“Instructions of Ptahhotep”

(ca. 2200 BCE)


Like all wisdom texts, the primary audience for the “Instructions of Ptahhotep” would have been the very small literate proportion of Egyptian society. This group was overwhelmingly male and very largely destined for careers in public life. However, compared with other ancient Egyptian didactic wisdom texts, Ptahhotep’s instructions are not always addressed specifically to this group. Many of the maxims are applicable to the conditions of life in general and would be of value to a much wider audience: Copies of this text were found in an artists’ community, for instance, indicating clearly that even though the maxims ostensibly were written for the sons of viziers, their wisdom was considered to be of value to the children of ordinary people.

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Pyramid tombs of Giza (Library of Congress)

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