Monotheism In Ancient Egypt

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The end of the 18th Dynasty came an extensive alteration to the religious and political structure of New Kingdom Egypt. This was due to the transition of Kingly leadership from Amenhotep III to Akhenaten. The succession of his father was following a 40-year reign of divine peace and prosperity, and after attaining a large sum of wealth and power Akhenaten made a dramatic decision to shift from the traditional origins of polytheism to monotheism. This attempted religious reform, also came along with many drastic political moves and statements. This diplomatic correspondence can be seen extensively throughout the Amarna Letters with exchanges between Egypt and several other surrounding locations such as Babylonia, Hatti and Assyria. These letters…show more content…
He believed that two cults could not survive together, so in an attempt to promote Atensim he disbanded all other cults, including the Priesthood of Amun. In order for this discontinuation to occur, all temples were closed, images destroyed, names erased, and priests dismissed, much of this was done by Akhenaten himself (Hornung 1992, 44). Akhenaten viewed Aten as the creator of life, he adapted many revolutionary ideas from pre-existing traditional notions that the sun through its radiation and motion generates time (Assmann 2014, 60). The iconography of Aten was adapted from the god Amun or Amun-Ra of Thebes, this depiction though was in human form. Akhenaten rejected this form and Aten was represented as a disc with descending rays with each ending in a small hand, this was the only divine image displayed in Akhenaten’s new temples and his tomb at Amarna. It is thought that this change was executed because Aten being a manifestation of the sun, is considered to be visible everywhere and therefore holding the ability to encompass the whole universe with his power. Henceforth Akhenaten believed that a strong relationship with Aten would translate onto his royal power, therefore making him more universal (David 1994, 155). His bond was reinforced with Aten by changing his name in the fifth year of his reign from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, meaning ‘he who acts effectively on behalf of…show more content…
Many of the restructurings Akhenaten enforced didn’t come without some form of political stance. The largest change being the shift of the capital from Thebes to Amarna, or ‘The Horizon of Aten’. This shift occurred in the fifth year of his reign, and his intentions as to why he established this change can be seen on The Boundary Stela, a series of tablets carved into the cliffs surrounding the site of Amarna (Kemp 1989, 267). However, this change does appear to be largely religious, it still contains underlying aspects of political reforms. The uprooting of the population to a new location allowed for further political and economic expansion (Redford 2013, 10). It is known that there was a great deal of open farmland present in the surrounding area of Amarna, and is estimated that entire location could hold a population as large as 45, 000. In addition, the vast sum of revenue this new capital would generate, could be fed into other aspects of Egyptian lifestyle. The economic boost enabled the opportunity for more employment such as, farmhands, garment workers, construction workers, and producers of food and drink creating a more affluent society. Other evidence in regard to Akhenaten’s political reforms, include his wife Nefertiti. It is apparent that Nefertiti played a critical role in not only the
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