British Imperialism in Egypt On the Threshold of Revolution

British Imperialism in Egypt
On the Threshold of Revolution, 1945-52

In 1945 a Labour Party government with anti-imperialist leanings was elected in Britain. This election encouraged Egyptians to believe that Britain would change its policy. The end of the war in Europe and the Pacific, however, saw the beginning of a new kind of global war, the Cold War, in which Egypt found itself embroiled against its will.

Concerned by the possibility of expansion by the Soviet Union, the West would come to see the Middle East as a vital element in its post-war strategy of "containment." In addition, pro-imperialist British Conservatives like Winston Churchill spoke of Britain's "rightful position" in the Suez Canal Zone. He and Anthony Eden, the Conservative Party spokesman on foreign affairs, stressed the vital importance of the Suez Canal as an imperial lifeline and claimed international security would be threatened by British withdrawal.

British Imperialism in Egypt On the Threshold of Revolution

In December 1945, Egyptian Prime minister Mahmud Nuqrashi, sent a note to the British demanding that they renegotiate the 1936 treaty and evacuate British troops from the country. Britain refused. Riots and demonstrations by students and workers broke out in Cairo and Alexandria, accompanied by attacks on British property and personnel.

The new Egyptian Prime minister, Ismail Sidqi, a driving force behind Egyptian politics in the 1930s and now seventy-one and in poor health, took over negotiations with the British. The British Labour Party Prime minister, Clement Atlee, agreed to remove British troops from Egyptian cities and bases by September 1949.

The British had withdrawn their troops to the Suez Canal Zone when negotiations foundered over the issue of Sudan. Britain said Sudan was ready for self-government while Egyptian nationalists were proclaiming "the unity of the Nile Valley," that is, that Sudan should be part of Egypt. Sidqi resigned in December 1946 and was succeeded by Nuqrashi, who referred the question of Sudan to the newly created United Nations (UN) during the following year. The Brotherhood called for strikes and a jihad (holy war) against the British, and newspapers called for a guerrilla war.

In 1948 another event strengthened the Egyptian desire to rid the country of imperial domination. This event was the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel by David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv. The Egyptians, like most Arabs, considered the State of Israel a creation of Western, specifically British, imperialism and an alien entity in the Arab homeland.

In September 1947, the League of Arab States (Arab League) had decided to resist by force the UN plan for partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Thus, when Israel announced its independence in 1948, the armies of the various Arab states, including Egypt, entered Palestine to save the country for the Arabs against what they considered Zionist aggression. The Arabs were defeated by Israel, although the Arab Legion of Transjordan held onto the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Egypt saved a strip of territory around Gaza that became known as the Gaza Strip.

When the war began, the Egyptian army was poorly prepared and had no plan for coordination with the other Arab states. Although there were individual heroic acts of resistance, the army did not perform well, and nothing could disguise the defeat or mitigate the intense feeling of shame. After the war, there were scandals over the inferior equipment issued to the military, and the king and government were blamed for treacherously abandoning the army.

One of the men who served in the war was Gamal Abdul Nasser, who commanded an army unit in Palestine and was wounded in the chest. Nasser was dismayed by the inefficiency and lack of preparation of the army. In the battle for the Negev Desert in October 1948, Nasser and his unit were trapped at Falluja, near Beersheba. The unit held out and was eventually able to counterattack. This event assumed great importance for Nasser, who saw it as a symbol of his country's determination to free Egypt from all forms of oppression, internal and external.

Nasser organized a clandestine group inside the army called the Free Officers. After the war against Israel, the Free Officers began to plan for a revolutionary overthrow of the government. In 1949 nine of the Free Officers formed the Committee of the Free Officers' Movement; in 1950 Nasser was elected chairman.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose volunteer squads had fought well against Israel, gained in popularity and membership. Before the war, the Brotherhood was responsible for numerous attacks on British personnel and property. With the outbreak of the war against Israel, martial law was declared in Egypt, and the Brotherhood was ordered to dissolve.

In retaliation, a member of the Brotherhood murdered Nuqrashi, the prime minister. His successor, Ibrahim Abdul Hadi, detained in concentration camps thousands of Brotherhood members as well as members of Young Egypt and communists. In February 1949, Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna was assassinated, probably by agents of the security branch of the government.

In January 1950, the Wafd returned to power with Nahhas as prime minister. In October 1951, Nahhas introduced, and Parliament approved, decrees abrogating unilaterally the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 and proclaiming Faruk king of Egypt and Sudan. Egypt exulted, with newspapers proclaiming that Egypt had broken "the fetters of British imperialism."

The Wafd government gave way to pressure from the Brotherhood and leftist groups for militant opposition to the British. "Liberation battalions" were formed, and the Brotherhood and auxiliary police were armed. Food supplies to the Suez Canal Zone were blocked, and Egyptian workers were withdrawn from the base. A guerrilla war against the British in the Suez Canal Zone was undertaken by students and the Brotherhood.

