Imhotep was a high official during the 3rd dynasty, often linked to the building of the funerary complex of Horus Netjerikhet at Saqqara. Centuries after his death, he would be remembered as a god of wisdom.

Little is known about the historical Imhotep. Apparently, he was a commoner at birth who lived during the reigns of Netjerikhet and his successors. He rose through the ranks of temple and governmental officials and became one of Netjerikhet’s most trusted advisers: he was the high priest of Ptah, vizier, royal seal bearer and 'overseer of works', architect, responsible for the construction of Netjerikhet's Step Pyramid and surrounding funerary complex. 

The name (encircled in blue) and titulary of Imhotep have been found on the base of a statue of Netjerikhet, showing the high esteem Imhotep held at the Egyptian court.
Source: Clayton, Kroniek van de Farao's, p. 33.

Imhotep as a god of wisdom.
Source: Clayton, Kroniek van de Farao's, p. 36.

Such was Imhotep's reputation and impact on the Egyptian society that he was deified and that he was associated with other intellectual and scientific achievements. He thus became the patron god of medicine, of writing and of knowledge. Some didactic texts were ascribed to him as well.
Surprisingly, though, it would take until the Late Dynastic Period before Imhotep actually was deified. At first, he was more a private god, but during the Greek-Roman Period, shrines and small temples were dedicated to him, as was, for instance, the case at the temple complex of Isis on the island of Philae in the south of Egypt.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017