Sophanem, often referred to as the "City of the Dead," is a settlement located in the southernmost reaches of the known Kharidian Desert. Sophanem straddles the east side of the River Elid, and shares common borders with the neighbouring Menaphite capital of Menaphos. The city is most well known for its ceremonial treatments of the dead, which it performs for the majority of the Menaphite nation. To access it, players must have reached a certain point in the quest Icthlarin's Little Helper.
Sophanem was founded in the Second Age, shortly before the reign of Pharaoh Queen Senliten. It remained a relatively small village well into the Third Age, at which point the Kharidian Desert Campaign forced refugees from besieged settlements such as Uzer and Ullek to flee further south for survival. This re-location of most of the desert's populace essentially left Sophanem at the Menaphite nation's centre, eventually leading to its incorporation as part of a joint-capital with Menaphos.
In 169 of the Fifth Age, Sophanem was beset by a number of plagues, all caused by the Menaphite goddess Amascut. The subsequent quarantine left the city cut off from the outside world in virtually every way. To access the city, players must begin the Icthlarin's Little Helper quest, although the completion of Contact! opens many features such as the city's bank and a number of shops. Amongst players, it is perhaps most popular for the thieving-based Pyramid Plunder minigame, as well as its efficiency as a base of operations for those exploring the southern desert.
The exact date of Sophanem's founding is unclear; although, it is known to have occurred some time slightly prior to Pharaoh Queen Senlite's reign over the Menaphite nation, which pre-dated the conversion of the Mahjarrat to Zaros's forces. This places its establishment during the early Second Age, likely within several hundred years of Guthix's descent into slumber at the First Age's closing.
Despite the Menaphite people's long presence in the Kharidian Desert, Sophanem is comparatively young for a Kharidian settlement. Prior to the construction of Sophanem and Menaphos, the Menaphites lived primarily in settlements along the north and eastern rims of the desert, such as the prosperous metropolises of Ullek and Uzer. According to the religious text Tumeken's Dream, which is apparently held in high regard by the current High Priest of Icthlarin, Ullek was a thriving capital city long before Sophanem was even conceived. These early cities' close proximity to the Eastern Sea gave them the ability to trade with regions such as Misthalin, the Hallowland, and the Eastern Sea islands that even in the early Second Age were being settled in to some degree. Sophanem's location makes it somewhat unique amongst early Menaphite settlements in that it is located far from the Eastern Sea, instead relying on the River Elid and Southern Sea for sustenance.
Sophanem's prominence today is not reflected in its early history, during which it was little more than a small trading settlement on the desert's southern fringe. Like its close neighbour, the prosperous city of Ullek, Sophanem was built in a heavily-wooded area thick with lumber, game, granite, and sandstone. These were presumably its main exports, which it could have traded with ease both within the Southern Sea and along the River Elid. Most of the settlements built along the Elid have long since disappeared, and exactly what exists in the ocean south of Sophanem remains unknown to most modern societies. The only people with whom Sophanem is known to have traded are the Bedabin, who lived in the western Kharid and frequented the area to hunt and barter.
Like the rest of the Menaphite settlements, Sophanem was and still is a firm worshipper of the Desert Pantheon. Unlike in later years, however, the Pantheon had little physical presence in Sophanem, instead opting to focus its attention on more established parts of the nation. This idea was further re-inforced when Zaros, a deity of considerable power, arrived in Gielinor from a parallel world in the early Second Age. Zaros waged war on the Menaphites from the area that is now Morytania, which had not yet been settled by the Icyene of the Eastern Lands. The northern parts of the Kharidian Desert became areas of intense combat, as Zaros's vampyre, demon, and human armies attempted to gain a foothold in the region. The Menaphites' human, clay golem, and Mahjarrat forces managed to repel Zaros with comparative ease, eventually forcing him to set his sights on what are now Misthalin, Asgarnia, and the Wilderness instead. Sophanem itself remained relatively uninvolved in the war, its isolation allowing it to avoid anything more than troop and supply provision.
As the Second Age progressed, Sophanem changed little. At some point, the Mahjarrat left the Menaphite people, choosing instead to ally themselves with Zaros, who had, since his failed movement into the Kharid, begun to gain territory north of the desert. With their aid, Zaros managed to expand his sphere of influence to include most of mainland Gielinor east of Lassar. Sophanem itself was mostly unaffected by this, and as the Second Age began to near an end, Sophanem was still a minor settlement at most.
