|Aten in hieroglyphics|
Jtn (The) Sun Disk
|Nefertiti and Akhenaten worshiping Aton|
Aton is an ancient Egyptian deity who was worshiped in its appearance as a solar disk . Under the rule of the king ( Pharaoh ) Akhenaten , Aton rose in his function as sun god to the supreme divine being as a further development of Re . The previous deities initially lost their importance, but still existed in subordinate roles ( monolatry ).
With the increasing reign of Akhenaten, some deities lost their functions in the theological concept, which is why Akhenaten destroyed their existence by erasing their names as rigidly as their cults and places of worship. This annihilation concentrated primarily and with lasting consequence on the Theban gods of Amun , Mut and Chons . Akhenaten's efforts to eliminate Amun-Re as the “king of the gods” are particularly noticeable, which he ultimately succeeded in doing.
In the further course of Akhenaten's reign, not all gods were eliminated; for example, deities like Maat or the two crown goddesses Wadjet (Uto) and Nechbet were preserved. In addition, it cannot be proven whether Akhenaten's cult was able to extend to the entire national territory of what was then Egypt. That is why a controversial discussion has been going on in Egyptology for decades about the question of whether the initial monolatry led to monotheism .
Since the beginning of ancient Egyptian civilization , the sun and its mythical imagery played a central role. In the initial phase, the Egyptians equated the solar disk with Horus . With the Re cult that began in the 4th dynasty , the visible solar disk was considered the right " eye of Re ", but without the solar disk itself being called a deity. It was not until the Middle Kingdom , at the time of King ( Pharaoh ) Mentuhotep II ( 11th Dynasty ), that the name Aton came up for the designation of the solar disk as a deity and as the manifestation of Re. In this respect, the solar disk in its capacity as a heavenly body and equated with Re was understood as the “throne of Re”. Other epithets for Re followed, which compared the sun god with the sun disk: "Re, who is in his disk".
With the beginning of the 18th Dynasty ( New Kingdom ), Re is sometimes referred to as "Re, the sun disk". In the theological views of Egypt there was then a paradigm shift that found its way into literature as the “New Solar Theology”. The most important expression of this development was the elevation of Amun-Re to "King of the Gods". Under the auspices of the economic and political strengthening of the Theban Amun priesthood, the initially hidden, later more and more openly presented endeavor to emphasize this god not only in the form of this monarchical exaggeration of the Egyptian pantheon , but even to give him divine sole rule and exclusivity put.
Mythical meaning and representation
The aton, as Akhenaten conceived and wanted to enforce, “is really the sun and nothing but the sun, which creates time through its rays of light and warmth and through its movement, and which, in this way, constantly creates the entire visible and brings forth invisible reality that makes the acceptance of other gods superfluous. "
In the first years of Akhenaten's reign, the god Aton is still traditionally represented, like Re-Harachte, as a human being with a falcon's head and a crowning sun disk. Then the picture changes: Aton now appears as a bare disk of the sun, from which rays emanate, which run out into the shape of human hands (ray aton). At least in the later representations, these hands regularly hold Ankh symbols.
The instructive name of Aten
|Old teaching name of Aton (from 4th year of government)|
In the early stages of the Aton cult, the so-called “instructive name” is used as a programmatic formula. The king later undertakes several, more or less weighty modifications to this, which in this way, “like brand stones ..., the way of his thinking” can be understood.
The names of the Aton were put in cartouches like those of an Egyptian king , which emphasized his quality as a universal god and symbolized the role of the god king of the Aton. This form of the old didactic name Atons was preceded by constructions that can be detected on the materials found in the tomb of Tut-anch-Amun. In this way it can be deduced that in the case of a Mamu figure with the date "Year 3" being wrapped, the god's name was still written without cartouches. In contrast, the fabric used to cover a Ptah figure is dated "Year 3, 2. schemu" and, thanks to the cartouches already used here, represents the oldest verifiable form of the old educational name Atons. Another early form of the Aton name can be identified an undated material used for a Sekhmet figure, in which the form "who cheers in the horizon" is missing and therefore probably dates to the 2nd year of the king. At the same time, this evidence provides evidence of the king's first Heb-sed festival, which he celebrated together with his god.
|New educational name of Aton (from the 9th year of government)|
Long live Re, the horizontal ruler who rejoices in the land of light (on the horizon)
In his name as Re , the father who comes as the sun disk (Aton)
However, after the extensive abolition and radical suppression of the traditional deities for the sake of the exclusivity of the Aton had been completed by no later than the eighth year of reign, Akhenaten decisively corrected the “doctrinal name” so that a second, final version followed. The previously important gods Re-Harachte and Schu have been removed from both cartridges. With the connection of Re and Harachte, the falcon-headed deity disappears in the first cartridge and only Re (the sun, the light) remains. In the second cartridge, Re also replaces the deity Shu.
