'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

20 September 2010


Akhenaten - Amenhotep IV     1379-1362 BC
Servant of, High Priest and Son of the one god Aton / Aten  (The Sun Disk)
Akhenaten was a revutionary who, developing on trends begun by his father, Amenhotep III, introduced naturalism into Egyptian art. He was the second son of Amenhotep III by his chief wife Queen Tiy.

Akhenaten's parents, Amenhotep III and the mummy of the 'The Elder lady'  thought to be Queen Tiy  
We have images of a deformed man (wide hips and elongated head) who unusually displayed great public intimacy with his family. The deformities may have been a representation of his true appearance, a medical condition, or perhaps they had some majestic or religious significance.  What ever the case they are so unlike the idealised muscular physiques of the other rulers who constantly appeared so powerful. Also he is claimed to be the first historically recorded Monotheist. He replaced the worship of Amon and others with that of the disk of the Sun god Aton, introducing the worship of a single deity (or at least one image) into Egypt. To escape the influential memory of the other gods and their temples and priests, he created a new capital 'Akhetaten' (Amarna) midway between Thebes and Memphis the two historic centres of power. All of this upheaval, I suspect, led to his disappearance or death at the hands  factions of  out of work priests of the temples of the many old gods.
Click right to observe closer look at Akhenaten
Aten (Aton) was the name of the visible solar disc in ancient Egypt. Originally a manifestation of the sun god he became the only true representation of god during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten- Akhenaton -1367 - 1350 BC). The face of the sun god as seen in Re and Atum lost much of their importance during this period to the more symbolic and mystic  representation of the disk, the light of god, the source of life. Aten was depicted as a radiant solar disc with rays ending in hands holding the ankh symbol or in hands of blessing over the king and his family, and also as a winged sun disc. This disc was also subtended by the cobra amulet, the uraeus. The main sanctuaries of Aten were in Thebes, Akhetaten, and Heliopolis. The  focus of Akhenaten's new theology was that Aten was God, the one and only, to be worshipped by the royal family, who in turn the people would look to as the intermediaries. Worship took place in the open, under the sun, uncovered and unprotected from the rays of life. Akhenaten styled himself the Son of God and it was to him that the people directed their allegiance and praise. After seventeen years of rule Akhenaten presumably died  and after a short rule by the enigmatic Smenkhkare, the young Tutankhaten ascended the throne. After the rule from Amarna ended and by the time Horenheb ascended the throne a systematic eradication of all memory of Akhenaten took place and no complete statue of him exists today however there are over 2000 books discussing, this, the most intriguing of all Egyptian rulers. Akhetaten was abandoned, desecrated and the city dismantled and forgotten until the foundations were uncovered in recent times where the outline of the city are revealing much of the life of this brief period.

The major wife of Akhenaten was Nefertiti who by all indications was an extremely beautiful woman. She appears to have played a major part in the ceremonial worship of the Aten. Towards the end of  her husband's rule she disappeared from known history, but some suspect that she was in fact Smenkhkare or even became regent for a time of the young Tutankhaten who was not her son, but possibly the son of a lesser wife of Akhenaten, Kiya.
Click Image for closer study of Akhenaten, Nefertiti and daughters

Akhenaten  possibly had a co regent and successor, the possibly 16 year old (?) Smenkhkare . So many opinions exist as to his existence. He may have been the brother or son of Akhenaten, brother of Nefertiti, step brother of Tut or Tut's wife by another name, some say he was in fact Nefertiti and others that he was Akhenaten's lover (as depicted in the papyrus line drawing to the right. The pics above, which may be Smenkhkare, show a young man, the gold coffin to the left used for Tutankhamun was actually made for Smenkhkare as shown by inscriptions inside.

