The Religious Revolution of AKHENATON 



Family history of the grandparents of Akhenaton :

THOUTMOSIS IV His first wife was MOUT EN WIYA (or Moutemouia)
2nd wife: Artatama, princess of the Mitanni

-  three sons were born to 1st wife -  two died very young,
the third became : Amenophis III.


Family history of Akhenaton's father :

Marriages and harem of AMENOPHIS III or Amenhotep III

1st wife: the queen Tiy - mother of Amenophis IV and of
4 girls : Sit Amon, Isis, Nebeptah, Henout-taounebou,

The other wife of Amenophis III : GILOUKHIPA, princess
of the Mitanni, daughter of Sutarna II and his 317 wives ...

(excerpt of the fourth set of engraven scarabs.)

The other wives of Amenophis III : the 2 Henout princesses,
Nebet Nouhe and Tia-ha
and he married at the age of 44 years
(about 2 years before his death) the princess
Tadou Khipa, daughter
of King Tushratta of the Mitanni.

Children of Amenophis III, and stepbrothers of Amenophis IV :

  • prince SMENKH - Ka - Re   (future co-regent)
  • prince BAKTET - Amon
  • prince TOUTANKH-Amon   (future Pharaoh)


Ties between Tiy and Nefert'iti - wife of Akhenaton :

Y O U Y A of Djarouka (close to Akhmin)
A king 's guard and Master of the chariots.

and his wife

Their children:

1 daughter Tiy
1st wife
of Amenophis III

1 son Ay married TEY

their daughter Mount-Nadjme
married King Horemheb of Amon
TEY was the adoptive mother
of the queen Nefert-iti

Their 2nd son AMEN

who was a
great prophet of


The personality of King AMENOPHIS III   (reigned 1410 to 1372 BC)



According to the inscriptions on statuettes, Youya, the father of Tiy and Ay was the brother of MoutEm-Wiya, the first wife of Thoutmosis IV, and even though we are unaware of the exact origins of queen Nefertiti, ("the beautiful one has come"). This name implies that the future queen (even though she was raised in Egypt) arrived probably very young in Egypt, having been promised since childhood to the prince, heir to the crown.

As happened in ancient times, she was entrusted to the tutelage of Tey, to be raised in Akhmin, in the house of AY and her father YOUYA as their adopted daughter.

Small in stature, (1m57) Amenophis III was represented as being increasingly obese with age, and was more a diplomat than a warrior. Only one campaign was attributed to him, in Nubia, in the fifth year of his reign. On the other hand, his generals were given power to lead campaigns into Sidon, and to reinforce fortifications in Canaan. One written alliance bound Egypt and Mitanni since his father's reign, and according to the terms of this agreement, Tushratta had sent in marriage his daughter and her 317 servants and companions, an important part of his harem. Other princesses went to Egypt to seal agreements of peace existing between the various great eastern powers of the time.

Fascinated by architecture, Amenophis III became the most prolific builder of Egypt until the advent of Ramses-II, covering Egypt with monuments: at Ouadi es Seboua in Nubia, he dedicated a small temple to Amon, "the Lord of the ways."

At Aniba he enlarged the temple of Horus. At Sesebi and Kawa he erected two temples. At Soleb, he was worshiped with his wife in the temple of Amon that he had constructed for her. Maybe in his pride he believed that he had become Amon?

In the kingdom of the North, at Memphis, he constructed a temple and a serapeum, (where they kept the mummified bull god Apis), as well as two new temples to Athribis and Bubastis. At THEBES he built (at LUXOR) a temple that he named the harem of Amon-Re, and as his health was failing, he also built south of the surrounding wall of Karnak six hundred statues of the lioness goddess Sekhmet (wife of PTAH), often invoked for her healing powers.

Then he flew in the face of the traditions of centuries, by moving into a sumptuous palace at Malgatta (facing Thebes), with a many pillared throne room. (Usually kings considered the WEST bank of the Nile as reserved for the necropoles.)

While at Medinet-Habou, at the foot of the sacred Valley of the Queens, he constructed a gigantic funeral temple, that king Merenptah (one of his ruthless successors) would later demolish, so that he could erect inexpensively for himself his own funeral temple. Nowadays all that remain are two immense colossi in sandstone 18 meters high, weighing 1300 tons each.



The Greek called them "the colossi of Memnon" (who was the Ethiopian son of the goddess Aurora), killed in the Trojan war. Next to the two legs of the colossi, are four statues each about six meters tall, and they symbolize the "kas" of Tiy (who married Amenophis IIIrd), and that of the mother of the Pharaoh. This now vanished funeral temple was dedicated to Amon, and to the cult of the royal person of Amenophis III, who showed no modesty...!

History recounts that the colossi of Memnon were cracked at the time of a great earthquake in 27 BC, but thanks to work of Septime Sévère, escaped destruction.


