Akhenaten (Echnaton) is the most mysterious and interesting of all the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In the following essay I will try to interpret what little is known about the androgynous pharaoh, who brought down the Egypt empire with his daring cultural and religious revolution, the enigmatic chief queen Nefertiti (Neferneferuaten), and his overpowering mother Tiye.
By trying to piece together a somewhat coherent picture, I noticed that archeological sources, scholarly books, old texts and results of biological science with recent genetic research are not enough. C.G. Jung’s concepts of Archetypes and complexes and his “Anima and Animus” theory in his analytical psychology writings are key to understand it. Why bother – to read on? I have become interested in the psychological aspects of those events and its potential implication to Jewish and Christian faith. Was he or she behind Atenism (aka Amarna heresy)? Was it the first attempt of henotheism (pre-monotheistic) belief? Were the motives political, or brought the Asian princesses the seed from northern Syria? Did Christian dogma learn from the failure of Atenism – a cold sterile monotheistic abstraction – and reacted with so much focus on Trinity and the essence of Jesus – a god becoming human? Was the Heretic Pharaoh the first Oedipus and pervert or an “Uebermensch”? Was he the first individualist and humanist or a kind of pacifist Mao? Was he the archetype of the addicted lover or a weak king in a world of warriors with plenty of mature feminine archetypes around him? Yes, we think we know, but picture the story of Napoleon 2500 years ago, and all we would have, were a few royal names, letters and DNA samples…. You judge.
As often in Egypt history, research of powerful queens yield best results, so this essay was written through the eyes of Tye and Neferneferuaten, both likely royal blood from Mitanni (kingdom in north Syria), although the stories of their origin differ. The Eighteenth Dynasty was characterized by powerful women. Some scholars even suggest not only his mother Tiye, but later also his chief wife Neferneferuaten ruled as co-regent and both were he real power behind his reign. With Jung’s archetypes of the collective unconscious, it is possible to attach all historical figures the common cultural pattern, the Archetypes of the mature masculine and feminine. Its all there, weak Kings, powerful Queens, Wise Women and Mother, sadist Warriors, manipulative wizards and priests of both sexes and Akhenaten the hermaphrodite, the Addicted Lover, in incestuous relationship with his mother Tiye and daughters but leading a loving family life with Neferneferuaten, maybe widow of Akhenaten’s despised father.
Facts and Theories
Early Historian view
Depending which theory you follow, Akhenaten was the most outstanding individual in Egyptian history or a record-breaking pervert with Mother and Oedipus complex, both physically and mentally deformed by genetic disease. Historian James Henry Breasted considered Akhenaten to be “the first individual in history,” as well as the first monotheist, romantic, and scientist. Flinders Petrie stated, that “Akhenaten’s new worship of the old Aton of Heliopolis, brought views and symbolism to a position which we cannot logically improve upon at the present day”. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud assumed Akhenaten to be the pioneer of monotheistic religion and Moses as Akhenaten’s follower (some came to the conclusion that Moses was Akhenaten himself).
Recent Historian view
Recent historians give a less flattering view. In Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet, Nicholas Reeves construes the pharaoh’s religious reformations as attempts to weaken the Amun priests, centralize his power and strengthen of his role as sole “divine monarch.” Based on the reconstructed talatat scenes Temple of Amenhotep IV at Karnak and the Akhenaten (Amarna) Temple Project, Dr. Redford reveals that opposed to being a monotheist, Akhenaten was more of an atheist as there was no real religion behind the concept of the Aten. Through the eyes of Dr. Redford, the Heretic becomes a man worth loathing, one who enforced too harshly or didn’t rule at all and for the most part did just leave the empire to rot. Based on a cache of diplomatic correspondence written on clay tablets with imperial outposts and foreign allies, detailed below, we clearly understand that Akhenaten ruled his empire from “cloud number nine” almost, but not quite, like a combination of Mao’s cultural revolution and the fairy king Ludwig II. The psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky pointed to Akhenaten’s psychological troubled relationship with his father his strong mother complex. Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann and many others wrote about.
Historical evidence : The Amarna letters
A large cache of clay tablets, now known as the Amarna letters, was found in the city. Those letters provide us with a view of Akhenaten’s administration efforts and the political status in rest of the ancient world. They depict a very confused situation. These tablets span the later part of Amenhotep III’s reign, Akhenaten’s reign, and a portion of the rule of Akhenaten’s eventual successor, Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamun).
In these letters, we see the disintegration of the massive Egyptian empire taking place. The vassals and kings of the various domains of the empire begged for gold and complained of being snubbed and cheated by Amenhotep III. Vassals asked Akhenaten for help against as a band of rebels referred to as the Apiru wreaked havoc in the empire. Early on in his reign, Akhenaten had a falling out with the king of Mitanni, and, against said king’s advice, signed a treaty with the Hittites, which unleashed on Mitanni ( the loyal vassal and buffer state) to forge out their own empire. A group of Egypt’s other allies attempted to rebel against the factions that were taking over, were captured, and begged Akhenaten for troops. Apparently, Akhenaten did not respond to their desperate pleas.
