Akhenaten

(Amenophis IV) King 1379-1362 BC.
    The son of *Amenophis III and *Tiye, Amenophis IV changed his name to Akhenaten (probably meaning 'Servant of the Aten') in Year 5 of his reign, thus indicating his allegiance to the Aten, the creator-god who was symbolised by the sun's disc.
    Tuthmosis IV had begun to elevate the Aten many years before and, under *Amenophis III, the god was given special honours. Akhenaten's unique contribution was to ensure that the Aten's cult approached a form of monotheism; the god was regarded as unique and omnipotent, a universal, supreme and loving deity who was symbolised by the life-giving sun. The king, as the god's sole earthly representative, became virtually interchangeable with the Aten and communed with him every day.
    It is difficult to determine the extent to which these ideas were innovative and revolutionary; they were at least partly a restatement of an earlier belief in a supreme deity which had been represented by the gods Re or Amun. Also, in addition to personal religious motives, Akhenaten was probably prompted by political pressures to try to curb the over-reaching powers of the priests of Amen-Re, by advancing the cult of the Aten. His actions re-established the king's own role as the god's sole representative on earth.
    Akhenaten's early reign was spent at Thebes. A period of co-regency with *Amenophis III may have occurred, but at Thebes, Akhenaten was already building special temples to the Aten where he and his chief wife, *Nefertiti, worshipped the god. This cult continued alongside the orthodox worship, of the great Theban deity, Amen-Re. In Year 6, he made a clear break with tradition and moved the political and religious capital from Thebes to a new site in Middle Egypt, perhaps because the cult of the Aten could no longer exist alongside the other gods. Akhenaten closed their temples, disbanded their priesthoods and diverted their revenue to the Aten's cult. In addition, the names of all the other deities were officially erased and the Aten became the exclusive royal god.
    The new capital was called Akhetaten, which meant the 'Horizon of the Aten'. Palaces, official and administrative quarters and temples to the Aten were built, in addition to villas and houses. The modern term of Tell el Amarna or Amarna is often used for the site. Partial excavation of the city and the neighbouring Royal Tomb and courtiers' tombs has revealed much information about this time, often referred to as the Amarna Period. The text of the Great Hymn to the Aten was found inscribed in some of the courtiers' tombs; this provides an outline of the tenets of Atenism and is regarded as a major influence on Biblical Psalm 104. Texts on boundary stelae ,which marked the perimeter of the new capital, describe the royal conditions laid down for the foundation of Akhetaten.
    Nefertiti (who took the additional name of Nefernefruaten) reared six daughters at Akhetaten. The royal family is frequently represented in the so-called 'Amarna Art' of the period. This type of art, with its distinctive characteristics, was inspired by religious innovations and is exemplified by reliefs and statuary discovered at Akhetaten. Instances also occur at other sites, such as the standing colossi of Akhenaten from the Aten temples at Thebes. The king imposed both the Aten doctrine and its associated art forms; the art emphasises creativity and the naturalistic representation of plants, birds and animals and extols the joy and beauty of life; it also appears to show the king with an abnormal physique. Certain bodily features are emphasised almost to the point of caricature and it has been suggested that such physical abnormalities may have been due to a glandular deficiency, although, since the king's body has never been found, the reasons behind this strange artistic convention must remain speculative. The abnormalities shown in the king's physique became the norm in Amarna art and all other human figures are represented with the same features. At Thebes, the tomb of the courtier *Ramose is decorated with wall-scenes that provide a striking example of both the orthodox and Amarna styles of art.
    Akhenaten has been blamed for allowing Egypt's empire in Syria to disintegrate while he pursued his religious reforms. In the Amarna Letters (the diplomatic correspondence found at Akhetaten), vassal princes beg in vain for Egyptian aid against the predatory ambitions of other great powers. However, some of the decline in Egypt's interest and influence in this area may already have already begun in *Amenophis III's reign.
    At home, the internal organisation had begun to crumble, and the counter-revolutionary methods of Akhenaten's successors, *Tutankhamun and *Horemheb, sought to restore the old order. Even his immediate heir, *Smenkhkare, who may have ruled briefly with him, perhaps attempted some restitution of the traditional gods.
    Akhenaten was first buried in the royal tomb at Amarna; later generations regarded him as a heretic and a disastrous ruler and every effort was made to expunge his name from the records and to return to religious orthodoxy.
    Modern scholarship has variously interpreted him as a fanatic, a political opportunist, a mystic and a visionary, a prophet before his time, and the first individual in history. It has also been suggested that he was the pharaoh of the Exodus, and Sigmund Freud proposed that he had been the inspiration of *Moses and of Jewish monotheism.
BIBL. Aldred, C. Akhenaten, King of Egypt. London: 1988; Davies, N. de G. The Rock Tombs of El-Amarna. (six vols) London: 1903-8; Mercer, S.A.B. The Tell el Amarna Tablets. (two vols) Toronto: 1939; Aldred, C. and Sandison, A.T. The Pharaoh Akhenaten: a problem in Egyptology and pathology, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 36, pp 293-316; Peet, T.E., Woolley, C.L., Frankfort, H. and Pendlebury, J.D.S. The City of Akhenaten. Parts 1-3. London: 1923-51; Martin G.T. The royal Tomb aty El-Amarna: Vol. 2, The Reliefs, Inscriptions and Architecture. London 1974, 1989. Redford, D.B. Akhenaten. The heretic king. Princeton, N.J. 1984; Smith, R.W. and Redford, D.B. The Akhenaten Temple Project. Vol. 1: The initial discoveries. Warminster: 1977.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
(reigned c. 1352–1336 BC)
   Throne name Neferkheperure waenre. Original name Amenhotep IV. Son of Amenhotep III and Tiy. It is probable that he was not the eldest son, as a Prince Thutmose is attested but presumably died young. It is also not clear if there was a coregency between his father and himself or whether he succeeded only upon his father’s death. Akhenaten sought to establish the primacy of the cult of Re-Harakhty in the form of Aten, the sun’s disk. Following opposition in Thebesfrom the followers of Amun, he established a new capital at Akhetaten, now Amarna, and built his royal tomb nearby. His opposition to the older cults gradually grew more intense, and they were eventually proscribed. His religious beliefs have been wrongly described as monotheism, as Akhenaten did not abandon those cults associated with the sun god or with kingship, namely his deified father and himself. His reign is also noted for a revolutionary new art style, which is far freer than older Egyptian conventions and depicted the royal family and he himself in a particular manner. Some have sought to identify a medical problem in this style, but it may simply have been a new artistic convention. His wife, Nefertiti, assumed a prominent role in royal scenes, and it has been suggested that she even succeeded him. The circumstances that ended the reign are unknown. Akhenaten’s eventual successor, Tutankhamun, who may have been his son, abandoned Amarna and reverted to the worship of Amun. Akhenaten’s name and that of his immediate successors were later proscribed.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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