often also spelled Echnaton, Akhnaton, or rarely
Ikhnaton; meaning Effective spirit of
was known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV
(sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning
is Satisfied). A
Pharaoh of the
Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, he ruled for 17 years and died in
1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is especially noted for abandoning
traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered
Aten which is sometimes described as
henotheism would be a more accurate description, since he
ranked the Aten above other gods but did not deny their existence.
Indeed, an early inscription likens them to stars as compared with
the sun, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a
god, as if to create for the solar deity a status above mere gods.
Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional
religion that in the end would not be accepted. After his death,
traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when
some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession
from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they
discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to
Akhenaten himself as 'the enemy' in archival records.
He was all but lost from history until the discovery, in the
nineteenth century, of
Amarna, the site of Akhetaten, the city he built for the Aten.
The future Akhenaten was a younger son of Amenhotep III and his Chief Queen Tiye, his elder brother Crown Prince Thutmose having died when both were children. Thus, Akhenaten's early education might have prepared him for the priesthood like his maternal uncle Anen; at any rate, in an inscription dating to his early reign he emphasized his familiarity with ancient temple documents 
Amenhotep IV succeeded his father after Amenhotep III's death at the end of his 38-year reign, or possibly after a coregency lasting one to two years. Suggested dates for Akhenaten's reign (subject to the debates surrounding Egyptian chronology) are from 1353 BC-1336 BC or 1351 BC–1334 BC. Akhenaten's chief wife was Nefertiti, made famous to the modern world by her exquisitely sculpted and painted bust, now displayed in the Altes Museum of Berlin, and among the most recognised works of art surviving from the ancient world.
After four years of reign, Akhenaten began building a new city to serve as the seat of the Aten and a governmental capital of Egypt. Its buildings were decorated in a startling new style which was intended to express the tenets of the new worship. Aten was the sungod
Some recent debate has focused on the extent (if any) to which Akhenaten forced his religious reforms on his people. Certainly, as time drew on, he revised the names of the Aten, and other religious language, to increasingly exclude references to other gods; at some point, also, he embarked on the wide-scale erasure of traditional gods' names, especially those of Amun. Some of his court changed their names to remove them from the patronage of other gods and place them under that of Aten (or Ra, with whom Akhenaten equated the Aten). Yet, even at Amarna itself, some courtiers kept such names as Ahmose ("child of the moon god," the owner of tomb 3), and the sculptor's workshop where the famous Nefertiti bust, and other works of royal portraiture, were found, is associated with an artist known to have been called Tuthmose ("child of Thoth"). An overwhelmingly large number of faience amulets at Amarna also show that talismans of the household-and-childbirth gods Bes and Taweret, the eye of Horus, and amulets of other traditional deities, were openly worn by its citizens. Indeed, a cache of royal jewelry found buried near the Amarna royal tombs (now in the National Museum of Scotland) includes a finger ring referring to Mut, the wife of Amun. Such evidence suggests that though Akhenaten shifted funding away from traditional temples, his policies were fairly tolerant until some point, perhaps a particular event as yet unknown, toward the end of the reign.
Following Akhenaten's death, change was gradual at first. Within a decade a comprehensive political, religious and artistic reformation began promoting a return of Egyptian life to the norms it had followed during his father's reign. Much of the art and building infrastructure created during Akhenaten's reign was defaced or destroyed in the period following his death, particularly during the reigns of Horemheb and the early Nineteenth Dynasty kings. Stone building blocks from Akhenaten's construction projects were later used as foundation stones for subsequent rulers' temples and tombs.
Pharaoh and family depictions
Styles of art that flourished during this short period are markedly different from other Egyptian art. In some cases, representations are more naturalistic, especially in depictions of animals and plants, of commoners, and in a sense of action and movement—for both nonroyal and royal people. However, depictions of members of the court, especially members of the royal family, are extremely stylized, with elongated heads protruding stomachs, heavy hips, thin arms and legs, and exaggerated facial features. Questions also remain whether the beauty of Nefertiti is portraiture or idealism. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaten's family are shown taking part in decidedly naturalistic activities, showing affection for each other, and being caught in mid-action (in traditional art, a pharaoh's divine nature was expressed by repose, even immobility). The depictions of action may correspond to the emphasis on the active creative and nurturing emphasized of the Aten in the "Great Hymn to the Aten" and elsewhere. Nefertiti also appears, both beside the king and alone (or with her daughters), in actions usually reserved for a Pharaoh, suggesting that she enjoyed unusual status for a queen. Early artistic representations of her tend to be indistinguishable from her husband's except by her regalia, but soon after the move to the new capital, Nefertiti begins to be depicted with features specific to her. Why Akhenaten had himself represented in the bizarre, strikingly androgynous way he did, remains a vigorously debated question. Religious reasons have been suggested, such as to emulate the creative nature of the Aten, who is called in Amarna tomb texts, "mother and father" of all that is. Or, it has been suggested, Akhenaten's (and his family's) portraiture exaggerates his distinctive physical traits. Until Akhenaten's mummy is positively identified, such theories remain speculative. Some scholars do identify Mummy 61074, found in KV55, an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings, as Akhenaten's.. If so—or if the KV 55 mummy is that of his close relative, Smenkhkare—its measurements tend to support the theory that Akhenaten's depictions exaggerate his actual appearance. Though the "mummy" consists only in disarticulated bones, the skull is long and has a prominent chin and the limbs are light and long. However, in 2007, Zahi Hawass and a team of researchers made CT Scan images of the KV 55 mummy. They have concluded that the elongated skull, cheek bones, cleft palate, and impacted wisdom tooth suggest that the mummy is the father of Tutankhamun, also commonly known as Akhenaten.
