The enigmatic Akhenaten – ‘The Heretic King’: Was he the adoring husband and father, a peace-loving patron of the arts, poetry and nature? Or a heretic – a strange, deformed, self-aggrandising tyrant, and madman?
The deeply religious Akhenaten is possibly the most ‘mythologised’ king in the entire history of the Ancient Egypt Empire. This is hardly surprising given that although he reigned for only 17 years of the 3000-year-long empire, during his short reign he brought about the greatest religious changes ever seen, almost bringing the powerful and mighty 18th Dynasty to its knees…
A Renegade or Religious Revolutionary?
Thought by many to be the world’s first monotheist, Akhenaten holds a unique place in the annals of Ancient Egypt:
Following religious changes initiated by his father – the great Amenhotep lll, Akhenaten banished the nation’s ancient, polytheistic religion. He caused confusion and disruption by dispensing with religious traditions, beliefs and cherished gods; and by alienating and displacing the powerful priests – all in honour of the ‘one and only god’ – The Aten.
Entrenched in religious fervour and neglecting his land and people he, and his Chief Wife, Nefertiti, brought the mighty 18th Dynasty almost to the point of destruction.
On his death, many of Akhenaten’s monuments were destroyed, his religious revolution over-turned and his legacy and succession left in confusion.
History shows the royal crown passing to his young son Tutankhamun – who at only 9 years old was faced with the task of stabilising this land in chaos; and returning the old order of priests and gods to Egypt!
There are large gaps in the knowledge of what is referred to today as ‘The Amarna Period’ – gaps often filled with theorising and imaginative speculation.
Modern research continues to reveal more of the life and times of Akhenaten, and with this talk, I hope to address some of the speculation and misconceptions around Akhenaten and his short, tumultuous – and fascinating reign.
Which is followed by:
‘Tutankamun – Heavy is the Head Which Wears the Crown’