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Pharaoh Akhenaten

The Pharaohs - The People

At First 

Who: Prince Amenhotep

What: Second son of Amenhotep III and Chief Royal Wife Tiye

Where: Presumed to have spent most of his young life with his Royal Family in Malkata Palace on the West Bank of Nile at Thebes

When: Unknown


Who: Crown Prince Amenhotep

What: His brother Crown Prince Thutmose died and it is presumed that   Amenhotep stepped in to his brother’s roles and took over the title of Crown Prince as well as possibly being sent to study with the Priests of Ptah in Memphis; even thinking that the Crown Prince became a High   Priest himself is not unheard of

Where: Thebes and Memphis

When: Approx. 1364 BC

After That

Who: Co-Regent Pharaoh Amenhotep IV

What: The Crown Prince was elevated by his father to the role of co-Regent, presumably to prepare him for his own Reign

Where: Capital City remained in Thebes and he was probably based here and then travelled between Memphis and Thebes

When: Approx. 1361 BC

And Finally Pharaoh

Who: Pharaoh Amenhotep IV : ‘Amun is content’

What: Ruler of Egypt

Where: Capital City in Thebes at some points from his late father’s Malkata Palace

When: Approx. 1353 BC

But Then

Who: He changed his name to Pharaoh Akhenaten

Where: He moved his Capital City was moved from Thebes to Pharaoh’s specifically designed new Capital called Akhetaten: Horizon of the Aten

When: After Year 5 of his Reign approx. 1348 BC, he changed his name to celebrate his single God, the Aten, By Year 7 of his Reign he moved in to Akhetaten, Capital City in 1346 BC


Akhetaten, Horizon of the Aten

The New Capital City

Akhenaten’s Art

Amenhotep’s early commissions for art work remained similar to those of his fathers and other previous Pharaohs. Egypt’s artwork used a Squared Grid which allowed all art and hieroglyphs to remain strict in their forming of the picture writing; whether on papyrus or on a Temple Wall. 

In Amenhotep’s 1st year of his reign he was erecting Chapels and commissioning art work specific to the God Aten at Karnak Temple, Thebes. 
Under his specific direction, artwork became entirely new. Literally revolutionised. The artisans were to depict who and what they saw as realistic

The difference was as though you compared night and day to each other : He had made the transformation to Akhenaten

Was Akhenaten ill?

Egyptologists used to believe that he suffered from some kind of genetic disorder or disease because of the way his commissioned artwork portrayed him:
– an elongated head; long, narrow face with a protruding chin; overly full-lipped mouth

– long and branch like arms with spider like fingers

– a protruding stomach with heavily curved hips and thighs

Yet his associated Mummified Remains do not conform to this image when x-rayed. Was this solely to represent himself as the receiver of the God Aten’s Solar Rays?

Or did he make his own Reliefs and artform stand out so that the people noticed him for his new individual religion and ideas? Was the outrageous a concept for announcing the change? 

Certainly, despite his successor’s efforts to erase the memory of Akhenaten and his “heretic” religion; he is still well known and discussed in Egyptological and Historical terms

His New Religion

As we know, Akhenaten introduced a whole new Religion to one God, the Aten, a Solar Deity: “both the mother and father of all”. To do this he closed Temples to the other Deities and proclaimed himself the living personification of the Aten. By doing so, he supplanted more than 2,000 Deities which left most of the Priesthood unemployed. 

The Political reasons for doing so seem to lie in the staggering wealth and enormous power that the Preisthood of Amun wheedled from their power bases of Thebes. Their wealth now rivalled the whole State. Their power was building steadily and was edging toward the power needed for the Preisthood to form a rival Court and maybe even break free from Egypt itself.


Pharaoh Akhenaten’s father had used the God Aten as his own personalised deity during his lifetime, establishing the precedent that his son was to follow. I believe that Pharaoh Amenhotep III was using God Aten as a rival to the Theban Preisthood of Amun, hoping to resolve the increasing issues of the rising power. 
Pharaoh Akhenaten appears to have taken his father’s thought process to its largest and most radical solution by breaking from the Priesthood of Amun completely with the God Aten and the new Capital of Akhetaten. 

Family Life 

His Great Royal Wife: “Nefertiti” : Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, Queen consort of Egypt : “Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, the Beautiful one has come”; Hereditary Princess; Great of Praises; Lady of Grace and Sweet of Love; Lady of The Two Lands; Main King’s Wife, his beloved; Great King’s Wife, his beloved; Lady of All Women; and Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt

His Children with Nefertiti: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenamun, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, Neferneferure, Setepenre

His Children with Kiya: Tutankhaten

He probably had other Lesser Wives and other children


Beginning of the End?