In December British bulldozers and Centurion tanks demolished fifty Egyptian mud houses to open a road to a water supply for the British army. This incident and one that followed on January 25 provoked intense Egyptian anger. On January 25, 1952, the British attacked an Egyptian police barracks at Ismailiya (Al Ismailiyah) when its occupants refused to surrender to British troops. Fifty Egyptians were killed and 100 wounded.

The January incident led directly to "Black Saturday," January 26, 1952, which began with a mutiny by police in Cairo in protest against the death of their colleagues. Concurrently, groups of people in Cairo went on a rampage. British property and other symbols of the Western presence were attacked. By the end of the day, 750 establishments valued at £50 million had been burned or destroyed. Thirty persons were killed, including eleven British and other foreigners; hundreds were injured.

The British believed there was official connivance in the rioting. Wafdist interior minister Fuad Siraj ad Din (also seen as Serag al Din) was accused of negligence by an Egyptian government report and dismissed. The king dismissed Nahhas, and four prime ministers held office in the next six months. It became clear that the Egyptian ruling class had become unable to rule, and none of the radical nationalist groups was strong enough to take power. This power vacuum gave the Free Officers their opportunity.

On July 22, the Free Officers realized that the king might be preparing to move against them. They decided to strike and seize power the next morning. On July 26, King Faruk, forced to abdicate in favour of his infant son, sailed into exile on the same yacht on which his grandfather, Ismail, had left for exile about seventy years earlier. 

The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39

British Imperialism in Egypt
The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39
British Imperialism in Egypt. Political life in Egypt during this period has been described as basically triangular, consisting of:
  •     The king
  •     The Wafd
  •     The British

The basis of British power was its army of occupation as well as British officials in the administration, police, and army. The king's power rested on the rights he could exercise in accordance with the 1923 constitution and partly on the permanence of his position. The king's rights included selecting and appointing the prime minister, dismissing the cabinet, and dissolving Parliament. The Wafd's power was based on its popular support and its command of a vast majority in Parliament.

The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39
The Rise and Decline of the Wafd, 1924-39

These three forces in Egyptian politics were of unequal strength. The British had overwhelming power, and if their interests were at stake, their power prevailed over the other two. The king was in a stronger position than the Wafd because his power was difficult to curb while the Wafd could easily be removed from power.

The Wafd embodied parliamentary democracy in Egypt; thus, by its very existence, it constituted a threat to both the king and the British. To the king, any democratic system was a threat to his autocratic rule. To the British, a democratic system meant that in any free election the Wafd would be voted into power. The British believed that the Wafd in power was a threat to their own power in the country. Thus, the British attempted to destroy the power of the Wafd and to use the king as a counter to the Wafd.

In the parliamentary election of January 12, 1924, the Wafd won 179 of 211 parliamentary seats. Two seats each went to the Wafd's opponents, the National Party and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, a party founded in 1922 and considered excessively cooperative with the British. The Wafd felt it had a mandate to conclude a treaty with Britain that would assure Egypt complete independence. As prime minister, Zaghlul carefully selected a cross-section of Egyptian society for his cabinet, which he called the "People's Ministry."

On March 15, 1924, the king opened the first Egyptian constitutional parliament amid national rejoicing. The Wafdist government did not last long, however.

On November 19, 1924, Sir Lee Stack, the British governor general of Sudan and commander of the Egyptian army, was assassinated in Cairo. The assassination was one of a series of killings of British officials that had begun in 1920. Allenby, who considered Stack an old and trusted friend, was determined to avenge the crime and in the process humiliate the Wafd and destroy its credibility in Egypt.

Allenby demanded that Egypt:
  •     Apologize
  •     Prosecute the assailants
  •     Pay a £500,000 indemnity
  •     Withdraw all troops from Sudan
  •     Consent to an unlimited increase of irrigation in Sudan
  •     End all opposition to the capitulations (Britain's demand of the right to protect foreign interests in the country)

Zaghlul wanted to resign rather than accept the ultimatum, but Allenby presented it to him before Zaghlul could offer his resignation to the king. Zaghlul and his cabinet decided to accept the first four terms but to reject the last two. On November 24, after ordering the Ministry of Finance to pay the indemnity, Zaghlul resigned. He died three years later.

During the 1930s, Ismail Sidqi emerged as the "strong man" of Egyptian politics and an ardent opponent of the Wafd. It was he who abolished the constitution in 1930 and drafted another that enhanced the power of the monarch. He formed his own party, Al Hizb ash Shaab, which merged with the Ittihad Party in 1938. Also in 1938, dissident members of the Wafd formed the Saadist Party, named after Saad Zaghlul.

On April 28, 1936, King Fuad died and was succeeded by his son, Faruk. In the May elections, the Wafd won 89 percent of the vote and 157 seats in Parliament.

Negotiations with the British for a treaty to resolve matters that had been left outstanding since 1922 had resumed. The British delegation was led by its high commissioner, Miles Lampson, and the Egyptian delegation by Wafdist leader and prime minister, Mustafa Nahhas. On August 26, a draft treaty that came to be known as the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 was signed.

