Today's use of the Ancient Greek rather than the Ancient Egyptian term came about during the Ptolemaic period, when the use of Greek was widespread in Egypt. The availability of Greek records on Egypt influenced the adoption of Greek terms by later historians.
The division of ancient Egypt into nomes can be traced back to prehistoric Egypt (before 3100 BC). These nomes originally existed as autonomous city-states, but later began to unify. According to ancient tradition, the ruler Menes completed the final unification.
Not only did the division into nomes remain in place for more than three millennia, the areas of the individual nomes and their ordering remained remarkably stable. Some, like Xois in the Nile Delta or Khent in Upper Egypt, were first mentioned on the Palermo Stone, which was inscribed in the Fifth Dynasty. The names of a few, like the nome of Bubastis, appeared no earlier than the New Kingdom. Under the system that prevailed for most of pharaonic Egypt's history, the country was divided into 42 nomes.
Lower Egypt nomes
Lower Egypt (Egyptian "Ā-meḥty"), from the Old Kingdom capital Memphis to the Mediterranean Sea, comprised 20 nomes. The first was based around Memphis, Saqqara, and Giza, in the area occupied by modern-day Cairo. The nomes were numbered in a more or less orderly fashion south to north through the Nile Delta, first covering the territory on the west before continuing with the higher numbers to the east. Thus, Alexandria was in the Third Nome; Bubastis was in the Eighteenth.
- Nome 1 of Lower Egypt (White Walls Nome)
- Nome 2 of Lower Egypt (Travellers land)
- Nome 3 of Lower Egypt (Cattle land)
- Nome 4 of Lower Egypt (Southern shield land)
- Nome 5 of Lower Egypt (Northern shield land)
- Nome 6 of Lower Egypt (Mountain bull land)
- Nome 7 of Lower Egypt (West harpoon land)
- Nome 8 of Lower Egypt (East harpoon land)
- Nome 9 of Lower Egypt (Andjety god land)
- Nome 10 of Lower Egypt (Black bull land)
- Nome 11 of Lower Egypt (Heseb bull land)
- Nome 12 of Lower Egypt (Calf and Cow land)
- Nome 13 of Lower Egypt (Prospering Sceptre land)
- Nome 14 of Lower Egypt (Eastmost land)
- Nome 15 of Lower Egypt (Ibis-Tehut land)
- Nome 16 of Lower Egypt (Fish land)
- Nome 17 of Lower Egypt (The throne land)
- Nome 18 of Lower Egypt (Prince of the South land)
- Nome 19 of Lower Egypt (Prince of the North land)
- Nome 20 of Lower Egypt (Sopdu-Plumed Falcon land)
Upper Egypt nomes
Upper Egypt was divided into 22 nomes. The first of these was centered on Elephantine close to Egypt's border with Nubia at the First Cataract – the area of modern-day Aswan. From there the numbering progressed downriver in an orderly fashion along the narrow fertile strip of land that was the Nile valley. Waset (ancient Thebes or contemporary Luxor) was in the Fourth Nome, Amarna in the Fourteenth, and Meidum in the Twenty-first.
- Nome 1 of Upper Egypt (Bows land)
- Nome 2 of Upper Egypt (Throne of Horus land)
- Nome 3 of Upper Egypt (Shrine land)
- Nome 4 of Upper Egypt (Sceptre land)
- Nome 5 of Upper Egypt (The two falcons land)
- Nome 6 of Upper Egypt (The crocodile land)
- Nome 7 of Upper Egypt (Sistrum land)
- Nome 8 of Upper Egypt (The Great land)
- Nome 9 of Upper Egypt (Min-God land)
- Nome 10 of Upper Egypt (Cobra land)
- Nome 11 of Upper Egypt (Sha-Set animal land)
- Nome 12 of Upper Egypt (Viper mountain land)
- Nome 13 of Upper Egypt (Upper Sycamore and Viper land)
- Nome 14 of Upper Egypt (Lower Sycamore and Viper land)
- Nome 15 of Upper Egypt (Hares land)
- Nome 16 of Upper Egypt (Oryx Nome)
- Nome 17 of Upper Egypt (Anubis land)
- Nome 18 of Upper Egypt (Set land)
- Nome 19 of Upper Egypt (Two Sceptres land)
- Nome 20 of Upper Egypt (Southern Sycamore land)
- Nome 21 of Upper Egypt (Northern Sycamore land)
- Nome 22 of Upper Egypt (Knife land)
Some nomes were added or renamed during the Graeco-Roman occupation of Egypt. For example, the Ptolemies renamed the Crocodilopolitan nome to Arsinoe. Hadrian created a new nome, Antinoopolites, for which Antinopolis was the capital.