Was Moses an Egyptian follower of The Aten?
The Biblical Moses lived around the 14th-13th century BCE and was expelled with his followers from Egypt possibly in the reign of Ramses II who ascended the throne some fifty-sixy years after the death of Akhenaten, who reputedly died at around the young age of thirty. The remains  of Akhenaton  have never been positively identified; nor have those of Moses been found on Mt Nebo. I add this not to prove or disprove anything, but to indicate that belief can be a development across cultures and seldom in complete, so named, divinely inspired isolation. It is a case of revelation of what we believe as truths are influenced by cultural and tribal needs, compromises and justifications which can be created. This does not in anyway deny the progress of belief, but should cause concern with the xenophobic certainty of perceived cultural or religious superiority.
I have briefly added information that I have found in other sources to expand the story as I originally heard it.  - There was a tribe  from either the west of Egypt or from just above the Red Sea,  who during a period of famine  moved to Egypt at the invitation of one of their own who was kidnapped and taken to Egypt. In the old Testament this kidnapped youth is identified as Joseph, and in another Arabic legend we have the character of Ran, who through his interpretation of dreams gained power and may have imported the notion of a single god (his local god) into Egyptian consciousness. It is known that from the 13th Dynasty, Semitic races invaded Egypt and by 1663 BC they are the Hyksos or Desert Princes.  Some hundreds of years later Akhenaton on his ascension to the throne of Egypt developed his beliefs in a one god and enforced worship of the single deity as revealed in the Sun disk Aton. He did not worship the sun as is usually claimed, for brevity I guess, but the life giving force that emanated from and gave power to it. We now accept that the energy of the sun is what gives life to everything on our planet.  He modelled the god on his own pacifist ideals. This led to his disinterest in power and a loss of stability in the country and most importantly undermined the authority of the very rich and powerful Priests of Amon and the other gods. With the nation in disarray, Akhenaten was eventually replaced with his son or more probably step son or son-in-law, the manageable ten year old Tutankhamun.  The young king, possibly under pressure from those older and more powerful like Ay who was probably Regent, restored the old temples, persecuted the followers of the single manifestation of the deity, and was himself dead or murdered by eighteen.

At the time of Ramses II,  Akhenaten, if he had still lived, or another powerful follower of the Aton, would have been around eighty, similar to the reported great age of Moses. ( In the Acts of the Apostles, Moses was 40 when he left Egypt and after another 40 years he returned to Egypt at eighty to free 'his' people and spent a further 40 years wandering in the desert) It is also said that Akhenaten, or Moses and his followers soon left Amarna or were driven from Egypt or the Capital - Pi Ramesse, ( possibly back to the region of the tribe of Joseph or the land of the Semites) and thus the legend began of the great leader Moses, (Mose being an Egyptian word for child as seen in such names as Tutmose). He was reputedly connected to the house of the Pharaohs, or possibly a priest or governor who remained faithful to the religion of the Aton after the restoration of the old ways and he and his household gathered a large group of followers (local Semites perhaps) and led his new people to a promised land or even back to where the tribe had once lived, and where they could practice their religion of the one god or just escape persecution, having grown large in number and being scapegoats in a time of crisis. Ramses II  has long been claimed to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but recent theories point to his heir and first born son may well have been the leader who met his downfall at the hands of the migrating tribe, who left after a period of excessive flood and the consequent natural sequence of plagues. The final extermination of the elite Egyptian army in the parted waters of the Red Sea being a literary allusion and also the tenth plague of the death of the first born of Egypt.
The various names of god are similar to various local tribal gods of the Middle East and also this god's name often could not be spoken and had no image. Similarly the Aton had no image other than the disk of the Sun and such gods as Amun or Amun-Ra were the unknowable and even though some images exist of him as a man he had no real image as the one creator of all. This would also fit into a desire for secrecy to prevent word spreading the short distance to Egypt and thus again bring on the persecution of the followers of Aton. The area was an Egyptian province at the time. Faith is also a unifier of people. Also it is said that later the connection with Egypt and the Aton was severed so a new name for the same concept was adopted. Is it coincidental or possible that the greatest upheaval in Egyptian theology occurred within the same period as did the so called Exodus and  not be related? After all, in the old testament, not written for 500 years after the events there are over 600 references to Egypt.
Sigmund Freud identifies Moses as an Egyptian at the time of Akhenaton. An administrator/General or member of the royal family, or priest or all three. After the fall of Akhenaton, Moses, held to the faith, left to govern a new people and introduced the Aton to them.  The one god concept may only have originally been accepted by the elite of Egypt, while the general population held on to local gods. Freud also identifies the Levites ( a priestly tribe) as the scribes and attendants of the powerful Egyptian Moses. Eventual uprisings led to his murder and the exiles abandoned the one god religion for decades or even centuries. The memory of the religion of Moses and his heroic life mingled with other gods and leaders until a compromise was reached, which joined the Midian Volcano god Jahve with the Aton religion and the oral tradition when eventually recorded, was edited and modified to create a history acceptable to all. Much of this can be found in the Freud book 'Moses and Monotheism"