The treaty provided for an Anglo-Egyptian military and defense alliance that allowed Britain to maintain a garrison of 10,000 men in the Suez Canal Zone. In addition, Britain was left in virtual control of Sudan. This contradicted the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899 that provided that Sudan be governed by Egypt and Britain jointly.

In spite of the agreement, however, real power was in British hands. Egyptian army units had been withdrawn from Sudan in the aftermath of the Stack assassination, and the governor general was British. Nevertheless, Egyptian nationalists, and the Wafd particularly, continued to demand full Egyptian control of Sudan.

The treaty did provide for the end of the capitulations and the phasing out of the mixed courts. The British high commissioner was re-designated ambassador to Egypt, and when the British inspector general of the Egyptian army retired, an Egyptian officer was appointed to replace him.

In spite of these advances, the treaty did not give Egypt full independence, and its signing produced a wave of anti-Wafdist and anti-British demonstrations. Too many of its followers, in negotiating and signing the treaty the Wafd had betrayed the nationalist cause. Because of this perception and also because it had failed to develop and implement a program for social and economic reform, the Wafd declined in power and influence.

Although it considered itself the representative of the nation, the Wafd failed to offer meaningful domestic programs to deal with the problems of under- and unemployment, high living costs, lack of industrial development, and unequal distribution of land. Thus, during the 1930s, support for the Wafd, particularly among students and urban middle-class professionals and civil servants, was eroded by more militant, paramilitary organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun, also known as the Brotherhood) and Young Egypt (Misr al Fatat).

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by religious leader Hasan al Banna who established himself as the supreme guide leading his followers in a purified Islamic state. The Brotherhood represented a trend in the Islamic reform movement that attributed the difficulties in Islamic society to a deviation from the ideals and practices of early Islam during the period of the first four caliphs.

The aim, therefore, was to return society to a state of purity by reforming it from within and purging it of foreign domination and influence. The Brotherhood consisted of nationwide cells, battalions, youth groups, and a secret apparatus for underground activities.

Young Egypt was founded in 1933 by a lawyer, Ahmad Husayn. It was a radical nationalist organization with religious elements. Its aim was to make Egypt a great empire, which would consist of Egypt and Sudan. The empire would act as an ally to Arab countries and serve as the leader of Islam.

It was also a militaristic organization whose young members were organized in a paramilitary movement called the Green Shirts. The organization had fascist overtones and openly admired Nazi achievements. As German power grew, Young Egypt's anti-British tone increased.

Both of these organizations presented clearly defined programs for political, economic, and social reform. Both also represented a new political movement whose ideology was not the liberal constitutionalism of the nationalist movement, which was regarded as having failed.

Egyptian Wars World War I

Egyptian Wars

World War I, 1914-18

Egyptian Wars. In 1914, after World War I broke out in Europe, the Ottoman Empire fatefully allied itself with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The khedive Abbas II was immediately deposed by the British on account of his well-known pro-Ottoman sympathies and prevented from returning from Constantinople, where he had been on a visit. 

Britain then declared Egypt a protectorate and imposed martial law. Abbas's 60-year-old uncle, Hussein Kamil, was installed as the new head of Egypt. To make sure there was no confusion that the country had severed its ties with the Ottoman Empire, he was given the title of sultan, until then reserved exclusively by the Ottoman ruler. 
Egyptian Wars World War I

Anti-British sentiment remained high during the course of the war, and there were increasing expectations that it would be followed by Egyptian independence, especially now that the country had been cut loose from the Ottomans. It was a time of hardship for most Egyptians, especially the poor. 

An enormous strain was placed on the country's food supplies, which were bought up in large quantities by the Britain to feed the huge number of troops stationed in the region. With food shortages leading to double pre-war prices, the poor struggled especially hard just to keep themselves from starving. Furthermore, the commandeering of some 20,000 peasants into British labor corps, where many would perish from disease, did little but increase resentment and further fuel the nationalist cause. 

As the world conflict drew to a close towards the end of 1918, the British High Commissioner of Egypt received a visit by three Egyptian politicians. Led by an extremely popular politician by the name of Saad Zaghlul (a lawyer by profession), they had come to demand independence and to be allowed to travel to London to put forward their case. Their request was refused outright. Undeterred, they announced their intention to send a delegation (wafd in Arabic) to the peace conference in Paris to present their argument there. 

Further British refusals sparked off waves of nationalist unrest throughout the country. In March 1919, Zaghlul was arrested by the British authorities and exiled to the Mediterranean island of Malta. The result was explosive. Anti-British sentiment erupted into widespread protests, strikes, and violent attacks on British citizens, including murder. The country languished in a state of paralysis as public transport came to a standstill and people stayed away from work. 

Although the British soon managed to bring the situation under control, it had become clear that they would not be able to keep the lid on such feverish nationalist sentiment indefinitely. In an about turn, the British government released Zaghlul and allowed him to go on to Paris and London. It was a fruitless mission, however, and a frustrated Zaghlul returned to Egypt in 1921.
The British continued to resist the inevitable for a while longer. Eventually, further riots and violence in the wake of the rearrest and deportation of Zaghlul brought them to the conclusion that the protectorate was no longer viable. Without consulting the Egyptians, Britain declared Egypt an independent state on February 28, 1922. 

