In ancient Egyptian culture the Sun was considered the manifestation of god. He was called Ra. Actually his full name is Ra - Atum - Khepri. This name represents the three stages of the Sun. Khepri - the rising Sun, Ra - the Sun at the zenith (noon) and Atum -the setting Sun. It is believed that Ra created the first divine couple, Shu and Tefnut, who are the parents of the earth and sky. The Egyptians also believed that man was born from the tears of Ra, and were the god's cattle. So since man is created in his image and is issued from his flesh, the earth was created to provide care and support for mankind.
The Pharaohs were believed to be the successors of the first king, who was the creator Ra. Because of this belief the pharaohs deeds and gestures are described in the same terms used to describe the actions of the Sun god Ra. An example of this is: Of Ra's creation it is said that he put order in the place of chaos, this is extremely close to what was said of Tut-ankh-Amon after restoring order after the rule of Akh-en-Aton/Pepi II, it was said that he put order in the place of falsehood.
The pharaoh was not considered a king, rather he was considered a god. This meant his work insured stability of the cosmos and the state. Since the pharaoh was already a god when he died he just ascended into heaven. There was however a catch to this, he had to first endure several ordeals. First he would come to a lake, which he must cross. There he would find a boat. However, before the pharaoh could enter the boat he had to pass judgement from the ferryman. The ferryman had all the powers of a judge. To enter the boat the pharaoh must have completed all the ritual purification's and have answered correctly the question put before him. These questions had to be answered by a certain formula, which served as a password to heaven. When he finally got to heaven the pharaoh was received in triumph by the Sun god himself. In heaven the pharaoh continued his earthly existence. He would be on a throne receiving homage from his subjects, as well as judging and giving orders. Even though the pharaoh was surrounded by his subjects, family members, and officials he alone had solar immortality.
|"Oh Sun, thou hast
made the heavens that thou may rise therein..."
- Akhenaten's Hymn
This particular struggle brought about the Amorna Revolution (1375 - 1350). This revolution was started so that Aton the solar disk Sun god could rise once again to supreme authority. You see at the beginning of Egypt's Golden age he had supreme authority. But by the end he was reduced in power and the god Osiris rose to power. There was however an ulterior motive to this revolution, the pharaoh wanted to strip the high priests of their power.
Pharaoh Amen-hotep IV managed to do this by literally depriving the high priests of the administration of the gods properties. Without these the priests had no "power". Soon after this was accomplished he took the throne. The pharaoh then decided to change his name from Amen-hotep which means Amon is satisfied to Akh-en-Aton meaning he-who-serves-Aton. On top of all of this, he moved the capital from Thebes 500km north to what is now Tell el-Amarn, and renamed it Akhet-Aton. In order for the Sun to be worshiped in all his glory, all the temples and palaces of this city were built without roofs!
Aton, the supreme god is often represented as a solar disk with rays ending in hands, which bring his light, the symbol of life.
©Copyright 1998 Elizabeth
Beckett, Holly Bernitt, and Vishwa Chandra.