Psychoanalytic view: Oedipus and Akhenaten
C.G. Jung and Freud were both interested in ancient Egypt. In regards of the “father-son rift” Jung and Freud discussed once publicly the extinction of the name of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. by his son Akhenaten. Freud’s protégé Karl Abraham had recently published a detailed psychoanalytical dissect about Akhenaten’s Oedipus complex. Arthur Weigall’s Life and Times of Akhnaton was then accessible in German. So Freud and Jung discussed Abraham’s thesis that Akhenaten was mother-fixed neurotic, who wanted to replace his hated father with an ideal fantasy father Aton. This idea was rejected by C. G. Jung, who saw in Akhenaten primarily a religious and innovative man. In his book “Symbole und Wandlung (pg. 163)” he described the syncretic attempt to unite all the different gods to one abstract sun as a psychological valuable clarification of many symbols and unification of the many different archetypes to one. Although syncretism did not play a role in Christianity, Jung seems to imply that a polytheistic tendency always fight monotheism and that they can be even traced in the Christian trinity and Catholic saints.
The connection between Akhenaten and Oedipus was not seriously pursued again until Immanuel Velikovsky published his Oedipus and Akhenaten in 1960. This work is still extremely valuable, not from archaeological evidence but correlations not found elsewhere in the published literature. In this book, “Oedipus and Akhnaton”, the psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky hypothesized an incestuous relationship of Akhnaton with his mother Tiye. He claims this historic myth is the background of the Theban plays by Sophocles (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone). Akhenaten had enlarged legs (Oedipus being Greek for “swollen feet”) and the setting may have been moved from the Greek Thebes to the Egyptian Thebes. Velikovsky uses the fact that Akhenaten viciously carried out a campaign to erase the name of his father, which he argues symbolizes Oedipus killing his father.
There is also some circumstantial evidence, like that with Beketaten, considered to be the youngest daughter of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his Great Royal Wife Tiye, thus the sister of Pharaoh Akhenaten. According to one theory Beketaten was in fact a daughter of Akhenaten and his secondary wife Kiya. According to the more daring theory, however, Beketaten was in fact a daughter of Akhenaten and his mother Tiye. Both theories partially based on the fact that Beketaten was never named king’s sister in the scenes from Amarna, but only king’s bodily daughter. She never appears alongside the daughters of Nefertiti.
Flinders Petrie, the great Egyptologist wrote: The princess Beketaten has been usually placed as a seventh and youngest daughter of Akhnaton. She occurs,however, in a tomb of his twelfth year, or only six years after the second daughter was born; and she appears among the daughters where four or six are shown, hence the difficulty of her position…” Petrie solved the problem by demonstrating that Beketaten was not the youngest daughter of Nefertiti but a daughter of Tiye. She is always associated with Tiye, she sits by the side of Tiye, while the daughters of Akhnaton sit by their mother; she alone follows Tiye in a procession where no other children appear. Moreover, she is never called other than a King’s daughter whereas all the other princesses in every inscription are entitled Daughters of Nefertete. Beketaten’s body is depicted smaller than the body of Ankhesepaten , the third daughter of Akhnaten and Nefertete.
Immanuel Velikovsky refers to a “relief in Huya’s tomb in which Beketaten is depicted as a small child in the twelfth year of Akhenaten’s reign”. Indeed, if you discard co-regency with Amenhotep III, his father was already dead for twelve years. So the child depicted in the relief next to Tiye and Akhenaten might his as opposed to that of Amenhotep III. It would seem that Akhenaten is the king shown under the disk of the Aten with swollen thighs. G. Davies thought that this relief was a depiction of Amenhotep III though he also was aware of the possible time problem and the symbolism that suggested Akhenaten being the king referred to as Beketaten’s father in the words “the kings daughter of his body”.
Oedipus married his mother and had children with her. Akhenaten was controlled by his mother, possibly in an incestuous relationship and handed over to an equally intelligent women. That women was according to some other theories the former wife of his father. So he took not only revenge by erasing his fathers inscriptions, but claiming his mother and his wife. Both lived in Thebes, Oedipus in the Greek city named after the original city in Egypt, where Akhenaten once lived. Both kings are referred to as sons of the sun god. Both men grew up far from their homes and parents, each returning to take the throne only after the death of his father. Oedipus was described as having swollen feet, while Akhenaten was depicted as having swollen legs.
