Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, by James Henry Breasted, , at sacred-texts.com
In the Feudal Age the social realm had made its impression upon religion as in the Pyramid Age the Egyptian state, the political realm had done. Both these were limited to the territory of Egypt. The Pyramid Age had gained a dim vision of the vast extent of the Sun-god's domain, and had once addressed him by the sounding title "Limitless." 1 But this remained, as it were, a momentary glimpse without effect upon the Solar theology as a whole. The Sun-god ruled only Egypt, and in the great Sun-hymn of the Pyramid Texts 2 he stands guardian on the Egyptian frontiers, where he builds the gates which restrain all outsiders from entering his inviolable domain. In the Pyramid Age, too, the Sun-god had already begun the process of absorbing the other gods of Egypt, a process resulting even at so remote a date in a form of national pantheism, in which all the gods ultimately coalesced into forms and functions of one. But even this process, though it did not cease, had left the supreme god's dominion still restricted to Egypt. He was very far from being a world-god. The Egyptians indeed had not as yet gained the world-idea, the world-empire over which they might install the world-ruler. The influences of an environment restricted to the limits
of the Nile valley had now, however, gone as far as they could, when a career of imposing foreign expansion of national power enlarged the theatre of thought and action. The Solar theology had been sensitively responsive to conditions in the Nile-valley world. It proved to be not less sensitive to the larger world, to include which the Egyptian horizon had now expanded.
Egypt's imperial expansion northward and southward until the Pharaoh's power had united the contiguous regions of Asia and Africa into the first stable Empire in history is the commanding fact in the history of the East in the sixteenth century B.C. The consolidation of that power by Thutmose III's twenty years’ campaigning in Asia is a stirring chapter of military imperialism in which for the first time in the East we can discern the skilfully organized and mobile forces of a great state as they are brought to bear with incessant impact upon the nations of western Asia, until the Egyptian supremacy is undisputed from the Greek Islands, the coasts of Asia Minor, and the highlands of the Upper Euphrates on the north to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile on the south. This great military leader himself made the remark which we have quoted above regarding his god: "He seeth the whole earth hourly." If this was true it was because the sword of the Pharaoh had carried the power of Egypt's god to the limit of Egypt's Empire. 1 Fifty years earlier, indeed, Thutmose I proclaimed his kingdom as far as "the circuit of the sun." 2 In the Old Kingdom the Sun-god was conceived as a Pharaoh, whose kingdom was Egypt. With the expansion of the Egyptian kingdom into a world-empire it was inevitable that the domain of the god
should likewise expand. As the kingdom had long since found expression in religion, so now the Empire was a powerful influence upon religious thought.
While this was a more or less mechanical and unconscious process, it was accompanied by an intellectual awakening which shook the old Egyptian traditions to the foundations and set the men of the age to thinking in a larger world. Thutmose III was the first character of universal aspects, the first world-hero. As such he made a profound impression upon his age. The idea of universal power, of a world-empire, was visibly and tangibly bodied forth in his career. There is a touch of universalism now discernible in the theology of the Empire which is directly due to such impressions as he and his successors made. Egypt is forced out of the immemorial isolation of her narrow valley into world-relations, with which the theology of the time must reckon—relations with which the Sun-god, as we have seen, was inextricably involved. Commercial connections, maintained from an immemorially remote past, had not sufficed to bring the great world without into the purview of Egyptian thinking. The limits of the dominion of the Egyptian gods had been fixed as the outer fringes of the Nile valley long before the outside world was familiar to the Nile-dwellers; and merely commercial intercourse with a larger world had not been able to shake the tradition. Many a merchant had seen a stone fall in distant Babylon and in Thebes alike, but it had not occurred to him, or to any man in that far-off age, that the same natural force reigned in these widely separated countries. The world was far indeed from the lad lying beneath the apple-tree and discovering a universal force in the fall of an apple. Many a merchant of that day, too, had seen the sun rise
behind the Babylonian ziggurats as it did among the clustered obelisks of Thebes, but the thought of the age had not yet come to terms with such far-reaching facts as these. It was universalism expressed in terms of imperial power which first caught the imagination of the thinking men of the Empire, and disclosed to them the universal sweep of the Sun-god's dominion as a physical fact. Monotheism is but imperialism in religion.
