Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the later half
of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and
his queen was shifted to Akhetaten ('Horizon of the Aten') in what is
now Amarna. It was marked by the reign of
Amenhotep IV, who changed
his name to
Akhenaten (1353–1336 BC) in order to reflect the
dramatic change of Egypt's polytheistic religion into one where the
Aten was worshipped over all other gods.
Aten was not solely
worshipped (the religion was not monotheistic), but the other gods
were worshipped to a significantly lesser degree. The Egyptian
pantheon of the equality of all gods and goddesses was restored under
Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamun.
1 Religious developments
2 Royal women
Tutankhamun and the
5 Foreign relations
5.1 The Great Powers
Babylon EA 1-11
Assyria EA 15-16
Mittani EA 17–30
5.1.4 Hatti EA 41-44
5.2.1 The opening statement
7 See also
9 Further reading
Akhenaten instigated the earliest verified expression of a form of
monotheism, although the origins of a pure monotheism are the subject
of continuing debate within the academic community. Some state that
Akhenaten restored monotheism while others point out that he merely
suppressed a dominant solar cult by the assertion of another, while
never completely abandoning several other traditional deities.
Scholars believe that Akhenaten's devotion to his deity, Aten,
offended many in power below him, which contributed to the end of this
dynasty; he later suffered damnatio memoriae. Although modern students
Egyptology consider the monotheism of
Akhenaten the most important
event of this period, the later
Egyptians considered the so-called
Amarna period an unfortunate aberration.
The period saw many innovations in the name and service of religion.
Egyptians of the time viewed religion and science as one and the same.
Previously, the presence of many gods explained the natural phenomena,
but during the
Amarna period there was a rise in monotheism. With
people beginning to think of the origins of the universe, Amun-Re was
seen as the sole creator and Sun-god. The view of this god is seen
through the poem entitled "Hymn to the Aten":
"When your movements disappear and you go to rest in the Akhet, the
land is in darkness, in the manner of death... darkness a blanket, the
land in stillness, with the one who makes them at rest in his Akhet.
The land grows bright once you have appeared in the Akhet, shining in
the sun disk by day. When you dispel darkness and give your rays, the
Two Lands are in a festival of light."
From the poem, one can see that the nature of the god's daily activity
revolves around recreating the earth on a daily basis. It also focuses
on the present life rather than on eternity.
Amarna reign, these religious beliefs fell out of favor. It
has been argued that this was in part because only the king and his
family were allowed to worship Amun-Re directly, while others were
permitted only to worship the king and his family.
The royal women of
Amarna have more surviving text about them than any
other women from ancient Egypt. It is clear that they played a large
role in royal and religious functions. These women were frequently
portrayed as powerful in their own right.
Nefertiti was said to be the force behind the new monotheist
religion. Nefertiti, whose name means "the beautiful one is here,"
bore six of Amenhotep's daughters.
Many of Amenhotep's daughters were as influential or more than his
wives. There is a debate whether the relationship between Amenhotep
and his daughters was sexual. Although there is much controversy over
this topic, there is no evidence that any of them bore his children.
Amenhotep gave many of his daughters titles of queen.
A relief of a royal couple in the Amarna-period style; figures may be
Akhenaten and Nefertiti,
Smenkhkare and Meritaten, or
Ankhesenamun; Egyptian Museum of Berlin.
During Akhenaten's reign, royal portraiture underwent dramatic change.
Akhenaten deviate from conventional portrayal of
Akhenaten is depicted in an androgynous and highly stylized
manner, with large thighs, a slim torso, drooping belly, full lips,
and a long neck and nose. Some believe that the break with
convention was due to "the presence at
Amarna of new people or groups
of artists whose background and training were different from those of
the Karnak sculptors."
The events following Akhenaten's death are unclear and the identity
and policies of his co-regent and immediate successor are the matter
of ongoing scholarly debate.
Tutankhamun and the
Tutankhamun, among the last of his dynasty and the
Amarna kings, died
before he was twenty years old, and the dynasty's final years clearly
were shaky. The royal line of the dynasty died out with Tutankhamun.