Some other parallels are fascinating, but pure speculation. He interprets the evidence from tombs in the Valley of the Kings indicates the two sons of Akhenaten having killed each other in a battle for the throne in much the same way as the two sons of Oedipus met their untimely end. In addition, he points to a strange tomb that might be the original for the story of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus who was sealed up in a cave for the “crime” of having buried her brother. Ay, the father-in-law of Akhenaten, takes on much the same role as Creon, the father-in-law of Oedipus, even down to taking the throne after the death of the sons and rightful heirs of the king.
Sigmund Freud later explored association between Akhenaten and Moses in a study published in 1939 under the title Moses and Monotheism. However, Freud rejected the notion of his protégé Karl Abraham that Akhenaten was also Oedipus of the Greek traditions memorialized by Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus. The tale of the Egyptian heretic Akhenaten is enclosed in bookends about Freud’s theory of the Oedipal Complex.
Akhenaten carried out a religious revolution which, for a period of about twenty years, replaced the age-old beliefs and practices of the Egyptian religion of about 2000 god and goddesses in human, composite or animal form for one single abstract concept – the sun. He did away with an elaborate and powerful system of priests, temples, and iconic images in particular with Amun the god of all gods. Its priests were at that time almost as powerful (and rich) as the Pharaoh. Akhenaten alone was the mediator to god and asked to be worshiped, actually with his wife as holy family. He was the sun of Aton. Akhetaten, the new capital with temples was built from scratch, like Brasilia, but Akhetaten lasted only 20 years.
“O Sole God beside whom there is none”.
Freud, in his last book , Moses and Monotheism Religion, from 1938, goes to the origin of Judaism and associated (Jewish) monotheism. But also about to the origin of Jew-hatred . He sees in the Jewish monotheism “progress in spirituality “over the image centered religions (Freud , Vol IX , p 557 ). No wonder C.G. Jung got annoyed. The prohibition of images ( cf. Ex 20:4 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image) holds the key rationalist impulse. The worship of idols (symbols of transcendence) eases and ends with with pure monotheism. Strict monotheism prohibits images , rejects any magical acting ceremony and puts the emphasis on the writing and worldly ethical requirement as gods law without constraints of idolatry. In Freud’s thesis, antisemitism means reaction against humanism and pure anti-intellectualism. But Freud developed another historical truth of religion, the killing the Great Father. To him, the Jews have missed a certain progress in religion, introduced by Jesus and Paul, the transformation of the father religion into a son religion, in which the original sin is forgiven. The murder of God , also known as parricide , is the main subject in Freud’s Moses and Monotheism religion – the historical truth of religion. Thus in old age Freud sees a certain justification of religion, which is a present compulsive repetition of this Egyptian event. Moses is , according to Freud , ” the creator of the Jewish people ” (IX , p 553 ), and he explains this as follows: Moses himself was an Egyptian living in Egypt who imposed to a Jewish ethnic group the already banned again monotheism of Akhenaten as their own religion. Then, he led this people (shortly after Akhenaten’s death ) out of Egypt.
Akhenaten’s Dream In Plato’s Mind and German literature
It’s been a long way since Earth was created from cosmic dust after the Big Bang still undisclosed and only intuitive or religious grasped. The Artist’s Signature of Akhenaten’s was picked up by Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke and others.
1922 wrote the German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke in a letter: “What event of calmness. Which God held his breath, that mankind came to its senses during the time of the fourth Amenhotep“. Where did they come from? And how, did it disappear after he time window closed which had give the “being” room of carved out singularity. (Note: Free translation).
Brief family history
Scientific evidence: Genetic research
If you go by the recent surprising discovery in the mummified remains of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, it appears that he had a feminine body compared to the classic body frame we expect of the Pharaohs, though maybe by choice of emphasize the feminine by mimicking physical appearance of a woman in men (or vice versa).
Recently scientists analyzed the early death of Akhenaten and the premature deaths of other Eighteenth dynasty Pharaohs (including Thutmose IV). They claim their early deaths were likely a result of a Familial Temporal Epilepsy. This would account for the untimely death of Akhenaten, his abnormal endocrine body shape on sculptures.
Many other medical abnormalities have been brought up to explain Akhenaten’s appearance. Among them, an endocrine disorder found mostly in men called Froehlich’s Syndrome, which causes sterility and feminine fat distribution; Klinefelter Syndrome, a male chromosomal abnormality, which can cause gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) and infertility; or Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder whose characteristics include a long face and long fingers.
Some theorized that Akhenaten had two medical problems that together contributed to his appearance. They attributed the king’s female form to familial gynecomastia, brought on by an inherited syndrome called aromatase excess syndrome. Aromatase (estrogen synthetase) is an enzyme complex that plays a critical role in converting androgens, hormones associated with male characteristics, into estrogens, hormones associated with female characteristics. It had recently been possible to rule out the presence of the genetic aromatase syndrome because the mummies of Akhenaten relatives Tutankhamun, Tuthmosis I and Queen Hatshepsut do exist.
