Why Is Narmer a Legendary Hero in Ancient Egyptian History?

Narmer was the 32nd-century B.C. founder of Pharaonic Egypt and celebrated throughout the region’s ancient period for uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. As the king of Upper Egypt, Narmer led a campaign sometime around 3200 B.C. to conquer the northern kingdom of Lower Egypt, though this date is uncertain.

The unified kingdom founded by Narmer, whom Herodotus called Menes in his history of Egypt, was celebrated as a symbol of royal authority and favorably referenced by pharaohs of all 30 subsequent dynasties. His name appears on artifacts that were placed in the Step Pyramid of Zoser, and numerous pottery sherds that refer to him have been found as far north as Canaan. Throughout Egyptian history, Narmer has been revered as a figure of mythical power, and his name was frequently invoked to lend legitimacy to Egyptian rulers as late as the Ptolemaic period.

Despite this reverence, not much is known about the life of Narmer, or whether he really was the same pharaoh as Herodotus’ Menes. His immediate predecessor in Upper Egypt is thought to have been either Ka or Scorpion II, and his wife, Neithhotep, may have been from either Upper or Lower Egypt. In art, Narmer is often depicted dominating captives after a successful battle.