Two fetuses found buried in his tomb may have been his twin daughters
who would have continued the royal lineage, according to a 2008
An unidentified Egyptian queen Dakhamunzu, widow of "King
Nibhururiya", is known from Hittite annals. She is often identified as
Ankhesenamun, royal wife of Tutankhamun, although
Meritaten have also been suggested as possible candidates. This queen
wrote to Suppiluliuma I, king of the Hittites, asking him to send one
of his sons to become her husband and king of Egypt. In her letters
she expressed fear and a reluctance to take as husband one of her
servants. Suppiluliumas sent an ambassador to investigate, and after
further negotiations agreed to send one of his sons to Egypt. This
prince, named Zannanza, was, however, murdered, probably en route to
Egypt. Suppiluliumas reacted with rage at the news of his son's death
and accused the Egyptians. Then, he retaliated by going to war against
Egypt's vassal states in Syria and Northern
Canaan and captured the
city of Amki. Unfortunately, Egyptian prisoners of war from Amki
carried a plague which eventually would ravage the
Hittite Empire and
kill both Suppiluliumas I and his direct successor.
The last two members of the eighteenth dynasty – Ay and
became rulers from the ranks of officials in the royal court, although
Ay may have married the widow of
Tutankhamun in order to obtain power
and she did not live long afterward. Ay's reign was short. His
successor was Horemheb, a general in the Egyptian army, who had been a
diplomat in the administration of
Tutankhamun and may have been
intended as his successor by the childless Tutankhamun.
have taken the throne away from Ay in a coup. He also died childless
and appointed his successor, Paramessu, who under the name Ramesses I
ascended the throne in 1292 BC and was the first pharaoh of the
Map of the ancient
Near East during the
Amarna period, showing the
great powers of the period: Egypt (green), Hatti (yellow), the Kassite
Assyria (grey), and
Lighter areas show direct control, darker areas represent spheres of
influence. The extent of the Achaean/Mycenaean civilization is shown
Amarna Letters feature correspondence among the rulers of several
empires, dubbed by modern historians The Club of Great Powers:
Mitanni and Hatti, viz. the major powers in
Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age.
The Great Powers
Babylon EA 1-11
The extent of the Babylonian Empire during the
The Babylonians were conquered by an outside group of people and were
referred to in the letters as Karaduniyas.
Babylon was ruled by the
Kassite dynasty which would later on assimilate to the Babylonian
culture. The letters of correspondence between the two deal with
various trivial things but it also contained one of the few messages
from Egypt to another power. It was the pharaoh responding to the
demands of King Kasashman-Enlil, who initially inquired about the
whereabouts of his sister, who was sent for a diplomatic marriage. The
king was hesitant to send his daughter for another diplomatic marriage
until he knew the status of his sister. The pharaoh responds by
politely telling the king to send someone who would recognize his
sister. Then later correspondence dealt with the importance of
exchanging of gifts namely the gold which is used in the construction
of a temple in Babylonia. There was also a correspondence where the
Babylonian king was offended by not having a proper escort for a
princess. He wrote that he was distraught by how few chariots there
were to transport her and that he would be shamed by the responses of
the great kings of the region.
Assyria EA 15-16
By the time of the
Amarna letters, the Assyrians, who were originally
a vassal state, had become an independent power. The two letters were
from king Assur-uballit I. The first dealt with him introducing
himself and sending a messenger to investigate Egypt: “He should see
what you are like and what your country is like, and then leave for
here.” (EA 15) The second letter dealt with him inquiring as to why
Egypt was not sending enough gold to him and arguing about profit for
the king: "Then let him (a messenger) stay out and let him die right
there in the sun, but for (but) for the king himself there must be a
Mittani EA 17–30
Once enemies, by the time of the
Amarna letters, the Mittanni had
become an ally of Egypt's. These letters were written by the King
Tuiseratta and dealt with various topics, such as preserving and
renewing marriage alliances, and sending in various gifts. For
example, EA 22 and EA 25 in the
Amarna letters are an inventory of the
gifts from the
Mittani king Tusratta to the pharaoh. Other
correspondences of note dealt with a gold status that was addressed in
EA 26 and EA 27.
