I would hope that there would be more information about Imhotep as soon as more discoveries are made.
This is a short book detailing the life of Imhotep (as far as it is known) as well as the influence that he had which resulted in him being worshiped as a demigod, then a god, then as a god in conjunction with another god. He was the physician-architect of the pharaoh Zoser and was said to have been responsible for the construction of the steppe pyramid which provided the architectural evolution from mastaba tombs to the very pyramids that Egypt is known to have had.
Imhotep was the vizier and physician of the Pharaoh Zoser. He was also known for being an architect, since he created the pyramid as we know it in the modern world. He also lent his service to anyone in the city of Memphis who sought his audience.
Unfortunately, Hurry provides very little detail about Imhotep’s status as a polymath. He only mentions his status as an architect very briefly when it pertained to his responsibility as the architect of the Sakkara pyramid. Even his medical prowess is not documented as much. Although he was given many titles, they do not signify whether or not Imhotep actually succeeded in living up to his expectation given by Egyptians hundreds of years afterward of being a god on Earth.
The lack of information about Imhotep was what enabled Hurry to make connections between him and the practices that were practiced in the time. Therefore, throughout the book, Hurry makes a lot of inferences, which I do not know if they can be substantiated in light of any discoveries.
This is especially important since Imhotep was given the privilege of being granted godhood when it was not afforded to any other mortal. Hurry does mention that Imhotep was bestowed by Zoser a wide variety of medical equipment, so it did show that even the Pharaoh knew how much Imhotep was willing to contribute.
As for the ways that Imhotep was worshiped as a god, it had to do with how associated he was to medicine. There were papyri after Imhotep’s time which detailed how couples, if they wanted to get pregnant, would lie in a temple dedicated to Imhotep in order to conceive. When the Greeks conquered Egypt, they combined Imhotep with their own medicine god, Asclepius.
Hurry emphasized how Imhotep and the legend surrounding him took place a long time ago, even further back than when Asclepius was officially considered a god of medicine among the Greeks and even before the exodus of the Hebrew nation from Egypt under Moses. Because of that length of time, the only evidences that remain would have to be anything literally set in stone. Unless we end up in an Assassin’s Creed type of future where the archaeological community can find a Copt who has the Ancient Bloodline who who can locate Imhotep through the Animus, there can be no other surer way of finding out more about Imhotep.
As such, this was before the distinction was made between magic and medicine and way before the Scientific Method was formulated. However, therapeutics and surgeries were known to have been used in the time, so they may have been used by Imhotep in his practice.
What did make him exceptional and exclusive to his own time was that he was a vizier during a time when Egypt suffered a seven-year-long famine that resulted from the Nile not producing enough crops. Since such a figure would have been needed in a time of need, it would make sense that Imhotep would have eased that suffering.
As expected from a book written close to a century ago, it has a lot of flowery prose, which would be difficult to read in a concrete way without carefully reading it. Thankfully, since this is a reissue, there are footnotes that will guide the reader through the confusing names. I would hope that if a detailed biography of Imhotep is ever written by Oxford University or anyone else, that it would have concrete prose that used very structured syntax.
I am used to Zoser being spelled “Djoser,” though I did think that the hieroglyphic names were important to the book, which has an Appendix dedicated to analyzing the names of ancient Egypt, including Imhotep which means “he who comes in peace.”
Real World Application
There was no substantial analysis of Imhotep as a polymath, though it did mention that since he came from a family of architects, it would make sense that he would follow suit, which ultimately led to his creation of the Sakkara pyramid. Perhaps he had a support system in case he struggled to study or find employment? If anything can be inferred from this biography, it would have to be to surround yourself with people who will support you.
As for the time when Imhotep was vizier, it was clear that he was especially needed, since Egypt was encountering a catastrophic plague. So there is always a time and a place for someone as exceptional as Imhotep; especially during such a disastrous time to be alive. A thing to keep in mind is that you are always needed no matter what happens.
Zoser was able to see that, since he gave Imhotep enough medical supplies as needed to cure anyone who came to him. Zoser knew to never take people with exceptional knowledge for granted; and to give them tremendous respect, attention, and everything they need and more.
Suggest This To…
- Pretty much anyone who wants to know a little more about Imhotep but do not have additional information available. Though there is a book written about Imhotep by a man named Robert Bauval, I dissuaded against the decision to read it because he is a conspiracy theorist who believes Atlantis existed–not as a possibility but as a certainty.
- I was also hoping to recommend this to anyone in either the medical or architectural field, though it provides scant detail about Imhotep. Perhaps as a visualization of how someone like the physician-architect could be needed.
Hurry, Jamieson B. “Imhotep.” Special Edition. Oxford University Press. 2000.