Egyptian Mythology

Other Egyptian Myths and Influences

Were there ever challenges in Egypt to the prevailing religious system and the dominance of the old sun god creator?

In the fourth century B.C.E. a real-life event occurred that might be said to coincide with the myth of the insult to Ra that led to the flood story. The pharaoh Amenhotep IV, whose capital was at Thebes (Luxor), decided to challenge the dominance of the old sun god—Amun-Ra in Thebes. The king proclaimed Aten, a lesser known solar deity, as “the one unequaled god,” and he changed his own name to Akhenaten (“Disciple of Aten”). Akhenaten built a new capital named Akhetaten (Tell el-Amarna today) in the god’s honor. Although Akhenaten’s worship of Aten has led some religious scholars to call him the first monotheist, it is more likely that Aten was seen in this new theology simply as the first among gods or perhaps the only important god. In any case, the king forbade the worship of Amun-Ra, and the worship of other gods was discouraged. Even the old idea of the dead passing into the Underworld was denied. At the center of the new theology was Akhenaten himself and his main queen, Nefertiti, through whom the rays of Aten penetrated the world.

With Akhenaten’s death, however, Amun-Ra had his vengeance as his priests and the people rose up against Aten dominance, destroyed the dead king’s new capital, and restored the old theology. The son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti was Tutankhaten (c.1348–1339 B.C.E.), the boy king known to the world as King Tut, who after his father’s death changed his own name to Tutankamun, honoring Amun-Ra.


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