There is, however, a 2010 report of the Head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, based on German and Italian research from 2007 to 2009 with eleven mummies of Tutankhamun’s bloodline and five more to earlier royal families. The first DNA study ever allowed by the Egyptian government to be conducted with ancient Egyptian royal mummies apparently solves several mysteries. Using DNA samples taken from the mummies’ bones, the scientists were able to create a five-generation family tree by shared genetic sequences in the Y chromosome passed only from father to son. The researchers then determined parentage for the mummies by looking for signs that a mummy’s genes are a blend of a specific couple’s DNA. In this way, the team concluded that a mummy known until now as KV55 is the “heretic king” Akhenaten. The eaely assumption that male mummy was pharaoh Amenhotep III and a mummy previously known as the Elder Lady is Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep II has been revised. DNA tests revealed, however, that Akhenaten was Tutankhamun’s father and his mother a sister of Akhenaten. Incest is never advantage for biological or genetic fitness. Tutankhamun’s mother is as mentioned what mummy researchers had been calling the Younger Lady. DNA studies show that she was the full sister of her husband, Akhenaten. Another speculation apparently laid to rest by the new study is that Akhenaten had a genetic disorder that caused him to develop the feminine features seen in his statutes, including wide hips, a potbelly, and the female-like breasts associated with the condition gynecomastia. The researchers found that several members of the royal family were suffering from deformities. Tutankhamunhad the so-called Köhler’s disease diagnosed, in which patients have exercise-induced pain in the bones.
As for the shape of Akhenaten’s head, physicians attribute this more to a condition called craniosynostosis, in which sutures, the fibrous joints of the head, fuse at an early age, and interfere with the process of skull formation. The specific condition, called a sagittal suture, is dominantly inherited. Phillip Vandenberg observed this abnormality in the king’s daughters as well as in Queen Hatshepsut, daughter of Tuthmosis I, founder of Akhenaten’s paternal line, and in Tutankhamun, who ended this line. Sutures normally expand as the brain expands and typically do not fuse until the age of 25 to 30.
The Father: Amenhotep III
Several early warrior pharaohs of the 18th dynasty, expended considerable effort in forging out a huge, far-reaching empire. Thutmose IV left to his young son Amenhotep III an empire that was secure and stable. Amenhotep III was a prolific builder, also more concerned with women and sport than state affairs. With him the gradual decline of Egypt’s foreign relations and power started. Into this peculiar situation, prince Amenhotep IV was born.
The Mother: Tiye
Tiye was apparently the daughter of the non-royal Yuya and Tjuyu. She became the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III. It is today genetic established, that she is the mother of Akhenaten and grandmother of Tutankhamun. Her mummy was identified as The Elder Lady found in the (Tomb KV35). Tiye held the power during the last years of Amenhotep’s III. After his death, she continued so; quietly and in-officially she co-ruled with Akhenaten the first eight years. No official seal of him was found until Nefertiti took over a similar, but even less quiet role as his chief queen. Tiye, who some say came also from Mitanni, had considerable political clout, and stayed behind in Thebes to protecting her erratic son after he left with Nefertiti. Gilukhipa (sister of Tushratta II) had married Pharaoh Amenhotep III in his 10th year. Tadukhipa (niece if Gilukhipa) was to marry Amenhotep III more than two decades later. Both were often identified with Kiya and/or or Nefertiti. Tushratta married his daughter Tadukhipa to his ally Amenhotep III to strengthen their alliances and for gold, as referenced in Tushratta’s thirteen Amarna letters. Amenhotep III died shortly after Tadukhipa arrived in Egypt and she eventually married his son and heir Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), which is remarkable in respect of his father-rift. From the DNA analysis 2010, the Elder Lady was formally identify to be Queen Tiye, which means Akhenaten had not buried her with her king and she was later moved.
The Queen: Neferneferuaten Nefertiti
Nefertiti is the most enigmatic figure in this. Tey, wife of Ay, are credited as Nefertiti’s parents. Many historians have wondered whether she might have been a foreign princess. As said before Nefertiti is most likely identical with Tadukhipa, Amenhotep III last wife and the daughter of Shuttarna II, ruler of Mitanni. Amenhotep IV had several temples erected at Karnak. In scenes found on the talatats, Nefertiti appears almost twice as often as her husband. She is shown appearing behind her husband the Pharaoh in offering scenes in the role of the queen supporting her husband, but she is also depicted in scenes that would have normally been the prerogative of the king (also she was presented in a way only pharaohs were presented – one leg forward). When she married Amenhotep, he was a weak 12 year old child and she a very assertive, intelligent 17 year old women. His mother Tyle, handed over beautiful Nefertiti the motherly wife role, almost as an attempt of separation and was silent co-regent of the young Amenhotep IV until the couple left Thebes.