Family and relations
- See also: Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt Family Tree
Amenhotep IV was married to Nefertiti at the very beginning of his reign, and the couple had six known daughters. Two possible sons of Akhenaten by other women have also been identified, Smenkhkare who succeeded him on the throne, and Tutankhamun. Their mothers are unknown. A secondary wife of Akhenaten named Kiya is known; some have theorized that she gained her importance as the mother of one or both of these male heirs. This is a list of Akhenaten's children (known and theoretical) with suggested years of birth:
- Smenkhkare?– year 35 or 36 of Amenhotep III's reign
- Meritaten – year 1.
- Meketaten – year 3, possibly earlier.
- Ankhesenpaaten, later Queen of Tutankhamun – year 4.
- Neferneferuaten Tasherit – year 8.
- Neferneferure – year 9.
- Setepenre – year 9.
- Tutankhaten–year 8 or 9 – renamed Tutankhamun later.
His known consorts were:
It has also been suggested that, like his father Amunhotep III, Akhenaten may have taken some of his daughters as consorts:
- Meritaten, recorded as Great Royal Wife late in his reign, though it is more likely that she got this title due to her marriage to Smenkhkare, Akhenaten's co-regent;
- Meketaten, Akhenaten's second daughter. The reason for this suggestion is Meketaten's death due to childbirth in, or after, the fourteenth year of Akhenaten's reign, though nowhere does she have the title or cartouche of a queen.
- Ankhesenpaaten, his third daughter, also on tenuous evidence. In his final year or after his death, Ankhesenpaaten married Akhenaten's successor Tutankhamun.
Inscriptions refer to a daughter of Meritaten, Meritaten-ta-sherit and may record a daughter for Ankhesenpaaten, Ankhesenpaaten-ta-sherit, though the latter depends on a questionable reading of a single fragmentary inscription. The texts in question all once belonged to Kiya and were re-inscribed for the princesses later. The daughter (or, perhaps, hoped-for future daughter) might have replaced Kiya's daughter in those scenes.
Around Years XIII - XIV, three of the king's six
daughters, the two youngest, Neferneferure and Setepenre, and the
second eldest Meketaten, died suddenly. The scenes of mourning
engraved in the royal tomb show the royal family overcome with
grief, weeping before the princesses' (non-mummified) corpses or
paying homage to their memory, represented by their statue. Death
is depicted in its two real, tangible, aspects: the corpse - that
which will disappear; and the statue - that which will survive as
a memory. Remarkably, the notion of the afterlife has entirely
There was a plague raging during this period. Is this the cause of their death?
Two other lovers have been suggested, but are not widely accepted:
- Smenkhkare, Akhenaten's successor and/or co-ruler for the last years of his reign. Rather than a lover, however, Smenkhkare is likely to have been a half-brother or a son to Akhenaten. Some have even suggested that Smenkhkare was actually an alias of Nefertiti or Kiya, and therefore one of Akhenaten's wives (see below).
- Tiye, his mother. Twelve years after the death of Amenhotep III, she is still mentioned in inscriptions as Queen and beloved of the King, but kings' mothers often were. The few supporters of this theory (notably Immanuel Velikovsky) consider Akhenaten to be the historical model of legendary King Oedipus of Thebes, Greece and Tiye the model for his mother/wife Jocasta.
Akhenaten's international relations
Important evidence about Akhenaten's reign and foreign policy has been provided by the discovery of the Amarna Letters, a cache of diplomatic correspondence discovered in modern times at el-Amarna, the modern designation of the Akhetaten site. This correspondence comprises a priceless collection of incoming messages on clay tablets, sent to Akhetaten from various subject rulers through Egyptian military outposts, and from the foreign rulers (recognized as "Great Kings") of the Armeno-Aryan kingdom of Mitanni, Babylon, Assyria and Hatti. The governors and kings of Egypt's subject domains also wrote frequently to plead for gold from Pharaoh, and also complained of being snubbed and cheated by him.
Early on in his reign, Akhenaten fell out with the king of Mitanni, Tushratta, who had been courting favor with his father against the Hittites. Tushratta complains in numerous letters that Akhenaten had sent him gold plated statues rather than statues made of solid gold; the statues formed part of the bride price which Tushratta received for letting his daughter Tadukhepa be married to Amenhotep III and then Akhenaten. Amarna letter EA 27 preserves a complaint by Tushratta to Akhenaten about the situation:
"I...asked your father, Mimmureya, for statues of solid cast gold, one of myself and a second statue, a statue of Tadu-Heba (Tadukhepa), my daughter, and your father said, "Don't talk of giving statues just of solid cast gold. I will give you ones made also of lapis lazuli. I will give you, too, along with the statues, much additional gold and (other) goods beyond measure." Every one of my messengers that were staying in Egypt saw the gold for the statues with their own eyes. Your father himself recast the statues [i]n the presence of my messengers, and he made them entirely of pure gold....He showed much additional gold, which was beyond measure and which he was sending to me. He said to my messengers, "See with your own eyes, here the statues, there much gold and goods beyond measure, which I am sending to my brother." And my messengers did see with their own eyes! But my brother (ie: Akhenaten) has not sent the solid (gold) statues that your father was going to send. You have sent plated ones of wood. Nor have you sent me the goods that your father was going to send me, but you have reduced (them) greatly. Yet there is nothing I know of in which I have failed my brother. Any day that I hear the greetings of my brother, that day I make a festive occasion...May my brother send me much gold. [At] the kim[ru fe]ast...[...with] many goods [may my] brother honor me. In my brother's country gold is as plentiful as dust. May my brother cause me no distress. May he send me much gold in order that my brother [with the gold and m]any [good]s, may honor me."(EA 27)
