Memphis, Egypt, an ancient city on the west bank of the Nile River, 14 miles (23 km) south of the site of Cairo. Memphis was founded, according to tradition by King Menes, about 3100 B.C. as capital of the recently united Upper and Lower Egypt. The pyramids, nearby, were built while pharaohs of the Old Kingdom ruled from Memphis. Later rulers made Thebes the capital, but Memphis remained an important administrative center. It was plundered by the Assyrians in the seventh century B.C., and captured by the Persians in 525 B.C.
After Egypt was occupied in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, who founded the new capital of Alexandria, Memphis declined in importance and eventually was deserted. Its ruins include a temple, some palaces, and the necropolis (cemetery) of Saqqara, site of the oldest pyramid.