Ahkenaten (Amenhotep IV) The Amarna Interlude a summary Family Tree



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Ahkenaten

(Amenhotep IV)
The Amarna Interlude







A Summary
Family Tree

Amenhotep III = Tiye


Sitamun


Kiya= Akhenaten = Nefertiti

Smenkhare =Meritaten


Tutankhamen = Ankhesenamun


Two children born stillborn



Religious Policy – The Amarna Revolution

  • During the first few years Amenhotep IV made no great change to religion. He completed work begun by his father at the Temple of Amen at Karnak, particularly the third pylon.

  • Amenhotep IV soon made his revolutionary break with other cults and devoted himself to the Aten. By formally changing his name to glorify Aten, Akhenaten was announcing that state religious policy was now supported his one god, the actual sun disc, the Aten.

  • Why did Akhenaten change the state god? This has been open to debate. One suggestion is that it was political that he was trying to reassert the supreme power of the kingship over the old established nobility that the new nobility were possibly from lesser families. Another suggestion is that the Theban priests of the god Amen were becoming too powerful and were trying to control the king. If this was the reason a religious change with emphasis on a new god with only the pharaoh having a direct link to that god, would be an effective alternative. Or were his reasons simply religious, did he truly believe in his one god and so wish to eliminate the worship of other gods.

  • Sun-worship was already present in Egypt in the form of the sun god Re of Heliopolis, which was often amalgamated with other important gods for example Amun-re, Sobek-re.

  • The word Aten meant the physical disc of the sun. Aten was represented as a sun disc with human hands descending form it, offering the symbol of eternal life, the ankh to Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

  • Worship of the Aten achieved great prominence only under Akhenaten, but Akhenaten was not the first to mention the god:

  • Thutmose IV issued scarab stated ‘with the Aten before him and that he campaigned abroad to make the foreigners to be like the Egyptian people, in order to serve the Aten forever.

  • Amenhotep III built a lake for queen Tiy to sail upon her boat called ‘Aten gleams’.

  • Noble Ramose during Amenhotep III’s reign was a priest of Amen and steward of the temple at Thebes for Aten. Suggesting there was a temple at Thebes for Aten before Akhenaten came to the throne.

  • The universalism of Akhenaten’s religion has always been stressed. In the Hymn to the Aten it was stated that Aten cherished all living things in all countries.

  • Historians argue that only Akhenaten and his family could worship Aten directly. Ordinary people instead worshipped Akhenaten as a god on earth.

  • Prayers were directed to Akhenaten not the Aten. Akhenaten referred to as the good god, a new kingdom term and was depicted as the physical son of Aten.

  • Aten was seen as the creator god and a natural source whose power was channelled to earth through the king. However Akhenaten was also given the trappings of the king, including his name being enclosed in a cartouche. It has been questioned was he meant to be the kings divine co-regent.

  • Historian Kemp points out that the Aten may not have been as inaccessible to the people as historians first thought, in most wealthy Egyptian homes were shrines to the god Aten and top Akhenaten’s royal family. And he points to a letter which reads Aten to be the god of plenty. Individuals could still make donations to the temple and dedicate prayers to the Aten.

  • The temple to Aten was revolutionary too. It was open to light and air so that Aten could be seen and worshipped. In contrast the inner sanctums of the Aten temple were dark and enclosed. It has been recorded that ceremonies were held outside of the temple in direct sunlight to the horror of foreign delegates in a letter sent to Akhenaten. “Why should messengers be made to stand continually in the sun and so die in the sun? If staying out in the sun means profit to the king, then let the messenger stay out and let him die right there in the sun!’ (Amarna letter).

  • Akhenaten’s religion has often by historians been regarded as monotheistic meaning worship of only one god. Historians argue that he may have adopted this because of the foreign religions in particular the Hebrews worship of the one god. In tombs the words gods were erased. Funeral inscriptions no longer included Osiris and Anubis but directed to Aten or through the king to Aten.