There is also other, fanciful theories about the identification of Moses with Senenmut the chief steward and 'lover' of Hatshepsut.

The debate goes on and the number of releases becoming available on this Pharaoh is increasing (over 2000 and more than any other Pharaoh)

Akhenaton's  Hymn to the Aton

Praise of Re Harakhti, Rejoicing on the Horizon, in His Name as Shu Who Is in the Aton-disc, living forever and ever; the living great Aton who is in jubilee, lord of all that the Aton encircles, lord of heaven, lord of earth, lord of the House of Aton in Akhetaton; (and praise of) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives on truth, the Lord of the Two Lands: Neferkheperurewaenre; the Son of Re, who lives on truth, the Lord of Diadems: AkhenaAton, long in his lifetime; (and praise of) the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands: Neferneferuaton Nefertiti, living, healthy, and youthful forever and ever; (by) the Fan-Bearer on the Right Hand of the King ... Eye.
He says:
Thou appearest beautifully on the horizon of heaven,
Thou living Aton, the beginning of life!
When thou art risen on the eastern horizon,
Thou hast filled every land with thy beauty.
Thou art gracious, great, glistening, and high over every land;
Thy rays encompass the lands to the limit of all that thou hast made:
As thou art Re, thou reachest to the end of them;
(Thou) subduest them (for) thy beloved son.
Though thou art far away, thy rays are on earth;
Though thou art in their faces, no one knows thy going.
When thou setest in the western horizon,
The land is in darkness, in the manner of death.
They sleep in a room, with heads wrapped up,
Nor sees one eye the other.
All their goods which are under their heads might be stolen,
(But) they would not perceive (it).
Every lion is come forth from his den;
All creeping things, they sting.
Darkness is a shroud, and the earth is in stillness,
For he who made them rests in his horizon.
At daybreak, when thou arisest on the horizon,
When thou shinest as the Aton by day,
Thou drivest away the darkness and givest thy rays.
The Two Lands are in festivity every day,
Awake and standing upon (their) feet,
For thou hast raised them up.
Washing their bodies, taking (their) clothing,
Their arms are (raised) in praise at thy appearance.
All the world, they do their work.
All beasts are content with their pasturage;
Trees and plants are flourishing.
The birds which fly from their nests,
Their wings are (stretched out) in praise to thy ka.
All beasts spring upon (their) feet.
Whatever flies and alights,
They live when thou hast risen (for) them.
The ships are sailing north and south as well,
For every way is open at thy appearance.
The fish in the river dart before thy face;
Thy rays are in the midst of the great green sea.
Creator of seed in women,
Thou who makest fluid into man,
Who maintainest the son in the womb of his mother,
Who soothest him with that which stills his weeping,
Thou nurse (even) in the womb,
Who givest breath to sustain all that he has made!
When he descends from the womb to breathe
On the day when he is born,
Thou openest his mouth completely,
Thou suppliest his necessities.
When the chick in the egg speaks within the shell,
Thou givest him breath within it to maintain him.
When thou hast made him his fulfilment within the egg, to break it,
He comes forth from the egg to speak at his completed (time);
He walks upon his legs when he comes forth from it.
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 wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,
Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,
And what is on high, flying with its wings.
The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,
Thou setest every man in his place,
Thou suppliest their necessities:
Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.
Their tongues are separate in speech,
And their natures as well;
Their skins are distinguished,
As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.
Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,
Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,
The lord of every land, rising for them,
The Aton of the day, great of majesty.
All distant foreign countries, thou makest their life (also),
For thou hast set a Nile in heaven,
That it may descend for them and make waves upon the mountains,
Like the great green sea,
To water their fields in their towns.
How effective they are, thy plans, O lord of eternity!
The Nile in heaven, it is for the foreign peoples
And for the beasts of every desert that go upon (their) feet;
(While the true) Nile comes from the underworld for Egypt.
Thy rays suckle every meadow.
When thou risest, they live, they grow for thee.
Thou makest the seasons in order to rear all that thou hast made,
The winter to cool them,
And the heat that they may taste thee.
Thou hast made the distant sky in order to rise therein,
In order to see all that thou dost make.
Whilst thou wert alone,
Rising in thy form as the living Aton,
Appearing, shining, withdrawing or approaching,
Thou madest millions of forms of thyself alone.
Cities, towns, fields, road, and river --
Every eye beholds thee over against them,
For thou art the Aton of the day over the earth....
Thou are in my heart,
And there is no other that knows thee
Save thy son Neferkheperurewaenre,
For thou hast made him well-versed in thy plans and in thy strength.
The world came into being by thy hand,
According as thou hast made them.
When thou hast risen they live,
When thou setest they die.
Thou art lifetime thy own self,
For one lives (only) through thee.
Eyes are (fixed) on beauty until thou setest.
All work is laid aside when thou setest in the west.
(But) when (thou) risest (again),
[Everything is] made to flourish for the king,...
Since thou didst found the earth
And raise them up for thy son,
Who came forth from thy body: the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, ... Akenaton, ... and the Chief Wife of the King ... Nefertiti, living and youthful forever and ever.

