The Cult of the Sun God and Akhenaten's Monotheism
During the New Kingdom, the cult of the sun god Ra became
increasingly important until it evolved into the uncompromising
monotheism of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1364-1347 B.C.).
According to the cult, Ra created himself from a primeval mound
in the shape of a pyramid and then created all other gods. Thus,
Ra was not only the sun god, he was also the universe, having
created himself from himself. Ra was invoked as Aten or the Great
Disc that illuminated the world of the living and the dead.
The effect of these doctrines can be seen in the sun worship
of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who became an uncompromising monotheist.
Aldred has speculated that monotheism was Akhenaten's own idea,
the result of regarding Aten as a self-created heavenly king
whose son, the pharaoh, was also unique. Akhenaten made Aten the
supreme state god, symbolized as a rayed disk with each sunbeam
ending in a ministering hand. Other gods were abolished, their
images smashed, their names excised, their temples abandoned, and
their revenues impounded. The plural word for god was suppressed.
Sometime in the fifth or sixth year of his reign, Akhenaten moved
his capital to a new city called Akhetaten (present-day Tall al
Amarinah, also seen as Tell al Amarna). At that time, the
pharaoh, previously known as Amenhotep IV, adopted the name
Akhenaten. His wife, Queen Nefertiti, shared his beliefs.
Akhenaten's religious ideas did not survive his death. His
ideas were abandoned in part because of the economic collapse
that ensued at the end of his reign. To restore the morale of the
nation, Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamen, appeased the offended
gods whose resentment would have blighted all human enterprise.
Temples were cleaned and repaired, new images made, priests
appointed, and endowments restored. Akhenaten's new city was
abandoned to the desert sands.
Data as of December 1990