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Imhotep, High Priest in Hermopolis and architect, ca. 2700 B.C.

Statue from the Greek-Roman period (Paris, Louvre)

Imhotep was the architect, physician, and advisor of King Djoser (4th dynasty) and is said to have 'invented' the building of pyramids. One knows nearly nothing personal about him, and archaeologists are still looking for his tomb, believed to be near the step-pyramid at Sakkara.

In later times, the veneration for Imhotep as a master architect was that high, that the priests at the temple of Isis in Philae said, the buildings had been devised by Imhotep (which could not be true). In the Ptolemaic time, Imhotep was revered for his qualities as a physician and merged with the Greek god Aesculap. Eventually, he was regarded as a god himself, and son of the god Ptah. There are chapels dedicated to him in some places in Egypt, one at Philae.

Setna Chaemwaset, High Priest of Ptah, ~ 1281 v. Chr.; † 1225 B. C.


Chaemwaset (British Museum, London)


Chaemwaset was a son of Pharaoh Ramesses II. He was a priest of the Apis bull in Memphis and initiated the construction of the Serapeum. From 1248 on, he fulfilled the duties of High Priest of Path. He must have made a lasting impression on the people because centuries later, he shows up as an amazing magician in folkloristic tales. A lot of legends and morality tales are known from the Ptolemaic and Roman times, amongst others his fight against the ghost of another magician.


Herihor, High Priest of Amun in Thebes, General and 'founder' of the Theban Theocracy, 11th cent. B.C.

Priest-King Herihor offers incense (Bas-Relief from the Chons-Temple in Karnak, Picture: E. Kronlob).

Ancient Egyptian Documents set Herihor at the beginning of the so-called Era of Rebirth.

It is unknown, from which family he came. With a high probability, he had a career in the military, before he got the office of High Priest of Amun in Karnak. Perhaps his wife was the daughter of the former High Priest, Amenhotep, who had died under mysterious circumstances, fighting against the troops of Panehsi, Viceroy of Nubia. It is not known, too, how and why Herihor was nominated High Priest. Probably this decision was made in mutual agreement with the ruler of Lower Egypt, Smendes, who had taken residence in Tanis.

Once in office, Herihor proved a harsh political and military opponent to Panehsi, contributed to his ostracisation (which can be seen in contemporary documents - quite extraordinary given the fact Panehsi was in still royal favor only two years before), and eventually contributed to his military defeat as well. An opposition to Smendes can not be retraced in the sources, despite Herihor's use of royal titles and offices. For instance, he called himself "Commander in Chief of Upper and Lower Egypt, who pacifies the Two Countries for his Lord Amun". In the temple of Chons at Karnak, where he let continue the constructions, he is called "Son of Amun" in the inscriptions, and his son Pianch is called "Prince".


Sethon, Priest of Ptah, 7th cent. B. C.



Sethon served in the temple of Ptah at the time of Pharaoh Taharka. The Greek Historian Herodot tells, how he commanded an army of craftsmen and marketeers against the enemies of Egypt. Even the rats came to his help and, at night, ate the arrows and bowstrings of the hostile warriors.



Petosiris, high ranking priest at Hermopolis and administrator, 4th cent. B. C.

Portrait of Petosiris in his tomb. This is in the Greek style, but there are traditional Egyptian ones, too.

He was 'great wab-priest' with entrance permission to the sanctuary, and 'lesones' of the Thot-temple and administrated the priests there. As such, he had to regulate the relations to the new, Greek government and obviously did a good job of apeasement and and balance. However, judging after his titles, Petosiris was probably not the High Priest at the temple of Thot.

His tomb, situated in Tuna-el-Gebel (in which some of his family members found their rest, too) became some sort of pilgrimage center. It is famous still today for its inscriptions, which attest a deep spirituality and sensibility of personal piety. The decoration of the tomb is a mixture of traditional Egyptian style and Greek elements.


Manetho, Historian, Priest at Heliopolis, 3rd cent. B.C.


He wrote a history of his country, called the "Aegyptiaca", which was used for centuries (and is used still today) as a source for dates and events during the reigns of the different Pharaohs. Sadly, he wrote in Greek, the language of the then-reigning Ptolemaic dynasty, and gives all names in a Greek-adjusted version.

Other works he wrote include Against Herodotus, The Sacred Book, On Antiquity and Religion, On Festivals, On the Preparation of Kyphi, and the Digest of Physics. The astrological treatise Book of Sothis has also been attributed to Manetho. He may have used his temple's library, but none of his works has survived in its original form. We do only have quotations and parts of his writings in the works of other authors. The oldest can be found in Josephus Flavius' "Contra Apionem", 1st. cent. A.C. During the transmission, the text was certainly altered several times.

About his personal life, we know nothing, but he was a high ranking priest at Heliopolis, and had offices in the cult of the Greek-Egyptian God Serapis, too.