In this final version of the name, also the “second doctrinal name of Aton”, it can be assumed that the name Re no longer stood for the original sun god, but only for the principle of the sun, from which then in the so-called “sun hymn” " the speech is.
In addition to the translation under the second pair of cartouches (see adjacent table) for the apparently final form of the “doctrinal name”, the literature also contains this: “Re is alive, the ruler of the two horizons, who rejoices in his land of light (horizon) in his name as the father of Re who came (again) as Aton "
In several individual graves of that period there are mostly shorter, partly fragmentary inscriptions. The most extensive version of this is in the tomb of Eje . This " sun hymn of Akhenaten " (and not, as is often misrepresented: "sun hymn of Akhenaten") is now regarded as Akhenaten's creed. Although it cannot be proven whether the consecration poem was written by Akhenaten himself, this is believed to be possible.
In this eulogy of Aton, his creative and life-sustaining power is celebrated in lyrical form, which achieves its unique and incomparable effect solely through its presence in the sky, the emitted warmth and the bright light, while Aton's absence with darkness and death, impotence and the Is equated with awakening of evil. As a result of his movement across the firmament, Aton, according to this view of God, also creates time. What is also new is that Aton's work is not limited to Egypt and the Egyptians, but includes all countries, people and races of the then known world.
With all of this, the hymn understands the aton exclusively as a natural phenomenon of God, who articulates and cultically realizes her will and her relations to people exclusively through the king. Nevertheless, the Aton cult was not a doctrine of nature in the sense of later Greek philosophers, but pursued, on which there is broad consensus today, a radical, if not entirely consistent, monotheism. The theology associated with Aton was at the same time "in its inexorable consistency the simplest and clearest religion that was ever formed!" Thus the Aton cult is possibly the first foundation religion in human history.
Effects of the Aton cult
Akhenaten has, at least since he experienced strong resistance from traditional gods in the first years of his reign with regard to the Aton cult and its theological, political and economic-social consequences, radically enforced his religious intentions. Not only were the temples of the other gods, especially those of the former imperial god Amun (Amun-Re), closed and their property transferred to the temples of the aton or the royal treasure, as well as the names of these deities, even the plural form "gods" deleted from pictorial representations, rather, their representatives, priests and officials were mostly also relieved of their position and, in many cases, of their property. That alone had to lead to considerable social tension.
All the more so since the Egyptian people were banned from their ethical world of ideas, the gods who reward good and persecute evil, as were the opportunities to turn to these gods. Furthermore, with the consequent ostracism of the traditional gods, the millennia-old notions of prehistoric times and the creation of the world sank . And finally people saw themselves deprived of the ideas of the underworldly kingship of Osiris ( Duat ) and of the knowledge connected with this about the attainment of Eternal Life . The cult of the dead still followed the traditional rituals, but was stripped of its traditional meaning. Life after death takes place in this world. Like the living, the bas of the blessed dead were awakened every day by the first rays of Aten. To provide for them, he called them to the temples, where they shared in the sacrifices.
Aftermath of the Aton cult
At the same time as Akhenaten's death, the Aton cult entered its decline phase. Under Akhenaten's immediate successors Tutankhamun , Semenchkare and Eje there seem to have been phases of half-hearted attempts at preservation, which ultimately failed and led to the reinstatement of the old gods. It was only with Haremhab , who was presumably already under Akhenaten, but definitely Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army under his successors and even a kind of king's deputy under Tutankhamun, that the Aton cult was consequently overcome. This was still purposefully pursued by Seti I and Ramses II .
In many cases, especially in popular scientific literature, one finds the claim that in this way those conditions would have returned that had existed before Akhenaten. This is incorrect insofar as the after-effects of the theological concept of the Aton cult as well as its political consequences shone effectively into future history. So the kingship, which up until then was beyond any criticism, seems to have fallen into a deep crisis when Akhenaten was branded a liar and heretic at the end of his time. The principle of mate and the “connective justice” associated with it had got into a similar dilemma . And finally, the entire theology and piety of ancient Egypt had received new impulses that led to a henotheism , with which the old polytheism was not overcome, but in which monotheistic ideas were latent.
It must be very likely that the idea of monotheism brought to mind with the Aton cult had an influence on its development and further development in other parts of the world. A direct effect on the development of Jewish monotheism, as Sigmund Freud believed he recognized, assuming that the founder of the religion Moses brought his Exodus character “the spiritualized Aton religion”, is - provided that one considers Moses as a historical person and the Sees Exodus as a real historical event - to this extent possible, but not verifiable.
