Akhenaten: Egyptian Pharaoh, Nefertiti's Husband, Tut's Father
Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Queen, Nefertiti, are unique spirits among the multitude of artistic geniuses "If help does not come, Bikhura will be unable to hold Kumidi. . There is no known connection to the cone-headed skulls found in Peru. Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, fulfilled several important functions in . gift of gold was a great honour to a man, but such an honour in relation to a. Akhenaten's statues depict him as rather grotesque with an Does this mean a break-up in family relationships, a new art style, or the death of Nefertiti? . with his religious reforms that these pleas for help fell on deaf ears.
Extensively edited for AscendingPassage. The Religious Revolt of the Poet King Akhenaten Akhenaton ruled circa BC resolved, while yet a boy, to fight against "the selfish and the strong". In his time much power was held by the priests of Amon, and these were prone to tyranny.
The Egyptian prince began to embrace and develop the theological beliefs of the obscure Aten solar cult, and set forth to convince an unheeding world. As it happened, Akhenaten ascended the throne with the noble desire to make all men "wise, and just, and free, and mild", just when the Empire was in need of strenuous military campaigns against hordes of invaders and rebellious Syrian princes. Before Akhenaten's father died, Thebes received ominous reports of the southward pressure of the Hittites and also of the advance on Palestine of the Khabri.
Students sculpted in the Amarna artistic style. Akhenaten began his reign as Amenhotep IV. He immediately began to erect a temple to Aten or Aton in close proximity to the great temple of Amon at Karnac.
Before long there was an open fight between the entrenched priesthood of Amon and the Pharaoh. Amon's high priests were accustomed to occupying high and influential positions at Court; under Amenhotep III one priest had been chief treasurer and another grand vizier.
Akhenaten was threatening the cult with political extinction. Then something occurred, or was attempted by the priestly party, which roused the ire of the strong-minded young king, for he suddenly began a war of bitter persecution against Amon. Everywhere the god's name was chipped from the monuments; the tombs were entered, and the young Pharaoh did not spare even the name of his father.
It was at this time that he became known officially as Akhenaten Akhenaton or Akhen-aton"the spirit of Aten" or "Aten is satisfied" -- the human incarnation of the solar god. Akhenaten decided to leave Thebes, and at el-Amarna, about miles north, he caused to be laid out a "garden city", in which were built a gorgeous palace which surpassed that of his father, and a great temple dedicated to "the one and only god" Aten. When he entered his new capital, which he called Akhetaten Horizon of Atenthe young king resolved never to leave it again.
Section Akhenaten and Monotheism
Note the first "t" in the city name, Akhetaten, the Pharaoh's name has a "n": Akhenaten There, associating with believers only, he dedicated his life to the service of Aten and the propagation of those beliefs which, he was convinced, would make the world a paradise if, and when, mankind accepted them.
Meanwhile alarming news poured in from Syria. There perhaps is some ritual meaning, or is the Pharaoh having tea? In the stately temple at Akhetaten, made beautiful by sculptor and painter, and strewn daily with bright and perfumed flowers, Akhenaten continued to adore Aten with all the abandon and sustaining faith of a cloistered medieval monk. No sacrifices were offered up in his temple, the flowers and fruits of the earth were laid on the altars.
Hard things are often said about Akhenaten. Dark stories spread about his personal life. We must recognize that he was a profoundly serious man with a great mission, a high-souled prophet if an impractical Pharaoh. While the empire suffered some small losses during his rule, Akhenaten did not neglect his kingly duties to the extent that has often been portrayed. Yet, he believed he had higher responsibilities. He stood for culture and universal brotherhood, and his message to mankind is a vital thing which survives to us from Egypt, amidst the relics of the past.
Akhenaten believed in the "one and only god", Aten, whose power was manifested in the beneficent Sun. The great deity was Father of all mankind, provided for their needs and fixed the length of their days. Aten was revealed in beauty, and his worshipers were required to live beautiful lives--the cultured mind abhorred all that was evil, and sought after "the things which are most excellent".
