Akhenaten's Akhetaten: A Day at Tell el-Amarna | Rawi: Egypt's Heritage Review

Amarna. Photo: Garry Shaw.
The Aten
“Why are my messengers kept standing in the open sun?....They will be killed in the open sun,” wrote the Assyrian king Ashuruballit I to King Akhenaten, following the return of his sunburnt and weary envoys from the newly founded Egyptian city of Akhetaten, ‘the Horizon of the Sun Disc – better known today as Tell el-Amarna.

The main problem, it seems, was the new religion, instigated by the pharaoh himself - King Akhenaten. Thanks to Akhenaten’s particular beliefs, gone were the multitude of interestingly-headed gods, unusual netherworld beliefs, and dark secluded sanctuaries in which Egypt’s deities would be served by submissive priests during arcane ceremonies. Instead everyone had to worship the sun disc, known as the Aten, through the king himself as intermediary. Indeed, Akhenaten loved the Aten so much that he had earlier changed his name from Amenhotep IV to honour the new state god. For visiting foreign envoys, such internal religious matters might not normally have played heavily on their minds; however, since the new pharaoh’s sun worship meant doing business standing out in the midday sun, in open courts, without any shade, for extended periods of time, things had become rather unbearable. Sweating whilst watching the young king perform his daily rituals, any visiting envoy would find it easy to pine for the good old days of the god Amun – the Hidden One, cool and fresh within his dark sanctuary – and wonder what in Aten’s name was going on.

This article first appeared in print in Rawi: Egypt's Heritage Review, issue 1 (2010). To read the full article, follow the link: Akhenaten's Akhetaten: A Day at Tell el-Amarna.