Papyrus of Prison: Teachings of Ptahotep

The sapiential literature appears in Egypt from the third millennium BC. J. C in the form of "teachings" from father to son. It is about learning to live in accordance with the fundamental notion of existence in ancient Egypt: Ma'at.
Learn to live according to Maat ...
The originality of Egyptian thought in the third millennium BC It is to conceive Maat-like life as an object of learning, based on the experience of great ancestors, and not as a revealed divine law. Thus the first to dictate his "teaching", according to tradition, is the famous Imhotep (about 2660 BC), the inventor of monumental stone architecture, the builder of the pyramid with King Djoser (III 'dynasty) at Saqqara.
The Teaching of Ptahhotep is presented as a complete text, known by later copies. The most complete is that of the Papyrus Prisse (Paris, Bibl Nat de France) which dates from the twelfth dynasty (about 1990-1785 BC). It perfectly illustrates the mentality of the wisdom teachers of Egypt of the third millennium BC. JC
MAXIME 1:
Humility and the discovery of perfect speech.
And he said to his son, Let not your heart be vain because of what you know; take counsel with the ignorant as well as with the scientist, for one does not reach the limits of art, and there is no artisan who has acquired perfection. A perfect word is more hidden than the green stone; yet it is found near the maids who work on the millstone.
MAXIME 2:
The art of debate with a superior.
If you meet a debater in action, who directs his heart and is more skillful than you, bend your arms and curve your back; do not know your heart against him because you will not match him. May you lower the one who expresses himself badly by not opposing him when he acts; This is how he will be designated as ignorant as soon as your heart has suppressed its overabundance.
MAXIME 3:
From the art of debate with an equal.
If you meet a debater in action, your equal, the one who is at your side, act so that your superiority over him is manifested by silence, even when he speaks badly. Those who listen to him will think a lot about him, while your name will be perfect in the minds of the big ones.

MAXIME 4:

From the art of debate with a lower one.
If you meet a debater in action, a man of few who is certainly not your equal, your heart is not aggressive against him because of your weakness. Place him on the ground, and he will punish himself. Do not answer him to relieve your heart, do not wash your heart because of him who opposes you. Miserable is the one who hurts a man of few. We wish to act according to what you desire and you will strike it with the disapproval of the great.

MAXIME 5:

The art of being a leader respecting the rule.
If you are a guide, instructed to give directions to many, seek for you every opportunity to be efficient, so that your way of governing is without fail. Great is the rule, lasting its effectiveness. It has not been disturbed since the time of Osiris. One punishes the one who transgresses the laws, even if this transgression is the fact of the one with rapacious heart. Iniquity is capable of seizing the quantity, but never will evil bring its business to its destination. He who does evil says: I am acquiring for myself; he does not say: I acquire for the benefit of my office. When the end comes, the rule remains. This is what a righteous man says: this is the domain of my spiritual father.

MAXIME 6:

From the vanity of human maneuvers.
Do not indulge in a machination against the human species, for God punishes such an act. Let a man say, "I will live thus," and he will be deprived of bread for the mouth. Let a man say, "I will be rich," and he will say, "My perceptions have caught me." Let a man say "I'm going to steal others" and, in the end, make a donation to the one who does not know! The maneuvers of the human race are not fulfilled, it is what God commands that is accomplished. Think of living in peace with what you have and what they give will come from oneself.

MAXIME 7:

Table manners.
If you are a man who is one of those sitting at the table of a greater than you, accept what he gives, how it will be placed in front of your nose. Look what is before you, do not disperse yourself by many looks; it is the abomination of the ka to be harassed. Do not speak to him before he calls you; we do not know if he is in a bad disposition of the heart. Speak when he addresses you, and your speech makes the heart happy. As for the tall, sitting behind the loaves, that his behavior conforms to the directive of his ka. He will make a gift to the one he distinguishes; it is customary at nightfall. It is the ka who extends his arms. The big one makes a gift to the one who has reached the condition of quality man. The loaves are eaten according to the will of God, it is the ignorant who would complain.

