Akhenaten and the Amarna Letters

Essay by DafunkcrusaderCollege, UndergraduateA, October 2014

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Significant reforms occurred during the mid-14th century BCE, under the reign of Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten early on in his pharaohship. Because Egypt was traditionally a culture of rituals and customs, Akhenaton experienced resistance from the Egyptian people as he implemented relatively extreme change during his time as pharaoh. He essentially dismantled the power of the priesthood by introducing a monotheistic worship of the sun god Aten. He enraged the priests, emptied the great temples, and moved his capital downriver from Thebes to Amarna, which was a site he named after his new god. During the rule of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, a revolution occurred in Egyptian culture, religion, and art.

It became apparent early in his reign that Akhenaten had the intention of changing the Egyptian culture. The " Amarna Letters , " written on clay tablets, were discovered in the city of Akhetaten. The letters suggest that he had withdrawn from the world and that Egypt was no longer taking part in world events.

There are a number of letters from governors and kings of subject nations begging for help, however the authors seem to feel abandoned by the powerful pharaoh. It is suggested that Akhenaten increasingly left government and diplomats to their own devices. It is also believed that he had granted his wife, Nefertiti, with power surpassed only by the Pharaoh himself. Some scholars even suggest that she ruled as co-regent for part of his reign during a time when women were subservient to men. The most significant change he made to culture, however, seems to be his implementation of a nearly monotheistic religion centered around the sun god Aten.

Identified with the sun disk, Aten was declared by the pharaoh to be the universal god, and devotion to most other...