Akhenaten - heretic pharaoh

In 1887, a woman from the small village of Tell el-Amarna accidentally found several clay tablets with incomprehensible signs. For them you could get a few copper coins, and the dealer in antiquities, who bought the fragments of the tablets, immediately realized that some ancient text had fallen into his hands. He offered them to several museums in Europe. But scientists were rather skeptical about the tablets he proposed, especially since the text on them turned out to be written in the Babylonian language. And where did the Babylonian language come from in Egypt?

It was the archive of the 18th dynasty pharaohs Amenhotep III and his son and successor Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), who ruled in the 14th century BC

In general, the tablets from Tell el-Amarna turned out to be of no interest to anyone. But, a few fragments ended up in one of the Berlin museums. The local experts quickly established the authenticity of the tablets, and soon an order came from Berlin to buy up all the tablets of this kind. Finally, the remains of the archive were collected.

It was the archive of the 18th dynasty pharaohs Amenhotep III and his son and successor Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), who ruled in the 14th century BC. It contained their correspondence with the kings of the Hittites, Mesopotamia and other regions of Asia Minor. Before the shocked scientific world, completely unknown hitherto pages of history were opened!

In 1891, the famous English archaeologist William Flinders Petrie began reconnaissance excavations in Amarna. The work continued for two seasons, after which Petri stopped research. 16 years later, in 1907, an expedition of the German Oriental Society led by Ludwig Borchardt (1863-1938) arrived in Amarna.

So, the ruins of Akhetaton, the capital of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, the "sunny city", whose history was very short and fits into the reign of Amenhotep IV, began to rise from the ground. In the twelfth year of his reign, this pharaoh suddenly broke with the ancient religion of Egypt - traditional polytheism and established the cult of the solar disk - Aten. The cult of all other gods was abolished, their temples were closed, temple property was confiscated. Amenhotep IV closed the priestly schools, declared the priests to be false teachers, declared all the cults of the old gods illegal. He forbade even depicting any gods.

By order of the king, an attempt was made to destroy in Egyptian inscriptions not only the names of the gods, but also the very concept of "god". This word was replaced by the word "ruler", and the sign of god - the sign that denoted the pharaoh. Thus, the Sun-Aten was conceived not as a god, but as a heavenly king. From now on, the pharaoh became his personification on earth. In honor of the Aten, Amenhotep IV took on a new name: Akhenaten - "Pleasant to the Aten". He left the ancient capital of Thebes and built a new residence in Amarna, which he named in honor of the god Aton "Akhetaten" - "Horizon of the Aten".

But, the vast majority of the population did not accept the new religion. The Theban priesthood rebelled against him. The end of Akhenaten is unclear: it is only known that he died before the time allotted to him - either he was deposed from the throne, or poisoned. It is known for sure that immediately after his death he was cursed. His son-in-law and heir Pharaoh Smenkhkare ruled for only three years. After his death, religious reforms were finally curtailed, the inhabitants left the "City of the Sun". Akhetaten was cursed and declared the abode of demons. Gradually, the remains of Akhetaten were buried under the sand.

Today, most of the residence of Akhenaten has been excavated and the appearance of the city can be imagined in general terms: these are wide main streets with houses of the nobility and rich people and narrow alleys with shacks of soldiers and artisans in those quarters of the city that can be considered the world's first ghetto for the poor. The area of the Aten Temple, located in the center of the city, was 730 meters long and 275 meters wide.

In the nearby mountains, archaeologists have discovered 24 stone tombs. Many of them remained unfinished. These tombs, thanks to their beautiful reliefs, frescoes and inscriptions, give us the opportunity to get an idea of Akhenaten and his time. The art of the Amarna period is characterized by vivid realism, secularism, which is especially clearly manifested in a whole gallery of sculptural masterpieces - portraits of Akhenaten and members of his family, created in a completely new, free manner. The most famous of them is the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten, created in the workshop of an unknown sculptor from Amarna.

At least four portraits of Nefertiti are known today. The queen's head made of white painted limestone in a blue tiara entwined with a colorful ribbon (now kept in the Berlin Museum) gained the greatest popularity. No one can remain indifferent to the subtlety and femininity of facial features, the depth and clarity of feelings, shining in beautiful eyes, parted tender lips, stately posture and regal appearance.

What happened to her after the death of Akhenaten is unknown. Her tomb has not been found. Even her name was scraped out on all the monuments. The Egyptians did the same with Akhenaten: immediately after the death of the pharaoh, it was forbidden to pronounce his name. In the list of pharaohs in the temple in Abydos, compiled two centuries later, the name of Amenhotep IV - Akhenaten does not appear. The time of his reign was simply deleted from the annals of history. Whether they did the same with his corpse is still unknown.