While Akhenaten was certainly not a close friend of Tushratta, he was evidently concerned at the expanding power of the Hittite Empire under its powerful ruler Suppiluliuma I. A successful Hittite attack on Mitanni and its ruler Tushratta would have disrupted the entire international balance of power in the Ancient Middle East at a time when Egypt had made peace with Mitanni; this would cause some of Egypt's vassals to switch their allegiances to the Hittites, as time would prove. A group of Egypt's allies who attempted to rebel against the Hittites were captured, and wrote letters begging Akhenaten for troops, but he did not respond to most of their pleas. Evidence suggests that the troubles on the northern frontier led to difficulties in Canaan, particularly in a struggle for power between Labaya of Shechem and Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem, which required the Pharaoh to intervene in the area by dispatching Medjay troops northwards. Akhenaten pointedly refused to save his vassal Rib-Hadda of Byblos whose kingdom was being besieged by the expanding state of Amurru under Abdi-Ashirta and later Aziru, son of Abdi-Ashirta, despite Rib-Hadda's numerous pleas for help from the pharaoh. Rib-Hadda wrote a total of 60 letters to Akhenaten pleading for aid from the pharaoh. Akhenaten wearied of Rib-Hadda's constant correspondences and once told Rib-Hadda: "You are the one that writes to me more than all the (other) mayors" or Egyptian vassals in EA 124. What Rib-Hadda did not comprehend was that the Egyptian king would not organize and dispatch an entire army north just to preserve the political status quo of several minor city states on the fringes of Egypt's Asiatic Empire. Rib-Hadda would pay the ultimate price; his exile from Byblos due to a coup led by his brother Ilirabih is mentioned in one letter. When Rib-Hadda appealed in vain for aid to Akhenaten and then turned to Aziru, his sworn enemy to place him back on the throne of his city, Aziru promptly had him dispatched to the king of Sidon where Rib-Hadda was almost certainly executed.
William L. Moran notes that the Amarna corpus of 380+ letters counters the conventional view that Akhenaten neglected Egypt's foreign territories in favour of his internal reforms. There are several letters from Egyptian vassals notifying Pharaoh that the king's instructions have been followed:
To the king, my lord, my god, my Sun, the Sun from the sky: Message of Yapahu, the ruler of Gazru, your servant, the dirt at your feet. I indeed prostrate myself at the feet of the king, my lord, my god, my Sun...7 times and 7 times, on the stomach and on the back. I am indeed guarding the place of the king, my lord, the Sun of the sky, where I am, and all the things the king, my lord, has written me, I am indeed carrying out--everything! Who am I, a dog, and what is my house...and what is anything I have, that the orders of the king, my lord, the Sun from the sky, should not obey constantly? (EA 378)
When the loyal but unfortunate Rib-Hadda was killed at the instigation of Aziru, Akhenaten sent an angry letter to Aziru containing a barely veiled accusation of outright treachery on the latter's part. Akhenaten wrote:
Say to Aziru, ruler of Amurru: Thus the king, your lord (ie: Akhenaten), saying: The ruler of Gubla (ie: Byblos), whose brother had cast him away at the gate, said to you, "Take me and get me into the city. There is much silver, and I will give it to you. Indeed there is an abundance of everything, but not with me [here]." Thus did the ruler (Rib-Hadda) speak to you. Did you not write to the king, my lord saying, "I am your servant like all the previous mayors (ie: vassals) in his city"? Yet you acted delinquently by taking the mayor whose brother had cast him away at the gate, from his city.
He (Rib-Hadda) was residing in Sidon and, following your own judgment, you gave him to (some) mayors. Were you ignorant of the treacherousness of the men? If you really are the king's servant, why did you not denounce him before the king, your lord, saying, "This mayor has written to me saying, 'Take me to yourself and get me into my city'"? And if you did act loyally, still all the things you wrote were not true. In fact, the king has reflected on them as follows, "Everything you have said is not friendly." Now the king has heard as follows, "You are at peace with the ruler of Qidsa. (Kadesh) The two of you take food and strong drink together." And it is true. Why do you act so? Why are you at peace with a ruler whom the king is fighting? And even if you did act loyally, you considered your own judgment, and his judgment did not count. You have paid no attention to the things that you did earlier. What happened to you among them that you are not on the side of the king, your lord? Consider the people that are training you for their own advantage. They want to throw you into the fire....If for any reason whatsoever you prefer to do evil, and if you plot evil, treacherous things, then you, together with your entire family, shall die by the axe of the king. So perform your service for the king, your lord, and you will live. You yourself know that the king does not fail when he rages against all of Canaan. And when you wrote saying, 'May the king, my Lord, give me leave this year, and then I will go next year to the king, my Lord. (ie: to Egypt) If this is impossible, I will send my son in my place'--the king, your Lord, let you off this year in accordance with what you said. Come yourself, or send your son [now], and you will see the king at whose sight all lands live."(EA 162)
This letter shows that Akhenaten paid close attention to the affairs of his vassals in Canaan and Syria. Akhenaten commanded Aziru to come to Egypt and proceeded to detain him there for at least one year. In the end, Akhenaten was forced to release Aziru back to his homeland when the Hittites advanced southwards into Amki thereby threatening Egypt's series of Asiatic vassal states including Amurru. Sometime after his return to Amurru, Aziru defected to the Hittite side with his kingdom. While it is known from an Amarna letter by Rib-Hadda that the Hittites "seized all the countries that were vassals of the king of Mitanni"(EA 75) Akhenaten managed to preserve Egypt's control over the core of her Near Eastern Empire which consisted of present day Palestine as well as the Phoenician coast while avoiding conflict with the increasingly powerful Hittite Empire of Suppiluliuma I. Only the Egyptian border province of Amurru in Syria around the Orontes river was permanently lost to the Hittites when its ruler Aziru defected to the Hittites. Finally, contrary to the conventional view of a ruler who neglected Egypt's international relations, Akhenaten is known to have initiated at least one campaign into Nubia in his regnal Year 12, where his campaign is mentioned in Amada stela CG 41806 and on a separate companion stela at Buhen.
