Why did Akhenaten overthrow the traditional Egyptian religion in favor of a monotheistic religion?
The "heretic king" Akhenaten "Beneficial for Aten" was born Amenhophis IV "Amun is satisfied". (Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt Volume I, pg 49) By the time he was seated as pharaoh in 1350 BCE there was already growing tension between the priesthood of Amun and his father Amenhophis III. "The power of the priesthood of Amun was threatening the traditional kingship," (Handout, The Legacy of Egypt, pg 17) and Amenhophis III knew that something had to be done to secure the power of the pharaohs. However, it was his son Amenhophis IV who would be the one to accomplish this, and in the process would exercise more control over the destiny of the elite than any earlier pharaoh. (Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt Volume I, pg 50) When Amenhophis IV became pharaoh his father was still a ruling pharaoh and evidence exists that they had a co-regent rule. (Handout, pg 17) He was in my opinion very much the prodigal son, in that he was able to accomplish what his father could not. It was not until his sixth year of reign that he changed his name from Amenhophis to Akhenaten. During those six years I believe that he witnessed firsthand the power of the priesthoods and slowly declining power of the pharaohs. His father had started work on a temple in Karnak which was aimed to appropriate the cult center of the state god Amun, who was a solar deity. (Oxford Volume I, pg 50) Amenhophis IV completed work on the temple in Karnak in the fifth year of his reign, but before he finished his father's project he started one of his own, and a new city, and eventually the new capital of Egypt was commanded to be built. Akhetaten became the center of Amenhophis IV attention and his eventual home. During the building of Akhetaten, Amenhophis IV changed his name to Akhenaten due to his worship of Aten represented as the "Sun-Disk". It was with this new fervent belief that...
Bibliography: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume I, 2001 Donald B. Redford
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume II, 2001 Donald B. Redford
Handout, The Legacy of Egypt
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