Akhenaten and Monotheism

Best Essays
“He is the King of Heaven…Whose body is unknown” (qtd. in Redford 162).

In New Kingdom Egypt, in the 14th Century BCE, one man would attempt to force a change, a revolution, on a people that had remained unchanged and unchanging for 2000 years. This man, the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, promoted monotheism primarily because of religious intentions and not for political or personal gain. He selected one God, Aten, and it was this deity that was the center of attention during Amenhotep’s reign. Amenhotep IV, who would later take the name Akhenaten, would lead a controversial reign which would result in failure. He would eventually be deemed the “heretic king” (Assmann 149), but what was it that earned him this title? Was Amenhotep IV truly a “heretic king?”

What manner of man was Aten’s ‘first prophet’? Because of his religious reforms,

Akhenaten has for long struck a chord in today’s predominantly monotheistic world,

and the fact that pharaoh’s revolution ultimately failed has seemed only to confirm

his role as an early revealer of religious truth- a power for good.

(Reeves 8-9).

Amenhotep IV was born in c. 1365 BCE during the 18th dynasty in Egypt to Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye (Aldred 11). He was given his name in honor of the Gods Amun and Re whom Amenhotep III sought to be the earthly representative of (Bratton 17). Amun-Re was the creator God, and Re was the God of the sun (Assmann 485-6). Combined, these two deities were the most powerful God and are therefore normally referred to by their conjoined name of Amun-Re (Redford 97). Although Re was the sole Sun God, there were others under him who were individually responsible for a specific detail of the sun-God. Aten was an aspect of R...

... middle of paper ...

...ompletely devoid of their complicated and cruel theologies. By implementing

this revolutionary ideal, the heretical king hasted his empire’s end and his own tragic

fate. But his failure earned him a reputation so unique in the records of civilization that

Breasted, the great Egyptologist characterized him as “the first individual in history”

(Bratton 49-50).

Works Cited

Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten, King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1988.

Assmann, Jan. The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. New York: Metropolitan, 2002.

Bratton, Fred Gladstone. The First Heretic; the Life and times of Ikhnaton the King. Boston: Beacon, 1961.

Redford, Donald B. Akhenaten: the Heretic King. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1984.

Reeves, C. N. Akhenaten, Egypt's False Prophet. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2001
Get Access