Also Known As: Amenhotep IV, Amenophis IV
Born in: Egypt
Famous as: Pharoah of Egypt
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Ankhesenamun, Kiya, Meritaten, Nefertiti
father: Amenhotep III
siblings: Iset, Sitamun
children: Ankhesenamun, Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit, Meketaten, Meritaten, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, Setepenre, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun
place of death: Egypt
Who is Akhenaten?
Akhenaten was an Egyptian Pharaoh who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. While most rulers would think of invading neighbouring kingdoms to expand their territory, Akhenaten’s interests solely lied within the confines of Egypt. In his long tenure, Akhenaten focussed more on making ‘Atenism’ (a religion for the followers of the Sun god) the only religion of Egypt. His devotion for the Sun god was often reflected through the architecture in Egypt during his times, which glorified the deity. Akhenaten is also known for writing a long hymn in praise of the god. Artefacts which proved this Egyptian Pharoh’s existence were discovered only recently, in the 19th Century. Many of the inscriptions which were recovered revealed that Akhenaten was insensitive to his allies. He did little to help the neighbouring allies of Egypt recover from situations of acute political crisis. Many of the modern day-historians and researchers are of the opinion that Akhenaten was one of the very few ‘Scientific-thinking’ people of his times.
Childhood & Early Life
Akhenaten was the younger son of Queen Tiye and Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Though his parents wanted to crown their eldest son Prince Thutmose, Akhenaten was the one who succeeded his father since Thutmose had died at a young age.
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Akhenaten was formally announced as ‘Amenhotep IV’ in the Egyptian city of Thebes. It’s still a debate amongst historians and researchers, whether Akhenaten was crowned the prince after his father’s demise. It’s also believed that he shared the throne with Amenhotep III even before the latter’s death.
One of the first works which Akhenaten undertook as an emperor was modifying the temples in his kingdom. He decorated the south entrance of ‘The Temple of Amun-Re’, where one of the walls depicted Akhenaten worshipping the sun god ‘Re-Harakhte’.
Akhenaten introduced a new concept to Egyptian culture called ‘Atenism’. During his reign, several buildings were constructed as a mark of respect to the disc of the sun god ‘Aten’.
During his reign, Akhenaten tried his best to establish Aten as the supreme god of Egypt. He also diverted the funds meant for other gods and cults towards the service of the sun god. This vision of Akhenaten came to be known later to the world as ‘Judaism’.
Akhenaten was also well-known amongst rulers of other dynasties. Archaeologists have found various inscriptions, which seemed like letters apparently addressed to the Pharaoh by rulers of Babylon, Assyria, and Hatti.
It’s also believed that Akhenaten’s relationship with Tushratta, the ruler of Mittani turned sour later. Even in few of Tushratta’s messages, discovered recently, the ruler has complained of being deceived by the Pharaoh. It’s said that Akhinaten had sent him statues which were not made of gold, but were gold-plated.
Akhenaten later on neglected his neighbouring kingdoms, and had no intention of paying heed to any of their grievances. Few of Egypt’s allies repeatedly asked for the Pharaoh’s help to capture the kingdom of Hittite, but the latter had refused to send his troops.
An ally which Akhenaten had greatly disappointed was Rib Hadda. Researchers have found more than 60 letters addressed to Akhenaten by Rib-Hadda where the latter had sought Akhenaten’s help in solving the political crisis of his kingdom.
It was time and again proved that Akhenaten was a great admirer of the sun god ‘Aten’. He even wrote the longest poem in praise of the deity titled ‘Great Hymn to The Aten’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Akhinaten married Nefertiti during the early part of his reign. Historians claim that the couple had six daughters. Few sources also say that the Pharaoh had another wife by name Kiya. It was also recently discovered that Akhinaten had a son with one of his biological sisters. The child was later known as Tutankhamen who was also a pharaoh.
Few archaeologists are of the opinion that Kiya is the mother of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen and Akhenaten’s successor Smenkhkare. It’s also believed by few that the emperor had used a couple of his daughters for sexual purposes, mainly with an intention of getting a male child to succeed him.
Other than Nefertiti, there were a couple of other women who shared the title of being the Queen. Akhinaten’s daughter Meritaten was named the ‘Great Royal Wife’. In one of the recently found inscriptions, Akhinaten’s mother Tiye was also mentioned as one of the Pharaoh’s ‘beloved’.
Another theory associated with Akhenaten’s life is that he suffered from genetic abnormality. It was also reported that the Pharaoh fell prey to ‘Froelich’s Syndrome’ and ‘Marfan’s Syndrome’. However DNA tests conducted recently on his son Tutankhamun’s body showed negative results for ‘Marfan’s Syndrome’, ruling out the possibility of such a disorder affecting Akhenaten.
The date and cause of Akhenaten’s death are unknown, but researchers have found a tomb named ‘KV55’ in the valleys of Egypt. The tomb reportedly contained the body of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s father, and is supposed to be Akhenaten himself.
Akhenaten’s life has been a subject of great interest for writers and researchers. Noted English writer, Agatha Christie had penned a play titled ‘Akhnaton’, where she spoke about the emperor. More than a dozen books, pieces of music and even a few films have drawn inspiration from his great life.
Prominent among the books based on the emperor’s life were ‘The Eye of Ra’ by Michael Asher, and ‘The Sleeper in The Sands’ by Tom Holland.