Akhenaten married a
Mittani princess in order to
create stronger ties between the two nations.
Hatti EA 41-44
Theirs was a kingdom in Eastern
Anatolia that would later make the
Mitanni their vassal state. The correspondence from the Hatti come
from a king called Suppiluliumas. The subjects of the letters varied,
from discussing past alliances to gift giving and dealing with honor.
In EA 42, the tablet stated how the Hittite king was offended by the
name of the pharaoh written over his name. Although the ending of the
text was very fragmented, it was discerned as saying that he will blot
out the name of the pharaoh.
This section may stray from the topic of the article. Please help
improve this section or discuss this issue on the talk page. (October
The opening statement
The opening statement:
— Say to Nibmuareya, the king of Egypt, my brother: Thus Tuiseratta,
the King of Mittani, your brother. For me all goes well. For you may
all go well. For Kelu-Heba may all go well. For your household, for
your wives, for your sons, for your magnates, for your warriors, for
your horses, for your chariots, and in your country, may all go very
William Moran discussed how the first line in these documents followed
a consistent formula of “Say to PN. Thus PN.” There are variations
of this but was found common among all the tablets. The other is a
salutation which is one a report of the monarch's well being and then
the second which is a series of good wishes toward the monarch.
Indeed, this seems to be part of the style of Akkadian style of
writing which helped facilitate foreign correspondence for the long
term. As scholars argued, this aided in filtering out the chauvinistic
domestic ideology at home to the other monarch. This allowed diplomacy
to flourish which aided to the relative peace of the time.
Despite the great distances between the rulers, the concept of a
global village reigned.
As is seen in EA 7:
— From the time the messenger of my brother arrived here, I have not
been well, and so on no occasion has his messenger eaten food and
drunk spirits in my company. If you ask... your messenger, he will
tell you that I have not been well and that, as far as my recovery is
concerned, I am still by no means restored to health.... I for my part
became angry with my brother, saying, has my brother not heard that I
am ill? Why has he shown me no concern? Why has he sent no messenger
here and visited me?
The importance of this in EA 7 is that it demonstrates the mindset of
the rulers in the
Near East world at the time. The "enlarged village"
which scholars like to term permeated their thoughts where they took
the idea of brotherhood. They were related through the political
marriages but is an idea of a village of clans which gives reason to
the good wishes and update on the health of the monarchs themselves.
The monarchs seem to have very little concept of the time of travel
between each other and at most likely saw that the village worldview
they lived in was applicable for the long distant correspondence of
Amarna letters. Indeed, there is a constant demonstration of
love as seen in these letters. Scholars pointed out that to
demonstrate good friendship it had to be on the practical level of
constant stream of gift giving. This request for gifts is constant
with the various correspondence with the Great Kings.
Queen Tiye, matriarch of the
Amarna Dynasty. She was the mother of
Akhenaten and wife of
Amenhotep III. She mainly ran Egypt's affairs of
state for her son.
Amenhotep IV, began a religious revolution in which he
Aten was a supreme god and turned his back on the old
traditions. He moved the capital to Akhetaten.
Queen Nefertiti, the daughter of Ay, married Akhenaten. Her role in
daily life at the court soon extended from Great Royal Wife to that of
a co-regent. It is also possible that she may have ruled Egypt in her
own right as pharaoh, Neferneferuaten.
Smenkhkare, was a co-regent of
Akhenaten who ruled after his death. It
was believed that
Smenkhkare was a male guise of Nefertiti. However,
it is accepted that
Smenkhkare was a male. He took Meritaten, Queen
Nefertiti's daughter as his wife.
