The Rage of Horemheb: Hurried End of Akhenaten, Aye and Atenism – Part I

The Rage of Horemheb: Hurried End of Akhenaten, Aye and Atenism – Part I

Barely four years after the death of Nebkheperure Tutankhamun in 1323 BC, the powerful ruling family was overthrown by Horemheb, a general and one-time non-royal crown prince; ending the Thutmosid line - and later, the Eighteenth Dynasty itself - that had lorded over Egypt and taken her to heady heights over a span of 250 years. Religious upheaval, glaring nepotism and corruption among the ruling elite had very nearly destroyed the glory of the empire. But, Horemheb would soon learn that the path to become pharaoh was fraught with great peril and challenges, in the form of political machinations by a powerful contender, Aye, and much drama at the royal court.

A painted limestone relief from the Memphite tomb of Horemheb shows him seated before an offering table. This elaborate sepulcher was built when he was a Generalissimo; the uraeus on his brow was added after he became pharaoh.

A painted limestone relief from the Memphite tomb of Horemheb shows him seated before an offering table. This elaborate sepulcher was built when he was a Generalissimo; the uraeus on his brow was added after he became pharaoh.

Horemheb Ascends to Greatness

Following the sudden demise of the boy-king Tutankhamun, two individuals who had played pivotal roles in the aftermath of the Amarna interlude rose to become pharaohs in quick succession—Kheperkheperure Aye and Djeserkheperure Setepenre Horemheb. Several Egyptologists opine that a power struggle arose between the two formidable friends-turned-foes, after Neferkheperure-waenre Akhenaten’s stab at monotheism failed. Horemheb, the last king of the Eighteenth Dynasty who saved the empire from the brink, came to the throne around 17 years after the Heretic’s death: Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten Smenkhkare-Djeser-Kheperu or better known as Akhenaten (three years), Tutankhamun (10 years) and Aye (four years). The Amarna fiasco was still fresh in the minds of the populace.


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