Nefertiti is often referred to in history as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” The Berlin bust (above), seen from two different angles, is indeed, the most famous depiction of Queen Nefertiti. Found in the workshop of the famous and outstanding sculptor Thutmose by a German archeologist , the bust is believed to be only a sculptor’s model. After the counter-revolution almost all traces of her had been destroyed. Thutmose’s technique used a carved piece of limestone, plastered the stone core to be first and then painted. Flesh tones on the face and full lips are enhanced by a bold red give the bust life. Thutmose, may or may not have been her lover, he certainly had access and close contact to her – no man could blame him falling in love. Her graceful elongated neck balances the tall, flat-top crown which adorns her sleek head. The vibrant colors of the her necklace and crown contrast the yellow-brown of her smooth skin. While everything is sculpted to perfection, the one flaw of the piece is a broken left ear. Only a few reigns before her’s had been the reign of Hatshepsut, the most famous (but not the only) female pharaoh, which certainly might have been her role model. How this remarkable sculpture came to Berlin, is quite a(nother) story
Dr. Redford points out that Nefertiti is an Egyptian name, but there are reasons to think that she might have been like Tyle a from Mitanni, Northern Syria. One other suggestion is that Nefertiti was Akhenaten’s cousin. The wife of the vizier Ay would have been only her wet nurse. Redford notes, that Ay never specifically refers to himself as the father of Nefertiti and Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnojme, not Nefertiti, is featured prominently in the decorations of the tomb of Ay.
After a few loving years, the couple split and went on different ways (only three of her six children were from the pharaoh) but later Nefertiti became invisible to the public. Close to the end she reacted again, as it is believed that not Ankhesenamun but her mother Nefertiti sent a frantic letter to the Hittite King Suppiluliumas after Tutankhamun died, begging the longtime enemy of Akhenaten and Egypt, for a marriage with one of his sons. One of Suppiluliumas sons. Zannanza, was sent and subsequently killed on the way into Egypt most likely from Ay, thus ensuring his claim to the throne (Brier, 1998). Nefertiti then faded into history. Until recently she has not been identified, but now it is assumed that “The young Lady” (CG 61072 in KV 35) with deadly injuries breast and head is her. CG 61074 in KV 35 (grave ofAmenhotep II) has been assumed to be Ay, according ot DNA the father of “The young Lady who was the Mo. “Theold Lady” (CG 61070 in KV 35) is assumed Tiye-Tii and according to DNA mother of The young Lady” (CG 61072 in KV 35),
The King: Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten)
Amenhotep IV was the second son of Amenhotep III and Tiye. The reconquering of Egypt and the forging of a new empire, started off by the pharaoh Ahmose a the beginning of the 18th dynasty, had raised the god Amun (and its priests) to a position of unprecedented power. Amenhotep IV worldly rule would become stagnant and troubled but he would be the catalyst of an unprecedented religious, cultural, political and sociological and cultural revolution.
Egyptian religion under the early 18th dynasty knew more than 2000 gods and goodness’s with their chief god Amun. The kings of that period devoted the booty from foreign campaigns to Amun, since they ascribed the success of their military ventures to him alone. To further establish Amun worldly influence, from Ahmose on, a new tradition was established — that of always taking on the High Priestess of Amun (who bore the title of “God’s Wife”) as the chief queen.
His father’s reign is largely void of references to the prince. That Amenhotep IV actually appears as a co-ruler was until recently matter of great dispute. However this theory has been largely discarded. Seldom are both of them mentioned in the same text or depicted together in artwork.
It is likely that, after his older brother Thutmose V died early under unknown circumstances, Amenhotep IV would have taken over the posts held by Thutmose, i.e., High Priest of Ptah and Governor of Memphis.
Official art developed into the full-fledged “early Amarna” style, and recently discovered unusual features of the king has led some scholars to believe that Akhenaten may have suffered from some sort of disorder. Akhenaten’s monotheism (actually henotheism) survived until approximately the third year of Tutankhamun’s reign, and Akhenaten/Amarna remained the center of Egypt’s administration until that time.
Early Reign — The Karnak Years:
Amenhotep IV kicked off his reign with a large building project. The stela documenting this event, found at Gebel Silsila, depicts the god Amun speaking to the young pharaoh: “… I have given you life, stability and dominion”. However, another god is also mentioned. The pharaoh had by now apparently taken on another title, “First Prophet of Hor-Aten”.
We see the beginnings of the drastic changes that the pharaoh would soon impose starting to emerge. The king was claiming that the gods in the traditional Egyptian pantheon were nothing but material representations which could be destroyed, no how precious the material of their construction. Only the god that he promoted (indubitably the Aten, or sun-disc) was unique, untouchable, undeniable and indestructible.
