Pharaoh Akhenaten was very instrumental in the development of monotheism in Egypt in the 1300s BC. His decisions were very influential in making the worship of Aten unrivaled. Many social, cultural, political, and global forces helped him exalt the worship of Aten to the highest position in its history. This paper looks at the political and cultural forces that aided the development of Akhenaten’s Worship.
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Which Political Forces Influenced the Development of Akhenaten’s Monotheism?
When he ascended to power, he changed his name from Amenhotep to Akhenaten. This act signaled the beginning of the war against the worship of Amun, who was the most worshipped god at the time. He then went further to close down the temples of Amun and banned the worship of other gods. He abolished the use of the word “gods” and removed the title “Amun” from all inscriptions. He asked all the citizens of Egypt to use the word “god” when referring to Aten, the sun disk (“Akhenaten” par. 4).
Akhenaten popularized the belief that Aten had created himself and later created the king as his only son. Therefore, no other person in the world understood this god except Akhenaten. Archaeologists later realized that the king had only fabricated this narrative. He made up his story to lie to the people about the power of Aten. He knew that such a story could help him force everybody to worship his god (“Akhenaten” par. 3).
Akhenaten’s decision to build a special city and make it the center of his religion was also very influential in the growth of this religion. He chose a place in the desert, along the River Nile and called it Akhenaten. This name meant “the horizons of Aten” (Spence par. 4). He did not put roofs on the temples. So, the rays of the sun directly reached the worshippers. The rays symbolized their relationship with Aten. The king also transformed the existing Egyptian art to represent his new religion.
Which Cultural Forces were Responsible for Strengthening Akhenaten’s Monotheism?
The worship of Aten developed from the worship of Amen-Re, the sun god. Re was a state god, whose worship had grown extensively during Amenhotep III’s reign (Spence par. 3). He had made Thebes the home of the worship of Re. By that time, Aten was only one of the gods in the worship of Re. Akhenaten took over from Amenhotep as Amenhotep IV and immediately embarked on building special temples for Aten. He copied the belief that the sun god made himself from nothing before creating all the other gods. Therefore, the worship of the sun god, Re, formed the foundation for Akhenaten’s religion.
The existence of royal art in Egypt and the use of animals in worship also formed a strong base for Akhenaten’s new religion. Most of the cults in Egypt used images with human bodies and animal heads to represent their gods. Before Akhenaten, worship involved many animal images, but when he ascended to power, he forced worshipers to use only one animal image. Royal art had existed in the Egyptian culture for many years before Akhenaten. This art entailed drawing and engraving images of the royal family on walls and sometimes carving them from stones. The new kingdom altered royal art and included elements of the new worship in it (Spence par. 2).
Akhenaten, n.d. Web.
Spence, Kate. Akhenaten and the Armana Period. BBC, 2011. Web.