Ptah-Hotep, The Original Philosopher

Yet before Wildung, the renowned Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop had already brought about this “paradigm shift” in Egyptology in the 1950s. Diop had proven that ancient Egyptian culture and history had their roots in Black Africa.

[Notes From The Archives]

High school, college and university students all over the world are taught that philosophy began in ancient Greece with Thales of Miletus.

So most people today believe that the first philosopher was Thales of Miletus, although Thales had studied in ancient Egypt; that is, African Egypt.

Everybody regards Socrates as the prototypical philosopher even though he practiced only oral philosophy. Unlike Socrates, the African and ancient Egyptian Ptahhotep or Ptah-Hotep of the Old Kingdom or Empire of ancient ( 2780 – 2260 B.C. E.) Egypt bequeathed to the whole world a manuscript containing his philosophical maxims.

Ptahhotep left us a manuscript which is known nowadays as “The Maxims of Ptahhotep.” Most philosophers around the world aren’t aware of the fact that the first book written in this world was composed by the African Ptahhotep. They don’t know that philosophy doesn’t originate in Greece, but in ancient Egypt. Ptahhotep lived in ancient Egypt, during the Old Kingdom or Empire.

The contemporary populace of present-day Egypt does not reflect the populace of ancient Egypt.

That’s why many present-day Egyptians and North-Africans oftentimes argue that they’re not Africans. They more often than not claim that they’re from the Middle East.

The ancient Egyptians called their land “Kemet” The “Black Land” because it was peopled by Black people, just as Africa is at times called “The Black Continent.

The Greeks gave “Kemet” the name Aegyptos or “Egypt,” which means “House of the Spirit Ptah.” Ptah was the name ancient Egyptians gave to the Creator of all things. In Hebrew Egypt is called Misrayim, after the name of one of Ham’s sons. Nowadays, Egypt is called “Misr” in Arabic, still after the name of one of the four sons of Ham. I learned this when I started learning Arabic many years ago.

According to the Jewish Testament and the First Testament of the Bible, Egypt was the land of Ham and of his son Misr-Misrayim.

The other sons of Ham – sons of Noah – were Canaan, Put and Kush.

Kush or Cush is the ancestor of the early inhabitants of Nubia; contemporary Sudan. The Nubians had and still have a great deal of melanin, pitch-black, so that they were referred to as “Aithiopes” by the Greeks, which means “Burnt Faces.”
The Arabs called Sudan “bilad es- Sudan, which means “Land of Black people.” Once again, the people of that region were predominantly and are usually pitch-black; that is, darker than those of other regions of Africa. One could find scattered Kushite communities in Tanzania down to contemporary times.

Latter-day Egypt only made up a portion of the ancient Egyptian empire. The Egyptologist and historian Nicolas Grimal wrote: “The Egyptian empire encompassed the whole of Nubia and Nubian gold mines supplied Egyptian Treasury.” We know in chemistry and physics that gold was discovered for the first time in antiquity by African ancient Egyptians.

Furthermore, our grade school professors of history taught us that Egypt was and is a “Gift of the Nile,” which means that Egypt economically depends on the Nile, also as a water way, for its survival. Junior high school geography has it that the White Nile rises in Lake Victoria in Uganda, a country that straddles the African equator ; the other source, or the Blue Nile, is Lake Tana in Ethiopia.

The White Nile and the Blue Nile flow and meet up in Khartoum, Sudan, where they form one single river, the Nile that flows on through Northern Sudan –Kush or Nubia— down towards and through Egypt and as far as the Nile Delta into the Mediterranean.

The founding dynasty of ancient Egypt was based in the Egyptian-Nubian valley, also known as the Nile valley or Upper Egypt. The historian Michel Mourre claimed that the ancient Egyptian language was related to Kushite languages of Upper Nile – the Egyptian-Nubian valley.

Moreover, the German Egyptologist Dietrich Wildung—who is director of the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Germany, stated in 1998 that it’s “crystal-clear that the cultural explosion in ancient Egypt has its roots in Black Africa,” just as Malcolm X made it plain that African-Americans have their roots in Africa. Wildung styled this as “paradigm shift” in Egyptology.

Yet before Wildung, the renowned Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop had already brought about this “paradigm shift” in Egyptology in the 1950s. Diop had proven that ancient Egyptian culture and history had their roots in Black Africa.

Even Herodotus, the pioneer and founder of historiography contends in his “Histories” that ancient Egyptians were “dark-skinned” and had “woolly-curled hair”; therefore they were Africans. Elsewhere in his Histories, Herodotus calls them “black.”
As far as philosophy and thinking is concerned, the Greek philosopher Socrates explains in the “Apology of Socrates” by Plato that to philosophize means to exhort fellow humans on a daily basis that they ought to first of all strive for wisdom, truth, virtue and making their souls perfect.

Only then would they have laid a strong foundation and basis for lasting and sustainable wealth, fame and honor—not the other way around.

The philosopher of Königsberg Immanuel Kant formulated his “Categorical Imperative” as follows: “Act in such a way that the maxim of your will might always be rated at the same time as principle of a general legislation.” Ptah-Hotep had just done that.

These are two of Ptah-Hotep’s maxims one can read in his book: “If you’re a ruler or leader or executive, pursue only salutary and beneficial acts so that your behavior may be beyond reproach.”; “Don’t be bumptious about your knowledge, but take advice from the ignorant as well as from the learned, for the frontiers of art and/or science can’t be reached, and nobody can ever completely attain to his or her mastery.”  This second Ptah-Hotep’s maxim is the source of the today’s widespread saying: “You live and learn.”

The Greek philosopher Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school of thought opined: “Greed based on injustice is impious; and even though it doesn’t violate the Law, it’s ugly, for it’s despicable to amass in a sordid way, even by abiding by the Law.”
The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wondered: “Who is scared of change? But what can be constructed without change?—Can you state one single useful action that can occur without change?”

If Socrates, Kant, Amo, Jacob Zera, Heywat Walda, the Greek and Roman Cynic, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers such as Diogenes, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Cleanthes, Epictetus and Epicurus are regarded as philosophers and thinkers because of their moral teachings, ways of life and maxims, then it is evident that the ancient African Ptah-Hotep is the first philosopher and thinker in humankind history.

The “Egyptomania” or the fascination of people north of the Mediterranean with ancient Egyptian culture and history can only be candid if the civilization of ancient Egypt is embedded in its African context.

By swooning over ancient Egypt, “Mediterranean Northerners” simply prove that they are hole-and-corner admirers of Black Africa because nobody can honestly relish a tree, its branches and fruits without at least appreciating and savoring its roots.   

Black Star News columnist and news analyst Mathias Victorien Ntep is a PhD researcher at the Goethe-University of Frankfurt, Germany, and at the Leiden University of Leiden, Netherlands.

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