Explain the religious changes of Akhenaten

Essay by Chuck_3000High School, 11th gradeB, May 2007

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Akhenaten implemented a number of significant religious changes during his reign as Pharaoh during the 19th Dynasty. Most prominent of these was the initiation of a religious revolution, including the transition from traditional Egyptian religious beliefs of polytheism towards Akhenaten’s new brand of monotheism. In this new religion the sole god was ‘The Aten’, though only through Akhenaten, who claimed he had “special knowledge” could it be contacted or prayed to.

Gardiner and Redford maintain that “change was in the air during the reign of his father (Amonhtep III)”, and Breasted similarly claims that first impressions of monotheism occurred in the reign of Amonhtep III. A sun-hymn on a stela during this time is seen as “discerning the unlimited scope of the Sun God’s realm” . When Akhenaten succeeded his father, there was much confrontation as the sun disk became increasingly associated with royalty. On one hand was the innate Egyptian conservatism, and on the other Akhenaten leading a powerful urge towards monotheism with the old Sun God.

An apparent compromise led to his new revolutionary solar faith, whereby he described himself as “the beautiful child of the sun” .

It was not until Akhenaten’s fifth year in power did an overhaul of religious changes begin. Since the beginning of his reign he had suggested the Aten was the only true god. According to Breasted, Akhenaten erected “at Thebes…a sumptuous temple to the new god” . Following this, Akhenaten attempted to “obliterate all trace of the existence of Amun” . This specifically included all recognition of “Gods” in the plural form. Aldred describes it as “…sweeping away much of the obscure imagery and esoteric symbolism of the old religion and replaced them by an easily recognisable and attractive iconography” . This is said to have centered on the domestic...