Atlantis Arisen

Egypt & the Pyramids => Gods of Egypt => Topic started by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:16:07 am

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:16:07 am

                                               T H E   G R E A T   H Y M N

Thou arisest fair in the horizon of Heaven, O living Aten, Beginner of Life.

When thou dawnest in the East, thou fillest every land with thy beauty.

Thou art indeed comely, great, radiant and high over every land.

Thy rays embrace the lands to the full extent of all that thou hast made, for

thou art Re and thou attainest their limits and subduest them for thy beloved son.

Thou art remote, yet thy rays are upon the earth

Thou art in the sight of men, yet thy ways are not known.

When thou settest in the Western horizon,

the earth is in darkness after the manner of death.

Men spend the night indoors wth the head covered,

the eye not seeing its fellow.

Their possessions might be stolen, even under their heads,

and they would be unaware of it.

Every lion comes forth from its lair and all snakes bite.

Darkness lurks, and the earth is silent

when their Creator rests in his habitation.

The earth brightens when thou arisest in the Eastern horizon

and shinest forth as Aten in the daytime.

Thou drivest away the night when thou givest forth thy beams.

The Two Lands are in festival.

They awake and stand upon their feet for thou hast raised them up.

They wash their limbs, they put on raiment

and raise their arms in adoration at thy appearance.

The entire earth performs its labours.

All cattle are at peace in their pastures.

The trees and herbage grow green.

The birds fly from their nest, their wings [raised] in praise of thy spirit.

All animals gambol on their feet,

all the winged creation live when thou hast risen for them.

The boats sail upstream, and likewise downstream.

All ways open at thy dawning.

The fish in the river leap in thy presence.

Thy rays are in the midst of the sea.

Thou it is who causest women to conceive and makest seed into man,

who givest life to the child in the womb of its mother,

who comfortest him so that he cries not therein,

nurse that thou art, even in the womb,

who givest breath to quicken all that he hath made.

When the child comes forth from the body on the day of his birth,

then thou openest his mouth completely and thou furnishest his sustenance.

When the chick in the egg chirps within the shell,

thou givest him the breath within it to sustain him.

Thou createst for him his proper term within the egg,

so that he shall break it and come forth from it

to testify to his completion as he runs about on his two feet when he emergeth.

How manifold are thy works!  They are hidden from the sight of men,

O Sole God, like unto whom there is no other!

Thou didst fashion the earth according to thy desire when thou was alone

 - all men, all cattle great and small, all that are upon the earth

that run upon their feet or rise up on high, flying with their wings.

And the lands of Syria and Kush and Egypt -

thou appointest every man to his place and satisfiest his needs. 

Everyone receives his sustenance and his days are numbered.

Their tongues are diverse in speech and their qualities likewise,

and their colour is differentiated for thou hast distinguished the nations.

Thou makest the waters under the earth and thou bringest them forth

at thy pleasure to sustain the people of Egypt

even as thou hast made them live for thee,

O Divine Lord of them all, toiling for them,

The Lord of every land, shining forth for them,

The Aten Disk of the day time, great in majesty!

All distant foreign lands also, thou createst their life.

Thou hast placed a Nile in heaven to come forth for them

and make a flood upon the mountains
like the sea in order to water the fields of their villages.

How excellent are thy plans, O Lord of Eternity! - a Nile in the sky

is thy gift to foreigners and to beasts of their lands;

but the true Nile flows from under the earth for Egypt.

Thy beams nourish every field and when

thou shinest they live and grow for thee.

Thou makest the seasons in order to sustain all that thou hast made,

the winter to cool them, the summer heat that they may taste.

Thou hast made heaven afar off that thou mayest behold

all that thou hast made when thou wast alone,

appearing in thy aspect of the Living Aten, rising and shining forth.

Thou makest millions of forms out of thyself,

towns, villages, fields, roads, the river.

All eyes behold thee before them, for thou art the Aten of the daytime,

above all that thou has created.

Thou art in my heart, but there is none other who knows thee save thy son

Akhenaten.  Thou hast made him wise in thy plans and thy power.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:19:36 am

The character and deeds of Akhenaten, who for seventeen years directed the
fate of Egypt and the civilized world in the fourteenth century BC, continue to
engross and mystify the historians.  From being one whom his people did their
best to forget, he has become, thirty centuries later, the celabrated subject of
novels, operas and other works of the imagination.

In essence his doctrine rejected the universal concept of idolatry.  He taught that the graven images in which Egyptian gods revealed themselves had been invented by man and made by the skill of artisans.  He proclaimed a new god, unique, mysterious, whose forms could not be known and which were not fashioned by human hands.

The single-minded zealotry with which Akhenaten promoted the worship of a spirit, self-created daily, and transcendental, in place of a tangible repository of numinouspower, reveals a self-assurance which has provoked modern critics to class him and his chief queen Nefertiti, as religious fanatics; just as their subjects in their day recognized their exceptional charisma with backs bent low in adoration. 
Neverthe-less, although the royal pair share in the divinity of their god, they recognize its supremacy and prostrate themselves abjectly in its presence. 

This new found deity was yet a very old one - the sky god Horus, that since pre-
historic times had been incarnate in the king and carried the Aten, the disk of the
daytime sun, Re, across the heavens upon giant falcon wings.  In the Re-Herakhte of Akhenaten, however, the falcon was soon transformed from the bearer of the
solar disk upon its vertex into the disk itself, shooting forth its rays, each ending in a human hand, thus manifesting itself as an active force, a heavenly king like Re,
reigning over the Horizon where lay the realms of light. 

Within a few months this solar symbol of deity had devoloped into an abstraction and a sole god. 
During the remainder of the reign it became increasingly regal, pre-
dominatly abstract and at the last,  brooked no rival.

This belief, however was almost as old as the pharaonate itself.  Every pharaoh was an incarnation
of the great sky god Horus, and since early times had borne the
title "Son of Re", the active solar deity to whom he would be assimilated at death.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:22:32 am

T H E   D I S C O V E R Y   O F   A K H E N A T E N     

Almost 300 Kilometres south of Cairo, about midway between ancient Memphis
and Thebes, on the west bank of the Nile, lie the ruins of Hermopolis.  This was the seat in pagan times of the
moongod Thoth, whom the Greek equated with their Hermes, and the capital of a thriving district that extended to  a depth of nearly 20 kilometres, to meet the verges of the Libyan Desert on the west.  By contrast with this still fertile and populous tract, the opposite bank presents an inhospitable face with sheer limestone cliffs, plunging headlong into the Nile and scarcely affording space for a continuous highway at the water's edge.  The vast escarpment extends further south for some 65 kilometres when, at Sheikh Sa'id, the bluffs recedes from
the river in an abrupt curve, for a distance of 12 kilometres and a maximum depth of five, before resuming their southward course.  This opening in the rocky wall forms the sandy plain of Amarna, a vast natural amphitheatre in which one of the great dramas of ancient Egypt was played out in little more than a decade in the fourteenth century BC, when it became "a chance bivouac in the march of history, fulled for a moment with all the movement and colour of intense life, and then was abandoned to a deeper silence, as the camp was hurriedly struck and the course of Egyptian history relapsed again into more wonted highways."

For this was the site to which Akhenaton, visionary and religious reformer, was directed by divine inspiration, in his fifth regnal year, as the place where his sole god, Re-Herakhte, immanent in the sunlight that streamed from the Aten, or disk of the sun, had manifested himself at the creation of the world.  It was here that the Pharaoh founded a capital city on virgin ground, which was built for the Aten, extended during the remaining twelve years of his reign, and forsaken soon after his death.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:23:56 am

T H E   D I S C O V E R Y   O F   A K H E N A T E N

All this, of course was unknown to the European travellers who came to this spot in
the early years of the nineteenth century.  They found a desert tract covered with scrub and low mounds of pebble-strewn rubbish, sloping from the crescent of east-
ern hills to a narrow strip of cultivation, bordering the river and scored by shallow wadis.  This untamed place was not made any more inviting by the evil reputation of the inhabitants of the wretched villages, strung along the river bank from north to south at EtTil, El Hagg Qandil, El Amirya and El Hawata.  These were occupied by the sullen and quarrelsome descendants of the Beni Amran, nomads who had left the Eastern Desert in the early eighteenth century and settled on the river banks, giving their name to the whole region.  The full description of their northernmost village, Et Til el Amarna, was mis-heard by early travellers as Tell el Amarna, and still persists, though it is a misnomer, since there is no single 'tell' or great mound marking the ancient site.  Scholars have now generally agreed to call the place El Amarna, or more simply, Amarna.

Despite such deterrents, in 1824 the first of the notable modern explorers stopped at Et Eil and visited some of the open tombs cut in a terrace that extended half-way up the cliffs at the northern edge of the site.  This was John Gardner Wilkinson, who had come to Egypt three years earlier in search of a more congenial climate in which to cosset his fragile health, and stayed for a further decade investigating the monuments, particularly those at Thebes.

He returned to Amarna in 1826, this time in company with James Burton, an elder brother of the more famous architect Decimus and a member of a team that had made a geological survey of Egypt for Mohammed Ali in 1822.  Wilkinson and Burton copied scenes and made squeezes in the tombs of the High Steward of the Queen Mother, Huya; Pharaoh's Private Secretary, Ahmose;  the High Priest, MeryreI; the Chief Servitor, Pinhasy; the Cupbearer, Parennefer; the Chamberlain, Tutu and the Master of the Horse, Ay.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:25:06 am

THE DISCOVERY OF AKHENATON                                                              continued

Not that the two copyists were aware of the names and titles of the former owners of these tombs.  At this time, the knowledge of how to decipher hieroglyphs, follow-
ing upon Champollion's initial discoveries of 1822, had hardly been sufficiently developed to enable Wilkinson and Burton to read the names  of the ancient site, which they identified as the late Roman Alabastronopolis, from a nearby alabaster quarry, one of several in the northern hills.  It is under this name that Wilkinson published the source of his copies and extracts from the tomb scenes in his
"Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians", which in its various editions had such a profound influence on Victorian ideas of ancient Egypt.  Apart from this, and
a page in Burton's "Excerpta Hierogliphica", nothing was published from the site, although in subsequent years, several expeditions and individuals examined the monuments at Amarna.  The Scottish midshipman Robert Hay, later laird of Linplum, and his team of copyists worked there in 1830 and 1833 and, not only examined all the tombs that were open, but cleared others from beneath extensive drifts of sand in the foothills on the southern limits of the site.  In this way, they added to
the tally the tombs of the Overseer of the Royal Harim, another Meryre; and the Governor of the City, Neferkheperuhersekheper.  The careful and often exquisite copies of the scenes, that they secured with the aid of the camera lucida, have never been published, except in extracts.  The original drawings and notes have
survived in their portfolios, among the manuscripts of the British Library.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:26:26 am

THE DISCOVER OF AKHENATON                                                               continued

A similar fate befell the copies made by the French draughtsman Nestor L'Hote, who had accompanied Champollion on his expedition in 1828 and again, on his own account, ten years later.  His manuscripts and drawings are in the Bibliotheqe Nationale in Paris.  So are those of the Breton archaeologist and artist Prisse
d'Avennes, who went to Egypt to work as an engineer for Mohammed Ali and stayed on to excavate and explore.  He came to Amarna in the early 1840s and copied in the northern tombs there.

The attaction that brought these men and the general tourist to the private tombs at Amarna, in spite of hardships, was the unique nature of the reliefs with which they were decorated.  Unlike those of other tombs in Egypt, they were large, unified compositions, the subject-matter of which was exclusively concerned with the activities of a royal family, consisting of a king and queen and several of their infant daughters.  They were shown not in the formal attitudes of worship repeated so insistently on every temple wall, or as triumphant conquerors smiting the foreign foes, but in intimate and vivid detail as human beings engaged in every day domestic affairs, embracing their children, riding in their chariots to attend worship  in the local shrines, feasting in the privacy of their palaces, or honouring their followers with valuable rewards taken from their treasure chests.  In all these scenes there was an entire absence of that funerary ambiance which tinged the decoration of the painted tombs of Thebes, and even the reliefs in the stone mastabas of the Old Kingdom at Saqqara. 

Indeed, the scenes radiated a vibrancy in the pose of the participants in the drama, with onlookers expressing excitement and even ecstasy in the presence of their rulers, and joy and pride in the awards that were bestowed upon them.  There was also a fervency evident in the sacrifices which the royal pair offered up before a heaped altar under a radiant sun.  Everywhere strings by the expressive fingers of the musicians who were so much in evidence, in the dances of jubilation by onlookers and the waving of palm fronds and olive branches in the hands of those welcoming the subjects whom royalty had honoured

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:27:36 am

THE DISCOVERY OF AKHENATEN                                                              continued

There was also, however, a certain prevailing mystery.  The royal figures in the scenes were drawn in a style that differed markedly from what was generally
accepted as the ancient Egyptian mode.  The king and, to a lesser extent, the
queen, was represented as though his head were deformed, with a long nose, thick
lips, a hanging chin and  a long serpentine neck.  His physique, too, was distincti-
vely feminine, with its heavy breasts, swelling hips and ample thighs.  The question arose of whether a king and his consort were in question at Amarna, or two queens, one masquereding as a pharaoh.  This enigma, so far from discouraging
visitors, only enhanced the appeal of the place.

Despite such attractions, the tombs lying open on the northern hill terraces were in a sorry condition.  Most of them were badly damaged and polluted by the attentions of generations of squatters in early Christian times, and colonies of bats ever since.  The Christians had damaged the walls and built their rude houses in the forecourts: some of the innermost chambers had been used as burial places.  The tomb of Pinhas had even been extensively remodelled as a Coptic church, with a deep font for total immersion before the apse.  But, apart from such desecration, it was apparent to early visitors, that the reliefs had also suffered from the hammers of iconoclasts who had defaced the figures of the king and queen and removed their names from the inscriptions.  So throughly had this destruction been wrought , that it was not easy to find an intact cartouche bearing the name of the king or queen, and still less was it possible to come upon an undamaged portrait of the royal pair.  Nevertheless, there were oversights, in places difficult of access or evidently inaccessible by the time that the work of defacement began.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:29:38 am

THE DISCOVERY OF AKHENATEN                                                                  continued

In this predicament, is was customary for early visitors to Amarna to refer to the people represented on the reliefs as the "Disk Worshippers", from the image of the sun shooting forth a dozen or more rays, each ending in a hand, which dominated the upper part of nearly every scene and which was clearly a special symbol of veneration.  It did not require particularly acute perception to see that this rayed
disk with its protective uraeus, had a special connection with the royal pair.  Its hands brought the ankh or sign of life to their nostrils, or clasped their limbs or persons as though to support them; but such privileges were denied to their subjects, however exalted.  It, too, was accompanied by two cartouches enclosing
its names, like the two great names of a king, but they were larger than the cartouches of the pharaoh and surrounded by a double border.  The signs within
these were difficult to interpret but were evidently the same as those which accompanied a representation of the sun-god, ReHerakhte, as a falcon-headed man, found on a few monuments elsewher, though not at Amarna.  Eventually,
following the opinion of German scholars, the contents of the two great cartouches were recognized as a 'didactic' name of an age-old kingly god in his aspect of the entire day-time sun, 'Re-Horus, who rejoices in the horizon in his name of the light which is in the sun-disk".

Whatever this name meant, and new interpretations were to appear with each generation of scholars, the important element was (hieroglyph), ATEN, the sun's
disk, which was frequently used alone as though it were an abbreviated form of the longer name.  It did not go unobserved either that a different version of the didactic name also existed.

The excision of the names of the king and queen and, sporadically of the god himself, and of other members of the royal family, suggested that the "Disk Worshippers" had incurred some kind of odium.  Their names did not appear on the lists of pharaohs which about this time were coming to light at Saqqara, Karnak and elsewhere.  The family at Amarna bore all the signs of being figures and faces and names that were anathema.  Such marks of execration only added to the
mistery of the place. 

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:31:15 am

THE DISCOVERY OF AKHENATON                                                             continued

In 1842, however, fresh light was admitted to dispel some of the obscurities when
the Prussian Epigraphic Expedition under Richard Lepsius, a disciple of Champollion and the foremost Egyptologist of his day, arrived in Egypt to begin their immense survey.  The team paid two visits to Amarna in 1843 and 1845, where in the course of a total of twelve phenomenally busy days, they copied scenes and inscriptions and took paper squeezes of reliefs in the northern tombs and of those in the southern group, which had been opened by Hay a dozen years earler.  These re-
cords, still happily housed in Berlin, are invaluable, since not infrequently they are now the only evidence we have of what existed on walls that have since been damaged or totally destroyed. 

Lepsius' explorations were mostly concerned with a more accurate and complete knowledge of monuments already brought to light, rather than with an increase in the sum-total of new excavations and discoveries.  But his main contribution to the
advance of the subject was the worthy publication of results in the twelve mighty volumes of the "Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopen", which were devoted
solely to illustrations and the five volumes of letter press, which appeared posthumously. 