The family of Amenophis III


When we look at the royal family, we are amazed at the budget required to maintain the harems. The history becomes really complicated when one studies the different opinions of the specialists in the domestic history of Amenophis III and his son Akhenaton.



The prefix Nefert ( the beautiful ), is followed by "Iti"( that sounds very much like Tiy!) and is translated by "came"... Even though inbreeding is unacceptable by modern moral codes, marriage between brother (or stepbrothers) and sisters, (see Cleaopatra), or between uncle and niece (or other close relations) happened often in Egypt to maintain the power of a dynasty.

King Amenophis III (who considered himself to be the equal of Amon), built numerous new temples and statues to draw attention to the cult of his personality and that of his wife. He wanted to decrease the growing importance of the clergy of the Osiris cult. However the people remained faithful to the ancient traditions and beliefs.

The priests of Amon became very unpopular, until there was a complete rupture which brought the closing of all the temples and the end of the rich clergy of Amon.

(After looking at pictures and sculptures of Amenophis IV, modern physicians decided that he suffered from Frohlich’s disease, which blocks the natural development of the sex organs and the voice tone of male children . It was said that he had the hips of a woman and one more breast than normal!)

Why did the royal pictures show the face covered? Was it to hide the daughters with hydrocephalic heads ? Why were there so many premature deaths (or deaths in adolesence) among the children of the Royal family ?


Akhenaton, Nefertiti and their daughters


These terrible difficulties seemed to be a divine punishment, pointed out the clergy. Amenophis III had expected gratitude for the beautiful temples he had built, so he then attacked the clergy, closed the temples to Amon, and got rid of the priests. As if to provoke the moralizing clergy even further, he made his son marry his co-regent Nefertiti, who was even more passionate in religious reforms than her spouse.

Although of feeble physique, two daughters of Akhenaton married three future pharaohs :

What characterizes Akhenaton (Amenophis IV) is his amazing simplicity of mind, so full of vitality; his will for peace, his constant concern to alleviate the daily life of the people and his wish to communicate his faith his ideas of justice to them. He pursued this mission throughout his life, and it was shared by his mother and his wife; the latter tried in vain to continue his work after his sudden death.


Amenophis IV  or  Akhenaton


A MAN named : " AMENHOTEP " the son of Hapou


History sometimes draws strange parallels. This is the case with the appearance at the side of Amenophis III, of a man called Amenhotep (the son of Hapou), who can be compared to IMHOTEP (who built the first pyramid in Egypt). Both were represented as seated scribes with rolls of papyrus on their knee. Both were deified in the Period of the Decline, were greatly honored by the people (as intercessors with the gods), and recognized for their great powers of healing.

Like IMHOTEP, this wise man was raised to the rank of high civil servant and finally Vizier. A native of Athribis, an important city in a Nome in the Nile Delta, where Amenophis III built a temple to the god Kemour. Athribis was a center of education for civil servants and royal princes.

Mystery surrounds the life of this eminent man, brilliant in medicine, in theology and architecture. We believe he planned and supervised the building of the royal palace at Malgatta, the funeral temple of Amenophis III, (where only the two colossi remain), and especially the famous temple of Luxor : an architectural masterpiece.

The name Amenhotep is a translation into Egyptian of the Greek "Amenophis". (Maybe his Egyptian name was given in gratitude by the royal family, but to avoid confusion, we add "Son of Hapou" to his name.)

Let us not forget the role of IMHOTEP giving us the symbolism of souls rising towards the sky by means of the royal pyramid, following the Pharaoh to eternal life. Thus it is not surprising that Amenophis (son of Hapou) would be the inspirer of the new state religion instituted by Amenophis IV, the future Akhenaton. This religion was dedicated to the ONE GOD of CREATION. Because of the failing health of Amenophis III, Amenhotep (Hapou) although submissive to the original benefactor had to change many things to suit the young coregent.

Contrary to his father’s imposing style, Akhenaton (the young co-regent) made a new city on more modest lines resembling the style of the fifth dynasty and the temples of Heliopolis, the ancient sun capital.

In Akhet-Aton (his new city), he did not build huge colonnades or statues of the king, instead he lived in a natural simple way surrounded by men of new ideas.

While Amenophis III was still alive, Amenhotep (son of Hapou), named the new necropolis he built for his king "The Castles of Millions of years".

It was entirely a spiritual program. He also built the temple of Sobeb in Nubja (Sudan). He became the intimate friend and counselor of Amenenophis III and thus had no difficulty in approaching the young prince, who was the heir and future co-regent.

Amenhotep spent a lot of time studying the writings of the ancient kingdom to learn the same religious ideas as IMHOTEP and his successors.

