Aten (also Aton, Egyptian jtn) is the disk of the sun in ancient
Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of the god Ra. The
Aten is the focus of the religion of
Atenism established by
Amenhotep IV, who later took the name
Akhenaten (died ca. 1335 BCE) in
worship and recognition of Aten. In his poem "Great Hymn to the Aten",
Aten as the creator, giver of life, and nurturing
spirit of the world.
Aten does not have a Creation Myth or family but
is mentioned in the
Book of the Dead. The worship of
eradicated by Horemheb.
4 Royal titulary
4.1 Variant translations
4.2 Variant vocalizations
4.3 Names derived from Aten
5 See also
7 External links
Relief fragment showing a royal head, probably Akhenaten, and early
Ankh (sign of life) to the figure. Reign
of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian
The first known reference to
Aten the sun-disk as a deity is in The
Story of Sinuhe from the 12th dynasty, in which the deceased king
is described as rising as god to the heavens and uniting with the
sun-disk, the divine body merging with its maker. By analogy, the
term "silver aten" was sometimes used to refer to the moon. The
Aten was extensively worshipped as a god in the reign of
Amenhotep III, when it was depicted as a falcon-headed man much like
Ra. In the reign of Amenhotep III's successor, Amenhotep IV, the Aten
became the central god of Egyptian state religion, and Amenhotep IV
changed his name to
Akhenaten to reflect his close link with the new
The full title of Akhenaten's god was "
Ra-Horakhty who rejoices in the
horizon, in his Name as the Light which is in the sun disc." (This is
the title of the god as it appears on the numerous stelae placed to
mark the boundaries of Akhenaten's new capital at Akhetaten, modern
Amarna.) This lengthy name was often shortened to Ra-Horus-
Aten in many texts, but the god of
Akhenaten raised to supremacy
is considered a synthesis of very ancient gods viewed in a new and
different way. The god is also considered to be both masculine and
feminine simultaneously. All creation was thought to emanate from the
god and to exist within the god. In particular, the god was not
depicted in anthropomorphic (human) form, but as rays of light
extending from the sun's disk.
Furthermore, the god's name came to be written within a cartouche,
along with the titles normally given to a Pharaoh, another break with
ancient tradition. Ra-Horus, more usually referred to as Ra-Horakhty
(Ra, who is
Horus of the two horizons), is a synthesis of two other
gods, both of which are attested from very early on. During the Amarna
period, this synthesis was seen as the invisible source of energy of
the sun god, of which the visible manifestation was the Aten, the
solar disk. Thus Ra-Horus-
Aten was a development of old ideas which
came gradually. The real change, as some see it, was the apparent
abandonment of all other gods, especially Amun-Ra, prohibition of
idolatry, and the debatable introduction of quasi-monotheism by
Akhenaten. The syncretism is readily apparent in the Great Hymn to
Aten in which Re-Herakhty, Shu and
Aten are merged into the
creator god. Others see
Akhenaten as a practitioner of an Aten
monolatry, as he did not actively deny the existence of other gods;
he simply refrained from worshipping any but the Aten. Other scholars
call the religion henotheistic.
Aten depicted in art from the throne of Tutankhamun, perhaps
originally made for Akhetaten
Principles of Aten's religion were recorded on the rock tomb walls of
Akhetaten. In the religion of
Aten (Atenism), night is a time to
fear. Work is done best when the sun, Aten, is present.
for every creature, and created a
Nile river in the sky (rain) for the
Aten created all countries and people. The rays of the sun
disk only holds out life to the royal family; everyone else receives
Nefertiti in exchange for loyalty to Aten.
There is only one known instance of the
Aten talking, "said by the
'Living Aten': my rays illuminate..."
When a good person dies, he/she continues to live in the City of Light
for the dead in Akhetaten. The conditions are the same after death.
The explanation as to why
Aten could not be fully represented was that
Aten was beyond creation. Thus the scenes of gods carved in stone
previously depicted animals and human forms, now showed
Aten as an orb
above with life-giving rays stretching toward the royal figure. The
king was depicted singularly in relation with divine power. This power
transcended human or animal form.
The cult centre of
Aten was at the new city Akhetaten; some other
cult cities include Thebes and Heliopolis. The principles of Aten's
cult were recorded on the rock walls of tombs of Tall al-Amarnah.
Significantly different from other ancient Egyptian temples, temples
Aten were colorful and open-roofed to allow the rays of the sun.
Doorways had broken lintels and raised thresholds. No statues of Aten
were allowed; those were seen as idolatry. However, these were
typically replaced by functionally equivalent representations of
Akhenaten and his family venerating the
Aten and receiving the ankh
(breath of life) from him. Priests had less to do, since offerings
(fruits, flowers, cakes) were limited, and oracles were not
needed. Temples of
Aten did not collect tax.
