient Egypt from the 1st dynasty to the 30th dynasty. These capitals are Memphis, Ahnasia, Thebes (first part of the Middle Kingdom), Itjtawy, Avaris, Thebes (The New Kingdom), Akhetaten, Pi-Ramesses, Tanis, Bubastis, Sais, Mendes, Sebennytos.
1 – Memphis (Mit-Rahina now) (from 31st to 22nd century)
Memphis is located on the west bank of the Nile. Unfortunately, it disappeared below the village of Mit-Rahina now.
What is the history of Memphis?
The significance of this city began after King Menes or Narmer united upper and lower Egypt, began the 1st dynasty, and took Memphis city to be the first capital for united ancient Egypt.
Memphis had remained the capital of ancient Egypt from the 1st dynasty to the 8th dynasty.
Although Memphis did not be taken as a capital after the 8th dynasty, it still had religious and political significance throughout the ancient Egyptian civilization.
To know more about this great city, kindly, read this article about Memphis.
2 – Heracleopolis (Ahnasia) ( Beni Suef Governorate now) (from 22nd to 21st century)
This city situated in Bani Sweif now. This city became the capital of ancient Egypt during the 9th and 10th dynasties, the First Intermediate Period.
What is the significance of Heracleopolis city?
There are no many artifacts and monuments remaining from this city, but its significance is due to it had seen the first social revolution occurred in the history of Egypt during the First Intermediate Period. This revolution showed the Egyptian literature development that can be noticed in teaching or admonitions of Ipuwer as an example.
3 – Thebes (Luxor now) ( during the middle kingdom from 21st to 20th century) (during the new kingdom 16th to 14th century)
It holds several and unparalleled monuments such as Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, and Valley of the Queens, just to name a few. It is considered the world’s greatest open-air museum.
To know more about this great city, kindly, read this article about Luxor (Luxor East Bank, Luxor West Bank Part One, and Luxor West Bank Part Two.
What is the history of Thebes city?
This city was the capital of ancient Egypt twice; the first time was during the 11th dynasty, the Middle Kingdom, while the second time was during the New kingdom.
After the New Kingdom, the significance of Thebes city remained as a religious capital of ancient Egypt.
4 – Itjtawy (Faiyum Governorate now) (from 20th to 18th century)
What is the history of Itjtawy city as a capital?
It was built by King Amenemhat I to be the capital of the 12th dynasty, the middle kingdom. Itjtawy distinguished with its agricultural development during that time. Itjtawy meaning is who controls the two lands (upper and lower Egypt). Then its name became Lisht where the pyramids of kings from the 12th dynasty.
5 – Avaris (Tell el-Dab’a in Ash Sharqia Governorate now) (from 17th to 16th century)
When Hyksos entered Egypt, they occupied the lower part of ancient Egypt and established their capital Hut-waret, Hatuaret or Avaris city during the 13th and 14th dynasties. The ancient Egyptians took Thebes as their capital at the same time. Avaris is destroyed by king Ahmose I the founder of the 18th dynasty, New Kingdom.
6 – Akhetaten (Tell Amarna in Minya Governorate now) ( during 14th century)
What is the history of Akhetaten city?
When Amenhotep IV became the king during the 18th dynasty, New kingdom, he ruled form Thebes as usual in the New kingdom. After 3 years he decided to make a religious revolution, called for worshiping one god, and closed the other temples. This led to the wrath of Amun’s priests, so king Amenhotep IV decided to change his seat of the rule to be in Amarna city where there was no god worshiped before to be his capital. He founded Akhetaten city (Akhetaten means Horizon of the Aten), changed his name to be Akhenaten (Akhenaten means Effective for Aten).
What are the monuments remaining from Amarna city?
Visit Tell Amarna to see the royal tomb of Akhenaton, The tomb of “Hoya”, the watcher of the harem, the tomb of Ahmos that was the Royal fan bearer, the tomb of Meryra the high priest of God Aten and drawings of Akhenaton and the tomb of Maho the leader of the police in the period of Akhenaton and his tomb is one of the best-preserved tombs in Tell Amarna. Additionally, Beni Hassan located 20 km to the south of the city of Al-Minya.
7 – Pi-Ramesses (Qantir in Ash Sharqia Governorate now) (from 14th to 13th century)
King Ramesses II transferred the ancient Egyptian capital from Thebes to Pi-Ramesses that located in the north of Avaris during the 19th, New kingdom. He did that to be closer to Asians who were a threat to the northern Egyptian border at that time. The ancient name of this city is Per-Ra-mes-su that means House of Ramesses.
8 – Tanis (Ash Sharqia Governorate now) (from 11th to 10th century)
It was the capital of ancient Egypt during the 21st dynasty. It was established by King Psusennes I.
9 – Bubastis (Ash Sharqia Governorate now) (from 10th to 8th century)
It was the capital of ancient Egypt during the 22nd and 23rd dynasties.
It was established by King Shoshenq I. It was the center for worshiping the goddess Bastet which from its name the name of the city was driveled. It is also known as Tell-Basta.
10 – Sais (Gharbia Governorate now) (from 8th to 6th century)
It was the capital of ancient Egypt during the 24th and 26th dynasties. It was the center for worshiping the goddess Neith of war and hunting. Neith took lioness shape.
11 – Mendes (Dakahlia Governorate now) (during 4th century)
It was the capital of ancient Egypt during the 29th dynasty.
12 – Sebennytos (Gharbia Governorate now) (during 4th century)
It was the capital of ancient Egypt during the 30th dynasty. It is located in Sais city.
This city was the birthplace of Manetho who divided the ancient Egyptian history into 30 dynasties. Manetho was chronicler and historian from the Ptolemaic period during the 3rd century BC.
13 – Alexandria
Alexandria city is located in the north of Egypt. Its history began with Alexander the Great period whereas He decided to take it as a capital for his empire in 332 BC after he defeated The Persians and expelled them from Egypt. There are some researchers think that the dynasty of Alexander the Great is the 31st dynasty of ancient Egyptian history. Alexandria remained the capital in the Ptolemaic. Alexandria has a unique history and holds several wonderful monuments dating back to different historical periods.
To know more about Alexandria history, kindly, read the article discussing the history of Alexandria.