~2900 BC
Egyptian High Priest

Wisdom of the Ancient Sages


Architect, Healer, Astronomer, High Priest

Wisdom of the Ancient Sages

An Introduction to Imhotep

Ancient Egypt is a fascinating world that remains mysterious in history and religion. It encompasses hundreds of gods and goddesses and a mythology driven to find the meaning of existence. But in terms of genius, Imhotep is a multi-dimensional individual that rose through Egyptian ranks to become a high priest of great importance.

When reflecting on Egyptian genius nothing stands out more than Imhotep and his evidence of mathematical brilliance, artistic balance and thought and not to forget modern medical achievement.

Egypt's First Step Pyramid:

The Pyramid of Djoser

Although highly admired for several specialties, he is best known for building The Step Pyramid of Saqqara. This pyramid was built for the Third Dynasty king Netcherikhe, best known as Djoser. The inventive architect, Imhotep, enlarged the initial tomb by adding a series of five mastabas in decreasing sizes on top, thus forming the great pyramid of steps. The pyramid's burial compartments are a remarkable accomplishment of design and engineering, especially with the progression of shafts, tunnels, chapels, mortuaries and rooms for offerings that are more complex than any pyramid that followed.

Step Pyramid designed by Imhotep

In the conception and construction, the Step Pyramid Complex was a place where the dead could be honored forever.

The massive tombs featured mud-brick walls and imitated a palace portico. Constructed in stages, it was designed to copy Djoser's palace in Memphis that he occupied during his life.

The Pyramid of Steps was created to act as a place of sun worship to symbolize the dead king's ascent to the sun and passage across the heavens.

This reflects the initiative and forward-thought of Imhotep not only as an architect but as an astronomer and religious priest.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Imhotep was not just an imaginative architect; he was also a doctor and philosopher of the human body and mind. He is venerated in history as the first medical professor and scholar of a medical school that promoted a safe, calm and disciplined environment in which students could discover and develop their talents.

The most important aspect of Egyptian medicine was the style in which they trained. Imhotep's teachings were way ahead of expectations for Egyptian medicine during that time. His prestige and reputation brought devotees from afar who traveled to bring offerings to study beside him and learn his unique and considerable wisdom. Imhotep's philosophy included empowering students to recognize the need and utilize various resources effectively to solve the problems.

Imhotep's concepts included specializations in many methods of medicine, compared to today's physicians who primarily master one area of expertise. He introduced a blend of new methods including astronomy, philosophy, religion and protective amulets to achieve new breakthroughs. He was a pioneer in helping to develop tracheotomy to resolve respiratory obstructions, cauterization to circumvent excessive bleeding while operating, and blood drainage to cure diseased collections.

Edwin Smith's Papyrus

Edwin Smith's Papyrus
The world's oldest surgical document

Imhotep diagnosed and treated hundreds of diseases including diseases of the abdomen, the bladder, the rectum, the eyes, and many of the skin, hair, nails and tongue. He treated tuberculosis, gallstones, appendicitis, gout and arthritis.

A very significant resource of today's modern medical practices is irrespective of Imhotep's medical school; medical tools such as forceps, scissors and surgical blades were all imitative of ancient Egyptian medical apparatus. And certain remedies for elementary disorders that were introduced from ancient Egypt medicine are still practiced today; castor oil for laxatives, honey as an antimicrobial and Acacia as a cough remedy all are in retrospect of Imhotep's teachings and forward-thinking medical protocols.

Imhotep is also revered as a prodigious author of medical books. It is alleged that Imhotep authored the only surviving copy of the ancient Egyptian medical book, Edwin Smith's Papyrus in which more than 100 medical, anatomical terms and injuries with prognosis and treatments are described.

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The Sun Temple

Imhotep was the high priest of the Egyptian city Lunu, later named Heliopolis by the Greeks; this was the capital of the lower Egyptian quadrant. It was the center of astronomy and Imhotep was revered as the Chief of All Seers. Lunu/Heliopolis had a reputation for learning and theological conjecture, centered on the role of the sun and maintenance of the world. It was said to possess the most magnificent temple ever built - the Sun temple. The center of astronomical knowledge was destroyed and legend declares it was ruined by the sun.

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The Guardians of Knowledge

It's been rumored that Imhotep was a member of a secret sect of priests known as the Eyes of Horus, guardians of knowledge and this knowledge enabled him to heal and understand medicinal miracles. But it's essential to understand the importance of medicine and religion in ancient Egypt, over 5000 years ago.

Many physicians were priests during that time and medical studies intertwined with several beliefs including some magical impressions. Medical experimentation and development by Imhotep brought medical lore but also constituted a conclusion of magical and religious explanations by many commoners who simply believed in a higher Egyptian Legend.

As a great poet and theorist for life Imhotep is well known as the cheerful Egyptian philosopher who preached "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die."

Statue inscription

Damaged statue inscription, showing Imhotep's name and titles, as well as pharao Netjerichet's (Djoser's) name.

Imhotep died in 2950 B.C. in Memphis, Egypt and even then his supremacy survived him by worshippers who visited the famous temples and tombs he built to offer their injured limbs or diseased organs in hopes of being healed by the deified god.

Imhotep was granted the unique privilege of being named alongside king Djoser and a number of shrines and temples were dedicated to the deified scholar.

While Imhotep's position as a sacred commoner was not exclusive in ancient Egypt, he was unrivaled in the high degree and widespread level of adoration he received.

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