Akhenaten Pharoah of Egypt

Historical Content

Akhenaten was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Century dynasty of Egypt. His name was the meaning of "living spirit of Aten". Akhenaten was not originally organised for the throne until the death of his brother, Thutmose. He then was living at the peak of Egypt's imperial glory. At this time Egypt had never been richer, more powerful and extremely secure. Akhenaten was known for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten. He introduced this new religion that only believed in one god that meant Egypt's people were suppose to forget all other gods. As Egypt were so set in their traditional religious practices and were not ready to understand other ways quite yet it was never fully accepted. Documents have shown that Akhenaten also cared little for the army,navy, foreign trade began to fall and also internal taxes were disappearing.

Background and the Rise to Prominence

Akhenaten, whose birth name was Amenhotep was the second son of the Pharoah Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye. He had eight sisters, five of them with the names of; Sitamun, Iset, Henuttaneb, Nebetiah and Baketaten. His older brother, heir to the throne, died young which became one of the main reasons he was even potentiality considered for being pharaoh. The circumstances of Akhenaten's access to the throne are unclear, opinion on possibility of co-regency is divided.

Akhenaten was born around the year 18 of his father's reign when the family lived at Memphis in the North of Egypt. Very little is know of his childhood and education but it is believed he may of been trained to be a priest. When the family moved from Memphis to a new palace at Malkata in West Thebes, Akhenaten began his married at some stage with Nefertiti (best-known Egyptian woman at the time). Then they moved to East Karnak as soon as the palace Akhenaten had wanted was completed. Akhenaten ended up having 10 children and one of those well known to us is Tutankhamun.

In the Eighteenth Dynasty Egyptian society was highly stratified and had a complex hierarchy, dominated by the all-powerful pharaoh and his court. Beneath him were political, economic, religious and military structures that carried out administration of Egypt. Although some of the most important people belonged to these groups in the early New Kingdom. The increasing prominence of Amun throughout this period guaranteed status and wealth to its high-ranking officials. It was very difficult but to move up the social ladder, meaning many were living in a world of harsh labour and starvation.

Social Class

Main features of Akhenaten's career involved:

Becoming pharaoh: Akhenaten was the son who succeeded his father, as he was not originally suppose to have the throne. Its still a debate though if he was crowned prince after his father's death.
One of the first major changes as Emperor was modifying temples in his kingdom. An example found was of the south entrance of The Temple, 'Amun-Re' where the walls were decorated with Akhenaten worshipping the sun god (Re-Harakhte).
Introducing a new religion to Egypt: Most rulers think of invading neighbouring kingdoms to expand their territory but Akhenaten's interests involved making Egypt 'Atenism' as the only religion. Akhenaten was also known for writing a long hymn in praise of the Sun God.
Moving the capital city: This capital city was moved from Thebes to a place now called Amarna, 300km north, on desert bay and at the east side of the Nile river where he built a new city. This new city had spacious villas, pools and grand gardens. Akhenaten encouraged artistic arts on walls of temples and houses that were all a new style. This city was later abandoned once he died and the capital city was Thebes yet again.
Later neglecting neighbouring kingdoms: Akhenaten was well-known amongst rulers of other dynasties.Though he did not have any intention on helping to pay for any others that were struggling. He also refused to send troops after he was asked continually to help capture the kingdom of Hittite. Documents also show he cared little for any of his services such as the army and ignored political problems ever addressed to him.

Legacy: Tutankhaten became pharoah (son of Akhenaten), at aged nine and married one of his father's daughters who was aged twelve. He changed his name to 'Tutankhamun' as a symbol of the revolution. They set up their main seat of government at Memphis and with the capital city Thebes.

What researchers believe Tutankhumun looked like

Tutankhamun promised to make restoration and retribution to the old gods, including paying for the damaged temples and demoloshing the temples of Amun-Re, the Sun God. Every trace of Atenism was wiped out although some artistic and cultural changes were kept temporarily. These changes were a representation of the old culture and the religious revolution.

The independence of the pharaoh was lost. The attempt at autonomy had failed.

  1. Ancient Interpretations: Tutankhuman speaks of the time of Akhenaten as a period of "sickness" and neglect of the gods, deserting Egypt.
  2. Ay as king, near Akhminum speaks of this time period being "evil" and the "destruction of right".
  3. In the 19th Dynasty overall Akhenaten was referred to as "the heretic" and " thats criminal of Akhenaten"
  4. Horemheb added "corruption" to the list of ills.
  5. Modern Interpretations: Early 1900s- Weigall interpreted Akhenaten i n the light of his own Victorian views. He believed there were 'simple and homely' qualities in the reign that was 'worthy of admiration'.
  6. 1920s- Newberry came from a liberal time where Akhenaten being homosexual was being discussed but never accepted.
  7. 1960s- Sir Mortimer WHeeler wrote, 'this remarkable man, who broke up with Egyptian traditian'. 'If he dreamed rather than ruled, that is a part of the marvel'.
  8. 1980s- To Redford, Akhenaten was 'ugly', 'a poor judge of character', 'not gifted as an administrator' and 'effete'. Although withsome 'ability as a poet', and a 'flair for art , sculpture and design.'

By Jarriah Lawson


Created with images by George M. Groutas - "Altes Museum (Berlin) - Nefertiti" • isawnyu - "Workers' Village (II)" • ancientartpodcast.org - "The Royal Family of Akhenaten (Berlin 14145)" • Tilemahos Efthimiadis - "Social Structure in Ancient Egypt" • Jorge Lascar - "The double row of columns with papyrus bundle capitals - The Court of Amonhotep III - Luxor Temple" • jarekgrafik - "egypt ancient archeology" • get directly down - "King Tut" • History Maps - "Egypt - Akhenaten Composing his Hymn to the SUn"

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