Economy and Society under Occupation

British Imperialism in Egypt
Economy and Society under Occupation

By 1914 cotton constituted 90 percent of Egypt's exports. To the British, who controlled Egypt's financial and economic life, ensuring Egypt's prosperity and its ability to service its debt meant expanding Egypt's reliance on cotton production. Some British officials had more personal reasons for their interest in the production and export of cotton. Some were landowners; some were involved in the marketing of the crop; and some, like Lord Cromer, made huge fortunes from cotton speculation.

Trade policy was based on free trade, which favoured the more industrialized nations whose products undersold those produced locally. Lord Cromer himself described the effects of the import of European manufactures on local craft production. He noted that quarters of the city that had been "hives of busy workmen" had shrunk or been eliminated entirely. Cafés and small stores selling European goods replaced productive workshops.

Egyptian industrialization would have required protective tariffs that the British would not allow. Thus, although Egypt had a solid infrastructure, a sizeable local market, and an indigenous supply of capital, industrial development was stymied by a British trade policy that sought to protect the Egyptian market for British products and to maintain Britain's near monopoly on Egyptian cotton.

In spite of these formidable obstacles, a small industrial sector did develop, devoted primarily to processing raw materials and producing perishable or bulky goods. Industrialization gave rise to a modern working class engaged in factory labour. By 1916 there were 30,000 to 35,000 workers employed in modern factories. Pay in the industrial sector was low and working conditions sometimes unsafe. Just as it maintained a hands-off policy concerning trade, the state refused to intervene to regulate working conditions.

Between 1899 and 1907, at least seven workers' associations were formed, focusing on conditions and pay. Strikes were organized among cigarette wrappers; warehouse, port, and railroad workers; and spinners in factories. The working-class movement received considerable support from Mustafa Kamil's National Party (Al Hizb al Watani), which set up schools in working-class areas and assisted unions with publicity and legal counsel during strikes. The unions, like the nationalist movement, were severely repressed by the government.

In 1906 the Dinshawi Incident occurred, which intensified nationalist and anti-British sentiments. A fight broke out between the villagers of Dinshawi, near Tanta in the Delta, and a group of British officers who were shooting pigeons nearby. In the course of the shooting, the wife of the local imam (religious leader) was shot and wounded. Villagers surrounded the officers, and in the ensuing fracas, two British officers were wounded. The officers in turn panicked and opened fire on the villagers. One of the British officers died of his wounds as he attempted to march back to camp a few miles away.

British soldiers who found the dead officer beat a peasant to death. Fifty-two Egyptians were arrested and brought before a special court convened in Shibin al Kawm. Four peasants were sentenced to death, many to terms of imprisonment at hard labour, and others to public flogging. The sentences were executed swiftly, publicly, and brutally. This event heightened Egyptian political consciousness and led to the organization of political parties.

In 1907 two political parties were formed, which served as vehicles for expressing nationalist ideas and actions. They were Kamil's National Party (also seen as the Watani Party) and the People's Party (Al Hizb al Umma or Umma Party).

The Umma Party was founded by Mahmud Sulayman Pasha, a former leader of the assembly and ally of Colonel Urabi, and Hasan Abd ar Raziq, among others. The most prominent member of the Umma Party was Ahmad Lutfi as Sayyid, editor of the party's newspaper, Al Jaridah (The Newspaper).

The National Party's newspaper was Al Liwa (The Standard). Kamil and Lutfi as Sayyid were Egyptian rather than Turco-Circassian in origin and represented the increasing political strength of Egyptians in national life. Kamil's party called for the British to evacuate Egypt immediately. Although Kamil agreed that Egypt needed reform, he argued that the British presence was not necessary to achieve it. Because Islam played a larger role in his thought and in the party ideology than in the Umma Party, Kamil and the National Party attracted to it anti-European conservatives and religious traditionalists.

The leaders of the Umma Party had been disciples of the influential Islamic reformer Muhammad Abduh. Unlike Abduh, however, who was concerned with the reform of Islam to accommodate it to the modern world, Lutfi as Sayyid was concerned with progress and the reform of society. The aim of the Umma Party was independence. Lutfi as Sayyid believed, however, that Egypt would attain self-rule not by attacking the British or the khedive but through reform of Egyptian laws and institutions and the participation of Egyptians in public life.

Lutfi as Sayyid believed Egypt should cooperate in any measures that would limit the autocracy of the khedive and expand constitutional government, which could only strengthen the nation. Implicit in the Umma program was the idea of tactical cooperation and eventual negotiation with the British on the future of Egypt, an idea that Kamil and the National Party rejected.

The National Party was described as "extremist" because of its demand for the immediate withdrawal of the British, while the Umma Party was called "moderate" because of its gradualist approach to independence from British domination.

Kamil died in 1908; the party never recovered from his death although it continued to play a role in national political life until 1952. It was the only political group that refused to take part in negotiations for the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936.

