Akhenaten is sometimes called the 'heretic king'. He was bold enough to denounce all of the Egyptian gods and promote his god, Aten. He was born Amenhotep IV, but changed his name to honor Aten. Aten was represented by a disk with extending rays and had no other form. At the end of the rays were little hands that held ankhs. Only Akhenaten and his family were allowed to worship Aten.The people of Egypt were to worship Akhenaten. It is believed that the Egyptians continued to worship their previous gods. The time of his rule (1353-1333 BCE) is referred to as the Amarna period, named after the new city Akhenaten founded. Conventions of art changed a great deal during his reign. Heads and necks were elongated; hips, thighs, and buttocks were enlarged (imagine that!) and the royal family was shown interacting in a loving manner.
Some Egyptologists believe that Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamen (aka King Tut), but there is some debate over this.
Hymn to Aten Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their three daughters with Aten.
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- Some think that he suffered from a disease that lead to his abnormal/feminine appearance. Others believe that these features are simply conventions of the art of that period.
- The city of Amarna was desolate before Akhenaten's empire moved there. It is said that he chose this location because of the near by cliffs. They seemed to provide the perfect frame for the rising sun. It may have also been chosen because other gods had not been worshiped there. Others think that he could have been hiding out from the public, due to his extreme lack of popularity.
- Both Akhenaten and Nefertiti disappear from the records at a certain point, although not at the same time. First Nefertiti, then the Pharaoh. It is rumored that he fled the country, due to his heretic beliefs.
- I find the art of this period to be extremely beautiful. The smoothness, the open displays of affection, the level of intimacy the viewer can experience is unrivaled in the history of Egyptian art.