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Ancient Roots An Astronomical Wonder
The Undying Stars Family Affair
The First Year Chaos and Order
Chaos and Order
By the time Ramesses became king, around 1279 BC, Egypt was 2,000 years old. It had seen a hundred kings, survived wars, and lived through periods of political chaos that stretched for centuries. The priesthood maintained a religious legacy that had persisted for almost 20 centuries — with one brief exception. Yet the exception illustrates the great stability of the Egyptian world and worldview: Not even a pharaoh could change them for long.

The pharaoh Amenhotep IV founded a new national religion based on the worship of Aten, a Sun god. He changed his name to Akhenaten to honor the god, and moved the Egyptian capital to the new city of Akhetaten, "the horizon of the Aten." ( 1997 Deurer)
What's known as the "great heresy" took place during the reign of Amenhotep the Fourth — a name that means "Amun is pleased." Yet Amun clearly would NOT have been pleased at the actions of this king.

Amenhotep was crowned at Karnak — the temple of Amun, in the religious capital of Thebes. But he soon established a NEW religion, based on the worship of a single god: Aten. Represented by the disk of the Sun, Aten was seen as the force that breathed life into the entire world. Amun and the other gods of Egypt were banished.

The king changed his name to Akhenaten, which means "servant of the Aten." He built a new capital city, which he called "HORIZON of the Aten." Aten bestowed his life-giving rays upon pharaoh, who bestowed the gift of life-after-death upon his subjects.

But the priests of Amen-Re didn't intend to let Aten remain the center of Egyptian theology.

They got their chance when Akhenaten died and was succeeded by a young boy, who may have been his son.

Influenced by the military and the royal vizier, Ay, the boy king quickly dismantled the new religion. The new capital was abandoned. The name of Akhenaten was banished from public life. And the boy-king changed his OWN name to reflect the changing times — from TutankhATEN to TutankhAMEN — "living image of Amun." Yet even this penance wasn't enough.

When Tutankhamen died, at around the age of 17, he was buried in a small, hastily prepared tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes. Then his name disappeared. It was chiseled out of public monuments, and left off the official lists of pharaohs.

His young wife married the new pharaoh, Ay, but she quickly vanished — and with her went the last blood link to the heresy of Akhenaten.

Order returned to the Valley of the Nile. Harmony once again ruled in the heavens. Amun, who created the world from the eternal cosmic ocean, was pleased.

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