Imhotep was born in the 27th century BCE, in Memphis, Egypt. Very little is known about his life preceding his adult years. He is an extremely important figure of ancient Kemet because he eventually transcended to the rank of a deity.
Imhotep’s prominence in Kemet began ca. 2630 BCE. He served as chief minister to Zoser (Djoser), the second pharaoh of Kemet’s third dynasty, who ruled from 2630-2611 BCE. Imhotep was considered a vizier (a high official in some Muslim countries) and a sage (a profoundly wise man) among his people. He was also well-versed in architecture and astrology.
A statue of Zoser (Djoser) was found near the Saqqarah pyramid which lists Imhotep’s name and the various roles he played as a member of Zoser’s Court. He was listed as chief of the sculptors, chief of the seers, and he was a physician. His skills as a physician posthumously earned him deification as Kemet inhabitants referred to him as a medicine god.
Well after Imhotep died, Persia conquered Kemet in 525 BCE. At this time, Imhotep had risen to the status of a full deity. Some Egyptians followed Imhotep as a god, replacing Nefertem in the great triad of Memphis which also included his parents Ptah and Sekhmet. The cult of Imhotep had formed.
Imhotep’s cult grew, reaching its summit during the Greco-Roman rule. During this time, the temples in Memphis and on the island of Philae in the Nile River–which were erected in his honor–remained occupied with the sick who prayed to Imhotep. It was believed that if the sick slept in the temples, Imhotep the god would reveal remedies through their dreams.
Imhotep is a rare and important figure of ancient Kemet. He was the only Egyptian mortal, aside from Amenhotep (18th-dynasty sage and minister), to receive total deification. It was an honor that secured his prominence throughout history and among later physicians.
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