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fl. Fifth Dynasty (2500–2350 b.c.e.)

Prime minister

Prime Minister.

At least five men during the Fifth Dynasty bearing the name Ptahhotep served as prime minister. They were probably related, but the relationships among these men are unclear. Somehow, the name of these viziers was associated with an important teaching, The Teachings of Ptahhotep, composed in the Twelfth Dynasty (1938–1759 b.c.e.), approximately 600 years later. Though most Egyptian literature is anonymous, when an author is named, the relationship is often fictional. Because the name Ptahhotep bore great prestige among later generations, the author hoped that Ptahhotep's prestige would attach to his work of literature. Composed of 37 maxims, the rules of conduct and proverbs aim to present the reader with the proper conduct that will lead to success in life. The narrator, Ptahhotep, argues that following these maxims will result both in success and in justice. The success and importance of the work is evident in the fact that it was still being copied in the Nineteenth Dynasty, and was probably used in ancient Egyptian schools.


Elke Blumenthal, "Ptahhotep und der 'Stab des Alters,'" in Form und Mass: Beiträge zur Literatur, Sprache und Kunst des alten Ägypten: Festschrift für Gerhard Fecht zum 65. Geburtstag am 6. February 1987. Ed. J. Osing (Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrasowitz, 1987): 84–97.

Henry G. Fischer, Varia (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976): 82.