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Author Topic: THE GREAT ATEN  (Read 11380 times)
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« Reply #60 on: March 08, 2008, 03:12:00 pm »

                                   Contrast with traditional Egyptian religion

The impact of Akhenaten's religious reform, albeit introduced in steps, is hard to overstate.
It is a measure both of Pharaoh's great power, and of the extraordinary circumstances of
the time that an equally shocking and dramatic transformation was achieved even tempora-
rily, for about twenty years.

The context appears to have been an Egypt hit by catastrophe, seemingly abandoned by
the old gods: a series of pandemics is known to have occurred throughout the Near East of
this period, and some speculate that it could coincide with the eruption of the volcano of
Thera, which would have covered much of Egypt in a layer of destructive ash, killing crops
and livestock.

Certainly, Amenhotep III's construction of over 700 statues to the god of destruction, Set,
suggests Atenism as being more than merely the personal whim of Akhenaten, but at least
in part a desperate measure on the part of a Pharaoh responsible for the well-being of his
kingdom, above all by ensuring a good relationship with the gods.

In this context, Akhenaten carried out a radical program of religious reform which, for a
period of about twenty years, largely supplanted the age-old beliefs and practices of the
Egyptian state religion, and deposed its religious hierarchy, headed by the powerful priest-
hood of Amun at Thebes.

For fifteen centuries the Egyptians had worshipped and sacrificed to an extended family
of gods and goddesses, each of which had its own elaborate system of priests, temples,
shrines and rituals.

A key feature of these cults was the veneration of images and statues of the gods, which
were worshipped in the dark confines of the temples.
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