Akhenaten - Heretic Pharaoh or Visionary?
Akhenaten is an odd ball among Egyptian pharaohs. In a culture where adherence to tradition was a widely respected virtue, he skewed Egyptian belief right and left. As pharaoh, Akhenaten became a religious revolutionary, the so-called first monotheist in history.
Ancient Egyptians had always worshipped Re-Herakhty,
the creator sun god as a supreme universal deity. Aten was the visible
manifestation of this god, the solar disk, with all its beneficial aspects
to nature and to the well being of all Egyptians. Each region in Egypt
had their local gods and goddesses, who were more or less important
in relation to the city associated with their worship. By the time the
new king ascended to the throne as Amenhotep IV, during the Eighteenth
Dynasty, the god Amen of Thebes had become a very powerful god. Amen
and Re were usually merged into one god, Amen-Re, Lord of Thebes.
Akhenaten simplified this syncretism by proclaiming the visible sun
itself as the only deity, effectively doing away with Amen and Re and
all the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. This action had disastrous
consequences on the politics of the country and even beyond. It created
a turmoil for the priests of Amen, whose power and wealth had been steadily
increasing and represented a challenge to the pharaoh's authority. Egypt's
foreign allies were also affected by the pharaoh's neglect of his political
duties as ruler of a massive empire, and conflicts along Egypt's borders
promptly arose. In the meantime, the pharaoh had decided in the fifth
year of his reign to move the capital from Thebes to a new city, Akhetaten,
The Horizon of Aten, presently known as Amarna. This new capital would
be entirely devoted to the worship of Aten, with him and his beautiful
wife Nefertiti as high priests.
The new religion also provoked a dramatic change of style in Egyptian art. Artistic depictions of the royal family became more natural with displays of affection never seen before. There is much speculation about Akhenaten's health and mental condition on account of the rather bizarre representations of the pharaoh in painting and sculpture.
After Akhenaten's death, Egypt returned to the old ways. Akhetaten was quickly abandoned and its temples destroyed. His name was erased from the King's List and his mummy has never been found.
But his legacy of one universal god prevailed.
The 18th Dynasty: The Glory that was Egypt - Some of the best known pharaohs, Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamen belong to this glorious period in Ancient Egypt history.
The Amazing Discovery of the Bust of Nefertiti - One of Egypt's greatest art masterpieces, she is the Helen of Troy of modern times, with two nations disputing her possesion.
King Tut Biography - The life story of a young unremarkable pharaoh who ruled at a very remarkable time in Egypt's history.
Amenhotep III - Amenhotep III has the distinction of having the most surviving statues of any Egyptian pharaoh.