Akhenaten: Pharaoh of the Sun Disc or Heretic King? - al-jesr

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الخميس، 22 فبراير 2024

Akhenaten: Pharaoh of the Sun Disc or Heretic King?


By/ Raméz Salah El-Shishy

For many ages people have been fascinated by the story of Amenhotep IV as known as Akhenaten, the Pharaoh of the Sun Disc. Historians and academics are deeply divided by his peculiar artistic portrayal, extreme religious and cultural changes, and other issues. Was he a heretic king who desecrated the ancient Egyptian religion, or was he a visionary leader who brought about a revolutionary change in Egyptian society?

Early Life and Reign
Akhenaten was born around 1370 BC to Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. His father was a powerful pharaoh who ruled Egypt during a time of great prosperity and cultural advancement. Akhenaten was married to his half-sister, Nefertiti, and had six daughters with her. He came to the throne in 1353 BC, after the death of his father, and his reign lasted for 17 years.

Akhenaten's early years as pharaoh were marked by traditional Egyptian religious practices and customs. He built temples and offered sacrifices to the gods, just like his father and predecessors. However, things took a dramatic turn when he moved his capital from Thebes to Akhetaten, a new city he built in the desert. This move marked the beginning of his religious and cultural reforms.

The Religious Reforms
Akhenaten introduced a monotheistic worship of the sun god, Aten, and abolished the traditional Egyptian pantheon of gods. He built a new temple dedicated to Aten, and the art and architecture of this period reflect a significant departure from the traditional Egyptian style. The new art form was characterized by elongated bodies, narrow faces, and exaggerated features.

The sun god is referred to as the creator and sustainer of life in the Aten hymn that is written on the temple walls. Akhenaten thought he had a direct line to the god and considered himself as the divine son of Aten. He appointed officials who were exclusively devoted to him and eliminated the influential priests of Amun.
Source of image: By Professor Mustapha El Sayed during his tour at Grand Egyptian Museum

Was Akhenaten a Heretic King?
Some historians and scholars view Akhenaten as a heretic king who defaced the traditional Egyptian religion. They argue that his radical reforms were a departure from the established religious practices and that he forced his new religion on his people. The abolition of the traditional pantheon of gods and the concentration of power in the hands of the pharaoh were seen as a threat to the established order.

Moreover, Akhenaten's artistic representation was vastly different from the traditional Egyptian art. His depiction in art was more naturalistic, with elongated bodies and exaggerated features, which was a departure from the traditional idealized depiction of pharaohs. This has led some to argue that he was a heretic who rejected the traditional Egyptian religion and introduced a new form of worship that was not accepted by the people. In other words, he added modernized touch to EGYPT.

Was Akhenaten a Pharaoh of the Sun Disc?
On the other hand, others see Akhenaten as a visionary leader who brought about a revolutionary change in Egyptian society. They argue that his religious and cultural reforms were a deliberate attempt to break away from the powerful priesthood of Amun and introduce a more personal and direct form of worship.

The Aten hymn, Inscribed on the walls of the temple, describes the sun god as the creator and sustainer of life. Akhenaten saw himself as the divine son of Aten and believed that he had a direct connection with the god. He abolished the powerful priesthood of Amun and appointed officials who were loyal only to him.

Akhenaten's reforms were not limited to religion alone. He introduced a new system of taxation, and his officials were responsible for collecting taxes directly from the people. This system allowed him to bypass the powerful priesthood of Amun and gain more control over the economy.

In Conclusion, Akhenaten's life and reign have been a topic of intense debate among historians and scholars. While some view him as a heretic king who defaced the traditional Egyptian religion, others see him as a vIsionary leader who brought about a revolutionary change in Egyptian society. The evidence for both perspectives is strong, and it is up to each Individual to decide which perspective they agree with.


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