The city was founded around 3100 BC by Menes of Thini, who united the two kingdoms of Egypt. Memphis reached a peak of prestige under the 6th Dynasty as a centre of the cult of Ptah. It declined briefly after the 18th Dynasty with the rise of Thebes and was revived under the Persian satraps before falling into firm second place following the foundation of Alexandria. Under the Roman Empire, Alexandria remained the most important city. It remained the second city of Egypt until the establishment of Al Fustat (or Fostat) in the 7th century A.D. Memphis was largely abandoned and became used as a source of stone for surrounding settlements. It was still an imposing set of ruins in the 12th century but soon became little more than an expanse of low ruins and scattered stone.
The remains of the temple of Ptah and of Apis have been uncovered at the site as well as a few statues, including two four metre ones in alabaster of Ramses II. The Saqqara necropolis is close to Memphis.
It is believed that Memphis was the largest city in the world from its foundation until around 2250 BC, its population was over 30,000.
In the Bible Memphis is called Moph or Noph.