Akhenaten promoted the idea of universal brotherhood, and dreamed and strived for a beautiful world pervaded by universal peace. Although Aten was a Sun god, he was not the material Sun - he was the First Cause manifested by the Sun, "from which all things came, and from which ever issued forth the life-giving and life-sustaining influence symbolized by rays ending in hands that support and nourish human beings".
How much Akhenaten understood we cannot say, but he had certainly bounded forward in his views and symbolism to a position which we cannot logically improve upon at the present day. No 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 or Adon of the Universe".
Akhenaten: mad, bad, or brilliant?
Aten is the solar disk and Shu is the air god, the source of "the air of life". Shu is also associated with the Sun. Shu as the atmosphere is manifested by lightning and fire as well as by tempest. Shu is thus not only "air which is in the Sun", but also, according to Akhenaton's religion, "heat which is in Aten".
The development of Aten religion may have been advanced by Yuaa, Queen Tiy's father Akhenaten's grandfatherduring the reign of Amenhotep III, when it appears to have been introduced in Thebian Court circles, but it reached its ultimate splendour as a result of the philosophical teachings of the young genius Akhenaten.
Royal couple from Amarna. Photograph by Andreas Praefcke, CreativeCommons When Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti were depicted worshiping Aten, the rays which stretched out from the sun and ended in hands not only supported their bodies but pressed towards their nostrils and lips the "ankh", the symbol of life.
The air of life was the Sun-heated air; life was warmth and breath. Why the "ankh" touched the lips is clearly indicated in the great hymn. When the child is born, Aten: The marked difference between the various Egyptian and mideastern gods and the god of Akhenaten is that Aten was not the chief of a pantheon of gods, he was the one and only god.
Several in the family have somewhat long heads, the trait became an artistic convention in Amarna. There is no known connection to the cone-headed skulls found in Peru.
Photograph by Miguel Cuesta, CreativeCommons. Akhenaten's hymn to Aten The chief source of our knowledge of Akhenaten's religion is his great hymn, one of the finest surviving versions was found in the tomb of a royal official at el-Amarna.
Akhenaton's hymn to Aten is believed to have been his own composition. Its beauty is indicated in the following extracts from Prof. When thou risest in the eastern horizon of heaven, Thou fillest every land with thy beauty. When thou settest in the western horizon of heaven, The world is in darkness like the dead. Bright is the earth when thou risest in the horizon, When thou shinest as Aten by day. The darkness is banished, when thou sendest forth thy rays.
How manifold are all thy works, They are hidden from before us, O thou sole god, whose powers no other possesseth, Thou didst create the earth according to thy desire While thou wast alone. The world is in thy hand, Even as thou hast made them. When thou hast risen, they live. When thou settest, they die. For thou art duration, beyond thy mere limbs.
By thee man liveth, And their eyes look upon thy beauty, Until thou settest. More than one Egyptian at the time, particularly those in the Amun priesthood, must have asked themselves, "Sun disks?
In fact, it looked forward more than backwards in time, at least inasmuch as the new religion prefigured a very different conception of godhead. Though the aten is sometimes depicted as having human or animal attributes, their frequent absence stands in strong contrast to standard Egyptian practice. The goddess Isis, for instance, is often shown as part-woman, part-cow, and the face of her deceased husband Osiris is sometimes painted green to demonstrate that he represents the rebirth of vegetation in the spring.
But unlike either of them, Akhenaten's aten is the font of all being, which means by nature he cannot be restricted in form, and thus is almost always presented as the aptly universal and geometric solar circle. The little hands attached to his sun-rays run counter to this perception of the god and are, no doubt, a reflection of convention and popular taste. Even to say "he" of the aten is perhaps too restrictive for this universalist conception of deity—gender is clearly not relevant to sun-disks—and stranger yet, to say "he" of Akhenaten himself isn't always valid either.
Akhenaten and Nefertiti
Male and female styles which are usually discrete in traditional Egyptian art blend together in peculiar fashion throughout Amarna culture, extending as far as royal portraiture. Akhenaten, for instance, is shown in a series of colossi large statues; singular, colossus lacking male genitalia, and in general, his depiction is odd, to say the least. He's often portrayed as pot-bellied, slouching, thick-lipped, with a big chin and pointed head, which has led scholars to suppose he suffered from some sort of birth defect, resulting in eunuchoidism.
