Statue of Imhotep 'Imhotep'


Cult Center: Memphis

Imhotep is one of the few Egyptian gods (other than the pharaohs) who was actually a real person. He was the vizier of Djoser, a pharaoh of the third dynasty. He was skilled in all areas of administration and royal enterprises. Imhotep was also a priest, writer, a doctor and a founder of the Egyptian studies of astronomy and architecture.

Imhotep was known perhaps best of all as the architect of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, near Memphis. The Step Pyramid was the first structure created by human hands to be built entirely from stone.

It was as a wise man and scribe that Imhotep was first honored as a god. In the New Kingdom was was venerated as the patron of scribes. Scribes would pour a couple of drops of water in libation to him before beginning to write. During this time, this form of ancestor worship to Imhotep was privately practiced and his cult was similar to that of any of the dead (although more wide-spread). Also at that time, Imhotep was identified with Nefertem, the son of Ptah.

During the Late Dynastic Period when the capital of Egypt was moved to Sais, Imhotep was fully deified. He was called the son of Ptah and his mother was either Nut or Sekhmet. He was also associated with Thoth and became a patron of wisdom and medicine. Miraculous cures were often attributed to him. The Greeks identified him with Asclepius, their god of medicine and healing.

Imhotep was supposed to send sleep to those who were suffering or in pain. He was the physician to both the gods and men.

During the Ptolemaic Period, a small temple to Imhotep was built on the Island of Philae.

In art, Imhotep was portrayed as a priest with a shaven head, seated and holding a papyrus roll. Occasionally he was shown clothed in the archaic costume of a priest. He was not represented with divine insignias.

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