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Tutankhamun's freedom of religion


Most ancient Egyptians worshiped a sun god named Amun. Sometimes they worshiped Amun as a human, sometimes as an animal (ram), and sometimes as a human with an animal head. The story of King Thutmose IV's vision of Aten was passed down to Tutankhamun's grandfather, Amenhotep III (1411–1353 BCE), and to Tutankhamun's father, Akhenaten. Now, King Akhenaten had a revoltionary idea: Only one god, Aten, was to be worshiped (monotheism). Aten had no image. Aten was the presence of the sun visible to everyone as the sun disk in the sky. From then on, everyone was to worship the sun disk.

Akhenaten did not care about Amun and the other gods. He closed the temples of Amun. This threatened and angered the powerful Amun priests and upset the people who worshiped Amun. Akhenaten left his palace in Luxor and sailed 200 miles north on the Nile to create the city of Amarna for himself and his one god, Aten. As a pharaoh, Akhenaten was considered to be part man and part god – a god-king who could communicate directly with Aten.

In the year 1342 BCE, in the city of Amarna, on the banks of the Nile, the future King Tutankhamun was born. His father was Akhenaten, and his mother was believed to be a minor queen named Kiya. At birth, the boy was given the name Tutankhaten. Prince Tutankhaten began his life praying to the sun disk, Aten.

As a little prince, Tutankhaten watched the building of the great holy city of Amarna and the many temples for worshiping Aten. These were wide open spaces to the sun, not like the covered, dark, and hidden temples to Amun (Amun’s name meant the Hidden One, and his image was painted blue to denote invisibility). Tutankhaten learned to read and write late Egyptian and to master algebra and astronomy. He read the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, and the Wisdom Literature of the great Egyptians.

When Prince Tutankhaten was about nine, his father, King Akhenaten died. Suddenly Tutankhaten was returned to the city of Luxor and crowned king and pharaoh in the temple of Karnak. Two old men, Ay and Horemheb, held the real power behind the throne. The underage Tutankhaten was a puppet in their hands. Ay was the father of Queen Nefertiti and worshiped Aten. Ay loved and protected Tutankhaten and took the title Regent of Upper Egypt. Horemheb was the commander of the army and a foe of Ay. Horemheb worshiped Amun and took the title Regent of Lower Egypt. Horemheb made Tutankhaten change his name to Tutankhamun and worship Amun, the god his father had rebelled against.

As a regent for Tutankhamun, Horemheb had to protect him. Horemheb took Tutankhamun down the Nile to Memphis where he made the pharaoh restore the statues of the old gods and worship Amun. After Tutankhamun's marriage to Queen Ankhesenpaaten, Amarna, the city of Akhenaten, was abandoned forever. In the temples of Luxor and Karnak, the pharaoh restored the worship of Amun, but he allowed the people to worship Aten, too. Tutankhamun restored the Opet Festival, which celebrated all the gods with food and drink, and which the people loved. Now there was freedom of worship, and Tutankhamun had made peace with both sides. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, in the Nile delta, by Napoleon Bonaparte's troops allowed for the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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