King Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten)

King Akhenaten or Amenhotep IV was the great Egyptian pharaoh for the 18th dynasty for 17 years and died in 1336 B.C. The previous name of Akhenaten was King Amenhotep IV before the fifth year of his reign and he was also known as Akhenaton. Here, you will find everything about the history of King Akhenaten including:

His main achievement was abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism. He introduced worship centered on the Aten. He tried to change the traditional religion of Egypt but it seems that it didn’t work as, after his death, most of his statues have been destroyed moreover, his name was removed from the kings’ list and his people restore the traditional old religion again.

Amenhotep IV Early Life

King Amenhotep IV Life - Trips in Egypt
King Amenhotep IV worship Aten

Amenhotep III was the father of Akhenaten from his wife Tiye. Akhenaten shared power with his father for about 8 years. He reached the throne in Thebes, where he starting his building project. He started with the temple of Amun-Re, where he decorated the southern entrance with scenes of his worshiping Re-Harakhti. After that, he established a temple dedicated to Aten in Eastern Karnak, which was called the Gempaaten. This temple contained some buildings including a palace and a structure dedicated to his wife Nefertiti. He loved his wife so much and made her in a divine status. He got six daughters from her but he didn’t get any sons out of her. He married another one from whom he got two sons including Tutankhamun.

Everything was going normal, following his father’s way of reign until the fifth year of his reign when he changed his devotion from the cult of Amun and joined the cult of Aten for the next twelve years of his reign. He also moved the capital of ancient Egypt to the city he founded, Akhetaten “Amarna”. It is known that his reign was called “Amarna Period”, which is considered the most controversial era in Egyptian history.

How Amenhotep IV Became Akhenaten!

King Amenhotep IV Religion - Trips in Egypt
Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and three daughters beneath the Aten

King Amenhotep IV had some religious reformations as he declined the old religion and proclaimed himself the living incarnation of a god known as Aten. He closed all the temples and suppressed the religious practices and that’s why his religious reforms are considered the first out-standing expression of monotheism. Being a servant to another god was a common practice in ancient Egypt.

The Amarna Letters

Amarna Letters - Trips in Egypt
Amarna Letters

These letters are important evidence of Akhenaten’s negligence when he strongly rebuked Abdiashirta for his actions against Ribaddi and for his friendship with the Hittites who were the enemy of Egypt then. Akhenaten imprisoned Abdiashirta for about a year until Hittite advances in the north compelled his release. This era was mainly known for its unique art as the city was built on the land in middle Egypt, facing the east with the remarkable sunrays on the temples and the construction of the period. The art of this period shows the royal family’s description as they were known with elongated necks and arms and spindly legs.

The Illness of King Akhenaten

King Akhenaten and Nefertiti - Trips in Egypt
King Akhenaten and Nefertiti

King Amenhotep IV suffered from an illness called Marfan’s Syndrome, which now affects about one in 5,000 people. This illness is a genetic disorder that involves the body’s connective tissue. The depictions of Akhenaten and his family show that they suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome. Some of these symptoms are an elongated head, neck, arms, hands, and feet. They also had a potbelly and heavy thighs, poor muscle tone, and a short torso. This illness makes people taller than they have to be and they even may die in early ages. Surprisingly, Akhenaten insisted that all of his depictions must be real instead of the muscular-looking depictions of pharaohs in the past as he wanted to look as he really was in his depictions.

Achievements of King Amenhotep IV

Amarna City - Trips in Egypt
Amarna City

Akhenaten is one of the most important religious innovators all around the world. Among his achievements there are:

1. He Started a Monotheistic Religion

Akhenaten is the first pharaoh to promote the worship of one god and he was actually the founder of the Judeo-Christian religion. His worship was centered on Aten “the Solar Disc God”. He started this worship in the sixth year of his reign. He removed all other icons of gods except for Aten and even he closed all temples.

2. He Established the Mesmerizing City of Amarna

Amarna was the city that boasted around 10,000 citizens. Akhenaten established elegant places and many unique statues. People, who lived in the area were priests, traders, boatmen, and their families.

3. He Promoted Realistic Art

Unlike all other rulers of ancient Egypt, King Amenhotep IV asked artists to make real depictions of him although he was suffering from Marfan’s Syndrome. He didn’t want to look strong and in great shape just like other pharaohs so he really promoted the type of art in which everything is real.

Troubles during Akhenaten’s Reign

Akhenaten Sphinx - Trips in Egypt
Akhenaten Sphinx

Akhenaten faced some troubles while ruling ancient Egypt just like:

1. The Decline of Imperial Glory

King Amenhotep IV stopped foreign campaigns and slowed Egypt’s military defenses. He tried to change the traditional religion of Egypt and moved the capital from Thebes to Armana, which he dedicated it to the worship of Aten. In Armana, everything declined and the condition of Egypt wasn’t good.

2. People didn’t agree with his religious beliefs

Ancient Egyptian gods were tangible and viable but Aten was too ethereal a concept for people to grasp so many declined the religious beliefs of Akhenaten and refused to worship one god.

3. The New Religion Weakened the Economy

Many people went out of business when Akhenaten moved from Thebes to Armana. Religion was used in ancient Egypt to make money but with only one god and many don’t accept on worshiping him, the economy declined.

King Amenhotep IV Tomb

Amenhotep IV Akhenaten Tomb - Trips in Egypt
Amenhotep IV “Akhenaten” Tomb

King Amenhotep IV Royal tomb is located in Valley of the Kings were found at the end of the 19th centuryIt consists of additional chambers for Akhenaten’s family members. There is also a pink sarcophagus inside the tomb with Nefertiti extending her protective arms at the corners. King Amenhotep IV Royal Tomb consists of these structural features:

  • Entrance stairway.
  • Straight main corridor.
  • Well Shaft.
  • Three additional burial chambers, alpha, beta, and gamma.
  • Unfinished chambers.
  • Well shaft.
  • The burial chamber of Akhenaten.

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