Akenaten Essay, Research Paper
The influence Amenhotep IV had on art and religion of his time caused him to be one of the most controversial Egyptian pharaohs of all time. The 10th king of the 18th dynasty, he has been called the most remarkable king to sit on Egypt?s throne. He has also earned the honor of being called "the first individual in human history."1
The cult of Aten did develop before his rule, perhaps as early as 1411 B.C. It paid homage to the sun, its central idea was ?living on ma?at,? that is, variously translated as "righteousness", "justice", and "truth." The doctrine of this religion failed to win the approval or support of any but Akhenaten?s followers. It is said that cult of Aten did not have an ethical code. It centered around gratitude towards life the sun for life and warmth. Ankh was life the force that the sun-disk (Aten?s ) rays bestowed on man in most of the art.
The people could not pray directly to Aten. They directed their prayers instead to the king, who was the only person who could directly pray to Aten. The religion was such an intellectual and introspective nature that the people couldn?t understand it. Therefore, it was inevitable that it would not gain popularity.2
Akhenaten?s father was Amenhotep III, who reigned from 1358-1340. He made a break from tradition when he married a commoner, Tiy, who became Akhenaten?s mother.3 He was raised in a traditional manner, but he eventually showed a preference to worship the god Aten, rather than the traditional Amun. For some time he ruled as co- regent with his father. He changed his name early in his reign from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, meaning "One who pleases Aten." His wife, commonly known as Nefertiti, became Neter-Nefru-Aten, meaning, "Beautiful is the beauty of Aten."4
When he changed his name, it was like a formal declaration of his new religion. He moved the capital of Egypt to a place now called Tell el – Amarna Akhenaton and in year 6 of his reign began to build a new city which he called Akhenetaton "The Place of Aten?s Effective Power." 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.5
In the first few years Akhenaten instituted some changes. He began to build a place to worship a new form of the sun-god, Aten, the disk of the sun. The god had been little known for two generations before him. Aten was shown always as the sun disk, never in animal or human form, with the rays extending towards man with the blessing of life. He was worshipped in new open temples instead of in dark temples. 6
Akhenaten was a strange figure, spiritually and physically. Some scholars have questioned his ability to father children, but he did have six daughters. Some believe they were fathered by Akhenaten?s father, Amenhotep III. It was even proposed that Akhenaten was a woman masquerading as a man with a wife and children. The notion was formed because Akhenaten really did have a feminine-like, plump figure. Possibly an eunuch. Although the many representations of Akhenaten give him a very plump appearance, his anatomy in them still presents a clear contrast to that of his wife. But most people answer with the same shared belief as Flinders Petrie, "Is it credible that the most uxorious king of Egypt, who appears with his wife on every monument, who rides side by side with her in a chariot, and kisses her in public, who dances her on his knee, who has a steadily increasing family, – that this king either a women in masquerade or an eunuch?? And in the supposed death mask that was found at Anarna, this contention is supported. It does not show the face of a woman. It show the face of a man. A strange man, but albeit, a man.7
Akhenaten physically was weak. He may have been a victim of the disease called Frolich?s syndrome, which might have made him physically deformed. As a result, his activities were intellectual. Perhaps this is why the intellectual basis of the cult of Aten appealed to him.8 When Egypt combined gods, Amun and Re, became Amun-Re, the sun-god, the culture was ripe for monotheism.9
As far as his unusual appearance goes, he was also said to have had fatty degeneration. He grew up normal looking, but after his seventeenth year fatty degeneration led to the muscles in his arms, legs, chest, hips, swelled to unusual dimensions. (How the realism in the art came about His main reaction was to accept the infirmity as sent by god. He was an absolute champion of Ma? at, truth, and ordered his sculptor to represent him as he appeared. This was a revolution as important as the proclamation of the new Aten religion or the appearance of hieroglyphics by an everyday script. Never before had Egyptian artists depicted men or gods with other than static attitudes, legs in profile, shoulders and arms to the front. There was no concealment through perspective because any part of the body that could not be seen in a representation was believed in danger of being lost. The original notion of realism very soon developed into a kind of expressionism.10
He was a revolutionary as far as his artistic tastes went as well, consciously fostering a new style and a new ideal of beauty in his choice of masters. He encouraged a greater realism and a new sense of form that seeks to unfreeze the immobility of Egyptian art. One mural of Akhenaten?s daughters shows them in playful poses, studied defiance of all rules of Pharoanic dignity.11 Unlike the religion, the influence Akhenaten had on art could be seen for some time after his reign and death. In the middle of the (almost 2 centuries later) fourteenth century BC art still retained the freedom and expressiveness that would have been unthinkable in earlier times. Even on Tutenhkamen?s sarcophagus was done in a style reminiscent of the style Akhenaten encouraged.
During Tutenkhamen?s reign there was tolerance of the cult of Aten. The Chair of State bore the name Aten, as well as the fan he took to his grave.12
The new art form began to develop in the new worship temples. It was inventive. Excited. The forms were exaggerated to the point of caricature. The young king Akhenaten was drawn in a grotesque way, with a drooping jaw, elongated head, rounded hips and thighs and a scrawny neck. This became a flattering thing for his followers, so they too were drawn with a thin neck and round belly.13 Nefertiti, known for her beauty because of the sculptures done of her, was portrayed as misshapen and unattractive. Art took on a liveliness unbeknownst to Egyptian culture. It also began to portray different types of scenes. It showed more domestic pictures. Akhenaten kissing his wife, in ceremony, or at the dinner table. Scenes of busy markets and soldier?s guardrooms were depicted. All in the palace, and indeed the city of Amarna was lively.