It was this work that enabled scholars in subsequent years, with their increasing
knowledge of ancient Egyptian archaeology and philology, to improve their understanding and elucidation of the Amarna monuments and to begin a serious attempt to write the history of the site.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:33:05 am

THE DISCOVERY OF AKHENATEN                                                               continued

Notwithstanding the excised cartouches of the main actors in the drama, it soon became apparent that they were indeed a male pharaoh and his chief queen, whose names did not appear in the official king-lists.  His name was read as
Khuenaten, but by the end of the century this version had been corrected to Akhenaten.  Further study revealed that the king had at some stage in his career changed his nomen from Amenophis(Amenhotep), a name which was the same as that of his predecessor, though accompanied by a slightly different epithet, "Divine
ruler of Thebes', in place of "Ruler of thebe".  This revocation of the name of Amun seemed to have some connection with the excision of the name and figure of this god, wherever they appeared, though they had generally been restored at a later date, apart from oversights.

The chief queen, whose figure appeared inseparably with her husband's in most of their representations, retained her name of Nefertiti without alteration; but after a time she added an epither to it, Neferneferuaten (Fair in the Beauty of the Aten) in an expanded version.  The names of their six daughters were also recovered, as was that of the ancient township which had stood in the plain at Amarna and which
was still visible as a straggle of dark sandy mounds dappled with withe pebbles. 
This was found to be Akhentaten, "the Horizon (or seat) of the Aten", an appellation not encountered in the records, except for chance scribbles on the rocks at Aswan.

More than a century of study and exploration has torn the veil from the mystery, without however plucking out its heart; and Akhenaten, so far from being execrated and forgotten, bids fair to become the most over-exposed of all the pharaohs, while the features of his wife, Nefertiti, thanks to the much publicized painted bust found at Amarna, are probably more familiar now than Cleopatra's, that 'femme fatale' of the Hellenistic world.

Such a turn of Fortune's wheel would have appealed to the Egyptian of Roman days, who frequently offed his prayers to the gryphon of Nemesis.


King of Egypt

by Cyril Aldred

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:35:20 am

The Aten
During the reign of Akhenaten The Aten was installed as the principal god of Egypt, and the worship of the old gods was rejected. The Aten was not a new god but an obscure aspect of the sun god, worshipped as early as the Old Kingdom. "Aten" was the traditional name for the sun-disk itself and so the name of the god is often translated as "the Aten" (for example, in the coffin texts of the Middle Kingdom) the word "Aten" represents the sun disc, and in the 'Story of Sinuhe' (also from the Middle Kingdom) Amenemhat I is described as soaring into the sky and uniting with Aten, his creator. During the New Kingdom, the Aten was considered to be an aspect of the composite deity Ra-Amun-Horus. (Ra represented the daytime sun, Amun represented the sun in the underworld and Horus represented the sunrise). Akhenaten proclaimed "the Aten" (the visible sun itself) to be the sole deity, taking sun worship a stage further. Because of the naturalistic qualities of some of the art works of the time, some have suggested that his religion was based on the scientific observation that the sun's energy is the ultimate source of all life.

In its early stages Atenism is best described as a henotheistic religion (a religion devoted to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods) but it developed into a proto-monotheistic system. The full extent of his religious reforms were not apparent until the ninth year of his reign. As well as proclaiming the Aten the only god, he banned the use of idols with the exception of a rayed solar disc. He also made it clear that the image of the Aten only represented the god, but that the god transcended creation and so could not be fully understood or represented. This aspect of his faith bears a notable resemblance to the religion of Moses, prompting Freud to suggest that Akhenaten was the first Monotheist.

A number of hymns to the Aten were composed during Akhenaten's reign, some apparently by the king himself. They describe the wonders of nature and hail the sun as the absolute and universal lord of all things. In particular, the Hymn to the Aten (recorded in the tomb of Ay, the vizier Akhenaten who became pharaoh after Tutankhamun) has become famous as many commentators have argued that it closely echoes Psalm 104 which describes the wonders of nature and ascribes ultimate power to Yahweh, the Hebrew God. There is indeed a certain similarity in the type of language and the content matter, but those who argue the two texts are the same are perhaps exaggerating slightly.

The Aten was worshipped in the open sunlight, rather than in dark temple enclosures, as the old gods had been.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:36:57 am



Erik Hornung - Translated by David Lorton

                                    T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D


The religious ideas with which Akhenaten grew up were those of the "New Solar
Theology," which Jan Assman, in particular, has investigated.  It is to be encountered
in hymns and rituals and in the Books of the Netherworld of Dynasty 18.

At its core is the daily course of the sun, which guarantees the continued existence
of the Cosmos. 

The Sun god renews his creation every morning, but he also descends nightly into
the netherworld, where his revivifying light wakes the dead to new life in the depth
of the earth.

The entire Cosmos is dependent upon light and the sight of the God, but this light
must be continually regenerated into the darkness; it must overcome dangers and
hostile forces whose most powerful embodiment is the enormous serpent Apopis.

These menacing forces are defeated, and the New Solar Theology reflects deep
trust in the reliability of the sun.  This god, whose visible cult image was the sun and
whom the Egyptians worshipped under several names, was the creator of the other
gods; he was thus the unique God of the Gods, hidden and inscrutable in his essence,
and therefore especially worshipped as Amun, whose name means "Hidden One."

The remoteness of the god is constantly stressed, though he was also immanent in
his rays.  The visible light on which all creation depended shone upon a world filled
with mythic concepts, which Akhenaten would eliminate in their entirety.

The Creator renewed his work each night in the depths of the netherworld, where he
effected his own regeneration and, at the same time, wakened the dead to new life.

Setting each evening, he had a share in the fate of death; in the course of the New
Kingdom, it became customary to view Osiris, god of the dead, as a form of the Sun
god, so that he ruled not only this world, but the next one as well.

Next to this potent luminary, the other divine powers ran the risk of fading into insigni-

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:38:27 am

 T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D


It appears that Amenophis III tried to prevent this single god from gaining the
upper hand by stressing the multiplicity of deities in Egypt, especially in connec-
tion with his festival of renewal.

In addition to the series of Sekhmet statues, he commissioned a further series of
statues, on whose bases he was designated as "beloved" of a very great variety
of deities, among them less important and specifically local ones.

Similar epithets occur on an extensive series of large scarabs connecting the king
with numerous deities. 

There were definitely tendencies - and not only at the royal court - that ran counter
to the New Solar Theology and its elevation of a single god over the entire pantheon,
in a manner that was altogether too one-sided and, in that respect, un-Egyptian.

But the plurality of deities was not replaced in principle by this unique and distant sun
god, and they remained in exestence along with the Aten in the early years of Akhen-

From a modern, strictly logical point of view, it would take only one small step to turn
this unique god, this God of All Gods, into a single one who tolerated no other deity be-
sides himself.

Akhenaten in fact took this step, though only as the final consequence of his reflec-
tions concerning the divine and the gods.  First, however, he made a RELIGION (as
Jan Assmann observes) out of the New Solar Theology with which he had grown up.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:40:08 am

HIS FATHER'S POLICIES                                                                              continued

Politically, the reign of Amenophis III was a period of stability and peace.

Akhenaten's grandfather Tuthmosis IV, had laid the foundations for it by bringing
an end to the decades of military conflict between the two great powers of that

 A M E N O P H I S    I I I   

The other power was the kingdom of Mitanni, whose center lay in the border area bet-
ween Syria and Iraq, and whose struggles with Egypt concerned control over northern
Syria, which was a matter of exercising sovereignty over the princes there.

During the regn of Akhenaten, the Hittite kingdom in Anatolia would establish itself as
yet another great power and intervene in this area.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:42:28 am

HIS FATHER'S POLICIES                                                                                     CONTINUED

Amenophis III had led only two rather symbolic campaigns into Nubia, while he
maintained Egyp's power in western Asia solely through diplomacy, marriage
alliances and rich consignment of gold and other products. 

Egypt perceived itself as a world power and Pharaoh's court became as an in-
ternational center where ambassadors of all lands came and went, where goods
from Asia and Crete were prized and where even Asiatic deities such as Reshef,
Baal, Astarte and Qudshu were worshipped. 

The geographical horizons of the Egyptians now also encompassed the more im-
portant cities of the Aegean, as shown by a list of place-names from the king's
mortuary temple.

The prevailing atmosphere was one of openness to the outside world and recep-
tiveness toward other religions.  a scene in the fifth hour of the night in the Book
of Gates, which originated at this time, places even the "wretched" Asiatics,
Nubians and Libyans under the protection of Egyptian deities in the afterlife, just
as the Great Hymn of the Aten would stress the care of Akhenaten's god for
foreign peoples.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:43:45 am

HIS FATHER'S POLICIES                                                                                continued

Amenophis III was one of the greatest builders in the history of Egypt. 

Witness to this is borne especially by the temple of Luxor, by the double temple of
Soleb and Sedeinga in Nubia and by his mortuary temple on the west bank of Thebes;
the latter exceeded all its predecessors in size, but it was soon severely damaged by
an earthquake.  Where the monumental entrance to the temple once stood, now only
the two huge Colossi of Memnon (below), each more than 65feet in height and weigh-
ing 720tons, testify to the temple's original size, as well as to the king's tendency to

This latter stamped out not only his architecture and royal statuary, but other objects
as well; never had such large 'shawabtis' and scarabs been made.

The officials of the royal court followed the king in this tendency, as shown by the huge,
though uncompleted, tomb of the vizier Amenhotpe on the Asasif.

The tendency to the colossal was complemented by a turn to unusual building material.

In a dedicatory inscription at the temple of Montu in the Karnak complex, the king men-
tions precious materials such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, jasper, turquoise, bronze and
copper, which he used in its construction and decoration, noting with pride the exact
weights of each.

He attempted thus to capture, quite literally, the "weight of this monument," as the capt-
ion to another list on the Third Pylon at Karnak puts it.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:45:32 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D


There seems to have been a "sed"-festival for as long as there was a pharaoh.

Representations of the king running the festival's course or sitting enthroned in its
chapel occur on sealings from the beginning of the pharaonic period, c. 3000BC.
These were two of the festival's most important rites, and they would be depicted
again and again in later times.

The object of the festival was a renewal of the reigning monarch, whose power
had become depleted over time, thus endangering the continued existence of the

Instead of killing him and replacing him with a new ruler, it was considered sufficient
to effect a symbolic burial of the 'old' king in the form of a statue and accord him the
opportunity to repeat his coronation and continue to reign as a 'new' king.

The ritual course he ran before all the deities of the land also symbolized the conti-
nued strength that qualified him for the renewal of his rulership.

                             Amenophis III's Sed Festival Temple

In the Middle and New Kingdoms, this festival of renewal was celebrated before the
end of the thirtieth year of rule and then repeated at briefer intervals of three or four
years; in the case of Ramesses II, with his extremely long reign of over 66 years, we
know of a dozen repetitions.

In Egypt, 30 years was a round number signifying a generation, though our sources do
not as yet permit a confirmation of this criterion for the Old Kingdom and the Late Period.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:47:15 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE ROYAL 'SED' FESTIVAL                                                                        continued


Amenophis III, though, affords us the most abundant attestation of an actual
sed-festival in the thirtiesth regnal year, for many dated inscriptions are pre-
served on vessels from his palace at el-Malqata, on the west bank of Thebes.

These were part of the deliveries of supplies for the king's sed-festival and its

Akhenaten, who ruled less than thirty years and evidently celebrated his festi-
val shortly after the beginning of his reign, is one of the few exceptions to the
usual rule; this unusual celebration might have been connected with the theo-
cracy of the Aten.  In any case, this does not seem to have been a fictitious

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:48:42 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE ROYAL 'SED' FESTIVAL                                                                                         continued

Dja-rukha, the residential palace complex built by Amenhotep III early in his long reign is located at Malkata (Malqata) on the West Bank of the Nile River at Thebes. It was here that Akhenaten spent his youth and where he may have ruled as co-regent, where Amenhotep III celebrated his three jubilee sed-festivals and where his reign came to an end. Over three and a half thousand years later, Dja-rukha lies in ruins, its once beautifully decorated mudbrick buildings transformed into colourful rubble easily crushed underfoot.

Known in Amenhotep’s time as pr Haj or ‘House of Rejoicing’ and also as the Palace of the Dazzling Aten, Dja-rukha was the king’s permanent Theban base. Covering over 80 hectares, the complex included four palaces, accommodation for relatives of the king and their large retinues, accommodation for the vizier and other high-ranking officials, three audience halls, parade grounds, a temple of Amun, an administrative section (the West Villas), at least two village areas for palace workmen and other buildings. His mortuary temple, no longer in existence, lay about a mile south-west of the complex. Dja-rukha was used by Amenhotep on an intermittent basis until the king 'retired' there in regnal year 29 ten years before he died.
The residential palace was serviced by its own large artificial harbour now known as the Birket Habu, a 200,000 square metre harbour basin, built by Amenhotep to enable easy passage to Waset across the Nile. The artificial hills still in existence around the Birket Habu are evidence of the massive undertaking to create it. The harbour also formed the part of the setting for Amenhotep’s Sed-festival which was celebrated three times in his reign, the first of which marked his newly deified state as Aten Tjehen or the Dazzling Aten. The desert altar at Kom al-Samak, which was probably connected to the residential palace by a causeway, was integral to the king’s Sed-festivals.


Dja-rukha’s location on the West Bank was probably a strategic one. Unlike other rulers who had taken up temporary residence in courts connected with Karnak when festive and sacred occasions required their attendance, Amenhotep went against established custom by building a permanent residence across the river. Its location may have signified a calculated move to distance himself from the interference in his affairs by the increasingly powerful sect of Amun.

Due to Amenhotep’s practice of marrying foreign princesses to consolidate Egypt’s relations with its neighbours, the court would have been a relatively cosmopolitan one. Wives of royal birth such as the Mitannian princesses Gilukhepa and Tadukhepa brought with them hundreds of attendants. In addition, artisans from the Aegean islands who left a lasting legacy in the new stylistic conventions evidenced in the palace’s elegant murals must have brought with them other cultural influences. Combined, these things may have contributed to a polyglot domestic environment that affected the nature of the court at Dja-rukha in many subtle ways.

Built of painted mudbrick with wooden columns and roof beams, with stone used sparingly for the flooring of baths, column bases and door sills, the palace featured plastered walls that, in some rooms, were painted with murals depicting plants, animals and decorative motifs, their naturalistic style suggesting a direct Minoan influence. Existing fragments of the brilliantly coloured decorative murals that once graced the walls and now-fallen ceilings of the palace still suggest its beauty and elegance. Spiral patterns, rosettes and other repeating motifs hint at the Egyptian love of pattern and order.

Known in Arabic as the ‘place of debris’, the Malkata site was relatively intact until 1888. Poorly handled excavations at that time and the removal of much material between 1910 and 1920 by New York’s Metropolitan Museum seriously impoverished the site. Further excavation occurred in the 1970s under the aegis of the University of Pennsylvania. From the mid 1980’s, a team from Waseda University in Japan re-excavated a number of the rooms including the Pharaoh's bedchamber in the main palace. Some sections of the site are still to be investigated. In time no doubt others will come to prise yet a little more information from the dust and the cracked mud remains.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:50:30 am

 T H E   'S E D' - F E S T I V A L


by Jimmy Dunn

One of the most important festivals related to kingship was the heb sed Festival, also frequently referred to as the royal jubilee or simply the Sed-festival. This significant celebration was a ritual during which the king's right to rule and his royal powers were renewed. There are many representations of this festival, which normally depicts the king running alongside the Apis bull in order to prove his fitness to rule.

A very ancient jackal-like god, who may have been an independent deity or, alternatively, related in some way to the jackal god Wepwawet, was closely related to kingship ideology, and the ancient Sed-festival. Sed was also associated with Ma'at in certain ways and may have been viewed as a champion of justice similar to Ma'at herself.

Usually, this festival officially occurred after the king had held the throne for thirty years, but there is evidence that suggests that some kings, including those with relatively short reigns, celebrated their jubilee earlier. There is some evidence that seems to indicate that the king could, upon failing health or for other reasons, alter the normal span between such festivals, particularly after the first jubilee. 

We really do not know the origin of the Sed-festival, though there is some evidence to suggest that it was held from the very beginning of Egypt's recorded history and probably took place even in Predynastic times. The oldest possible example of this Sed-festival is believed to have been found on the decoration of the ritual mace head of Narmer, which is taken by some to be an indication that this king ruled for at least 30 years. However, it is possible that the decoration on this mace head does not represent the Heb Sed at all. What is clear is that evidence form of a small ebony label once attached to a jar of oil from the tomb of King Den at Abydos, on which is depicted a tiny stick-man figure of the king running around a clearly defined course and carrying the heb sed insignia. To the left of the figure is a platform approached by a short flight of steps, on which a double shrine has been erected. The king is once again depicted in the shrine, sitting on a throne and wearing the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.


The ritual continued to be practiced throughout Egypt's pharaonic history. At Karnak there are blocks from the reconstructed Red Chapel that show queen Hatshepsut as king, running with the Apis bull between the markers. On the inner walls of the hypostyle hall in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, there are also scenes depicting Ramesses II in one of his Jubilees, and the ceremony is also shown in the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III at Thebes. However, this latter king seems to have somewhat altered the ritual and its usual setting . He celebrated three Sed-festivals (years 30, 34 and 37) and descriptions of he ceremonies say that they took place on the great artificial lake he built at Malkata. He seems to have filled his mortuary temple, which was still under construction, with numerous odd animal sculptures that have recently been suggested as forming part of a massive astronomical tableau. Apparently, he and statues of various deities sailed along in barges in order to symbolically recreate the voyage of the sun god through the underworld. However, this also reminds us of a limestone relief now in the Petrie Museum in London that depicts Senusret I celebrating his Sed-festival, holding an oar. An inscription on this artifact reads, "hastening by boat to Min, the god in the midst of the city".

