Ptahhotep was the highest judge, administrator of all royal buildings and vizier of the last but one ruler of the 5th dynasty Djedkare Isesi (2,388 – 2,356 BC). He was also the author of the eldest learning fully preserved. He lived to the age of 110 years (only few Egyptians lived to this age, e.g. Pepi II among others).
Ptahhotep is known for his writings "The Maxims of Ptahhotep" that was very popular in ancient Egypt and its author was honoured a lot. These writings had been rewritten throughout all Egyptian history. The first work of this type was written by Imhotep (vizier and builder of the first pyramid of Djoser, the Pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty). Unfortunately this work hasn't been found yet.
Ptahhotep asks for releasing of charge in his scroll because of his old age (110 years) and replaced him with his son. The Pharaoh agrees, but on condition that Ptahhotep passes his knowledge on (37 chapters written down). Some of them are current even nowadays:
- ...you should only speak, when you understand the subject. The one, who speaks in a meeting, should be an artist, speaking is harder than any other work and serves only to them, who know it perfectly. Don't say this one time and that next time. Every of your intentions reach its aim only in case you will speak perfectly. Everytime you speak, be level-headed. You should always utter something outstanding only, to make the great noblemen, who are listening to you, say: "How excellent is what come out of his mouth!"
- If you find a great debt by a poor man, divide it into three parts, forgive him two of them and keep only the one. You will find out that this is the best way of handling in life and you will be able to sleep calm then. You will appreciate it as good news in the morning, because it is better to hear thank you for your love to a fellowman than have a fortune in a storehouse, it is better to have only bread in all conscience than a fortune heavy with reproaches
- Be cheerful for the whole life, don't do more than is ordered and don't shorten time for entertainment this way. The soul loathes taking time of merrymaking away from it. So don't lose even an hour more than needed with care for your estates, the wealth will come even if you satisfy your longings, on the contrary - there is no benefit from wealth, when longings are being neglected
- Don't you dare rob a man living in poverty and fight with a man with broken arm
- Don't boast about your knowledge, but discuss with a learned man as well as with a non-learned one
- If you want to sustain favour of a house, where you come as a friend, avoid contacts with their women
- Spend time with your friend after his work is finished, so his issues won't suffer
- If the character of your friend doesn't stand a test, don't gain the truth from elsewhere, but talk to him yourself, settle it closeted and reach the state that you don't suffer because of his manners anymore. Discuss with him after some time and track his thoughts down in a conversation. If he is not aware even of this he has seen by himself and do something that offends you, keep being friendly with him, don't avert from him, be only reserved, don't speak to him as the first one, but don't answer arrogantly to him, don't separate of him and get close to him as well. It will be his turn one day, nobody can't avoid the fair fate
Mastaba of Ptahhotep