The nomes survived into Roman times. Under Roman rule, individual nomes minted their own coinage, the so-called "nome coins," which still reflect individual local associations and traditions. The nomes of Egypt retained their primary importance as administrative units until the fundamental rearrangement of the bureaucracy during the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine the Great.
From AD 307/8, their place was taken by smaller units called pagi. Eventually powerful local officials arose who were called pagarchs, through whom all patronage flowed. The pagarch's essential role was as an organizer of tax-collection. Later the pagarch assumed some military functions as well. The pagarchs were often wealthy landowners who reigned over the pagi from which they originated.
For most of the history, each nome was headed by a nomarch. The position of the nomarch was at times hereditary, while at others they were appointed by the pharaoh. Generally, when the national government was stronger, nomarchs were the king's appointed governors. When the central government was weaker, however—such as during foreign invasions or civil wars—individual nomes would assert themselves and establish hereditary lines of succession. Conflicts among these different hereditary nomarchies were common, most notably during the First Intermediate Period, a time that saw a breakdown in central authority lasting from the 7th–11th Dynasties which ended when one of the local rulers became strong enough to again assert control over the entire country as pharaoh.
List of nomes (ancient Egyptian: Sepat-Isti)
- older or other variants of the name in square brackets '[ ]';
- names vary from different time or era, or even titles, most epithets, honorific titles with a slash '/';
- Greek-Egypto derived names from the original Egyptian in parentheses '( )'
|Number||Egyptian Name||Capital||Modern name of capital site||Translation|
|1||𓈠 Inebu-hedj||Ineb-Ḥedjet [ 𓏠𓈖𓄤𓆑𓂋𓉴𓊖 Men-nefer/ Menfe] (Memphis)||Mit Rahina||White Walls|
|2||𓈡 (Khensu)||𓐍𓋉𓅓𓊖 Khem [Sekhem/ Iry] (Letopolis)||Ausim||Cow's thigh|
|3||𓈢 Iment (Ament)||I-am/ Imu (Apis)||Kom El Hisn||West|
|4||𓈣 (Sapi-Res)||Ptkheka||Tanta||Southern shield|
|5||𓈤/𓈥 (Sap-Meh)||𓊃𓅭𓄿𓅱𓊖 Zau (Sais)||Sa El Hagar||Northern shield|
|6||𓈦 (Khaset)||𓆼𓋴𓅱𓅱𓏏𓊖 Khasu (Xois)||Sakha||Mountain bull|
|7||𓈧 (A-ment)||𓂧𓏇𓇌𓊖𓏌𓅃𓏤 (Hermopolis Parva, Metelis)||Damanhur||West harpoon|
|8||𓈨 Nefer-Iabti (A-bt)||Thek/ Tjeku / Iset-Tem [= 𓉐𓏤𓏏𓍃𓅓𓏏𓊖 Per-Atum]/ Ān (Heroonpolis, Pithom)||Tell al-Maskhuta||East harpoon|
|9||𓈩 (Ati)||𓉐𓏤𓊨𓁹𓎟𓊽𓂧𓅱𓊖 Djed [Iti] (Busiris)||Abu Sir Bara||Andjeti|
