The Influence of a Pharaoh
At the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the pharaoh Amenhoptep III past away leaving behind the throne of Egypt to his son Amenhoptep IV. With Amenhopten in reign, Egypt would embark on changes never before seen. Some of the changes that took place were in the aspects of religion, the movement of the capital city of Egypt, and finally in the depiction of art.
Amenhoptep IV was the second son of Amenhoptep III and the "Great King's Wife" Tiye. Born with congenital ailments which made him hideous to behold, it is believed that he was intntionally left off of his father's monuments and kept in the background (Redford 58). More recently experts have identified that some of these characteristics such as: elongated skull, fleshy lips, slanted eyes, lengthened ear lobes, a prominent jaw, narrow sholders, potbelly, enormous hips and thighs and finally, spindly legs, resulted from an endocrine disorder (Redford 58). This disorder results when secondary sex characteristic fail to develop. Soon after his fathers death, Amenhoptep IV ascended to the throne in the 38th year of his father's reign, and sculptures became more prevelant.
While Amenhoptep was a child, the religion in Egypt was considered polytheistic with the pharaohs and Egyptians believing in numerous different gods. Although, in the sixth year of Amenhotep's reign, he changed his name to Akhenaton, disavowing all of the old gods, and embracing what would become Egypt's only god, Aton (Wilson 215). The word Aton meant the physical disk of the sun, and a seat of the god, but not in itself a god (Wilson 210). With this revolution in the area of religion, Akhenaton became entangled in a struggle between the royal house and the organized priests (Rempel 4). Their positions and wealth were challenged by the religious ideas of Akhenaton. These new ideas also threatened to reduce their power and disrupt their cozy economic nests (Rempel 4).
Akhenaton's new religion was based on the worship of the sun as the source of all life and creation, whose powers were manifest through the life-giving rays of the sun disk. (David, 88) The pharaoh deemed himself the sole agent of the god, acting as an intermediary. Prayers could only be addressed through him. As the only high priest of Aton, Akhenaton was able to discard local priesthoods and close down the temples of the other deities. (David, 88) Without opposition, Akhenaton was free to abandon himself in his new religion.
A point that should also be made is that Akhenaton did not come up with the life-sustaining sun disk as a philosophical concept, but instead found such a concept already available to him, for the power of the Aton was deified before his reign. (Wilson, 211). Amenhoptep III and his queen Tiye sailed out on their pleasure lake in a barge named "Aton Gleams." And we can even push the divinity back farther into the reign of Akhenaton grandfather, Thutmose IV, who issued a large scarab stating that the pharaoh fought "with the Aton before him," and that he campaigned abroad, "to make foreigners to be like the Egyptian people, in order to serve the Aton forever."(Wilson, 210)
With this great leap into monotheism, Akhenaton moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes, the "Great City of Amon," to a to site in Middle Egypt almost 300 miles north of Thebes. His new city would be named "Akhetaton"(Readers Digest, 71).
With the dramatic change in Egypt's religion and Capital City also came a break down of the conventions, which had dictated her art for many centuries. This was the only significant change in Egyptian art.
"Akhenaton's beliefs were bound up with the concept of "ma'at," which loosely translated as "Truth." Whereas previously the pharaoh, his family and those who were noble or wealthy enough to buy privilege had been portrayed on the walls of their tombs and on monuments with a perfect, idealized physique, now the pharaoh himself set an example by being shown with his physical deformities."(David, 74)
The deformities might have very well been exaggerated on purpose, for members of the royal family are often portrayed with elongated skulls and distorted limbs. And because of this it is often difficult to determine whether these are realistic portraits or whether the deformities became some sort of art form.
There were