Queen Meritaten, was the oldest daughter of
Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
She was the wife of Smenkhkare. She also may have ruled Egypt in her
own right as pharaoh and is one the possible candidates of being the
Neferneferuaten Tasherit. Shown here as children,
they were two of six daughters born to
Akhenaten and Nefertiti. It is
Neferneferuaten Tasherit was the one who may have been
her father's co-regent and may have ruled as the female pharaoh,
Kiya. She was one of Akhenaten's secondary wives. It was once believed
that she was the mother of Tutankhamun, but that was proven not the
case when DNA revealed it not so.
The Younger Lady
The Younger Lady mummy of
KV35 was by DNA matching Tutankhamun's
mother. Originally thought to be Nefertiti, DNA showed that she was
the sister of Akhenaten. Princess
Beketaten are considered
Maia was the wet nurse of the Crown Prince, Tutankhamun. Having lost
his mother at a young age, she helped rear the young prince. Maia was
later allowed to have a grand tomb at Saqarra. Here the young prince
holds her hand.
Tutankhamun, formerly Tutankhaten, was Akhenaten's son through an
incestuous relationship with his sister. As pharaoh, he instigated
policies to restore Egypt to its old religion and moved the capital
back to Memphis.
Ankhesenamun, born Ankhesenpaaten, was the wife of Tutankhamun, and
daughter of Akhenaten. After her husband's death, she was married to
her maternal grandfather Ay.
Ay served as vizier to Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun. He was the father
of Nefertiti. After the death of Tutankhamun, Ay lay a claim to the
throne by burying him and by marrying his granddaughter Ankhesenamun.
After the death of Ay,
Horemheb assumed the throne. A commoner, he had
served as vizier to both
Tutankhamun and Ay.
Horemheb instigated a
policy of damnatio memoriae, against everyone associated with the
Amarna period. He was married to Nefertiti's sister, Mutnodjmet, who
died in child birth. With no heir, he appointed his own vizier,
Paramessu as his successor.
The ruins of Akhetaten. Now commonly called Amarna, Akhenaten's
capital city was abandoned by Tutankhamun. It survived several years
before being torn apart by Horemheb's orders.
^ a b c Arnold, Dorothea, James P. Allen, and L. Green. The Royal
Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996. Print.
^ Cothren, Michael and Stokstad, Marilyn: Art History. Prentice Hall,
^ Khanna, Aditi (2008-09-01). "Bodies found in the tomb of 'boy king'
Tutankhamun's tomb are twin daughters". Times Online. London.
^ a b Liverani, Mario, "The Great Powers' Club," in Cohen &
Westbrook (2000), pp. 18–19
^ Moran (1992), p. 7
^ Moran (1992), pp. 1–3
Amarna Diplomacy. 21
^ Moran (1992), pp. 41–42
^ Cohen & Westbrook (2000), p. 6
Amarna Diplomacy. 116
^ Moran (1992), p. xxii–xxiii
^ Cohen & Westbrook (2000), pp. 235–236
^ Zaccagnini, Carlos, "The Interdependence of the Great Powers," in
Cohen & Westbrook (2000), p. 145
Cohen, Raymond; Westbrook, Raymond (2000).
Amarna Diplomacy: the
Beginnings of International Relations. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins
University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6199-3.
Moran, William L. (1992). The
Amarna Letters. Baltimore, MD: Johns
Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4251-4.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Arnold, Dorothea, James P. Allen, and L Green. 1996. The Royal Women
of Amarna: Images of Beauty From Ancient Egypt. New York: The
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Freed, Rita A., Yvonne Markowitz, and Sue H. d’Auria, eds. 1999.
Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamun. London: Thames
Hari, Robert. 1985. New Kingdom
Amarna Period: The Great Hymn to Aten.
Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Hornung, Erik. 1999.
Akhenaten and the Religion of Light. Translated
by David Lorton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Kemp, Barry J. 2012. The City of
Akhenaten and Nefertiti:
Its People. London: Thames & Hudson.
Martin, Geoffrey Thorndike. 1991. A Bibliography of the
and Its Aftermath: The Reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun,
and Ay (c. 1350-1321 BC). London: Kegan Paul International.
Murnane, William J. 1995. Texts from the
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Edited by Edmund S. Meltzer. SBL Writings from the Ancient World 5.
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"The Younger Lady"