sapiential literature appeared in Egypt as early as the 3rd millennium BC in the form of teachings from a father to his son. It is about learning to live in accordance with the fundamental notion of existence in ancient Egypt: Maat. Learn to live according to Maat. The originality of Egyptian thought in the 3rd millennium BC is to conceive of life in conformity with Ma'at 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 step pyramid of King Djoser (3rd dynasty) at Saqqara. Ptahhotep's teaching is presented as a complete text, known from later copies. The most complete is that of the Papyrus Prisse which dates from the 12th Dynasty (about 1990-1785 BC). It perfectly illustrates the mentality of the masters of wisdom of Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC.
Of humility and the discovery of perfect words
He said to his son: Let not your heart be conceited because of what you know. Take advice from the ignorant as well as from the learned, for one does not reach the limits of art, and there is no craftsman who has acquired perfection. A perfect word is more hidden than green stone; however, we find her near the servants who work on the millstone.
The art of debate with a superior
If you meet a debater in action, who directs his heart and who is more skilful than you, bend your arms and arch your back; don't know your heart against him because you won't match him. May you lower the one who expresses himself badly by not opposing you when he acts; this is how he will be designated as ignorant as soon as your heart has suppressed its overabundance.
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Papyrus Prisse Studies: The Book of Kaqimna And The Lessons of Ptah-Hotep (Classic Reprint)
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