|10||𓈪 Ka-Ka'm (Ka-khem)||𓉗𓏏𓉐𓇾𓁷𓄣𓊖 Hut-hery-ib (Athribis)||Banha (Tell Atrib)||Black bull|
|11||𓈫 (Ka-heseb)||Taremu/ Ikhenu (Leontopolis)||Tell El Urydam||Heseb bull|
|12||𓈬 (Theb-ka)||𓊹𓍿𓃀𓊖 Tjebnutjer (Sebennytos)||Samanud||Calf and Cow|
|13||𓈭 (Heq-At)||In (Iunu)/ In-meḥ/ Iset-Tem/ Igert, Igertet, Iqert, Iugertet (Heliopolis)||Materiya (suburb of Cairo)||Prospering Sceptre|
|14||𓈮 (Khent-abt)||Tjaru (Sile, Tanis)||Tell Abu Sefa||Eastmost|
|15||𓈯 (Tehut)||Ba'h / Weprehwy (Hermopolis Parva)||Baqliya||Ibis|
|16||𓈰 (Kha)||Djedet/ Ā'atjaba (Mendes)||Tell El Rubˁ||Fish|
|17||𓈱/𓈲 Sma-Beḥut (Sema-Beḥut)||Semabehdet (Diospolis Inferior)||Tel El Balamun||The throne|
|18||𓈳 Im-Khent (Am-Khent)||Per-Bastet (Bubastis)||Tell Bastah (near Zagazig)||Prince of the South|
|19||𓈴 Im-Peḥ (Am-Peḥu)||Dja'net (Leontopolis Tanis)||Tell Nebesha or San El Hagar||Prince of the North|
|20||𓈵 Sep-d (Sopdu)||Per-Sopdu||Saft El Hinna||Plumed Falcon|
|Number||Egyptian Name||Capital||Modern Capital||Translation|
|1||𓈶 (Ta-Seti)||𓍋𓃀𓃰𓅱𓎶𓈊 Abu / Yeb [Yb] (Elephantine)||Sunnu/ Irp-Ḥesp (Aswan)||Land of the bow|
|2||𓈷 (Wetjes-Hor)||𓌥𓃀𓊖 Djeba (Apollonopolis Magna)||Ineb/ Iset-Unep/ Iset-en-Rā/ Iset-Neterui/ Iset-Ḥeq/ Iset-Khnem-Iten/ Iset-Sekhen-en-Ḥeru-Iakhuti/ Iset-Shu/ Isebt/ Ā'ay-t-en-Beḥud/ Ā'a-t-enty-Ā'ap (Edfu)||Throne of Horus|
|3||𓈸 (Nekhen)||Nekhen (Hierakonpolis)||El Kab||Shrine|
|4||𓈹 Uas (Uaset/ Waset)||Niwt-rst / Waset [Ir-t Rā/ Iset-Sekhenu-en-Ākhemu/ Ānkh] (Thebes)||Karnak||Sceptre|
|5||𓈺 (Herui)||𓎤𓃀𓅂𓊖 Gebtu/ Iter-Shemā (Coptos)||Qift||The two falcons|
|6||𓈻 (Iqer)||In/ In-en-P'teḥ/ In-en-Nut/ In-Ta-Neferet/ Iset-Au-Ib/ Iset-Au-Ib-enti-Neteru-Nebu/ Iset-Iabes-Ḥet-Ḥer/ Iset-Iset-em-Khet-Ḥā-s/ Iset-urt-en-Ḥem-Ḥeru-Iakhuty/ Iset-Per-Ḥet-Ḥer-Kher-Menu/ Iset-Per-Seshem-en-Ḥet-Ḥer-Ureth-Nebt-Tawy-Im/ Iset-Peṣis-Ta/ Iset-Pesh-Nebty/ Iset-M'as-Menu-ent-Ḥet-Ḥer-Imṣ/ Iset-M'as-Snef-sa/ Iset-Meskhenet-en-Iset/ Iset-enth-Mut-Ḥeru/ Iset-ent-Rā-Ḥeru-Iakhuti/ Iset-enth-Ḥemt-Nesu/ Iset-ent-Ḥet-Ḥer-Nebt-In/ Iset-Hy/ Isut-Ḥeru/ Iset-Ḥeḥ/ Iset-Khadbut-em-Āq-en-Netert-Ten/ Iset-Sekhem-Ānkh-en-Neter/ Iset-Shātu-Menu-en-Neb-In-Im-ṣ/ Iset-Shepset-Ḥent-Neterit/ Iset-Qen-Ḥeru-em-Baḥ-Mutef-Iset/ Iset-Tekh/ Iset-Tekh-ent-Ḥeru-Iakhuti/ Iset-Djeser/ Ān-Ḥer/ Iunet (Tantere/ Tentyra/ Dendera)||In/ In-en-P'teḥ/ In-en-Nut/ In-Ta-Neferet/ Iset-Au-Ib/ Iset-Au-Ib-enti-Neteru-Nebu/ Iset-Iabes-Ḥet-Ḥer/ Iset-Iset-em-Khet-Ḥā-s/ Iset-urt-en-Ḥem-Ḥeru-Iakhuty/ Iset-Per-Ḥet-Ḥer-Kher-Menu/ Iset-Per-Seshem-en-Ḥet-Ḥer-Ureth-Nebt-Tawy-Im/ Iset-Peṣis-Ta/ Iset-Pesh-Nebty/ Iset-M'as-Menu-ent-Ḥet-Ḥer-Imṣ/ Iset-M'as-Snef-sa/ Iset-Meskhenet-en-Iset/ Iset-enth-Mut-Ḥeru/ Iset-ent-Rā-Ḥeru-Iakhuti/ Iset-enth-Ḥemt-Nesu/ Iset-ent-Ḥet-Ḥer-Nebt-In/ Iset-en-Sek-Djet/ Iset-Hy/ Isut-Ḥeru/ Iset-Ḥeḥ/ Iset-Khadbut-em-Āq-en-Netert-Ten/ Iset-Sekhem-Ānkh-en-Neter/ Iset-Shātu-Menu-en-Neb-In-Im-ṣ/ Iset-Shepset-Ḥent-Neterit/ Iset-Qen-Ḥeru-em-Baḥ-Mutef-Iset/ Iset-Tekh/ Iset-Tekh-ent-Ḥeru-Iakhuti/ Iset-Djeser/ Ān-Ḥer/ Iunet (Tantere/ Tentyra/ Dendera)||The crocodile|
|7||𓈼 (Seshesh)||Seshesh/ Pa-Khen-Iment/ Uas-Meḥ (Diospolis Parva)||Hu||Sistrum|
|8||𓈽 Ta-wer||Thinis||Great land|
|9||𓈾 (Min)||Ip/ Ipi/ Ipu/ Apu/ [later: Khen-Min, perhaps another name for "Khemenu"]/ Ārty-Ḥeru (Panopolis)||Akhmim||Min|
|10||𓈿/𓉀 Uadj (Wadjet)||Djew-qa / Tjebu (Antaeopolis)||Qaw El Kebir||Cobra|
|11||𓉁/𓉂 (Set)||Shashotep (Hypselis)||Shutb||The creature associated with Set|
|12||𓉃 (Tu-ph)||Pr nmty (Hieracon)||al Atawla||Viper mountain|
|13||𓉄 (Atef-Khent)||Zawty (z3wj-tj, Lycopolis)||Asyut||Upper Sycamore and Viper|
|14||𓉅 (Atef-Peḥu)||Qesy (Cusae)||El Qusiya||Lower Sycamore and Viper|
|15||𓉆 (Wenet)||Khemenu (Hermopolis Magna)||El Ashmounein||Hare|
|17||𓉈 Inpu (Anpu)||Saka (Cynopolis)||El Qais||Anubis|
|18||𓉉/𓉊 (Sep)||Teudjoi / Hutnesut (Alabastronopolis)||El Hiba||Set|
|19||𓉋 (Uab)||Per-Medjed/ Per-Mādjet/ Uabu-t (Oxyrhynchus)||El Bahnasa||Two Sceptres|
|20||𓉌 (Atef-Khent)||Henen-nesut (Herakleopolis Magna)||Ihnasiya||Southern Sycamore|
|21||𓉍 (Atef-Peḥu)||Shenakhen / Semenuhor/ Ium'ā (Crocodilopolis, Arsinoe)||Faiyum||Northern Sycamore|
|22||𓉎/𓉏 (Maten)||𓁶𓏤𓃒𓏪𓊖 Tepihu (Aphroditopolis)||Atfih||Knife|
- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Merriam-Webster, 2007. p. 841
- Bunson, Margaret (2014-05-14). Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Infobase Publishing. p. 280. ISBN 9781438109978.
- "Provinces of Egypt". www.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-21.
- Herodotus, Euterpe, 2.4.1 and 2.99.1ff.
- Bagnall, Roger S. (1996). Egypt in Late Antiquity (Fourth printing ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 333. ISBN 0691069867. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- Wolfram Grajetzki, The Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt: history, archaeology and society. London, Duckworth Egyptology, 2006, pp. 109-111
- Bagnall, Roger S. (1996), Egypt in Late Antiquity, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Bowman, Alan K. (1990), Egypt after the Pharaohs, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Details of the nomes
- Archaeological survey of the nomes