But if so, how did he sire a family, for in art he appears with as many as six different daughters? And those are only the ones he had by his principal wife.
That raises another fascinating and enigmatic issue concerning Akhenaten's revolution, the centrality of his family in the public presentation of his regime. Not only do we have many depictions of the beautiful Nefertiti, Akhenaten's principal wife—more, in fact, than of Akhenaten himself!
Reliefs even show the royal couple playing with the girls. Like no pharaoh before or after him, Akhenaten was family-oriented. Thus, it seems unlikely he was a eunuch, but instead the real father of the children he professes, at least through his art, to adore so fondly.
But the gender-bending portraits of him seem ill-suited for such a family man, by modern standards at least. And Nefertiti's depictions are not immune to cross-gendering, either. She's shown at least once wearing the blue crown, the helmet kings don as they go into battle.
She's the only Egyptian queen ever known to have been depicted that way, including Hatshepsut, the woman who ruled Egypt singlehandedly for two decades a century before see Section 9. There's something very odd, by any standard, about the way the Amarna rulers chose to portray themselves. Indeed, the entire family is depicted with elongated faces and skulls, wide hips and sagging bellies. The tall hat Nefertiti wears in her famous bust is probably covering—perhaps even accentuating—her pointed head beneath, even though surely she was not congenitally deformed, and as the mother of six daughters, certainly not barren.
Nor were the girls, which is all the more evidence Akhenaten also was not. Naturalistic portraiture seems a less likely explanation of the oddities inherent in this family than some sort of stylized rendering. There's doubtless something abnormal about them, but what? That the royal family was the only group ever portrayed this way is surely a clue. To depict Akhenaten's entire immediate family—and only them—in such an unusual manner must signify something.
Perhaps their different look is meant to highlight exactly that, the fact that they're different. Maybe the royal family is supposed to represent something alien, transcendental, not bound to human or earthly distinctions such as gender.
It's easy to see why this would appeal to Akhenaten, nor is it hard to understand why Nefertiti might go along with being designated as super-special, and the children would, of course, have been too young to have a choice or even know the difference. All this concurs well with Akhenaten's religion, where the pharaoh was said to serve as the conduit between humanity and the aten.
In other words, it's through and because of him the sun-disk bestows life on the planet. In his own words, a hymn Akhenaten claims to have composed himself about the aten, "There is no other who knows you except your son, Akhenaten. One way or another, before Akhenaten's day the Egyptians had always considered the sun a god and the royal family was for the most part seen as divine, but as the only divine presence in the universe? That, indeed, was something different. The imagery of Amarna culture with all of its strangeness has attracted not only scholars but a wide range of iconoclasts, revolutionaries and weirdos of every ilk, who have latched onto this radiant, unworldly, rebel pharaoh and more often than not caught the reflection of their own oddity in his slouching, fat-lipped silhouette.
The many answers posited to the riddle of Akhenaten are, in any case, less important than the few, frail realities clinging to his reign and the questions they leave at our feet. Among them, how did he sustain such a bizarre reordering of the celestial kingdom? For more than a decade, we must remember, Akhenaten kept his divine fantasies afloat even as he faced down the Amun priesthood, traditional cults in Egypt and a nation long nurtured on a pantheon of gods numbering by that day in the thousands.
Before we can ask why any of this happened or what happened to it, we must first try to understand how it happened at all. Akhenaten must have had some supporters, besides the usual lunatic fringe and sycophant wing who will follow any maniac into the wilderness. A hint about their identity comes in one of the Amarna reliefs in which Nefertiti holds up the decapitated head of a foreign captive. That suggests some sort of military activity during Akhenaten's reign, an event history bears no evidence of otherwise.
