Akhenaten


Akhenaten is know as one of the greatest mystical revolutionaries of all time, but was his new religion a product of his creative genius, or merely a reaction to threats within his own empire. As Pharaoh, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, changed the traditional polytheistic religion to a monotheistic one centered on the Aten (the sun disk). He moved the Egyptian capitol from Thebes to a site now know as el-Amarna. After Akhenaten’s death, his successors re established the old order of things and set about systematically destroying any trace of him and his reforms. In this essay, through the analysis of evidence, I will come to a conclusion as to what really inspired Akhenaten, need or enlightenment.


Very little is known about Akhenaten’s early years. As had an older brother, Thutmose, it is not likely that he was expected to rule. Amenhotep, as he was then called, was probably trained as a priest of Re at Heliopolis, as where all young princes. The manner Akhenaten’s accession to the throne is still a much debated event in his life. Scholars are still unsure as to weather he came to power directly after his fathers death or if he ruled with his father in a co regency. Scholars are still debating the length of the co regency, some say a short period of around 2 years while others argue it was probably around 12 years.


At the start of his reign, Akhenaten did not do anything unorthodox. He completed his fathers building projects, and had himself depicted worshiping the traditional gods of Egypt, although special attention was paid to the falcon-headed Re-Horakhty, who wears the Aten sun-disk on his head. By year 3 of his reign, Akhenaten was beginning do make changes. He celebrated his first Sed festival, which was a celebration that showed that the Aten was in partnership with Akhenaten. At the same time, Akhenaten ordered the building of four new temples at East Karnak which where to be dedicated to the Aten. This would have been quite a surprise to many people of the time because East Karnak was the traditional precinct of the god Amun. The cult of Amun was the strongest of all the cults and its power had grown almost so as to rival the pharaoh himself. Many modern day historians believe that this was the firs blow in a plan to take all power away from the cult. Others argue he was only showing his devotion to the Aten, with no ill intent.


Nefertiti lived a good life as Akhenatens queen in Thebes. She held a prominent place in society, higher than any other queen before. At the temples in East Karnak she is depicted in a traditional head smiting pose, like the king, and is shown worshiping the Aten with her daughter, Meritaten.


A topic which has been greatly discussed by historians is the unusual appearance of Akhenaten in the paintings he had made of himself. Many believe it was a product of his creative nature; he wanted to look different to uphold the theory of his religion which says that he is the son of the Aten. The most likely theory is that Akhenaten suffered from Fröhlich syndrome, which caused physical abnormalities such as a woman shaped body, incredibly long neck and facial distortions. Akhenaten might have preferred to be depicted in his actual image than shame himself by having the painting made to look ‘perfect’. There are many theories but as of yet, historians are still unsure, some even claim Akhenaten was a woman posing as a man.


In year 5 of his reign, Akhenaten made drastic changes to the Egyptian empire. It was at this time that he changed his name from Amenhotep to Akhenaten. Shortly after this he began the establishment of a new city, which was to be built in a barren plane which is now called El-Amana. The city was to be named Akhetaten He ordered the construction of 14 border stelae on the hills surrounding the site. The main reason for Akhenatens selection of this sit was the fact that it had never been dedicated to any god. This action took even more power away from the priests as it moved the court and capital away from Karnak The city was built