Memphis, founded around 3,100 BC, is the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. Early on, Memphis was more likely a fortress from which Menes controlled the land and water routes between Upper Egypt and the Delta. Having probably originated in Upper Egypt, from Memphis he could control the conquered people of Lower Egypt. However, by the Third Dynasty, the building at Saqqara suggests that Memphis had become a sizable city. Memphis has had several names during its history of almost four millennia. Its Ancient Egyptian name was Inbu-Hedj (translated as “the white walls”. Memphis became the capital of Ancient Egypt for over eight consecutive dynasties during the Old Kingdom. The city reached a peak of prestige under the 6th dynasty as a centre for the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks. The alabaster sphinx that guards the Temple of Ptah serves as a memorial of the city’s former power and prestige. The Memphis triad, consisting of the creator god Ptah, his consort Sekhmet, and their son Nefertem, formed the main focus of worship in the city.
The Temple of Luxor is interesting for several reasons, because it is older than Phylae, it is largely intact though defaced, because the architecture is typical New Kingdom instead of Ptolmaic and because the front of the temple is built by Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE) with his exuberant love for enormous things with his image and name on them. This was a king who understood, as never before, the power of scale, the purpose of awe. Ramesses thought large, and this extended to his family, since he boasted that he was the father of more than 100 sons and 60 daughters. As I said before, the temple was built for the festival of Opet cementing the God-like status of the living pharoah. During the 18th Dynasty (1503-1292 BCE) the festival lasted eleven days, but had grown to twenty-seven days by the reign of Ramesses III (1186-1155 BCE) in the 20th Dynasty. At that time the festival included the distribution of over 11,000 loaves of bread, 85 cakes and 385 jars of beer. The procession of images of the current royal family began at Karnak and ended at the Temple of Luxor. By the late 18th Dynasty the journey was being made by barge, on the Nile River. Each god or goddess was carried in a separate barge that was towed by smaller boats.
Luxor was an important political and religious center since it was the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt. “Luxor” derives from the Arabic al-uksur, meaning “fortifications”. That name in addition was adapted from the Latin castrum, which referred to the Roman fort built around the temple in the later third century AD. The temple of Luxor has, since its inception, always been a sacred site. The Temple of Luxor, located on the east bank of the Nile, was dedicated to the veneration of Amon/Amun (who was associated with Mut and Khonsu, the Theban triad). It was known in the New Kingdom period as Ipt-Rsyt, which means the southern shrine. This was to differentiate between this Temple and Karnak Temple, which was the northern house of Amon Ra. The first pylon is over 70 feet high, originally fronted by massive statues and two obelisks. There are several open areas, once used for various forms of worship but now empty. Later additions include a shrine to Alexander the Great, a Roman sanctuary, and a thirteenth century Islamic shrine to Abou El-Hagag. Built largely by Amenhotep III (ruled 1388-1351 BCE) and Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BCE), it appears that the temple's purpose was for a suitable setting for the rituals of the festival of Opet. The festival itself was to reconcile the human aspect of the ruler with the divine office. Hence, Luxor Temple was the power base of the living divine king, and the foremost national shrine of the kings cult.