Even during the reign of the 18th Dynasty heretic king, Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten), the heb sed festival was depicted in the colonnaded court of the Temple of Aten at Karnak. However, in this instance, and perhaps not so surprisingly, his wife Nefertiti and even the royal daughters seem to have taken part in the ceremony. Remarkably, the Aten is also seen taking part in a Sed-festival of its own. Gods were usually seen to give Sed-festivals to the king and were never, outside of these depictions, shown taking part in the ritual themselves. Amenhotep IV seems to be pointing out that because the god is king, so the king is also god. In this instance, the king apparently celebrated the Jubilee very early in his reign, perhaps around year two or three, even before he made the move to his new capital at Akhetaten (Amarna).

The festival continued through the very end of the pharaonic period. This is confirmed by scenes from the Temple of Bastet at Bubastis, where the 22nd Dynasty king, Osorkon II, is sown seated in his heb sed kiosk, wearing the typical robe of for the ceremony. Lasting into the Greek Period, at Kom Ombo, carved reliefs show Ptolemy VIII receiving heb sed symbols from the god Horus. 

There is also evidence that the Sed-festival was thought to continue after the physical death of the king. In the Step Pyramid complex of King Djoser at Saqqara, there were provisions for this ceremony to be eternally re-enacted. Within the Great Court are markers that indicated the course the king would have to run. This course may have represented the frontiers of Egypt and symbolized the extent of the king's dominion. The figure of the running king can be seen in the low relief in the chambers below the Southern Tomb and beneath the pyramid. On a beautiful alabaster vase that was discovered in one of the chamber beneath the pyramid is carved a figure of a man with arms upraised, holding aloft a square object, perhaps a canopy, although Jean-Philippe Lauer suggests that it is a platform on which the double shrine and two thrones would have been set up. Decorating the handles of this vase or reliefs of the thrones of the Two Lands. The figures represents the hieroglyph for millions of years and the thrones are those used by the king at his Sed-festival.


One of the best preserved cycles of scenes is preserved from the Sun temple of King Niuserre in Abu Ghurab. The reliefs from the temple are now in different collections, some in the Petrie Museum (see the link below the following pictures). However, while it is tempting to consolidate our understanding of this festival from combined sources such as this and others from all period in order to create a comprehensive explanation for this particular ritual, it is very likely that how it was conducted changed over time, and the nuances of its meaning probably did as well. Yet, several aspects seem to have characterized the Sed-festival more than any other. The typical clothing for the king is was a short cloak which reaches the knees and leaves the shoulders almost free. He sits on a special dais provided with two thrones for an appearance as King of Upper and Lower Egypt. The thrones are normally shown back to back, but this may be an artistic device for rendering a pair which were actually side by side.

More elaborate scenes, later than the Early Dynastic Period, give as the setting for this ceremony a series of shrines pictured as constructions of wood and matting. This form of shrine probably originated as a type of temporary building, and in this context represented another pair of dual symbols, with one design for Lower Egypt and the other for Upper Egypt. Sometimes they were specifically for the cobra-goddess Wadjit of the Delta town of Buto, and the vulture goddess Nekhbet of el-Kab, but they were for other deities as well. There was hence a gathering of provincial images of deities in a series of temporary shrines beside the double throne of the king.

In the open space between the two rows of shrines, the king, attired alternately in the insignia of Upper and Lower Egypt, ran a ritual race around a course which was called "the field". The king would round the boundaries of the field four times as the ruler of Upper Egypt and four times as the ruler of Lower Egypt.

Other ceremonies also took place during the Sed festival, such as the act of homage to the king by the "Great Ones of Upper and Lower Egypt". This festival was also an occasion for the issue of commemorative objects, including stone vases bearing the king's titulature.


Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:51:44 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE ROYAL SED FESTIVAL                                                                     continued

In many cases, mention of a sed-festival does not constitute evidence for an act-
ual celebration.  Every pharaoh hoped to complete 30 years of rule and to be re-
generated in a sed-festival, often articulating this wish in formulaic expressions from
the very beginning of his reign; real celebrations of the festival cannot be inferred
from such statements.

Kings especially counted on continuing their festivals of renewal after their deaths -
thus, for example, the young Tutankhamun was wished "millions of years and hund-
reds of thousands of sed-festivals" - and inscriptions containing such wishes were
often carved on buildings dedicated to their continued existence.


Pharaoh wore a special vestment during most of the ceremonies of the festival, a
mantle-like garment that also distinguished statues prepared for the sed-festival
from other statues.  Akhenaten affords the earliest example of a god who was also
able to celebrate a sed-festiva; later Osiris, in particular, was included in its sybol-
ism, for the desired regeneration played a special role in his case.

Otherwise, however, the festival was a renewal of rulership, a purely royal festival.

Officials participated as supernumeraries, but they could celebrate no sed-festivals
of their own.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:53:02 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D


In spite of everything, Amenophis III was not an "enlightened" and irreligious monarch;
rather, he was deeply rooted in traditional piety.

His last decade was characterized by multiple celebrations of the great royal festival of
renewal, the "sed"-festival, which was supposed to revive and ritually renew the waning
powers of a king after 30 years of rule; it was then repeated at briefer intervals of three
years each.

Since he ruled a full 38 years, Amenophis III was able to celebrate two repetitions before
his death.  All three celebrations took place in his palace at el-Malqata on the West bank
of Thebes, and they are richly attested through deliveries that arrived there in inscribed
and, often, dated jars. Japanese excavations have even uncovered a podium for a throne,
whose 30 steps stand for the 30 years that had gone by; representations from all periods
show that, at the midpoint of the festival, Pharaoh sat enthroned on such a podium, thus
repeating his coronation.

While a specific deification of the king was connected with the festival, every pharaoh was
already divine.

In the New Kingdom, this divinity was viewed above all as solar; the king not only was the
SON OF RE, but was himself the SUN, lighting the world and playing the role of the Sun God
on earth through his deeds.

Quite like Ramesses II at a later date, Amenohis III went a step further and had statues
erected in which he was revered as a god - specifically, the SUN GOD - during his lifetime;
thus, there exist cult scenes in which the king is portrayed praying or making offerings to
his own image!



Amenophis fell back on ancient models for the celebration of his festival, but he took special
care to raise it to new splendor.  The ritual rejuvenation of rulership it was supposed to
effect is documented by statues from the end of his reign which depict him with pronoun-
cedly youthful features.

He called himself the Dazzling Sun, while at his side his chief wife, Teye, played the role of
Hathor, the companion of the sun god who stood for all aspects of regeneration.

The important role played by the royal family in the late years of Amenophis III calls to mind
the prominence it would have in the Amarna Period, though the relaxed intimacy of the
scenes from the latter period are missing from the art of Amenophis.

It is striking, though, that the later "Heretic King", who became the successor to the throne,
upon the premature death of his older brother Tuthmosis, played no prominent role; he is
mentioned only once, on a delivery for the 'sed'-festival of his father.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:54:47 am

 T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D


The times were filled with a quest for a new closeness to the divine and for new inter-
mediaries between the human and the divine realms

This is clear in the prominence of animal worship, the evidence for which increases
under Amenophis III.

The burials of the Apis bulls in the crypts at Saqqara began with him, and the croco-
dile sanctuary at el-Rizeiqat, south of Luxor, stems from his reign.

There are also numerous monumental representations of animals, such as the baboons
of Hermopolis and the scarab at Karnak, and there is also the sarcophagus for a cat
dedicated by the crown prince Tutmosis.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:56:59 am

"The Apis Bull", wrote Herodotus, "is the calf of a cow which is never able after to have another. The Egyptians believe that a flash of lightning strikes the cow from heaven, and thus causes her to conceive the Apis. It has distinctive marks. It is black, with a white diamond on its forehead, the image of an eagle on its back, two white hairs on its tail and a scarab-beetle mark under its tongue".

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 06:59:25 am

T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE SEARCH FOR NEW INTERMEDIARIES                                                      continued

The renewal that the sed-festival was supposed to effect was urgently needed,
for the king was evdently seriously ill in his later years.

This was known abroad, and his son-in-law Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, sent
him a healing statue of the goddess Ishtar as a means to recovery.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:00:53 am

  T H E   R E L I G I O U S   B A C K G R O U N D

THE SEARCH FOR NEW INTERMEDIARIES                                                     continued

But the aged king set greater store by the Egyptian Sakhmet, the dangerous
lion-headed goddess who was able to dispense illness as well as its cure.

He had an apparent total of 730 statues of the goddess set up in various temples
at Thebes - a litany in stone, in which the mighty goddess was invoked in all her
names and cultic forms, to protect the king every day and every night of the year.

He died before the third repetition of his 'sed'-festival and his son, Amenophis IV,
began his rule.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:02:26 am

 A K H E N A T E N   A N D  T H E   R E L I G I O N   O F   L I G H T


...........There, at Karnak, arose the new king's first sanctuary. 

It was not dedicated, however, to the actual lord of the temple complex, Amun-Re,
King of the Gods, but to the sun god.

The latter was still represented with a falcon's head in the traditional manner, but in
addition to Re-Harakhty, he was also called ATEN, a designation that had previously
indicated the physical manifestation of the sun and only now enjoyed divine worship.

Early inscriptions of the new king in the sandstone quarries of Gebel el-Silsila, where
the blocks for Karnak were extracted, are concerned with the great construction pro-
ject for Re-Harakhty-Aten. 

There, the king still appears before Amun-Re in the traditional manner, even though
his building project was intended for Re-Harakhty.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:07:27 am

THE FIRST STEPS                                                                                    continued

Though the king is designated as the one "whom Amun-Re chose from among millions"
on a scarab in the BritishMuseum, his reign clearly betrays, from its very beginning,
a bias against this heretofore preeminent god.

And while Egyptian kings normally endeavored to effectuate a comprehensive program
for their reigns, immediately upon ascending the throne, showing themselves to be
creator gods by means of construction works and military campaigns, repelling enemies
and "lighting" the world with their monuments, in the case of Akhenaten, we note curious-
ly little activity aside from his building project at Karnak.

One senses that he was expending all his energy on the formulation of his "teaching,"
his attempt to remodel the world.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:10:11 am

  A K H E N A T E N   A N D   T H E   R E L I G I O N   OF   L I G H T


For the first time in history, we have a close-up view of how a deity originated.

It is as though the Aten suddenly emerged from the traditional form of the sun god
and then, quickly, shed the last vestiges of his origin.

At the beginning, he conformed to the traditional mixed form of a man with the
falcon's head of the solar deity  Re-Harkhty.

The falcon-headed god was at first still used as a hieroglyph in the throne name
of the king, and we can see that, in general, the king preferred the falcon as a
tutelary power.

From an altar to the sun at Karnak stems the first known representation of Pharaoh
in the company of the solar baboons and the animal-headed powers of Buto and

Later, however, the thriomorphic aspect of deities was discredited; only the uraeus
and the falcon continued to be tolerated, while the king remained a bull in his titu-
lary (every pharaoh of the New Kingdom was "a mighty bull" in his Horus name).
The ever-more dogmatic name of the god, which was enclosed in two cartouches,
clearly followed the model of the royal titulary, which also entailed two cartouches.

By the late Middle Kingdom, certain divine names could be highlited by placing them
in a cartouche, and in the New Kingdom, Amun-Ra was styled "king of the gods," but
until this time there had never been such a rigorous systematization of the royalty
of a god.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:12:16 am

THE ORIGIN OF A GOD                                                                            continued

Nefertiti's religious role surpassed that of Teye with Amenophis III.  In group statues
she appears striding at the king's right, which was highly unusual for a queen.

She assisted the king in all his cultic activities, even the smiting of enemies and she,
herself, was even depicted in this triumphal pose.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:15:47 am

The Sphinx is an incarnation of Ra-Harakhty, the god of the rising sun.  It was an
appropriate image to use by Atenists.  Akhenaten was frequently depicted as a
Sphinx worshipping the Aten

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:17:11 am

Akhenaten built several structures at Karnak (when he was still known as Amenhotep IV). The structures there include the Gempaaten which is a palace complex. It is believed that the royal family lived at the Gempaaten during the winter months (according to Aldred). A temple called the Rud-menu was erected (full name:Rud-menu-en-aten-er-neheh which means 'Enduring in monuments of Aten for eternity') . One of the structures within the Gempaaten complex is the Hut-benben ('Mansion of the Benben'). Aldred mentions that the Mansion of the Benben was a temple exclusively devoted to Nefertiti. Yet another structure was named the Teni-mehu (full name Teni-menu-en-aten-er-nehehwhich means 'Exalted is the monument of Aten for eternity')

 The remnants of these temples were found as filler in the 9th Pylon. The evidence shows that Horemheb broke down the temple of Aten at Karnak and useD the stones - called talatats - as filler. Horemheb may not have dismantled the entire complex. Some of the structures may have remained until the time of Ramses II.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:18:35 am

At the outset of the reign relatively large blocks were used in the Sun Temple of
Re-Harakhty, but later the new sanctuaries of the Aten were erected from small,
easily carried sandstone blocks, called TALATAT ("three"-blocks) in the scholarly
literature, because they are one handbreadth in height and two in width.

Isolated blocks were already visible in the vicinity of the temples at Karnak and
Luxor in the nineteenth century, but since the beginning of the twentieth ex-
tensive restoration efforts by French and Egyptian Egyptologists have recovered
such 'taltat' by the tens of thousands from a great variety of structural elements.


Besides the temple complex of Karnak, the temples of Luxor, Tod, Nag el-Madamud
and Armant have yielded up still more blocks.  Together with those still in the Tenth
Pylon at Karnak, we must reckon with more than fifty thousand decorated blocks
that once constituted whole temple walls: a gigantic jigsaw puzzle to be reconstruct-
ed into scenes of the cult!

There was an early attempt to do this by computer, but the results were rather

Since 1965, when Ray Smith took on the project, only a small selection has been
published, and these are marked by dubious combinations and reconstructions.

Still, work on the blocks has brought to light a host of iconographic treasures that
enrich our knowledge of the early years of Akhenaten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:20:14 am

Akhenaten elevated the spoken language of the New Kingdom, which we call
Late Egyptian, into a new written language.

It was supposed to replace Middle Egyptian, which had developed at the end
of the Old Kingdom.

This reform outlasted Akhenaten, and a rich Late Egyptian Literature developed
soon after his reign, though Middle Egyptian remained the language of religious
texts and official royal inscriptions

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:22:02 am

THE FIRST STEPS                                                                                    continued

                                O N C E   A G A I N,   T H E   S E D    F E S T I V A L

On these blocks, an important role is played by the Sed-Festival that Akhenaten
celebrated together with his god Aten.

We have already mentioned this festival of royal renewal in connection with its
celebration by Amenophis III.  But, while the father endeavoured to gather all the
deities of the land for this festival and to perform its ceremonies in front of shrines
containing various divine images, his son strode from one shrine to another, each
containing only the Aten, depicted as the sun disk with its rays.  Along with tradi-
tional motifs like the dances for Hathor, there are novel and unusual scenes; one
depicts the king with a hammer in his hand.                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Therepresentation of the festival cannot itself attest to its celebration, for the
Egyptians always created reality through pictures alone.  Even Akhenaten had
himself and Nefertiti represented as felling enemies without having undertaken a
military campaign.

Yet, there is reason to think that Akhenaten inaugurated the royal status of his
god Aten with the celebration of a SED-festival.  Whether he celebrated his own
thirtieth birthday at the same time, as some have supposed, remains highly un-


Though the king planned "millions" of sed-festivals in the text of the earlier bound-
ary stelae of his new capital and obliged himself to celebrate them there and no-
where else, he evidently did not celebrate any festival of renewal at Akhetaten;
at the least, there is no evidence for one.

An actual SED-Festival should have left traces in a great number of inscriptions
preserved on vessels.  Instead, there is only a single wish for the celebration of
sed-festivals, carved on a door-frame from the house of the officer Nekhuenpaaten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:23:24 am

A K H E N A T E N   A N D   T H E   R E L I G I O N   O F   L I G H T


The reliefs carved on the 'talatat' and the colossal statues in the Gempaaten temple
are the earliest evidence for the realization of an entirely new artistic style on Akh-
enaten's part.

Heinrich Schaafer described the impression it makes on modern beholders in the follow-
ing words in 1931:  "Anyone who steps in front of certain of these representations for
the first time, recoils from this epitome of physical repulsiveness.......

His head seems to float atop his long, thin neck.  His chest is sunken, yet there is some-
thing feminine about its form.

Below his bloated paunch and his fat thighs, his skinny calves are a match for his spin-
dly arms.  His face is deeply lined, and he has a sharply receding forehead and a weak

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:24:37 am

THE GROTESQUE PHARAOH                                                                        continued

Champollion had already employed the Italian term MORBIDEZZA (softness).

According to Alfred Wiedemann, these representations of the king "in a frightfully,
ugly form, with distorted features and a pendulous belly, are a complete caricature."

Walther Wolf invoked "sick ugliness and nervous decadence" in reference to the
colossal statues at Karnak, and many others have echoed this theme of caricature.

Naturally enough, modern writers have assumed that the contemporaries of the king
shared the horror that Schafer conjures up, and many have felt that Akhetaten want-
ed to shock, setting his repulsive ugliness in deliberate contrast to the beauty of tra-
ditional art. 

