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Aten

by Micha F. Lindemans
The name of the visible solar disc in ancient Egypt. Originally a manifestation of the sun god, Aten (Aton) became the only true sun god during the reign of pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1367 - 1350 BCE). The sun gods Re and Atum lost much of their importance during this period. In some of the older sources, it is stated that Amenhotep, who later assumed the name Akhenaten, attempted to establish a monotheistic cult with Aten as the sole deity and that after his death Egypt returned to polytheism. However, Akhenaten held other deities in reverence too, and his Atenism was not entirely monotheism. He did build the city Akhetaten (modern Tel el-Amarna) and erected a huge Aten temple at Karnak, but the city was abandoned after his death and the temple of Aten was destroyed by his successors.

Aten was depicted as a radiant solar disc with rays ending in hands holding the ankh symbols or in hands of blessing over the king and his family, but also as a winged sun disc. This disc was also subtended by the cobra amulet, the uraeus. The main sanctuaries of Aten were in Thebes, Akhetaten, and Heliopolis.


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