Father and Son: Amenhotep III's and Akhenaton's Religious Exploitation

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Father and Son:
Amenhotep III’s and Akhenaton’s Religious Exploitation

Samantha Walker
Professor Goebs
November 20, 2008

Enduring for 250 years, the Eighteenth Dynasty was the greatest period in Egypt’s civilization in terms of the extent of its empire and in material achievement.[1] By the time Nebmaatra Amenhotep III became pharaoh, there wasn’t much for him to do in terms of progressing the nation. However, that didn’t stop him from issuing radical change and establishing greater power. Amenhotep III made a visible statement of his empire by moving the power center from Memphis to Thebes. Thebes is adorned with many of Amenhotep III’s artistic and architectural achievements. These achievements were propaganda that depicte power, wealth, and ability. Religion was an important part of Egypt’s existence and so ,understandably, the exploitation of religion was a large part of the king’s propaganda. Amenhotep III’s son, Akhenaton, continued this religious exploitation during his reign as well. Amenhotep III had used Thebes as a center for religious propaganda, leading to Akhenaton`s religious exploitation, and ultimately his monotheistic religion, Atenism.

Amenhotep III had always shown a desire to challenge the current state of affairs. It must have been obvious to him that the influential Amun clergy, who were based at the Karnak temple in Thebes, would oppose him.[2] There would have been no better place to move the power center then Thebes so that he could keep the powerful religious group under control. One of the reasons Amenhotep III continued his father Tuthmois’s emphasis on solar worship was most likely in efforts to please the Amun clergy. Loosening the effective power of the Amun Clergy could have been late on. attained by his growing connection and influence over the solar deity, which may stand as another motive for his artwork, and another intention for his use of propaganda. This theory is supported by his later defiant act of giving his servant and close official, Amenhotep son of Hapu, extensive religious power, thus allowing a ‘chosen man’ outside the Amun’s clergy to act as an intermediary between the people, bypassing the priesthood during his rule. [3]

Amenhotep III knew how to propagandize in the form of writing. His ability to use propaganda in one form affirms his ability to do so in another, such as art, as well. Since Amenhotep III ruled in the Golden Age when Egypt was very prosperous, there were very few wars to be fought. Because of this, he instead boasted of such things as his hunting skills, as he did in the Lion Hunt Scarab.[4] He used this sort of propaganda to demonstrate his strength and bravery. The Lion Hunt Scarab may also be seen as religious propaganda. Lions usually lived on the edges of the desert, and so they became known as the guardians of the eastern and western horizons, where the sun rose and set. [5] This shows that lions are related to the solar deities. By conquering these solar guardians Amenhotep III established himself as ruler over them, proving his further connection to the sun god and the divine right the god had bestowed upon him.

One form of propaganda is known as black and white thinking. Black and white thinking is when an ultimatum is given but in reality there are more than two options.[6] Amenhotep III used this form of propaganda when he defied tradition. By defying the norm he gave the people of Egypt the option of either agreeing with him or the option of opposing him. The fear of opposing the favoured ruler of the gods was not a practical solution, and so Amenhotep was able to secure his power even further simply by making radical changes and forcing people to accept them. One of the ways in which he enforced this fear was by repeatedly depicting himself in artwork presenting maat, the symbol of truth and order, back to the gods.[7] This prevented people from opposing him, since he sustained the order of...
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