We shall not enter into a stylistic analysis of Amarna art here, but rather lay stress on
some criteria that can yield, over and above his artistic taste, an insight into the over-
all mentality of this reformer.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:26:39 am

THE GROTESQUE PHARAOH                                                                      continued

The repose to which we are accustomed in Egyptian sculpture is here set aside
in a manner that can even be called frightful; movement, expression, emotion,
and disregard for reality are now the rule.

The essence of this art, which was at first designated despairingly as merely "ugly"
or even "sick," can be understood by comparing it with schools of modern art that
deal freely with the human form.

As early as 1926, Schafer called Amarna art "expressionistic," as did Alexander Scharff,
and it is doubtless more apt to employ this designation than to speak of "realism," on
the assumption that Akhenaten actually looked like his depictions.

This art is a manneristic distortion of reality, a rebellion against the classical ideal of
beauty established earlier in Dynasty 18.

Everything that had been static, fixed in place for eternity, is now set in motion.  Vert-
ical axes become diagonal, stressed by receding foreheads and elongated crowns.   The
countours of the human figure swell and recede, creating the rhythmic play of the over-
ly swollen thighs and the scrawny, "chicken-like" calves (as Thomas Mann called them),
and even the chin and lips are swollen.

We also encounter new motion in the king's meeting the rays beamind down from the
solar disk.  And, finally, movement characterizes the playful, caressing intimacy of the
royal family, which is depicted in lively group scenes, and the fluttering bands of cloth
that dangle from clothes, crowns and articles of furniture.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:28:03 am

THE GROTESQUE PHARAOH                                                                   continued

Akhenaten introduced the chariot drawn by a pair of horses as a means of
expressing this new motion and he might well have intended it to imitate the
swift course of his god across the sky.

In no other period did Egyptian art contain so many representations of char-
iots, and no longer just in battle or the hunt, but as the means of rapid trans-
portation evidently employed by the king on a regular basis.

Only in the temple did he still tread respectfully.

An ecstasy of speed pervades the chariot scenes.  On one of the blocks from
Hermopolis, a team of horses races into an enormous open space; nothing
halts their rapid movement, and one of the horses turns its head, resulting in a
rare frontal view.


This movement also characterizes the representations of PROSKYNESIS so pop-
ular at this time; like the faithful praying in a mosque, whole rows of officials bow
down to the ground in prayerful adoration of the king, just as Akhenaten is, from
time to time, depicted lying outstretched on the ground before his god.

   The upper part of the stela from Hermopolis depicts the royal family on their knees
beneath the radiant Aten while, in the lower part, they are lying flat on the ground
"kissing the earth", as the Egyptians put it.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:29:22 am


Along with movement, there is emotion: the obligatory kissing, embracing and
caressing among the royal family, the mourning of the royal couple at the bier
of their daughter Meketaten, Nefertiti as a nursing mother and all the scenes of
intimacy that occur only in the art of Amarna.

All these are intended to depict how the love that emanated from the Aten de-
termined the togetherness of his creatures, as exemplified in Pharaoh's imme-
diate surroundings.  And with that, any inhibitions against depicting and empha-
sizing emotion has vanished.

'HOLDING HANDS' -fragment of Akhenaten and Nefertiti Statue

A breath of previously unknown freedom seems to blow through this art and one has
the feeling that the artists must have done their work free of all former conventions.

But this is only one aspect, which was complemented by a strong commitment to the
principles, newly established by Akhenaten, as obligatory.

Even the "expressionism" of this art does not signify freedom, but rather represents
a binding obligation. 

It is constantly stressed in the texts that the king himself established the guidelines
for artistic production.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:31:02 am

NO FEAR OF EMOTION                                                                               continued

Akhenaten did not shy from questioning even the basic principles of Egyptian
art.  His artists tried their hand at bold turns and frontal views, and on the re-
constructed temple wall in the Luxor Museum, it can be seen how even the
convention of scale was no longer binding; in the two lower registers the king,
making offerings in the temple, is depicted as smaller in size than the men walk-
ing to the temple behind him, carrying offerings and cult implements!


This entails the annulment of a strict rule that had determined pictorial composi-
tion since the beginnings of Egyptian art: the size of the individuals represented,
whether deities, humans,or animals, did not depend on the accident of their
appearance, but on their relative importance within the scene.

Akhenaten's artists otherwise adhered to this principle, especially representing the
Royal Family.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:32:59 am


Aten's coexistence with the other deities lasted for only a short time.

The traditional divine multipicity was still fully present at the king's 'sed'-festival,
for their temples and domains were obliged to contribute to the financing of the
great festival and the new construction projects; the exclusivity of the Aten was
thus at first only a relative one - like many an Egyptian deity, he was UNIQUE, but

But in the representations, only the radiant Aten appears in the divine chapels of
the 'sed'-festival, while in a highly fragmentary inscription from the Ninth Pylon,
which reproduces a speech by the king, the new god is emphatically contrasted to
the other deities.


In the Theban tomb of Parennefer ( who was still "overseer of the prophets of all
the gods'!) a text stresses that "one measures the payments to every (other) god


with a level measure, but for the Aten one measures so that it overflows" - this in
contrast to the warning in the popular "Story of the Eloquent Peasant" not to fill to
overflowing, or not to overdo Maat, as the sage Ptahhotpe had quite similarly advised.

In the future, the Aten with his rays would be the only permissible icon of the god.  The
mixed form of a human body and an animal's head would vanish, and only the hands ema-
nating from the sun would serve as a reminder of his former human form.

At an early stage, these hands could still hold any sort of objects; thus, in smiting scenes,
they even held weapons that they extended to Pharaoh!

In connection with the 'sed'-festival, they held the hieroglyph designating this festival by
way of a wish for many repetitions of it.  But in the final form of the "radiant Aten" only
the ANKH sign, the hieroglyph for "life", remained, extended to the noses of the king and
the queen. 

The rays depicted in the art are mentioned again and again in the hymns to the "Aten", as
a token of the proximity of this "distant" god.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:34:24 am


From the third to the fifth year of his reign, Akhenaten carried out a "perestroika"
that affected every area of life and which cannot be compared to any phase in
Egyptian history.

The vast extent of the reorganization was unique - religion, art, language and lite-
rature were affected, and surely also the administration and the economy, for a
little later the temples of the traditional deities would be closed and their priests dis-
missed from state sevice or "reindoctrinated."

But there was no persecution at this time though, in year 4, the high priest of Amun
was sent literally "into the desert" on a quarrying expedition.

Only a few weeks before the founding of the new Residence, the administrator Ipi re-
ported to the king from Memphis that all was in order in the temple of Ptah and that
all the deities were receiving their prescribed offerings.


Though his measures were considered and gradual, there was certainly opposition.  In the
text of his boundary stelae, the king himself speaks of "bad things" he had heard in his
fourth and preceding regnal years, though without identifying the opposition by name; in
the highly damaged continuation of the text, he seems to be precluding future opposition.

Indicative is the military presence that we encounter already on the Theban TALATAT and
then later in the rock-cut tombs at Amarna.  Scurrying soldiers, predominantly a guard of
Asiatics and blacks, surround the king and prevent any resistance.

Indeed, Akhenaten was the only founder of a religion to have all the instruments of state
power at his disposal, and we should assume that he employed them ruthlessly to realize
his ideas.

Only underground opposition was possible, and "lamentations" gave expression to a wide-
spread sentiment among the common people and the former elite.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:37:20 am

AKHENATEN'S "PERESTROIKA"                                                             continued

It cannot be said how widespread approval of the new reorganization was, but
it probably was not crucial for the reformer's further course.

His next step brought a new royal titulary, from which were removed not only
the name of the hated Amun, but also references to his locales of Thebes and
Karnak; in his new NEBTY name, Karnak was replaced by the newly founded Re-
sidence of Akhetaten.


Akhenaten could keep his former throne name NEFERKHEPRURE, just as he remained
"the sole one of Re" (WAENRE), but he changed his personal name Amenophis into
the name by which the world today knows him, and which in Egyptian sounded some-
thing like AKHANYATI - "He who is useful to Aten," or perhaps "Radiance of Aten";
the rendering "Soul of Aten" is less suitable because AKH actually denotes only the
soul of a deceased person, while Akhenaten's formulation "I am your son who is use-
ful to you and elevates your name" speaks in favour of the meaning "to be useful".

The exact nuance of the name escapes us, and in this volume we employ the con-
ventional form Akhenaten, rather than the more accurate Akhanyati - the precise
vocalization of ancient Egyptian is problematic, since the hieroglyphic writing system
did not indicate the vowels.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:38:52 am

" T H E   B E A U T I F U L   C H I L D   O F   T H E   L I V I N G   A T E N "

The traditional titles of Pharaoh remained unaltered, but the king was often pleased to style himself
"The Beautiful Child Of The Living Aten"; representations of the king as a child were popular at this
time and also served as amulets, replacements for the proscribed divine amulets of prior times.  The
Aten, Akhenaten's god, did not change his own royal titulary until some years later.

The assumption of the new titulary coincided with the solemn foundation of a new Residence; both
occurred in the fifth regnal year.  Akhenaten finally decided no longer to adorn Thebes with temples
for his new god Aten, and he sought out a place where he would not be hampered by monuments
constructed in the traditional style or dedicated to the traditional  deities.  He found this place in a
remote locale in Middle Egypt, where he would not be obliged to destroy anything but could simply

In moving the Royal Residence, he could find a precedent in Amenemhet I, who inaugurated Dyna-
sty 12 in the 20th century BC and abandoned Thebes to found a new Residence just over 37 miles
south of Cairo, near the modern town of el-Lisht.  But this was done solely for political reasons, not
religious ones, whereas here the move was above all a religiously motivated HEGIRA on the part of
the religious reformer, one that did not take him to any of the old centers, but to this remote locale.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:41:03 am



Erik Hornung
Translated by David Lorton                                                                      continued

                                                    A   N E W   R E L I G I O N


Akhenaten left no holy scripture, so what he founded does not belong to the
religions of the book.  And a "Word of God" is altogether inconceivable in this
new religion, for the newly promulgated god remained silent.  The Aten himself                                                did not speak; rather, his preacher Akhenaten spoke about him.  We must thus
rely on evidence stemming from the inscriptions of the king and his officials.

The inscriptions frequently mention a "teaching" or "instruction" of Akhenaten's,
which he placed in the hearts of his subjects.  To be sure, the Egyptian word
used for it, SEBAYT, also designates the wisdom literature handed down in writ-
ing from as early as the late Old Kingdom, but in the Amarna Period it seems, in
fact, to be exclusively a matter of a teaching and instruction imparted orally by
the king; nowhere is there a trace of religious tractates.

For a monarch of the New Kingdom, it is astonishing how little Akhenaten has
left to us in writing; the boundary stelae of his new Residence with their two
different texts, the "Great Hymn to the Aten," which has been ascribed to him,
probably correctly, -  though it is recorded in the tomb of Aya - and a victory
stela in distant Nubia, which was undoubtedly erected in the king's name by his
viceroy there, are a few inscriptions from the beginning of his reign and further
hymns.  Thus, for written sources regarding Akhenate's religion, we can only con-
sult certain illuminating passages from the tomb inscriptions of his officials.

It speaks to the clarity and simplicity of this religion that such meager sources
nevertheless yield a general picture, allowing us to gain some familiarity with its
essential characteristics.  But there is also pictorial evidence: representations of
the god Aten and the royal family and lavish depictions of architecture and other
motifs in the tombs and palaces.

Akhenaten endeavoured to promulgate his teachings through menmonic images,
especially the sun disk with its rays, but also scenes of his family.  These motifs
were stipulated and obligatory, leaving the artists little latitude, but the abundan-
ce of new pictorial motifs must have aroused a feeling that anything could be ex-
ressed figuratively.  This continued to have an effect long after Akhenaten; an
unprecedented wealth of religious images was developed during the Ramesside
Period and later, in Dynasty 21.

New was the compulsory nature of the pictures and the divine names of the Amar-
na Period.  Previously, a considerable freedom prevailed in the designation of
deities with names and epithets in a cult scene; it was even a principle to seek a
lively variety, with as little repetition as possible.  There was also leeway in the
representation of deities and the constellations into which they were inserted. In-
deed, each divinity had a multiplicity of names, forms of manifestation and constella-
tions to be taken into account.  But now there was only ONE fixed name and ONE
fixed image of the Aten; all variation was excluded, and even his epithets were re-
duced to a few stereotypes.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:42:13 am

G O D   A S   P H A R O A H

We have already indicated the rigor with which the royal status of the god was
now promulgated.  Aten ruled the world as king, he had a royal titulary and wore
the royal uraeus, and he even celebrated royal festival of renewal.  Just as offi-
cials often placed the name of their king on their statues, so now statues of the
royal couple bore the cartouches of their king and god.  And his univeral rule was
indicated pictorially by the many hands of the god, to which everything was access-
ible.  After earlier, tentative attempts to provide the sun disk with hands, the
perfected, brilliantly simple image of radiant Aten was developed in a single, bold
step.  But the decided, plastic bulge the disk often displays should not lead us to
interpret it as a solar orb.

The Aten was actually not the sun disk, but rather the LIGHT that is in the sun and
which, radiating from it, calls the world to life and keeps it alive.  Heinrich Brugsch
already emphasized that Aten was a god of light, and Jan Assmannhas managed a
fresh distillation of this view.  Indeed, from early times, the sun with its rays had ser-
ved in the writing system as a hieroglyph in writing words meaning "to shine" and the

In contrast to the rich mythic frameworks in which Egyptian deities had otherwise been
embedded, the Aten remained free of such connections and constellations.  In fact, it
was said of him only that he ever and again created the world and maintains it in life;
but there was no longer an interest in the original creation of the world - Aten, "who
built himself with his own hands,"creates the world continually.

The nightly journey through the netherworld and the defeat of Apopis, the enemy of the
sun, were now gone; there is even no mention of the barque of the god, the vehicle of
the sun's course.  In Egypt, with its innumerable waterways, all deities traveled by boat!

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:43:26 am

 P H A R A O H   A S   G O D

Aten (or Re-Harakhty) was the god of Akhenaten, but the personal god of the indi-
vidual was the king - as Assmann has put it, "He was the god who set out on pro-
cession, who performed signs and wonders, and who intervened in the destiny of the
individual, holding life and death in his hands."  The officials at Akhenaten's court cul-
tivated the topos of total dependence, in which themes from the "loyalist instructions"
of the Middle Kingdom were continued and expanded.  The king was appealed to as
the dispenser of all sustenance and the epithets of a creator god were heaped on
him; the mayor of the new capital conjured up the formula "Neferkheprure brings into
being" as a new name for himself.

This position vis-a-vis humankind was not simply the traditional role of a pharaoh; ra-
ther it had its origin in the status of Ahenaten as the beloved son of the Aten.  Pre-
viously Pharaoh had considered himself to be the "son of Re", thus stressing his divine

But Akhenaten was the son of his god in a much more personal manner, and in this lay
the seed of the failure of his teaching, for it stood and fell along with his own person.

For Egyptian theologians there also arose the question of the HOMOOUSIA of father and

In the eighth scene of the Book of Gates, a new description of the Netherworld that ori-
ginated in the Amarna Period (before and after Akhenaten), Atum expresses his total uni-
ty with Re with the formulation "I am the son who emerged from his father, I am the
father who emerged from his son", at the same time alluding, in context, to the father-son
relationship of Osiris and Horus.

While Aten was not just a national deity, but rather illuminated the entire world as the uni-
versal sun god, Akhenaten always remained pharaoh of Egypt and never became a prophet
for all humankind. 

On a purely superficial level,this is shown by his titulary.  Akhenaten was "lord of the Two
Lands", that is , Egypt, while the Aten was lord of the worldd, expressed concretely as
"Sky and Earth".

Personal piety at this time consisted exclusively in loyalty to the king, which meant to Akhe-
naten as a person; no other intermediary was conceivable.  We have already made the refe-
rence to the excessive appeals made by his officials; veritable hymns were sung to him, as
by Pabehsy:

"Praise to you, oh my god, who built me,
who determined good for me,
who made me come into being and gave me bread,
who cared for me with his KA!


I give praise to the height of the heavens,
I adore the lord of the Two Lands, Akhenaten:
god of fate, giver of life, lord of command,
light of every land,
on whose gaze one lives.
Nile of humankind,
on whose KA one is sated.
God who creates the great ones and builds
       the poor ones,
breath for every nose, by which one breathes!"

Akhenaten is constantly designated the Nile of Egypt, embodying the annual inunda-
tion and all the beneficence of nature and he is also called "mother who bears all, he
nourishes millions with his food," just as prior to Akhenaten, in the hymn of Suti and
Hor, the sun god Re was designated "mother of humans and deities," while he would
later often be called "mother and father."

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:45:23 am

The Female Element:      N E F E R T I T I

Akhenaten and his god thus partly accounted for the female sphere, but the third party in
the alliance was Nefertiti, whose importance was already noted above.  This importance was
not of a political but of a purely religious nature and thus had a different stress than in the
case of Teye, Akhenaten's mother.

Nefertiti shared in the rulership without being formally a coregent.  She was Akhenaten's per-
sonal goddess, and she, along with him and the Aten, comprised a divine trinity, like those
which so often occur in the pantheon of the New Kingdom.