Death, burial and succession
The last dated appearance of Akhenaten and the Amarna family is in the tomb of Meryre II, and dates from second month, year 12 of his reign. After this the historical record is unclear, and only with the succession of Tutankhamun is it somewhat clarified.
Akhenaten planned to relocate Egyptian burials on the East side of the Nile (sunrise) rather than on the West side (sunset), in the Royal Wadi in Akhetaten. His body was probably removed after the court returned to Thebes, and reburied somewhere in the Valley of the Kings—perhaps in tomb KV55 which contained numerous Amarna era objects including a royal funerary mask which had been deliberately destroyed. His sarcophagus was destroyed but has since been reconstructed and now sits outside in the Cairo Museum.
There is much controversy around whether Amenhotep IV succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Amenhotep III, or whether there was a coregency (lasting as long as 12 years according to some Egyptologists). Current literature by Eric Cline, Nicholas Reeves, Peter Dorman and other scholars comes out strongly against the establishment of a long coregency between the 2 rulers and in favour of either no coregency or a brief one lasting 1 to 2 years, at the most. Other literature by Donald Redford, William Murnane, Alan Gardiner and more recently by Lawrence Berman in 1998 contests the view of any coregency whatsoever between Akhenaten and his father.
Similarly, although it is accepted that Akhenaten himself died in Year 17 of his reign, the question of whether Smenkhkare became co-regent perhaps 2 or 3 years earlier or enjoyed a brief independent reign is unclear. If Smenkhkare outlived Akhenaten, and became sole Pharaoh, he likely ruled Egypt for less than a year. The next successor was Neferneferuaten, a female Pharaoh who reigned in Egypt for 2 years and 1 month. She was, in turn, probably succeeded by Tutankhaten (later, Tutankhamun), with the country being administered by the chief vizier, and future Pharaoh, Ay. Tutankhamun is believed to be a younger brother of Smenkhkare and a son of Akhenaten, and possibly Kiya although one scholar has suggested that Tutankhamun may have been a son of Smenkhkare instead. It has also been suggested that after the death of Akhenaten, Nefertiti reigned with the name of Neferneferuaten but other scholars believe that this female ruler was rather Meritaten. The so-called Coregency Stela, found in a tomb in Amarna possibly shows his queen Nefertiti as his coregent, ruling alongside him, but this is not certain as the names have been removed and recarved to show Ankhesenpaaten and Neferneferuaten.
With Akhenaten's death, the Aten cult he had founded gradually fell out of favor. Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun in Year 2 of his reign (1332 BC) and abandoned the city of Akhetaten, which eventually fell into ruin. His successors Ay and Horemheb disassembled temples Akhenaten had built, including the temple at Thebes, using them as a source of easily available building materials and decorations for their own temples.
Finally, Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay were excised from the official lists of Pharaohs, which instead reported that Amenhotep III was immediately succeeded by Horemheb. This is thought to be part of an attempt by Horemheb to delete all trace of Atenism and the pharaohs associated with it from the historical record. Akhenaten's name never appeared on any of the king lists compiled by later Pharaohs and it was not until the late 19th century that his identity was re-discovered and the surviving traces of his reign were unearthed by archaeologists.
Plague and pandemic
This Amarna Period is also associated with a serious outbreak of a pandemic, possibly the plague, or polio, or perhaps the world's first recorded outbreak of influenza, which came from Egypt and spread throughout the Middle East, killing Suppiluliuma I, the Hittite King. Influenza is a disease associated with the close proximity of water fowl, pigs and humans, and its origin as a pandemic disease may be due to the development of agricultural systems that allow the mixing of these animals and their wastes. Some of the first archaeological evidence for this agricultural system is during the Amarna period of Ancient Egypt, and the pandemic that followed this period throughout the Ancient Near East may have been the earliest recorded outbreak of influenza. However, the precise nature of this Egyptian plague remains unknown and Asia has also been suggested as a possible site of origin of pandemic influenza in humans. The prevalence of disease may help explain the rapidity with which the site of Akhetaten was subsequently abandoned. It may also explain why later generations considered the gods to have turned against the Amarna monarchs. The black death has also been suggested by Zahi Hawass because at Amarna the traces of the plague have been found. Arielle Kozloff discusses the evidence, arguing that the epidemic was caused by Bubonic plague over polio. However, her argument that "polio is only fractionally as virulent as some other diseases" ignores the evidence that diseases become less virulent the longer they are present in the human population, as demonstrated with syphilis and tuberculosis.
The Implementation of Atenism
In the early years of his reign, Amenhotep IV lived at Thebes with Nefertiti and his 6 daughters. Initially, he permitted worship of Egypt's traditional deities to continue but near the Temple of Karnak (Amun-Ra's great cult center), he erected several massive buildings including temples to the Aten. These buildings at Thebes were later dismantled by his successors and used as infill for new constructions in the Temple of Karnak; when they were later dismantled by archaeologists, some 36,000 decorated blocks from the original Aton building here were revealed which preserve many elements of the original relief scenes and inscriptions.