The God Wars and rise in prominence
At the end of the Second Age, Zaros was betrayed by the Mahjarrat General Zamorak and subsequently was forced out of the Gielinorian plane. In the wake of Zaros's banishment, most of his empire crumbled fairly rapidly, forcing many refugees to seek survival in the Kharidian Desert. Most of these fled to the western Kharid, where they immediately came into conflict with both the Bedabin people and, eventually, Sophanem. Being disorganised and unaccustomed to desert life, these "bandits" never created huge problems for Sophanem, although their presence disrupted the Bedabin peoples' hunting system.
The Kharidian Desert remained relatively uninvolved in the God Wars, although the Third Age nonetheless brought immediate change to the Kharidian Desert and Sophanem. By the mid-Third Age, climate change began to hit the southern desert hard. What had formerly been lush temperate forests began to heat up significantly, and by Year 3,000 lumber supplies were becoming extremely scarce in cities such as Sophanem and Ullek. Living patterns began to change for Sophanem, which had to gradually shift its industry away from lumber and game. Its dependence upon imports began to grow, causing trade in the Southern Sea to become a necessity.
The Kharidian Desert Campaign, which lasted from 3,000 to 4,000, saw the desert's more prominent participation in the God Wars and the eventual rise of Sophanem. Seeking to gain new land and resources, a number of deities and racial factions set their sights on the northern Kharid, the most numerous of these being Zamorakians and Saradominists. Menaphite control over the northern desert rapidly declined as extremely violent battles destroyed neutral settlements, forcing refugees such as Nardarine to flee further south to escape the conflicts. Lord Lowerniel Vergidiyad Drakan, a mostly independent vampyre lord that had toppled the Hallowland some time after the banishment of Zaros, also sought to extend Morytania into the northern Kharid, although with minimal success. Sometime during the campaign, Uzer fell to the Elder Demon Thammaron, and Ullek was annihilated by the three-faced demon Balfrug Kreeyath.
This violence, and the complete destruction of most of the Menaphite's large cities, eventually forced thousands to seek refuge in Sophanem, one of the last surviving Menaphite settlements. This inflation in population and cultural significance rapidly turned Sophanem into the Kharidian Desert's largest city.
Prosperity and conflict
In the wake of the God Wars, Sophanem grew rapidly. The Eastern Sea, having lost much of its populace during the Wars, was largely abandoned, leading to greater focus on trade in the Southern Sea. Sophanem became famous for its complex burials, which often occurred in pyramids like Jalsavrah, modelled after the Uzer Mastaba of Queen Senliten. Trade flourished within the city, and scholars from around the world began to visit it for its focus on learning and education. Large public works projects were initiated by the city's leaders, and thousands of slaves were brought in from neighbouring regions to put them into action.
Sophanem's growth eventually prompted the establishment of Menaphos, a neighbour built on the west side of the River Elid. Initially Menaphos was far smaller than its neighbour, and relied primarily on its trade to survive. Rapidly, though, Menaphos overtook Sophanem in size and strength; a massive port district was established, the Library of Menaphos was built, sprawling slum, market, and imperial districts were built, and trade grew to an unprecedented level. The proximity of Sophanem and Menaphos meant that the two eventually grew into one massive capital city, essentially separate only geographically. While Sophanem continued to trade regularly, it tended to shift its focus on more cultural traditions such as mummification, and so also became somewhat dependent on Menaphos for goods such as spice, chocolate, and flour. Residents of the cities regularly crossed the Elid to shop and visit friends, and ultimately the two accepted each other without difficulty. By the mid-Fourth Age, Sophanem and Menaphos were perhaps the most prosperous cities in the world, far surpassing newer capitals such as Avarrocka.
