The first capital of Egypt was Memphis, which today lies in complete ruination just twelve miles south of Cairo. Legend holds that the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes about 5000 years ago. Some modern scholars maintain that Menes and King Narmer were one and the same man and that this man, whatever his name, was the one who united Upper and Lower Egypt. The uniting of warring factions into a single nation seems to have been a primary function for the heroes of Civilization.*

Lower Egypt ran from Memphis to the Mediterranean. The boundary for Upper Egypt was just a little farther up the Nile (to the south). Amazingly, there is an early Hollywood movie about Menes (he is called Amenes). Finding this movie was for me like discovering the tomb of a long lost pharaoh. It is called The Loves of Pharaoh (1922) and its a potboiler melodrama probably inspired by Griffith’s re-creation of Babylon in Intolerance (1916). The central event in the movie is Menes’ war with King Samlak of Ethiopia. It gets pretty silly but the spectacle is impressive for its time. Watching it on screen, I like to think of it as one of the most popular movies in First Dynasty Egypt more than 3000 years ago.

An even more stunning Egyptian discovery came for me at the end of the year 2002, when I unearthed a VHS copy of Land of the Pharaohs (1955) at my local Hollywood Video store. This was in the dimly remembered time before wide use of Netflix streaming and YouTube. Called a “sword-and-sandal” movie, it was an early epic presenting a fictional treatment of the building of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. William Faulkner is listed among the screenwriters.

In The Egyptian (1954), there is a fictional tale woven around Pharaoh Akhenaton who ruled circa 1353–1336 BCE. There is an even more blatant fiction on the same subject found in Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile (1961-64). Akhenaton was the father of Tutankhamun (King Tut), who gets no movie. The scene of the famous 1922 discovery of his tomb, however, can be seen in Valley of the Kings (1954). Tut died in 1323 BCE and the spotlight shifted to Ramesses II (say Ram-es-sees) and his troubles with Moses.

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