The relationship between Amenhotep IV and the priests of Amun-Re gradually deteriorated. In Year 5 of his reign, Amenhotep IV took decisive steps to establish the Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt: the pharaoh "disbanded the priesthoods of all the other gods...and diverted the income from these [other] cults to support the Aten. To emphasize his complete allegiance to the Aten, the king officially changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten or 'Servant of the Aten.' Akhenaten's fifth year also marked the beginning of construction on his new capital, Akhetaten or 'Horizon of Aten', at the site known today as Amarna. Very soon afterwards, he centralized Egyptian religious practices in Akhetaten, though construction of the city seems to have continued for several more years. In honor of Aten, Akhenaten also oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt. In these new temples, Aten was worshipped in the open sunlight, rather than in dark temple enclosures, as had been the previous custom. Akhenaten is also believed to have composed the Great Hymn to the Aten.
Initially, Akhenaten presented Aten as a variant of the familiar supreme deity Amun-Re (itself the result of an earlier rise to prominence of the cult of Amun, resulting in Amun becoming merged with the sun god Ra), in an attempt to put his ideas in a familiar Egyptian religious context. However, by Year 9 of his reign, Akhenaten declared that Aten was not merely the supreme god, but the only god, and that he, Akhenaten, was the only intermediary between Aten and his people. He ordered the defacing of Amun's temples throughout Egypt and, in a number of instances, inscriptions of the plural 'gods' were also removed.
Aten's name is also written differently after Year 9, to emphasize the radicalism of the new regime, which included a ban on images, with the exception of a rayed solar disc, in which the rays (commonly depicted ending in hands) appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten, who by then was evidently considered not merely a sun god, but rather a universal deity. It is important to note, however, that representations of the Aten were always accompanied with a sort of "hieroglyphic footnote", stating that the representation of the sun as All-encompassing Creator was to be taken as just that: a representation of something that, by its very nature as some time transcending creation, cannot be fully or adequately represented by any one part of that creation.
Akhenaten and Judeo-Christian monotheism
The idea of Akhenaten as the pioneer of a monotheistic religion that later became Judaism has been considered by various scholars. One of the first to mention this was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, in his book Moses and Monotheism. Freud argued that Moses had been an Atenist priest forced to leave Egypt with his followers after Akhenaten's death. Freud argued that Akhenaten was striving to promote monotheism, something that the biblical Moses was able to achieve. Following his book, the concept entered popular consciousness and serious research.
Other scholars and mainstream Egyptologists point out that there are direct connections between early Judaism and other Semitic religious traditions. They also state that two of the three principal Judaic terms for God, Yahweh, Elohim (meaning roughly "the lofty one", morphologically plural), and Adonai (meaning "our lord", also morphologically plural) have no connection to Aten. Freud commented on the connection between Adonai, the Egyptian Aten and the Syrian divine name of Adonis as a primeval unity of language between the factions; in this he was following the argument of Egyptologist Arthur Weigall, but the argument was groundless as 'Aten' and 'Adonai' are not, in fact, linguistically related.
Akhenaten appears in history almost two-centuries prior to the first archaeological and written evidence for Judaism and Israelite culture is found in the Levant. Abundant visual imagery of the Aten disk was central to Atenism, which celebrated the natural world, while such imagery is not a feature of early Israelite culture, Although pottery found throughout Judea dated to the end of the 8th century BC has seals resembling a winged sun disk burned on their handles, presumedly thought to be the royal seal of the Judean Kingdom.
He likely belonged to the local nobility of Akhmim. Egyptologists hold this view because Yuya had strong connections to the city of Akhmin in Upper Egypt. This makes it unlikely that he was a foreigner since most Asiatic settlers tended to cloister around the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. Some Egyptologists, however, give him a Mitannian (Armenian) origin. It is widely accepted that there are strong similarities between Akhenaten's Great Hymn to the Aten and the Biblical Psalm 104, though this form is found widespread in ancient Near Eastern hymnology both before and after the period and whether this implies a direct influence or a common literary convention remains in dispute.
Others have likened some aspects of Akhenaten's relationship with the Aten to the relationship, in Christian tradition, of Jesus Christ with God - particularly in interpretations which emphasise a more monotheistic interpretation of Atenism than henotheistic. Donald B. Redford has noted that some have viewed Akhenaten as a harbinger of Jesus. "After all, Akhenaten did call himself the son of the sole god, “thine only son that came forth from thy body.”" James Henry Breasted likened him to Jesus Arthur Weigall saw him as a failed precursor of Christ and Thomas Mann saw him "as right on the way and yet not the right one for the way".
Redford argued that whilst Akhenaten called himself the son of the Sun-Disc and acted as the chief mediator between god and creation, it is must be noted that kings for thousands of years before Akhenaten’s time had claimed the same relationship and priestly role. However Akhenaton's case may be different through the emphasis placed on the heavenly father and son relationship. Akhenaten described himself as “thy son who came forth from thy limbs,” “thy child,” “the eternal son that came forth from the Sun-Disc,” and “thine only son that came forth from thy body”. The close relationship between father and son is such that only the king truly knows the heart of “his father,” and in return his father listen's to his son’s prayers. He is his father’s image on earth and as Akhenaten is king on earth his father is king in heaven. As high priest, prophet, king and divine he claimed the central position in the new religious system. Since only he knew his father’s mind and will, Akhenaten alone could interpret that will for all mankind with true teaching coming only from him.
Before much of the archaeological evidence from Thebes and from Tell el-Amarna became available, wishful thinking sometimes turned Akhenaten into a humane teacher of the true God, a mentor of Moses, a Christlike figure, a philosopher before his time. But these imaginary creatures are now fading away one by one as the historical reality gradually emerges. There is little or no evidence to support the notion that Akhenaten was a progenitor of the full-blown monotheism that we find in the Bible. The monotheism of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament had its own separate development—one that began more than half a millenium after the pharoah’s death.
