There may even be a measure of compensation 23 for physical inadequacies in the vigorous measures he took to establish Aton as the sole god of Egypt. While the priests of Amon were bitterly antagonistic to Akhenaton, he found allies in the priests from Memphis who had long resented the dominating position of the Theban priesthood. The army was divided. There is a suggestion that a counter revolution was planned, for the Amon priests claimed that the Pharaoh had abandoned his people, and was himself abandoned by his father Amon. Akhenaton did abandon Thebes. As tensions grew he came to realize that his new faith could not flourish in the city of Amon.
There were theological reasons, too, for Aton had no city that was distinctly dedicated to his worship. The city seems to have been built in haste, and when Akhenaton left Thebes it was for good. Was life at Akhetaton all that Akhenaton envisioned? The inscriptions and the paintings from the rock tombs suggest that the royal family enjoyed a few happy years in devotion to Aton and to one another. True, the envoys from distant lands and subject peoples noted the growing gulf between Akhenaton and the people, and the empire suffered as the Egyptian Pharaoh lived in the seclusion of his capital.
Tragedy entered the lives of Akhenaton and Nofretete when their second daughter Meketaton died and was buried in the family tomb east of Akhetaton. The closing years of the lives of Nofretete and Akhenaton are largely a blank. Their third daughter Meritaton married Smenkhkare, a young architect who was much favored by Akhenaton 24 and occupied the throne for a short time after his death.
Another daughter Ankhsenpaton, married Tutankhaton, a loyal follower of her father. His brief reign left no impress on Egyptian history.
The discovery of his tomb, however, in the Valley of the Kings, has made him the best known of all Pharaohs. A Princess at Akhetaton.
Hatshepsut The Queen Who Was King
A limestone relief showing one of the daughters of Akhenaton and his wife Nofretete discovered at Amarna. Princess Manyet-aton. A representation of the princess was adapted for use as the lid of a canopic jar used in the burial of Akhenaton. Discovered in the tomb of Smenkhkare in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes.
The circumstances concerning the deaths of Nofretete and Akhenaton are not known, although we do know that Akhenaton died in the seventeenth year of his reign, when he was but thirty years of age. Atonism did not long survive its most loyal adherents. Meritaton became Meritamon, and the famed King Tut is known by his later name, Tutankhamon, rather than the earlier Tuntankhaton.
In many ways Akhenaton seems to have been a man whose life was a failure. All for which he stood was quickly obliterated during the scant generation after his death. Yet this judgment is too hasty. Even the priests of Amon could not wholly turn back the reforms in art and literature which Akhenaton encouraged. Akhenaton went too far for his own generation in Egypt, but the Biblical affirmation of God as creator of heaven and earth and redeemer of mankind was hardly apprehended by Akhenaton.
King Tutankhamon. Statue from Medinet Habu. When Akhenaton determined to build a new city which would be sacred to his god Aton, he chose a site on the east bank of the Nile, three hundred miles north of Thebes, where the flanking cliffs recede to leave a semicircular plain eight miles long and three broad.
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It had no walls, for the Nile formed its western boundary and a semicircle of cliffs bound it on the east. The fertile land along the river bank was kept for cultivation. Akhenaton and his wife Nofretete personally chose the site of Akhetaton and supervised the erection of the stelae which marked its boundaries. In all, fourteen of these markers have been found on the hillsides east and west of the Nile. They contain a longer and a shorter version of the ceremony by which the site was consecrated. After sacrificing to his god, Aton, he drove southward to a spot where the rays of the sun shining on him indicated where the southern boundary should be located.
Here he swore an oath by his father Aton, and by his hope that the queen and his two elder daughters would attain old age, that he would never pass beyond this boundary, and beyond two more on the east bank and three on the west bank. All land within that area belonged to Aton, and should 27 any damage befall the stelae marking it, he would make it good. Mention is made of a renewal of the oath in the eighth year. The longer version adds some details. Aton alone knew the site, and it is his alone. The courtiers reply that all countries will send gifts to Aton.
Then he enumerates the sanctuaries he will build at Akhetaton, ending with a reference to his family tomb. The pledge never to extend the boundaries of Akhetaton is puzzling.
Amarna Period of Egypt - Ancient History Encyclopedia
On the other hand the pledge may be merely the legal phrase used by a property owner to indicate that he has no rights beyond his own boundaries. It probably took at least two years to build Akhetaton. Statues of the old gods were ordered destroyed; their reliefs were to be erased, and their names blotted out. There are evidences of great haste in the construction of the buildings. Often naturalistic pictures of birds and vegetation painted on plaster walls and floors cover shoddy workmanship. Houses were built of mud brick, but palaces and temples were built of stone.
Paralleling the Nile, the city had three north-south streets which crossed the more numerous east-west streets at right angles.
At its southern end was the pleasure palace, Meru Aton, with its artificial pools, flower 28 beds, and groves of trees. Meru Aton is thought to have served as a summer palace. It had a reception hall, a small chamber, guard houses, and various other buildings. The inner rooms were gaily decorated with colored columns and pavements painted with flying birds, playing animals, and a variety of plant life. The palace was fourteen hundred feet long and four to five hundred feet wide, with an impressive hall of pillars.
The pavements of painted stucco, discovered by Flinders Petrie during his expedition at Amarna in , were maliciously destroyed by a disgruntled guard in , and the portions that were salvaged are now in the Cairo Museum. The rooms were ornamented with colorful paintings and inlays of colored stone. The chief altar was located in the center of the largest court.
Here Akhenaton, usually accompanied by Nofretete, offered prayers and consecrated offerings to Atom. It disappears for a time in the fields, but emerges at the North Palace which had walls decorated with lively paintings of bird life in a papyrus swamp. A royal aviary and a zoo were part of the palace complex.
The standard of living was one of luxury, for the houses of the nobles contained large reception halls, living rooms, and bedrooms. Each had a well-kept garden, at one end of which an avenue of trees led to a pool. The largest such estate, belonging to the vizier Nakht, measured ninety-five by eighty-five feet.
Interspersed among these palatial homes were humbler cottages, belonging to the working class, each of which had a front hall, a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Every house—both of nobles and of commoners—had a bathroom with running water and a lavatory. There was evidently no conscious city planning, for it seems that the nobles laid claim to extensive patches of land, only to surrender parts of their property to commoners at a later time. Perhaps unintentionally, Akhetaton has marks of democracy in this mixture of ruling and working classes.
The Estate of a Nobleman. Restoration by Seton Lloyd. Second only to Akhenaton himself was the vizier, a man named Nakht. A royal butler, Parennufe, was one of the few officials who had served Akhenaton earlier in Thebes.
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