  • Amen was particularly singled out for attack. Unsure whether his temple was closed down his name was hacked out of inscriptions the a During the first few years Amenhotep IV made no great change to religion. He completed work begun by his father at the Temple of Amen at Karnak, particularly the third pylon.

  • Amenhotep IV soon made his revolutionary break with other cults and devoted himself to the Aten. By formally changing his name to glorify Aten, Akhenaten was announcing that state religious policy was now supported his one god, the actual sun disc, the Aten.

  • Akhenaten’s religion has often by historians been regarded as monotheistic meaning worship of only one god. Historians argue that he may have adopted this because of the foreign religions in particular the Hebrews worship of the one god. In tombs the words gods were erased. Funeral inscriptions no longer included Osiris and Anubis but directed to Aten or through the king to Aten.

  • Amen was particularly singled out for attack. Unsure whether his temple was closed down, his name was hacked out of inscriptions, the Amen was even taken out of Akhenaten’s father’s name (Amenhotep) and during Akhenaten’s reign Amenhotep was referred to as Neb-Maat re.

  • Akhenaten continued to use his title son of Re and continued to honour Re in his throne.

  • It is believed that common Egyptians may have continued their worship of other gods, along with their old beliefs. Evidence of this comes from small amulets to Hathor and Bes owned by some workers of Amarna.

  • The Atenist religion collapsed as the main religion of Egypt with the death of Akhenaten. Akhenaten’s hymn to the Aten stressed his personal relationship with the god Aten which explains when he died that main link between ordinary people and the Aten through Akhenaten was destroyed.

  • It has been suggested that ordinary Egyptians were not even aware of the great changes brought by Akhenaten or whether they missed their contact with gods that were more accessible and personal. This is supported through the evidence found amongst workers houses at Amarna. It has further been questioned whether the festivals were replaced during the religious revolution. Like the feast of Opet featuring Amen in Thebes.

  • In the first four years there was no change in art.

  • Vizier Ramose’s tomb is a transition of art. On the left the main doorway is Amenhotep enthroned with maat in the traditional form, on the right there is an example of Amarna style art with Nefertiti and Akhenaten leaning out the window of appearances. The Aten is shown in its fully developed form, with human hands holding the ankh to the royal pair.

  • The portrait style of art changed during the Amarna revolution. The bodies are shown with exaggerated features one example is a portrayal of Akhenaten with an elongated face and skull, feminine hips and thighs sagging, corpulent stomach. This would have been made from direct orders of the king.

  • Another example is that the Akhenaten is shown with his family Nefertiti and daughters worshipping Aten.

  • Later in the revolution a less extreme art style is shown. An affectionate art with Akhenaten and his family are seen together Nefertiti and Akhenaten are seen playing with their children riding in chariots and holding hands. A naturalism and spontaneity is shown that not seen previously in Egyptian art.



The role of Queen Nefertiti

Akhenaten probably married Nefertiti before he came to the throne. Little is known of her origins. The name Nefertiti means the beautiful one has come, which has led to speculation that she was not of Egyptian birth. It has been argued that she may have been of Mitannian origins and was the Mitannian princess Tadhukhipa sent to Egypt for diplomatic marriage. It has been argued that Nefertiti was the daughter of Ay this was argued by historian Aldred.

Akhenaten often refers to her as ‘the mistress of his happiness’ and he describes her as one of the boundary stele at Amarna as “fair face, joyous with the double Plume, Mistress of happiness, endowed with favour, at hearing whose voice one rejoices, lady of Grace, great of love, whose disposition cheers the lord of the two lands.

Nefertiti changed her name to Nefer-neferu-aten when she and Akhenaten moved to Amarna to include Aten into her name.


Was she co-ruler with Akhenaten?

Nefertiti’s role was extraordinary one even early in the reign. Considerable evidence suggests that she was co-ruler with Akhenaten and no other New Kingdom royal female, apart from Hatshepsut as king was depicted as such an active role.


