.. man who enjoys intellectual pleasures over traditional manly pleasures such as hunting. A young man who may not be strong and sure of himself as ruler. Yet there are those around him, priests of Amen, who are strong politically and financially and wish to stay that way. No matter who is in power.
Will this situation have an affect on the reign of Akhenaten? His first few years show no great revolutionary intentions. He makes his sister Nefertity his queen. Like his mother, his queen is a strong and influential woman. She appears almost trice as many times as her husband in the talatats. And she is seen holding a sword or club.
We will discuss the role of Akhenaten and his family life later. He continues to worship the god Amen. In fact the name of the god is mentioned along side that of AMENHOTEP IV and many of his officials. And a high priest of Amen is still in favor in the early years of his reign . But by the third year of his reign we see a shift in attitude.
AMENHOTEP IV decided to hold a jubilee. This was highly untraditional, since the jubilee was normally held to celebrate 30 years or more of rule. Scholars speculate that the jubilee may not have been for Amenhotep IV himself and maybe for the king and Aten as co-rulers. During the jubilee there was a procession of the gods. This procession however was unusual because the normally closed shrine of the gods are now open and without roofs so that the god Aten can shine his life giving rays down upon them.
This can be seen as the start of the revolutionary path that Amenhotep IV would travel. He began his worship of Aten by building a temple in Thebes. The temple was built on the east side of the temple Amen so that it would cast the first rays of the sun each morning, even before the temple of Amen did. We can see by this decision to place the temple in a better place than that of Amen that Amenhotep IV is placing Aten ahead of Amen. He must have wanted the temple to be built quickly because he ordered the built using smaller blocks of stone called talat at, which made for faster construction. Because Aten is the sun disk god, the temple was open and without a roof so that the rays of Aten could shine down upon it.
It is noted that no other building projects took place to the east of the temple. By the 5th year of his reign Amenhotep IV has made Aten his personal god. He also changed his name to Akhenaten, which means “He who serves Aten”. This name change and the making of Aten his own personal god is now seen as a reflection of the change in the state policy. Akhenaten now decides that a temple is not enough.
This desire to create something bigger and better for his new god, along with other factors that we will mention later move Akhenaten to build a new capital. That new capital city dedicated to Aten is to be built in El-Armarna to be named Akhenatenehet-Aten, which means “The place of the effective glory of Aten”. This new capital city was built with many courtyards and had the feeling of being open to the air so that the sun disk could be worshiped in all its glory. It was well planned and ordered. The royal palace was built in the north of the city. It was a large complex of many types of buildings and offices. There was a ceremonial palace which led to a large residential area.
This then lead to the official section which held the main temple of Aten and a large ceremonial palace which served as a place for public’s ceremonial activities of the king took place. This was surrounded by the office of the government and the police headquarters. There was a smaller temple the was surrounded by a fortified wall which led to the small official city in which the high officials lived. The residents who lived there included the chief of police , the vizier, high priest, the mayor and other high officials of the city and government. He swore an oath never to go beyond the bounds of the city.
This is today taken not to mean that he would never leave it, but that he wouldn’t push the bounds of the city beyond designated boundary stones. Or that when he died that he would be buried here. The questions we should ask now is who is this god Aten? Why did Akhenaten decide to make him the one all powerful god, and build another capital city to move to? Aten appears to ever presented both the sun god in the solar disk itself. Aten first appears in the Middle Kingdoms as a small form of the sun god. He is related to the bull of Hehopetis.
Most often Aten is represented as the round disk of the sun. The light and warmth from him was the source of all life. Unlike other gods he had no animal or human form. Because he is the sun disk ,and his rays give life, his temples were not covered and were open. There’s a strong relationship between Aten and Ma-at, which is truth. The idea of truth here can be seen as what is natural, or from nature.
This ideal for truth in nature makes sense due to the fact that the life giving rays of the sun disk are an essential part of nature. Therefore it was said that relationship of Aten and Ma-at was that Aten was living in truth. Aten officially becomes, “One who is satisfied with Ma-At”. As we’ve seen Aten was the god of no great consequence during the first part of the New Kingdom. But now to what seems to be a sudden move the king of Egypt changes his name and the location of the capital city of Egypt, all to worship this little-known god. Here’s a man who rules all of Egypt.
The greatest empire of the time. But was he indeed the ruler? When he took over as king as a young boy of 10 or 11 in 1375 B.C.80 there are factions that held great power and wanted to keep control of that power. Those who ran the administration, especially in the upper echelons, welded great power. These positions and government posts have been held by families for years, handed down from son the son. These families were nobles who generated great wealth. We can imagine that those families that were entrenched in the decision making process of the government felt that they were the true authority of the government.
Noted historian Donald Redford claims that the young king, due to being sheltered and ignored as a youth, did not know these families. And because of a lack of confidence did not trust the people around him and preferred to replace them with his own people whom he trusted. Add the this the wealthy and powerful priesthood of Amen. For generations families have gained power and wealth by serving a different posts for the god of Amen. May we even consider the idea that there was a good working relationship between the priesthood in the people which held office in the government? And let us not forget the great influence of his mother how seems to already know the practice of the worship of Aten.
