Amenhotep Iii Amenhotep IV ascended the throne of Egypt following the death of his father, Amenhotep III. This new ruler proved to be different in almost every way from both his predecessors and the pharaohs who ruled after him. The purpose of this essay is to present the issues of religion, art, architecture, literature and foreign policy in relation to the rule of this unique pharaoh. Newby (1980) states that the most noticeable difference rested in the religious beliefs of Amenhotep IV. In the past, Egypt had worshipped many gods, but under this new pharaohs rule, polytheism would be replaced by a religion that believed in a single god. In one of his first decisions as pharaoh, Amenhotep IV proclaimed Aten to be the only true god, and named himself high priest of the deity (Weigall, 1923).
The symbol of this new god featured rays drawn from a solar disk with each ending in a tiny hand stretched out as if in benediction over all lands (Mayer & Prideaux, 1961). This new religion advocated by the pharaoh was more than the simple worship of the sun itself, his god was the intangible energy that penetrated the earth in the suns rays and gave all things life. His encouraged his followers to worship in truth, simply and without lavish ceremony. Weigall (1923) states that is without doubt the most enlightened religion the world had ever known. In the sixth year of his reign, to further signify his repudiation of Aten and demonstrate his devotion to his god, he changed his name to Akhenaten, which means Glory of Aten. Because of growing opposition by the high priest of Thebes, Akhenaten decided to leave the City of Amen and make a new beginning in a capital where Amen and his priests would have no power (Sheppard, 1960).
This new capital was named Akhetaten, was to be dedicated to the glory of Aten. Weigall (1923) writes that there, like the Pope in the Vatican, Akhenaten would remain within the city and rather than be distracted by the cares of state or the worries of the empire, devote his life to his religion. Redford (1987) states that about the same time as the move to Akhetaten, a drastic change overcame the pharaohs cultic program. Akhenaten commanded that his people only worship Aten and ordered all other temples to be closed. He further ordered the name of Amen to be erased and chiseled out of every monument on which it was figured, which ultimately meant the removal of his own fathers name.
Ruffle (1977) states that this was not just a political move, for if that were so the pharaoh had simply exchanged one set of priests for another (p. 73). He further suggests that the source of this fanaticism and accompanying creed and artistic beliefs must be sought in the different personality of the pharaoh himself. The pharaoh is shown in statues as misshapen, with an elongated face, wide hips and swollen thighs. Ruffle writes that together with this physical disorder must have been a highly developed artistic temperament and single mindedness of religion or prophetic vision (p. 74).
Akhenatens favorite epithet was Living in Truth; a premise which seems to sum up his search for a closer relationship with nature (Ruffle, 1977). This can be seen most clearly in the Amarnan art style and in his relationship with god, with whom the pharaoh became closely associated. During the rule of Akhenaten, artists were encouraged to express what they actually saw. The result was a new, simple but beautiful realism in their work (Aldred, 1968). The sculptor was further free to reveal and even caricature the physical flaws of the pharaoh. Artists under Akhenatens rule with different types of relief work in rock and plaster which allowed for more delicate modeling of statues.
For the first time, limestone statues were fitted with quartzite heads and eyes were often fitted with different types of glass and stone. There were changes in the art of tomb painters, both in the subject and the composition of their work. As well as portraying the pharaoh at state occasions, many scenes of his domestic life were now portrayed in intimate poses that would previously never been allowed by his predecessors. While in the past the pharaoh had remained aloof from his people, Akhenaten could be found in their midst. Where the Court had demanded that the pharaoh should drive alone through the city, Akhenaten sat in his chariot with his wife and children.
Aldred (1968) states that nowhere in antique art has a family been disclosed with such intimacy and humanity. There are portrayals of landscape and scenery; evidence of palace decorations featuring animals and flowers further indicates an unprecedented freedom of artistic impression. Newby (1980) states that the result of all of this was greater naturalism, the genesis of perspective drawing, animation and impressionism in painting landscape. Mayer and Prideaux (1961) write for the first time a unique style of art was consciously fostered (p. 158).
With respect to architecture, it is likely that Akhenatens chief architect, Bek, worked to the instructions of the pharaoh. Inside the Great Temple in the House of Rejoicing, existed an example that was totally unlike all other Egyptian temples. Here, no roof existed to shut out the roof and sky. Indeed, as Newby (1980) states, a sun god does not want a dark sanctuary but, rather an offering table in an open courtyard, where the god in his journey across the sky could reside in person. With respect to literature, Akhenaten rejected the archaic writing of the past.
He encouraged literature to be written more in a colloquial style that one would speak. In much of his literature there appeared to be a noticeable difference in the tone and content from that of his predecessors. For example, his predecessor Tuthmosis III spoke of humiliating his enemies. Akhenaten, in his Hymn to the Sun, wrote of the lands of Syria and Kush as being blessed by the sun god despite their differences in language, customs and traditions. The lands of Syria and Ethiopia And the land of Egypt thou didst create To each man in his place thou suppliest his needs, Each one hath provision, and his lifetime is reckoned, Thou hast distinguished the speech of their tongues, Their characters and their complexions diversified, Thou hast distinguished all lands and all people. (Mayer & Prideaux, 1961, p.
164) Some historians have stated that another difference between Akhenaten and other pharaohs existed in his foreign policy. Mayer and Prideaux (1961) write that after the death of Amenhotep III, What Egypt needed was a man with a whip, but instead, there appeared a man with a vision (p. 157). At el Amarna, archaeological evidence found at the Place of the Correspondence of the Pharaoh reveals disorder in the empire. Newby (1980) states that Akhenaten resembled the Shakespearean character, Prospero, especially in the way that he neglected the affairs of the state for intellectual pursuits. Aldred (1968) further supports this position and suggests that Akhenatens preoccupation with religion diverted his attention away from the details of government. Unlike his predecessors in the eighteenth dynasty in Egypt, whose priorities rested with the affairs of the state, which often meant fighting foreign wars, Akhenaten appears to have lacked the genuine will to take decisive military action. Archaeological evidence indicates that under his rule many of Egypts conquered lands no longer feared the wrath of the pharaoh.
By the twelfth year of his reign, a depleted treasury was no longer receiving tributes from foreign territories. Further evidence has shown that regents of Byblos, Jerusalem and other key cities in the empire often wrote for military support to quell insurrections, but they were either ignored or given only small assistance. As a result, Akhenatens immediate successors received a smaller empire than when he first ascended the throne. In conclusion, Akhenatens different ideals of religion, art, architecture, literature, and foreign policy clearly set him apart from other pharaohs before him. Akhenaten was an idealist who believed in a universal god who could care for all men regardless of race or nationality.
With respect to ruling his subjects, he was a king who found war distasteful and in whose heart there was no trace of barbarism (Weigall, 1922, p. 251). In many ways he was a humanitarian who sought to be regarded by his people as a man rather than a god (Weigall, 1923). History Essays.