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Ptah

by Stephanie Cass
Ptah is the creator-god of Memphis, the city that served as the capital of the ancient Egypt for most of its history and which was known, during that history, as Het-ka-Ptah or "House of the Soul of Ptah". Ptah is one of several Egyptian deities attributed with a myth about fashioning creation. Ptah, as the god Ta-tenen (the primordial mound), creates in the so-called "Memphite Theology" the world, its inhabitants, and the kas (or spirits) of the other gods.

A patron of craftsmen, Ptah's name means "Creator". He is depicted as a mummified man with only his hands free to grasp a sceptre composed of the symbols of life (ankh), power (was), and stability (djed). He is also typically shown wearing a skullcap and standing on the plinth-shaped hieroglyph that is part of the name for Ma'at, the goddess of fundamental truth.

Another deity of Memphis, the funerary god Sokar, was also a patron to craftsmen, and seems to have divided his labor with Ptah: where Ptah was closely associated with stone-working, Sokar was closely associated with metal-working. In the Later Period, Ptah and Sokar would become syncretized with Osiris to form Ptah-Seker-Osiris, a composite deity invoking the properties exhibited by all three: creation, stasis, and the afterlife. In Heliopolis, this triad would be known as Ptah-Sokar-Atum, but hailed as Osiris.

Ptah's wife is usually Sakhmet or, less commonly, Bastet. Gods attributed as his children are Nefertem, Imhotep (a deified architect of the Old Kingdom), and Maahes. Apis, the bull of Memphis, was associated with Ptah as his oracle.

From the Memphite Theology:

"Thus it is said of Ptah: 'He who made all and created the gods.' And he is Ta-tenen, who gave birth to the gods, and from whom every thing came forth, foods, provisions, divine offerings, all good things. Thus it is recognized and understood that he is the mightiest of the gods. Thus Ptah was satisfied after he had made all things and all divine words."

(Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume I: The Old and Middle Kingdom translated by Miriam Lichtheim)

The name of Ptah in hieroglyphs
The name of Ptah in hieroglyphs.


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    ptah

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