“Instructions of Ptahhotep”

(ca. 2200 BCE)

The document known today as the “Instructions of Ptahhotep” is one of the oldest wisdom texts surviving from ancient Egypt, perhaps composed sometime around 2200 BCE, during the Old Kingdom period. It consists of a prologue, a series of thirty-seven maxims, and an epilogue. It is written in verse, in one of the older forms of the ancient Egyptian language. Although an author and a time period are mentioned in the document, many modern scholars doubt that it was composed when, and by whom, the text claims it was written. Based on the number of ancient copies that survive, it was copied and studied for at least a thousand years. It provides important insight into the development of ethics and morality in the Egypt of the pharaohs.

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Pyramid tombs of Giza (Library of Congress)

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