Amehhotep III, The first Atenist ?

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Amenhotep III was one of the most prodigious builders in Egyptian History and many of his statues and temples survive today. Amongst the most impressive of these are the so called Colossi of Memnon, which stood at the entrance to his mortuary temple.

Amenhotep III had a long and successful reign. He inherited a stable and prosperous empire effectively founded by his great-grandfather Tuthmose III.

Amenhotep III's life was not without its share of tragedy. Akhenaten was never intended to replace his father on the throne, that role was supposed to be filled by his Amenhotep IIIs oldest son, Thutmose. But unfortunately he died before his father, which promoted Amenhotep IV (as Akhenaten was known then) to heir to the crowns.

Amenhotep's tomb in the valley of the kings, KV22 was discovered by a French expedition in 1799 and is still one of the most impressive today.

The rise to prominence of the Aten began before the reign of Amenhotep III, but it wa she who first started to promote the Aten as a major god. At the city of the sun god Ra, Heliopolis, there was a priesthood of Aten.

Amenhotep III's royal palace at Malkata was known as The Splendor of the Aten. There is also mention of a royal boat (or barge) named Aten Sparkles. In addition one of the kings titles was 'The radiance of the Aten'.

So although Akhenaten's first exposure to the god was probably while he was growing up at his fathers palaces. Maybe as Akhenaten's father began to raise the prominence of the Aten for his own political reasons, and maybe this set the stage for Akhenaten to raise the status of the Aten still more to sole state god.

Amenhotep III, from the British Museum

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