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Father and son: Pharaohs of Egypt

Madelyn Bugdonovitch, Student Writer

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Ancient Egypt, one of the most world’s most developed and well known civilizations, was home to a father and son of great power; Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. However, even though they were related by blood, they are not related in mind. The two men show many similar characteristics when it comes to mindset and lifestyle, however, some of their beliefs and actions are contrasting. Tutankhamun was a young, but strong leader who proved that wisdom can come before its years, as he made a superior ruler of Egypt.

Akhenaten ascended to the throne after the death of his father, Amenhotep III. He would rule Egypt’s 18th Dynasty for a span of seventeen years. However, it was only after the fifth year that he decided to break tradition and do what no other pharaoh had done before. Akhenaten, previously Amenhotep IV, decided to pursue monotheism and enforce the worship of one god, Aten, the disk representation of the sun god. It was then when his name was officially changed to Akhenaten in honor of Aten. Soon, to add to his obsessive desire, he had an elaborate city built in the center of Egypt, Amarna, which would become the new capital of the country. Egyptologist, Dr. Zahi Hawass was able to describe the city based on extensive research:

[Amarna] Laid out parallel to the river, its boundaries marked by stelae carved into the cliffs ringing the site. The king himself took responsibility for its cosmologically significant master plan. In the center of his city, the king built a formal reception palace where he could meet officials and foreign dignitaries. The palaces in which he and his family lived were to the north and a road led from the royal dwelling to the reception palace. Each day, Akhenaten and Nefertiti processed in their chariots from one end of the city to the other, mirroring the journey of the sun across the sky. In this, as in many other aspects of their lives that have come to us through art and texts, Akhenaten and Nefertiti were seen, or at least saw themselves, as deities in their own right. It was only through them that the Aten could be worshipped: they were both priests and gods.

Here, he would marry Nefertiti, who would remain his “chief wife,” as it was common for pharaohs to possess many wives, until his death. It was not until the city of Amarna was found that insights about Akhenaten’s actual policy and type of rule emerged.

While he was stationed in his newly built capital, he made more drastic changes to Egyptian traditions. After moving the capital from Thebes and dictating monotheism, Akhenaten decided to take it one step further and alter the art style. As many are aware, Ancient Egypt is known for its stunning art work and elaborate hieroglyphics. Since the very beginning of Egyptian history, people, especially the royal family, were depicted as muscular and powerful;  the drawing itself would include sharp edges and bold colors. However, art from the Amarna Period, during Akhenaten’s rule, was the polar opposite. The royal family, including the pharaoh, were depicted with elongated necks and heads, disproportionate and lean bodies, and skinny limbs. The pharaoh was supposed to be an image of great power and connection to, in this case, Aten, and this representation of Akhenaten and his family did not put forth power, but their strict religious beliefs. It is evident that the “heretic king” had a passion for this religion. However this passion lead  him to take away from other important parts of Egyptian state.

Akhenaten believed himself to be of equal stance with Aten, a god. Therefore, he believed that essential things like foreign policy were beneath him. Previous allies to Egypt attempted to contact the pharaoh to ask for aid, as Egypt was a very wealthy country, or support on a political standpoint, but as the pharaoh was much too involved with domestic issues to care. The former Egypt had an extremely well balanced government of diplomacy and military.  However Akhenaten chose ignore what happened beyond the borders.

After his death, his son, Tutankhamun, would take the throne at the extraordinary age of nine. The boy king would continue his rule of the 18th Dynasty for 10 years of his life, before his premature death in 1324 B.C. He was given the name Tutankhaten at birth, but, much like his father, later had it changed to suit his beliefs. However, his father’s name change represented a denial of tradition, Tutankhamun’s name change represented a return to original beliefs, religiously, artistically, and politically. He reenstilled the polytheism in Egypt that has become so widely recognized today. He also restored the capital to its rightful place in Thebes, where it had been for so many years. Shortly after the move, Tutankhamun married his half sister, Ankhesenamun, who would act as his singular “chief wife.” In that regard Tut is similar to his father, as most pharaohs had made high ranking wives.

In reverting Egypt back its old ways, the boy pharaoh ordered for reconstruction and vast repair of the temples and places of worship in Karnak. King Tutankhamun also reinstated the importance of foreign policy that was so terribly neglected during his father’s reign. He attempted to mend relationships with allies and Egypt’s neighboring countries. According the Egyptologists, there is evidence to prove that the diplomacy throughout the ten years of Tutankhamun’s reign was extremely successful. He even managed to expand the military in battles with the Nubians over territory.  

Although this father and son held many contrasting views, they both are on common ground when considering their drive to achieve and follow their beliefs and their chiefly lifestyles. However, King Tutankhamun repaired almost irreparable damages created by his father, and all done from the age of nine to nineteen. In my opinion, this made him the better ruler; he was able to do so much good for Egypt from such a young age. Tutankhamun was determined and wise beyond his years.

About the Writer
Madelyn Bugdonovitch, Student Writer

My name is Madelyn Rose Bugdonovitch, and I am a senior. I am currently attending college part-time along with high school through our school's Dual Enrollment...

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Father and son: Pharaohs of Egypt