MAXIME 8:

Respect for the mission entrusted.
If you are a man of confidence, whom a great man sends to a great man, be very scrupulous when he sends you; convey the message to him as he has formulated, keep from forcing on the words, for fear of scrambling a big one with a big one. Hold tight to the rule, do not override it; the washing of the heart must not be repeated. Do not speak against anyone, big or small, it is the abomination of the ka.

MAXIME 9:

Of the necessary silence of the rich and the happy destiny of those who have no children.
If you plow, and if the growth takes place in the field, because God gives it in abundance in your hand, do not have a mouthful of it in your neighborhood, because you have great respect for the silencer . If a man of character possesses property, he performs the act of possessing like a crocodile, even in the court of justice. Do not complain about who has no children, do not criticize not having children, do not boast about having them; there is now a father in affliction, as well as many mothers who have borne, while another childless is more serene than she. It is the one who is the only one whose god allows mutation, while the boss of a family clan prays anxiously for us to take over.

MAXIME 10:

The need to place one's trust in a quality being.
If you are weak, am a man of quality, worthy of confidence; all your conduct will be well with God. If you learn that this man was previously a humble condition, do not have an arrogant heart towards him, because of what you know of his previous condition. Fear him with respect in accordance with what happened to him, because things certainly do not come from themselves. As for opulence, let the quality man get it himself. It is God who makes him a quality being and who protects him, even when he sleeps.

MAXIME 11:

The need to follow the heart and not to waste energy in the material tasks.
Follow your heart in the time of your existence, do not commit excess to what has been prescribed, do not shorten the time to follow the heart. To waste his moment of action is the abomination of the ka. Do not hijack your daily actions too much for the maintenance of your house. Advance things, follow my heart; things will not benefit the careless.

MAXIME 12:

Behavior towards a spiritual son
If you are a man of quality you can trust, then you can shape a spiritual son with the favor of God. If he is righteous if he conforms to your manner of being, and if he takes care of your goods in good order, do all kinds of goodness for him. He is your son, he belongs to the seed of your ka. Do not separate your heart from him. But the seed of a man can cause conflict. If he goes in the wrong direction, if he transgresses your recommendations, and insolently disobeys everything that is said, if his mouth spouts words despicable, chase him, he is not your son. Put him to work for the whole of his speech. He who was hostile towards you will suffer their disfavor, a restraint was inflicted while he was in the stomach. The one they guide can not go astray, the one they deprive of a boat will not be able to cross.

MAXIME 13:

From the attitude to the court of justice.
If you find yourself in the porch where justice is done, either stand or sit, according to the procedure, which was ordained on the first day. Do not force the passage, you will be pushed back. The piercing must be the sight of the one who enters after having been announced, wide is the seat of the one who was called. The porch where justice is done is in accordance with rectitude; all conduct must conform to the plumb line, it is god who advances the seat. Will not be installed those who are lent too much shoulder.

MAXIME 14:

From the heart that makes you happy and from the belly that condemns to misfortune.
If you are in the company of people, get allies as a trustworthy man who reaches the heart; he who reaches the heart is he who does not circumvent the language in his belly. He will become a man who commands himself, a possessor of good thanks to his behavior. May your name be good without you talking about it. Your body will be nourished, your face will turn to your loved ones, and you will be offered what you did not know. The heart of him who hears his belly disappears; he will arouse disdain for him instead of love. The heart will be bare and his body will not be anointed. The one with the big heart is a gift of god, the one who obeys his belly obeys the enemy.

MAXIME 15:

The art of communicating.
Transmit your instructions without swallowing the heart, and give your opinion in the advice of your master. If he speaks abundantly, it will not be difficult for the messenger to report, and he will not be answered: "Who is he who is informed? ". As for the great, his goods will perish if he thinks to punish him because of it, so he will be silent concluding "I said."

MAXIME 16:

The art of governing.
If you are a guide, your way of governing freely travels by means of what you have ordered. You must do high things. Think of the days to come next, that a misfortune does not occur in the midst of favors; as a crocodile emerges, disfavor occurs.

MAXIME 17:

The need to listen to requests.
If you are a guide, listen serenely to the address of the one who sends you a request; do not push him away until he has purged his belly of what he was thinking of saying. One who is overwhelmed with injustice desires that his heart be washed, more than the realization of what he has come for. As for who rejects the one who sends requests, one will say "why does he reject them? It is not possible for all queries to succeed, but good listening smooths the heart.

