People - Ancient Egypt: Imhotep
FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD Attested Kings about whom nothing more is known. This was a very troubled time. There was a
breakdown of centralized government, with many kings having overlapping reigns. Montuhotep established order from his
capital at Thebes.
Imhotep in Wikipedia
Imhotep (sometimes spelled Immutef, Im-hotep, or Ii-em-Hotep; called Imuthes (Ιμυθες) by the Greeks), fl. 27th century BC
(2655-2600 BC) (Egyptian ii-m-ḥtp *jā-im-ḥatāp meaning "the one who comes in peace") was an Egyptian polymath, who
served under the Third Dynasty king, Djoser, as chancellor to the pharaoh and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis.
He is considered to be the first architect engineer and physician in early history  though two other physicians,
Hesy-Ra and Merit-Ptah lived around the same time. The full list of his titles is:
Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace,
Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor, and Maker of Vases in Chief.
Imhotep was one of very few mortals to be depicted as part of a pharaoh's statue. He was one of only a few commoners ever
to be accorded divine status after death. The center of his cult was Memphis. From the First Intermediate Period onward
Imhotep was also revered as a poet and philosopher. His sayings were famously referred to in poems: I have heard the words
of Imhotep and Hordedef with whose discourses men speak so much.
The location of Imhotep's self constructed tomb was well hidden from the beginning and it remains unknown, despite efforts
to find it. The general consensus is that it is hidden somewhere at Saqqara. Imhotep's historicity is confirmed by two
contemporary inscriptions made during his lifetime on the base or pedestal of one of Djoser's statues (Cairo JE 49889) and
also by a graffito on the enclosure wall surrounding Sekhemkhet's unfinished step-pyramid. The latter inscription
suggests that Imhotep outlived Djoser by a few years and went on to serve in the construction of king Sekhemkhet's pyramid
which was abandoned due to this ruler's brief reign.
Attribution of achievements and inventions
Most known information about him is based on hearsay and conjecture. The ancient Egyptians credited him
with many inventions. For example, it is claimed that he invented or improved the papyrus scroll. James
Henry Breasted says of Imhotep:
In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of
Zoser's reign left so notable a reputation that his name is not forgotten to this day. He was the patron spirit of the
later scribes, to whom they regularly poured out a libation from the water-jug of their writing outfit before beginning
—James Henry Breasted
Engineering and architecture
As one of the officials of the Pharaoh, Djoser, he designed the Pyramid of Djoser (the Step Pyramid) at Saqqara in Egypt in
2630 – 2611 BCE. He may have been responsible for the first known use of columns in architecture. As an instigator of
Egyptian culture, Imhotep's idealized image lasted well into the Ptolemaic period. The Egyptian historian Manetho credited
him with inventing the method of a stone-dressed building during Djoser's reign, though he was not the first to actually
build with stone. Stone walling, flooring, lintels, and jambs had appeared sporadically during the Archaic Period, though
it is true that a building of the Step Pyramid's size and made entirely out of stone had never before been constructed.
Before Djoser, pharaohs were buried in mastaba tombs.
Imhotep is credited with being the founder of medicine and with being the author of a medical treatise remarkable for being
devoid of magical thinking; the so-called Edwin Smith papyrus containing anatomical observations, ailments, and
cures. The surviving papyrus was probably written around 1700 BC but may be a copy of texts a thousand years
older. This attribution of authorship is speculative, however.
According to myth, Imhotep's mother was a mortal named Kheredu-ankh, elevated later to semi-divine status by claims that
she was the daughter of Banebdjedet. Conversely, as the "Son of Ptah", his mother was sometimes claimed to be
Sekhmet, the patron of Upper Egypt whose consort was Ptah. Imhotep is said to have been born near Memphis.[by whom?]
As Imhotep was considered the founder of medicine as a discipline, he was sometimes said to be the one who held up the
goddess Nut (the deification of the sky), as the separation of Nut and Geb (the deification of the earth) was said to be
what held back chaos. Due to the position this would have placed him in, he was also sometimes said to be Nut's son. In
artwork he is also linked with the great goddess, Hathor, who eventually became identified as the wife of Ra. Imhotep was
also associated with Ma'at, the goddess who personified the concept of truth, cosmic order, and justice — having created
order out of chaos and being responsible for maintaining that order.
Two thousand years after his death, Imhotep's status was raised to that of a deity. He became the god of medicine and
healing. He later was linked to Asclepius by the Greeks. He was associated with Amenhotep son of Hapu, who was another
deified architect, in the region of Thebes where they were worshipped as "brothers".
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The evidence afforded by Egyptian and Greek texts support the view that
Imhotep's reputation was very respected in early times ... His prestige increased with the lapse of centuries and his
temples in Greek times were the centers of medical teachings."
It is Imhotep, says Sir William Osler, who was the real "Father of Medicine", "the first figure of a physician to stand out
clearly from the mists of antiquity."
Imhotep was also identified with Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing, education, literacy and scribes through the Greco-
The Upper Egyptian Famine Stela, dating from the Ptolemaic period, bears an inscription containing a legend about a famine
of seven years during the reign of Djoser. Imhotep is credited with having been instrumental in ending it. One of his
priests explained the connection between the god Khnum and the rise of the Nile to the king, who then had a dream in which
the Nile god spoke to him, promising to end the drought.
In popular culture
In modern times, the historical figure lent his name to Imhotep, the title character of the 1932 film The Mummy and its
1999 remake along with a sequel.
It is the title of a video game.
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