Aten disk

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Ancient Egypt’s Mysterious Aten Disk

Akhenaten's original name was Amenhotep IV, but in his sixth year of rule, he changed it to 'Akhenaten'.

The story of Aten or the radiant disk of the sun is certainly a complex one. Ancient Egyptians started worshipping the sun because Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th dynasty demolished all religions and gods. Ancient Egyptians had multiple deities that were associated with the sun before Akhenaten‘s era.

Akhenaten made himself an equivalent to the sun. His son, King Tut, rectified his father’s mistakes once he ascended the throne. However, you’d still see multiple inscriptions of Aten on the walls and ceilings of various structures of ancient Egypt.

A statue of Akhenaten. Source: Wikimedia Commons
In this picture, Nefertiti is receiving the rays of enlightenment from Aten. Source: Pinterest
King Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti praying to the sun god Aten. Source: Pinterest

We have accumulated a list of eight fascinating facts regarding Aten. Let’s have a look at them, shall we?

1) Pharaoh Akhenaten ruled Egypt for about 17 years between 1353 and 1335 B.C. He also fathered a son named Tutankhamun. He commanded everyone to worship Aten, the sun god. King Tut’s father destroyed all other religions and deities that were a significant part of ancient Egypt back in the olden days. Moreover, Akhenaten altered multiple ancient documents and texts.

2) Akhenaten’s original name was Amenhotep IV, but in his sixth year of rule, he changed it to ‘Akhenaten’. He selected a name that was somehow associated with Aten, the sun disk.

3) In honour of Aten, Akhenaten built an entirely new capital at an isolated piece of land, which we now call Amarna. It was all part of Akhenaten’s plan to present himself as an equivalent of the sun disk.

4) Aten was not new in Egyptian religion, but Akhenaten’s decision to make it the centre of religious life to the point where he dishonoured the names of Amun and Mut, was something completely new.

5) The Aten complex was built facing the east, toward the rising sun, whereas the rest of Karnak is facing the west, where ancient Egyptians believed the underworld to be.

6) A boy king named ‘Tutankhaten’ ascended the throne when Akhetnanam passed away. King Tut was originally named to honour Aten, but his name was later on modified to honour Amun, the god his father had tried to wipe out. Egypt returned to its original religious beliefs during King Tut’s reign.

7) According to King Akhenaten, Re and the remaining sun gods Khepri, Horakhty and Atum were no real gods. Hence, he tried to replace them with a better one. He asked everyone to follow his lead, and none could oppose him.

8) Multiple hymns were composed during Akhenaten’s reign, some apparently by the king himself. The hymns were for god Aten. They represented the miracles of nature and hailed the sun as the absolute and universal ruler of all things.

9) The term ‘sun’ was used in burial chambers and coffin texts to signify the sun disk. Some started considering the sun as the god who presided over everything.

10) The first known reference to Aten the sun disk as a deity is in the Story of Sinuhe from the 12th Dynasty.

All in all, King Akhenaten tried to change people’s perspectives by imposing his own on them.

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