Egyptian God Ra Essay, Research Paper
Was Amun-Ra the Most Powerful Egyptian God?
Through extensive research of ancient Egyptian history, we see that there was a change in religion, and even lifestyle. The king of Egypt, Akhenaton, made a sudden change during his rule in the religious support of the Egyptian gods. With Akhenaton s preoccupation with new ideas and religious ideals, he cost Egypt its proud empire. We see that Amun-Ra was truly the most important and most powerful god in ancient Egypt. Akhenaton s changing the religious ideals did not last long. Even though Aton was claimed the sole god during Akhenaton s rule, Egypt and its people and the new rulers quickly altered the religious ideals towards Amun-Ra s favor by claiming him the sole god once again, after Akhenaton s death.
The most important Egyptian god during most of Egyptian history was Ra, the god of the sun. He was also known as; Re, Amun-Re, Amen-Ra, Amun-Ra, Amun, or Amon.(www, Mysteries) His name, Amon, meant The Hidden One , also Amun means the hidden and Re means the sun .( www,
Mysteries) To trace the origin of Amun-Re, we must go back to the Old Kingdom and Heliopolis, where the god Re first appeared as the primary manifestation of the sun god. Re is depicted with the head of a falcon surmounted by the sun disk during his passage across the sky, and with the head of a ram during his nocturnal voyage in the underworld. This local god rose in prominence to become a national god, resulting in the erection of sun temples throughout the land. In the fourth dynasty, the pharaohs began to consider themselves manifestations of this god. Later, during the Middle Kingdom, when Amun became the most important god, Re was fused with him to become Amun-Re.(www, Mysteries)
Egyptian religion is a difficult subject to get a handle on. Although Egyptian religion was polytheistic, individual villages in cities with concentrate their spiritual efforts on a singled god. When someone became king, they would often elevate the god of their city or village to a supreme god. This is how Re became the dominant god of Egypt. More than anything else however, the Egyptian king or pharaoh was associated with the sun. Like the sun the king gave life and stability to the Egyptian kingdom.(www, Sun God)
During the rule of Ra, the people were happy. The people called him the god of light among other names such as; The Becoming One… The Great
Disk… He Who Gives Light to the Bodies… The Watery Abyss… The Decomposed One… Lord of Hidden Worlds… Ever-Becoming One… Ejector… He Who Causes Souls to Breathe … Watcher… Walker… Weeper… Traveler… Jubilant One… Protector of Souls… Hidden One… Distant Soul… Fate… Flaming One… Renewer of Earth .(Parabola, 1) Taking a look at these names we can find words such as, protector, renewer, and watcher. Making reference to the fact that the people felt protected by Ra.
From what has been said it is evident that the worship of Amen-Ra spread through all the country. Both to the north and south of Thebes, and the monuments prove that it made its way into all the dominions of Egypt in Syria, and the Nubia, and in the Oases. They erected temples for the worship of Amen-Ra of very considerable size and solidity.(www, Touregypt) The sudden spread of empire had excited the Egyptian culture. Architecture became less firmly planted and soared upward in assertiveness. In the visual arts, the predominant heavy, angular style of rendering became softer and rounder.(www, Britannica, Aton) Egyptian soldiers and officials lived in foreign countries, and foreigners lived in Egypt. The sharp differences between the people of the Nile valley and the people abroad were blurred. Egyptian gods had temples in other countries, and foreign gods were introduced into Egypt. Empire was held firmly by garrisons abroad, which
assured the favorable flow of trade to Egypt. Near the Nile valley there were rich gold mines, so that the country could dominate both trade and politics.(www, Britannica, Aton) However, things started to change with the reign of Akhenaton.
Akhenaton was the king of Egypt of the 18th dynasty. He established a new monotheistic cult of Aton. Akhenaton was a strange figure, spiritually and physically. Pathologists with no unanimous conclusions have studied representations of his peculiar, unmanly body.(www,Britannica, Aton) Some modern scholars have also questioned his ability to father children, but the presence of six daughters would certainly indicate that he was potent. Despite conflicting statements in the literature, it now seems certain that his mummy has never been found. Anciently and modernly he has been a controversial person, but the very fury of the controversy shows that he was a major figure of ancient history. The strong and changing forces of his day shaped his determined nature, and yet he stood estranged from his day in the strength of his ideas and ideals.
