What comes to mind when you think of Egypt? How about the Great Pyramids of Giza? Where is the Nile? Egypt has a lot of icons that most people are familiar with. But what about the Egyptian rulers? It’s possible you’ve heard of a king from ancient Egypt. Do you know who we’re talking about? Of course, Tutankhamun.
Who Was King Tut?
Ancient Egypt continued to prosper during the 14th century BC, while religion started to play a more prominent role in Egyptians’ lives as well. A bold new pharaoh named Akhenaten attempted to upend centuries of tradition by forcing the people of Egypt to abandon their pantheon of gods in favor of worshipping a single deity, Aten.
Despite being labeled a heretic and a rebel, Akhenaten introduced the foreign concept of monotheism to the world and forever changed the course of history! At birth, Akhenaten was given the name “Amenhotep” meaning “Amun is content.”
He was the second son of Amenhotep the Third and his principal wife, Queen Tiye. As a younger sibling, the rank of pharaoh only fell to him after his older brother, Thutmose, died unexpectedly in his youth. Upon his father’s death in 1353 BC, he has crowned pharaoh Amenhotep the Fourth in Thebes, thereby ascending the throne as the tenth ruler of the 18th Dynasty. He married the legendary Nefertiti, making her his Great Royal Wife and Queen of Egypt.
Despite the pharaoh having multiple wives, records show that Nefertiti and Amenhotep shared a close and intimate relationship, with at least six daughters but no sons. Nefertiti was a very influential queen, relishing her role as the second most powerful person in Egypt. This limestone bust of the queen created by her royal sculptor has rendered her one of the most iconic and recognizable ancient figures today. At the time of ascension to the throne, the worship of many gods was common in Egypt, with Amun believed to be king of the gods.
Aside from possibly Ra and Osiris, Amun was the most worshipped god in the Nile Valley and was the central deity of many cults at the time. Despite their different gods and practices, these cults were generally based on balance and eternal harmony.
The cult of Amun had been growing in strength and influence for centuries, and by the time of the new pharaoh’s reign, they had amassed nearly as much wealth and status as the royal family. The priests of Amun are said to have owned more land than the pharaoh himself! This situation may have fueled the fire that drove the future drastic actions made by Akhenaten.
For the first five years of his reign, he allowed all traditional Egyptian gods to worship. However, likely influenced by Queen Tiye, the pharaoh’s attention gradually focused on one particular god; Aten. Aten is best described as being the disc of the sun that was initially an aspect of the sun god Ra. It is artistically depicted as a solar disc emitting rays with tiny hands on the ends. The famous Stele of Akhenaten appears to shothe royal family being touched by the glow of Aten.
Tomb of king Tut || The Mummy of King Tut
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The worship of Aten was nothing new. Even the previous pharaoh Amenhotep, the Third, had revered Aten above all other gods, but never to the same fanatical extent as his son. As a sign of dedication to Aten, the pharaoh changed the name in the fifth year of his reign from Amenhotep the Fourth to Akhenaten, which translates to the ‘Living Spirit of Aten.’ By his ninth year in power, Akhenaten had declared Aten not only to be the supreme god but the only one worthy of worship.
This radical declaration is considered by many to be the birth of monotheism. Still, Atenism is perhaps best described as monolatry or henotheism because its followers worshiped a single god without denying the existence of other lower deities.
Akhenaten ordered that temples dedicated to Amun be vandalized or destroyed and that images containing any god other than Aten be banned. He had references to other gods chiseled-out of monuments throughout Egypt. Akhenaten eventually declared that he was Aten’s only messenger, supplanting priests and other religious leaders altogether.
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The aristocracy viewed this sudden shift towards monotheism as a significant threat to the empire but largely followed the young pharaoh’s reforms. Many priests of Amun hid texts and artifacts, saving them from frAkhenaten’sn’s wrath. Towards the end of his reign, Akhenaten went as far as to declare himself and Nefertiti actual gods and demanded that they be worshiped as such.
Meanwhile, people referred to the pharaoh as a ‘heretic king’ and considered him a puritanical tyrant who had abolished Egypt’s traditional religious rites.
The same year in which Akhenaten declared Aten to be the only god, the pharaoh also ordered the construction of a new capital, which was to be named Akhetaten, meaning ‘Horizon of Aten.’ Its Arabic name, Amarna, is more commonly known as the city of Akhetaten.
The pharaoh chose to symbolically build his town in the center of Egypt, between the old seats of power in Thebes and Memphis. He viewed Amarna as a distant place where he could build a new religion devoid of the constant reminders of the old gods.
Leveraging his vast wealth, the pharaoh erected many temples and monuments throughout the new city, and Temples were built without roofs, allowing the sun rays to fall freely upon worshippers.
The town was built facing eastward and positioned precisely to direct the morning sun rays towards the temples and doorways. The pharaoh’s roofless courts immensely frustrated royal envoys sent to Egypt. An Assyrian king wrote to Akhenaten concerning the matter, saying: “Why are my messengers kept standing in the open sun. If it does the king well to stand in the open sun, then let the king stand there and die in the open sun.”
Akhenaten and Nefertiti would journey from one end of the city to the other by chariot, mirroring the sun’s journey across the sky. Akhenaten’s reign is often called “The Amarna Period” since subsequent pharaohs reinstated Thebes as Egypt’s capital.
Some of Egypt’s most stunning artwork hails from this period, offering a unique insight into the everyday lives of the royal family. Strangely though, Akhenaten is always depicted with alien-like features such as a thin neck, elongated head, protruding chin, and strange eyes.