But that's not surprising really, given later pharaohs' destruction of records from this day. Any boast of victory in foreign wars the monomaniacal monotheist might have issued isn't likely to have survived their holocaust. So, if Akhenaten did have the support of the Egyptian army—and there's no real evidence to the contrary—his revolution would make much more sense. Still, an army backing an effeminate, secluded, family-loving, pointy-headed sun freak seems highly improbable by the standards of today.
Then again, how much can we rely on our modern sensibilities here where so little else seems logical? Yet, strange times often make strange bedfellows.
Akhenaten: mad, bad, or brilliant? - Telegraph
If both the pharaoh and the military were seeking the same thing—for instance, to undercut the power of the Amun priesthood which by then was siphoning off a hefty percentage of the taxes collected in Egypt—the aten and the army might have made common cause. Or so some scholars suggest. All the same, it must have been an interesting meeting between the slouching sun-lover and the hardened desert troopers who defended Egypt's frontier. How did they find enough in common even to have a conversation, much less foment a revolution together?
The Aftermath of Akhenaten's Reign Akhenaten died sometime after the fourteenth year of his reign. Initially he was buried near Akhetaten, but later his tomb was desecrated and his body moved to Thebes and reburied in the Valley of the Kings, the traditional resting place for New Kingdom pharaohs. Some scholars believe a badly damaged male mummy found there is Akhenaten's. If so, it shows that he did in fact have an unusually elongated skull, but little else can be gleaned from this body, not even the cause of death.
He was still in his thirties or forties, so it can't have been old age. Disease is always a possibility, and there is evidence that a plague struck Egypt around this time. The historical record, however, contains not a single hint of foul play in his death, all of which leaves us to guess its cause.
Above all, what happened in downtown Akhetaten on that gloomy day when the reason the sun-disk shines on the earth, the pharaoh of light and life, departed this world, and the next morning the sun still rose? That must have been a disconcerting moment for the aten-faithful. Archaeology has, however, made one thing very clear. Akhetaten was not abandoned immediately upon Akhenaten's death. Building continued, at least for a while. How the government continued is less clear.
Akhenaten's successor, for instance, is all but a complete mystery. Named Smenkhare, which is close to all we know about him, this pharaoh appears suddenly in the historical record two years before Akhenaten's death. A late relief depicting Smenkhare with Akhenaten is about all there is to track this most cryptic of Egyptian pharaohs, along with a few documents showing that he married one of Akhenaten's daughters, surely an attempt to secure his claim to the throne after Akhenaten's death.
Curiously, Smenkhare's rise coincides almost exactly with another mysterious event, the all-but-complete disappearance of Nefertiti from the art of El-Amarna. Only once in the final two years of Akhenaten's reign is she shown, in a funerary tableau recording the death of one of her and Akhenaten's daughters.
One theory is that Akhenaten sensing the approach of death—but how? In fact, he had little choice but to do this because Nefertiti had never given him a son—six daughters but no male heir—and Egyptian tradition demanded some sort of "son of the pharaoh" succeed.
Thus in the absence of a crown prince, the son of a secondary wife usually stepped in as successor.
But this is not the only explanation that's been offered. Another theory proposes—and in light of the unusual circumstances surrounding the aten-cult at Akhetaten, it's not nearly as unlikely as it might seem at first glance—that Smenkhare was Nefertiti!
Knowing his death was imminent and seeing no clear and obvious heir on the horizon since he'd had no sons by Nefertiti and so there was no pointy-headed male to stem the family's aten-uation, Akhenaten created a "son" for himself out of the most obvious candidate there was, not a secondary son but his primary wife.
Family was, after all, of utmost importance in this new world order, and she had held the power of Egypt in her hands—had even worn the blue crown! So, like any social-climbing secondary son, Nefertiti "married" her own daughter and took the throne as a man, assuming as was traditional a new name, Smenkhare.
That would help to explain why she disappears at the very moment Akhenaten's successor enters the picture. Like many ingenious solutions—and this age does seem to attract them—it didn't work.
For whatever reason, Nefertiti couldn't cut it as "king," not that there hadn't been woman kings in Egypt who had taken male guise before. Hatshepsut, for instance, had portrayed herself with masculine attributes in more than one work of art see above, Section 9.