In the third or fourth year of Amenhotep’s reign, close to the time of his decision to change his name to Akhenaten, the king decided to have a royal jubilee, known as a Sed-festival. The festival marked a major turning point in Akhenaten’s reign. The king had, by this time, changed his name to Akhenaten, translated most commonly as “One Who is Useful to Aten.” (Murnane)
Fragments of a speech from Amenhotep IV’s first building at Karnak provide a fascinating insight into what was going on in the mind of the king. We know a lot from the talatat, disjointed and scattered when Akhenaten’s successors brought down his buildings, which bear many fruitful scenes and the inscription. The Akhenaten Temple Project, directed by Dr. Donald Redford, undertook a major project to piece them back together using IBM computer technology. On the talatat, aside of military personnel, and of the pharaoh worshipping the sun in various incarnations, we get many glimpses of the royal family: Akhenaten with his mother, his chief wife Nefertiti, their six daughters, his mother, Tiye, his concubine, Kiya, and two of his mysterious successors of Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten. The couple’s eldest daughter was Meritaten and second daughter, Meketaten, appears somewhat later. (Redford, 1984)
The Amarna (Akhetaten) Years:
In the fifth year of his reign, Akhenaten abandoned the old capital city of Thebes and set out to create a new one in central Egypt in a previously uninhabited spot. He called his new city Akhetaten, or “The Horizon of the Sun-disc.”
The site of Akhenaten, now called Amarna, is a barren place surrounded by cliffs. According to Cyril Aldred, from the Nile the eastern cliffs look like the giant hieroglyph for “akhet” or “horizon” (1988). Akhenaten made it quite clear that he wanted that place, was specifically advised from the go Aten, his father, so that it could be made for him as Akhet-Aten. In order for the construction of the city to go quickly, Akhenaten employed rather shoddy building stone and according to archaeologists , many of the Theban officials did not come to Akhetaten and were replaced by new followers outside of the old elite (1984). Several more daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Neferneferuaten-Tasharit (tasharit means “junior”), Neferneferure and Sotepenre joined Meritaten, Meketaten and Ankhesenpaaten.
A plague broke loose and spread across the ancient Near East (Moran, 1992; Redford, 1984). Ignoring those disasters, Akhenaten continued to build his city, and further suppressed the traditional array of Egyptian gods after a coup and began a campaign to erase the name of Amun. He even changed the spelling of the word “mut” (mother) so that it no longer made reference to the goddess of the same name and put into effect the more popular version of the written language as the official text rather than the archaic middle kingdom text known mostly by scribes and priests (Redford, 1999).
In year twelve of his reign, Akhenaten had a large durbar, a festival in which foreign dignitaries from all across the Egyptian empire visited him in Akhetaten and presented large quantities of tribute. This durbar marked the beginning of the end of the reign of the “heretic king.” In the years following the event, the situation at Akhetaten rapidly disintegrated.
This spiral into tragedy started when Akhenaten’s mother, Tiye, paid a visit to Akhetaten around Akhenaten’s 12th reignal year, but disappeared at the same time when Akhenaten’s second daughter, Meketaten had died in childbirth at the age of twelve or thirteen. That baby was possibly by Akhenaten (Aldred, 1988). Nefertiti faded quietly into the background (what exactly happened is unknown).
What happened to Akhenaten at the end of his reign is unknown too. He presumably died in Akhenaten of natural causes. Upon its rediscovery and exploration in the 19th century, Akhenaten’s tomb lay empty save for some debris and the smashed remnants of the king’s red granite sarcophagus, and the city of Akhetaten was abandoned and in ruins.
The Lover: Smenkhkare (Ankhkheperure-Neferneferuaten)
Smenkhkare apparently reigned for about three years, and spent some uncertain length of time as Akhenaten’s coregent. Most historians assume that Smenkhkare was the lover of Akhenaten. Newberry in his article (1928) also drew attention to a small private stele (upright stone slab) in the Berlin Museum, originally made for a military officer, which showed two kings (identified by their crowns, one the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and the other a war crown), nude and sitting side by side. Although the piece is unfinished, with its cartouches blank (ovals which usually contained names), the figures seemed easily identified as Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, the former caressing the youth’s chin while Smenkhkare rests his arm around the older king’s shoulder. Still he warned, the evidence is “slender” and not conclusive.
In any case, Princess Meritaten was married to the mysterious figure to strength Ankhkheperure-Neferneferuaten’s royal claim. Some say he was Akhenaten’s son. Since neither Smenkhkare nor Tutankhamun was featured in artwork and texts from Akhenaten’s reign the way Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s daughters were, some have theorized that they were Akhenaten’s children by a minor wife, such as Kiya. Little is known about the actual reign of King Ankhkheperure.
