Adoring Ra (Episode 117)

Akhenaten (Part 8)

Precursors to Atenism

Prior to Akhenaten’s reign, the worship of Ra had been developing in fascinating ways. From Thebes, a variety of tomb texts show us hints of pharaoh’s beliefs, explored by other people before his reign ever began.

Ancient Egyptian theology was complex, but certain trends and deities are relatively simple to grasp. There were thousands of deities, including beings like Hapy (the Nile flood), and Ma’at (the cosmic order and proper justice). Above the rest, the sun god ruled with a variety of names: Ra/Re, Horakhty, Aten, Atum, Khepri etc… are all manifestations of the same god. In this episode, we explore how Egyptians of the 18th Dynasty conceptualised and praised this mighty god, on the eve of Akhenaten’s movement….

  • Date: c.1400 – 1370 BCE
  • King: Akhenaten (Nefer-kheperu-Re Wa-en-Re)
  • Queen: Nefertiti (Nefer-neferu-Aten Neferet-iti)
  • Location: Amarna (Akhet-Aten)

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The Sun God

117. Suty and Hor British Museum
The stela of Suty and Hor, brothers who lived in the time of Amunhotep III (British Museum).

117. A4 with Ra and Atum (Kheruef plate 9) raw
The Tomb of Kheruef: Ra-Horakhty and Ma’at (left), the cartouche of Amunhotep IV (Akhenaten), Hathor and Atum Lord of Heliopolis (right) (OIP 1980).

117. A4 with Ra and Ma'at (Kheruef plate 9)
Amunhotep IV (later Akhenaten) making offerings to Ra-Horakhty and Ma’at (Tomb of Kheruef: OIP 1980).

117. Kheruef Setting Sun (OIP 1980 plate 7)
The Hymn to the Setting Sun, from the Tomb of Kheruef (OIP 1980).

117. Ra-Horakhty (Kheruef plate 16)
Ra Horakhty, from the Tomb of Kheruef (OIP 1980).

117. Shorter Hymn 1 (Davies IV plate xxxii)
The Shorter Hymn to Aten, compiled from various tombs at Amarna (Davies 1906).

1200px-Aten.svg

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Select Bibliography

Jan Assmann, Egyptian Solar Religion in the New Kingdom, 1995.

Norman de Garis Davies, The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna, Vol. IV: The Tombs of Penthu, Mahu and Others, 1906. Online edition at Archive.org.

Norman de Garis Davies, The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna, Vol. VI: The Tombs of Parennefer, Tutu, and Aye, 1908. Online edition at Archive.org.

Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunrise, 2014.

Jean Saint Fare Garnot, “Notes on the Inscriptions of Suty and Ḥor (British Museum Stela No. 826),” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 35 (1949): 63-68.

James K. Hoffmeier, Akhenaten & The Origins of Monotheism, 2015.

Erik Hornung, Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, 1999.

Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol. 2, 1976.

William J. Murnane, Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt, 1995.

OIP, The Tomb of Kheruef, 1980. Online edition at University of Chicago.

Donald B. Redford, Akhenaten the Heretic King, 1987. Online edition at Archive.org.

H.M. Stewart, “A Possibly Contemporary Parallel to the Inscription of Suty and Hor,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 43 (1957): 3-5.

Stephen Quirke, The Cult of Ra: Sun-Worship in Ancient Egypt, 2001.

 

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