Akhenaten Religion

The Aten, a winged sun disk, was a littleknown god in whom King Amenhotep’s parents had taken an interest. of course, like  all Egyptians, they viewed him as one god  among many. But by his fifth year as ruler,  Amenhotep IV had promoted the Aten to official state god. the king declared that the Aten  was the one true god, and he banned all others an incredible change in a land where  2,000 gods were worshipped. Historians call  this brief era of Akhenaten’s radical religions  the Amarna period.

Akhenaten Religion

Akhenaten built a city dedicated to the worship of Aten and named it Akhetaten (modern  tell el-Amarna). Within four years, Akhetaten  was fully functional. It became both the religious and political capital of Egypt. Buildings  were decorated with art in the new Amarna  style, with charming scenes of Akhenaten,  his wife nefertiti (which means “a beautiful  woman has come”), and their six daughters.  the upper class people in Akhenaten’s  time found it wise to swiftly convert to his  religion.

But almost everyone else continued to quietly worship their traditional gods  and goddesses. The Aten religion, actually  a cult formed around the personality of the  king, never caught on outside the king’s close  circle. In the 12th year of Akhenaten’s reign,  several members of his family died suddenly, possibly of plague. nefertiti vanished.  She may have died, or she may have been  “retired” because she produced no sons.  Akhenaten married at least one of his surviv- ing daughters but still got no sons. As time  passed, he still refused to accept interest in  the old gods and traditional religion. After  ruling for 17 years, he died. massive confusion followed. A plague or  some other disease may have swept through  Akhetaten, killing both royals and workers.  the identity of his immediate successor is a  hot topic of scholarly debate. 

King tutankhaten followed the mystery  successor, changed his name to tutankhamun, and moved the capital back to thebes.  He tore down Aten’s temples, and erased  the names of Akhenaten and nefertiti from  monuments. Amun-re ruled once more. Akhetaten was abandoned. With its residents gone and valuables removed, it sank  back into the desert sands. Archaeologists did  not rediscover the city until the early 1800s. the kings who followed Akhenaten tried  to erase him, his wife, and the entire embarrassing episode from history. In spite of their  efforts, Akhenaten and nefertiti are among  the best-known rulers of ancient Egypt. And  the Amarna period is one of the most intensively studied and fascinating eras of Egyptian history.

Military of Ancient Egypt

Another way to raise one’s status was in the military. Before the Middle  Kingdom, Egypt did not have a regular army. Soldiers were drafted  when they were needed. Each nome had to send a specific number of  men. Military leaders were citizen soldiers, not professionals. During Egypt’s imperial age, however, military service became  a profitable career.

Professional officers were rewarded with tax free  estates, livestock, gold, ceremonial weapons, and comfortable retirement jobs. During the New Kingdom, Egypt had two large armies divided into  four divisions. They were stationed permanently in Upper and Lower  Egypt. The army included infantry (soldiers who fight on foot), scouts  (who go ahead of the army to check out the situation), charioteers (who  fought from chariots), marines (who fought from land or on boats),  and archers (who used bows and arrows).

Officers successfully used  strategies, tactics, and innovations introduced by the Hyksos, including  horses and chariots. New Kingdom soldiers were a privileged, prosperous class. During  peacetime, they lived in military communities. Soldiers returning from  battles were rewarded with land, livestock, and peasants to farm their  land, which they could keep as long as at least one member of their family remained on active duty. A military career was one of the few paths to status and wealth  for a poor young man.

 Even common soldiers shared in battle loot,  including cattle, weapons, and other items taken from defeated peoples.  Ahmes Penekhbet, a soldier who distinguished himself in battle against  the Hyksos and Asiatics, won armbands, bracelets, rings, two golden  axes, and two silver axes. He also received the “gold of valor” six gold  flies and three gold lions from the king. Most Egyptians were unwilling to go abroad for military expeditions. They were terrified that if they died outside Egypt, their bodies  would not be properly mummified or buried, and the proper prayers and  spells would not be said at their funerals (if they even had funerals).

 If  that happened, they would lose their chance at eternal life. So even at the  height of empire, much of the army was made up of mercenaries (soldiers  for hire) and troops from conquered lands, especially Nubians.  Late Period armies were mostly Asiatics and Greeks. Slaves and  foreign captives often won their freedom by joining the army.

The Amarna Letters

The Amarna Letters are some of the most  valuable documents ever found from ancient  Egypt. this collection of documents, written  on flat pieces of clay in the cuneiform script of  mesopotamia, was discovered in 1887 at tell  el-Amarna (Akhetaten). the discoverer tried  to sell them, only to be told they were fakes. 


they are not. most of the letters are personal and diplomatic correspondence between the courts of  Eighteenth Dynasty kings Amenhotep iii and  Akhenaten and foreign kings and officials. Subjects include complaints about Egypt’s foreign  policy, demands for gifts or favors, requests for  special treatment, pleas for more foreign aid,  insincere apologies for border raids, attempts  to gain favor with flattery and praise, and boring details of trade agreements. 

This letter is to Amenhotep  iii from  Kadashman Enlil  i, king of Babylon, who  ruled until about 1375 b.c.e.

 How is it possible that, having written to  you in order to ask for the hand of your daughter oh my brother, you should  have written me using such language,  telling me that you will not give her to  me as since earliest times no daughter of  the king of Egypt has ever been given in  marriage? Why are yo;u telling me such  things? You are the king. You may do as  you wish. If you wanted to give me your  daughter in marriage who could say you  nay? . . . As to the gold about which I wrote  you, send me now quickly during this  summer . . . gold in abundance, as much  as is available. If you send me this summer . . . the gold concerning which I’ve  written to you, I shall give you my daughter in marriage. Therefore, send gold,  willingly, as much as you please.