Rejoice: The Love Affair of Egypt’s Golden Couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti

Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

Tuesday February 21, 2023 4:00pm EST
Dr Colleen Darnell
Rejoice: The Love Affair of Egypt’s Golden Couple Akhenaten and Nefertiti

“The noblewoman, great of praise, lady of charm, united with joy! That Aten rises is to give to her praise; that he sets is to double her love. The great king’s wife, his beloved, mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt, lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, given life forever and ever,” reads an inscription in the tomb of Mahu. Perhaps Akhenaten recited to Nefertiti: “I shall kiss [her] in the presence of everyone, that they might understand my love. She is the one who has stolen my heart—When she looks at me it is refreshment.”

The blurring of distinctions between ritual and daily life through acts of tenderness seen so prominently in the art of Akhenaten and Nefertiti is not always confined to royalty, as one learns from a genre of ancient Egyptian literature that has been rightly called “love poetry.”  Reading these poignant compositions makes the men and women of ancient Egypt come to life—these poems were recited, and it is easy to imagine a love-struck teenager courting their beloved with these very texts. 

Akhenaten and Nefertiti are the cynosure of love: a god and goddess whose union maintains the world itself, and two people whose love catapults them into the heavenly realm. 

In this February month of love, Dr Colleen Darnell discusses not only the great love affair of Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti and the intimacy displayed between the golden couple and their children, but also the genre of Love Poems in Ancient Egypt


Join Ancient Origins Premium for the In-Depth Interview


Dr. Colleen Darnell is an Egyptologist and the former Marilyn M. and William K. Simpson Associate Professor of Egyptology at Yale University who has published widely in pharaonic history, religion, and literature. Her most recent book, co-authored with her husband Professor John Darnell is Egypt's Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth (St. Martin's Press, 2022).  In 2018 she published (also with John Darnell), The Ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books, the first complete English translation of the hieroglyphic texts within the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In Imagining the Past: Historical Fiction in New Kingdom Egypt, Dr. Darnell identified four stories that belonged to a genre of historical fiction written by the ancient Egyptians themselves. In 2013, she curated an exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, "Echoes of Egypt: Conjuring the Land of the Pharaohs," that examined Egyptian revival motifs from antiquity to the present.  She directed the Moalla Survey Project, an archaeological expedition in Upper Egypt that made several important discoveries, including a second millennium BC Nubian cemetery and a late Roman settlement.

Become a member to read more OR login here

Ancient Origins Quotations