This has led some to speculate that Akhenaten suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, an inherited disorder that affects connective tissue and disfigures the afflicted.
Although the pharaoh descended from many generations of inbreeding, this is unlikely because other members of the family such as Nefertiti were depicted in the same manner.
It’s more likely that the art was created in this style to reinforce their god-like status. Akhenaten must have regarded politics and governing to be activities beneath the self-proclaimed god such as himself, because he often neglected matters of state and diplomacy.
After previous pharaohs such as his father worked tirelessly to strengthen international ties, this behavior was a major disappointment to not only the people of Egypt, but to its allies as well.
A series of letters known as “The Amarna Letters” provide evidence of the pharaoh’s gross negligence. Rib-Hadda, the king of Byblos and a loyal ally to Egypt, wrote to Akhenaten over fifty times to ask for his help in fighting against a Canaanite leader named Aziru who was preparing to lay siege to Byblos.
e also requested help defending against his increasingly resentful peasant class. In one of his many desperate letters to the pharaoh, the king wrote: “The people of Ammiya have killed their lord, and I am afraid. Like a bird in a trap, so I am here in Byblos.” Akhenaten became frustrated by the king’s many letters and responded only once, writing: “Why do you alone keep writing to me?” Rib-Hadda was quickly overrun by his enemies and dethroned. He was forced into exile and assassinated by Aziru shortly after that.
Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, another close ally of Egypt, had given his daughter’s hand in marriage to Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep the Third.
Upon his father’s death, the young pharaoh married the Mitanni princess, making her one of his lesser wives. Tushratta sent Akhenaten many letters to protest, never receiving the agreed-upon bride price of solid gold statues and instead of being sent only gold-plated wooden ones. The pharaoh didn’t avoid all diplomatic matters, just those that didn’t personally interest him. His attention was primarily focused on religious reform and life within his palace.
After seventeen years of controversial rule, Akhenaten passed away and was entombed in a necropolis east of Amarna. Burial instructions found on a stela in the capital reads: “Let a tomb be made for me in the eastern mountain of Akhetaten. In the years following his burial, Akhenaten’s sarcophagus was desecrated and destroyed.
His mummy was taken from the necropolis and is thought to have been reburied in the Valley of the Kings, but conclusively identifying Akhenaten’s corpse has proven a challenge for archeologists. The coffin was reconstructed in the twentieth century.
And is currently located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Akhenaten was succeeded briefly by two pharaohs named Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten before his son, whom he fathered with his sister, took the throne. This was none other than the famous boy pharaoh, Tutankhamun, whose reign marked the end of the Amarna Period. Upon ascending the throne, his advisers convinced the young pharaoh to reject Atenism and restore the traditional worship of Amun and the old gods.
To mark this change and prove his devotion to Amun, the young pharaoh altered his name, changing it from Tutankhamen to Tutankhamen. He also abandoned his father’s city of Amarna and re-established Thebes as Egypt’s capital.
Tutankhamun’s successors, particularly Horemheb, tore down many of Akhenaten’s constructions and used the rubble for their building projects. Horemheb went above and beyond to strike Akhenaten’s name from historical records and did an adequate job that the heretic pharaoh’s name didn’t appear in any of the king lists compiled by later Egyptian rulers.
The discovery of the Amarna site in the nineteenth century is the only reason Akhenaten’s existence is known. Ironically, Akhenaten is now one of the most notable pharaohs in all of ancient Egyptian history, while most of his detractors have forever vanished into obscurity. Although he may have been despised and viewed as a heretic shortly after his reign, modern historians and philosophers tend to view this religious revolutionary differently.
As Akhenaten is the first monotheist on record, it is theorized that the pharaoh had a profound and lasting impact on world civilization. The distinguished psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud noted that even though Atenism existed before Akhenaten, it was “He who added the something new that turned into monotheism, the doctrine of a universal god: the quality of exclusiveness.
” Doctor Freud argued that the pharaoh’s devoted followers were forced to leave Egypt after his death and led by an Atenist priest named Moses.
50 Fascinating Items Found In King Tut’s Tomb
- Oil Lamps
- Golden Bier
- Imiut Fetish
- Three Coffins
- Golden Rings
- Royal Chariot
- Burial Shrines
- Burial Mask
- Linen Gloves
- 50 Garments
- Canopic Jars
- Leopard Head
- Wall Paintings
- Ornate Pottery
- Ivory Headrest
- Golden Throne
- Game Of Senet
- Golden Sandals
- Mummified Lion
- Mummified Duck
- Mummified Food
- Statue Of Anubis
- 30 Jars Of Wine
- Scarab Pendant
- Bundle Of Linen
- Ornate Furniture
- Alabaster Chalice
- Scribal Equipment
- Funeral Equipment
- Ostrich Feather Fan
- Ceremonial Jewelry
- Ankh-Shaped Mirror
- Ornate Wooden Shield
- Four Funerary Chapels
- Winged Scarab Pectoral
- Silver & Copper Trumpets
- Alabaster Perfume Vessel
- Hunting Boomerang
- 250+ Sticks & Staves
- Solar Scarab Pendant
- Ornate Wooden Chest
- Golden Finger & Toe Stalls
- Engraved Doors To The Burial Shrine
- Statues Guarding The Entrance To The Tomb
- Painting Of King Tut At War
- Statue Of Ptah, The Creator God
- Illustration Of King Tut & His Queen
- Statue Of King Tut With A Walking Stick & Flail
Which items would you keep in your tomb? Comment in the box bellow-