Removal of DeitiesThebes - The Places
On inheriting the Throne from his father, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, during the New Kingdom Period in the 18th Dynasty, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV began to introduce a minor Deity as the new major Deity of the Egyptian Religion. The God Aten, a Solar Deity. Who Pharaoh believed to be “both the mother and father of all”. To learn more about the God Aten, click here.
Whether this introduction was for political and economic reasons or for a genuine religious intervention from Pharaoh we may never understand.
In Regnal Year 5 Pharaoh remained unsatisfied with how God Aten was “ignored” by many, if not most, of the traditional Priesthood. He pressed forward by changing his name which represented the God of the mighty Karnak Temple, God Amun, to that which celebrated his God, the God Aten. He now became Pharaoh Akhenaten and began to build a new Capital City to the God Aten which he named Akhetaten, the Horizon of the Aten. Physically moving the Court and his new Religion, “Atenism”, away from all other Cities and Religious Sites to a new desert location which was “clean” from the worship of any other Gods or Goddess in his view. To visit Akhetaten, modern day Amarna, click here.
Pharaoh himself wrote on Stela discovered in Akhetaten that he was, “led there by God Aten” and that his “God could not be jealous or depressed or angry or act on impulse; he simply existed and, by that existence, caused all else to exist”. Pharaoh’s chosen Deity, the God Aten was so powerful that it required a new city built solely for the God’s honour and worshipping. Pharaoh Akhenaten saw his building projects in the new city as being of benefit to the collective nation and not just the Pharaoh or the Royal Family.
To ensure the acceptance of this new religion, Pharaoh ordered all other Temples to be closed and proclaimed himself the living personification of the God Aten. By doing so, he supplanted more than 2,000 Deities which left most of the Priesthood unemployed, none more so than the Temples of Amun at Karnak and Luxor Temple.
The Political reasons for doing so seem to lie in the staggering wealth and enormous power that the Priesthood of Amun wheedled from their power base of Karnak Temple in Thebes. Their wealth now rivalled the whole State. Their power was building steadily and was edging toward the power needed for the Priesthood to form a rival Court and maybe even break free from Egypt itself.
Pharaoh Akhenaten’s father, Pharaoh Amenhotep III, 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 Priesthood of Amun, hoping to resolve the increasing issues of the rising power, by raising another Deity to a high rank through his own personal worship as an earthly deity. To understand this concept, you need to understand how the Pharaoh of Egypt was considered in religion and by the Populace to be a God, click here to read about this.
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.
To learn more about how Pharaoh Amenhotep III tried to lessen the influence of the Amun Priesthood at Thebes, click here.