The Umma Party participated in Egyptian party politics until World War I, and its newspaper ceased publication in 1915. The party's influence was long-lasting, however, because Saad Zaghlul, who emerged as leader of the nationalist movement after the war, was part of the Umma/Al-Jaridah circle.

British Imperialism in Egypt The Occupiers, 1882-1914

British Imperialism in EgyptThe Occupiers, 1882-1914

British Imperialism in Egypt. With the occupation of 1882, Egypt became a part of the British Empire but never officially a colony. The khedival government provided the facade of autonomy, but behind it lay the real power in the country, specifically, the British agent and consul general, backed by British troops.

At the outset of the occupation, the British government declared its intention to withdraw its troops as soon as possible. This could not be done, however, until the authority of the khedive was restored. Eventually, the British realized that these two aims were incompatible because the military intervention, which Khedive Tawfiq supported and which prevented his overthrow, had undermined the authority of the ruler. Without the British presence, the khedival government would probably have collapsed.

British Imperialism in Egypt The Occupiers, 1882-1914

British Imperialism in Egypt The Occupiers, 1882-1914

In addition, the British government realized that the most effective way to protect its interests was from its position in Egypt. This represented a change in the policy that had existed since the time of Muhammad Ali, when the British were committed to preserving the Ottoman Empire.

The change in British policy occurred for several reasons. Sultan Abdul Hamid had refused Britain's request to intervene in Egypt against Urabi and to preserve the khedival government. Also, Britain's influence in Istanbul was declining while that of Germany was rising. Finally, Britain's unilateral invasion of Egypt gave Britain the opportunity to supplant French influence in the country. Moreover, Britain was determined to preserve its control over the Suez Canal and to safeguard the vital route to India.

Between 1883 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, there were three British agents and consuls general in Egypt:
  •     Lord Cromer (1883-1907)
  •     Sir John Eldon Gorst (1907-11)
  •     Lord Herbert Kitchener (1911-14)

Cromer was an autocrat whose control over Egypt was more absolute than that of any Mamluk or khedive. Cromer believed his first task was to achieve financial solvency for Egypt. He serviced the debt, balanced the budget, and spent what money remained after debt payments on agriculture, irrigation, and railroads. He neglected industry and education, a policy that became a political issue in the country. He brought in British officials to staff the bureaucracy. This policy, too, was controversial because it prevented Egyptian civil servants from rising to the top of their fields.

Gorst, who was less autocratic than Cromer, had to face a growing Egyptian nationalism that demanded British evacuation from the country. Gorst's attempt to create a "moderate" nationalism ultimately failed because the nationalists refused to make any compromises over independence and because Britain considered any concession to the nationalists a sign of weakness.

When Kitchener arrived in Egypt in 1911, he was already famous as the man who had avenged the death of General Charles Gordon in Khartoum in 1885 during the Mahdist uprising.

In 1913 Kitchener introduced a new constitution that gave the country some representative institutions locally and nationally. When the British imperialism in Egypt began, the Assembly of Delegates had ceased to exist. It was superseded by an assembly and legislative council that were consultative bodies whose advice was not binding on the government. The Organic Law of 1913 provided for a legislative assembly with an increased number of elected members and expanded powers.

On October 29, 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Martial law was declared in Egypt on November 2. On November 3, the British government unilaterally declared Egypt a protectorate, severing the country from the Ottoman Empire.

Britain deposed Khedive Abbas, who had succeeded Khedive Tawfiq upon the latter's death in 1892, because Abbas, who was in Istanbul when the war broke out, was suspected of pro-German sympathies. Kitchener was recalled to London to serve as minister of war.

Akhenaten and his family

The stele of the royal family of Akhenaten to Aten Worship

Here we see a traditional scene of the worship of the god Aten by the royal family.

Akhenaten is represented with physical deformities, offering two bouquets of lotus flowers to Aton is represented as a solar disc with rays that dominate the scene. Rays ending in hands holding the ankh sign, symbol of life, before the nostrils of the king and queen.

Akhenaten and his family
Akhenaten and his family
Akhenaten was followed by his wife, Queen Nefertiti, who performs the act of worship and offering to Aton. Their eldest daughters are displayed behind Meritaten and Mekitaten, who died young, as is shown touching the reliefs are still visible in the tomb of the royal family from which the slab was taken.

Akhenaten Reign

Akhenaten also known as Amenhotep IV. He was the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. Akhenaton was popular to bring some revolutionary changes in religious beliefs established. Akhenaten was a pharaoh who ruled during the Eighteenth Dynasty. It is ambiguous whether he agreed with his father or his successor.

In the early years of his life Akhenaton worshiping Amun, the traditional god of Egypt. Akhenaten had embellished the southern entrance of the temple of Amun-Re. He quickly deviated from the usual practice of worship traditional gods and began to worship Aton, the sun god, in whose honor he built a temple of Karnak at Eastern known Gempaaten. It was built in the first year of the reign of Akhenaten.

king Akhenaten

Akhenaten built temples of Karnak as Rud-menu and Teni-menu. Akhenaton vandalized sites or temples which were built in the name of Amun, Amenhotep cartridges as he demolished encryption name Amon. This act has caused a lot of anxiety and agitation among the people of Egypt.