Was she co-ruler with Smenkhare?
The puzzle of Nefertiti’s role is further complicated by the appearance of co-rulers towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign. Murnane points out that there are two main issues concerning Nefertiti first that the evidence of Nefertiti being a co-ruler is strong; the second is whether or not the later co-ruler Smenkhare is indeed Nefertiti.

British historians Smith and Samson, argue that Nefertiti assumed the role of co-regent and probably later became pharaoh as Smenkhare.


Military Career and Achievements

  • Akhenaten did not turn his back on military matters like some historians maintain. Many men in his high court had links with the army.

  • Scenes depicting the military soldiers in private Amarna scenes in tombs are more frequent than in any other period.

  • At the very least Akhenaten must have had the support of the army to continue ruling as pharaoh.

  • There is evidence of military campaigns during his reign. Redford’s Akhenaten Temple project unearthed evidence from the talatat or blocks of stone from Akhenaten’s early building at Karnak that indicate victory (before yr 5) against Syrians and Hittites.

  • Also in yr 12 a campaign against Nubia led by Thutmose, viceroy of Kush capture more than 145 Nubians and 361 cattle.

  • Thutmose reassured “there are no rebels in your time; your war cry is like a flame of fire in pursuit of all foreign lands!”

  • Commemorative scarabs with ‘great war cry possessed a mighty reputation” were found.

  • In Stela of general Kahtan early in the reign of Akhenaten is called “ruler of happy heart, who curbed all lands and the mighty king, lord of every foreign land”.

  • As far south as Kawa, near the Third cataract, a temple to the sun disc has been found. It seems that, in the south at least, Akhenaten continued in the warrior pharaoh role, carrying on the traditional harassment of Nubia.

  • Mycenaean Mercenaries. Unusual and rare scenes found by Pendlebury in 1936 at Amarna throw light on some interesting aspects of Akhenaten’s army. Parkinson’s reconstruction of marching troops may show the first known representation in Egyptian art of Mercenaries from Mycenaean and that they may have joined Akhenaten’s army.

  • Another scene shows Akhenaten killing Libyans, realism in art; interestingly artistically the military were not ignored.

Foreign Policy – The Amarna Letters

Most of the information to the north and relations between Egypt and northern lands comes form a collection of clay tablets, now known as the Amarna letters. In 1887 an Egyptian peasant found 382 tablets at Amarna. They are the only cuneiform documents so far found in Egypt and are especially important because they are the only other Egyptian evidence we have of relations to the north, apart from official inscriptions and propaganda.

The documents are royal correspondence between Akhenaten and the Hittites, Assyrians, Mitanni and Kassites, and cities such as Byblos, Jerusalem, Gezer, Askalon, Kadesh, Amurru, Sidon, Tyre and Ugarit.

Only the kings of Hittites, Mitanni, Assyria, and Babylon call themselves “Great Kings”and refer to Akhenaten as ‘brother’. The rest are rulers who appear to have lesser status such as Vassals.

The letters show there was considerable unrest and squabbling amongst the Near Eastern towns. Some areas were threatened by the new rising power in the north from their Anatolian king, Suppiluliumas, came to the throne some time before Akhenaten became king. He attacked King Tushratta of the Mitanni, but was initially repulsed. Tushratta wrote to Amenhotep the III and described victory. However early in Akhenaten’s reign the Hittites defeated Mitanni and moved west across the Euphrates River into northern Syria.

Enough evidence shows that Akhenaten played no role in the events in the north east. It is likely when Egyptian interests were not directly at stake Akhenaten saw no great need to intervene.


JA Wilson

“The cuneiform correspondence known as the Amarna letters tells us the story of the slow disintegration, of the Empire in Asia as a result of new forces in that area and of the indifference and preoccupation of the pharaoh”. The Culture of Ancient Egypt, pg 230.


