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Vizier Ptahhotep I

Vizier - The People

Vizier Ptahhotep served as a Vizier for Pharaoh Djedkare during the 5th Dynasty and could well have overseen the completion of Pharaoh’s Mortuary Complex at Saqqara, for more details, click here.   His own burial was also in the North of Saqqara, for more details about his burial, click here.  As with many other Vizier’s his son and grandson appear to have also served the Royals as Viziers.

Wisdom Literature


Wisdom Literature meant in Egyptian literature the instruction of young men in appropriate behaviour according to the law of Ma’at. For more details about Ma’at, please click here.

These wisdoms were in the principles of:

  • Truthfulness
  • Restraint
  • Kindness
  • Justice
  • Moderation and Self control
  • Generosity

Why did Ptahhotep write these Maxims?


There are numerous reasons as to why the Vizier decided to find time to spend on writing these Maxims. The one that appears to be the most likely is as follows:-

Vizier Ptahhotep was getting older and wished to pass his position on to the next generation, ideally his own son. Pharaoh Djedkare agreed that his Vizier could retire if he could find a man of full Wisdom and the experience that is earned through Age. Ptahhotep concluded the best way to do this was to write his own Maxims to give to his son the Wisdom Pharaoh required.

The Maxims of Ptahhotep


These are Maxims based on his own Wisdom and Experience.

  • Great is Ma’at
  • The human race never accomplishes anything. It’s what the Gods command that gets done
  • All conduct should be so straight that you can measure it with a plumb line.  Punish with principle, teach meaningfully. The act of stopping evil leads to the lasting establishment of virtue
  • Follow your heart all your life, do not commit excess with respect to what has been ordained
  • Only speak when you have something worth saying
  • Think of living in peace with what you possess, and whatever the Gods choose to give will come of its own accord
  • Do not blame those who are childless, do not criticise them for not having any, and do not boast about having them yourself
  • Do not repeat a slanderous rumour, do not listen to it
  • As for you, teach your disciple the words of tradition. May he act as a model for the children of the great, that they may find in him the understanding and justice of every heart that speaks to him, since man is not born wise
  • Injustice exists in abundance, but evil can never succeed in the long run
  • Those who the Gods guide do not go wrong. Those who the Gods guide cannot get lost. Those they forbid passage will not be able to cross the river of life
  • A woman with happy heart brings equilibrium. Love your wife with passion
  • Do not gossip in your neighbourhood, because people respect the silent. Listening benefits the listener. If he who listens, listens fully, then he who listens becomes he who understands. As for the ignorant man who does not listen, he accomplishes nothing. He equates knowledge with ignorance, the useless with the harmful. He does everything which is detestable, so people get angry with him each day
  • So do not place any confidence in your heart in the accumulation of riches, since everything that you have is a gift from the Gods

Quotations are taken from The Living Wisdom of Ancient Egypt by Christian Jacq



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