However, this immense prosperity was not without conflict, and dissent amongst the gods of the Desert Pantheon created issues within Sophanem and Menaphos. In either the late Third or early Fourth Ages, the Menaphite deity of rebirth, Amascut launched a wave of attacks on Menaphite society. "Changed" by her exposure to the Mahjarrat, Amascut dedicated herself to destruction, and ultimately had to be stopped by her own priestesses, such as Neite. Amascut lost her corporeal form, but unity within the Pantheon could never be re-achieved. Shortly after this, the deity Scabaras outlawed the worship of all deities save himself, violating the Edicts of Guthix in the process. After attempting to tunnel under the River Elid from Sophanem, Scabaras was banished, leading to the re-location of the Scabarite race.
The Al Kharid War
As the Fifth Age progressed, both Sophanem and Menaphos remained powerful entities within the Kharidian Desert; however, their prominence in nations such as Misthalin, Asgarnia, Kandarin, and Crandor began to diminish. The re-discovery of runes by the Fremennik explorer "V-------" in Year 1 meant that humans in more racially diverse areas were able to defend themselves more effectively. As humanity's overall strength grew, the formerly dominant Menaphite people lost much of their unique status. Events such as the reclamation of the Lordship of the North Coast by Lord Drakan and the destruction of Crandor by Elvarg slowed but did not stop this trend.
At some point during the Fifth Age, the people of Al Kharid and the Menaphite nation became engaged in open war. Open violence, as well as espionage by agents such as Osman, crippled both nations politically. Although details about the war are few, this separation from its neighbours caused Sophanem to become further detached from world affairs, and it fell from importance in the sight of many northern nations. It was not until the year 169 that this war finally came to an uneasy end.
The plague of Sophanem
However, what should have been a time of increased prosperity in Sophanem rapidly became a time of chaos. Immediately following the end of the Al Kharid - Menaphite War, both Sophanem and Menaphos were placed under strict quarantine. This puzzled the cities' neighbours, who suspected some political implication to the event. However, the quarantine was actually initiated to prevent the spread of a number of plagues caused by the actions of the goddess Amascut. Amascut, hoping to control the soul of a deceased Sophanem High Priest known as Klenter, hypnotised an adventurer so as to make them steal a canopic jar containing Klenter's organs from a Sophanem pyramid. This desecration caused Klenter's spirit to inflict Sophanem with a number of plagues, which in turn caused Menaphos to bar its gate in order to avoid them.
Immediately after the jar's theft, a disease swept Sophanem, marking residents' faces with painful red spots. Swarms of giant locust swarmed the city, eating its limited crops and posing a danger to citizens. The city's cow population, which served as an important source of food, became infected with a disease that left their milk undrinkable and their meat rancid. Finally, bloated swarms of diseased frogs began to wash up on the shoreline of the Elid, posing a threat to the city's people. The city's slaves were left idle and all public works projects were terminated. Word of this reached Menaphos, where a massive slave riot in the city's slum district had to be put down harshly by the city guard.
The adventurer responsible for the canopic jar's theft eventually managed to re-gain control of themselves. With the aid of the god Icthlarin and the city's local sphinx, the adventurer managed to return the canopic jar to its resting place; however, Amascut attempted to intervene and managed to possess a city priest, who was slain in the struggle. Although Klenter's soul was briefly released, almost immediately after this Amascut used a second adventurer to re-take the jar, effectively causing the plagues' return. Because both Icthlarin and Amascut are dedicated to claiming Klenter's soul, The High Priest of Sophanem believes that the city's could remain plagued for years, if not indefinitely.
Conflicts with Scabaras and re-opening
The people of Sophanem, now resigned to the possible long-term presence of Klenter's plagues, sought to adjust to their effects. The lack of plague infection in adventurers visiting the city eventually led to the High Priest concluding that none of the city's plagues were contagious, and that re-establishing contact with Menaphos would pose no risk to either city or the outside world.
Attempts by both the Sophanem High Priest and community leaders were met with violence from the Menaphos guard, led by Coenus. After narrowly escaping a volley of arrow-fire, the High Priest decided that sending a covert agent into Menaphos would be necessary in making contact with the city. To complicate matters, the city's subterannean bank was invaded in the night by an unknown adversary, who destroyed it before fleeing into a tunnel beneath the surface. The Priest recruited the adventurer that had previously attempted to end the plagues for this task. The adventurer eventually entered the tunnel network beneath the city from which the bank had been destroyed, feeling that it was the tunnel reputed to have been dug beneath the Elid by Scabarites in the late Third or early Fourth Age.
