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 The tragic ending to Akhenaton's Religious Reform

 

 

Akhenaton's revolt against the all-powerful clergy at Thebes naturally created enemies for him. Alas, Akhenaton, who remained within his steles on the frontiers of Tell El Armana, seemed to ignore the wind of revolt, which was rising in Thebes and was moving towards all the provinces.

Several years after the death of Amenophis III, Akhenaton on the advice of his counselors named his half-brother SMENKH KA-RE co-regent. After a time, the unrest grew in Thebes, so much so that his queen-mother Tiy was worried and went personally to Tell El-Armana to warn her son, who did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. He therefore sent the co-regent to Thebes, to the great religious capital, to negotiate an agreement to restore the cult of Amon and Osiris.

But suddenly and gradually an atmosphere of treachery and poison began to surround AKHETATON! And the inevitable happened! One day, the king could not be roused and his wife Nefert-Iti followed him that same year into the after life.

The power fell into the hands of TOUT ANKHATON who had married ANKHES en-Pa-Aton, one of the daughters of Akhenaton, still alive. To help him they had the aid of the old general AY, who was made the grand vizier of the kingdom. This was just in time as the country was in a state of complete disorder. Grass grew in the temples; the army grew weak and unmotivated, experiencing nothing but defeat and retreats in the face of the enemy.

 

 

To restore confidence, Tout Ank-Aton changed his name to TOUT ANKHAMON and his wife (Ankhes En-Pa-Aton) became ANKES EN-PA-AMON. The king reinstated the priests of Amon, restoring all their land and privileges. Then he declared Thebes the political capital of the two kingdoms.

TOUT ANKHAMON, during his 10-year reign hoped desperately for an heir but heaven did not hear his prayers. Two babies were born dead and they were girls. He died heartbroken, as the babies'deaths occurred at about the same time as the Egyptian army was beaten in Lebanon, which cost him many prisoners and spoils of war.

Rebellious and distrustful, ANKHES EN-PA-AMON preferred to offer her hand to a foreign prince rather than to an upper class civil servant of Egypt. The records register the surprise caused by this demand. Souppiliouliouma, after reflection, sent his son prince Zennanza. However, the future king never arrived at Thebes, he was assassinated in a very cowardly fashion near Amki in Lebanon. Mad with rage, his father increased his raids into the countries of Asia.

In despair, Ankhes en pa-Amon decided to marry the aged grand Vizier, General AY! His reign only lasted a little more than 3 years, and then General HOR-EM-HEB (who had married MOUT-NODJME daughter of AY to give himself some legitimate claims to the throne) became king and restored order in the army, justice and religious administration in the country.

Out of vengeance, the clergy demanded that everything, which bore thename of AKhenaton, be erased or defaced from history. Work which the followers of Rameses completed believing to find the glory in effacing the years when Egypt believed in the worship of ONE GOD.

Hor-em-heb held on to power for 27 years. It is said that Soupiliuliuma, to avenge the death of his son, sacked Lebanon and made the town of Amqa Hittite. This was a bad move as some of the slaves had the plague. The Hitttites quickly learnt what was meant by "contagious". His successor Murli II gave back the town to the Egyptians.

The XIIIth dynasty ended with Hor-em-heb. Ramses I inaugurated the 2 Ramses dynasties and started the period called the Second Empire.

Sethi I succeeded Ramses I and then came the reign of the proud and ebullient : RAMSES II, who reigned from 1300BC to 1235BC. The great construction work started under Amenophis III was resumed, and he began to build a great palace in the center of the necropolis facing Thebes. There were enormous statues of him in Egypt and at ABOU-SIMBEL in Nubia (280 km South of Assam) where he built 2 temples on the banks of the Nile.

 

The  double SPEOS built at ABOU-SIMBEL by Ramses II

 

In front of the great temple (which was guarded by 22 crouching cynocephales were 4 smiling colossi in a speos 33m high and 40m wide. Their heads were 4m in diameter and the hands 3m long. A second small temple to one side was dedicated mainly to the cult of the personality of Ramses II himself and to his wife Nefertari, whom he wanted to share in his triumphs and his glory. Ramses did not hesitate to put his statue at the heart of the temple beside those of Amon, Ptah and Re, as if he wanted to show himself their equal.

Threatened by the rising water caused by the building of a huge dam in 1963, the temple was cut into 1036 numbered blocks, which were moved to an artificial cliff beside the new lake, This project (like others flooded by the rising water from the dam, such as the temple of Isis at Philae) were financed by different countries and the work supervised by UNESCO.

After the indecisive battle of Qadesh, where Ramses II declared himself victorious over the Hittites, peace was maintained for 40 years. Ramses used this time to enlarge the temples at Karnak and Luxor, one of whose obelisks now adorns the place de la Concorde in Paris. Indefatigable, he built temples at Abydos, Tunis, Memphis and Heliopolis and his Ramesseum at Medinet Habu.

 

 

Ramses III (1198 BC to 1168BC) :

He was the son and successor of Sethnakt and defended Egypt against invasions by people by sea and left the coastal region of Israel to the Philistines. He was the last of the great pharaohs to build a large palace temple at Medinet –Habu in the area reserved for the necropoles. However, all these great projects impoverished the country and caused misery. The unhappy citizens began to think of rebellion.

The clergy of Amon fueled the crisis and Heritor, a former general become High Priest, usurped power and installed himself at Thebes around 1085BC, declaring himself king of Upper Egypt. The same year, SMENDES took over power in the kingdom of the North and this second pharaoh with his seat at Tanis started the XXIst Tanite dynasty.

As if abandoned by the gods, the glory of Egypt was starting to fade and a few centuries later, it would be gone. However, another people came to carry the torch of religion to show the nations the universal presence of the eternal Father God of all peaceful, tolerant men.

 

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