The influence Amenhotep IV had on art and religion of his time caused him to be one of the most controversial Egyptian pharaohs of all time. The 10th king of the 18th dynasty, he has been called the most remarkable king to sit on Egypt’s throne. He has also earned the honor of being called “the first individual in human history.”1
The cult of Aten did develop before his rule, perhaps as early as 1411 B.C. It paid homage to the sun, its central idea was living on ma’at,’ that is, variously translated as “righteousness”, “justice”, and “truth.” The doctrine of this religion failed to win the approval or support of any but Akhenaten’s followers. It is said that cult of Aten did not have an ethical code. It centered around gratitude towards life the sun for life and warmth. Ankh was life the force that the sun-disk (Aten’s ) rays bestowed on man in most of the art.
The people could not pray directly to Aten. They directed their prayers instead to the king, who was the only person who could directly pray to Aten. The religion was such an intellectual and introspective nature that the people couldn’t understand it. Therefore, it was inevitable that it would not gain popularity.2
Akhenaten’s father was Amenhotep III, who reigned from 1358-1340. He made a break from tradition when he married a commoner, Tiy, who became Akhenaten’s mother.3 He was raised in a traditional manner, but he eventually showed a preference to worship the god Aten, rather than the traditional Amun. For some time he ruled as co- regent with his father. He changed his name early in his reign from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, meaning “One who pleases Aten.” His wife, commonly known as Nefertiti, became Neter-Nefru-Aten, meaning, “Beautiful is the beauty of Aten.”4
When he changed his name, it was like a formal declaration of his new religion. He moved the capital of Egypt to a place now called Tell el – Amarna Akhenaton and in year 6 of his reign began to build a new city which he called Akhenetaton “The Place of Aten’s Effective Power.” He swore an oath never to go beyond the bounds of the city. This is today taken not to mean that he would never leave it, but that he wouldn’t push the bounds of the city beyond designated boundary stones.5
In the first few years Akhenaten instituted some changes. He began to build a place to worship a new form of the sun-god, Aten, the disk of the sun. The god had been little known for two generations before him. Aten was shown always as the sun disk, never in animal or human form, with the rays extending towards man with the blessing of life. He was worshipped in new open temples instead of in dark temples. 6
Akhenaten was a strange figure, spiritually and physically. Some scholars have questioned his ability to father children, but he did have six daughters. Some believe they were fathered by Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III. It was even proposed that Akhenaten was a woman masquerading as a man with a wife and children. The notion was formed because Akhenaten really did have a feminine-like, plump figure. Possibly an eunuch. Although the many representations of Akhenaten give him a very plump appearance, his anatomy in them still presents a clear contrast to that of his wife. But most people answer with the same shared belief as Flinders Petrie, “Is it credible that the most uxorious king of Egypt, who appears with his wife on every monument, who rides side by side with her in a chariot, and kisses her in public, who dances her on his knee, who has a steadily increasing family, – that this king either a women in masquerade or an eunuch?’ And in the supposed death mask that was found at Anarna, this contention is supported. It does not show the face of a woman. It show the face of a man. A strange man, but albeit, a man.7
Akhenaten physically was weak. He may have been a victim of the disease called Frolich’s syndrome, which might have made him physically deformed. As a result, his activities were intellectual. Perhaps this is