Some people have even questioned whether he existed at all — at least, as a single individual. It was during the late part of Akhenaten’s reign that references to a second king began to appear. On a box, alongside with this name are written the names and titles of Akhenaten, and the text “King’s Chief Wife Meritaten, may she live forever.” (Murnane). It is apparent from this inscription that Akhenaten and Ankhkheperure were ruling together, and that Ankhkheperure was married to Akhenaten’s eldest daughter, Meritaten. But the most curious thing about this inscription is that one of Ankhkheperure’s names is Neferneferuaten, also one of the names of Akhenaten’s Chief Wife, Nefertiti. Because of this, some people have come to the conclusion that Akhenaten’s co-regent was none other than Nefertiti herself, in the guise of a man and taking on her own daughter(s) as a spouse. A fragmentary stela from Amarna, now known as the “Coregency Stela” had originally depicted Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and princess Meritaten. Later the name of Nefertiti had been replaced with the name of King Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten, and the name of Meritaten had been replaced with Nefertiti’s third daughter, Ankhesenpaaten after Meritaten died.
The Son: Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamun)
Tutankhaten succeeded his father Akhenaten and Smenkhkare and was married to Akhenaten’s daughter Ankhesenpaaten. He came to the throne when he was about eight years old and reigned 10 years. Most likely he was advised by Ay and done away after getting too old to be manipulated. The couple soon changed their names to Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun, moved away from Akhetaten, and reestablished the old religion. Tutankhamun, was chosen as a tool to reverse the changes and return Egypt to the traditional religion of worshipping a variety of gods. His his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in the 1920s. The world’s most famous mummy – ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun – was buried with his penis stood up at a 90 degree angle in order to help quash a religious revolution and make him appear as Osiris, the god of the afterlife, to counter attempts of Akhenaten to establish a monotheistic religion. A recent examination of his body also revealed previously unknown deformations in the king’s left foot, caused by the necrosis. The scientists found also DNA from more than one strain of mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria (including the most deadly), the oldest known genetic proof of the disease. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king. Until now the best guesses as to how he died have included a blow to the head based on his fractured skull.
The Daughter: Meketaten
Meketaten was the second daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. She was probably born by at least the second year of her father’s reign. Her death is documented on the walls of the royal tomb at Akhenaten in the form of a poignant funeral scene. Some believe she did giving birth to a baby from Tutankhaten, later to become the famous and ill-fated pharaoh Tutankhamun. One theory is that Meketaten died in a plague raging across the Middle East at the time after that durbar, a large festival in which representatives from all across the empire paid tribute to Egypt, brought the plague to Egypt.
An incest theory resulted from the fact that Akhenaten’s three eldest princesses all evidently had daughters when they were very young, and when they were not married. Inscriptions refer to the these infants as “child of the king.”The theory goes that, in a mad attempt to have a male heir of fully royal blood, Akhenaten fathered children on his own children. A distasteful thought, but his own father married his daughter, Akhenaten’s sister Sit-Amun, so again there is some basis for the idea
The Magician: Ay
Ay succeed Tutankhamen. He has been a prominent background figure even before Akhenaten. As writer he climbed the social ladder and became involved in political intrigue taking the title of Master of the Horse under Akhenaten, and, eventually, taking the throne under mysterious and rather shady circumstances. While the names of Ay’s parents are never explicitly stated, many scholars agree that Ay was probably a brother of Queen Tiye. Cyril Aldred and Donald Redford point out that it is likely that the job of Master of the Horse, formerly held by Yuya, father of Tiye, would have been passed on to Yuya’s son (Aldred, 1987; Redford, 1984). Also, the fact that “God’s Father” is among Ay’s titles–suggesting to some he was the father of Akhenaten’s chief wife Nefertiti — if she was not North Syrian of royal blood.
Ay held the distinctive position of “the favored one of the Good God, fan-bearer on the king’s right hand, true king’s scribe and god’s father, trusted throughout the entire land, commander of chariotry” (Redford, 1984). His wife,Tiye, had earlier been Nefertiti’s wet-nurse. Ay was, by all appearances, devoted to Akhenaten and the new religion as after the counter revolution a follower of Amun. After the death of Akhenaten, Ay continued to serve under Akhenaten’s son-in-law, Tutankhamun. He was no doubt quite influential during the young king’s reign, and adopted the title of “eldest king’s-son” (Redford, 1984). It seems likely that Ay had much to do with the eventual return to the former religion and capital during Tutankhamun’s reign. A good deal of evidence points to Ay playing a role in the untimely death of Tutankhamun. . It seems that Ay had set himself up to become pharaoh after the death of Tutankhamun, who died shortly after reaching an age when he might have begun to take more of his pharaonic power into his own hands. Once Ay had secured the kingship, the unfortunate Ankhesenamun quickly vanished. Ay reigned for only a little over four years, and apparently had no children to succeed him. Ay devoted much of his reign to the persecution of Akhenaten. Thus, Ay brought a close to the tumultuous and fascinating Eighteenth Dynasty.