The constellation that shines through here is that of Atum, the single god at the beginning of
creation and the pair Shu and Tefenet who emerged from him.

This is quite clear at the beginning of the reign when, for exampe, some of the colossal statues
of Akhenaten wear the four -feathered crown of Shu.  Later, the indications became more re-
condite, as when the royal couple "elevate" the names of the Aten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:49:53 am


Erik Hornung
Translated by David Lorton


A   C I T Y   F O R   A   G O D

First, Akhenaten set up Boundary Stelae around the place he had chosen for his future royal
Residence, so as to delineate its intended area with du solemnity.  The fourteen stelae - three
on the west bank of the Nile and eleven on the east bank - staked out an extensive area,
though the actual city would lie only on the eastern bank, where the cemeteries are also to be

The "Beautiful West," up to then the realm of the dead, would no longer play a role.

The date on the three earlier stelae can be reconstructed as the thirteenth day of the fourth
month of the season PERET, in the fifth regnal year of the king.  It thus falls only one brief month
after that of a letter sent from Memphis by the administator Ipi, a nephew of the vizier Ramose,
to the king, who was probably already encamped at Amarna. 

In this letter, Ipi informs the monarch, who was still called AMENOPHIS, that all was well in the
temple of Ptah at Memphis and that the prescribed offerings were being carried out in their en-
tirety for all the gods and goddesses of Memphis, with nothing being withheld from them.

All this was being done in the name of the king, and Ipi designated the king's relationship to PTAH


                                                               P T A H

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:51:27 am


Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:52:00 am


                                   Boundary Stela - Year 5

We owe a scenario for the founding of the new capital to the American astronomer Ronald
Wells, who has studied the orientation of Egyptian temples.  According to him, the date chosen
was that on which, for an observer, the rising sun shone directly into the length of a small tem-
ple, that is, the mortuary temple of the king, from an indentation in the eastern horizon, where
the desert valley that was to contain the royal tomb opened up into the broad plain of Amarna;
around 1350BC this day was March 4 in the Julian Calendar, or February 20 in the Gregorian.

It well suited Akhenaten's religion of light that the foundation date occurred when the Aten emer-
ged from the valley that the king had earmarked for his own and his family's tomb, flooding with his
light the plain where the city was to lie.  Well's assumption is, thus, attractive, but it has also
found objections: the temple axis has in no way been established that exactly, nor is it clear just
how sunrise was defined in those ancient timeS. Still, the very name of the new Residence, AKHETATEN
or "Place of the Light of Aten" is programmatic, referring to the sun as a HEAVENLY BODY.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:54:28 am

 Remains of the Great Temple at Amarna - Columns are reconstructed

The desert terrace on the east bank, crisscrossed by a few shallow depressions, offered a site well suited to the indented metropolis.  First, a camp was set up, as noted in the later text of the stelae of year 6; from there, the king was able to inspect the construction work when he visited.  The work progressed quickly, the
repetition of the king's oath in his eighth regnal year might indicate the court's move to the new Residence at that early date.  We must imagine a gigantic construction site already in year 5, and this was the year when the regular deliveries of wine to the Aten's city commenced.  In year 6, Amun's domains in the delta still parti-
cipated in the supply.

                       Digital reconstruction of the Great Temple

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:56:38 am


                        A K H E N A T E N   A N D   T H E   R E L I G I O N   O F   L I G H T

Erik Hornung
Translated by David Lorton

                                             T H E   P U R E   T E A C H I N G



In the new Residence, the Aten's followers found themselves in an ideal setting for their endeavours,
one where they could devote themselves undisturbed to the service of the new teaching, which now attained its perfection.

Temples and tombs were not rendered superfluous by Akhenaten's teaching, despite the many innova-
tions it entailed.  The sanctuaries of the Aten constituted the spiritual center of the new Residence of
Akhetaten, while on his boundary stelae the king made specific provisions for the preparation of tombs in the eastern mountain.  But the structure and meaning of these constructions differed fundamentally from those of the past.

Previously, every Egyptian temple had been understood as a shrine for the cult image of a deity.  Since
the Aten had no image aside from the radiant sun, the whole world was in fact his shrine.  And since his cult image was accessible only to prayers and offerings, all the richness of the daily cult ritual that had been celebrated in each of the innumerable temples, with its purification, anointing, and clothing of the divine image, no longer applied.  This was not without consequences for the forms assumed by the new cultic structures.

Along with the introduction of the new artistic style, we discern in the representations a new type of architecture: the Aten temple.  Like all Egyptian sanctuaries, it was sheltered from the outside world by high walls (this was true, at least, of the temple at Amarna), but it was open above to the sunlight, which had previously had only limited access to the columned halls and chambers.  Even the doorways now had broken lintels, while the processional way through the middle of the columned halls was unroofed.  To diminish the play of shadows, doorways were provided with raised thresholds.

Thus, wherever he strode, the king was in contact with his god.  Every cultic act actually did take place
under the radiant sun.  And because there was sunlight everywhere, even in the interiors of the buildings, it was practical to employ only sunk relief, which heretofore had been reserved for exterior walls.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 07:58:02 am

NEW SANCTUARIES FOR THE ATEN                                                          continued


A further consequence of the new beliefs was that there was no longer a need for a holy of holies, a
sanctuary for an earthly cult image of the god fahioned out of costly materials.  As soon as the Aten rose in the morning, he filled the temple completely with his presence, as stressed in the text of the earlier boundary stelae: "by means of his rays, he fills it with himself."  The temple thus now had no real axis, and the king's processional way ended at an elevated altar dedicated to the cult of the sun.

The Aten's effect on his temple and the world was not worked through words he spoke to Pharaoh, but through his rays.  His life-maintaining and life-giving hands were present everywhere in the sanctuary.
And so that they might take hold of offerings everywhere they touched, the sanctuary was now overfilled with altars on which food lay ready for the god.  Among these (we must not deceive our-
selves) there were still sacrificial offerings, cattle and geese and the Aten temple had its own slaughter
house.  But all these were decked with flowers, which were now the preferred offering.  And the offering was still always accompanied by the singing of hymns and by music and incense.

However much the king stressed that he lived on Maat, he was now obliged to abstain from representing
Maat as a goddess and, with that, from the heretofore popular scene, laden with symbolism, of the presentation of Maat.  Its replacement was probably the proffering of votive figures that tended to be decorated with feathers, producing again a reference to Maat, for her name could also be written with the hieroglyph of a feather.  The figures tended to be connected with cartouches, and this practice would later be continued in the Ramesside Period, when the king offered his throne name, compounded with the concept of Maat, to a deity.  As so often, Nefertiti took an active part in these cult scenes-in no other period was a queen so intensively involved in the divine cult of Amarna.  She was a member of the triad that the royal couple formed along with Aten, and which replaced the triads of Thebes (Amun-Mut-Khons) and Memphis (Ptah-Sakhmet-Nefertem), which had previously stood at the head of the

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:46:02 am


Family scenes, in which all six daughter now often appear, also displaced earlier scenes of deities and their mythological constellations.  Intimately and emphatically, the royal family display the love that reigns among its members-a love that, because it is pleasing to the Aten, is supposed to emanate over all the world.  The daughters caress one another or are affectionately tended to by their parents.  They sit on their parents's laps, and once, on a fragment in the Louvre, Nefertititi appears on Ahenaten's lap.  In any other period, it would have been unthinkable to represent Pharaoh eating and
drinking, as happens in the tombs at Amarna.

As far as its ground plan and its conception are concerned, the temple remained a processional route with a stress on its central axis-though no longer a route for a deity whose image would leave the temple, but rather one for the king who entered it.  The royal family's departure by chariot replaced the divine barque processions on festival days.

Like its predecessors, the processional temple was made up of pylons, courtyards and columned halls.  Representations show that the facade of the great Aten temple at Amarna was adorned with ten flag-
poles, thus surpassing the temple of Karnak with its eight.  Innumerable statues of the royal couple filled the empty spaces between the columns, but it seems that the statues of officials were no longer set up in the temple to share in the daily cult and its offerings.

Such a share in the cult was not possible for the officials, for their place was outside the temple.  An unusual tomb scene depicts the police chief Mahu kneeling before heaped-up offerings after being rewarded by the king and praying to Aten for the king's health; exceptionally, an official prays here directly to the god, but the scene takes place in front of the closed pylon of the great temple, not inside the sancturary.  For the rest, small places of worship were found in the houses of Akhenaten's followers, where a sort of household altar depicted the royal family under the radiant Aten.  Here, they could turn to the holy trinity and venerate Akhenaten as their personal god.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:47:36 am


About four years after the king, the god Aten also received a new royal titulary, one that mirrored the continuing developements in the teaching. There were harbingers of this in new writings of the old name in a strictly phonetic form, avoiding Horus and Re.  The divine names Horus and Shu were removed from the new double cartouche, leaving only Aten and Re.  The new creed-for this "dogmatic" name is just that!-reads: "Live Re, the ruler of the horizon, who rejoices in the horizon in his name Re the father (?), who returns as Aten". 

The god (and the king as well) is otherwise designated as "ruler", an additional stress on the royal rule exercised by light over all the world.  In private letters from the new capital, such as those of the "oil-boiler" Ramose to his siblings, the full name of the god was avoided, but even the short form "Aten" was enclosed in a cartouche.

Nothing changed in the representations, and the sole, obligatory icon of the god of light remained the sun disk with its rays and hands.  Since he was in the sky, the image of the god is ABOVE the king in all scenes depicting the cult, not in front of him.  And as indicated by the protective uraeus-serpent in the middle of the disk-previously it had appeared on its side-the sun in the sky and thus also the god of light.  There could be no statues of this god-"sculptors do not know him", as it is stated in the earlier text of the boundary stalae-for how could the light that ruled the world be represented in sculpture in the round?  A statue in the Brooklyn Museum published by Robert S. Bianchi in 1990, which he wished to connect with Aten (though he argued that it was created under Amenophis III), is no exception.  The
disk (without a uraeus!) that replaces its head has parallels in relief sculpture, all relating to the sun god, so that we doubtless have here an image of the traditional god.  In the New Kindom, it was possible to replace the head of a deity with an object, thus further intensifying the symbolic possibilities of "mixed forms".

The essence of this god is the special concern of Akhenaten's "Great Hymnb to the Aten", which is perhaps to be ascribed to him personally.  It was recorded in the rock tomb of Aye, where it survived through the ages until 1890, when a portion of it was maliciously destroyed during a quarrel among local inhabitants, though it is preserved in a copy made earlier by Urbain Bouriant.  We thus have the comp-
lete text of this poem, in which Akhenaten's ideas found their purest expression.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:49:40 am

                                               THE GREAT HYMN TO THE ATEN

The first lines of the text contain the title and names of Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti.  The actual
hymn begins with the words "he says" (referring to Akhenaten).

"Beautiful, you appear
in the horizon of the sky, oh living sun, who determines life!
You have appeared on the eastern horizon
and filled every land with your beauty.
You are beautiful, great and shining,
high over all the land.

Your rays embrace the lands
to the limit of all you have created.
You are Re when you reach their borders
and bow them down to your beloved son.
You are distant, though your rays are on earth;
you are in their face, though your course is inscrutable.

When you set in the western horizon,
the world is in darkness,
in  a state of death.
Sleepers are in their rooms,
heads covered, no eye sees the other.
Were all the possessions under their heads robbed,
they would not notice.
Every beast of prey emerges from its den,
and all the serpents bite.
The darkness is a tomb,
the earth lies numb,
its creator has indeed set in his horizon.

In the morning, you rise on the horizon
and are radiant as the sun in the daytime;
you drive off the darkness and cast your rays.
The Two Lands are in festival daily,
the people awaken
and stand on their feet, for you have roused them.
Clean is their body, they have clothed themselves,
and their arms are (raised) in prayer when you appear,
the whole land does its work.

All cattle are satisfied with their fodder,
trees and foliage bloom.
The birds have flown from their nests,
their wings praise your KA.
All the game animals frisk on their hooves,
all that fly and flutter live
when you have risen for them.
Freighters fare downstream
and back upstream,
every road is open through your rising.
The fish in the river leap before your face,
your rays are within the sea.

Oh you who cause semen to develop in women,
who make "liquid" into people,
who keep a son alive in his mother's womb
and quiet him so that his tears dry up-
you nurse in the womb!-
who give breath
to keep all creation alive.
When (the child) emerges from the womb
to breathe on the day of his birth,
you open wide his mouth
and provide for his needs.

The chick in the egg,
which speaks already in the shell-
you give it breath therin to bring it to life.
You have set its due time
to break (the shell) in the egg;
it emerges from the egg
to speak at its due time,
it is already running about on its feet when it
emerges from it.

How manifold are your works
which are hidden from sight,
you sole god without equal!
You have created the earth as you desired, quite alone,
with people, cattle and all creatures,
with everything upon earth
that walks about on feet
and all that is on high and flies with its wings.
The foreign lands of Syria and Nubia,
and the land of Egypt-
you set all in their place and care for their needs,
they all have their nourishment, their lifetimes
are determined.
Tongues differ in speech,
their characters as well,
their skin colors differ, for you distinguish the peoples.

You create the Nile in the netherworld
and bring it up according to your will
to keep humankind alive, for you have created them.
You are lord of them all, who toils for them,
oh lord of all lands, who rises for them,
oh sun of the daytime, great of majesty!
All the distant foreign lands, you yourself keep them alive,
you have placed a Nile in the sky,
that it might descend to them,
with waves beating on the muntains like the sea,
to water their fields with what they need.
How effective are your plans, oh lord of eternity!
The Nile in the sky, which you give to foreign peoples
and all the creatures of the desert that go on legs;
but the true Nile comes from the netherworld to Egypt.

Your rays nurse all the fields-
when you rise, they live and grow for you.
You create the seasons to make all creation develop-
the winter to cool them,
the heat of summer that they might sense you.
You made the sky far in order to ascend to it
and gaze upon what you have created.

You are unique when you have risen
in all your manifestations as the living Aten
who shines and gleams,
distances himself and comes near;
you create millions of forms from yourself alone-
cities, towns, and fields,
roads and river.
All eyes find themselves facing you,
when you are above the land as the sun of the daytime.

When you have gone, there no longer remains your eye,
which you have created for their sake,
so that you do not behold yourself as the sole one
of what you have created-
even then you remain in my heart,
and there is no one else who knows you,
except for your son, Neferkheperure Waenre,
whom you have taught your nature and your might.

The world comes into being from your gesture, as
you have created it.
When you rise, they live,
when you set, they die;
you are lifetime itself, one lives through you.
Eyes rest on beauty until you set,
all work is laid down when you set in the west.
The rising one strengthens all arms for the king,
and speed is in every foot.

Since you founded the world, you rouse them
for your son, who emerged from your body,
the king of the two Egypts, who lives on Maat,
Neferkheperure Waenre,
the son of Re, who lives on Maat,
the lord of diadems, Akhenaten, great in his lifetime,
and the great king's wife, whom he loves,
the mistress of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti,
who lives and is rejuvenated
for ever and ever.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:54:16 am

THE PURE TEACHING                                                                                      continued

Comparing the "Great Hymn to the Aten" with traditional solar hymns, it is striking how the plenitude of mythic images that characterizes the latter has been replaced by the pure contemplation of nature.  The
hymn of Suti and Hor from the reign of Amenophis III anticipates this to some extent, but now there is no longer an interest in the primeval creation of the cosmos - Aten, "who built himself with his own hands", continually creates the world by means of his light, which is pure presence and thus is no need of mythical past or a distant primeval time.  In contrast to earlier hymns, there is also a lack of any comparisons, for this god can be compared with nothing and no one.

Before and after the Amarna Period, Pharaoh was wished the lifetime of Re, the years of Atum, or the jubilees of Tatenen.  Now the wish was for jubilees like "the sand on the shore, the scales of fish and the hairs of cattle" (in his tomb, Aye also adds "the feathers of birds and the leaves of the trees") and the king was supposed to remain "here", in his new Residence of Akhetaten, "until the swan turns black and the raven turns white, until the mountains get up and walk, and until water runs upstream."  Undesirable associations were eliminated even in designating the boundaries of the king's sovereignity. 

Previously, his northern boundary had extended "as far as the darkness", but now it reached "as far as the sun (Aten) shines", for darkness would have been too reminiscent of older mythological concepts.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:55:32 am


As depicted in the "Great Hymn to the Aten", the god's care extends to distant lands beyond Egypt - "each one has his nourishment, his lifetime is determined".  This sentiment was a product of the times, for in the "Book of Gates", which might have been composed in the reign of Amenophis III and is first attested under Haremhab, we have the famed representation of the four races of humankind in the afterlife and there, too, they are all accorded their lifetimes and their provisions.

Ramesses II would later take up the theme when, after concluding a treaty with the Hittites, he spoke of the friendship of the two previously inimical great powers; on his "marriage stela" it is said, "They ate and they drank together and were of ONE accord, like brothers, ....peace reigned among them".

Akhenaten's Aten, who shone on ALL humankind, was especially suited to be a universal god, whom all lands could worship.

The omnipresence and the effect of light has also inspired some to a belief in the divine in more modern times.  In their last conversation on March 11, 1832, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe confided to his assistant Johannn Peter Eckermann that he was prepared to "revere the Sun....for he is likewise a manifestation of the highest Being and, indeed, the most powerful which we, the children of the earth, are allowed to behold.  I adore in him the light and the productive power of God; by which we all live, move and have our being - we, and all the plants and animals with us".  And in his MEMORIES, DREAMS, RE-FLECTIONS, after depicting the rejoicing of African baboons at sunrise, Carl Gustav Jung states, " The MOMENT in which it become light IS  God.  That moment brings redemption, release.  To say that the SUN is God, is to blur and forget the archetypal experience of that moment".