MAXIME 18:

From the danger of seduction.
If you want to make friendship last, in a house where you have your entrances, as master, as brother or as friend, or wherever you have your entrances, beware of approaching women. It's not good where it happens. The sight can never be sharp enough when she sees them. Thousands of men have turned away from what is profitable to them. A short moment of pleasure, like a dream, and the dead will reach you for known assets. It is a bad maxim that: "throws a line against the opponent"; when one is about to do so, let the heart set aside that intention. As for the one who continually fails by coveting them, none of his drawings will succeed.

MAXIME 19:

Greed: badly incurable.
If you desire that your behavior be good, deliver yourself from all evil; fight every occasion of greed of heart. Greed is the serious illness of an incurable, and entering it is impossible. Greed sows misfortune among fathers and mothers, and among the brothers of the mother, it separates the wife from the husband. Greed is the meeting of all kinds of evil; it is a bag that contains everything that is hateful. The man is posed if he correctly applies the rule, and goes his way according to the procedure to follow. So he will make the state of his goods, while the greedy heart will have no grave.

MAXIME 20:

The right attitude towards having it.
Do not be greedy with regard to the division of goods, be voracious only of your personal property. Do not be greedy for your loved ones; more ample is the just claim of the gentle man than the unjust one of the rough man. The latter, very little of his relatives, because he is deprived of what brings the word. A little greed is enough to give birth to the spirit of quarreling in a man with a cold stomach.

MAXIME 21:

Love and respect due to the wife.
If you are a man of quality, found your home, love your wife ardently, fill her belly, dress her back, the oil is a remedy for her body. Extend your heart the time of your existence. It is a fertile land, useful for its master. Do not decide for her, keep away from the powerful who would rob her. His eye is the wind; look at her, and you will make her stay in your house. If you reject it, here are the tears! The vagina is one of its forms of action; what it imposes is that a channel be made for it.

MAXIME 22:

The need to satisfy his pets.
Satisfy your friends whom you trust, by means of what is happening to you: such is the destiny of the one whom God favors. Of the one who constantly fails to satisfy his family in whom he has confidence, one will say "it is a ka too satisfied with himself". The future is unknown, even if we have the intuition of tomorrow. It is a creative power, the just creative power that is satisfied with it. If praiseworthy deeds are done, trustworthy pets say, "Welcome! When you do not bring peace to the city, you will have to bring pets if a calamity occurs.

MAXIME 23:

The refusal of the rumor.
Do not repeat a slanderous rumor, do not listen to it. This is the way of expressing one who has a burning stomach. If necessary, repeat the bad business that you saw and not just heard. That the slanderous rumor is thrown to the ground, do not mention it at all. See whoever faces you will recognize your quality. Let it be ordered to seize upon the consequences of the slanderous rumor; only hatred will be born, according to the law, against whoever would seize it to use it. See, it's a question of destroying a kind of bad dream; protect yourself.

MAXIME 24:

Good use of the word.
If you are a man of quality who is trusted, who sits on the advice of his master, gathers all heart to perfection. Be quiet, it's more useful than chatter. Speak only when you know that you will bring a solution; he must be an artisan, he who speaks in the council; speaking is more difficult than any other job. It is the one who interprets this maxim that gives authority to the word.

MAXIME 25:

Real power and self-control.
If you are powerful, act so that we respect you, according to the knowledge and calm of the language. Only give orders when circumstances require. The bellicose provoker engages in a bad action. Do not be vain, you will not be lowered. Do not be vain, but beware of trampling under foot, and of answering a word with a flame. Turn away from your face, control yourself, the flames of an individual with a boiling heart belittle him. To be radiating ahead, the path is built. The one who is sad of heart, during the day, will not accomplish any happy movement. He who is frivolous at heart will not found a home. He who attains a fullness is like one who holds the rudder, when touching the ground. The other is taken prisoner. He who obeys his heart will be in order.

MAXIME 26:

Just use of energy.
Do not oppose the action of a great one, do not make furious the heart of the one who is heavily loaded, because his hostility will be manifested against the one who fights him. Free the creative energy, you who is the one who loves it constantly. He who gives power is in the company of God, what he loves will be accomplished for him. As for you, soothes the face after the explosion of rage; peace comes from its creative power, hostility from the enemy. It is the power that makes love grow.