The rather strange and eccentric portrayals of Akhenaten, with a sagging stomach, thick thighs, larger breasts, and long, thin face — so different from the athletic norm in the portrayal of Pharaohs — has led certain Egyptologists to suppose that Akhenaten suffered some kind of genetic abnormality. Various illnesses have been put forward. On the basis of his longer jaw and his feminine appearance, Cyril Aldred suggested he may be suffering from Froelich's Syndrome. However, this is unlikely because this disorder results in sterility and Akhenaten is believed to have fathered numerous children — at least six daughters by Nefertiti, and possibly his successor Tutankhamen by a minor wife.
Another suggestion by Burridge is that Akhenaten may have suffered from Marfan's Syndrome. Marfan's syndrome, unlike Froelich's, does not result in any lack of intelligence or sterility. It is associated with a sunken chest, long curved spider-like fingers (arachnodactyly), occasional congenital heart difficuties, a high curved or slightly cleft palate, and a highly curved cornea or dislocated lens of the eye, with the requirement for bright light to see well. Marfan's sufferers tend towards being taller than average, with a long, thin face, and elongated skull, overgrown ribs, a funnel or pigeon chest, and larger pelvis, with enlarged thighs and spindly calves. Marfan's syndrome is a dominant characteristic, and sufferers have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children. All of these symptoms appear in depictions of Akhenaten and of his children. Recent CT scans of Tutankhamun report a cleft palate and a fairly long head, as well as an abnormal curvature of the spine and fusion of the upper vertebrae, a condition associated with scoliosis, all conditions associated with Marfan's syndrome.
However, Dominic Montserrat in Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt argues that "there is now a broad consensus among Egyptologists that the exaggerated forms of Akhenaten's physical portrayal… are not to be read literally" Montserrat and others argue that the body-shape relates to some form of religious symbolism. Because the god Aten was referred to as "the mother and father of all humankind" it has been suggested that Akhenaten was made to look androgynous in artwork as a symbol of the androgyny of the god. This required "a symbolic gathering of all the attributes of the creator god into the physical body of the king himself", which will "display on earth the Aten's multiple life-giving functions". Akhenaten did refer to himself as "The Unique One of Re," and he may have used his control of artistic expression to distance himself from the common people, though such a radical departure from the idealised traditional representation of the image of the Pharaoh would be truly extraordinary. It should be observed that representations of other persons than Akhenaten in the 'Amarna style' are equally unflattering — for example, a carving of his father Amenhotep III as a languid, overweight figure; Nefertiti is shown in some statues as well past her prime, with a severe face and a stomach swollen by repeated pregnancies.
Another claim was made by Immanuel Velikovsky, who hypothesized an incestuous relationship with his mother, Tiye. Velikovsky also posited that Akhenaten had elephantiasis, producing enlarged legs. Based on this, he identified Akhenaten as the history behind the Oedipus myth, Oedipus being Greek for "swollen feet," and moved the setting from the Greek Thebes to the Egyptian Thebes. As part of his argument, Velikovsky uses the fact that Akhenaten viciously carried out a campaign to erase the name of his father, which he argues could have developed into Oedipus killing his father. This point seems to be disproved, however, in that Akhenaten in fact mummified and buried his father in the honorable traditional Egyptian fashion prior to beginning his monotheistic revolution.
In the same 1960 work, Oedipus and Akhnaton, Velikovsky not only saw Akhenaten as the origin of Oedipus, but also identified him with a Pharaoh mentioned only in Herodotus, "Anysis of the city of the same name" — Akhenaten of Akhetaten. Like Oedipus, Anysis was blinded, deposed and exiled. Some scholars have argued that Akhenaten went blind at the end of his life and was supported by his wife Nefertiti.
Akhenaten has been called by historian James Henry Breasted "the first individual in history", as well as the first monotheist, first scientist, and first romantic. As early as 1899 Flinders Petrie declared that,
- If this were a new religion, invented to satisfy our modern scientific conceptions, we could not find a flaw in the correctness of this view of the energy of the solar system. How much Akhenaten understood, we cannot say, but he certainly bounded forward in his views and symbolism to a position which we cannot logically improve upon at the present day. Not a rag of superstition or of falsity can be found clinging to this new worship evolved out of the old Aton of Heliopolis, the sole Lord of the universe.
H.R. Hall even claimed that the pharaoh was the "first example of the scientific mind".
On the contrary, Nicholas Reeves in his book Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet portrays a totally different image of Pharaoh, seeing his religious reformations as mere attempts for centralizing power and solidify his role as "divine monarch".
There has also been interest in the identity of the Pharaoh Smenkhkare who was the immediate successor to Akhenaten. In particular descriptions on a small box seemed to refer to Smenkhkare beloved of Akhenaten.
This gave rise to the idea that Akhenaten might have been bisexual. This theory seems to originate from objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamen in the 1920s. The Egyptologist Percy Newberry then linked this to one of the stele exhibited in the Berlin Museum which pictured two rulers, naked and seated together – the older caressing the younger and the shoulder offering support. He identified these with the rulers Akhenaten and Smenkhkare. Coinciding with the disappearance of Nefertiti’s name from all records towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign.
In the 1970s John Harris identified the figure pictured alongside Akhenaten as Nefertiti, arguing that she may have actually been elevated to co-regent and perhaps even succeeded temporarily as an independent ruler; changing her name to Smenkhkare.
Egyptologists like Nicholas Reeves contend that Smenkhkare was the same person as Neferneferuaten who ruled together with Akhenaten as co-regents for the final one or two years of Akhenaten's reign. On several monuments, the two are shown seated side-by-side.