Elite women were known to worship the
Aten in sun-shade temples in
In the worship of Aten, the daily service of purification, anointment
and clothing of the divine image was not performed. Incense was burnt
several times a day. Hymns sung to
Aten were accompanied by harp
music. Aten's ceremonies in
Akhetaten involved giving offerings to
Aten with a swipe of the royal scepter.
Instead of barque processions, the royal family rode on a chariot on
Limestone fragment column showing reeds and an early
Reign of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian
Headless bust of
Akhenaten or Nefertiti. Part of a composite red
quartzite statue. Intentional damage. Four pairs of early Aten
cartouches. Reign of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum
of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Inscribed limestone fragment showing early
Aten cartouches, "the
Living Ra Horakhty". Reign of Akhenaten. From Amarna, Egypt. The
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Fragment of a stela, showing parts of 3 late cartouches of Aten. There
is a rare intermediate form of god's name. Reign of Akhenaten. From
Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Amarna Period, the
Aten was given a Royal Titulary (as he
was considered to be king of all), with his names drawn in a
cartouche. There were two forms of the title. The first had the names
of other gods, and the second later one was more 'singular' and
referred only to the
Aten himself. The early form has Re-Horakhti. who
rejoices in the Horizon, in his name Shu, which is the Aten. The later
form has Re, ruler of the two horizons, who rejoices in the Horizon,
in his name of light, which is the Aten.
High relief and low relief illustrations of the
Aten show it with a
curved surface, therefore, the late scholar
Hugh Nibley insisted that
a more correct translation would be globe, orb or sphere, rather than
disk. The three-dimensional spherical shape of the
Aten is even more evident when such reliefs are viewed in person,
rather than merely in photographs.
Egyptologists have vocalized the word variously as Aten, Aton, Atonu,
Names derived from Aten
Akhenaten: "Effective spirit of the Aten."
Akhetaten: "Horizon of the Aten," Akhenaten's capital. The
archaeological site is known as Amarna.
Ankhesenpaaten: "Her life is of the Aten."
Beketaten: "Handmaid of the Aten."
Meritaten: "She who is beloved of the Aten."
Meketaten: "Behold the Aten" or "Protected by Aten."
Neferneferuaten: "The most beautiful one of Aten."
Aten on jubilee.[clarification needed]"
Tutankhaten: "Living image of the Aten." Original name of Tutankhamun.
Silver Aten: The moon.
Siliceous limestone fragment of a statue. There are late Aten
cartouches on the draped right shoulder. Reign of Akhenaten. From
Amarna, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Great Hymn to the Aten
Pharaoh of the Exodus
The spatial symbolism of the Voortrekker Monument
^ a b Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of
Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. pp. 236–240
^ M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1, 1980, p.223
^ Fleming, Fergus, and Alan Lothian (1997). The Way to Eternity:
Egyptian Myth. Duncan Baird Publishers. p. 52
^ Jan Assmann,
Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies, Stanford
University Press 2005, p.59
^ M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 2, 1980, p. 96
^ Dominic Montserrat, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt,
Routledge 2000, ISBN 0-415-18549-1, pp. 36ff.
^ Brewer, Douglas J.; Emily Teeter (22 February 2007). Egypt and the
Egyptians (2 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 105.
Akhenaten and the City of Light. Cornell University Press. 2001.
p. 8. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
^ Perry, Glenn. The History of Egypt. Greenwood Publishing Group.
p. 1. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
^ Pinch, Geraldine (2002). Handbook of Egyptian Mythology. ABC-CLIO.
p. 110. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
^ Goldwasser, Orly (2010). "The
Aten is the "Energy of Light": New
Evidence from the Script". Journal of the American Research Center in
Egypt. 46: 163. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
^ Groenewegen-Frankfort, Henriette Antonia (1951). Arrest and
Movement: An Essay on Space and Time in the Representational Art of
the Ancient Near East. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
p. 99. ISBN 978-0674046566.
^ "Aton". Britannica. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
^ "Aten, god of Egypt". Siteseen Ltd. June 2014. Retrieved 22 December
^ "History embalmed: Aten". 2014 Siteseen Ltd. Retrieved 22 December
^ Pasquali, Stéphane (2011). "A sun-shade temple of Princess
Ankhesenpaaten in Memphis?". The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 97:
219. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
^ see Collier, Mark and Manley, Bill. How to Read Egyptian
Hieroglyphs: 2nd Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press,
1998, p. 29
Works related to Great Hymn to
Aten at Wikisource
Media related to
Aten at Wikimedia Commons
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