1. Education

Memphite Theology



One of the three major* versions of the ancient Egyptian creation story is known as the Memphite theology because it was from the city of Memphis, Egypt's first capital and a city that continued to be important. Like other theogonies and cosmogonies of Egypt, the Memphite Theology changed+ and borrowed from other cosmogonies. It features the self-generated creator god Ptah, god of the primeval mound (Tatenen), who created, by thinking of things in his heart and then naming them, by means of his tongue. This is referred to as "Logos creation," a label that references the Biblical "in the beginning was the Word (Logos)" [John 1:1].

The Egyptian gods Shu and Tefnut came into being from the mouth of Ptah. Ptah was sometimes equated with the Hermopolitan chaos pair Nun and Naunet. [See Ogdoad of Hermopolis for the chaos gods.]

* Hollis says other locales, including Karnak, had their own cosmogonies. Heliopolis, Hermopolis, and Memphis stand out because they are major cities. The Amarna theology was a fourth important theology, but it was short-lived.

+ Anthes says "It was S. Schott... who first made it clear that the readiness to change was a pregnant characteristic of Egyptian religion: Mythe und Mythenbildung im alten Aegypten (Leipzig, 1947)."
"Egyptian Theology in the Third Millennium B. C.," by Rudolf Anthes. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Jul., 1959), pp. 169-212

Also Known As: Theology of Memphis

The Shabako Stone reveals much about the early Memphite Theology even though it was written as late as about 700 B.C.


  • "A Memphite Triad, by L. Kákosy. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (1980).
  • "An Egyptian Etymology: Egypto-Coptic mȝč," by Carleton T. Hodge. Anthropological Linguistics (1997).
  • "Egyptian mythology" The Oxford Companion to World mythology. David Leeming. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • "Herodotus' Account of Pharaonic History," by Alan B. Lloyd. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte (1988).
  • "Otiose Deities and the Ancient Egyptian Pantheon," by Susan Tower Hollis. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt (1998).
  • The Shabako Stone
  • Shabaka Stone

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.