It is no accident, therefore, that about 1400 B.C., in the reign of Amenhotep III, the most splendid of the Egyptian emperors, we find the first of such impressions. Two architects, Suti and Hor, twin brothers, whom Amenhotep III was employing at Thebes, have left us a Sun-hymn on a stela now in the British Museum, 1 which discloses the tendency of the age and the widening vision with which these men of the Empire were looking out upon the world and discerning the unlimited scope of the Sun-god's realm.
It is evident in such a hymn as this that the vast sweep of the Sun-god's course over all the lands and peoples of the earth has at last found consideration, and the logical conclusion has also followed. The old stock phrases of the earlier hymns, the traditional references to the falcon, and the mythological allusions involved have not wholly disappeared, but the momentous step has been taken of extending the sway of the Sun-god over all lands and peoples. No earlier document left us by the thought of Egypt contains such unequivocal expression of this thought as we find here:
[paragraph continues] It is important to observe also that this tendency is connected directly with the social movement of the Feudal Age. Such epithets applied to the Sun-god as
of course carry us back to the address of Ipuwer and his "shepherd of all men." 1 The other remarkable epithet,
carries with it the idea of similar solicitude for mankind. The humane aspects of the Sun-god's sway, to which the social thinkers of the Feudal Age chiefly contributed, have not disappeared among the powerful political motives of this new universalism.
This hymn of the two architects is, however, likewise a revelation of one of the chief difficulties in the internal situation of the Pharaoh at this time. The hymn bears the title: "Adoration of Amon when he rises as Harakhte (Horus of the Horizon)"; that is to say, the hymn is addressed to Amon as Sun-god. Amon, the old obscure local god of Thebes, whose name is not to be found in the great religious documents of the earlier age like the Pyramid Texts, 2 had by this time gained the chief place in the state theology, owing to the supreme position held by the ruling family of his native town in the Empire. Theologically, he had long succumbed to the ancient tendency which identified the old local gods with the Sun-god, and he had long been called "Amon-Ile." His old local characteristics, whatever they may have been, had been supplanted by those of the Sun-god, and the ancient local Amon had been completely Solarized. In this way it had been possible to raise him to the supreme place in the pantheon. At the same time this supremacy was
not confined to theological theory. Economically and administratively, Amon actually received the first place among the gods. For the first time in the history of the country the great organizer, Thutmose III, seems to have merged the priesthoods of all the temples of the land into one great sacerdotal organization, at the head of which he placed the High Priest of Amon. 1 This is the earliest national priesthood as yet known in the early East, and the first pontifex maximus. This Amonite papacy constituted a powerful political obstacle in the way of realizing the supremacy of the ancient Sun-god.
When Amenhotep III's son, Amenhotep IV, succeeded his father, about 1375 B.C., a keen struggle arose between the royal house, on the one hand, and the sacerdotal organization dominated by Amon, on the other. It is evident that the young king favored the claims of the old Sun-god as opposed to those of Amon, but early in his reign we find him ardently supporting a new form of the old Solar faith, which may have been the result of a compromise between the two. At a time when the Asiatic situation was exceedingly critical, and the Pharaoh's supremacy there was threatened, he devoted himself with absorbing zeal to the new Solar universalism which we have discerned under his father. The Sun-god was given a designation which freed the new faith from the compromising polytheistic tradition of the old Solar theology. He was now called "Aton," an ancient name for the physical sun, and probably designating his disk. It occurs
twice in the hymn of the two architects of Amenhotep III, translated above, and it had already gained some favor under this king, who named one of his royal barges "Aton-Gleams." 1 There was an effort made to make the name "Aton" equivalent in some of the old forms to the word "god"; thus the traditional term "divine offering" (lit. "god's offering") was now called "Aton offering." 2 Not only did the Sun-god receive a new name, but the young king now gave him a new symbol also. The most ancient symbol of the Sun-god, as we have seen, was a pyramid, and as a falcon the figure of that bird was also used to designate him. These, however, were intelligible only in Egypt, and Amenhotep IV had a wider arena in view. The new symbol depicted the sun as a disk from which diverging beams radiated downward, each ray terminating in a human hand. It was a masterly symbol, suggesting a power issuing from its celestial source, and putting its hand upon the world and the affairs of men. As far back as the Pyramid Texts the rays of the Sun-god had been likened to his arms and had been conceived as an agency on earth: "The arm of the sunbeams is lifted with king Unis," 3 raising him to the skies. Such a symbol was suited to be understood throughout the world which the Pharaoh controlled. There was also some effort to define the Solar power thus symbolized. The full name of the Sun-god was "Harakhte (Horizon-Horus), rejoicing in the horizon in his name 'Heat which is in Aton.'" It was enclosed in two royal cartouches, like the double name of the Pharaoh, a device suggested by the analogy of the Pharaoh's power, and another clear evidence of the impression which the Empire as a state had now made on