Unbeknownst to Sophanem, a massive Scabarite congregation led by none other than the High Priest of Scabaras had settled in the Ullekian cliffs east of the city. The High Priest was visited shortly after his arrival by a vision of Amascut, disguised as a representative of Scabaras. Amascut convinced the High Priest that in order to obtain true isolation in keeping with Scabarite religion, all other races must be destroyed, starting with the people of Sophanem. The Scabarites discovered a tunnel connecting the cliffs to the ancient Sophanem tunnel network, and using Scabaras locusts as mounts, laid traps throughout the caves. Ultimately unsatisfied with this passive resistance and now nearly possessed by Amascut, the High Priest of Scabaras demanded more direct violence, ultimately beginning with the invasion of Sophanem bank and the positioning of a giant scarab near the tunnel's connection to Menaphos. An Al Kharid operative named Kaleef, sent to spy on Menaphos with an operative named Maisa, was the first victim of the guardian.
Upon entering the caves, the adventurer recruited by Sophanem found the area overrun with hostile Scabarites. They eventually found and slew the giant scarab with the aid of another Al Kharid agent, Osman, but ultimately found the tunnel to Menaphos impassable. Upon informing the High Priest of Sophanem of this, it was decided that the city would lift its quarantine and begin trading with neighbouring settlements such as Nardah, Pollnivneach, Al Kharid, and the Bedabin Camp. The city's bank was restored, and Ali Morrisane's magic carpet network was given more support. City residents that had not been able to re-enter Sophanem since its quarantine were now given access. The city's trade revived, and inter-city commerce flourished once more, although not to a pre-quarantine degree. Menaphos, meanwhile, refused to open its gates, and by all accounts is now preparing for what may be an indefinite state of isolation.
Hoping to end the Scabarite conflict, the adventurer eventually managed to locate and confront the High Priest of Scabaras. Through combat, they managed to awaken the priest from his state of possession. The Priest, now in agreement that violence only diluted the Scabarites' isolation further, ordered his people to pull out of Sophanem's caves and cease all acts of war immediately. Although the majority were willing to comply, a handful were driven mad by their willingness to follow Amascut, and remain in both the Sophanem and outer Ullekian caves to this day, making them impassable to outsiders.
Sophanem is surrounded by extremely high stone walls, which protect it from enemies and the elements as well as help to regulate travel to and from the city. As a result, there are only a handful of ways to directly enter Sophanem on foot.
To access Sophanem, players must first do a small portion of the Icthlarin's Little Helper quest. After speaking to the "Wanderer" at her tent north of the city, players may enter a nearby cave entrance which lets out at a small crack on the inside of the northeast Sophanem city walls. Until completing Icthlarin's Little Helper, this is the only way players can enter the city on foot; upon completing it, two additional routes also become available.
Sophanem's main gate and side gate open upon completing Icthlarin's Little Helper. The main gate can be found on the city's north wall, immediately east of the River Elid and south of a small inland lake. It is guarded by non-attackable Sophanem Priests, and is also serviced by Ali Morrisane's carpet network. This is generally the most commonly used city entrance. A third, smaller gate can be found on the city's east wall, and lets out on an open coast that eventually leads to the swamps that formerly housed Ullek. It is guarded by several doormen, who cannot be attacked.
Sophanem's isolated location means that it can be difficult to reach. However, there are a number of ways to speed up on-foot travel, or avoid it completely.
- The Pharaoh's Sceptre can be used by players to teleport directly into Sophanem's Jalsavrah Pyramid, which houses the Pyramid Plunder minigame. It is generally considered the fastest way to reach Sophanem, provided players can afford or obtain it. The sceptre must be recharged using pyramid artefacts after 3 teleports, meaning that players should plan ahead when using the sceptre regularly.
- Players that have access to Menaphos can use the Menaphos lodestone and then talk to the guard at the bridge leading to Sophanem to gain entry. Completion of Contact! is required to do this. This is a one-way path and players may not return to Menaphos via this bridge unless the 'Phite Club quest is completed.
- Players who have reached tier 4 with any Menaphos faction can craft Sophanem Slayer Dungeon teleport tablets in their player-owned house.
