Aten is represented as a radiant sphere with long hands with which he bathes the world with his light
, a necessary condition for plant, animal, and human life. In some representations, the Sun disk god has hands holding the Egyptian cross “ankh”
(the Egyptian symbol of life) which seems to be stretched out to the earth to bring it food and fertility (thus representing the beneficial effects of the rays of the Sun).
Subsequently, in the course of the history of Egypt, more and more links appear between Aten and the kings of Egypt. According to ancient Egyptian legends, it is the pharaoh who controls the Sun: it is the pharaoh who orders the Sun to rise and set at the same times as he does.
Yet, if Aten is so famous in our modern society, it is because Aten became the one and only god of ancient Egypt during a small period of history: that of the “heresy of Akhenaten.”
2) The Cult of Aten
You now have a glimpse of the divinity embodying the Sun. Now let us discover the history of the establishment of the cult that placed him in the position of single god of Egypt.
A) The god Amun
In order to understand how Aten became the unique god of Egypt, one must understand the story of the almost “almighty” god he replaced: the god Amun.
Amun was initially the god of the creation of life. According to Egyptian mythology, there was only the original Darkness and the original Ocean at the beginning of our world. Then, through the repeated contacts between the Darkness and the Ocean was born the god Atum, the god representing the breath of life. Immediately after this event, responding to the call of Atum (i.e. the call of life), the two gods Ra and Amun were born by their own will.
The falcon-headed Sun god Ra creates the Earth, the stars, and the Universe by harmoniously mixing the original Darkness and the original Ocean. It is thus he who creates the Sun Aten which he then places like a crown on his head to illuminate the Universe, having known until then only the night.
The god Amun creates life by changing himself into a goose to lay an egg. Then, Amun changes himself into a snake to hatch and fertilize this egg. He thus creates the first animal, vegetable, and human life forms.
During the New Kingdom of Egypt’s period (the period of Egypt from 1550 to 1069 BC), the god Amun will become more and more important in Egyptian beliefs. Amun will gradually become known in his form of Amun-Ra, i.e. a form in which he becomes one with the hawk Sun god Ra. Under this form, Amun is therefore responsible for the creation of the “Universe” in addition to the creation of “life.”
It was during the reign of Akhenaten’s grandfather and father (respectively Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III) that Amun became a god truly more important than all the others.
However, Egypt did not fall into a form of monotheistic religion since, despite his importance, Amun did not replace the other gods and goddesses (the jackal Anubis remained the god of death, the ibis Thoth remained the god of knowledge, the cat Bastet remained the goddess of women and joy, Bes remained the dwarf god of the home . . .).
You must be logged in to post a comment.