akhenaten.jpg
Statue of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
(pronounced /ˌɑːkəˈnɑːtən/; often also spelled Echnaton, Akhnaton, or rarely Ikhnaton; meaning Effective spirit of Aten) was known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied). A Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, he ruled for 17 years and died in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic; but henotheism would be a more accurate description, since he ranked the Aten above other gods but did not deny their existence. Indeed, an early inscription likens them to stars as compared with the sun, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, as if to create for the solar deity a status above mere gods.
Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion, but in the end it would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as 'the enemy' in archival records.[5] He was all but lost from history until the discovery, in the 19th century, of Amarna, the site of Akhetaten, the city he built for the Aten. Early excavations at Amarna by Flinders Petrie sparked interest in the enigmatic pharaoh, which increased with the discovery in the Valley of the Kings, at Luxor, of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, who may have been his son. Akhenaten remains an interesting figure, as does his Queen, Nefertiti. Their modern interest comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, partly from the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronized, and partly from ongoing interest in—and, all too often, less than verifiable claims about—the religion he attempted to establish.