Amenhotep IV, also known as the Pharaoh Akhenaten, was destined to be remembered for his attempt at a religious conversion of ancient Egypt; one that saw the old gods put aside and replaced by a single god, the Aten. Akhenaten took on the might of the priesthood of Amun-Ra; and, enforced by the military, temples were closed and the names of the gods were removed from statues and inscriptions the length and breadth of the land. Akhenaten and his family were more concerned with their new religion, and left the empire unprotected and weakened — led by an ineffectual king more interested in poetry and nature rather than ruling. Statues and inscriptions depict Akhenaten and his family with long thin necks, sloping foreheads and elongated skulls , and this has led to claims that the king suffered from various disorders, or even that he was female.
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Amenhotep IV, also known as the Pharaoh Akhenaten, was destined to be remembered for his attempt at a religious conversion of ancient Egypt; one that saw the old gods put aside and replaced by a single god, the Aten.
Akhenaten took on the might of the priesthood of Amun-Ra; and, enforced by the military, temples were closed and the names of the gods were removed from statues and inscriptions the length and breadth of the land. Akhenaten and his family were more concerned with their new religion, and left the empire unprotected and weakened — led by an ineffectual king more interested in poetry and nature rather than ruling. Statues and inscriptions depict Akhenaten and his family with long thin necks, sloping foreheads and elongated skulls , and this has led to claims that the king suffered from various disorders, or even that he was female.
He was an ugly, misshapen man struggling with his own mental and physical abnormalities. This is the story that most people know—but it is true? Pharaoh Akhenaten center and his family worshiping the Aten, with characteristic rays seen emanating from the solar disk. Public Domain. His son, Tuthmose IV, owed his throne to the Sphinx, as the combination deity Ra-Horakhti, and by association to the Heliopolitan priesthood. His marriage to the daughter of the king of Mitanni added a foreign element to the court, which appears to have promoted a degree of free thinking.
Tuthmose IV began increasingly to identify himself with the solar deity of Heliopolis as opposed to the Theban Amun-Ra. The reign of Amenhotep III saw a widening of the gap between the Theban priests of Amun and the northern priests of the sun. The king, as the son of Ra, assumed the power of the throne , as the aging Ra handed down his power to Horus.
The priesthood of Amun had reinforced the strength of their god by declaring him an aspect of Ra, and it was that association that made Amun acceptable to the rest of Egypt.
This gave an unprecedented amount of power to the Amun priesthood, allowing them, through the god, to control not only the country, but also the king. The divinity of kingship now included a claim to being a son of Amun. When the vizier Ptahmose, High Priest of Amun died, Amenhotep III, instead of promoting the next High Priest, as was expected, conferred the viziership on the nobleman Ramose, neatly sidestepping the priesthood and effectively moving towards a separation of state and religion.
Given these prevailing moods within the royal family, it should not really be any surprise that the young Amenhotep IV began his reign with certain goals and ideals already set in his mind.
On his ascension, he began building at Karnak , the long established home of Amun-Ra, decorating the southern entrance with scenes of himself worshipping Ra-Horakhti, as well as building his open-air temple to the east of the main precinct, suggesting that he understood and appreciated the legitimacy of Amun-Ra and that he needed that very legitimacy to underwrite his new religious stance; to give it both credibility and acceptability to the Egyptian people.
It is in these remains that we see the new artistic tendencies known as the Amarna style. Despite this religious coexistence, a text from Karnak refers to new taxes that were imposed on temples and municipalities by the king in order to fund the Aten buildings. This was unusual, as generally temples were exempt from taxation. Temples were not merely places of worship, but also centers for the storage of grain and other necessities, as well as being substantial landowners in their own right.
The king parceled out land either as favors or as remuneration to courtiers and the nobility , who were then heavily taxed. The common classes worked the land in return for a percentage of the crop produced. They were usually free from military service, but had to pay taxes. The artisanal classes and merchants were obliged to do military service and pay taxes.
The only ones who escaped these obligations were the priesthood, who naturally grew rich faster than anyone else. Talatat blocks from Akhenaten's Aten temple in Karnak. Courtesy Ted Loukes. A letter from his Memphis steward, dated year 5, 3rd Peret, day 19, greets the king as Amenhotep with all his titles, informing him that his establishments are flourishing.
Only 24 days later, the first proclamation of the Amarna boundary markers was made in the name of Akhenaten. Although it is impossible to say exactly why Akhenaten felt the need to leave Thebes, he made the point in the Amarna proclamations that the new site was fresh ground, owing allegiance to neither god, nor person.
A fresh start in the center of Egypt, rather than to the north or the south, may have seemed the ideal solution for the young king. Maybe he saw a place in between the two as a balance, as a restoration of Maat. Archaeology has shown that even people living in Amarna continued worshipping their own household gods.
The extent of the Atenist damage appears to have been the removal of the name of Amun and sometimes the deletion of the plural word gods, whereas the opposite seems to be the case after the Amarna period. The fundamental structure of religious thought was the balance between chaos and order.
Ancient Egyptian religion appears to have been an ever-changing school of thought that grew and shrank as was necessary; structured around certain traditions, it adapted itself to its own needs, while always maintaining the balance between order and disorder.
