How Radical Was The Religious Program Of Akhenaten (Amunhotep Iii)? In Particular, Address The Question Of The Assumed Conservatism Of The 'heretic Pharaoh' With Respect To Cyril Aldred's Remarks

2180 words - 9 pages

Many aspects of the religious reform introduced by the Pharaoh Akhenaten during his reign (1352 - 1336 BC) were initially seen as revolutionary upon their discovery last century . At a stage when the successful military campaigns of his forebears into Asiatic territories had brought the Egyptian Empire to the height of its power, the times 'demanded a strong king like the conquering Pharaohs of the earlier half of the dynasty' . Akhenaton's virtual abandonment of the military in order to focus on a new monotheism , the cult of Aten, led to his initial description by modern eulogists as 'a pacifist visionary, eager to preach the brotherhood of mankind...'Recent works concerning the king's new ...view middle of the document...

Egyptian religion at this time can only be described as a myriad of Gods and their various manifestations. Through the webs of different forms and influences each god encompassed, the most important overall deity can be identified as Re-Harakhty , the creator god and the first ruler of Egypt.In the city of Thebes from where Amunhotep III ruled, Amun was the local city god and it's most significant. Like Re-Harakhty he was a solar deity, said to represent 'that invisible force in the sun that causes nature to germinate' .It was the Aten or sun-disc; the 'physical manifestation of Re as he appears to living beings, that Akhenaten was to adopt as his god and to hold up as sole deity.In the centuries preceding Akhenaten, there is some evidence given by Aldred that worship of the Aten as a separate deity from Re became more common. He compounds this to the idea of a global god for a more global universe:'...beginning sporadically in the middle kingdom but also more frequently in the new kingdom, the expression of the new phenomenon of Empire borrowed the Aten as a royalist and universalist symbol...The king's conquest could be said to encompass 'all that the sun disc encircles'...'Thus Aldred indicates a natural progression to the type of rule Akhenaten brought with him rather than the abrupt introduction of radical ideas.Akhenaten changed the religion in Egypt to full effect once at around five years into his reign. Aten was projected by the king not only as a supreme deity, but the sole one as well.A temple to Aten was erected at Karnak, and Thebes renamed 'The city of the Radiance of Aten' in preference to the earlier 'The city of Amun'.A new abstract image of the divinity emerges to replace that of Re-Harakhty, who is depicted as a falcon-human form bearing an Aten on its head. Aldred describes the new symbol as '...an elaborated hieroglyph in which the old sign for 'sunshine' as a disc with 3 emergent rays becomes a disk having the encircling uraeus of kingship with an ankh around its neck and a dozen long rays extending from its hand...'Evidence of this new religion has been found in the form of a hymn , believed to have been written by Akhenaten, found in the tomb of later pharaoh Ay which declares the king's admiration for and loyalty to Aten in a manner described by Aldred as '(containing) ideas and phrases that had long since persisted in the religious literature' ; in other words there was nothing remarkable about the style of his praise. The most unique feature of this hymn is its complete failure to mention any deity besides Aten. Previously important gods such as Osiris, king of the Underworld, have vanished from the literature of Akhenaten's reign. Even Aldred admits that this is a sudden and undeniable example of 'austere monotheism which is quite unique in the Late Bronze Age'.The king's choice of the sun-disc as the exclusive deity of Egypt is considered by Aldred to be a concept of some antiquity and he writes that the influence of...

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