Akhenaten had built a city known as Amarna between 1353-1335 BC as a tribute to Aton. The name of the town was later changed to Akhenaten. In the Amarna period were caused massive changes in the forms of Egyptian art. At that time people's lives down to earth was represented in the form of art. Akhenaton was supposed to have an elongated head, large breasts, legs and belly distended small.

Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten in the fifth year of his reign. It is suggested that Akhenaten took this action to show his loyalty to Aton. Akhenaten was known to have diverted funds to help Aton. The city of Amarna was the religious center during the reign of Akhenaten. When Akhenaton came ninth year of his reign, he declared that Aten was the only god and that Akhenaten was a messenger of God.

Relations Tushratta Akhenaton, the Emperor of Mitanni are presumed to have fallen. Egypt had an alliance with Mitanni. Hittites, another ally of Egypt invaded and conquered a considerable part of Mitanni Mitanni.

Akhenaton face problems during his intervention was necessary to resolve the dispute between Shechem and Jerusalem. The ruler of Byblos is believed to have written letters to Akhenaten asking him to extend his support during the invasion of Byblos Amurru. However, Akhenaten ignored the letters sent by the king of Byblos.

It is said that Akhenaten increasingly left control of Egypt in the hands of government officials and diplomats. This has made the most powerful bureaucrats. Essential information about the rule of Pharaoh and his foreign policy was discovered when the Amarna letters were discovered. It is said that the governors of Akhenaton and the emperor States under Egyptian control often wrote to him about their problems and grievances.

The problem of plague and influenza epidemics, famine and widespread disease in the Amarna period. It is believed that many children and Suppiluliumas, the Hittite king of deaths due to this epidemic explosion. The outbreak of the flu has been documented for the first time in Egypt and later spread to nearby areas of Egypt.

Akhenaten died around 1336 or 1334 BC. After his death, everything was destroyed. Although religious changes by Akhenaton were somewhat accepted by the priests and subjects, after his death, his successors enforce traditional religious beliefs and worship of the traditional gods of Egypt. Thus, the revolutionary changes were limited to Akhenaten by his reign.

king akhenaten family

King Akhetaten

His father, Amenhotep III

His Mother Tiye

His wives: Nefertiti, Merytaten, Kiya, Mekytaten, Ankhesenpaaten

Son: Tutankhamun


His daughters: Merytaten, Mekytaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Merytaten-tasherit and other

Burial: Akhetaten (el-Amarna) and thereafter? Valley of the Kings (Thebes)

Amenhotep IV-Akhenaten better known, the new name he took early in his reign-ushered in a revolutionary period in Egyptian history. The Amarna Interlude, as it is often called, saw the removal of the seat of government in an ephemeral city of new capital, Akhetaten (now el-Amarna), the introduction of a new art style, and rise of the cult of the sun disk, Aten, pre-eminent status in Egyptian religion. This last heresy in particular was to bring down on Akhenaten and his immediate successors the opprobrium of later kings.

king akhenaten family

The young prince was at least the second son of Amenhotep III by his chief wife, Tiy: an elder brother, prince Tuthmosis, had died prematurely (strangely, a whip bearing his name was found in Tutankhamun's tomb) . There is some controversy as to whether or not the old king took his son in a partnership on the throne in a co-regency there are quite strong arguments both for and against a point in favor of a co-regency is the emergence in recent years of Amenhotep III's reign of artistic styles which are then considered part of the 'revolutionary' Amarna art introduced by Akhenaten; other hand, the two styles of art "traditional" and "revolutionary" could easily have coexisted during the early years of Akhenaten's reign. Anyway, if there had been a co-regency, he would not have been longer than the short period before the new king took his preferred name of Akhenaten ("Servant of Aten") in the year 5.

The beginning of Akhenaten's reign marked no great discontinuity with that of his predecessors. Not only was he crowned at Karnak (temple of the god Amun) but, like his father, he married a lady of non-royal blood, Nefertiti, the daughter of the vizier Ay. Ay seems to have been a brother of Queen Tiye (Anen was another) and a son of Yuya and Tuya. Nefertiti's mother is not known, it may have died in childbirth or shortly thereafter, since Nefertiti seems to have been raised by another wife of Ay named Tey, who would then be her stepmother.

The worship of Aten

The king-tenth of the 18th Dynasty was perhaps the most controversial because of its break with traditional religion. Some say it was the most remarkable king to sit on the throne of Egypt. There can be little doubt that the new king was more of a thinker and philosopher than his forebears. Akhenaten was traditionally raised by his parents, Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy (1382-1344 BC) by worshiping Amen. Akhenaten, however, preferred Aten, the sun god who was worshiped in ancient times. Amenhotep III had recognized the growing power of the priesthood of Amun and had sought to curb it, his son was to take the matter much further by introducing a new monotheistic cult of sun worship that was incarnate in the sun disk, Aten. When at the beginning of his reign, he changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning "He who is of service to Aten", he also renamed his queen to Nefer-Nefru-Aten, which is "Beautiful is the beauty of Aten. "

