In this paper we introduce certain Hankel matrices that can be used to study ME (matrix exponential) distributions, in particular to compute their ME orders. The Hankel matrices for a given ME probability distribution can be constructed if one of the following five types of information about the distribution is available: (i) an ME representation, (ii) its moments, (iii) the derivatives of its distribution function, (iv) its Laplace-Stieltjes transform, or (v) its distribution function. Using the Hankel matrices, a necessary and sufficient condition for a probability distribution to be an ME distribution is found and a method of computing the ME order of the ME distribution developed. Implications for the PH (phase-type) order of PH distributions are examined. The relationship between the ME order, the PH order, and a lower bound on the PH order given by Aldous and Shepp (1987) is discussed in numerical examples.