The warrior: General Horemheb
Ay left the throne to one General Horemheb, who had served under Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Other than the fact that Horemheb came from Herakleopolis near the entrance to the Fayoum, little else is known about the background of this pharaoh that we place as the last king of Egypt’s important 18th Dynasty (New Kingdom). His parentage is completely unknown. Horemheb served under Akhenaten’s father and Akhenaten. During the reign of Tutankhamun, he became King’s Deputy (and very likely regent), and may, together with Ay, been responsible for governing Egypt in the background during Tutankhamun’s reign. It is also very possible that Ay or Horemheb had Tutankhamun murdered when that king grew near adulthood and hence, independent rule. In any case, at the time of Tutankhamun’s death, on top of all that turmoil. Egypt was engaged in a fairly major confrontation with the Hittites that ended in a defeat. Upon the death of Ay, he declared himself king of Egypt in about 1321 BC. and though he made no claim to be of royal blood, he became divinely elected to the throne by means of an oracle (most likely fabricated by the conservative Amun clerics). He formed a link back to the female royal blood line. From the bones recovered from Horemheb’s Saqqara tomb, it is believed that Mutnodjmet, who was in poor health at the time, may have died at the age of 45 while attempting to give birth to a child during the king’s 13th year as ruler. No other children seem to have outlived the pharaoh. and though the transition had begun as early as the reign of Tutankhamun, he also sought to complete the return to Egypt’s traditional religion
He probably felt, and rightly so, that Egypt was in need of strong leadership after the military decay Amarna Period. Besides being a very harsh ruler, it appears that it was during the reign of Horemheb that elaborate attempts were made to write the Amarna Period out of Egyptian History, and he is often credited with reopening and repairing the temples of Amun, as well as restoring the powerful priesthood who had caused for previous kings, but outflanked them by military men who’s loyalties he could trust appointed as priests. The new city Amarna and the Aten temples at Karnak were dismantled so that the stone could be used elsewhere. That was it.
Akhenaten is all things to all people–to some he was a fanatical lunatic, to some he comes across as a strange, eccentric young man whose behavior was strongly influenced by his mother, to others he was a Christ-like visionary and a mentor of Moses, and to still others he was simply someone who happened to be there but had really had little to do with the dramatic reformations that went on during his reign. Much of the research I did is dated since it was written more than 50 years ago and questionable.The thesis of Oedipus and Akhnaton: Myth and History is no less shocking to scholars, does have some plausibility even if Velikovsky’s other work rightly deserves less credential. And if, as the author asserts, Oedipus of Greek myth is not the same person as the historical Pharaoh Akhenaten the psychoanalytical interpretation of the rejected child with powerful mothers and a intelligent assertive wife is evident as his clueless reign from the Araman letters. My view of the of religion is heavily influenced by C.G. Jung – human cannot be Homo Faber alone, but must be Homo religious. Nevertheless I subscribe also to Phillip Jenkins in regards of rise and fall of religions: they are born, prosper, fight with each other and die sometime. To me Atenism died as an infant, too early to kill Amun and 2000 gods, too early for cold rationalism too early for radical exclusive monotheism.
Redford, Donald B. (1984). Akhenaten: The Heretic King. New Jersey: Princeton University Press
The Life and Times of Akhnaton, by Arthur Weigall
Aldred, Cyril (1988). Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc.
Murnane, William J. (1995). Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt. Georgia: Society of Biblical Literature
Moran, William L. (1992). The Amarna Letters. Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press
The Religion of Ancient Egypt Sir W. M. Flinders (William Matthew Flinders) Petrie
Nofretete, Echnaton und ihre Zeit: Scherz, Bern, München 1975 by Phillip Vandenberg,
Geschichte des Morgenlandes im Altertum: Hertzberg, G.F.: Verlag: Berlin, Historischer Verlag Baumgärtel (ca. 1904), 1904
Prophyläen der Weltgeschichte, Golo Mann, Ullstein 1961
A History of Art in Ancient Egypt, Vol. I and II by Charles Chipiez, Georges P
The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, by A. H. (Archibald Henry) Sayce
Ancient Egypt, by George Rawlinson (Kindle)
Echnaton, Herrman A. Schloegl
Nofretete, Die Wahrheit über die schöne Königin, Herrman A. Schloegl,
Davis, T. M. et al. The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. London 1910.
Child of the Morning: A Novel about Hatsshepsut by Pauline Gedge 1977
Nefertiti by Evelyn Wells 1964
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