|Fig.1: The all-holy Egyptian pantheon, in an all-holy Egyptian conga line.|
|Fig.2: Amenhotep IV, later renamed |
"Akhenaten" and "The Pharoah
Formerly Known as Amenhotep IV."
Boom! Another sun pun! I'm on fire today! Just like the sun!
First order of business was for Amenhotep IV to change his name to something with a little more pizazz. He chose Akhenaten, meaning "the living spirit of the Aten," which was just slightly better (and less true) than "blind follower of the Aten" or "The Aten burned my retinas right out." Next, he founded a new capital 250 miles north from Thebes called Akhetaten, which looks like Akhenaten, but is slightly different; in the original hieroglyphs, "feather, rising sun over water, standing long-billed bird, sun disk" is Akhenaten the pharaoh, while "feather, rising sun over water, sitting long-billed bird, sun disk" is Akhetaten the city (big difference...so pay attention, people!). For purposes of clarification, lazy historians like to refer to Akhetaten the city (with the sitting bird) as Amarna, after the later Arabic name for the town, so I suppose I'll make it easy and follow suit. You're welcome. I expect a Paypal donation forthwith!
While Akhenaten wished for the Aten to be worshiped as the principle deity, it does not seem as though the other gods were completely thrown to the sphinxes right off the bat. Archaeological evidence of Armarna shows personal objects with depictions of several gods, but it is the Aten that dominates the official records, temple walls, and color-by-number books during this period (fig.3). Unlike the more exciting Egyptian gods like Anubis, who had a jackal for a face (awesome!!!), the Aten was really just a circle with lines coming out of it. Wow, did somebody go to art school for that? Give me a sun disk with a little more personification, like one who is erroneously wearing sunglasses (fig.4). I mean, why does he need sunglasses? He's the sun! He's protecting his eyes from himself?! It's hilarious, and therefore, worthy of my praise.
|Fig.3: Akhenaten and his family basking in the cancer-inducing glow of the Aten.|
|Fig.4: Look at that, it even has hands, and is giving me |
encouragement! Now there's an Aten I can worship!
How manifold it is, what thou hast made!
They are hidden from the face of man.
O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou were alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon its feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.
|Fig.5: While Akhenaten is believed to |
be the father of Tutankhamun, there
was no Maury Povich back then, so
we will never know for sure.
Akhenaten remains an enigmatic figure to this day. Why did he decide to deliberately change around a religion that had kept the Egyptian culture together for over a thousand years? Did he actually believe the sun disk was the only thing worth worshiping? Or did he reason that placing one deity over the others (and then making himself the "living spirit" of that deity) would give him more authority among the people? Was he the world's first monotheist, and ushered in the idea that would become the Big Three of Nintendo, XBox, and Playstation...I mean, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? Or was it all just a big practical joke that got a little out of hand, and Akhenaten had to say to himself, "Well, I didn't think they would buy this whole circle-line thing, but it's too late to go back now, so I might as well keep this going!" Because Akhenaten and his family's memory was erased, we may never know what was going on in that brain of his, but hopefully through further archaeological research it will eventually dawn on us.
I promise there won't be anymore sun puns in my next histories.