the Solar theology. But the name enclosed in the cartouches roughly defined the actual physical force of the sun in the visible world, and was no political figure. The word rendered "heat" sometimes also means "light." It is evident that what the king was deifying was the force by which the Sun made himself felt on earth. In harmony with this conclusion are the numerous statements in the Aton hymns, which, as we shall see, represent Aton as everywhere active on earth by means of his "rays." While it is evident that the new faith drew its inspiration from Heliopolis, so that the king assuming the office of High Priest of Aton called himself "Great Seer," the title of the High Priest of Heliopolis, nevertheless most of the old lumber which made up the externals of the traditional theology was rejected. We look in vain for the sun-barques, and in the same way also later accretions, like the voyage through the subterranean caverns of the dead, are completely shorn away. 1
To introduce the Aton faith into Thebes, Amenhotep IV erected there a sumptuous temple of the new god, which, of course, received liberal endowments from the royal treasury. If the Aton movement was intended as a compromise with the priests of Amon, it failed. The bitterest enmities soon broke out, culminating finally in the determination on the king's part to make Aton sole god of the Empire and to annihilate Amon. The effort to obliterate all trace of the existence of the upstart Amon resulted in the most extreme measures. The king changed his own name from "Amenhotep" ("Amen rests" or "is satisfied")
to "Ikhnaton," which means "Aton is satisfied," and is a translation of the king's old name into a corresponding idea in the Aton faith. 1 The name of Amon, wherever it occurred on the great monuments of Thebes, was expunged, and in doing so not even the name of the king's father, Amenhotep III, was respected. These erasures were not confined to the name of Amon. Even the word "gods" as a compromising plural was expunged wherever found, and the names of the other gods, too, were treated like that of Amon. 2
Finding Thebes embarrassed with too many theological traditions, in spite of its prestige and its splendor, Ikhnaton forsook it and built a new capital about midway between Thebes and the sea, at a place now commonly known as Tell el-Amarna. He called it Akhetaton, "Horizon of Aton." The name of the Sun-god is the only divine name found in the place, and it was evidently intended as a centre for the dissemination of Solar monotheism. Here several sanctuaries 3 of Aton were erected, and in the boundary landmarks, imposing stelæ which the king set up in the eastern and western cliffs, the place was formally devoted to his exclusive service. A similar Aton city was founded in Nubia, and in all likelihood there was another in Asia. The three great portions of the Empire, Egypt, Nubia, and Syria, were thus each given a centre
of the Aton faith. Besides these sanctuaries of Aton were also built at various other places in Egypt. 1
This was, of course, not accomplished without building up a powerful court party, which the king could oppose, to the evicted priesthoods, especially that of Amon. The resulting convulsion undoubtedly affected seriously the power of the royal house. The life of this court party, which now unfolded at Akhetaton, centred about the propagation of the new faith, and as preserved to us in the wall reliefs which fill the chapels of the cliff tombs, excavated by the king for his nobles in the face of the low cliffs of the eastern plateau behind the new city, it forms, perhaps, the most interesting and picturesque chapter in the story of the early East. 2 It is to the tombs of these partisans of the king that we owe our knowledge of the content of the remarkable teaching which he was now propagating. They contain a series of hymns in praise of the Sun-god, or of the Sun-god and the king alternately, which afford us at least a glimpse into the new world of thought, in which we behold this young king and his
associates lifting up their eyes and endeavoring to discern God in the illimitable sweep of his power—God no longer of the Nile valley only, but of all men and of all the world. We can do no better at this juncture than to let these hymns speak for themselves. The longest and most important is as follows: 1
UNIVERSAL SPLENDOR AND POWER OF ATON
"When thou settest in the western horizon of the sky,
The earth is in darkness like the dead;
They sleep in their chambers,
Their heads are wrapped up,
Their nostrils are stopped,
And none seeth the other,
While all their things are stolen
DAY AND MAN
DAY AND THE ANIMALS AND PLANTS
DAY AND THE WATERS
CREATION OF MAN
CREATION OF ANIMALS
THE WHOLE CREATION
WATERING THE EARTH IN EGYPT AND ABROAD
"How excellent are thy designs, O lord of eternity!
