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p>fl.Dynasty 3(2675–2625B.C.E.)

High Priest of Heliopolis


Little is recorded of Imhotep’s personal life. Even the date of his birth and death remain unknown, though he lived during the Third-dynasty reign of King Djoser (2675–2654 B.C.E. ). He certainly reached the highest stratum of society, acting as both High Priest of Re at Heliopolis and the architect for King Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex at Saqqara. Even these facts come from much later sources. According to Manetho, the third-century B.C.E. historian, Imhotep built the first stone building—the Step Pyramid complex. The inscription that mentions his name on a statue of Djoser confirms his high position. The next information about Imhotep after the statue inscription comes 1,000 years later from a papyrus now in the Turin Museum, which calls Imhotep a patron of scribes. In addition, he was already described as son of the god Ptah, the god of the capital city, Memphis. After 664 B.C.E. , Egyptians made numerous bronze statuettes of Imhotep. They described him as a teacher, physician, and god. The Greek rulers of Egypt after 332 B.C.E. associated Imhotep with Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine.


Erik Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt (Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982).

Dietrich Wildung, Egyptian Saints: Deification in Pharaonic Egypt (New York: New York University Press, 1977).

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