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. 14
He pursued with absolute consistency the course he had taken. His ideas were dogma. The artists worked very clearly differently. Before, the sculptors had drawn in their subjects and cut away the stone around them, now the artists chiseled the subject into the smooth wall so that it sank in rather than stand out. The hollow reliefs were more difficult to deface. Akhenaten had an easy time destroying the Amen images of those before him, his successors found things much harder.15
Akhenaten here began a system of political reforms. He began temporarily thirty successful attempt to restore/regain the old power of the kingship. Before Akhenaten there had been the polytheistic faiths. They had become static and traditional. A general feeling had presided that the gods had given a good order and the ruler must hold firmly to that order. When changes did come, religion tried to incorporate them into the system as if they came from creation. The nation was rich, powerful, and coveted by lesser princes. To maintain this, a military group controlled the culture. This group interlocked with the priesthood. The richest and most powerful of the gods, such as Amun of Thebes or Re of Heliopolis, dictated the purpose of the state. The king had to apply to the gods for oracles directing his daily activities. In return for wealth, elegance and position as figurehead, the pharaoh had relinquished his military and religious authority to others. 16
Among Akhenaten?s reforms was the removal of Amun?s name from the inscriptions throughout Egypt. Names of other gods and goddesses were removed from texts. Funeral rites now excluded Osiris and began the tradition of Akhenaten being the source of blessings after death. Nefertiti?s figure replaced figures of goddesses on a stone sarcophagus. It was the closest to monotheism the world had seen up to that point.17
For ten years it seemed there was peace, although there is evidence that the city was heavily guarded. His rule?s strength was by now crumbling. His persecution of the other gods may have been a primary reason for his loss of power. The army was definitely involved in the defiling of the temples of the other gods, if only as guards to protect those who did the defacement. In Memphis there was a growing feeling against Akhenaten.18 At the advice of his personal advisor, Aye, he appointed a co-regent, Smenhkhare. This was around his 15th year. Smenkhare moved with his new bride, Meriaten, where he began to restore the temples of Amun. He married his eldest daughter, Meritaten, to Smenkhare, who was considered mysterious in origin and character. He was rumored to be the illegitimate son of Amenhotep III, or a lapse in the part of Queen Tiy, or a result of the relationship between Amenhotep III and his own daughter, Sitamun. By marrying the king?s eldest daughter, Smenkhare secured his place in line for the throne. This is definitely an indication that the politics of the time are indeed, troubled .
On November 21, 1352 B.C., chaos broke out in Akhenaten. Upon the death of Akhenaten?s nine year old daughter, he became estranged from his wife. Nefertiti was stripped of all official status and place under house arrest in her Northern Palace in Akhenaten. The title of Great Royal Wife was taken over by Meritaten, and Smenkhare rose immediately to be co-regent. Around this time representations of the two men in a tender embrace emerged. The only modern day explanations are those related to homosexuality. Akhenaten then married his 3rd daughter Ankhesnpaaten, for reasons unclear.
Akhenaten paid little attention to the army, and without a strong army and navy, foreign trade began to fall off, and internal taxes began to disappear into the pockets of local officials. Civil officials and the discontented priesthood finally combined with the army to discredit the new movement. Akhenaten was strong enough to withstand their pressure, but his weaker successors could not.
Aggressors took much of the Egyptian Empire during this time due to Akhenaten?s neglect. This added to the negative feeling.19
One of Akhenaten?s fatal errors was that he hardly bothered with politics. He subordinated art, culture and politics to his idea. Akhenaten ignored all pleas from other countries for help against invasion.20
After Akhenaten?s death he was succeeded briefly by Smenhkare. Three years after Smenkhare moved to Thebes, Akhenaten "disappeared". Smenkhare died, and was succeeded by another son-in-law, Tutenkhaton. He was forced to change his name to Tutenkhamen to re-embrace the former god Amun. He abandoned Amarna and moved back to Thebes, and paid penance by giving the old gods new riches and privileges. After the death of Tutenkhamen the army took over the throne in the form of General Horemheb. He instituted counter reforms to restore old system fully.21
Akhenaten?s tomb has been found, but there is no evidence that he was ever actually buried there Despite conflicting statements, in the literature, it now seems certain that his mummy has never been found. Akhenaten died in 18 year of his reign. His successor, Horemheb claimed his reign began from the date of Amenhotep III, thus wiping out the entire rule of Akhenaten.22
Egyptians had no point of reference for their system of dating. They started again with zero every time they acquired a new ruler. In the excavation of Amarna, the old belief that Akhenaten ruled for only eight years was refuted, proved erroneous because Flinders Petrie found several labeled storage jars dated up to 17. From this, the 17 year reign was concluded, and so far this belief has not been refuted. After Akhenaten?s death, the Horemheb was so successful at destroying evidence of Akhenaten?s existence there was a ten year gap where there supposedly was no king. There was a very real "historical gap. Finally, with the excavation of Amarna and Thebes, his existence was beyond question. For a good ten years, there records had shown no pharaoh at all.23
1Edward Malone, Akhenaton. n.p. 1997, 1.
2Breasted, James Henry. A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 201.
3Edward Malone, Akhenaton.
6H.W. Janson. History of Art. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. 1962), 57.
10Phillip Vandenberg. The Golden Pharoah. (New York: Macmillian Publishing Co., 1980), 49.
12"Akhenaton" Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 1, 1989, 188.
14Phillip Vandenberg. The Golden Pharoah. 299.
15H.W. Hanson. History of Art. 49.
17Phillip Vandenberg. The Golden Pharoah. 299.
18James Henry Breasted. A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to The Persian Conquest. 202
19R.J. Williams. "Amenhotep and the Hymn to Aten" Gods of the Ancient and Near East. (London: Thomas Nelson, 1958), 2.
22Edward Malone. Akhenaton.3.
23Phillip Vandenberg. The Golden Pharoah. 97.