MAXIME 27:

Energy of a big one.
Teach a great man what is useful to him, arouse his welcome among the human species, so that his wisdom falls on his master. It is from his energy that the food that is attributed to you comes from; the belly of the beloved is filled. Your back will be dressed thanks to him. These conditions made, worry about the life of your house, depending on the noble you love. He lives because of this, and, more than that, he will grant you protection. Moreover, it is the love you inspire that will last in the belly of those who love you. See, it's the ka who loves to hear continuously.

MAXIME 28:

The need for impartiality.
If you act, son of a man of the court of justice, messenger charged with appeasing the multitude, take away the uselessness of the written document. When you speak, do not lean to one side; take care that this accusation be formulated: "Judges, he places his word on the side that suits him! »; then your action would turn in lawsuit against you.

MAXIME 29:

Indulgence.
If you are indulgent about a case that has occurred, favor a man only because of his rectitude. Go over her old fault, do not remember her, since he is silent towards you the first day.

MAXIME 30:

The necessary detachment of material goods.
If you are a big one after having been a child, and if you make a fortune after having suffered misery before, in the city you know, do not evoke by moaning what has happened to you before. Do not place the trust of your heart in the accumulation of your material goods, because what you have been granted is a gift from God. You will not be behind another similar tone, which will have lived like event.

MAXIME 31:

From the good attitude towards a superior and the neighborhood.
Curve your back in front of your superior, your chief of the royal palace; thus, your dwelling, with its goods, will be lasting, and your reward will be in your proper place. Unhappy is he who opposes a superior; for one lives only during the period when he exercises his clemency. Unhappy the one whose arm does not bend when he is stripped. Do not devalue the house of your neighbors, and do not take away the property of the one who is close to you, so that he does not denounce you, before you learn it anyway. The aggressive is a heartless person. If your neighbor knows that, he will sue, because it is wrong to attack the neighborhood.

MAXIME 32:

From the need to avoid the woman-child.
Do not make love to a woman-child, because you know that we are fighting against the water that is on her heart. What is in his belly will not be refreshed; that she does not spend the night doing what must be repulsed, that she be calmed after having put an end to her desire.

MAXIME 33:

How to experience a friend and know his true wife.
If you're trying to probe the true nature of a friend, do not ask yourself a question, but get closer to him. Only treat this case with him alone, until you are no longer worried about his attitude. Discuss with him the time it will take. Feel his heart during an interview. If what he saw escapes him and if he performs an act that irritates you, be friendly with him or be silent, but do not turn your face. Gather your energies when you light up the affair for him, do not respond by an act of hostility, do not go against him, do not crowd him, his moment of truth has never failed to occur, and One can not escape the one who has determined it.

MAXIME 34:

From the necessity of benevolence.
May your face be luminous the time of your existence. What comes out of the warehouse does not come in again. It is the bread for the distribution of which one is voracious. The one whose belly is empty is an accuser, and the one who is continually in a state of want is an aggressor. Do not make one of your relatives. Benevolence is the memorial of a man, for the years that come after the exercise of power.

MAXIME 35:

The need for a lucid, firm and accomplished character.
Know those who are at your side and your goods will last; do not be weak in character towards your friends; They are a cultivable bank that receives the flood, it is more important than its riches. For the goods of one may fall to the other. The virtue of the son of man will be useful to him; an accomplished nature will be a memorial.

MAXIME 36:

The need to punish and fight evil.
Punished primarily, teaches completely, the act of stopping evil will be the lasting establishment of virtue. As for mischief, except for misfortune, this is what turns the whiner into an aggressor.

MAXIME 37:

Happiness to marry a happy woman.
If you marry a woman who is wealthy, joyful at heart and known to the inhabitants of her city, that she obeys the double law. Be nice to her at the right moment; do not separate yourself from her, and act so that she is nourished. A woman with a happy heart brings balance.

