The Rage of Akhenaten Explained

By Bhakti Ananda Goswami

Why did Akhenaten suddenly turn against Amenism with such a vengeance? It was not for theological reasons denying the original identity of Amen as Aten. It was because he believed the Amen priests and their cadre murdered his father the god-king and his little daughter Meketaten.

Father of Akhenaten Amenhotep III, detail, ca. 1382–1344 BCE. Gilt wood, height: 10 3/8″ (26.3 cm). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-568)

The pharaoh was the empowered incarnation of the Personal Deity on earth. He was ‘father’ of all beings. Killing the anointed king was the depth of priestly deviation and impersonal atheistic arrogance. Note the way David refused to assault King Saul in the Old Testament. To kill the Anointed Sacred King (Basileo / Vasudeva) was deicide, regicide and patricide, the ultimate sins against god and humanity.

We do not know how Akhenaten’s father died, but it is certain it was entirely unexpected. There were no funerary preparations in progress and he was in the middle of big projects. Akhenaten was stunned. While he was in Thebes to perform his father’s funerary rites, unexpectedly his daughter died. Whether by curse or by conspiracy, Akhenaten clearly blamed the Amen priesthood for their deaths.

Amarna relief showing Nefertiti with her daughters Meketaten (on lap) and Ankhesenpaaten (on shoulder)

It is then that his edict went out. Close all the Amen temples! Fire the priests! Remove the name of Amen and His image! In profound grief and rage, expecting to be killed himself and unable to protect his precious family, he gave-up on his policy of tolerance and co-existence with the powers of Amen at Thebes. He launched an all-out counter attack, hoping to assert himself as a ruler who would not allow the priests to kill a Semi-divine pharaoh or royal child and get away with it. His violent response kept the regicidal forces at bay for a time and bought his Heliopolitan revival a chance to mature a little bit.

A colossal statue of Akhenaten from his Aten Temple at Karnak. Egyptian Museum of Cairo.

Although his family line was ultimately wiped-out by the Amen Heretics, his revival of the ancient Heliopolitan faith proved extremely important throughout the region. Even his ‘failure’ to defend Egypt’s possessions in the Levant actually protected that region for the later emergence of Israelite Eli-Yahu-Adonism in Judea.

Dedication of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Painting by William Hole, c1910

He ignored pleas for help from the Levant because he knew the future of his faith depended on that region’s independence from Egypt. He had given-up on changing Egypt and looked to his former allies to carry on his beloved Heliopolitan tradition.

A relief of a royal couple in the Amarna style
Father of Akhenaten Amenhotep III, detail, ca. 1382–1344 BCE. Gilt wood, height: 10 3/8″ (26.3 cm). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-568)

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