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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Ikhnaton

(Akhenaten) (d.1358 BCE). The name assumed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep (Amenophis) IV shortly after he became Pharaoh in 1379 BCE. He is significant as an historical figure because of his monotheistic philosophy which was, as far as is known, unique to that period. His adopted name is usually translated as “Pleasing to the Aton” and its use commenced a dramatic change in the official religion of Egypt. Ikhnaton decreed that henceforth only the sun disk “Aton” was to be worshiped instead of the many gods of Upper and Lower Egypt.

It is important to note that Ikhnaton did not introduce a new or foreign god, but elevated the hawk-headed sun-god Re-Horakhte to be the only god of Egypt. A further important detail is that the sun itself was not the object of worship, but a single divine power that dwelt in light invisible behind the sun’s disk (Aton). Ikhnaton moved the seat of government to Tell-el-Amarna where he had built many splendid temples, but his religious revolution was soon cut short by rebellious priests who were concerned, not only about his religious “heresy,” but his neglect of government, particularly in respect of foreign policy.

Nothing is known about the circumstances of Ikhnaton’s death and, although some authorities suggest that a body of a young man found in tomb number 55 at the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings at Thebes might be his, this has not been established beyond doubt. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Tutankhaton who was still a child and Horemheb, as regent, speedily restored the old deities and even denied Akhnaton burial in the tomb destined for him. Tutankhaton changed his name to Tutankhamen who is now famous merely because his was the only tomb found virtually intact by the Egyptologist Howard Carter in 1922.

P.S.H.

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