Understanding the Monotheism of Akhenaten: Solar Disc Thrust into Eternal Darkness–Part II

Understanding the Monotheism of Akhenaten: Solar Disc Thrust into Eternal Darkness–Part II

At first glance it appears as though Pharaoh Akhenaten is someone whom one would describe as a textbook monotheist, but are we missing the plot? Apart from Amun (and later, Osiris) the king doesn’t seem to have come down heavily on other deities in the pantheon. Though not banned outright, their worship was not encouraged either—or perhaps there was an uneasy accommodation. We find evidence of clandestine adoration in Amarna—hidden shrines and images of popular deities, such as Bes and Taweret; and scarabs too. Did the sweeping changes that Akhenaten introduced arise more due to economic, rather than religious, considerations?

It is difficult to peer back through the mists of time and grasp the true philosophy of Akhenaten’s new religion. We are left to fill in the missing pieces with informed speculation. This sculpted face of one of the king’s colossal statues was found at Karnak Temple. Luxor Museum.

It is difficult to peer back through the mists of time and grasp the true philosophy of Akhenaten’s new religion. We are left to fill in the missing pieces with informed speculation. This sculpted face of one of the king’s colossal statues was found at Karnak Temple. Luxor Museum.

Clash with Clergy and Economic Challenges

During the reign of Amenhotep III, Amun-Ra’s priests, who were wealthy beyond imagination, were perhaps within range of imperiling the supremacy and sanctity of the throne. This certainly did not augur well for the future course of kingship. Against this backdrop, there is little doubt that the changes in religion and diversion of revenue greatly benefited the treasury of Akhenaten. Economy was clearly a focus in the revolution. The Boundary Stelae record officials saying: ‘May his Lordship govern from Akhetaten. May you conduct every land to him (the Aten). May you tax the towns and islands for him. Every city down to... every... belonging in its entirety to the Aten, in accordance with what he himself ordains ...’


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