All of these changes grew out of his very different understanding of religion. He focused his attention on one god only: Aten. He believed that Aten was the sun and that, through his rays, Aten created and sustained all life. For the remaining 12 years of his life, Akhenaten made many changes in honor of Aten.
In 1346, Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten (“Living Spirit of Aten”). He no longer represented Amun on earth. He represented Aten.
In 1346, Akhenaten also ordered the construction of a new capital city. The old capital,
Akhenaten called his new capital Akhetaten (“Horizon of the Aten”). He had it built on the east bank of the Nile about 250 miles (400 km) north of
With deep changes in god, name, capital city, and temple also came surprising changes in art. The bust of Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s wife, is remarkably realistic. Two reliefs are special in showing Akhenaten with his family. In one, his children are shown worshiping Aten with him. The second is even more unusual. It shows Akhenaten and Nefertiti playing with their three daughters.
Following Akhenaten’s death in 1334, all his changes were reversed. The powerful priests of Amun easily restored the old ways of doing things. They got the new ruler, only eight years old, to change his name from Tutankhaten (“Living Image of Aten”) to Tutankhamun (“Living Image of Amun”). They persuaded him to move the capital of
Tutankhamun ruled for perhaps 10 years and died around the age of 18 in 323. Over the next 30 years, restoration went beyond a return to old ways. It saw the destruction of as much of the new ways as possible. The city of
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