12 things to know about Imhotep

Imhotep

Imhotep

Imhotep was perhaps the most renowned polymath to ever hail from ancient Egypt. This was evident when several centuries after his death, the famed architect and sage was elevated to the status of a god in ancient Egypt.

Here, we present to you 12 things you may not know about Imhotep, the famed ancient Egyptian polymath and god.

  1. It’s been estimated that Imhotep lived from around 2667 BCE to 2600 BCE. Owing to an inadequate amount of archaeological evidence, not much is known about his family. What is known, however, is that: the great sage Imhotep was born a commoner. Scholars reason that it was his sheer talents and natural wisdom that enabled him to rise from a lowly ranked temple priest to the top of the social hierarchy of ancient Egypt.
  2. In terms of status, Imhotep was arguably second only to King Djoser. He was Djoser’s most trusted adviser and grand vizier because of his vast knowledge in matters of religion, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, architecture, and agriculture. Imhotep was probably ancient Egypt’s first true polymath.
  3. His name in ancient Egypt translates to “He Who Comes in Peace”. To the Greeks, Imhotep was known as “Imouthes”.
  4. Imhotep’s most famous architectural work came during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser in the Third Dynasty. He was the chief architect who designed and built Djoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara – the world’s oldest known pyramid.
  5. During the construction of the record-breaking Step Pyramid of Djoser, Imhotep etched his name into history by becoming the first builder to ever use stone (limestone) for a colossal monument. And unlike the old burial tombs (i.e. the mastaba) that were made of dried mud with a rectangular base, the base of the 203-foot high Step Pyramid was given a square shape. Imhotep’s ingenious idea ushered in a new age in the Egyptian society – the age of colossal pyramids which permanently transformed the landscape of Egypt.

    Imhotep and the Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara

    Imhotep is credited with building the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara

  6. As it was common for influential pharaohs to have epithets, Imhotep too was giving a number of titles even though he was not a pharaoh per se. Some examples of Imhotep’s titles are: First After the Ruler of Upper Egypt; The High Priest of Heliopolis; Chief Administrator of the Great Palace and; Sculptor of the King’s Vases.
  7. Apart from the Egyptian pharaohs, very few Egyptians attained the status of a god in ancient Egypt. However, Imhotep was elevated to a deity by subsequent generations. Many ancient Egyptians believed that his vast knowledge in medicine and craftsmanship could mean only one thing: Imhotep must have been a living god on earth. At some point in time, the wise sage was even revered as the son Ptah, the creator god and the god of craftsmen.
  8. According to ancient.eu, Imhotep continued in his capacity as chief architect of Egypt after the death of King Djoser. He served the likes of Sekhemkhet, Khaba and Huni.
  9. His association with the creator god Ptah stems from his days working as the high priest of Ptah. Because Ptah was seen as the creator god who designed and built the universe, the high priests in those temples generally served as architects. Therefore, it was not surprising that Djoser chose Imhotep to build his eternal resting place in Saqqara.
  10. His acclaim went far beyond his numerous architectural accomplishments. Imhotep is believed to have pushed the idea that illnesses that plagued the Egyptians were not necessary sent by the gods; instead those illnesses were natural. As a result of his knowledge in medicine, the Greeks saw him as the equivalent of Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine and rejuvenation.
  11. It is interesting to note that the sage Imhotep predates Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, by a staggering two millennia. Imhotep was an extremely gifted person in diagnosing injuries and prescribing ancient Egyptian cures to those injuries.
  12. Right up to the ancient Roman era, i.e. during the reigns of Roman emperors such as Claudius and Tiberius, Imhotep continued to receive extensive reverence. It was not uncommon to see Imhotep’s name inscribed on Roman temples.

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