MAXIME 38:

Of the transmission of wisdom, knowledge and rectitude.
If you have listened to the maxims I have just told you, each of your plans will go forward. Their rectitude is their wealth; their memory travels in the mouths of men because of the accomplished nature of their coherent discourse. We must transmit each word so that it never perishes in this country. May a maxim be formulated for the good so that the notables speak about it. It is to teach a man what he must say to posterity. Whoever listens, it becomes a craftsman while listening. It is good to formulate for posterity; she will hear that. If the good example is given by the one who is a leader, it will be effective for eternity. it is the knower who is preoccupied with his capacity for sublimation, ensuring his substance by means of what makes him last. Thanks to her, he is happy on earth. The knowing is wise because of what he knows, and the noble because of his way of acting. Let his heart regulate his tongue, let his lips be righteous when he speaks, what his eyes see, how his ears are pleased to hear what is useful to his son. He who acts righteously is free from lies.

MAXIME 39:

The need for listening and understanding.
It is helpful to listen for the listening son. If the act of listening incessantly penetrates the one who listens, the listener becomes the one who hears. When listening is good, the word is good. The listener is the master of what is profitable, listening is profitable to the listener. To listen is better than everything, so perfect love is born. How good it is for a son to accept what his father says. Bearer of this message, he will reach a great age. He whom God loves is he who hears; he who does not hear is hated by God. It is the heart that gives birth to his master as he who hears or who does not hear. For a man, his heart is life, prosperity, health. It is the listener who hears what is said, who loves to hear who does what is said. How good is a son who obeys his father! As it is happy for the one to whom it is said: "a son, he is benevolent, as possessor of the capacity of listening". Whoever listens to him who tells him that, he will be well adjusted in his heart and blessed with his father. His memory will remain in the mouth of the living who are on earth and who will be there.

MAXIME 40:

From the spiritual son.
If the son of man accepts what his father says, none of his plans will fail. Educate, in your son, he who listens; in the hearts of the nobles, he will be a man of quality, trustworthy, who will guide his mouth according to what has been said, he who will be seen as the one who hears. The steps of a son, who is a man of trustworthy quality, are remarkable. The misguidance enters the one who does not listen. The knower gets up in the morning to maintain his balance, while the ignorant is at bay.

MAXIME 41:

From the ignorant.
As for the ignorant who does not listen, he will accomplish nothing. He considers knowledge as ignorance, useful as harmful. He does all that is detestable, so that one gets angry with him every day. He lives on what makes him die, his food is twisted speech. This is the characteristic that the nobles have recognized, namely a living dead person every day. His actions will be omitted because of the many misfortunes that have happened to him every day.

MAXIME 42:

Duties and fate of the spiritual son.
A son who hears is a follower of horus and it is good for him after what he has heard. When he is old he reaches the state of blessed. Send the same message to his children by renewing his father's teaching. Every man receives instruction according to his action; may he perform an act of transmission to his children, so that they can talk to their children. Shape the character, do not give free rein to destruction, consolidate rectitude and your descendants will live. As for the first who would bring disorder, may men say what they will see: "that is what is consistent with this wretch! ". Let it be said to those who will listen, "This is what is right with this wretch! Let everyone see them and the multitude will be appeased. Without them, wealth will not be achieved.

MAXIME 43:

From the right word.
Do not steal a word and do not bring it, do not put one thing in the place of another, take care to break the shackles in you, take care what the one who knows things says: "listen if you wish to last in the mouth of those who hear, speak only when you have attained mastery of the craft; if you speak in an accomplished way, your way of life will be straight.

MAXIME 44:

From the right word.
Immerse your heart, control your mouth, and your condition will be to be among the nobles. May your testimony be complete, in the presence of your master. Act so that he says, "This is a son," and those who will listen to it say, "Happy is he for whom he was born! ". Lay down your heart as you speak, speak lofty words, so that the nobles who listen will say, "how beautiful is that which comes out of your mouth! "

MAXIME 45 :

The necessary rectitude of a son.
Act so that your master says of you: "How much is done to him who received the teaching of his father, when he came out of him, from his body; he had spoken to her when he was entirely in the womb; what he has accomplished is greater than what he had been told. See, a good son is a gift of god, a being who accomplishes more than what was prescribed to him by his master; let him act in righteousness, let his heart act according to his approach, as you come to me, with a healthy body.

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