There is a Nile in the sky for the strangers
And for the cattle of every country that go upon their feet.
(But) the Nile, it cometh from the Nether World for Egypt.
REVELATION TO THE KING
This great royal hymn doubtless represents an excerpt, or a series of fragments excerpted, from the ritual of Aton, as it was celebrated from day to day in the Aton temple at Amarna. Unhappily, it was copied in the cemetery in but one tomb, where about a third of it has perished by the vandalism of the modern natives, leaving us for the lost portion only a very inaccurate and hasty modern copy of thirty years ago (1883). The other tombs were supplied, with their devotional inscriptions, from the current paragraphs and stock phrases which made up the knowledge of the Aton faith as understood by the scribes and painters who decorated these tombs. It should not be forgotten, therefore, that the fragments of the Aton faith which have survived to us in the Amarna cemetery, our chief source, have thus filtered mechanically through the indifferent hands, and the starved and listless minds of a few petty bureaucrats on the outskirts of a great religious and intellectual movement. Apart from the Royal Hymn, they were elsewhere content with bits and snatches copied in some cases from the Royal Hymn itself, or other fragments patched together in the form of a shorter hymn, which they then slavishly copied in whole or in part from tomb to tomb. Where the materials are so meagre, and the movement revealed so momentous, even the few new contributions furnished by the short hymn are of great value. 1 In four cases the hymn is attributed to the king himself; that is, he is represented as reciting it to Aton. The lines are as follows:
"When thou settest in the western horizon of the sky,
They sleep after the manner of the dead,
Their heads are wrapped up,
Their nostrils are stopped,
Until thy rising comes in the morning,
In the eastern horizon of the sky.
Their arms are uplifted in adoration of thee,
Thou makest hearts to live by thy beauty,
And men live when thou sendest forth thy rays,
Every land is in festivity:
Singing, music, and shoutings of joy
Are in the hall of the Benben 1-house,
Thy temple in Akhet-Aton, the seat of Truth,
Wherewith thou art satisfied.
Food and provision are offered therein;
Thy pure son performs thy pleasing ceremonies,
O living Aton, at his festal processions.
All that thou hast made dances before thee,
Thy august son rejoices, his heart is joyous,
In these hymns there is an inspiring universalism not found before in the religion of Egypt. It is world wide in its sweep. The king claims that the recognition of the Sun-god's universal supremacy is also universal, and that all men acknowledge his dominion. On the great boundary stela likewise he says of them, that Aton made them "for his own self; all lands, the Ægæans bear their dues, their tribute is upon their backs, for him who made their life, him by whose rays men live and breathe the air." 3
[paragraph continues] It is clear that he was projecting a world religion, and endeavoring to displace by it the nationalism which had preceded it for twenty centuries.
Along with this universal power, Ikhnaton is also deeply impressed with the eternal duration of his god; and although he himself calmly accepts his own mortality and early in his career at Amarna makes public and permanently records on the boundary stelæ instructions for his own burial, nevertheless he relies upon his intimate relation with Aton to insure him something of the Sun-god's duration. His official titulary always contains the epithet after his name, "whose lifetime (or duration) is long."
But in the beginning of all, Aton called himself forth out of the eternal solitude, the author of his own being. The king calls him "My rampart of a million cubits, my reminder of eternity, my witness of the things of eternity, who himself fashioned himself with his own hands, whom no artificer knew." 1 In harmony with this idea, the hymns love to reiterate the fact that the creation of the world which followed was done while the god was yet alone. The words "while thou wert alone" are almost a refrain in these hymns. He is the universal creator who brought forth all the races of man and distinguished them in speech and in color of the skin. His creative power still goes on calling forth life, even from the inanimate egg. Nowhere do we find more marked the naïve wonder of the king at the Sun-god's life-giving power than in this marvel, that within the egg-shell, which the king calls the "stone" of the egg—within this lifeless stone, the sounds of life respond to the command of Aton, and, nourished by the breath which he gives, a living creature issues forth.