Within his first few years as pharaoh there were changes. He abandoned the temple to Re-Harakhte and began to build a place to worship a new form of sun-god–the disk of the sun, called the Aton.(www,Britannica, Aton) It had been a little-known deity for two generations before him. The
Aton was never shown in human or animal form, except insofar as the extended rays of the sun disk might end in hands to confer blessings upon men. This was the life-giving and life-sustaining power of the sun. He had no image in the hidden sanctuary of a temple but was to be worshiped out in sun-warmed openness. The buildings for the Aton were of a new kind. The massive solidity of the older temples was given up, and walls were run up of much smaller stones and were jammed with excited little scenes in a feverish new art.(www,Britannica, Aton) When artistic inventiveness was encouraged, forms were exaggerated to the point of caricature. Since the young king had a drooping jaw, a scrawny neck, sloping shoulders, a pot belly, and thick thighs, these features were carved in a grotesque way.(www,Britannica, Aton) The shape of the king became the flattering pattern for his followers, so that they also were shown with thin necks and round bellies.
The new temples were built at Karnak, near Thebes, a region dominated by the god Amon and by the families that had run the state for several generations. The new king had to break away sharply from this traditional setting. In the fifth year of his reign he changed his name from Amenhotep, meaning “Amon Is Satisfied”, to Akhenaton, meaning “One Useful to Aton”, thus formally declaring his new religion.(www, Britannica, Aton) Also, he moved his capital from Thebes more than 200 miles to the
north to a desert bay on the east side of the Nile River, a place now known as Amarna. Here he began to build a new city, which he called Akhetaton, meaning “Place of the Aton’s Effective Power”.
The religion of the Aton is not completely understood. Akhenaton worshipped only this sun-god. For him Aton was “the sole god.”(www, Osiris) Akhenaton had dropped his older name Amenhotep, and the name “Amon” was also hacked out of the inscriptions throughout Egypt. Here and there the names of other gods and goddesses were removed, and in some texts the words “all gods” were eliminated.(www, civilization) Akhenaton became the source of blessings for the people after death. Yet Akhenaton directed his worship only to the Aton. It was the closest approach to monotheism that the world had ever seen. The Aton religion was a happy nature worship, without an ethical code. Men were asked only to be grateful to the sun for life and warmth. It was unlike the awful austerity of the great gods of former Egypt, who might punish man for disobedience.(www, wsu) An aesthetic and intellectual religion, it probably had no deep roots. There is no evidence that the people worshiped the Aton happily.
The politics of the time must have been troubled. Although the ruling classes had been shorn of their powers, there was still an army. It may have been restless, because the documents show that Akhenaton paid little
attention to it. Without a strong army and navy, foreign trade began to fall off, and internal taxes began to disappear into the pockets of local officials, finally causing the discontented priesthood and civil officials to combine with the army to discredit the new movement.(www, wsu) Akhenaton was able to withstand these forces, but his weaker successors could not. Akhenaton’s preoccupation with ideas and ideals cost Egypt its proud empire.
When Akhenaton died, he was succeeded briefly by Smenkhkare, Akhenaton s first son in law, and then by a second son-in-law, Tutankhaton. The latter was forced to change his name to Tutankhamen, dropping the Aton and embracing Amon, to abandon Amarna and move back to Thebes, and to pay penance by giving the old gods new riches and privileges.(www, Britannica, Aton)
Amun-Ra was indeed the greatest Egyptian god. During the support of Amun-Ra, the Egyptian people were happy and referred to him with names such as; Watcher, Protector of Souls, He who causes Souls to Breathe, He who gives light to the bodies, and the Ever becoming One. Just with the reference made to some of Amun-Ra s names, we see that the people felt protected and full of life with Amun-Ra as their most powerful god. However, when Akhenaton attempted to change the high god to Aton, the people obeyed and worshiped Aton. Yet historians believe that the people still
believed in Amun-Ra more than they did in Aton. With Akhenaton s preoccupation with these new ideals, he causes Egypt its proud empire. After his death, the new ruler Tutankhamen quickly dropped the Aton worshiping and embraced Amon, or Amun-Ra once again. Followed by this, Tutankhamen instituted counter reforms in order to restore the old system fully.
Taking this into account, we can truly state that Amun-Ra was the greatest god in Egyptian ideals. He was so powerful and favored by the people, that when his ideals were attempted to be changed to Aton, it caused the downfall of the ruler who attempted to make these changes. There is no dispute, Amun-Ra was truly the most powerful and respected god in ancient Egyptian history.