Akhnaton driving with his Wife and Daughter
The charm of family life, and the sanctity of the relationship of husband and wife, parents and children, seems to have been an important point of doctrine to him. He urged his nobles, also, to give their attention to their families; and in the tomb of Panehesy, for example, one may see representations of that personage sitting with his wife and his three daughters around him.
In his capacity as Pharaoh and “son of God,” Akhnaton demanded and received a very considerable amount of ceremonial homage; but he never blinded himself to the fact that he was primarily but a simple man. He most sincerely wished that his private life should be a worthy example to his subjects, and he earnestly desired that it should be observed in all its naturalness and simplicity. He did his utmost to elevate the position of women and the sanctity of the family by displaying to the world the ideal conditions of his own married life. He made a point of caressing his wife in public, putting his arm around her neck in the sight of all men. As we have seen, one of his forms of oath was, “As my heart is happy in the Queen and her children....” He spoke of his wife always as “Mistress of his happiness, ... at hearing whose voice the King rejoices.” “Lady of grace” was she, “great of love” and “fair of face.” Every wish that she expressed, declared Akhnaton, was executed by him. Even on the most ceremonious occasions the queen sat beside her husband and held his hand, while their children frolicked around them; for such things pleased that gentle father more than the savour of burnt-offerings. It is seldom that the Pharaoh is represented in the reliefs without his family; and, in opposition to all tradition, the queen is shown upon the same scale of size and importance as that of her husband. Akhnaton’s devotion to his children is very marked, and he taught his disciples to believe that God was the father, the mother, the nurse, and the friend of the young. Thus, though “son of God,” Akhnaton preached the beauty of the human family, and laid stress on the sanctity of marriage and parenthood.
When Thothmes IV. ascended the throne he was confronted by a very serious political problem. The Heliopolitan priesthood at this time was chafing against the power of Amon, and was striving to restore the somewhat fallen prestige of its own god Ra, who in the far past had been the supreme deity of Egypt, but had now to play an annoying second to the Theban god. Thothmes IV., as we shall presently be told by Akhnaton himself, did not altogether approve of the political character of the Amon priesthood, and it may have been due to this dissatisfaction that he undertook the repairing of the great Sphinx at Gizeh, which was in the care of the priests of Heliopolis. The sphinx was thought to represent a combination of the Heliopolitan gods Horakhti, Khepera, Ra, and Atum, who have been mentioned above; and, according to a later tradition, Thothmes IV. had obtained the throne over the heads of his elder brothers through the mediation of the Sphinx—that is to say, through that of the Heliopolitan priests. By them he was called “Son of Atum and Protector of Horakhte, ... who purifies Heliopolis and satisfies Ra,” and it seems that they looked to him to restore to them their lost power. The Pharaoh, however, was a physical weakling, whose small amount of energy was entirely expended upon his army, which he greatly loved, and which he led into Syria and into the Sudan. His brief reign of somewhat over eight years, from 1420 to 1411 B.C., marks but the indecisive beginnings of the struggle between Amon and Ra, which culminated in the early years of the reign of his grandson Akhnaton.
There are only two artists of the period who are known by name. The one was a certain Auta, who is represented in a relief dating from some eight years after the change in the art had taken place. It is a significant fact that this personage held the post of master-artist to Queen Tiy; and it is possible that in him and his patron we have the originators of the movement. The king, however, was now old enough to take an active interest in such matters; and the other artist who is known by name, a certain Bek, definitely states that the king himself taught him. Thus there is reason to suppose that the young Pharaoh’s own hand is to be traced in the new canons, although they were instituted when he was but fifteen years old
1. The head of Akhnaton. From a contemporary drawing.
2. The head of a king. From an archaic statuette found by Professor Petrie at Abydos.
3. The head of Akhnaton. From a contemporary drawing.
4. The head of a prince. From an archaic tablet found by Professor Petrie at Abydos.
5. An archaic statuette found by Professor Petrie at Diospolis, showing the large thighs found in the art of Akhnaton.