- The magic carpet system can be used to reach the area directly outside Sophanem's main gate. Because Sophanem's carpet station is not serviced directly by the Shantay Pass station, players coming from Al Kharid must first take a carpet ride to the northern Pollnivneach station, then take a second carpet from the southern Pollnivneach station to Sophanem. The base price of using the carpet system is 200 coins per trip, although this can be reduced to 100 by completing the Rogue Trader miniquest and further lowered to 75 with a Ring of Charos (a).
- If none of the above methods are available, there are also a handful of nearby locations that players can teleport to in order to shorten the trip to Sophanem. The camulet can teleport players to Enakhra's Temple upon completion of Enakhra's Lament. Players can also use the fairy ring combination DLQ to teleport near Nardah, provided they have reached a certain point in A Fairy Tale Part II. A very fast method is to use a slayer ring or a Pollnivneach Teleport scroll to teleport to Pollnivneach, then take the carpet south.
- Players that have completed the Desert Treasure quest can use the lodestone located in Bandit Camp and run south. Beware, though, as the player may get some slight damage from desert heat if not adequately protected.
- Players may teleport to Nardah an unlimited amount of times if they own at least the Desert amulet 2, a reward from completing the medium Desert Tasks, and then can run south-west to Sophanem.
Like all proper banks (as opposed to lone bankers), this bank rapidly heals players to maximum life points, making it very useful for the Pyramid Plunder minigame. Completion of Contact! is not required to receive this healing.
The Sophanem Dungeon is under the bank and features heavily in the Contact! quest. It can be extremely dangerous.
Sophanem Slayer Dungeon
There is an altar where a player may recharge prayer on the west side of the city.
Pyramid Plunder is in the north-west.
Plover Birds hunter area
South of the Sophanem slayer dungeon and west of the Luminous Wisp colony. Plover bird can be hunted with deadfall traps. They are used in the Crocodile Tears quest and have a chance of finding the Pygmy giant scarab and Clicker kalphite for the Insects of the Desert
Luminous Wisp Colony
Luminous wisps can be harvested at level 90 divination. Prior to the release of Menaphos, the colony was located outside the city gates of Sophanem, but is now located within the walls, south of the Sophanem Slayer Dungeon. Fly dragon and Fruit fly can be found while harvesting here.
Shops opened after the Contact! quest:
- Blades by Urbi (north) - daggers bronze to dragon, and scimitars bronze to steel
- Siamun (tailor shop) (north east) - spinning wheel. After doing Rogue Trader miniquest, clothing will be available after bringing 3 cowhides, 3 wolf or snake skins or the shearings of 3 sheep for desert robes or 3 pots of dye for Menaphite clothes; but she does not accept noted items.
- Jamila's Craft Stall (east) - moulds and other crafting supplies
- Carpenter (east)- nothing now, however does buy willow logs for 40 each
- Nathifa's Bake Stall (west of carpenter) - bread, cake, chocolate, waterskins
- Stone mason (south east) - nothing now, but hints at providing services in the future
- Embalmer (south west store) sells pots, gnome spice, curry leaves, piles of salt, buckets of sap, and antipoison potions.
- Raetul and Co's Cloth Store - stocks various sewing materials and articles of clothing
- Plague cow
- Plague Frog
- Crocodile (just north of the city)
- Camel warrior (on the island east of the city)
- The plagues happening in Sophanem are references to Exodus, in the Bible.
- Entering and leaving via the gates mandates a chat with one of the Sophanem guards unless you right-click on the gates and select the quick option.
- Using an acne potion from the Apothecary in Varrock on any citizen results in a strange chat about spots.
- Menaphos and Sophanem have the same letters and are spelled backwards, just that the "p" and the "h" are switched in order to make the cities pronounceable. Soph, a prominent piece of both names, comes from the Greek word "sophos" which means "wise". This seems to play on both Menaphos' and Sophanem's (albeit diminishing) scholarly history.
- If you teleport away from Sophanem while the gates are closed during the start of Icthlarin's Little Helper, one of the guards will shout "That's right, clear off, you're not welcome here!" in the chatbox.
- The bankers under the broken altar have the same dialogue as the Keldagrim bankers.
- Another part of the city was revealed on 26 September 2012.
- Sophanem's layout got changed when the gates of Menaphos opened on 5 June 2017.