Amenhotep III



Amenhotep IV ascended the throne of Egypt following the death of his father, Amenhotep III. This new ruler proved to be different in almost every way from both his predecessors and the pharaohs who ruled after him. The purpose of this essay is to present the issues of religion, art, architecture, literature and foreign policy in relation to the rule of this unique pharaoh.
Newby (1980) states that the most noticeable difference rested in the religious beliefs of Amenhotep IV. In the past, Egypt had worshipped many gods, but under this new pharaoh’s rule, polytheism would be replaced by a religion that believed in a single god. In one of his first decisions as pharaoh, Amenhotep IV proclaimed Aten to be the only true god, and named himself high priest of the deity (Weigall, 1923). The symbol of this new god featured rays drawn from a solar disk with each ending in a tiny hand stretched out as if in benediction over all lands (Mayer & Prideaux, 1961). This new religion advocated by the pharaoh was more than the simple worship of the sun itself, his god was the intangible energy that penetrated the earth in the sun’s rays and gave all things life. His encouraged his followers to worship in truth, simply and without lavish ceremony. Weigall (1923) states that is without doubt the most enlightened religion the world had ever known. In the sixth year of his reign, to further signify his repudiation of Aten and demonstrate his devotion to his god, he changed his name to Akhenaten, which means ‘Glory of Aten’.
Because of growing opposition by the high priest of Thebes, Akhenaten decided to leave the ‘City of Amen” and make a new beginning in a capital where Amen and his priests would have no power (Sheppard, 1960). This new capital was named Akhetaten, was to be dedicated to the glory of Aten. Weigall (1923) writes that there, like the Pope in the Vatican, Akhenaten would remain within the city and rather than be distracted by the cares of state or the worries of the empire, devote his life to his religion.
Redford (1987) states that about the same time as the move to Akhetaten, a drastic change overcame the pharaoh’s cultic program. Akhenaten commanded that his people only worship Aten and ordered all other temples to be closed. He further ordered the name of Amen to be erased and chiseled out of every monument on which it was figured, which ultimately meant the removal of his own father’s name.
Ruffle (1977) states that this was not just a political move, “ for if that were so the pharaoh had simply exchanged one set of priests for another” (p. 73). He further suggests that the source of this fanaticism and accompanying creed and artistic beliefs must be sought in the different personality of the pharaoh himself. The pharaoh is shown in statues as misshapen, with an elongated face, wide hips and swollen thighs. Ruffle writes that together with this physical disorder “must have been a highly developed artistic temperament and single mindedness of religion or prophetic vision” (p. 74).
Akhenaten’s favorite epithet was ‘Living in Truth’; a premise which seems to sum up his search for a closer relationship with nature (Ruffle, 1977). This can be seen most clearly in the Amarnan art style and in his relationship with god, with whom the pharaoh became closely associated.
During the rule of Akhenaten, artists were encouraged to express what they actually saw. The result was a new, simple but beautiful realism in their work (Aldred, 1968). The sculptor was further free to reveal and even caricature the physical flaws of the pharaoh. Artists under Akhenaten’s rule with different types of relief work in rock and plaster which allowed for more delicate modeling of statues. For the first time, limestone statues were fitted with quartzite heads and eyes were often fitted with different types of glass and stone. There were changes in the art of tomb painters, both in the subject and the composition of their work. As well as portraying the pharaoh at state occasions, many scenes of his domestic life were now portrayed in intimate poses that would previously never been allowed by his predecessors.
While in the past the pharaoh had remained