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:57:39 am

THE UNIVERSAL DEITY:  LIGHT                                                                  continued

Was Akhenaten planning a universal religion, as Breasted thought?  A universal picture of godhead perhaps
emerges from the Great Hymn and, at the beginning of his reign, the king in any case had a sanctuary with the name Gempaaten ("the Aten has been found") erected in Nubia and perhaps one in Syria as well.

Thus, at the beginning, he actually did wish to announce the glad tidings that the Aten had been "found" to all the world under Egyptian sovereignity; Jan Assmann has shown that at Amarna this "discovery" represented  the revelation of the god.  Alexandre Moret saw in Aten a god of all humankind, who corresponded to Egypt's international empire in the New Kingdom.  But the sources from later in the reign in no way point in this direction.

With the construction of Akhetaten, which also had a Gempaaten temple of its own and constituted a
"horizon" for the god, the area in which the new religion was valid became a highly restricted one, for all practical purposes circumscribed by the boundary stelae of the new Residence.  The king seems to have erected few buildings, such as those at Memphis and Helkopolis, outside this sacred precinct dedicated
to the Aten.  Not once is it stated that he had the intention of converting all of Egypt to belief in Aten
and, less still, is there talk of a mission beyond the borders of Egypt.

In the documentation from the archive of diplomatic correspondence, faith in the Aten remains a concern of Egypt alone.

We also see no indication that the existing temples of the gods were converted into sanctuaries of the Aten; the worship of the god had its unequivocal center in the new capital.  At the same time, only fifteen miles away in Neferusi, Khnum, Thoth and Osiris were still being worshipped!

It would certainly be interesting and instructive to know what was happening during Akhenaten's later years in, for example, the sanctuaries at Elephantine, whether a cult was being celebrated there and for whom; but our sources allow no anwer to such questions.

We must imagine that the suppression of the old cults was not altogether consistent in the distant provinces and that Thebes surely was a special case.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 08:59:26 am

T H E   Q U E S T I O N   O F   M O N O T H E I S M


 At the time the god's name was changed, or just a little later, Akhenaten took the final and most
radical step in the development of his teaching.  Now there would be no gods but Aten, and the physical existence of the old deities would be obliterated by the erasure of their names and sometimes of their representations as well.  The persecution that now ensued was directed especially against Amun and his consort Mut, but it sporadically affected a number of other deities as well and even the writing of the plural noun "gods".

It appears that Thoth, the god of the moon, of wisdom and of the scribal arts was not affected and the persecution was otherwise not especially consistent.   But care was taken to erase the name of Amun, even from the letters in the diplomatic archive, commemorative scarabs and the tips of obelisks and pyramids; the distant regions of Nubia were also affected, as far as Gebel Barkal at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. 

In some instances Akhenaten even had his own original personal name Amenophis mutilated, in his effort to do harm to the hated Amun. 

This ferocity was surely aimed not only at the heretofore predominant state god, but at the "refuge
of the poor", which Amun had increasingly become - in the Ramesside Period, he would become a special focus of personal piety, thus occupying the very position claimed by Akhenaten.

The persecution also affected theriomorphic symbols of deities, such as the vulture of Mut and the goose of Amun.  Only the falcon and the uraeus-serpent were still allowed and we hear nothing more
of the Mnevis bull of the sun god, for which Akhenaten had made provisions in the text of the bounda-
ry stelae.

It is indicative that all representations of Akhenaten as a sphinx are connected with the earlier name of the Aten; later, this theriomorphic representation of the king was also abandoned.

Egypt had never experienced an iconoclasm of such dimensions, though the erasure of names had rather often served as a political means, for the name was an inseparable component of a personality,
in which and by means of which a person could suffer harm.  Erasure of a name meant consignment
to oblivion and, because depictions embodied reality in Egypt, erasures were entailed
in any persecution.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:05:25 am


The blow struck at the many deities of the traditional pantheon was a clear sign that Akhenaten was now
intent on the uncompromising realization of a more or less strict monotheism.  To this extent, the characteri-
zation of Egypt as the "cradle of monotheism" has its justification.

But there has been debate as to whether monotheism already existed in Egypt before Akhenaten.  To clarify this question, we must reach back in time a little.  And in this connection, it is helpful to speak in terms of a
"concept of the 'one' (as Jan Assmann called it, following Werner Beierwaltes), rather than the problematic
concept "monotheism" and to inquire into the role of the "one" in the history of Egyptian religion.

At the beginning of the modern era, there was a naive belief that God had revealed himself as the One to
Adam and thus to the first man, with the result that monotheism existed from the very beginning and that
polytheism appeared only later, as the result of a "break" with God.

In the early days of Egyptology there was a generally held opinion that at the idealized beginning of history, there was worship of a single deity in Egypt as well, a beneficent counterweight to the "jackal-headed" gods of the supposedly abtruse polytheism that represented a later degeneration.

Ancient Egypt could thus already count as "rational" in the eyes of the Enlightenment.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:06:58 am

EGYPT AS THE "CRADLE OF MONOTHEISM"?                                                        continued

Later, however, the discovery and study of the Pyramid Texts, from 1881 on, made it clear that there was a plenitude of divine names and forms in these earliest religious texts and that a deity whom the Egyptians addressed and revered as the "one" over against the many was nowhere to be found.

Gaston Maspero, who discovered these texts, was thus the first to support the idea of an original poly-
theism in Egypt.  But the use of the absolute, singular noun "god" in personal names, in generalizing statements and in wisdom literature remained a source of confusion.  Statements like "(the) god punishes", "(the) god loves", "(the) god gives" and the like, made it seem as though, in these contexts at least, there were Egyptians who subscribed to a monotheism "for the initiated", while on a more superficial level, the people subscribed to an erroneous multiplicity of divine figures. 

In this, it was overlooked that the plural noun "gods" and actual divine names also occur in the very same sources.  There is thus no question of a monotheism in these texts, but rather of generally valid state-
ments that, for various reasons, were not to be restricted to any particular deity.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:08:52 am

EGYPT AS THE "CRADLE OF MONOTHEISM"?                                                         continued

Nevertheless, the notion of an original monotheism gained respectability yet again, especially in the monumental work DER URSPRUNG DER GOTTESIDEE:EINE HISTORISCH-KRITISCHE UND POSITIVE STUDIE
[The Origin of the Idea of God: A Historical-Critical and Positive Study] by Father Wilhelm Schmidt, which appeared in twelve volumes from 1926 to 1949 and was supplemented by essays in the journal

In the field of Egyptology, Hermann Junker adopted Schmidt's ideas and attempted to establish the existence of an anonymous high god (called the "Great  One") in the Old Kingdom.  But he met with little assent and it was not until Etienne Drioton attempted in 1948 to demonstrate the existence of monotheism long before Akhenaten's reform in his LE MONOTHEISME DE L'ANCIENNE EGYPTE [Monotheism
in Ancient Egypt] that the hypothesis again became popular.

Thus, when Joachim Spiegel wrote in 1953 in his WERDEN DER ALTAGYPTISCHEN HOCHKULTUR [Develpment
of Egyptian Civilization] that "pure monotheism was thus the reigning form of Egyptian religiosity from the beginning of the historical period" he was expressing a notion that had been widespread prior to 1880, and which would once again determine characterizations of Egyptian beliefs regarding the divine until the appearance in 1971 of my book DER EINE UND DIE VIELEN [Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, 1996), which attempted to investigate the question on a broader basis.

Since that time, the hypothesis of an original monotheism has not reappeared; perhaps it now belongs definitively to the "history" of ideas, along with the idea of a "monotheism for the initiated".

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:10:05 am

THE QUESTION OF MONOTHEISM                                                                       continued

But discussion of Egyptian religious belief is ongoing and the concept of an "idea about the 'one' " has
opened up new avenues of approach.

With the "one", Egyptian thinking concerned itself above all with understanding creation and in this re-
spect we can speak with a certain justification of an "original monotheism", for the divine was supposed to have been originally one and then differentiated himself only in the process of creation: "the one who became millions", as it is stated in a formulation popular after the time of Akhenaten.

The Egyptians were always fascinated by the attempt to understand this derivation of multiplicity from an
original unity and they tended to describe this ultimately incomprehensible process by means of paradoxical statements regarding the unity.

A wealth of such statements is to be found as early as the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom.  There, the god Khepri created his own parents ("I engendered my father and was pregnant with my mother") and Horus was born
 "when Isis (his mother!) did not yet exist";  similarly, Orion could state regarding the divine role of a deceased person, "He is my son, older than I." 

In the New Kingdom hymns to the sun god, statements of this sort were applied to Amun, Re or Ptah:
the creator god was "the one", who engendered his engenderers, who "bore his mother" or "the one who bears without having been born."  Along these lines, there is Akhenaten's address to the Aten:
                                          "You Are the One Who Created What Does Not Exist".

The solution to this paradox regarding the beginning of creation was that the original divine unity secreted
something of his substance, whether as spittle, sweat, tears, semen or even as the word that went forth
from his mouth.

The first divine pair and thus plurality resulted from this original emanation.  As early as the Coffin Texts,
this process was described with a "trinitarian' formula: "When He Was One, When He Became Three".
Multiplicity and the plurality of divine forms were thus derived from an original unity.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:12:29 am

THE QUESTION OF MONOTHEISM                                                                continued


Akhenaten "found" (as he formulated it) the Aten by means of intellectual endeavor or intuition - that is, he discovered the world'd dependence on light and believed it could be understood as the central principle from which all could be understood as the central principle from which all could be derived, a cosmic formula that embraced everything in itself.

But, with light, he committed himself to the visible and was constrained to deny everything that did not be-
long to the visible world: darkness, the afterlife and the deities of the pantheon, especially Amun, the
"Hidden One".!

In the early years of Akhenaten, it was said of the sun god that "there is no other god like him", while in the tombs of the new Residence we read that "there is no other but him".  Therein lies the decisive step toward monotheism and its exclusivity.  Correspondingly, the king was now "unique like Aten, there being no other great one but him" (from the tomb of Aye), while in the "Great Hymn to the Aten", the king proclaims "There is no other who knows you" - in biblical language, "You shall have no other gods before me" and "No one comes to the Father but by me"! (Revised Standard Edition).

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:13:46 am

THE MONOTHEISTIC "COSMIC FORMULA"                                                     continued

There has been constant debate as to whether we have to do here with a "true", consistent monotheism
for, even the Aten formed a trinity with the royal couple, which relativizes the oneness of the god.

Like so many concepts, monotheism cannot be defined with absolute strictness or affectuated in reality.
But, with its relentless rigor, this religion of light was the simplest and clearest religion that had ever been

The Aten's monotheistic character is desplayed on three levels.  One is to be seen in formulations such as "no other but him", which lay claim to exclusivity; additionally, he had neither a female partner nor an
opponent, so that nothing existed besides him.

Here, Akhenaten's thinking is more radical than that of Deutero-Isaiah ("Besides me there is no god", Isaiah
44.6) or that of Islam; in its rigor, it has been surpassed only by tendencies in Islamic mysticism, for which
existence itself is incompatible with the existence of God, for there can be nothing besides God.

The second, more tangible level consists of the persecution of the old deities, which clearly signaled that
there was to be no god but Aten.  Not until Christianity was there a renewed attempt to eliminate the plethora of deities in favour of the One!

And the third level is that of the "cult", which from the beginning of Akhenaten's reign was directed solely and exclusively to the Aten (also in his names of Re and Re-Harakhty) on all official monuments.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:15:39 am

 B E L I E F   I N   A N    A F T E R L I F E   W I T H O U T   A   H E R E A F T E R


Amun, the state god who was later to suffer so much persecution, still appeared on early monuments of
Akhenaten; but from the very beginning there was a striking abstinence "vis-a`-vis" Osiris, the ruler of the dead and of the netherworld, the realm of the afterlife.

This points to  a profound change in beliefs regarding the afterlife, one in which there no longer was room
for Osiris.  At Amarna, even the title "Osiris" disappeared, which heretofore every deceased person had borne and would bear again later.

This system of thought, which made light its absolute reference point, had great difficulty with the dark side of the world.  Nighttime negated the Aten and signified death - :They sleep, as though dead", as it is formulated in the Great Hymn and, still more concisely, "When you rise, they live and when you set, they die!"

The total dependence of all existence on light, which is the Aten, was now a given.  Previously, the night
had also been filled with life and traditional solar belief had pictured the nightly journey of the sun through the netherworld in loving detail.

But now the nocturnal phase no longer meant the regeneration of light in the darkness, but merely its absence. When the sun tarries so long is never stated; the Aten is quite simply "gone", though his normal location is "in the sky".  The moment of his return is the critical one, which all creation jubilantly greets and which ends his nightly absence.

The wakening of the dead to new life was no longer accomplished nocturnally in the netherworld, but in the morning, in the light of the rising sun and at the same time as those still alive.  All was now oriented
toward the east and, indeed, even the tombs lay in the eastern mountain of Akhetaten - in the text of the earlier boundary stelae Akhenaten gave directions to prepare his tomb there, "where the sun rises"'.

The "West", previously the mortuary realm on whose "beautiful ways" the blessed dead had walked, disappeared from the concept of the world. 

Generally, insofar as hymns to the setting sun were written (an example is furnished by the tomb of the overseer of the harem, Meryre), the talk is not of the sun's stay in the netherworld, but only of Akhetaten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:17:25 am


Like the form of the mummy, the tombs were now mere shells for the body.  The dead did not live in
their tombs, but on earth.

Only very seldom is there mention of the DUAT, the traditional realm of the dead; thus, Suti expresses a wish to leave the Duat in the morning to gaze upon the sun as it rises daily, "without ceasing". Basi-
cally, there was no longer a "here-after" and, especially, no "netherwordly realm" of the dead.  The world of the dead was not distinct from that of the living and the Aten of the daytime shone over both.

The boundary between this life and the next was also blurred by the door frames of the dwellings.  From as early as the Old Kingdom, it was common to display the titles and name of the owner of a tomb on its entrance, so that he would be visible to all who passed by.

Now, such "calling cards" in stone also marked the entrances to living quarters, transferring the afterlife  into the "this-worldly" environment of Akhetaten.

When the Aten rose in the morning,, he filled the temple with his light and his presence, received the offerings made by the royal couple and cared for the needs of both the livind and the dead - for the
BA-souls of the deceased also drew near at that moment to receive their food, which they continued to need, in the form of offerings. 

In their tomb inscriptions, Huy and other officials describe how their BAS  are summoned to eat in the temple, where they receive bread, beer, roasted meats, cool water, wine and milk, while the Aten continues to supply them with the necessary breath of life.  This new role of the BA-soul, which enters the temple freely, able to receive all sorts of offerings "without being blocked from what it desires", is specific to the Amarna Period, but did have some influence thereafter.

One such effect was on the popular scene with the tree goddess, where the BA, in the form of a bird, would be given food and drink along with the deceased, a charming extension of the motif.  In the
tomb now one could do without the false door, which had heretofore been the actual cult place: it was
meaningless for the BA, with its freedom of movement and even the corpse had no need of it, for it no longer made the crossing between this world and the next.

Pure, corporeal continued existence or regeneration was entirely irrelevant at Amarna; what was crucial was existence as a "living BA".  Nevertheless, there remained the wish that the BA might
again unite witht the corpse, for only thus could the totality of a person be established.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:20:19 am

THE AFTER - LIFE BECOMES THIS - WORLDLY                                               continued

In his  tomb, Tutu makes an express reference to the analogy between life and death: You stand up in your tomb in the morning to see the Aten when he rises.  You wash yourself and clothe yourself as you did when you were on earth....You arise and forget weariness"; afterwards, freshly animated by the rays of the Aten, he would accompany the god "like the blessed in the hall of the House of the BenBen
(a temple)". 

The pricipal yearning of mortal beings was to gaze upon the Aten and follow him and to breathe the "sweet breath of the north wind (or of life)"; the decisive moment of existence was awakening in
the morning, which signified the renewal of life.

On the lintel of Hatiay in the Louvre, which probably stems from the early years of Akhenaten, when the old deities were still worshipped, the deceased prays before Osiris, Isis, Sokar and Hathor, expressing the wish that he might go out (from the tomb or the netherworld) as a living BA "to see the Aten on earth".  In a longer prayer, Osiris is invoked as the sun; his essence has merged fully with that of the sun god Re, for "his disk is you disk, his image is your image, his majesty (SHFYT) is your
majesty".  This solution builds on intimations in the Litany of Re and it would result in a total amalgamation of the two gods on the coffins of Dynasty 21,

In the Litany of Re, whose ancient Egyptian title was "Book of Adoring Re in the West" and which originated at the beginning of the New Kingdom, seventy-five invocations of the sun god in his night
netherworldy aspects are illustrated with figures that serve to depict the epithets and functions that are invoked.  These include depictions of Osiris, who was becoming ever more widely perceived as the sun at night and connected with Re as the "united" deity, as he is called in the title and text of the Litany.