A Gardiner

Ëver increasing information being gathered about those countries through archaeological and philological research … it is wrong to regard Akhenaten as the sole pharaoh responsible for the loss of Egyptian prestige”. Egypt of the Pharaohs, pg 230


DB Redford

“Unfulfilled pleas by troops of the Amarna letters do not indicate the pharaoh’s disinterest but rather his decision” Akhenaten the Heretic King pg 167.


All 3 historians offer opinions on the reign of Akhenaten and the problem of the king relating to the outside world. Wilson talks about the Amarna letters and what they explain about Akhenaten’s reign. However, Gardiner states that Akhenaten threw away the great Egyptian Empire, and Redford believes that part of Akhenaten’s problem was dealing with the outside world.


Building Program

Buildings used for different reasons shown by map of Amarna.

Office and administration –office of works, scribes, offices, records office

Royal functions- royal road, the king’s house, the great temple.

Military – Barracks, military quarters.

Funerary processions- the great temple, sanctuary, royal temple.

Residential- village chapels, north suburb, harems.


How revolutionary was Akhenaten’s building program? What traditional features are included?


  • Akhenaten’s revolutionary building program was due effect of his revolutionary religious changes. Evidence from the talatat point to the existence of our sun temples built to the Aten at Akhenaten (Amarna) was called ‘the house of the Aten’ and was a vast rectangular enclosure comprising several temples and 6 open courts laid out in a professional plan.




  • 350 km North of Thebes is where Akhenaten’s building Program was conducted.

  • Along the Royal road near the Palace was the Great Temple of the Aten. It was the most important building in the city and was the centre for the worship of Aten. It was 800 by 300 m, surrounded by a high wall. In this building the four colossal statues of Akhenaten was placed.

  • Maru - Aten was a palace approx 2 km south of the main centre of Akhenaten. It contained a pavilion, columned hall, throne-room with a garden.

  • To the south and north of the centre, there were large residential areas containing various social classes. All houses were made of sun dried bricks which used local materials. He used new types of bricks called ‘Talatat’, which were smaller than most bricks.


Assessment of His Reign – The Failure of the Amarna Revolution - Sources

How far did he depart from traditional pharaoh role?


  • He changed the role of pharaoh through his religious cult. He became a god and the son of Aten and the only way to communicate with Aten.

  • He still carried out the underlying principles expected of a pharaoh, however he did give the royal women more power with the union and they were depicted as warriors.

  • He changed Egyptian history (momentarily) when he moved the capital by building his new city, Akhenaten.

  • Akhenaten seems to have destroyed the power base of the Amen priesthood and he became the link between the people and the only official god Aten. It is interesting that the Aten was not represented in human form like other Egyptian gods. Akhenaten was the focus of the religious life himself. In reliefs he represented himself deified whilst alive and also worshiping his own deified self while alive.

“The king’s plan differed from the norm in his steady elimination of all deities except the, Aten and himself, denying the existence of the gods”.

A Thomas, Akhenaten’s Egypt, pg 46”.


Aspects of Akhenaten’s rule, positive points: protector of Egypt, religion, art
Protector of Egypt

There is no evidence of military campaigns during Akhenaten’s reign. Schlogl points out that many men in high positions at the Amarna court had links with the army. At the very least Akhenaten must have had the support of the army to continue ruling as pharaoh.



Religion

Amenhotep IV soon made his revolutionary break with other cults and devoted himself to the Aten. By formally changing his name to glorifying Aten, Akhenaten was announcing that the state religious policy now supported his one god, the sun disk, the Aten.


Art

For the first time in four years of Amenhotep IV’s reign, there was no break form the traditional artistic conventions. The tomb of the vizier, Ramose is an interesting transition, with examples of both the new and old style. On the main doorway there is an example of the Amarna style art with the Aten family developed with human hands holding the ankh symbol of life to the royal couple. A style even more removed from the tradition then followed, epitomised by the colossal statues of Akhenaten at Karnak. A later phase showed a less extreme style, the pharaoh and his family are depicted in naturalistic scenes riding chariots etc.


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