Term Paper: Akhenaten

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[. . .] Akhenaten's actions are referred to as revolutionary because the pharaoh set about "dismantling the priesthood and closing temples" which had a lot to do with gaining revenues and status according to many authors, but "little to do with actual religious fervor or belief." Many also conclude that toward the end of the great pharaoh's reign, the Egyptian empire seemed to evidence many "cracks or weaknesses," in part because Akhenaten was "so busy pursing his own religious interests and philosophical endeavors that the needs of the people and the country were often neglected."

Much of Akhenaten's life was engulfed by his family, and some have proposed that his belief was influenced particularly by his family members. Akhenaten did indeed have an extensive family, and married a woman named Nefertiti who bore him six daughters. He was thought to have relied very heavily on the advice of his wife and mother; perhaps most influential was his mother.

Many of the authors have credited Akhenaten with vision, and described him as a thinker and a philosopher.


It seems that Akhenaten must indeed have been unawares for a majority of his reign of the true desires and interests of the people of Egypt. If Akhenaten was truly in tune to the needs, interests and beliefs of the people of Egypt would he have realized as many of the authors point out, that the majority of people were still very much interested in worshiping many deities, not just one god. The author's bring up a valid point that Akhenaten was very much absorbed in his family life, and perhaps was a little too influenced by his wife and mother early on. This could be the case especially as he has been considered by the authors to be a younger pharaoh; as such he was likely more prone to the advice and suggestions of those surrounding him.

The strongest of the theories presented by the authors detailing the history of Akhenaten's rule, is the idea and assumption that Akhenaten was merely a figurehead in Egyptian rule. His reign seemed one that was concerned with self and the promotion of personal ideals, not those of the people of Egypt. Akhenaten did not seem to have much influence on the overall political climate of Egypt, except for a brief moment in time to disrupt the religious establishment that had existed for years.

Each of the authors concludes that his religious revolution was more the result of his own philosophical and religious idealisms; his decision to change the religious landscape of Egypt did not sit well with any of the ordinary people of the time, only with the elite. The elite were more likely to interact with the pharaoh and his representatives on a daily basis, so these theories and ideas seem justifiable.

Weaker theories proposed include the idea that Akhenaten might have been influenced by religious ideas outside of Egypt. It does not seem likely that Akhenaten was inspired by Christian or Jewish ideals, as Redford suggests a possibility. Indeed the work written about Akhenaten suggests nothing regarding faith, but rather supposes that the one god he did choose to worship was still mythological in nature. Akhenaten was in fact, loyal it seems to a god of the sun. Perhaps this is because he saw his life as bountiful, full of children and family, which obviously the pharaoh respected greatly.

One connection the authors do not make is the loose or soft depiction of Akhenaten in the artwork of the time with the loose of soft "reign" that Akhenaten seemed to have been responsible for. Many of the authors describe depictions of Akhenaten's appearance as feminine in nature. Some conclude that this may have been the result of illness, which is highly likely. However, much of the artwork that has been uncovered during the time of Akhenaten's reign depicts other figures as being overly flaccid and less aggressive or daunting as well. This perhaps may be a reflection of artist's opinions of the pharaoh during his reign. It seems that a lack of true inspiration and leadership existed during the time of Akhenaten's reign. Surely artists depicting images of the leader and his family during this time would have picked up on this, and perhaps they have subtly recorded their disagreement with the pharaoh via artwork. This may be an avenue for future hypothesis or theory.


There are some authors and historians who have claimed the possibility that Akhenaten's unusual and somewhat feminine appearance was the result of a genetic or hereditary illness or disease. There have in fact been many genetic illnesses which cause one to appear more feminine in appearance. It is likely that if Akhenaten did suffer from any kind of disease, he would have been even more self-conscious about his appearance. The extent to which Akhenaten's appearance affected his every day demeanor and reign has not yet been explored in as great detail as some of the other themes surrounding his life and reign of Egypt.