It was not in itself a new idea: as a relatively minor aspect of the sun god Re-Harakhte, Aten was worshiped in the Old Kingdom and a large scarab of Akhenaten IV grandfather Thutmose (now in the British Museum ) has a text that mentions the Aten. Instead, Akhenaten's innovation was to worship Aton in its own right. Presented as a solar disc whose protective rays terminated in hands holding the ankh hieroglyph for life, the Aten was accessible only to Akhenaten, thereby eliminating the need for an intermediary priesthood.
Initially, the king built a temple to his god Aten immediately outside the east gate of the temple of Amun at Karnak, but clearly the coexistence of two cults could not last. He therefore proscribed the cult of Amun, the god temples closed, took on the income. He then sent his officials around to destroy Amen statues and to desecrate places of worship.

These actions were so contrary to the traditional opposition arose against him. Areas of the great temples of Thebes, Memphis, Heliopolis is back on the throne. Corruption is born of poor management of these large samples. To make a full break in year 6, the king and his queen, left Thebes behind and moved to a new capital in Middle Egypt, half way between Memphis and Thebes. It was a greenfield site, not dedicated to another god or goddess, and he called it Akhetaten-The Horizon of Aten. Today the site is known as el-Amarna.

A slab of limestone, with traces of the draftsman's grid still on it, found in the royal tomb at Amarna. His style is characteristic of the early period of Akhenaten's reign. The king is accompanied by Nefertiti and just two of their daughters, but that does not necessarily mean that they are older, since other six have been omitted Cairo Museum.
In the tomb of Ay, the chief minister of Akhenaten (and later to become king after Tutankhamun's death) occurs rendering the longest and the best of a composition known as "Hymn to Aten" said to have been written by Akhenaten. Any movement itself as a piece of poetry, its resemblance, and the possible source of the term, Psalm 104 has long been noted.

It sums up the mindset of Aten cult and especially the concept that only Akhenaten had access to God: "You arisest just on the horizon of heaven, 0 living Aten, beginner of life ... there is nobody who knows thee save thy son Akhenaten. You made him wise in your plans and your power. "
Nor is the call of the dead Osiris to guide them through the world after, so that through their adhesion to the king and his intercession on their behalf can they expect to live beyond the grave.

Current data, however, it seems that it was only the upper echelons of society who have embraced the new religion with a fervor (and perhaps it was only skin deep). Excavations at Amarna have indicated that, even here in the old religion continued among ordinary people. On a wider scale, throughout Egypt, the new cult does not seem to have much effect to a common level except, of course, in dismantling the priesthood and closing the temples, but then the people usually had little to do with the religious establishment anyway, except on days when the big statue of the god was carried in procession from the sanctuary outside the great walls of the temple.

The standard bureaucracy continued its efforts to run the country while the king courted his god. Cracks in the Egyptian empire may have begun to appear in the final years of the reign of Amenhotep III, in any case they have become more evident as Akhenaten increasingly left government and diplomats for their own means. The civil and military authority came under two strong characters: Ay, who held "Father of God 'title (and was probably Akhenaten's father-in-law), and the general Horemheb (also Ay son-in-law since that 'he married Ay Mutnodjme daughter, the sister of Nefertiti). Both men were to become pharaoh before the 18th dynasty formidable pair ended.This closely related high officials no doubt kept everything under control in a discreet manner while Akhenaten pursued his own philosophical and religious interests.

A new artistic style

It is obvious from the art of the Amarna period as the court officially emulated the king's unusual physical characteristics. Thus, individuals as young princesses are endowed with elongated skulls and excessive adiposity, while Bek-the Chief Sculptor and master of himself to work depicts the image of his king with pendulous breasts and 'protruding stomach. On a stele now in Berlin Bek states that he was taught by His Majesty and the court sculptors were instructed to represent what they saw. The result is a realism that breaks away from the rigid formality of earlier official representations, although naturalism is very evident in earlier, unofficial art.

The power behind the throne?

Although the famous bust of Nefertiti in Berlin, the queen is not subject to quite the same extremes as others in Amarna art, by virtue of being elegantly female.Indeed, there are several curious aspects representations of Nefertiti. In the early years of Akhenaten's reign, for instance, Nefertiti was an unusually high figure in official art, dominating the scenes carved on blocks of the temple of Aten at Karnak. Such block shows her in the posture of ancient warrior pharaoh grasping captives by the hair and beating them with a mass just the epitome of peaceful queen and mother of six girls. Nefertiti evidently played a far greater role in the rule of her husband that this was the norm.

The sandstone slab (talatat) shows Akhenaten wearing the Red Crown and offering disk Aten, whose rays extend down the Ankh sign of life for him.
Private Collection tragedy seems to have hit the royal family in about Year 12 with the death in childbirth of Nefertiti's second daughter, Mekytaten and is probably the one that is shown in a relief of the royal tomb with her grief-stricken parents beside his body supine, and a nurse standing nearby holding a baby. The child's father was possibly Akhenaten, since he is also known for marrying two other girls, Merytaten (not to be confused with Mekytaten) and Akhesenpaaten (later to become Tutankhamun's wife).