This life-giving power is the constant source of life and sustenance, and its immediate agency is the rays of the Sun. It is in these rays that Aton is present on earth as a beneficent power. Thus manifested, the hymns love to dwell upon his ever-present universal power. "Thou art in the sky, but thy rays are on earth;" "Though thou art far away, thy rays are on earth;" "Thy rays are in the midst of the great green sea;" "Thy rays are on thy beloved son;" "He who makes whole the eyes by his rays;" "It is the breath of life in the nostrils to behold thy rays;" "Thy child (the king), who came forth from thy rays;" "Thou didst fashion him (the king) out of thine own rays;" "Thy rays carry a million royal jubilees;" "When thou sendest forth thy rays, the Two Lands are in festivity;" "Thy rays embrace the lands, even all that thou hast made;" 1 "Whether he is in the sky or on earth, all eyes behold him without [ceasing]; he fills [every land] with his rays, and makes all men to live; with beholding whom may my eyes be satisfied daily, when he dawns in this house of Aton and fills it with his own self by his beams, beauteous in love, and lays them upon me in satisfying life for ever and ever." 2 In these last words the king himself expresses his own consciousness of the god's presence, especially in the temple, by his rays. The obvious dependence of Egypt upon the Nile made it impossible to ignore this agency of life, and there is nothing which discloses more clearly the surprising rationalism of Ikhnaton than the fact that he strips off without hesitation the venerable body of myth and tradition which deified the Nile as Osiris, and attributes the inundation to natural forces controlled by his god, who
in like solicitude for other lands has made a Nile for them in the sky.
It is this recognition of the fatherly solicitude of Aton for all creatures which lifts the movement of Ikhnaton far above all that had before been attained in the religion of Egypt or of the whole East before this time. "Thou art the father and the mother of all that thou hast made" is a thought which anticipates much of the later development in religion even down to our own time. The picture of the lily-grown marshes, where the flowers are "drunken" in the intoxicating radiance of Aton, where the birds unfold their wings and lift them "in adoration of the living Aton," where the cattle dance with delight in the sunshine, and the fish in the river beyond leap up to greet the light, the universal light whose beams are even "in the midst of the great green sea"—all this discloses a discernment of the presence of God in nature, and an appreciation of the revelation of God in the visible world such as we find a thousand years later in the Hebrew psalms, and in our own poets of nature since Wordsworth.
It is evident that, in spite of the political origin of this movement, the deepest sources of power in this remarkable revolution lay in this appeal to nature, in this admonition to "consider the lilies of the field." Ikhnaton was a "God-intoxicated man," whose mind responded with marvellous sensitiveness and discernment to the visible evidences of God about him. He was fairly ecstatic in his sense of the beauty of the eternal and universal light. Its beams enfold him on every monument of his which has survived. He prays, "May my eyes be satisfied daily with beholding him, when he dawns in this house of Aton and fills it with his own self by his beams, beauteous in love, and lays them upon me in satisfying
life for ever and ever." In this light—which more than once, as here, he identifies with love, or again with beauty, as the visible evidence of the presence of God—he revels with an intoxication rarely to be found, and which may be properly compared to the ecstatic joy felt by such a soul as Ruskin in the contemplation of light. Ruskin, as he sees it playing over some lovely landscape, calls it "the breathing, animated, exulting light, which feels and receives and rejoices and acts—which chooses one thing and rejects another—which seeks and finds and loses again—leaping from rock to rock, from leaf to leaf, from wave to wave, glowing or flashing or scintillating according to what it strikes, or in its holier moods absorbing and enfolding all things in the deep fulness of its repose, and then again losing itself in bewilderment and doubt and dimness, or perishing and passing away, entangled in drifting mist, or melted into melancholy air, but still—kindling or declining, sparkling or still—it is the living light, which breathes in its deepest, most entranced rest, which sleeps but never dies." 1 That is the loftiest modern interpretation of light, a veritable gospel of the beauty of light, of which the earliest disciple was this lonely idealist of the fourteenth century before Christ. To Ikhnaton, too, the eternal light might sleep, when he that made the world has "gone to rest in his horizon," but to him also as with Ruskin it "sleeps but never dies."