Some others believe Smenkhkare was likely to have been a half-brother or a son to Akhenaten.
In the arts
Notes and references
- ^ a b "/akhenaten Akhenaten". dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse /akhenaten. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- ^ "Encylopaedia Brittanica Article". http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9005276/Akhenaton.
- ^ Beckerath (1997) p.190
- ^ a b Clayton (2006), p.120
- ^ Trigger et al. (2001), pp.186-7
- ^ Donald B. Redford, Akhenaten: the Heretic King. Princeton UP, 1984, p. 172.
- ^ S. McAvoy, "Mummy 61074: a Strange Case of Mistaken Identity", Antiguo Oriente 5 (2007): 183-194.
- ^ Nefertiti and the Lost Dynasty
- ^ "The family of Akhenaton". http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/ideology/king/familyakhenaton.html. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- ^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson (2004), p.154
"The Mitanni Kingdom was a powerful force around 15-1300 BC
and are regarded by many historians as the ancestors
of the modern day Armenians."; Mitanni were partly Indo-European and partly Hurrian people, although Hurrian is not
Indo-European.TourEgypt; "Mitanni". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008.Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 9 June 2008;
Armeno-Aryan subgroup linguistic term see site for more info from the IE studies
Indo-European family tree, showing Indo-European languages and
Russell D. Gray and
Quentin D. Atkinson, Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin,
Nature 426 (27 November 2003) 435-439; Colin Renfrew, Archaeology and Language, 159-60;
Thomas V. Gamkrelidze & Vyacheslav V. Ivanov,
Indoevropejskij jazyk i indoevropejtsy (Tbilisi, 1984)
- ^ Thomas V. Gamkrelidze & Vyacheslav V. Ivanov, “The Ancient Near East and the Indo-European Question
- ^ Moran (1992), pp.87-89
- ^ Moran (1992), p.203
and Rib Hadda from Byblos".
- ^ a b Bryce (1998), p.186
- ^ Moran (1992), p.xxvi
- ^ Moran (2003) pp.368-69
- ^ Moran (1992), pp.248-250
- ^ Moran (1992), pp.248-249
- ^ Bryce (1998), p.188
- ^ Bryce (1998), p.p.189
- ^ Moran (1992), p.145
- ^ Schulman (1982), pp.299-316
- ^ Allen (2006), p.1
- ^ Reeves (2000) p.77
- ^ Berman (1998) p.23
- ^ Allen (2006), p.5
- ^ Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss and David Warburton (editors), Handbook of Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill: 2006, pp.207 & 493
- ^ Pocket Guides: Egypt History, p.37, Dorling Kindersley, London 1996.(the Neferneferuaten part is taken from Wikipedia Nefertiti entry)
- ^ Nicholas Reeves. "Book Review: Rolf Krauss, Das Ende der Amarnazeit (Hildesheimer Ägyptologische Beiträge, 1978)". http://www.nicholasreeves.com/item.aspx?category=Writing&id=71. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- ^ Ancient Egypt online Akhenaten Accessed 21 June 2009
- ^ Scholtissek C, Naylor E (1988). "Fish farming and influenza pandemics". Nature 331 (6153): 215. doi:10.1038/331215a0. PMID 2827036.
- ^ Ancient Egypt Online Akhenaten Accessed 21 Feb 2007
- ^ Choi, et al. (2001) pp.361-8
- ^ Webster (2001), pp.1817–28
- ^ Shortridge (1992), pp.11–25
- ^ Arielle Kozloff (2006), pp.36-46
- ^ a b David (1998), p.125
- ^ a b c Freud, S. (1939). Moses and Monotheism: Three Essays.
- ^ Gunther Siegmund Stent, Paradoxes of Free Will. American Philosophical Society, DIANE, 2002. 284 pages. Pages 34 - 38. ISBN 0871699265
- ^ Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Harvard University Press, 1997. 288 pages. ISBN 0674587391
- ^ N. Shupak, The Monotheism of Moses and the Monotheism of Akhenaten. Sevivot, 1995.
- ^ a b c d e f g Montserrat, (2000)
- ^ William F. Albright, From the Patriarchs to Moses II. Moses out of Egypt. The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 36, No. 2 (May, 1973), pp. 48-76. doi 10.2307/3211050
- ^ S. Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXIII (1937-1939), "Moses and monotheism". London: Hogarth Press, 1964.
- ^ Curtis, Samuel (2005), "Primitive Semitic Religion Today" (Kessinger Publications)
- ^ Assmann, Jan. (1997). Moses the Egyptian. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; pp. 23-24, fn. 2.
- ^ The first commandment prohibits the making of images of God. Judaism is an aniconic religion.