A mother who has raised him and taught him. A queen mother that could give him advice and had a good bit of influence over him. The one of a few that he could really trust. The army is often seen protecting the king. And there are rumors of discontent , probably Among the priests and nobles.
In Akhenaten’s mind there are untrustworthy and enemy people among those who are supposed to serve him. So the best move is a real move. To the new city of his new god and a place where he can start fresh with the new regime that he has put in place. A the new city where he is surrounded by those who he can trust. He brought those new nobles with him.
They were new or lesser nobles who followed him to the new capital either because they believed in their new king and Aten, or because they knew which side their bread was buttered on. These nobles now seek favor by showing faith in Aten. He is now safely tucked away in his new capital surrounded by his army and faithful followers. Taking advice from the few people he can trust, his wife, mother and priest, Aye. Historians believe that Aye was the brother of Tiye and a right hand man of the king, who had great influence over him.
Akhenaten can now begin to destroy his enemies whether real or imaginary. This means whipping out the priesthood of Amen, the nobles who support them and all the other priesthood’s that might grow strong. And the best way to destroy the priesthood is to destroy the gods that the priests worship. And thus he proceeds to wipe out the other gods of Egypt, and especially Amen. His desire is to make Aten the only god of Egypt. He sent his soldiers and henchmen to the temples of Amen and other gods to destroy them.
He had the term “gods” erased in writings. In fact the very word for “gods” was forbidden. If there are not many “gods” there must be only one god. The word “Mother” associated with the goddess Mut, of Thebes. Mut was represented by the hieroglyph of a vulture.
AKHENATEN had the vulture removed in texts and language and replace with the alphabet signs for mother. He even eliminated the god Osiris the beloved god that helped those who where traveling to the underworld. Funeral rites now excluded Osiris and began the tradition of Akhenaten being the source of blessings after death. The story of Osirsis tells of ones judgement of good vs. evil in the travel to the afterlife in the underworld.
Can this is seen by some as indicating that Akhenaten was not interested in the ethics of religion? Akhenaten’s view of faith tends to deal with what is fresh and new. Ideas revolved around a more intellectual view of the natural world. Life is not looked at in the context of what is good or bad but what is new or old. And indeed we see in the art of the time, which will me discussed later, that nature and not ethics tends to be a main theme during Akhenaten rule. Aten is now the sole god of Egypt.
At least in the king’s mind. But Aten is Akhenaten’s personal god. Only the king can speak to Aten. Only the royal family were real trained worshipers of Aten. All others must worship the king as a king-god, who alone knows and understands Aten. Akhenaten has destroyed the other Amen.
Eliminated or greatly weakened the priesthood of other gods and surrounded himself with like thinking yes men. He is living safe and secure in his own world of his own creation. Life is good.As Mel Brooks would say, “It’s good to be king.” Other changes take place during this period along with the religious changes. Changes that mark this period as revolutionary. A new art form began to develop.
It was inventive and exciting. It began to portray different types of scenes. It showed more domestic pictures. Pictures of Akhenaten kissing his wife, in ceremony, or at the dinner table with his family. One mural of Akhenaten’s daughters shows them in playful poses, studied defiance of all rules of Pharoanic dignity. Scenes of busy markets and soldier’s guardrooms were depicted.
These are scenes of everyday life, instead dealing with ertenal things. There is seen a truth in art. More natural scenes with dogs running and game fleeing the hunt. An example of a new style of art was the portrait of Nefertiti. It must have offended the traditionalists.
It gave a delicate and fleeting impression instead of presenting the appearance of solidity and endurance. But not all was well in the empire during the later years of the king. The people did not understand the new religion. Nor did they like it. They were used to the old way of many gods.
And in particular the god Osiris. Add to the fact that Akhenaten was not a warrior but an intellectual and that he had a dislike for war. And he had no time for foreign affairs or politics. He didn’t give the army much thought and there were problems from the Hittites on Egypt’s northern border. The army is starting to join forces with the people and priest classes to format plans to overthrow the king. Things at home are not going so well either.
AMENHOTEP IV second daughter, Meketaten, dies around the fourteenth year of reign. Also about this time Nefertity his queen seems to have fallen out of favor, exiled or maybe died. This may be too much for the king. He marries his daughter, MaritAten, to Smenkhkare. Akhenaten named Smenkhkare as his successor and perhaps co-ruler. A short time later, in about1358 BC Akhenaten dies and Smenkhkare ascends the throne.
Smenkhkare is not a strong leader and soon the power of the priests of Amen rise again. Smenkhkare soon “disappears” and we don’t hear from him again. Tutenkhaten is crowned king and we see him strike a deal with the priests of Amen and he leaves Akhenaten’s capital and return to Thebes. He tries to carry on the worship of Aten but the priests are growing strong again and soon the worship is of Amen is allowed. Thus ending the reign of Aten as the “sole god” of Egypt. In conclussion we see that maybe that Akhenaten was not the revonlutionary heritic that he is made out to be.
He was a very young man who happened to be the ruler of a vast empire. A young man who because of physical disfigurements lead a sheltered life. And now is forced into a leadership role surrounded by people he did not know or trust. And he escapes into his own world with the few people he does trust. Brave religious leader, or maybe just a scared and insecure little ten year old boy! History Essays.