The Maxims of Ptahhotep, Ranked



Pretty good

If you engage in agriculture, and your field prospers, and God causes it to increase under your hand, do not talk about it incessantly around your neighborhood.

Be gracious to your wife in accordance with what is fair. Feed her well, put clothes on her back, give ointment as balm for her body; rejoice her heart all the days of your life, for she is a profitable field for your lord.

Do not praise him who has no children. Neither speak ill nor boast about it. For it is common that a father may be in misery, and as for a mother who has given birth, another may be happier than she.

Do not be haughty because of your knowledge, but take counsel with the unlearned, as well as the learned, for no one has ever attained perfection of competence.

Disparage belligerent speech by not opposing it in vehemence. The result will be that he will be called boorish.

If you come up against an aggressive adversary, your equal, one who is of your own social standing, you will prove yourself more upright than he by remaining silent, while he speaks vengefully.

Seemed good at first, but less so after realizing Ptahhotep's advice for dealing with all adversaries is remaining silent

If you come up against an aggressive adversary, a man of low standing, one who is not your equal, do not assail him in accordance with his lowly estate. Leave him be, and he will confound himself. Do not answer him in order to vent your frustration.

Pretty context-dependent

Do not attempt to upstage an important official.

Great is Ma'at, and its foundation is firmly established; it has not been shaken since the time of Osiris.

If you should be one of those sitting (as guests) at the table of someone who is greater than you, accept what he serves when it is placed in front of you. Look only at what is right in front of you, and do not stare at him constantly.

Turn away your face and control yourself.

He says, I will procure (wealth) for myself.' He does not say, 'I will procure (wealth) through my diligence.' But in the long run it is Ma'at which endures, and an (honest) man may state: 'This is my ancestral property.'

If you are a well-to-do man and beget a son who please God, if he is upright and follows your teachings, if his conduct is worthy within your household, and if he manages your property well, then do every good thing for him.

I guess!

The eating of bread is under the governance of God, and only a churl complains about it.

If you take to wife one who is silly and frivolous, of light-hearted disposition, and known to her townsmen, she may continue in her ways when at any moment it strikes her fancy. Do not send her away, but allow her to eat from your table. A light-hearted woman at least provides amusement.

Not amazing

If you come up against an aggressive adversary in court, who has influence and is more excellent than you, lower your arms and bend your back. For if you stand up to him, he will not give in to you.

Keep your wife far away from power. Control her, for her eye is quick and sharp. Watch her carefully, for thus you will cause her to remain long in your house.

Punish soundly and reprimand thoroughly.


A man may determine to live thereby, but he will (eventually) be lacking in bread for his mouth.