Passages in Psalm 104  of King David written some centuries later are strikingly similar to themes and indeed exact  wording, depending on the translations you read, expressed in the Hymn above, written by Akhenaten. 

Psalm 104 (just one translation)
Bless the LORD, my soul! LORD, my God, you are great indeed! You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak. You spread out the heavens like a tent;
you raised your palace upon the waters. You make the clouds your chariot; you travel on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers; flaming fire, your ministers.
You fixed the earth on its foundation, never to be moved.
The ocean covered it like a garment; above the mountains stood the waters.
At your roar they took flight; at the sound of your thunder they fled.
They rushed up the mountains, down the valleys to the place you had fixed for them.
You set a limit they cannot pass; never again will they cover the earth.
You made springs flow into channels that wind among the mountains.
They give drink to every beast of the field; here wild asses quench their thirst.
Beside them the birds of heaven nest; among the branches they sing.
You water the mountains from your palace; by your labour the earth abounds.
You raise grass for the cattle and plants for our beasts of burden. You bring bread from the earth,
and wine to gladden our hearts, Oil to make our faces gleam, food to build our strength.
The trees of the LORD drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, which you planted.
There the birds build their nests; junipers are the home of the stork.
The high mountains are for wild goats; the rocky cliffs, a refuge for badgers.
You made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun that knows the hour of its setting.
You bring darkness and night falls, then all the beasts of the forest roam abroad.
Young lions roar for prey; they seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they steal away and rest in their dens.
People go forth to their work, to their labour till evening falls.
How varied are your works, LORD! In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Look at the sea, great and wide! It teems with countless beings, living things both large and small.
Here ships ply their course; here Leviathan, your creature, plays.
All of these look to you to give them food in due time.
When you give to them, they gather; when you open your hand, they are well filled.
When you hide your face, they are lost. When you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust from which they came.
When you send forth your breath, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD be glad in these works!
If God glares at the earth, it trembles; if God touches the mountains, they smoke!
I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live.
May my theme be pleasing to God; I will rejoice in the LORD.
May sinners vanish from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, my soul! Hallelujah!

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