It was a well known fact that Akhenaten brought about a religious shift in Ancient Egyptian culture. This radical change came during the time that the cult of Amun was quite popular and many Egyptian citizens enjoyed stability and prosperity due to Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III. Priests had become so powerful and their devotion to Amun was strong, but this refuge quickly changed once Amenhotep III’s son ascended the throne. He quickly began to overturn much of what his father had accomplished.
When Akhenaten inherited the throne, he radically changed the foundation of the dynasties before him with the notion of believing in only one god—the sun disk known as Aten. Sometimes, however, he is given the benefit of having invented the monotheistic ideology; however there is speculation on this theory due to the fact that it is not definitive as to whether the Biblical Exodus experience occurred before or after his reign.
This deviation from the many-gods ideology to a one-god philosophy has been deemed the Amarna Period by historians. This period brought about not only a change in religion, but also a change in politics and arts.
This act of heresy was so out of the ordinary that it must have surely upset the citizens and powerful priests of that time. Many priests were forced to abandon their temples and had to stop their previous worship and offerings to the God Amun. This was probably not taken lightly; thereby, creating a hostile environment amongst the population.
After Akhenaten’s death, his son King Tut was given the throne at a very early age (age of eight or so). But unlike his father, King Tut did not uphold his father’s religious view of one god and started shifting Egypt back towards the cult of Amun. For example, when Akhenaten was in power King Tut’s original name was Tutankhaten which literally meant “the living image of Aten.” After his father had passed away, King Tut changed his name to Tutankhamun which meant “the living image of Amun.” Doing this most probably helped to solidify the people and support the new kingdom that was now under his reign.
Even King Tut’s wife changed her name. During Akhenaten’s regime her name was known as Ankhsenpaaten, soon after Akhenaten died and faded, she was renamed Ankhesenamun. Perhaps this was done to show the priests and people that things were back on track and that King Tut had transitioned the throne back to the old way of doing business; however, no matter the reason, these changes must have been received positively by the people.
Akhenaten’s old capitals in Tel-el Amarna were abandoned as well and Thebes and Memphis were restored as Egypt’s central quarters. The young pharaoh had left his father’s temples behind and placed a great deal of Egypt’s wealth into restoring things back to the old ways and to giving the people back what they most likely wanted; restoration of their previous religious beliefs and gods.
The decision to make King Tut the pharaoh must have been a controversial subject for many who have studied this time period of the life of the young pharaoh. Many argue that King Tut was too young to make his own decisions as he was only a child when he was given the throne. Due to his young age, many historians logically believe that he was most likely manipulated by the elder vizier Aye and also Horemheb. It was these individuals who probably made all executive decisions until King Tut became of ruling age. Unfortunately, King Tut died at a very young age and never reached his full potential.
To add more acceptances to this theory, after King Tut’s death, Aye inherited the throne. After Aye’s short reign, Horemheb then took the throne. Both Aye and Horemheb worked endlessly to ensure Egypt was restored to its old ways. Other evidence indicates that Horemheb ensured Akhenaten was forgotten in history by trying to erase any records of the pharaoh’s mention and accomplishments. Not only did he try to eradicate the Pharaoh Akhenaten, but he went on to claim to be the direct descendent of Amunhotep III.
After Horemheb, the dynasty came to an end and Ramses I was then appointed
the new pharaoh. By the time of Horemheb’s death Egypt was back on track to its old religious ways. It would soon see its greatest ruler ever—Ramses the Great (Ramses II).