From an outsider’s viewpoint, Akhenaten seemed to be interested in the internal matters of Egypt but not about Egypt’s Empire outside the borders after his mother’s death. 


His mother was Queen Tiye, the first Queen to have her name recorded on Officials Acts and carved right next to her husband’s on monuments. She was as involved with her husband on Diplomatic matters and it appears that her influences continued after Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s death. At that time, Queen Tiye received many diplomatic offering of condolences which also spoke of the future Pharaoh and the hope that the diplomatic relationships would remain intact throughout the new Pharaoh’s reign.


We can infer that if not exclusively, then definitely Queen Tiye continued on with Egypt’s Foreign and Diplomatic Policies during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten. She moved and lived in Akhetaten and was regularly shown as playing a core role in Royal and Family life in the remains that Egyptologists have discovered on site. 


After King Mother Tiye’s death it appears that Pharaoh Akhenaten simply could not or would not take on her long held Diplomatic role. For he disdained the previously strong adherence to Foreign Policy and allowed lands to be taken. He reduced the Military, the Defences and ceased Foreign Militaria Campaigns. Furthermore, he refused to support any of them with Gold or reinforcements.


The change of Religion not only alienated the people as they missed their palpable Deities but also caused an economic downturn as many business’ catered for the worshipper’s needs and this was a popular way to make a living. Suddenly their livelihood was gone and as such it festered and created much resentment towards the Royal Family and the new religion with the God Aten.

Away from the majority of the populace, hidden in his new Capital City Pharaoh was isolated from his people’s problems and could not garner the mood.

Wrapped up in Atenism

Around Year 10 of the reign, Pharaoh Akhenaten began a campaign that changed the Aten’s name from meaning the Supreme God or higher than any other God to The Only God.

He changed the hieroglyphic word “Gods” to “God” alone, erasing the names of all other Deities from Temples, Tops of Obelisks, Chapels, within the Diplomatic Archive and Reliefs; especially those of God Amun and Goddess Mut.

In saying this, not everything changed or was forced to change by Pharaoh:

  • Nefertari did not amend her original name, only added other titles to it to worship the Aten
  • Many prominent members of Akhetaten City kept their given names which related to the “old” Gods; for example: the sculptor, Thutmose, who carved the infamous Nefertiti Bust, his name still praised the God of Knowledge, Thoth


Pharaoh’s own City was failing

The average person who lived in Akhetaten City suffered:

  • with nutritional deficiencies
  • a high child mortality rate
  • the children who survived infancy were stunted in their growth
  • whilst the adults had degenerative joint disease with broken bones being common to over two thirds

Queen Nefertiti’s Demise?

Around Year 12 of Akhenaten’s reign, he appears to have ceased building new large scale Monuments and there were no mentions of Pharaoh’s Great Royal Wife.  Egyptologists have long discussed whether this could mean that Queen Nefertiti had died, and as with his mother’s death, Pharaoh Akhenaten was suffering from grief.
The questions the Egyptologists had were:
1.) Did Queen Nefertiti die in Regnal Year 12 as her name ceased to be recorded from what had been discovered in Amarna?
2.) Did Nefertiti change her name and rule with Pharaoh Akhenaten as Co-Ruler?
3.) Did Nefertiti fall from grace with her Pharaoh husband and was demoted to the status of a lower wife?


In December 2012 these questions were answered. Egyptologists reported that they had discovered an inscription dating to Year 16 of the reign which confirmed Queen Nefertiti was still alive and remained in her position as Great Royal Wife. 
But with the little evidence that is left at the site will there ever be any total clarification on why Pharaoh stoped all building projects?

Akhenaten’s Demise

The Pharaoh died in 1335 BC; the 17th Year of his Reign. His successor seems to have been called Pharaoh Smenkhkare and was married to Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s oldest daughter, Meritaten; little to nothing is known or understood about this period and it can be considered that this was a Regency for the Pharaoh who is forever labelled the “Boy King”. Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten

Tutankhaten later changed his own name to honour the Deities he brought back from extinction, to Tutankhamun.  

Akhetaten, the Horizon of the Aten, was abandoned within a few decades and Pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign was voided from the King Lists of Egypt; his image and cartouche were removed from all Monuments; his Temples were dismantled and the building stone was reused in the foundation cores of other royal building projects.

Under the Order of Pharaoh Horemheb, Akhetaten City was dismantled between 1320 – 1292 BC and what remained was left to crumble back in to the desert sands.

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