A State Meroe, with a capital of the same name, forming part of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. It. is hardly possible to fix the site of the ancient city, much less to define the boundaries of the state at any given period. The whole of Ethiopia was once called Meroe. Greek writers applied the name to an island and a city on the upper Nile. The district is in reality a peninsula, formed by the Nile and its affluents, the Atbara and Bahr-el-Azrek, between lat. 13° and 18° N., and included in modern times in Nubia. At certain seasons it becomes an island by the overflowing of the rivers. Its length from N. W. to S. E. is about 375 m., and its breadth about 200; and it consists of extensive plains, which formerly were fertile and well cultivated, but are now for the most part desert. This country was very famous in antiquity. It produced gold, iron, copper, and salt; and partly from its natural riches, and partly from its situation between southern Ethiopia and the Red sea, it was from the earliest times the seat of a great commerce, carried on by caravans from all parts of northern Africa, which made its chief city their central rendezvous.

According to Herodotus, the "great city called Meroe, which is said to be the capital of the other Ethiopians," was more than 40 days by land and 12 days by boat (52 days in all) beyond Syene. Later writers give it less than half this distance, placing Syene about midway between Alexandria and Meroe. According to Strabo's statement, the city must have been in the neighborhood of the ruins near the modern Begerawieh; but when Meroe took an active part in history, the residence of King Tahraka (Tirhakah) stood near the modern Meraweh, below Mt. Barkal. The inscriptions give it the name of Neb; the Greeks and Romans called it Napata. During the reigns of the Osortasens and Amenemhes, about 3000 B. C, Egyptian rule extended over Nubia as far as Semneh and Kumneh, under Amenophis III. as far as Soleb, and under Rameses II. to Mt. Barkal. The oldest ruins found here formed part of a temple to Amnion, built by Rameses II.; next in age are the ruins of Tahraka's edifices. These, as well as later monuments, especially the 20 or 30 small pyramids, are imitations of Egyptian art. The monuments of Begerawieh have the same style, though somewhat mixed with foreign elements.

It has long been customary to trace the culture of Egypt to that of Ethiopia and Meroe; but Egypt is a well favored land, while Meroe is excessively hot, and fertile only in oases; and the lower valley of the Nile has always been superior in culture and power to the upper; all of which renders it improbable that the civilization of Egypt was in any sense borrowed from Meroe. The reverse is much more probable. There are indications in Herodotus and Diodorus that Meroe had been under the rule of priests, but in the time of Ptolemy II. King Ergamenes established an independent kingdom. The name Meroe is given in the inscriptions of Begerawieh as Mem and Merua, which Lepsius and other Egyptologists translate "white rock." Here, as well as near Mt. Barkal, the shores of the Nile are lined with cliffs of white chalk, which probably gave the name to the country. The Assyrian inscriptions of King Sargon mention the king of Meroe (Milukhi), and one of Sennacherib says that "the king of Egypt had called for the archers, chariots, and horses of the king of Milukhi." The inscriptions of Esarhaddon speak of "the king of Egypt and Milukhi," whom they call also "the king of Egypt and Cush;" and Asshur-bani-pal records his" campaign against "Tarkuu (Tahraka) of Egypt and Milukhi." Though the majority of Assyriologists translate Milukhi by Meroe, as George Smith in his " History of Asshur-bani-pal translated from the Cuneiform Inscriptions" (London, 1871), Lenormant has come to the conclusion that Asshur-bam-pal;s Milukhi lay N. of Memphis, and that it was the name of a small independent kingdom which had been established in and near the western portion of the Delta. Menant, in his Annates des rois d'Assyrie (Paris, 1874), has adopted Le-normant's opinion. (See'Ethiopia).