Akhenaten was one of the great pharaoh's of Egypt that is still the object of much introspection, question and mystery. Akhenaten's reign has been characterized as notable in relation to the many unusual changes the pharaoh instituted while leading the people of Egypt. Many authors have theorized that the pharaoh was a revolutionary, though somewhat of a self-absorbed leader. Indeed many aspects of the pharaoh's reign are still the subject of much speculation and contemplation. Supposition and theory even exists as to the physical well being and stature of the pharaoh, depicted by many historians as unusual or strange in appearance. The idea that Akhenaten may have suffered from a disorder of the psyche or from a lack of self-esteem due to his physical appearance is one that warrants further exploration.
Akhenaten is often not credited as being one of the great pharaoh's, his name is not as well-known as that of the boy king, Tutenkhamen. However, he should be credited with being a revolutionary. The former pharaoh is most well noted as being a religious zealot and instigator of change, if only temporary change, within the country of Egypt. Many historians have noted or credited Akhenaten with single-handedly being responsible for initiating a religious revolution in Egypt. Though his efforts have been defined as the first true attempt at establishing a monotheistic state in a polytheistic society, his efforts were not permanent. The reasoning behind his decisions to change Egypt's religion is still questioned however to this day. The most notable theme and historical resources suggest that Akhenaten was a self absorbed individual who revolutionized religion in Egypt during his reign to benefit his own idealisms and truisms. These ideas as well as the thoughts and theories of historians are explored further below.
THESIS/STRUCTURE OF SOURCES
Most of the literature that has been written surrounding Akhenaten focuses on themes related to speculation regarding why the pharaoh would attempt to move Egypt to a more monotheistic culture. Most of the authors have structured their work to include a brief synopsis of the Akhenaten's life, including a great deal of description regarding his family life and family values. By far the most common or prevalent fact that has been unearthed is that Akhenaten worshiped one god, a sun god, perhaps because his family was very involved in sun worship.
Most historians have also theorized that the former pharaoh was likely a family man, justified in part by the author's analysis and description of the artwork found in Ancient Egypt, which often depicted the king entertaining his wife, family and children.
A great deal of the theory surrounding the king also suggests that Akhenaten was perhaps not a popular pharaoh of ancient Egypt. He is in fact, much less well-known than some of the other great pharaohs. The idea has surfaced that he was not popular because of his religious fervor in fact, and that only the Egyptian elite had a tendency to follow or go along with his monotheistic religious revolution.
Most historians and the authors telling the story of Akhenaten agree and theorize that the vast majority of Egyptian people still operated according to a polytheistic belief system, and this idea was proven in part when the reign of the king ended, and Egypt as a whole once again returned to a polytheistic establishment.
These themes and ideals are taken from a variety of places. Most of the authors have gathered information regarding the former pharaoh from ancient texts, historical artifacts, hieroglyphs and similar drawings that often depict the life and times of the king. Some have drawn conclusions based on the ideas of Freud and early philosophers. An analysis of any previously written history of ancient Egypt clearly shows a tendency of the Egyptian people to worship many gods, not just one as Akhenaten seemed so inclined. Still others have consulted archeologists and genealogical lines to assess the true lineage of the king. Most historians and authors have come up with similar theories related to the late pharaoh's lifestyle, rule and habits.
In the second millennium before Christ there lived an Egyptian King, Amenophis IV (Akhenaten), who deserves to be recognized as the first revolutionary of whom we have much knowledge."
This early historian, Ernest, goes on to say that Akhenaten succeeded in overthrowing the "local prevailing religion" whose worship focused on Amun and his main point is that "his ideals did indeed support the beginnings of a type of monotheism."
According to another author, the religious revolution that occurred at the hands of Akhenaten was "particularly destructive," because much Akhenaten focused much of his attention and energy on "expanding his cult" and in fact, "erasing the history and worship of Amun from the records of the land."
Another idea that has surfaced as a common theme among historians is the idea that Akhenaten was basically asexual, or struggled with his sexual identity in some way. He is indeed often portrayed softly, in a somewhat feminine fashion. In recent work, one author points out that Akhenaten was certainly "extremely feminine in disposition" and claims that the king had perhaps a type of negative self-image and disposition which was responsible for some of his behavior and actions.
The author, Strachey, supposes that Akhenaten indeed exhibited hatred toward Amun and instead offers the "adoration of the universal and omnipotent Aten." Interestingly, the author psychoanalyzes the pharaoh suggesting that Akhenaten exhibits "maliciousness, hatred and cowardice often associated with destructive revolutionary moves that result from an internal sense of guild."
One critic notes the following, "An analysis of Akhenaten by Freud's Schreber in 1911 suggests that Akhenaten exhibited some signs of paranoia related to sex inversion, and suggests that perhaps he had generalized anxiety related to homophobic tendencies of other sexual phenomena."
ANALYSIS OF MATERIAL/ARGUMENTS
The ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten ruled in Egypt approximately 3, 400 years ago during the eighteenth dynasty.
His reign has been characterized as controversial and as one of revolution, most notably with respect to religion.
Some people have characterized the former pharaoh of Egypt as remarkable, while others have noted that he was merely a figurehead who for a brief moment in time changed the scope of worship in Egypt. He is regardless a distinguished character that many people have commented on, someone who has been referred to as mysterious, fanatical, eccentric and strange by different historians and authors.
Akhenaten is most notably known as the pharaoh that overthrew years of Egyptian belief in polytheism or many gods in favor or a more Christian outlook, the worship of a single god whom he referred to as Aten. Interestingly, his desire to pay respects to one god, the sun god, could not have been drawn from Christianity, as the pharaoh reigned before the time of Christ. One may argue instead that perhaps the great pharaoh of Egypt was responsible for inspiring the religious fervor of Christianity that developed many years after his rein.
Akhenaten was raised by the name of Amenhotep III which he changed to Akhenaten later, which means "He Who is of Service to Aten." Aten was not only known as a sun-god but is also referred to as the "solar disk itself."
The reasoning behind his revolution and change in ideals however is uncertain, and therefore historians and authors have been attempting to determine and theorize the inspiration that lead Akhenaten down this road of revolution.
Some historians have claimed that Akhenaten was inspired by Jewish belief systems, "particularly the idea of Moses or Joseph."
This is a possibility, but one that is very unlikely. Redford points out however that Akhenaten "did not place much emphasis on faith, but Joseph and Moses of the Jewish faith did, and therefore the relationship is less likely to be direct." It seems in fact that the pharaoh's desire to worship one god had little do in fact with faith at all, and more to do with personal idealisms and philosophical perspectives. This point is still debated among historians today.
In her work Red Land, Black Land, Barbara Mertz argues that Akhenaten was not very aware of the "political climate and surroundings in which he lived," and therefore he would not have chosen a single god for political reasons, as some historians have argued. This sentiment is also pointed out by many other historians. At one point or another each of the authors has pointed out that Akhenaten virtually closed the temples of other gods, such as the temple of Amun. Amun was a very popular deity worshiped by a large cult following in Egypt at about the same time that Akhenaten took the throne.
Akhenaten did not just close the temples however, he also "confiscated the revenues associated with the temples, destroyed statues of the other god" and "desecrated the worship sites." These actions in and of themselves clearly demonstrate a leader not in tune with the political climate of the era.
Most of the historians and authors that wrote about the king have stated again and again that…