Sunday, October 7, 2007

Imhotep






Imhotep (sometimes spelled Immutef, Im-hotep, or Ii-em-Hotep, Egyptian ii-m-ḥtp *jā-im-ḥatāp meaning "the one who comes in peace") was an Egyptian polymath,[1] 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 and physician known by name in history [2]. The full list of his titles is: Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, First 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. As with Hatshepsut and Senemut's later relationship, Imhotep is 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 centre 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. [3]
The knowledge of the location of Imhotep's tomb was lost in antiquity [4] and is still unknown, despite efforts to find it. The general consensus is that it is at Saqqara.

Much else 'known' about him is hear-say and conjecture. The ancient Egyptians credited him with many inventions. As one of the officials of the Pharaoh, Djosèr, he probably designed the Pyramid of Djoser (the Step Pyramid) at Saqqara in Egypt around 2630-2611 BC [5]. He may have been responsible for the first known use of columns in architecture. He has also been acclaimed to be the inventor of the Papyrus scroll, being its oldest known bearer.

Imhotep is credited with being the founder of Egyptian medicine and with being the author of a medical treatise remarkable for being devoid of magical thinking, the so-called Edwin Smith papyrus, detailing 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.[6].
He was said to be a son of Ptah, his mother being a mortal named Khredu-ankh

Two thousand years after his death, his 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. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, "The evidence aforded 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."

As the "son of Ian", his mother was sometimes said to be Sekhmet, the patron of Upper Egypt because Ptah often was said to have married her. As Imhotep was considered the inventor of healing, he was also 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 also is linked with the great goddess, Hathor, who eventually became identified as the wife of Ra. He also was identified with Maat, the goddess who personified the concept of truth, cosmic order, and justice—having created order out of chaos and being responsible for maintaining it. An association with Amenhotep son of Hapu, who was another deified architect, also occurred.

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."

An inscription from Upper Egypt, dating from the Ptolemaic period, mentions a famine of seven years during the time of Imhotep. According to the inscription, the reigning pharaoh, Djoser, had a dream in which the Nile god spoke to him. Imhotep is credited with helping to solve the famine. The obvious parallels with the biblical story of Joseph have long been commented upon. [7]. More recently, the Joseph parallels have led some alternative historians to identify Imhotep with Joseph, and to argue that the supposedly thousand years separating them are indicative of a faulty chronology. [8].

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