Ptahhotep, sometimes known as Ptahhotpe or Ptah-Hotep, was an ancient Egyptian official during the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC. Ptahhotep was the city administrator and vizier (first minister) during the reign of Djedkare Isesi in the 5th Dynasty. He is credited with authoring The Instruction of Ptahhotep, an early piece of Egyptian "wisdom literature" meant to instruct young men in appropriate behavior.
There are authors who date the Maxims of Ptahhotep much earlier than the 25th century. For instance, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Will Durant dates these writings as early as 2880 BCE within The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental History. Durant claims that Ptahhotep could be considered the very first philosopher in virtue of having the earliest and surviving fragments of moral philosophy (i.e., "The Maxims of Ptah-Hotep"). Ptahhotep's grandson, Ptahhotep Tshefi, is traditionally credited with being the author of the collection of wise sayings known as The Maxims of Ptahhotep, whose opening lines attribute authorship to the vizier Ptahhotep: Instruction of the Mayor of the city, the Vizier Ptahhotep, under the Majesty of King Isesi. They take the form of advice and instructions from a father to his son and are said to have been assembled during the late Old Kingdom. However, their oldest surviving copies are written in Middle Egyptian dating to the late First Intermediate Period of the Middle Kingdom.
The Maxims are conformist precepts extolling such civil virtues as truthfulness, self-control and kindness towards one's fellow beings. Some of the maxims refer to one's behaviour when in the presence of the great, how to choose the right master and how to serve him. Others teach the correct way to lead through openness and kindness.
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