As an architect, Amenophis III admired him so much that he bestowed on him lands and great privileges reserved until then for princess and kings. They built funeral temples at Medinet Habou. Like Imhotep, Amenhotep refused this honor, but for a long time after his death , the priests of the Period of the Decline looked upon him as an intercessor who sent prayers and offerings up to the gods.

... Oh you that come to Thebes with a prayer for the master of the gods come to me. I will bring your words to Amon in Karnak. I am the mediator from the King to hear your prayers and your needs and lift them up to him.

I am the one who soothes the spirit in times of misfortune; the one who can approach the god (king) with praise in the court. Oh Amon has chosen me to exercise justice because I was not among those who caused the misery.

Those who know me and want to be like me will keep to the truth and never harm others. This proves the best in my nature.

A statue of Amenhotep (Hapou) was discovered near the VIIth pylon at the temple of Karnak.
It has hieroglyphics which say :
"Oh AMON, ancient god of the two countries, you take the Lord of the living and the dead and of everything under the sky. Everything in the sky honors your beauty and perfection because you are greater than any other god. Your are Re and you are complete.


On reaching his 24th birthday, Amenhotep (Hapou) was given the honor to be not only the counselor of Amenophis III, but also of the young future king Akhenaton.

It is the man with patience who usually gets the best results. Although the future king had a handicap, Amenohotep was able to teach him, support him and to strengthen and orient his mind towards the spiritual life.

The people began to associate Imhotep and Amenhotep (Hapou) together, and at Deir el-Babari in a sanctuary, more than a thousand sick people came to pray for healing by them every year.

It was probably Amenhotep (Hapou) who taught the young Pharaoh about the existence of the One Invisible god. Atoum of Heliopolis became AMON-Re at Thebes and ATON at Tell E1 Armana. Also, the kingdom of the Mitanni already worshiped an ancient Aryan god SURYA, (the light that shines). He was of Indo-European origin and was associated with the principal SAVITRI that gives life to matter. He spread his arms of gold to warm humans. It is possible that the Mitannians saw in the restoration of the ancient solar cult at Heliopolis a return to their own national divinity.


The Religious REFORMS


According to most Egyptologists, Akhenaton was probably officially named co-regent 8 years before his father’s death. In the 5th year of the reign of the co-regent, the royal court was transferred to Akhet-Aton, a new city where the king was to name men for his great religious reform.

In the 6th year of his reign, he changed his name from Amenophis IV to Akhenaton, probably at the time that his father’s illness worsened.

Amenophis III died in the 37th year of his reign, in the year 1372BC or 1373BC. Akhenaton governed the country for 18 years until the year 1354BC. This was a dark period for the rich clergy of Amon, whose incomes were suddenly nonexistent, and grass grew in their forbidden temples!

The names of the kings between Amenophis III and Horemheb were erased from the royal lists. However, in the nineteenth century, the discoveries at Tell El Armana helped us to clear the confusion about this.




Once the cult of Amon had gone (provisionally), it was necessary to give the people a new religious ideal. Not only AMON was dismissed (whom all the kings of the New Empire had worshipped at Thebes) but all the other gods had gone.

Re became a spirit who returned life to each person after every incarnation. By his universal love, ATON (was Re) offered his mercy to all beings of every nation and color and invited them to share their happiness with all nations, with an open mind. There is a famous engraving of hands reaching to the sun representing an invitation of men towards the sky.

Aton, the father of all the gods, also embodied them in his being, and became the one who could purify human beings, when they asked his aid to take them out of the darkness of their material life.

Let us try using texts from different time periods to find any differences between AMON and ATON:


HYMN TO AMON (from the time of Amenophis II)

Amon father of the gods who shaped humanity, all animals and the fields that feed the herds.

You make the fruit trees for us,
The fishes that live in the river
The birds that fly in the sky.
You give the breath of life to the chick in the egg and feed the earth worms.
Lord of radiance who created light,
You are the ONLY one who made everything that is,
You alone made everything that exists.

From: G. Roeder (Urkunden zur Religion)
A. Wilson (The ancient World of the Orient)

Also, J.E. Chabas mentions in the "Revue Archéologique" a similar text applying
to OSIRIS but before the period of TELL EL-Armana.

... He made the country with his hands;
the water, the air, the vegetation, the herds;
everything that flies with beating wings.
All animals that crawl and the beasts of the desert.


It is now difficult to see the precise differences between AMON and ATON, since the two characters have the same symbols and almost the same features, roles and functions. The root of the problem was that the rich clergy of Thebes presented a growing threat to the united family of Amenophis IV, who were good natured, loving liberty and living in a dream world like children.

It is regrettable that all the gods other than ATON were done away with. The art and great beauty of the great colossi were lost! But have we not basically done the same thing during the French Revolution by decapitating the most beautiful statues in the cathedrals ?


Return to the previous page


o - o - o - o - o - o - o