Places of worship
- Per-Aton Temple in Karnak
- City of Achetaton (horizon of the Aten), today El-Amarna
- Hannaton that on the road from Megiddo to Akko is. ( Jos 19.14 EU )
In addition to a large number of scientific and popular scientific works, fiction has also taken up the topic in many cases and has dealt with the Aton cult and its protagonists in literary terms. Among others Pauline Gedge : Pharao , Christian Jacq : Nefertiti and Akhenaten , Andreas Schramek : Im Lande das Falkengottes or Nagib Machfus : Akhenaten: Who lives in truth , Siegfried Obermeier : Akhenaten - In the sign of the sun .
Probably the best-known literary consideration of this particular phase of the cultural and religious history can be found in Thomas Mann , in the 4th volume of his Josephs tetralogy . Jan Assmann has dealt critically with this . In particular, Assmann contradicts the representation that Akhenaten took the step from immanent to transcendent God with the Aton cult . Rather, the physical appearance and effect of the celestial body, the sun, was declared to be the sole god and thus the divine essence of ancient Egypt was demystified as a whole. Assmann thus shows why Thomas Mann's principle of God behind Aton (called “Lord of Aton” there) is an inaccurate representation.
- Dieter Arnold : The temples of Egypt. Apartments for gods, monuments, places of worship. Bechtermünz, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-86047-215-1 .
- Jan Assmann : Egypt. Theology and Piety of an Early High Culture. 2nd Edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-17-011768-8 .
- Jan Assmann: Theology and wisdom in ancient Egypt. Fink, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7705-4069-7 .
- Jan Assmann: Thomas Mann and Egypt. Myth and monotheism in the Joseph novels. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54977-2 .
- Hans Bonnet : Lexicon of the Egyptian religious history. 3rd unchanged edition, Nikol, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-937872-08-6 .
- Emma Brunner-Traut : The founders of great world religions. Herder, Freiburg i. B. 2007, ISBN 978-3-451-05937-7 .
- Sir Alan Gardiner : History of Ancient Egypt. An introduction. Weltbild, Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-89350-723-X .
- Wolfgang Helck : Political Contrasts in Ancient Egypt. One try. In: Hildesheimer Egyptological contributions. (HÄB) Volume 23, Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1986.
- Erik Hornung : Monotheism in Pharaonic Egypt. In: O. Keel (ed.): Monotheism in ancient Israel and its environment (= Biblical contributions. Volume 14). Friborg (Switzerland) 1980.
- Erik Hornung: Akhenaten. The religion of light. 2nd Edition. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-7608-1223-6 .
- Manfred Lurker : Lexicon of the gods and symbols of the ancient Egyptians. Scherz, Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 3-502-19420-3 .
- Thomas Mann : Joseph and his brothers. Volume IV: Joseph, the breadwinner. 12th edition. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-596-29438-X .
- Dominic Montserrat : Akhenaten. History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt. Routledge, London 2000, ISBN 0-415-18549-1 .
- Nicholas Reeves : Akhenaten. Egypt's false prophet (= cultural history of the ancient world . Volume 91). von Zabern, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-8053-2828-1 .
- Hermann A. Schlögl : Akhenaten. Beck, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56241-9 .
- Carsten Knigge Salis: Aton. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.): The scientific biblical lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff., Accessed on May 26, 2012.
- Hermann Schlögl: The Ancient Egypt: History and Culture from the Early Period to Cleopatra . Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54988-8 , p. 227.
- Dominic Montserrat: Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and ancient Egypt. P. 38.
- Christian Leitz et al: Lexicon of Egyptian gods and names of gods . Volume 1: 3 - y. Peeters, Leuven 2002, ISBN 2-87723-644-7 , pp. 335-336.
- H. Bonnet: Lexicon of the Egyptian Religious History. P. 60.
- Assmann: Thomas Mann and Egypt. P. 155.
- H. Bonnet: Lexicon of the Egyptian Religious History. P. 60.
- Horst Beinlich, Mohammed Saleh: Corpus of the hieroglyphic inscriptions from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 1989, ISBN 0-900416-53-X , No. 281a.
- H. Beinlich, M. Saleh: Corpus of the hieroglyphic inscriptions from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford 1989, No. 291 a.
- H. Beinlich, M. Saleh: Corpus of the hieroglyphic inscriptions from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford 1989, No. 300 a.
- so H. Bonnet: Lexicon of the Egyptian Religious History. P. 63, after Kurt Sethe : The name Ilh-N-itn. In: Journal of Egyptian Language and Antiquity. (ZÄS) = (ÄZ) Volume 44, p. 117.
- Gardiner: History of Ancient Egypt. Augsburg 1994, p. ???.
- E. Hornung: Akhenaten. The religion of light. Düsseldorf / Zurich 2001, p. 104.
- Sigmund Freud, Lou Andreas-Salomé: Correspondence. P. 223 (quoted from Assmann: Thomas Mann. P. 190)