Ancient Egypt got many famous Pharaohs, some of them their fame goes back to the battles they went through and the lands they conquered, and others for no reason but being lucky that their tomb wasn’t robbed till it was discovered with their full treasures. The Pharaoh Akhenaton is famous for neither reason but for defeating the norm and being the first individual in history, a Heretic King.
King Akhenaton wasn’t even called that name; he is Amenhotep IV (Amenophis IV), the son of a great King and Queen. His father was Amenhotep III, the magnificent, and his mother was the powerful Queen Tiye.
Coming to the Throne
Akhenaton, or Akhenaten, ruled during the 18th dynasty; he came to the throne after his father’s death and married Nefertiti, probably before achieving the throne. Everything sounded normal till now, but everything started to change by his 5th regnal year.
The Ancient Egyptians were known for worshiping many deities. The major god was Amen, but Akhenaton didn’t support this idea; he formed a new cult to worship the God Aton, represented as the Sun disk, and neglected the worship of Amen. The first thing he did was change his name to Akhenaton, meaning “Effective for Aten,” and his wife Nefertiti also changed her name.
The change that the king made didn’t just stop on the name and introducing a new religion; he changed the capital of Egypt that was Thebes at that time and built a new capital on an unoccupied site and called it “Akhetaten,” later known as “Tell El Amarna.” He also implemented a new form of architecture and a unique style of art and writing. And that marked the beginning of the Amarna period, which didn’t last long.
Akhenaton wanted to dominate the worship of Aten. Still, the people were too connected to Amen, so he erased the names and images of Amen along with certain gods from the texts and monuments.
Amarna Royal Art
What was unique about the Amarna Period is the art. The drawings on the walls, the statues, and how the King and Queen were depicted are like no other era in ancient Egypt. They were drawn with larger, elongated heads, large lips, long noses, squinting eyes, narrow shoulders, and waists.
The Royal family always appeared together in a family manner, the King and Queen and their children. The difference was that Akhenaton and Nefertiti were always drawn together, and similarly, the Queen had an almost equal dominant role as the King.
A Good or Bad King?
There are contradictory theories about the 17 years of the ruling of Akhenaton. Some suggest he was a King hated by his people; he only focused on changing the religion and neglected the diplomatic correspondence with different countries, as it appears in the Amarana letters discovered in 1887. There were 350 tablets of those, but doesn’t that mean he was focused on the matter?
The End of the Amarna Period
The Amarna period ended with the King’s death; everything went back to normal like it never even happened. His son Tut Ankh Aten came to the throne after his father, changed his name to Tut Ankh Amen, moved back to Thebes, and neglected whatever his father had changed. That might be the only thing that King Tut did as he died by the age of 19. And the weird thing is that any records of Queen Nefertiti vanished; we don’t know what happened to her.
We have discovered a few things from this period; maybe the ground is still hiding more about the King, who is considered Heretic, and his Queen with the famous bust.