Perhaps the difficulty in understanding the ancient Egyptian religion is frustrated by there never having been a need for it to explain itself; it was accepted by everybody that the world, and everything in it, was created by the gods, and there was only one priest and that was the king. Further reading of the Amarna letters shows that the Egyptians had officials stationed in garrisons throughout the vassal states who dealt with the regional kings when necessary.
A large number of letters are reports back to the crown: pledges of loyalty, assurances that orders have been carried out, and statements that cities were safe and guarded. It also has to be made clear that, for the most part, what remains of the letters is only one half of a dialogue. The incoming messages are plentiful, but the outgoing dispatches from the palace are, to say the least, thin on the ground.
The change of kingship from Amenhotep III to his son was an open invitation to insurrection for some of the outlying vassals; this is when we see the start of the letters begging for aid, and it is highly likely that if similar correspondence had survived from earlier reigns the same sort of pleading requests would have been found.
Letters from the king to various subjects show his complete grasp of what was going on and his demands for answers from unruly vassals were strongly worded:. Perform your service for the king …and you will live.
It was a year of festival as depicted in the tombs at Amarna, where foreign dignitaries brought gifts of precious metals, weapons, wild animals and even slaves. These scenes give lie to the idea that the king had lost all those lands previously won by his illustrious ancestors.
However, it cannot be denied that the special relationship with the Mitanni came to an end as the Egyptian inaction allowed them to be completely overrun by the Hittites. Akhenaten depicted as a sphinx at Amarna. CC BY 2. Much has been written about Akhenaten and sun worship, but Akhenaten's religion was not that—it was an understanding of a creator deity, best represented by the rays of the sun; the intangible essence of sunlight giving and maintaining life in the world, with Akhenaten and his queen its high priests.
In a way, Akhenaten was right in that it is the light and energy from the Sun that maintains life on Earth. Akhenaten was much more of a king than he has been portrayed over the last hundred years or so. Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children. It depicts Akhenaten making offerings to the Aten. By Ted Loukes. The Amarna Letters , Moran, W. Ted Loukes is an independent researcher in the field of ancient civilisations.
He has been on a voyage of discovery for over forty years, questioning man's origins by digging through ancient texts, inscriptions, myths and legends. His particular fascination with Ancient Read More.
It may have been recovered, though this means little as there is evidence in other places that A body was needed, with the right label, not necessarily THE body. Hi Edward, thank you for your comment. If the cult of the Ram is associated with Amun, who was often depicted as a ram headed god, then that cult lasted for at least another years. It was indeed a long time brewing, because the Egyptians and all the nations around them knew of the shift, and the Cult of the Bull wasn't ready to let go, as the Cult of the Ram gained strength.
The nascent Cult of the Ram got chased out of Egypt, hence the Exodus story. Ancient Origins has been quoted by:. By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us.
We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. Skip to main content. Login or Register in order to comment. Paul Davies wrote on 25 February, - Permalink. Edward Hanson wrote on 19 June, - Permalink. Related Articles on Ancient-Origins. Buried beneath the themes of first fruits and wheat offerings lie deeper connections between Shavuot and Akhenaten. These are suggestive and persuasive and go far beyond delicious foods and The Jewish festival of Shavuot is taking place around the world.
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Akhenaten, the heretic king
Akhenaten is noted for abandoning Egypt's traditional polytheistic religion and introducing Atenism , worship centered on the sun disc Aten. The views of Egyptologists differ whether Atenism should be considered as absolute monotheism , or whether it was monolatry , syncretism , or henotheism. After his death, Akhenaten's monuments were dismantled and hidden, his statues were destroyed, and his name excluded from lists of rulers compiled by later pharaohs. Akhenaten was all but lost to history until the late 19th century discovery of Amarna , or Akhetaten, the new capital city he built for the worship of Aten. Genetic testing has determined that the man buried in KV55 was Tutankhamun's father,  but its identification as Akhenaten has since been questioned. Akhenaten's rediscovery and Flinders Petrie 's early excavations at Amarna sparked great public interest in the pharaoh and his queen Nefertiti.
Akhenaten: Egyptian Pharaoh, Nefertiti's Husband, Tut's Father
John Baines, donald b. Akhenaten: The Heretic King. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Most users should sign in with their email address.
Akhenaten: The Heretic King
Akhenaten was a pharaoh of Egypt who reigned over the country for about 17 years between roughly B. In honor of the Aten, he constructed an entirely new capital at an uninhabited place, which we now call Amarna, out in the desert. Its location was chosen so that its sunrise conveyed a symbolic meaning. He notes that this capital would quickly grow to become about 4. Akhenaten, either before or shortly after he became pharaoh, would marry Nefertiti, who in some works of art is shown standing equal next to her husband.
Pharaoh Akhenaten: An Alternative View of the Heretic King
All rights reserved. Sometimes the most powerful commentary on a king is made by those who are silent. One morning in Amarna, a village in Upper Egypt about miles south of Cairo, a set of delicate, sparrowlike bones were arranged atop a wooden table. The city was founded by Akhenaten, a king who, along with his wife Nefertiti and his son, Tutankhamun, has captured the modern imagination as much as any other figure from ancient Egypt. This anonymous skeleton, in contrast, had been excavated from an unmarked grave. But the bones showed evidence of malnutrition, which Shidner and others have observed in the remains of dozens of Amarna children.
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