Amen and Aten

Amenhotep IV, who is better known by the name he adopted—Akhnaton, is described in books on Egyptian history and in those books on the development of religion as a great heretic and also as the “first monotheist.” These claims are built upon the fact that he abrogated the cult of Amon or Amen, until then the chief deity in the Egyptian pantheon, and substituted it by the worship of Aton or Aten, a reform audible in the change of names—from Amenhotep to Akhnaton. The reform was carried on with great zeal—the name of the god Amon was erased from the inscriptions of the capital Thebes and the name of Aten substituted. The name of Akhnaten’s father—Amenhotep III—weas subjected to the same mutilation. Akhnaten built a new capital to the north of Thebes and called it Akhetaten, the place where Aten rises. The claim of being the “first monotheist” of world hisotry was made for Akhnaten on the basis of his hymn to that deity, by Egyptologists and then turned again in booksof authors writing on religion or history in general. The question of whether Akhaten was the first monotheist (or even a monotheist in general) requires revision already because of the fact that Akhnaten lived not in the 14th but in the 9th century. But, first of all, the identity of the rejected deity and that of the substituted require elucidation.

One is usually told that Amon was a solar deity and that Aten was also a solar deity. thus it comes to a rather unclear reform: one deity that symbolized the sun was rjeected and another deity that suymbolized also the sun was elected. In this presentation the revolutionary character of the reform is hardly obvious: it amounts, actually to only littlem more than to a change of names. It would be, actually not a greater reform that substitution in a modern Christian creed of a Madonna of Lourdes by a Madonna of Guadaloupe. In this example, the chapel at a place where an apparition of the deity took place and the cult connected with it, are in competition with the cult and a chapel at another location, with similar claims. But hardly would the name of a deity of one place be erased and its cult debased in the second place. Therefore there is something unexplained in the violence with which the votaries of the Aten cult exterminated all what pertained to the Amen cult. If Amen and Aten were both solar deities, then the passions that accompanied the change of the cult—first from Amen to Aten and, after Akhnaten, back from Aten to Amen—must have had their origin in something that is yet unexplained.

Actually the statement that Amen was the divine personification of the sun, or the sun itself, is based on nothing known from any Egyptological source. Just because Amen was the supreme deity and the sun is the supreme luminary in the sky it is assumed without any further inquest, that Amen was the sun. Following this kind of logic, Zeus must have been a solar deity, too. However we know that Zeus was the Roman Jupiter, was the god of that planet; Helios—the solar deity, was certainly not the highest deity; and even in the form of Apollo, the sun was not supreme on the Greek Olympus. Actually, we have statements of Greek authors that Amen was the Egyptian Zeus-Jupiter. Thus the authors who describe the visit of Alexander to the sanctuary of Amon in the oasis of Siwa in the western desert identified Amen with Zeus-Jupiter. Thus we see that the identification of Amen with Helios or the sun is not built on anytning but a priori thinking, as expressed by E. Renan, who wrote that the only astral religion that appears natural is the worhip of the sun, the great luminary, the giver of light and warmth, and life itself.

The cult of Jupiter was abrogated by the king-heretic and in its place was elevated the cult of Aten. Which deity was worshipped in the Aten?

The famous hymn componsed by Akhnaton or by a royal poet,(1) says in parts:

Thou appearest beautifully on the horizon of heaven,
Thou living Aton, the beginning of life!
When thou art rise on the eastern horizon,
Thou has filled every land with they beauty....
Thy rays encompass the lands to the limit of all that thou hast made....
When thou settest in the western horizon,
The land is in darkness in the manner of death...
At daybreak, when thou arisest on the horizon,
When thou shinest as the Aton by day,
Thou drivest away the darkness...

This description is strongly suggestive of Aten being the sun. Additional indirect argument for this identification can be found in the way the Palestinian potentates used to address the pharaoh: “You shine like the sun in the heavens.” The king being compared to the sun, the sun must been considered the highest deity. However, already Amenhotep II , the father of Akhnaton, was compared with the sun in the letters of these potentates. Yet these very letters disclose which was the supreme deity of the correpondents from Palestine.

The most prolific writer of letters form Palestine was the king whose name is usualy read Rib Addi, but in translation into Hebrew would be the “eldest brother (or son) of the father,” or equivalent of Ahab. The identification of Rib Addi with Ahab was offered and substantiated by us in Ages in Chaos, Vol. I, by a very extensive and detailed analysis. More than sixty letters of this king of Sumura (Shemer or Shomron-Samaria) were preserved in the archive of el-Amarna to Akhetaten the capital of Akhnaten. He usually opened his letter with this blessing: “May Belith of Gubla...” In Ages in Chaos we identified the deity Belith with the female consort of the god Belus, of which Josephus Flavius wrote that it was brought to Israel from Phoenicia by Jezebel, the chief wife of Ethbaal.(2) We have also identified Gubla with the name of Jezreel until Jezebel’s death.

From the Scriptures we known of the great and passionate struggle which went on in the days of Ahab in Palestine. At a time when the southern kingdom, that of Judah, the chief diety was Yahwe, in the Northern Kingdom, that of Israel, the chief deity was Baal and according to the testimony of Jospehus, Baalith, which is the female form of the name. We have also the rmultiple testimony that Belith or Baalith was the planet Venus, or the Queen of Heaven in the language of Jeremiah, two and a half centuries later. The planet Venus or Ishtar of the Babylonian cult, as we have shown in Worlds in Collision, was worshipped in the Greek world as Athene. Athene was second only to Zeus amd in Athens, the city called by her name, she was the most honored deity. Athene being recognized as the offspring of Zeus, that sprang fully armed from his head, it was not antagonistic to Zeus, already because of the polytheistic charcter of Greek religion that made it possible to worship many astral deities simultaneously. A century or two after the time we describe here, the time of Akhanton and Ahab, the celestial conflict between Athene and Ares (Mars) made the tirbes on earth to take sides and in the time the Achaeans (the Greeks) had chosen Athene for their protecting deity, the Trojans of Priam had Ares as their protector. In another description of Athena’s birth, the Greeks had it being cleaved out of a pillar of cloud by Zeus. In Palestine, however, the protracted debate—which was the astral deity that was dominating the scene in the days of the Exodus-Passage and theophany on Mt. Sinai, caused a long and bitter schism its beginning can be seen in the dispute that made Moses and Aaron...

Again the hymn of Akhnaton.
Venus rivalled the sun in light.
Similarity to Ishtar hymns.
Solar cult only with Menasseh.
Struggle also in Mazda & Mithra


  1. The Hymn to the Aton, translated by John A. Wilson, in The Ancient Near East, Vol. I. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, edited by James B. Pritchard.

  2. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 8:316 (Whiston translation): “Ahab... also took to wife the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Tyrians and Sidonians, whose name was Jezebel, of whom he learned to worship her own gods. This woman was active and bold, and fell into so great a degree of impurity and madness, that she built a temple to the god of the Tyrians, which they call Belus, and planted a grove of all sorts of trees; she also appointed priests and false prophets to this god.”