Nefertiti would have died shortly after the year 12, although some suggest that she was disgraced because her name was replaced several times by her daughter, who succeeded him as Merytaten "Great Royal Wife ' . It was a girl named Merytaten-tasherit (Merytaten the Younger), perhaps generated by Akhenaten. Merytaten would become the wife of Smenkhkare, Akhenaten's brief successor. Nefertiti was buried in the royal tomb at Amarna, judging by the evidence of a fragment of an alabaster figure of shabti bears his cartouche found there in early 1930.

Resting place of King

Akhenaten died c. 1334, probably in his 16th year.Evidence reignal found by Professor Geoffrey Martin during re-excavation of the royal tomb at Amarna showed that blocking had been put in place in the burial chamber, suggesting that Akhenaten was buried there first. Others do not believe that the tomb was used, however, given the broken fragments of his sarcophagus and very canopic jars recovered from it, and also the examples of his broken-ushabtis found not only in the grave but also by Petrie in the city.
Amongst the distinctly 18th Dynasty jewelry found cached outside the royal tomb at Amarna the small gold ring cartridge Nefertiti is particularly significant.

Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh

What is almost certain is that his body does not remain at Amarna. A burnt mummy seen outside the royal tomb in the 1880s, and associated with jewelry from the tomb (including a small gold ring cartridge Nefertiti, was probably Coptic, as was other jewelry nearby . Members Akhenaten would not have left his body to be despoiled by his enemies after his death and the return to orthodoxy unleashed a reaction of destruction. They drove him to a place of safety and what better place to hide that in the old cemetery ground Royal Thebes where enemies would never think to research it? It was suggested that he was buried in tomb KV55, though other possibilities are equally probable.


Akhenaten  (1352–1336  b.c.)  Called the “heretic pharaoh” because he changed the religion of  ancient Egypt, Akhenaten was the first known mono- theist in history. He believed there was only one  god, the Aten. Soon after he was crowned king, he  changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten,  meaning “Aten is on the horizon.”

 He then raised  the little-known god, the Aten, meaning “disk of the  sun,” to supreme god in the religion. Akhenaten was the son of Amenhotep III, a plea- sure-loving king who devoted his life to building temples, and Queen Tiye, a strong-minded woman  if her portraits tell us anything about her personality.


 Akhenaten’s ideas were revolutionary, and from his  statues, we can see that his looks were different as  well. Instead of an idealized king with a perfectly  proportioned body, images of Akhenaten show a long,  thin face, slanted eyes, thick lips, pointed chin, and a  scrawny neck. He had breasts, a swollen belly, wide  hips, and spindly arms and legs. This highly unusual  and perhaps realistic portrayal of the king became  an artistic fashion as Egyptian art changed to a more  realistic style under his reign. It is not certain when Akhenaten began worship- ing the Aten. There were references to the Aten dur- ing his childhood: Akhenaten’s mother, Queen Tiye,  had a pleasure boat named The Aten Gleams that she  sailed on her private lake.

Right after his coronation,  Akhenaten made it clear to everyone how important the new god was. He began building temples to the  Aten next to the temple of the traditional god, Amun,  at Karnak Temple, a group of religious buildings in  Thebes. The Aten was unlike any god the people had ever  worshipped. Represented as a sun disk with rays of  light reaching down and ending in hands holding an  ankh (the sign of life) and was scepter (the sign of  power), it bestowed light and warmth upon the king  and his family. Unlike the traditional gods of Egypt,  however, the Aten was an abstract god without  personality.

Akhenaten and his followers left Thebes, the  capital of Egypt, and traveled north to a remote  desert site about halfway between modern Luxor and  Cairo to build a new city in the desert, called Akhet- Aten, “the horizon of the Aten.” The king erected  boundary markers called stele that described how the  Aten directed him to build the holy city on this site.  Akhet-Aten was one of the most beautiful cities in  the ancient world, stretching for five miles along the  Nile. There were extra-wide streets for the king’s  chariot procession and planned neighborhoods with  houses for the laborers, administrators, and nobles  of the court, as well as several palaces for the royal  family and temples for the Aten. The Aten temples were unlike any other temples  in Egypt. There were no roofs and no sanctuary, or  “holy of holies,” for the god. Completely open, their  vast courtyards were filled with sunshine and altars  for offerings to the Aten.

Akhenaten and his wife, Queen Nefertiti, had six  daughters. Akhenaten’s happy isolation lasted only  a dozen years, as one by one, five of the princesses  and Nefertiti died. When Akhenaten himself died  after reigning for about 17 years, Tutankhamen,  his probable young son by a second wife, became  pharaoh. Egypt returned to the old religion, and the  city of Akhet-Aten was abandoned when the capital  was moved back to Thebes. It has been said that Akhenaten was a man born  before his time, that his ideas were too revolutionary  to be accepted in conservative Egypt. He changed  his name, the art style, the religion, and the capital.  In so doing, Akhenaten’s legacy to the world was  monotheism, a new art style, and his beautiful prayer  praising the Aten .

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