- ^ The Bible Unearthed p. 255-257
- ^ Yuya's titles included "Overseer of the Cattle of Amun and Min (Lord of Akhmin)", "Bearer of the Ring of the King of Lower Egypt", "Mouth of the King of Upper Egypt", and "The Holy Father of the Lord of the Two Lands" among others. For more see: Osman, A. (1987). Stranger in the Valley of the Kings: solving the mystery of an ancient Egyptian mummy. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp.29-30
- ^ Montet, Pierre (1964), "Eternal Egypt" (New American Press)
- ^ Redford, Donald B. (1993), "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times" (Princeton University Press)
- ^ Petri (19th century Egyptologist) Petri Museum in London,England named after him
- ^ a b The Monotheism of the Heretic Pharaoh: Precursor of Mosiac monotheism or Egyptian anomaly?", Donald B. Redford, Biblical Archaeology Review, May-June edition 1987
- ^ "Creation and the persistence of evil", Jon Douglas Levenson, p. 60, Princeton University Press, 1994, ISBN 0691029504
- ^ "Akhenaten and the religion of light", Erik Hornung, David Lorton, p. 14, Cornell University Press, 2001, ISBN 978-0-8014-8725-5
- ^ "Aspects of Monotheism", Donald B. Redford, Biblical Archeology Review, 1996
- ^ Aldred, C. (1988). "Akhenaten, King of Egypt". (Thames and Hudson, Ltd.,)
- ^ Burridge, A., (1995) "Did Akhenaten Suffer From Marfan's Syndrome?" (Akhenaten Temple Project Newsletter No. 3, Sept. 1995)
- ^ Lorenz, Maegara "The Mystery of Akhenaton: Genetics or Aesthetics"
- ^ "Did Akhenaton Suffer from Marfan's Syndrome"
- ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3065140 accessed 23rd June 2009
- ^ Reeves, Nicholas (2005) "Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet" (Thames and Hudson)
- ^ Immanuel Velikovsky, Oedipus and Akhnaton, Myth and History, Doubleday, 1960.
- ^ Sir Flinders Petrie, History of Egypt (edit. 1899), Vol. II, p. 214.
- ^ H. R. Hall, Ancient History of the Near East, p. 599.
- ^ Grimal, Nicolas, A History of Ancient Egypt, French 1988, English 1992
- ^ Nicholas Reeves and Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings. Thames & Hudson, 1996.
- Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames and Hudson, 2006
- Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, (1997)
- Rosalie David, Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt, Facts on File Inc., 1998
- Trigger, B.G, Kemp, B.G, O'Conner, D and Lloyd, A.B (2001). Ancient Egypt, A Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
- Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Clarendon Press, 1998.
- A.R. Schulman, "The Nubian War of Akhenaten" in L'Egyptologie en 1979: Axes prioritaires de recherchs II (Paris: 1982)
- James H. Allen (2006). "The Amarna Succession" (PDF). http://history.memphis.edu/murnane/Allen%20-%20Amarna%20Succession.pdf. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- Lawrence M. Berman, 'Overview of Amenhotep III and His Reign,' in Amenhotep III: Perspectives on his Reign, ed: David O'Connor & Eric Cline
- Nicholas Reeves, Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet, Thames & Hudson, 2000
- Montserrat, Dominic (2000). Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and ancient Egypt. Routledge. OCLC 0-415-30186-6.
- Kozloff, Arielle (2006). "Bubonic Plague in the Reign of Amenhotep III?". KMT 17 (3).
- Choi B, Pak A (2001). "Lessons for surveillance in the 21st century: a historical perspective from the past five millennia". Soz Praventivmed 46 (6): 361–8. doi:10.1007/BF01321662. PMID 11851070.
- Webby R, Webster R (2001). "Emergence of influenza A viruses". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 356 (1416): 1817–28. doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.0997. PMID 11779380.
- Shortridge K (1992). "Pandemic influenza: a zoonosis?". Semin Respir Infect 7 (1): 11–25. PMID 1609163.
- Bilolo, Mubabinge (2004) . "Sect. I, vol. 2" (in French). Le Créateur et la Création dans la pensée memphite et amarnienne. Approche synoptique du Document Philosophique de Memphis et du Grand Hymne Théologique d'Echnaton (new ed.). Munich-Paris: Academy of African Thought.
- Rita E. Freed, Yvonne J. Markowitz, and Sue H. D'Auria (ed.) (1999). Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten - Nefertiti - Tutankhamen. Bulfinch Press. ISBN 0-8212-2620-7.
- Devi, Savitri, A Son of God (full text) (Philosophical Publishing House [London], 1946); subsequent editions published as Son of the Sun: The Life and Philosophy of Akhnaton, King of Egypt (Supreme Grand Lodge of A.M.O.R.C., 1956); part III of The Lightning and the Sun is focused on Akhnaten.
- Gestoso Singer, Graciela (2008) El Intercambio de Bienes entre Egipto y Asia Anterior. Desde el reinado de Tuthmosis III hasta el de Akhenaton Free Access (Spanish) Ancient Near East Monographs, Volume 2.Buenos Aires, Society of Biblical Literature - CEHAO. ISBN 978-987-20606-4-0
- Holland, Tom, The Sleeper in the Sands (novel), (Abacus, 1998, ISBN 0-349-11223-1), a fictionalised adventure story based closely on the mysteries of Akhenaten's reign
- Hornung, Erik, Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, translated by David Lorton (Cornell University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8014-3658-3)
- Najovits, Simson,Egypt, Trunk of the Tree, Volume I, The Contexts, Volume II, The Consequences, Algora Publishing, New York, 2003 and 2004. On Akhenaten: Vol. II, Chapter 11, pp. 117–173 and Chapter 12, pp. 205–213.
- O'Connor, David; Eric Cline (1998). Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-10742-9.
- Phillips, Graham, Act of God: Moses, Tutankhamun and the Myth of Atlantis, (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1998, ISBN 0-283-06314-9); republished as Atlantis and the Ten Plagues of Egypt: The Secret History Hidden in the Valley of the Kings (Bear & Co., 2003, paperback, ISBN 1-59143-009-7)
- Redford, Donald B., Akhenaten: The Heretic King (Princeton University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-691-03567-9)
- Reeves, Nicholas (2001). Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05106-2.
- Velikovsky, Immanuel (1960). Oedipus and Akhnaton: Myth and History. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-00529-6.
- El Mahdy, Christine (1999). Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of a Boy King. Headline. ISBN 0-7472-6000-1.
- Najovits, Simson (2004). Egypt, Trunk of the Tree, Volume II, The Consequences. New York: Algora Publishing.
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