She had maintained herself on the throne with the support of the army, but perhaps the army in this day was willing to back an effeminate male but not a masculinized woman as king. Or perhaps Nefertiti was simply more beautiful than savvy.
Despite all their protestations of hope for world peace, beauty pageant winners rarely achieve that aim. In any case, the elusive Smenkhare disappears two years into "his" reign.
No tomb for Smenkhare has ever been located nor have any of his burial goods been found. There is simply no further mention of him at all in Egyptian history.
Though it's pure speculation, it's hard to believe Smenkhare wasn't assassinated by someone. After all, he had so many enemies, probably far more than what few supporters he could muster. Perhaps emissaries of the Amun priesthood did him in, or spies sent from an army unwilling to be led by a woman—again! Or perhaps it was all of them in league together, and with this we are dangerously close to writing the first draft of Murder on the Orient Express. Whatever the what-really-happened, Amarna culture left behind one of the most famous kings in history today—and one of the least famous kings in his own time—Tutankhamun, popularly known as "King Tut.
Fairly early in his reign, he was persuaded to change his name and, doing exactly the opposite of Akhenaten when he assumed power, took the aten out and put "Amun" in. With that alone, the resurgence of the Amun cult is all too apparent. At some point around this time, the royal court left Akhetaten and returned to Thebes, no doubt, into the warm embrace of the reigning priesthood much relieved to have their livelihood back on line. Their gratitude, in fact, would help explain the relative grandeur of Tutankhamun's burial.
Only nineteen years old when he died, Tutankhamun's failure to leave behind a male successor is hardly surprising and paved the way for a new dynasty and a world view far different from Akhenaten's. So, the Amarna Period ends with this boy-king, only to be reborn in the modern excavation of El-Amarna and Thebes, and especially in the American archaeologist Howard Carter's famous discovery in of Tutankhamun's tomb and its splendors.
The magnificence of this hastily assembled burial is astounding, especially when one thinks what a real royal burial, like Ramses II's, must have entailed. All in all,Tutankhamun's death and funeral is the epilogue of the Amarna Period in antiquity. There is little in the rest of ancient Egyptian history that recalls or even reflects this brilliant, odd moment in the evolution of its religion. Outside of Egypt, well, that's another matter.
Akhenaten and Hebrew Monotheism In today's world, the pre-eminent issue surrounding Akhenaten is whether or not his religion did—or even could have! The answer to that question depends on two main factors.
How alike are Hebrew and Egyptian monotheism? And is there any way in which the Hebrews could realistically have had significant contact with atenism, enough to borrow elements from it or, if not, even just have been influenced by it?
To answer the first question, Hebrew monotheism differs in several significant ways from Akhenaten's religion. While the aten is an omnipotent, stand-alone divinity, it's also present specifically in the light of the sun-disk and the pharaoh's family, so its divinity is limited in a way the Hebrew deity's is not.
The God of Israel acts through all sorts of different media: Nor was there any real attempt by Egyptian monotheists to extend the aten's power beyond Egypt, the way God's power is seen by later Hebrew prophets to embrace all creation. So, while Akhenaten claims the aten is universal, he speaks of it more like it's a pharaoh at the center of some cosmic court full of fawning, powerless minions—that is, it looks like him.
Still, both cultures share the central notion, if not the details, of monotheism. Could the Hebrews have picked that up from the Egyptians somehow? Any such idea presumes, of course, that Hebrews existed in some form during Akhenaten's reign—later pharaohs' eradication of all records pertaining to Akhenaten's religion and regime makes later cultural borrowing highly unlikely—and many scholars would say flatly there weren't any Hebrews at all during that time, at least not Hebrews as such.
Israel was definitely not an organized nation in the fourteenth century BCE, but then theological notions do not require a political state for their existence. Wandering patriarchs, as attested in the Bible during this age, could easily have borrowed the concept of monotheism from Egypt. But there's no evidence Egyptian monotheism spread beyond the borders of its native land, so if Hebrews borrowed this idea from Amarna culture, they would have to have been living in Egypt around the time of Akhenaten's reign.