In a next step, this "United One" received the ram's head of the nocturnal sun god - in a hymn from the Memphite tomb of Haremhab and, thus. shortly after Akhenaten, Osiris is already called "ram-headed" and , beginning with the tomb of Nefertary, he could also be represented as such.

But, despite this close affinity with the sun god, Akhenated preferred to banish Osiris entirely from his concept of the afterlife; he did not allow him to serve even as the nocturnal manifestation of the sun, for his popularity would easily have made him a competitor to the worship of Aten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:21:51 am


The realm of the dead, as Akhenaten and his intimates saw it, lay in the temple of the Aten at Akhetaten; for this reason Meryre, the overseer of the harem, called himself "justified in Akhetaten", while the general Ramose was styled "possessor of provisions (IMAKH) in Akhetaten".  One was no longer obliged to trust in a distant "Field of Reeds" or "Field of Offerings" to feel certain of provisioning after death. 

All the spells that had previously been needed for orientation, suppplies and protection in the fields of the hereafter became unnecessary - there was no Book of the Dead in the actual Amarna Period, just as the royal books of the netherworld were no longer used.

And we now understand why architecture played such a role in the decoration of the tombs of the officials at Amarna - temple and palace were indeed the new realm of the dead, one located in this world!

The question arises, "What sort of next-worldly destiny was conceivable outiside Akhetaten?"  In his tomb at Saqqara the vizier Aper-El was called "justified in the west of Memphis"; he thus counted
on a continued existence there, though in this case we are quite likely dealing with the early years
of Akhenaten.

In the provinces there are no tombs dating with certainty to his later years.  But we can imagine that the BA-soul, as a human component endowed with freedom of movement, visited the nearest Aten temple or, even better, the chief temple at Akhetaten, in order to participate in the regular offerings and the proximity of the king; Akhenaten was now in fact present only in his Residence.

By way of comparison, we may cite the older concept that all human BAS would probably accompany
the sun god in his barque, just as they all now made their way to the temple.  Thus, in its beliefs re-
garding the afterlife, the Aten religion embraced no universal outlook, but rather a narrowly bounded

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:26:05 am


Although the concept of life after death experienced a radical change, existing funerary customs and
forms, such as burial rites and the traditional grave goods, were preserved

But mourning and burial in the form of a mummy are represented in only one official's tomb at Amarna,
that of Huy, on the east wall!  Since only daytime existence, in the light of the Aten, counted now, a mummy was in fact unnecessary and regeneration of the body in the afterlife no longer played a role.  For this reason, the scarab beetle, the most important symbol of regeneration, disappeared from the output of the royal workshops; in its place, there was the neutral form of the finger ring. 

Scarabs bearing the name of Akhenaten are thus extremely rare.  On the other hand, many royal
SHAWABTIS - in an unmistakable Amarna style are preserved to us - mortuary figurines that served
as workers who were supposed to carry out burdensome labor that migh be required of the deceased in the afterlife.

Traditionally, they were inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead, which designated the deceased as an
"Osiris"; Akhenaten's figurines bore only the title and name of the king.  Of the relatively few private SHAWABTIS
from this period, some are inscribed in the traditional manner - even in the case of a "chantress of the Aten"!
while some bear an offering formula containing the name of the Aten.

We must assume that a royal tomb at Thebes had been planned for Akhenaten at the beginning of his reign, though until now it has not been located with certainty.  "Magical bricks" on which the king was still designated as "Osiris" were probably intended for this burial place.

In the royal tomb at Tell el-Amarna fragments of several coffins of pink granite were found; they bear prayers by
Akhenaten to the radiant Aten instead of the heretofore usual protective gods, the "Sons of Horus" and Anubis.
It is significant that the queen stood at all four corner of his sarcophagus: under Tutankhamun, she would be replaced by the protective goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selkis.

Nefertititi was thus Akhenaten's protective goddess, who wished him pleasant breath for his mouth and nose.  On
the other hand, he employed the canopic shrine, for the traditional vulture was too loaded with associations with the old religion.  The smaller Aten temple at Akhetaten was presumably intended for his mortuary cult; like the mortuary temples at Thebes, it lay in the immediate vicinity of a palace and bore the designation HUWET.

The king's precedent of replacing the protective deities with the queen on his coffin was immediately imitated. The
coffin of Taat from Deir el-Medina is an important, although thus far unique, attestation of this; here as well, the
protective deities are replaced by members of the deceased's family.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:27:25 am


 Since the afterlife no longer entailed a realm of the dead, the concepts of a general judgment of the Dead as vindication in the afterlife were no longer suited to the times.  The ethical basis for a blessed afterlife was now the grace and mercy of the king, who "lived on Maat' and thus embodied for his officials, the plumb line of her scale of justice. 

In the next life, as in this one, provisions could be received only from the king.  Whoever was loyally devoted to him would survive death as a MAATY: one who was an adherent of Maat and thus vindi-
cated.  Without this loyalty, there was no life after death, for Akhenaten was the "god of fate (Shai),
who grants every lifetime and a burial (after) old age in his favour", as stated by the general Ramose in an inscription from his home at Akhetaten. 

In their tombs, officials were still always designated as "vindicated" (MAA-KHERU).  Immediately after the Amarna Period, pictorial representations of the Judgment of the dead would receive an important new element in the form of "Swallower-of-the-Dead", a female monster composed of a crocodile, a
lion and a hippopotamus; she embodied the very jaws of hell that devoured the "enemies".

Beliefs regarding the afterlife at Amarna can thus be summarized quite simply: the dead slept at night and in the daytime they accompanied the Aten and the royal family to the Great Temple, where all were provisioned. 

There was thus still life after death,but the king was responsible for it as lord of provisions both in this life and the next; the Aten tended personally only to the continued existence of the king.  The temple
and the palace, with all their painted architectural detail, ruled the new tomb decoration, for they mirrored the new, thoroughly earthly afterlife of the deceased; the departure of the royal family from the palace and the daily offerings made by the king in the temple were also popular themes. 

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:28:44 am

BELIEF IN AN AFTERLIFE WITHOUT A HEREAFTER                                              continued

Instead of the usual pillars, columns were now employed in the tombs - Aya had an actual columned hall in his-and in this way, too, the realm of the dead took on architectonic form as something belong-
ing to this world, though this particular usage was a continuation of developments under
Amenophis III.

In a somewhat murky formulation in the Great Hymn,we learn that even when the Aten has "gone
away he, nevertheless, remains in the heart of the king.  That was his enduring place and the community, together with his prophet, mitigated the solitude that surrounded him in his daily course acress the sky.

The afterlife of traditional belief, which the sun now no longer touched and illuminated, lost much of its luster.  In the tomb of an artisan whose name Paatenemheb points to the Amarna Period, there is the earliest copy of the "Inyotef Song", which was once dated to the Middle Kingdom because of its ficti-
tuous ascription to a king named Inyotef.

Its skeptical stance 'vis-a`-vis the afterlife, which characterizes the entire new genre of harpers' songs as well as the new laments over the dead, is a product of Akhenaten's religion of light and the deep shadows it cast.



I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef
whose maxims are cited everywhere.
Where are their places?  Their walls have collapsed,
their places do not exist, as though they had
    never been made.
No one comes from there to describe their condition
and give tidings of their needs
and calm our hearts
until we, too, arrive where they have gone.

So let your heart rejoice, so as to forget all that -
it is good for you to follow your heart as long as you live.
Place myrrh on your head, clothe yourself in finest linen,
anoint yourself with genuine oil of the god's property.
Increase your well-being andl let your will not grow slack!
Follow your heart together with your beloved,
do your work on earth and let your heart grieve not,
until that day of mourning comes to you.
But the "Weary of Heart" (Osiris) does not hear their cries,
and their laments save no human heart from
   the netherworld.
Again: Spend a happy day, do not weary of it!
Remember: no one can take his goods with him.
Remember: no one who has passed away returns!


The entire text is preserved on Papyrus Harris 500 (=Brithis Museum 10060) from Dynasty 19.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:30:36 am



Erik Hornung

Translated by David Lorton

                                                        D A R K   Y E A R S


With the persecution of the old deities, the new religion reached its acme and, at the same time, went
too far.  Thus began a final phase, which Donald B. Redford has characterized as a "sunset".

The last two official monuments of the king stem from his twelfth year and both have to do with his foreign
policy.  One is a victory stela, several copies of which were probably set up in Nubia; some fragments of one such copy, later reused at the temple of Buhen, were partially published only in 1976, while another
was located at Amada. 

The topic of their inscription is a military expedition against the Nubian land of Ikaita, which Akhenaten entrusted to his viceroy Tuthmosis.  The text follows a long-standing mode, according to which the "re-
bellion" of this land is reported to the king, affording him the pretext for a military intervention.  This assu-
med a scale of a relatively modest punitive expedition, as shown by the list of spoils at the end of the in-
scription: 145 enemies were captured and eighty were killed, some of them in battle and some "on the stake", that is execution.

This is the only expedition attested to date for Akhenaten and he surely did not lead it himself; he thus
evaded the established model according to which every pharaoh lead an expedition, often only a symbolic
one, at the beginning of his reign, so as to fulfill his role as a victorious monarch.  In other ways, as well, he avoided warlike attributes, such as we still find in the reign of his father Amenophis III and the representation of the triumphal scene of "smiting the enemies" seems to have been absent from the pylon
towers of the temple at Amarna.

In the correspondece from the Amarna archive, his loyal vassals constantly implore him, in vain, to inter-
vene militarily in western Asia; this is the origin of the cliche` of the "pacifistic" king who remained inactive
abroad while wrapped up in his fantasy world at Akhetaten.  But toward the end of his reign, we encounter
lively foreign policy activity in connection with the visit of the prince Aziru of Amurru to Akhetaten.

The other monument of year 12 is the "tribute of the foreign lands", which is represented in the tombs of two officials of the new Residence.  Previously, the "tribute" (actually trade goods) of foreign peoples had
been depicted in the tombs of viziers; nominally the highest civil officials, they also had oversight of
foreign trade.  Nothing of the sort is found in the tombs of Akhenaten's viziers, Ramose and Aper-El.

This stress on foreign policy was probably important to the king, because of increasing difficulties on the domestic front, the intensification of his religious policy doubtless incurred reactions and, along with those, there were family problems as well.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:34:50 am


The royal family idyll we find so compelling in the "intimate" scenes from Amarna art has for some time had it Achilles' heel - ever since we learned of Kiya, the king's favourite.


She was mentioned briefly in the scholarly literature for the first time in 1959 and 1961 and, in the
meanwhile, we have learned more about her through the work of Yuri Y. Perepelkin Reiner Hanke, Wolf-
gang Helck and Rolf Krauss. 

Her name is a shortened form, behind which lies a different name, perhaps a foreign one.  Kiya might have come from the kingdom of Mitanni, for we know of an "administrator of the woman from Naharin"
from a funerary cone of the period, though the woman is not identified by name; Kiya is often called simply "the lady" (TA SHEPSET) which has led to the suggestion that there is a recollection of her in the anonymous "lady" of the "Tale of Two Brothers" from the Ramesside Period.


Even if she was a Mitannian, she cannot have been identical to the princess Tadukhepa, whom Akhan-
aten inherited from the harem of his father, though she might have been a dsitinguised and beautiful
Asiatic in her retinue; from the text on the commemorative scarab that Amenophis III had issued on the occasion of his marriage to Gilukhepa, we learn this Mitannian princess was accompanied to Egypt
by 317 ladies in waiting.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:36:21 am

In any event, Kiya is attested side by side with Nefertiti for several years, though the two women are
carefully distinguished by their official titles.

In the royal harem, there had always been only one "great royal wife" and, in the case of Akhenaten,
this was Nefertiti.

Kiya, on the other hand, bore the highly unusual official title "great beloved wife of the King", which elevated her above all the other women of the harem, but without assigning her any religious significance, such as Nefertitit had.

Kiya is also carefully distinguished from Nefertiti in the repressentations.  She never appears wearing a crown or the royal uraeus-serpent and her name is not enclosed in a cartouche.  Additionally, there is never more than one daughter behind her, in contrast to the usually larger number who appear behing
Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
Whether or not we must reckon with a "disappearance" of Nefertiti from the scene, and however that
would have to be explained, Kiya stood out for a time as the predominant wife at the royal court.  In
a representation preserved only in fragmentary form, she appears, along with her own daughter, be-
hind Akhenaten under the radiant Aten, while at the same time, Nefertiti's daughters Merytaten and
Anhesenpaaten are lying on the ground in proskynesis and are thus clearly relegated to second rank.

Akhenaten apparently had another, seventh daughter by Kiya and it can be imagined that the latter
established her own daughter as heir to the throne instead of Merytaten.  But it can only be left to
speculation whether we must reckon with a formal power struggle between Kiya and Merytaten (who,
in the end, bore the title of a queen) in the later years of Akhenaten.  It seems certain only that in many instances the name if Kiya replaced by that of (Princess, not Queen) Merytaten and that part of the burial equipment in the "ominous" tomb 55 was originally intended for Kiya.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:37:48 am


On the other hand,it is unlikely that Kiya wrote the highly political letter to Suppiluliumas in which a widowed Egyptian queen requested a Hittite prince to be her consort. The Hittite sources speak of an actual queen regnant, a "female king of Egypt", which Kiya certainly was not.
This letter is preserved only in Hittite sources and identifies the Egyptian queen only by her title,
"Dakhamanzu", not by name.  She wrote to Suppiluliumas that her royal husband had died without leaving a son.  This excludes Merytaten, who did not outlive Smenkhare, leaving only Nefertiti, Akhen-
aten's widow, or Ankhesenamun, the widow of Tutankhamun, as the potential author of the letter.

The request for a Hittite prince initially succeeded, but the murder of Prince Zananza while he was en
route to Egypt prevented a diplomatic marriage and an alliance of the two great powers at this early date; this was not to be accomplished until nearly a century later under Ramesses II.

Now, however, the assassination of the prince triggered a retaliatory attack on the part of the Hittites,
its unforturnate result was an outbreak of pestilence, to which the great Hittite king Suppiluliumas
succumbed and it has been suspected that this plague was the cause of the early deaths of several other leading figures of the Amarna Period.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:39:34 am


The later years of Akhenaten are filled with puzzles and problems and none of the proposed recon-
structions of this period is entirely workable.

The supposed disappearance of Nefertitti, which has now again been called into question; the position
of Kiya, Akhenaten's favourite; his "marriages" to his older daughters, which served to elevate their status; the problem of a coregency with a female partner or with his son-in-law Smnkhakare; the
alleged brief sole rule of Merytaten after the death of her father; and the authorship of the above-
mentioned letter to Suppiluliumas - new reconstructions keep surfacing for these eventful, but poorly documented, years.  The lack of sources has proven favourable to a luxuriant overgrowth of specula-

To note some highlights from these later years, we can draw on inscriptions on the vessels found in
great abundance at Tell el-Amarna.  They give the exact year and, more rarely, the month, when they
were created and filled with perishable products such as wine, oil and honey.

Their distribution over the individual regnal years if quite uneven and indicates what are clearly high
points: year 9-10 (new titulary of the god and further changes?), year 12 (tribute of the foreign lands)
and year 14 (arrangements for the succession?). The origin of these deliveries is noted, but not their
purposes, so that it remains unclear what occasioned them.

Consumption of large quantities of products usually points to divine festivals, but there can have been no question of these at Amarna.

Jan Assmann has pointed to the impoverishment of social and religious life which this discontinuance of festivals entailed.  Previously, festivals continually afforded fresh opportunities to approach the divine
and beseech care and salvation from all sorts of afflictions.

Public rewards - the awarding of gold to meritorious officials - could be no substitute for this and
Akhenaten's expectations in this regard would prove to be of no avail: the worship of the traditional
deities would flower again in his immediate vicinity and even satire of the king and his "holy family"
would flourish.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:41:03 am


The two dozen limestone figurines of monkeys found at Akhetaten might point in this direction.
Scenes of chariotry and kissing recall popular motifs in the representationso of the royal family; in the
Ramesside Period the satiric, theriomorphic distancing of Pharaoh would become quite familiar. 
Akhenaten's officials might thus have found an outlet, in these groups of monkeys, for expressing their inner distance from the "heretic King". 

The discovery of figurines of traditional deities in the houses at Amarna is significant.  They must stem from a time when these deities were officially persecuted, thus testifying to their continuing, albeit
secret, worship; at the same time, they touch on the area of magic, which was totally excluded from
official religion in the Amarna period.


Predominant are figurines of the popular tutelary deities Bes and Taweret, while other deities are
attested less often or in only one instance; Sobek, Isis, Thoth, Ptah, Mut and even the hated Amun,
as well as Osiris.  Along with the amulets (including the especially popular UDJAT -eye), representations of Bes, Taweret and Amun were also present in the houses; by way of texts, "laments" are attested, in particualr a graffito left behind in a relatively obscure spot in Theban Tomb 139 by Pawah, the "scribe of the divine offerings of Amun" in the mortuary temple of Smenkhakare.  In it, he praises his god Amun in terms that in part are reminiscent of the poems of the "Dialogue of a Man Weary of Life with His Soul" and their praise of death - the works of the "critical literature" of the Middle Kingdom were now being circulated anew and are mostly attested to us in copies of the late New Kingdom, such as our only copy of the "Admonitions of Ipuwer" with its impressive depiction of widespread change and even revolution.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:42:30 am

After this period of suppression, laments were now transformed into praises of the god who had triumphantly survived all his persecution:

"You give satisfaction without eating, you give drunkenness without drinking....
oh Amun, champion of the poor!
You are father to the motherless,
husband to the widow.
How lovely it is to speak your name,
it is like the taste of life,
it is like the taste of bread for a child,
like a garment for the naked,
like the scent of a flowering twig at
the time of summer's heat.

