I have always been interested in the shift between polytheism and monotheism during the eighteenth dynasty, so that is what this week’s post will focus on. First of all, I was not aware that Amenhotep IV (otherwise known as Akhenaten) was not even supposed to take the throne as pharaoh, but that he was destined to be a priest. Every other reference piece I have read about the subject fails to mention that. The fact that Amenhotep III, Akhenaten’s father, ruled for thirty-eight years is quite remarkable, considering the average life expectancy for an Egyptian back then was only thirty years. Amenhotep III put such a large emphasis on one particular deity, the sun disk of Re Horakty, I am sure that he brought up his children to worship the same deity. Under his father’s influence, Akhenaten sought out on a quest to make the Aten the supreme deity, with every other Egyptian god and goddess placed significantly below it. I found it surprising to learn that this period was not just one of religious reform, but economic as well: Akhenaten placed a tax on a number of temples and cities throughout the country to help support his new cult.
The one thing that sticks out to me is the fact that Amenhotep IV deliberately changed his name to Akhenaten to turn his back on monotheism. The name Akhenaten can be translated to “the one who is beneficial to Aten”, which is a far cry from his previous name, which translated to “Amun is satisfied”. One fact I found interesting was that Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten, changed his name to Tutankhamun, so it went from “the living image of Aten” to “the living image of Amun”, in an attempt to lead the Egyptian people back to polytheism. It was successful, and almost every carving or relief of Akhenaten was destroyed after his reign.