In fact, one of the reasons that Akhenaten has been depicted as strange is the result of the sculptures and paintings of the pharaoh on Egyptian art. The pharaoh is typically depicted with delicate features, shown having a "a long slender neck, a long face with a sharp chin, narrow, almond-shaped eyes, full lips, rounded thighs and buttocks, a soft belly..." It seems that he is almost female in nature. Some have actually referred to the pharaoh as a woman.

Other authors have actually theorized that the pharaoh was "a woman not a man, as the pharaoh who reigned previous to Akhenaten was actually a Queen named Hatshepsut."

It would be very difficult however, for an individual with so much public exposure to have successfully fooled the public for such a long period of time for this to be true. Most historians have thus agreed with the more probably theory or assumption that the great pharaoh was merely sick, or likely had some type of genetic disorder that may have caused his features to be more feminine in nature. It is also possible that the pharaoh was simply more feminine in nature than most other Egyptian males at the time. It could be that he was depicted as overly feminine by artists, perhaps for reasons that have yet to be studied in great detail.

As postulated in the previous section as well, there is the possibility that the ordinary people living during the time of Akhenaten sensed weakness in the pharaoh. That could have been reflected by artists in the portrayals of the pharaoh as a flaccid and feminine sort rather than a strong and powerful leader. This would be an interesting avenue for exploration for future historians. To what extend did exactly, the pharaoh's physical appearance affect his ability and judgment as pharaoh? Perhaps as some of the themes suggest, the pharaoh focused on his philosophical idealisms and religious fervor because he was attempting to escape the realities of his perceived deformed physicality. Exploration into the psyche of the pharaoh and of his family is warranted in this respect.

Works Cited

Aldred, C. Akhenaten, King of Egypt. Thames and Hudson, Ltd. London, 1988.

Dunn, Jimmy. (1996). "Amenhotep IV." Egypt: Rulers, Kings and Pharaohs. Retrieved November 22, 2003, [http://www.touregypt.net/18dyn10.htm]

Dunham, Barrows. "Heroes and Heretics." New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1963

Ernest, Jones. "Psycho-Myth, Psycho-History: The Role of Unconscious Mythology, History, Art and Anthropology" Vol. 1

Kolos, Daniel. "Akhenaten" November 21, 2000, [


Lorenz, Megaera. (1996) "Akhenaten" pp. 1-3. January 15, 2000. http://www.heptune.com/Akhnaten.html#Akhenatenof Amarna]

Lorenz, Megaera. (1996). "The Mystery of Akhenaten: Genetics of Aesthetics." January 15, 2000. [http://www.heptune.com/Marfans.html]

Mertz, Barbara. "Red Land, Black Land." New York: Coward McCann, Inc., 1996.

Redford, Donald B. Akhenaten: The Heretic King. Princeton, New Jersey., Princeton University Press, 1984

Wieten, W. "Psychology: Themes and Variations 3rd Ed.," Brook/Cole Publishing, 1995

Lorenz, Megaera. (1996). Akhenaten" pp. 1-3. January 15, 2000.

Mertz, Barbara. (1966). Red Land, Black Land. p.267, quoted from Lorenz, 1

Dunham, Barrows (1963). Heroes and Heretics. p.6, quoted from Lorenz, 1

Mertz, Barbara. (1966). Red Land, Black Land. p.234, quoted from Lorenz, 1

Lorenz, Mertz et.al. Redford, Donald B. (1984). Akhenaten: The Heretic King. Princeton, New Jersey., Princeton University Press, p.34

Ernest, 256, quoted from Kolos

Ernest, 257, quoted from Kolos

Amenhotep IV" in Psychoanalysis Quarterly, vol. iv, p. 537, 1935, Kolos

Preliminary Notes upon the Problem of Akhenaten" International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, vol. xx, p. 33, 1939 & Kolos, Daniel. [] "REPLY: Akhenaten" In [] November 21, 2000

Kolos, Daniel. [] "REPLY: Akhenaten" In [] November21, 2000


Lorenz, Megaera. (1996). "Akhenaten" pp. 1-3. January 15, 2000.


Dunn, 1996: 2 same as above Lorenz, 1996 & Redford, 4

Redford, 1984 & Lorenz, 1996

Mertz, 269 &… [END OF PREVIEW]

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