Imhotep—also referred to as Imhotep, Son of Ptah—distinguished himself as an important individual in ancient Kernet. He served as the vizer of the Pharaoh of the III Dynasty, King Djoser. During this period, Imhotep was partly responsible for enhancing the architecture, the schools for sages, and the practice of medicine. He is among the significant figures of antiquity who have made monumental contributions toward African societies and have received special recognition. In some cases, these individuals have been revered as divinities and/or divine beings. This status is often occupied by those who have exemplified acts that were imperative to the community's well-being. His contributions and his transformation to a deity are discussed in this entry.

Serving His King

As a vizer of King Djoser, Imhotep was responsible for serving as chief judge, with duties such as overseeing the King's records. Moreover, these responsibilities also included, but are not limited to, Judiciary, Treasurer, War (Army and Navy), Agriculture Supervisor, and the General Executive. The role of a vizer was highly regarded as an honorable commission and was obtained by those who were considered divine. Thus, those who carried this responsibility would have Life, Prosperity, Health attached to their names.
Imhotep was admired as being an exceptional architect in Kemet's rich history of architectural design. Furthermore, Imhotep was said to be responsible for the construction of one of the first pyramids known to human history. He served as the chief architect on the design of the Step-Pyramid of Sakkarah. The construction of the Step-Pyramid of Sakkarah not only indicates the sophistication of the ancient Kemetic civilization, but it also provides insight on the architectural genius of Imhotep. This structure has lasted thousands of years, illustrating the skill and intellect of Imhotep. Imhotep designed the Step-Pyramid of Sakkarah in honor of King Djoser, his royal master.
Imhotep was also involved with the construction of the first temple of Edfu. Imhotep was attributed with being the chief architect of this massive structure. The inscriptions in the temple identify Imhotep as “the great priest Imhotep the son of Ptah, who speaks or lectures.” The temple at Edfu was developed in the predynastic period and was one of the first structures of this time. As a result of Imhotep's architectural contributions to ancient Kernet, he was inducted into an honorable community of exceptional architects. Figures inducted into the community were those who were chief architects. They were also pioneers, influencing other architects in ancient Kemetic history.

Sage and Author

Furthermore, Imhotep developed a reputation of being a great sage. In fact, he is recognized as one of the greatest of Kemetic sages. Imhotep's intellectual thought help to create a tradition of critical thought and a high appreciation for wisdom. His thought has unquestionably impacted the field of medicine and architect in antiquity and contemporary times. His work remains relevant, although often overlooked, in Western medicine and architecture. His philosophy, in the form of proverbs, was used as instructions for life. These teachings were passed down for generations.
Imhotep was highly noted for his poetic delivery, resulting in being portrayed as a master of poetry. Imhotep's status as a great sage is illustrated in the “Song of the Harper,” in which his name is recognized along with Hordedef as being a distinguished sage. The “Song of the Harper” provides lessons of life and acknowledges Imhotep as a wise sage. It was passed from generation to generation, inducting Imhotep's name in history as a wise man.
Imhotep took an interest in studying the heavens and stars and their influence on human life. Although there is no notable reference to his name in these fields, his name was associated with Thoth, the deity of astronomical observation. It is apparent through his work that he believed in a strong influence of the heavens on human phenomena. The belief that the course of the stars strongly affects human fate was commonly shared by ancient Kemetic communities, thus the studies of the movement of heavenly bodies, planets, and other astrological phenomena were observed.

Transition to Deity

Imhotep also distinguished himself as a highly accomplished physician. He served as a medicine man/healer of a period of the III Dynasty during King Djoser's reign. He was also King Djoser's court physician. Imhotep's work in medicine would eventually result in him being deified and revered as a significant individual who had been as a son of God. Imhotep was said to utilize magic and medicine, as well as other methods, for healing the sick. Magic during ancient Kernet was closely related to religion and was revered as being a divine gift of God. He healed people with illnesses of the body, spirit, and psyche. The Westcar Papyrus makes references to Imhotep as an extraordinary medicine man/healer. His reputation as a healer earned him recognition, which would lead to his deification as a deity of medicine.
The legacy of Imhotep endured for thousands of years. More important, his legacy remains today. Although he lived during the period of the III Dynasty, about 2900 BC, he was inducted to the community of gods Kernet during the Persian period dating from 525 BC. This illustrates the longevity of Imhotep's influence and contributions to ancient Kemetic civilization. Prior to his induction into the community of gods, Imhotep was referred to as a significant contributor; thus, he took on the status of a demigod. As a demigod, he received semidivine worship and reverence.
Imhotep Son of Ptah is elevated to a deity due to the great contribution he made toward medicine, architecture, and as a sage. During the period of 525, Imhotep was venerated as a God and developed a substantial following. His philosophy of life was reflected in the form of beautiful structures and wise proverbs. His wisdom was alluded to in inscriptions of holy temples, pyramids, and other monuments commemorating significant figures. His work in the field of medicine remains relevant to current tradition and helped to sustain a healthy society. His name was mentioned thousands of years after his death, making him an important figure in African history and religion.



  • pyramids
  • temples
  • medicine
  • dynasties
  • medicine man
  • inscription
  • gods


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Further Reading

  • Asante, M. K. (2000). The Egyptian Philosophers: Imhotep to Akhenaten. Chicago: AAI Publishers.
  • Asante, M. K. (2007). The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony. New York: Routledge.
  • Posener, G. (1962). A Dictionary of Egyptian Civilization. London: Methuen.
  • Wilkinson, R. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Cairo: American University Press.