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The Most Dizzying Career in History, or How the Sage Imhotep Became a God in Ancient Egypt
The Most Dizzying Career in History, or How the Sage Imhotep Became a God in Ancient Egypt

What if you feel a serious potential in yourself and are ready for great achievements in several professional fields at once, but one nuance interferes: the fact of birth in Ancient Egypt, two and a half millennia before the onset of a new era? The answer is simple - you need not just build a career, but become one of the most revered gods, making your own reputation work even after death. Few succeeded - and Imhotep was one of them.

Imhotep - architect and statesman

If Imhotep had compiled a summary (perhaps for other incarnations, a class above), then this document would have included very significant achievements. In a sense, they should be recognized as unique - after all, Imhotep was worshiped by civilizations that simply did not exist during his lifetime! After such an introduction, one involuntarily wants to assume that we are talking about a character in mythology, but no - the existence of Imhotep as a real historical person has been proven quite definitely.

Step pyramid of Djoser. Pharaoh Djoser ruled in the middle of the XXVII century BC

It is rather difficult to judge his biography. The main and, in fact, the only thing that is known about the life of Imhotep is that he held one of the highest government posts under Pharaoh Djoser, who, in turn, is well known for his unique pyramid. This is the oldest of such structures, and one of the main features of the Djoser pyramid is its stepped outlines.

This is not an accident - the building was the result of a kind of architectural experiment, an innovative solution, when over a rectangular mastaba tomb (such were built earlier), several more of the same, smaller ones were built on top. The pyramid of Djoser became the tallest architectural creation of its time, and even now its dimensions (height 62 m) seem quite impressive.

The necropolis of Saqqara near the ancient capital of Egypt - Memphis

The pyramidal shape has since become common for the main structures of the funeral complexes of Ancient Egypt, over time this tradition was adopted by other cultures. What does Imhotep have to do with it? The fact is that the construction of the Djoser pyramid, like the buildings next to it, is the result of his work and one of the most significant projects in his career. Imhotep's involvement in the creation of the burial complex is evidenced by the inscription on the base of the statue of Djoser, discovered not far from the pyramid. It contains a list of the incarnations of Imhotep during the period of his activity for the benefit of Egypt: after listing the titles and names of the ruler himself, the titles of his first adviser are indicated, where he is called the treasurer, the chief priest of the city of Heliopolis, the head of the builders, and so on.

Statue of Pharaoh Djoser, which contains information about Imhotep

Undoubtedly, the outstanding achievements of Imhotep were made possible thanks to the conditions created by the "employer", the pharaoh, who, in turn, was revered both during his lifetime and after his death as a wise and talented ruler. But his first adviser survived Djoser - and continued to work during the reign of his successor, Sekhemkhet, as evidenced by the inscription on one of the walls of the unfinished pyramid complex of the new pharaoh.

Imhotep - the father of medicine

Probably the greatest achievement of Imhotep was his success in the field of medicine. Speaking about ancient Egyptian medicine, one should not imagine something primitive, despite the fact that we are talking about the third millennium BC.The Egyptians then did not have a particularly good idea of ​​the work of various organs, despite the fact that, thanks to the traditions of embalming, they perfectly knew human anatomy. The heart, for example, was considered not only the main part of the body, but also the organ responsible for thinking: after all, it was the heart that made itself felt in difficult or, conversely, happy moments of life.

Fragment of Edwin Smith's papyrus - the main medical document of Ancient Egypt

Nevertheless, they treated - or tried to treat - a lot: injuries and bleeding, poisoning, gynecological problems, infectious diseases. They used drugs that were made from products like honey, milk, vegetable and animal fats, from medicinal herbs, sometimes something very specific was added, like manure. It is noteworthy that in ancient Egypt great importance was attached to hygiene, and in the recommendations of healers, advice was constantly found on maintaining a clean body and refusing to eat raw meat or fish. Surgical operations were widespread, even prosthetics were carried out, which, however, pursued only aesthetic goals.

The ibis bird was associated with Imhotep, as well as with Thoth - the god of writing and science

We know how they were treated in Ancient Egypt from the papyri found during excavations. One of them, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, named after the archaeologist who discovered it in 1862, is considered fundamental medical research. The papyrus covers fifty injuries and illnesses with their descriptions, treatment recommendations and prognosis. The document is dated 1700 - 1500 BC, but itself is only a copy of an earlier work, and it is believed that Imhotep was involved. The texts of the papyrus by Edwin Smith were written earlier by about a thousand years - and during this entire period they were "Handbook" for Egyptian healers. The priests were engaged in treatment in Ancient Egypt - after all, the process itself sometimes involved not only the use of medicines, but also the attraction of magical, divine powers. By the way, the alleged author of this important medical document himself, the sage Imhotep, who was a priest during his lifetime, acquired divine status after his death.

Reconstructed appearance of a nobleman of the Imhotep era

Until the next mention of Imhotep (from those that have survived to this day), not just years and centuries passed, but whole millennia. Herodotus, who visited Egypt in the 5th century BC, wrote about this ancient dignitary as an exceptionally outstanding personality. Apparently, the name of the famous healer and builder of the pyramid Djoser was kept among the people despite the change of eras, it was passed on in myths from generation to generation. Imhotep allegedly not only miraculously healed the sick, but could also raise the dead. Already in the Hellenistic period, he was identified with the Greek Asclepius and the Roman Aesculapius, the god of medicine and healing.

Imhotep and seven hungry years

How Imhotep's life developed and under what circumstances it ended, one can only guess. He is credited with kinship with the goddess Ranpatnafrat or marriage with her, but in general, to date, even the resting place of the grand vizier of the pharaoh has not been found, although it is believed that it is located somewhere in the necropolis of Sakkara, not far from the burial complex of pharaoh Djoser created by him.

"Stele of Hunger" with a mention of Imhotep

Imhotep also has one more curious "line in the resume": he is sometimes identified with the biblical Joseph, the one who gathered grain in years of abundance and distributed it with the advent of seven hungry years. Indeed, during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, there was a period of drought, this is indirectly confirmed by the inscription on the granite Stela of Famine, found in Upper Egypt. The building itself dates back to the period of the 4th - 1st centuries. BC, but contains a legend about how Imhotep, on behalf of Djoser, "agreed" with the god Khnum, who ruled over the waters of the Nile. It was also suggested that there was a granary inside the Djoser pyramid, cut by passages and chambers of different sizes. One way or another, for thousands of years Imhotep was worshiped on a par with the main Egyptian gods.As a sign of respect in front of him, it was customary to throw water from the vessel on the floor, starting to work, - this is what the scribes did. An official and architect, physician and patron of sciences, Imhotep was revered until the Arab invasion in the 7th century.

But why did they actually build the pyramids and what's wrong with their images - the question, on the one hand, is somewhat provocative, on the other - fascinating, since the answers to it can be the most fantastic.

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