The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep is the most ancient complete literary work existing. It was written in the Fifth Egyptian Dynasty, 3580 B.C. to 3536 B.C. In this papyrus book, Ptah-Hotep sets down the rules of behavior that all wise men should convey to their sons.
The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep
From the translation by Battiscombe G. Gunn
The Instruction of the Governor of his City,
the Vizier, Ptah-Hotep, in the Reign of the King of Upper and
Lower Egypt, Isosi, living forever, to the end of Time.
The Governor of his City, the Vizier, Ptah-Hotep, he said: 'O Prince, my Lord,
the end of life is at hand; old age descends [upon me]; feebleness comes, and
childishness is renewed. He [that is old] lies down in misery every day. The
eyes are small; the ears are deaf. Energy is diminished, the heart has no rest.
The mouth is silent, and he speaks no word; the heart stops, and he remembers
not yesterday. The bones are painful throughout the body; good turns unto evil.
All taste departs. These things does old age for mankind, being evil in all things.
The nose is stopped, and he breathes not for weakness, whether standing or sitting.
Command me, your servant, therefore, to make over my princely authority [to my son]. Let me speak unto him the words of them that hearken to the counsel of the men of old time; those that hearkened unto the gods. I pray you, let this thing be done, that sin may be banished from among persons of understanding, that you may enlighten the lands.
Said the Majesty of this God [the King]: 'Instruct him, then, in the words of old time. May he be a wonder unto the children of princes, that they may enter and learn with him. Make straight all their hearts; and speak with him, without causing weariness.'
Here begin the proverbs of fair speech, spoken by the Hereditary Chief, the High Priest, Beloved of the God, the Eldest Son of the King, of his body, the Governor of his City, the Vizier, Ptah-Hotep, when instructing the ignorant in the knowledge of exactness in fair-speaking; the glory of him that obeys, the shame of him that transgress.
The wisdom of Ptah-Hotep (click
Take No False Pride In Education
- Rules for Courteous Debate
- Set a Good Example
- Follow the Path of Truth
- Obey the Law
- Be Kind and Receive Kindness in Return
- Proper Etiquette as a Guest
- Be a True Emissary
- Be Industrious, Fair to Your Neighbors
and Pay Your Taxes
- The Blessing of Children
- Honor the Advancement of Others and Serve a Wise
- Work Hard, Be Not Slothful
- Take Time to Refresh Your Spirit
- Guidance and Vigilance are Needed to Raise a Good Son
- Guide to Conduct within the Council Chamber
- Love Your Neighbor and You will Prosper
- Selfish Indulgence Leads to Ruin
- Your Prince May Keep His Own Counsel
- Advice to Leaders
- Beware of Consorting with Women
- Beware of Those Who Lead Evil Lives
- Be Not Covetous in Your Family
- Be Not Covetous with Your Neighbors
- Cherish Your Wife
- On Hired Servants
- Do Not Gossip
- Do Not Steal
- Offer Your Opinion Sparingly
- Proper Conduct for the Powerful
- Be Moderate in All Things
- Be Compassionate and Make Your Peace after Quarreling
- The Role of the Tutor to the Son of the Master
- Be a Fair Mediator
Between the Noble and the Multitude
- Forgive and
Do Not Seek Gratitude for it
- Success is the Gift of the Gods
- Propitiate Your Boss
- Cherish Friends and Tenants
- How to Speak as a True Friend
- Live Joyfully and Cause No Strife
- Guard Your Reputation
- Correct and Instruct
- Treat Women with Compassion
- Do These Things and Prosper
- On Being an Obedient Son
- Let a Son Heed his Father and Instruct his Son
- A Fool Does not Obey and Does not Listen to Wisdom
- Pass Down the Wisdom to the Generations
- Be Prudent with Advice
- A Good Son is the Gift of the God
- Go and Prosper in the Service of the King