Turn to us, oh lord of eternity!
You were here when nothing had yet come into being,
and you will be here when it is at an end.
You make me see the darkness that you give -
give me light, that I may see you!"

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:43:52 am

From the fact that Smenkhkare had a mortuary temple with an Amun cult at Thebes, and that Amun was once again mentioned next to the Aten in two late tomb chapels at Tell el-Amarna, it has been concluded that Akhenaten relented and partially mitigated his reform, while he was still alive.  Since
his coregency with Smenkhkare is once again the subject of debate, this supposition now rests on a shaky foundation.  It is possible that Aten's renewed coexistence with the traditional deities began only after the death of Akhenaten and ended some years later, when Tutankhaten changed his name.

In any case, there is no indication of a fall from power or a violent end to the "Heretic King", so his
accomplishments did not come to a halt immediately upon his death. 

During a transition period that lasted for some years, there was a cautious attempt to carry on his work; it was only then that the pressure of opposing forces proved too strong, leading to the abandoning of the Aten and his sacred precinct of Akhetaten.  But what was given up immediately
was the sole worship of the Aten (along with the ban on the remainder of the pantheon) and the
denial of an afterlife in the netherworld.

Everything else could wait, and what was decisive was probably a feeling of relief from a heavy
burden, a breath of fresh air, after the death of the "Heretic King".


                 AMUN - XVIII DYNASTY

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:45:07 am



Erik Hornung
Translated by David Lorton

                                                 T H E   S U C C E S S O R S


The "long lifetime" that Akhenaten reguarly bore as an epithet was not granted him:

the king died in the prime of life probably in July 1336 BCE.  Above all, he died withoutleaving behind a son who xould fill his political and religious role.

Nefertiti and Kiya had borne him only daughters; of his siblings, only a sister, Baketamun (later
Baketaten) had lived to see his coronation; and Nefertiti seems also to have had only one sister.
There was thus a large selection of royal women, but no unequivocal male heir to the throne.

The succession problem was especially tricky on this occasion, because not just a new pharaoh was
needed, but rather a prophet to preserve and to promulgate the pure teaching of the god of light.

It is difficult to imagine how the "crown princess" Merytaten, for instance, could have played such
a role, one that even the king's two young relatives, Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten (still a child), were
obliged to grow into.  The "king makers" elevated each of these two young men in turn to the throne,
demonstrating in the process that they were seeking no radical break with the ruling dynasty.

In the case of Smenkhkare, it remains unclear wheter he had already been appointed coregent by
Akhenaten or whether his rule of about three years began only after the death of the "heretic king".
A few monuments heretofore cited in favor of a coregency can be interpreted otherwise.  On the
stela Berlin 1783, for instance, two kings appear together in full regalia, but they have only three
courtouches, as the royal couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti do, so that the "coregent" (wearing the
Double Crown!) might rather be the "great royal wife"; on another stela in Berlin (20716) she wears
the Brue crown and is handing Akhenaten a cup of wine. 

Thus, there is only a single official representation depicting Smenkhakare, with Merytaten as his
wife, rewarding Meryre in his tomb.  It is possible that the official inserted them immediately after
Akhenaten's death, when the abandonment of Akhetaten and its tombs had not yet been decided
on, so that even this representation does not afford proof of a coregency.

A very fragmentary stela in University College, London, does indeed display four cartouches, thus
indicating a coregencey, but even here the identity of Akhenaten's partner is debatable.  The
epithet "beloved of Neferkheprure" or "beloved of Waenre" (both names refer to Akhenaten) is no more than circumstantial evidence that one might choose to connect with a still living "heretic king" and
thus with a coregency, as opposed to a posthumous worship of Akhenaten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:46:23 am

We are not on firm ground until the reign of Tutankhaten, though his origin remains uncertain.

His designation "beloved king's son" on a block from Hermopolis has often been taken as a justification for viewing him as the son of Amenophis III or Akhenaten, but this Egyptian princely title is too vague to allow any conclusions.  Several years ago, near the Red Monastery at Sohag, the tomb of a "god's father", Sennedjem, to whom the upbringing of the young Tutankhaten was evidently entrusted, was discovered; are we to conclude from this that the prince spent his early childhood in the region of Akhmim,the home of that prominent family from which Teye, Yuya and Aya stemmed?

On the back of his throne, the new royal couple is represented beneath the radiant Aten, thus continuing
the idea of a divine triad which had been realized by Akhenaten, Nefertiti and the Aten.  But this attempt to maintain basic elements of Akhenaten's religion lasted only a short time, for a direct continuation of his reform proved impossible.  A first sign of this was the abandonment of the icon of the sun disk with its rays.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:50:08 am

RETURN TO AMUN AND PTAH                                                                       continued

Following this, cultic reality and the mythology of the course of the sun once again make their appearance:


"August god in his chapel,
Lord of time in his barque!
Those in the horizon row you....
Tha bas of the west rejoice at you......."

The conclusion is rich in mythological allusions, all in the style of traditional hymns: "Perfect youth whom Ptah created, ......who emerged as Horus.....ruler of time and sovereign of the gods of eternity, .....your mother Nut lifts you up".

There is appended a praise of Thoth, the god of wisdom and the moon, with whom Haremhab directly compares himself - like the moon by the sun, he stands at the side of his king, Tutankhamun.  There is also praise for the goddess Maat, who grants him the breath of life.  The conclusion contains the traditional mortuary wish to enter and leave the "Field of Reeds" - the Egyptian paradise in the here-after - and to be in the following of Sokar, the Memphite god of the dead.

The hereafter, banned under Akhenaten, has thus made a complete comeback!

At about the same time, the high priest Parennefer presided over the renewal of the cult of Amun at Karnak; a procession bearing the vase sacred to the god, whose origin lay in the traditional cult, played an important role in this.

His tomb at Thebes was discovered not many years ago by Friederike Kampp and Karl-Joachim Seyfried; its model is clearly the royal tomb at Amarna and the tombs of the officials there.  There is no longer a radiant Aten, but the scene of sun worship, with its rejoicing on the part of all creation, is drawn from the imagistic realm of Akhenaten's tomb.  Its indulgence in the representation of chariots is also derived from Amarna.

The spirit of the times is manifest in the solution found for the decoration of Tutankhamun's tomb upon his premature death.  It in no way represents a return to tradition, to the time before Akhenaten; rather, referential derivations from tradition were combined with radical innovations worthy of the Amarna Period and in part taken from the decoration of private tombs. 

This is also true of the tomb of his successor Aya, which was decorated only four years later.
On the walls of both tombs are excerpts from the "Amduat", an old Book of the Netherworld, as well as extracts from the Book of the Dead in the tomb of Aya.  Along with the Amduat and the Book of the Dead, the gilded shrines of Tutankhamun offer new compositions, among them the "Book of the Heavenly Cow".

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:52:01 am


In the inscription on the stela of his rock-cut tomb in the vicinity of Akhmim, Aya settles the score with
"evil" and the "destruction of Right" and he provides that each person can again make offerings to "his own god," and that "all the deities" will be satisfied that their sancturaries have been restored.

The emphasis is thus quite similar to that of Tutankhamun, and his successor Haremhab also makes an
emphatic reference to destruction - he provided for the divine temples, which had become "ruin heaps"
and he restored the world to its ideal condition:

"He organized this land and gave it instructions that corresponded to (those of) the time of Re.  He renewed the temples of the gods from the delta marshes to Nubia.  He fashioned all their images, distinct from what had been earlier, with greater perfection....

He didstinguished their temples he created their statues in their correct form from all sorts of precious stones.  He searched out all the holy, divine precincts that were ruin heaps in this land and he founded
them anew, as they had been at the beginning of primeval time.  He dedicated divine offerings to them as regular daily offerings, along with all sorts of vessels for their temples, cast in gold and silver.  He
equipped them with WAB-priests and lector priests from the elite of the army.  He assigned them fields and cattle".

Haremhab was closely connected by marriage (to a sister of Nefertiti?) to the royal house of Dynasty 18, but he intentionally made himself out to be the first legitimate ruler since Amenophis III, who served as his principal model.

During his reign, lively building activity commenced anew in the temple of Amun at Karnak and a a great number of TALATAT-blocks from Akhenaten's constructions were reused in his own buildings.  Egypt also launched a new and active foreign policy that led to the regaining of lost territories in Syria.


The Ramesside Period that followed was taking shape.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:53:49 am


by Erik Hornung - 1995

Translated by David Lorton

                                                            E P I L O G U E


What was left?  Akhenaten had founded no congregation; he had no disciples or apostles to carry on his work after his death.

There was only his small circle of followers, who were now bereft of a reference point.  Akhenaten had concentrated his teaching so exclusively upon himself as the only one who knew the Aten, that it was doomed to perish along with him - in any case, in the extreme form in which he had promulgated it.

And yet, he had set in motion changes that would endure after his passing and exercise influence in
several areas.


After a brief setback, Late Egyptian survived as the new written language, in which a rich literature soon
unfolded, reaching previously unknown heights with its harpers' songs and love lyrics.

In art, the zest for motion and the depiction of emotion initiated by Akhenaten remained in force for de-
cades and the visual joy of Amarna art rippled in ever-widening circles through the centuries that followed.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:55:30 am

FAILURE AND CONTINUITY                                                                                       continued

In the area of religion, Amun did not entirely recover his paramount status and his city of Thebes would never again be the capital.

But monotheism had to wait half a millennium and longer to receive a fresh chance in Judaism. 

In this connection, there has been debate as to whether Akhenaten's monotheistic ideas had an influence on Palestine, as was assumed by Sigmund Freud in particular.

The temporal interval is too great to infer a direct influence from the Amarna Period on the monotheism of the
Hebrew Bible.

But undercurrents that remain hidden to us might certainly have exercised an influence; perhaps the author of
Psalm 104 indeed drew upon the Great Hymn to the Aten.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:57:47 am




Akhenaten and the religion he founded were not just transitory phenomena, as they are so often made out to be.

The challenge he posed compelled succeeding generations to rethink questions that had seemed resolved, just as
art received new impulses from this debate.

As Jan Assmann has put it  "The effects of Amarna religion was to clarify, not to reform.  The traditional religion be-
came only ever more self-conscious as a result of this confrontation with its antithesis".

This is especially evident in the case of beliefs about the afterlife.  The denial of a hereafter and the realm of
Osiris compelled a rethinking of the meaning of the dark half of the cosmos.

Light remained dependent on darkness and the positive value of the latter was never felt as clearly as it was after

There can be no greater contrast to his religion of light than this statement in a solar hymn of Tjanefer, a high
priest of Amun, in early Dynasty 20, regarding the sun god when he descends to the realm of the dead:


Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 09:59:36 am

MORE THAN AN EPISODE                                                                                           continued

On the one hand, the dependence of all life on light, Akhenaten's positive view of light as salvation; on the other
hand, light as an ABOMINATION - the two are exact polar opposites.

For renewal and rejuvination, light  and all  life require darkness; it was the ENTIRE course of the sun, including its
nocturnal, netherworldly portion, which replenished the energy of the sun.

It is only logical that in the immediate wake of Akhenaten, there was a veritable outpouring of symbolic represent-
ations of the daily course of the sun.


                                          T H E   B O O K   O F   T H E   H E A V E N L Y   C O W

This spell is to be recited over the (picture of) a cow, with  "the Infinite Ones who are" (inscribed) on her chest, and over whose back is (inscribed) "the Infinite Ones who are". Whose four hoofs are filled out in paint and upon whose belly are nine stars, issuing from its hindquarters in front of its hind legs, while beneath its belly stands Shu, painted in yellow ocher, his arms support these stars, and inscribed with his name between them, which says "Shu is himself".

A barque, on which are a steering-oar and a shrine with a Solar disk over it and Re in it, is in front of Shu, close to his hand, while another version (of a barque) is behind him, close to his (other) hand. Her two udders are placed in the middle of her left leg, one half of them being drawn in paint in the middle of this hind leg with the following words outside in retrograde : "I am who I am. I will not let them take action." What is (written) beneath the barque that is in front is : "You shall not grow weary, my son." - in retrograde, and as follows : "Your condition is like that of one who lives forever." and as follows : "Your son is in me. Life, prosperity and health be for your nose !"

What is (written) behind Shu, close to his arm, is as follows : "Guard them !" What is behind him at his flank is (written) in retrograde as follows : "It is right that they should enter when I retire each day." What is (written) under the arm of the figure below the left hind leg and behind it is as follows : "Everything is sealed." What is (written) above his head, below the hindquarters of the cow and what is between its hind legs is as follows : "May he come out." What is (written) behind the two figures that are between its hind legs and above their heads : "The aged one is in the realm of the dead. Praise is given to him when he enters." What is (written) over the heads of the two figures that are between its forelegs : "He who procreates, he who adores, support of the sky."



One of the earliest occurs in the  ENIGMATIC BOOK OF THE NETHERWORRLD on one of Tutankhamun's gilded shrines, which until now has remained without parallels.  Its dependence on Amarna is visible in the streams of light which link
the individual figures in the netherworld to one another and enter into the bodies of the deceased.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 10:00:54 am



The scenes of the course of the sun demonstrate, moreove, how much importance was ascribed to the
sun, even after Akhenaten's failure.

Traditional beliefs about the sun experienced no setback, despite the astonishingly massive reaction to
Akhenaten's provocation.

But, now greater attention was devoted to the combination of Re AND Osiris. 


In contrast to the reformer's attempt to draw the sun god entirely into THIS world and fill it entirely with his presence, denying all that was next-wordly, the BOOK OF THE HEAVENLY COW (first attested
under Tutankhamun) makes the mythic statement that, because of the rebellion of humankind, the sun
god withdrew for all time from this world to the sky, while at the same time he established the netherworld for the dead.


Here, there is once again stress on the DISTANCE  and the otherworldly aspect of the divine

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 10:02:49 am


THE SUN ENDURES                                                                                       continued

The other clear return was in the royal ideology.

After Akhenaten there were only a few tentative attemps at the worship of Pharaoh as a personal god.

An example is Huy, Tutankhamun's Nubian viceroy, who entreated his king to dispel the "darkness' that
meant distance from him. 

It was now AMUN who now became the god of the poor and the oppressed, the refuge of the simple in their prayers - the reaction in favour of Amun was thus sustained less by his priesthood than by ordinary

As Sun God, Amun was both distant and near: distant as a beholder, but near as a hearer who stood by those who prayed to him.

In the official theology of the Ramesside Period, which was a continuation of the "New Solar Theology",
he became a god who filled the entire world with himself ( as Aten had filled his sancturay), the ONE
made himself "INTO MILLIONS", but without displacing the other deities.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 10:04:06 am

 E P I L O G U E

THE SUN ENDURES                                                                                                continued 


The figure of SHED, the "Saviour", the powerful and youthful god who intervened and helped in time of need was another heir to the Amarna Period.

Here, in a time of crisis and anxiety, human yearning intensified into a new deity, who was able to step forth, along with Amun, as a personification of help for the needy in this age of personal piety.

Basically he was the young, militant Horus who stood by his father Osiris, but this function was blended with that of the sun god triumphant over his enemies.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 10:07:16 am

 E P I L O G U E

THE SUN ENDURES                                                                                          continued

The Egyptians evidently accepted the god of light about whom Akhenaten preached in his own creative development of the NEW SOLAR THEOLOGY of Dynasty 18, and they continued to tolerate him for a brief time after the king's reign.

ATEN was never outlawed as a designation of the sun, but what was immediately withdrawn was the exclusiveness with which this new god had made his appearance.

Post by: Bianca on September 09, 2007, 10:08:30 am



Here, we come to the critical point.

In Amarna religion, for the first time in history, an attempt was made to explain the entire natural and
human world on the basis of a SINGLE  priciple.

Like Einstein, Akhenaten made light the absolute reference point and it is astonishing how clearly and consistently he pursued this concept in the Fourteenth Century BCE, making him, in fact, the first
MODERN human being.

Indeed, modernity also strives to describe the universe with a single formula, to explain it on the basis of a SINGLE principle; the attempts to do so do not cease.

But Akhenaten demonstrated with unusual clarity that such one-sideness is doomed to failure.

All we repress and ignore will overtake and overshadow us.

Akhenaten was perhaps the first fundamentalist in history and, for this reason, he remains, even today,  a very contemporary figure who can scarcely be denied respect and sympathy in any critique of him.

But there is a lesson for us in his fate and his failure: FUNDAMENTALISM, in whatever form, solves no
problems, but only suppresses them.

We must not succumb to the temptation that, from time to time, emerges from it and its apparently simple and clear solutions. 

With its intolerance, it can have no future: things must not be reduced to a single, isolated principle, be it ever so noble and elevated.

Always and, above all, the whole is at stake.

No grim reaction followed Akhenaten, but rather a cautious attempt to join old to new, so as not to give
up - straight away - what had been achieved on the positive side.

The Amarna Period exercised a stimulating and fertilizing influence on the intellectual and spiritual history of ancient Egypt and of all humankind, and, for our own time, it continues to offer a model instance from which we can learn.



Erik Hornung

Translated by David Lorton