Akhenaten created a religious revolution in his time as pharaoh of Egypt from 1378 to 1362 B.C. He was a monotheist and worshiper of the sun god Aten. Ultimately, the question to be asked was whether he was an idealist, a reformer, a visionary, or just another megalomaniac. …
The ancient Egyptians were a nation dedicated to the proposition that their pharaoh was a colleague of the multitudinous deities this god-loving people worshiped, and directly responsible for the welfare of themselves and their land. This inevitably led them into entertaining the loftiest conception possible of whatever man sat upon their throne. In their art- and we must turn to this as a source of historical information in the absence of any better- a pharaoh appears with the features, and in poses, appropriate to a monarch whose rule was absolute, whose being was divine- and this holds for art belonging either to the mighty pyramid-building Fourth Dynasty of circa 2500 B.C. or to the obscure Twenty-fourth of eighteen hundred years later.All pharaohs, that is, except Akhenaten. He had himself depicted not as a traditional pharaoh but almost as a caricature of one, a creature with egg-shaped head, elongated chin, scrawny neck, drooping shoulders, potbelly, spindly legs, buttocks and thighs as thick and rounded as a woman’s. As if to underline this feminine aspect, his nude statues actually show him without genitalia. Why the sudden switch from heroic god-man to downright anti-hero? What lay behind such flouting of Egypt’s time-honored ways?
The problem has intrigued and baffled historians. For well over a century they have juggled the bits and pieces of Egyptian history in an effort to arrive at an answer. The discoverers of the first examples of these outre portrayals were convinced they were dealing with representations of a woman. When the deciphering of the inscriptions revealed beyond any doubt that the subject was a pharaoh, Auguste Mariette, the great French Egyptologist, suggested that perhaps the poor fellow had been captured while campaigning in the Sudan and castrated, with the effects visible in his portraits- a suggestion that, as more scraps of information were collected, something was beginning to add up to something more significant than first was presumed, in effect, a bizarre chapter in Egyptian history: Akhenaten, it seems, alone among twenty-six dynasties of pharaohs whose rule spanned two and a half millenniums, was an iconoclastic religious reformer.
His predecessors in the Eighteenth Dynasty had all been proper god-fearing pharaohs, honoring in due measure the various deities in the well-stocked Egyptian pantheon, although manifesting a distinct predilection for one in particular, Amon. This god’s center was far up the Nile at Thebes, and here they erected temples for him so vast that today the ruins compete with the pyramids as Egypt’s most spectacular tourist attraction; an army of resident priests, in an organized hierarchy, took care of his cult.
Amon, though represented as a crowned king, was conceived as a spirit, invisible to the eye but present everywhere in everything. In his grandiose houses of worship from the sunlight through chambers of increasing shadow to the dim obscurity of a holy of holies open only to the specially authorized- an eminently suitable arrangement for a deity whose name meant “the hidden one” … ( to be continued)
For most of world, King Tut embodies ancient Egypt’s glory, because his tomb was packed to the brim with the glittering wealth of the rich 18th Dynasty (1
1315 B.C.). But Tut was in fact a minor king. Akhenaten’s reign, which began around 1350 B.C., was far more momentous.
He broke with the powerful priests of Amun, Egypt’s chief god, repudiated Egypt’s many deities and ordered the worship of the sun disk, Aten. He moved his court to his new capital at Amarna, which grew to some 30,000.
Along with the religious revolution, he oversaw a dramatic change in Egyptian art, promoting a naturalist style at odds with the rigid conventions and stiff tomb paintings with which the world is familiar. In one example of the exuberant new style, remnants of a painted gypsum floor from the palace show colorful ducks exploding out of a riot of Nile reeds.
But after his death, he was purged by his successors and remained unknown to the world until the discovery in the 19th century of his royal city at Amarna — one of the only existing ruins of an ancient Egyptian city, rather than just a temple or tomb.
For a Victorian Europe already fascinated by the flood of discoveries in Egypt, news of a monotheist centuries ahead of his time seized the public’s imagination. Theories have swirled over Akhenaten’s legacy, with some like Sigmund Freud even speculating he may have influenced Judaism, a theory that, while discounted, has been remarkably enduring. “He was prepared to believe only in the supernatural source of power that he could see with his own eyes, the disc or orb of the sun,” said Kemp. Read More:http://www.artknowledgenews.com/2010_03_12_21_10_24_mummy_of_egypts_monotheist_pharaoh_akhenaten_to_return_home.html