Who Was Akhenaten?
Akhenaten also spelled Echnaton, Akhenaton, Ikhnaton, and Khuenaten; meaning “Effective for Aten”. Akhenaten reigned (1319 -1336 BC), was King of Egypt of the 18th Dynasty. He was the son of Amenhotep III, who built the famous monuments at Karnak and Luxor.
During Akhenaten’s reign, Egypt was at its peak – it was wealthy, powerful, and respected the world over for its contributions to science and architecture. When he took the throne, the country continued to experience great prosperity; but this isn’t what he’s most famous for.
Akhenaten tried to replace the traditional Egyptian religion (in which there was a supreme god, Amon, and several lesser gods) with the worship of the sun-god, Aten, alone. He also changed the capital of Egypt from Thebes to Tell-el-Amarna.
Aside from his changes to the Egyptian religion, Akhenaten also ordered a transformation in Egyptian art. Before his reign, Egyptian art was characterized by its lack of realism; people were often drawn with their heads facing the wrong way, for example, in case they came alive and attacked their creators.
Any “realistic” art was drawn to the image of the ideal, where everybody had perfect faces and bodies. During Akhenaten’s rule, Egyptian artists began to depict people as they really were, a style which persisted after his death even when policies did not.
After his death his religious reforms were abolished and his new temples destroyed. Modern interest in Akhenaten and his queen, Nefertiti, comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, partly from the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronized, and partly from ongoing interest in the religion he attempted to establish.