Akhenaten (pronounced /ˌɑːkəˈnɑːtən/; meaning "living spirit of Aten"


(alternative spellings include Akhnaton, Echnaton, Ikhnaton, and Khuenaten) was known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning Amun is Satisfied), a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic or henotheistic. An early inscription likens him to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.


In the early years of his reign, Amenhotep IV lived at Thebes with Nefertiti and his 6 daughters. Initially, he permitted worship of Egypt's traditional deities to continue but near the Temple of Karnak (Amun-Ra's great cult center), he erected several massive buildings including temples to the Aten. Aten was usually depicted as a sun disc. These buildings at Thebes were later dismantled by his successors and used as infill for new constructions in the Temple of Karnak; when they were later dismantled by archaeologists, some 36,000 decorated blocks from the original Aton building here were revealed which preserve many elements of the original relief scenes and inscriptions.


The rather strange and eccentric portrayals of Akhenaten, with a sagging stomach, thick thighs, larger breasts, and long, thin face — so different from the athletic norm in the portrayal of Pharaohs — has led certain Egyptologists to suppose that Akhenaten suffered some kind of genetic abnormality. Various illnesses have been put forward. On the basis of his longer jaw and his feminine appearance, Cyril Aldred[68] suggested he may have suffered from Froelich's Syndrome. However, this is unlikely because this disorder results in sterility and Akhenaten is believed to have fathered numerous children — at least six daughters by Nefertiti, and his successor Tutankhamen by a minor wife.

Another suggestion by Burridge is that Akhenaten may have suffered from Marfan's Syndrome. Marfan's syndrome, unlike Froelich's, does not result in any lack of intelligence or sterility. It is associated with a sunken chest, long curved spider-like fingers (arachnodactyly), occasional congenital heart difficulties, a high curved or slightly cleft palate, and a highly curved cornea or dislocated lens of the eye, with the requirement for bright light to see well. Marfan's sufferers tend towards being taller than average, with a long, thin face, and elongated skull, overgrown ribs, a funnel or pigeon chest, and larger pelvis, with enlarged thighs and spindly calves. Marfan's syndrome is a dominant characteristic, and sufferers have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children. All of these symptoms appear in depictions of Akhenaten and of his children. Recent CT scans of Tutankhamun report a cleft palate and a fairly long head, as well as an abnormal curvature of the spine and fusion of the upper vertebrae, a condition associated with scoliosis, all conditions associated with Marfan's syndrome. Marfan Syndrome was ruled out following DNA tests on Tutankhamun in 2010.

However, Dominic Montserrat in Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt argues that "there is now a broad consensus among Egyptologists that the exaggerated forms of Akhenaten's physical portrayal... are not to be read literally". Montserrat and others argue that the body-shape relates to some form of religious symbolism. Because the god Aten was referred to as "the mother and father of all humankind" it has been suggested that Akhenaten was made to look androgynous in artwork as a symbol of the androgyny of the god. This required "a symbolic gathering of all the attributes of the creator god into the physical body of the king himself", which will "display on earth the Aten's multiple life-giving functions". Akhenaten did refer to himself as "The Unique One of Re", and he may have used his control of artistic expression to distance himself from the common people, though such a radical departure from the idealised traditional representation of the image of the Pharaoh would be truly extraordinary.

Uffinton too supports this view and claims that Akhenaten's asexual appearance is explained in the Gnostic Book of Enoch when Enoch meets the Elohim. Representations of other persons than Akhenaten in the 'Amarna style' are equally unflattering — for example, a carving of his father Amenhotep III as an overweight figure; Nefertiti is shown in some statues as well past her prime, with a severe face and a stomach swollen by repeated pregnancies.

Another claim was made by Immanuel Velikovsky, who hypothesized an incestuous relationship with his mother, Tiye. Velikovsky also posited that Akhenaten had elephantiasis, producing enlarged legs. Based on this, he identified Akhenaten as the history behind the Oedipus myth, Oedipus being Greek for "swollen feet", and moved the setting from the Greek Thebes to the Egyptian Thebes. As part of his argument, Velikovsky uses the fact that Akhenaten viciously carried out a campaign to erase the name of his father, which he argues could have developed into Oedipus killing his father. This point seems to be disproved, however, in that Akhenaten in fact mummified and buried his father in the honorable traditional Egyptian fashion prior to beginning his monotheistic revolution.

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