In this aspect of Ikhnaton's movement, then, it is a gospel of the beauty and beneficence of the natural order, a recognition of the message of nature to the soul of man, which makes it the earliest of those revivals which we call in the case of such artists as Millet and the Barbizon school, or of Wordsworth and his successors, "a return to
nature." As the earliest of such movements known to us, however, we cannot call it a "return." We should not forget also that this intellectual attitude of the king was not confined to religion. The breath of nature had also touched life and art at the same time, and quickened them with a new vision as broad and untrammelled as that which is unfolded in the hymns. The king's charmingly natural and unrestrained relations with his family, depicted on public monuments without reserve, is another example of his powerful individuality and his readiness to throw off the shackles of tradition without hesitation in . the endeavor to establish a world of things as they are, in wholesome naturalness. The artists of the time, one of them indeed, as he says, under the king's own instructions, put forth works dominated by the same spirit. Especially do they reflect to us that joy in nature which breathes in the religion of Ikhnaton. We have come to speak habitually of an Amarna age, in religion, in life, in art, and this fact of itself is conclusive evidence of the distinctive intellectual attitude of Ikhnaton.
It is remarkable that the hymns as an expression of religious aspiration contain so little reference to character and to ethical matters. We have seen that the Solar theology was closely identified from the beginning with the development of the moral consciousness in Egypt. Recognizing as it does more clearly than ever was done before the beneficent goodness of the Sun-god's sway, it is inconceivable that the Amarna movement should have rejected the highly developed ethics of Heliopolis. Its close connection with the Heliopolitan theology is evident throughout. The identification of the royal line with that of the Sun-god by the Heliopolitan priests in the Pyramid Age had resulted, as we have seen, in transferring
to Re the humane qualities of beneficent dominion with which the Pharaohs of the Feudal Age were imbued. The Pharaoh was the "good shepherd" or "good herdman," and this figure of the paternal and protecting sovereign had been transferred to Re. Re had thus gained wondrously in qualities of humane and paternal sympathy, as a result of this development in the conception of the kingship in the Feudal Age. The social forces which had contributed this high ideal of kingship were thus the ultimate influences, which, through the kingship, enriched and humanized the otherwise rather mechanical and perfunctory political conception of Re's dominion. The human appeal which he now made was thus akin to that of Osiris himself. This tendency of the Solar faith was entirely in sympathy with the teaching of Ikhnaton. Under his father we have found a Sun-hymn calling the Sun-god "the valiant herdman driving his herds," a hint clearly connecting the Aton faith with the social and moral movement of the Feudal Age, which we have just recalled. Nevertheless it is evident that it was the beneficence and beauty rather than the righteousness of the Sun-god, on which Ikhnaton loved to dwell, in the hymns to his god. Outside of the hymns, however, there is a marked prominence of the ancient word "truth," or, as we have observed so often, "justice" or "righteousness." To the official name of the king, there is regularly appended the epithet, "living in truth," 1 and although it is difficult
to interpret the phrase exactly, it is evident that the conception of Truth and Right, personified as a goddess, the daughter of the Sun-god at a remote age, occupied a prominent place in the Aton movement, and not least in the personal faith of the king. The new capital was called the "seat of truth" in the short hymn, and we frequently find the men of Ikhnaton's court glorifying truth. One of his leading partisans, Eye, says: "He (the king) put truth in my body and my abomination is lying. I know that Wanre (Ikhnaton) rejoices in it (truth)." 1 The same man affirms that the Sun-god is one "(whose) heart is satisfied with truth, whose abomination is falsehood." 2 Another official states in his Amarna tomb: "I will speak truth to his majesty, (for) I know that he lives therein. . . . I do not that which his majesty hates, (for) my abomination is lying in my body. . . . I have reported truth to his majesty, (for) I know that he lives therein. Thou art Re, begetter of truth. . . . I took not the reward of lying, nor expelled the truth for the violent." 3 Re was still the author of truth or righteousness at Amarna as before, and if we hear of no judgment hereafter in the Amarna tombs, it was clearly only the rejection of the cloud of gods and demi-gods, with Osiris at their head, who had been involved in the judgment as we find it in the Book of the Dead. These were now banished, and the dramatic scene of the judgment seems to have disappeared with them, although it is clear that the ethical requirements of the Solar faith, the faith in which they emerged and developed, were not relaxed in Ikhnaton's
teaching. The sacerdotal invasion of the moral realm with mechanical magical agencies for insuring justification was also evidently repelled by Ikhnaton. The familiar heart scarab now no longer bears a charm to still the accusing voice of conscience, but a simple prayer, in the name of Aton, for long life, favor, and food. 1
Such fundamental changes as these, on a moment's reflection, suggest what an overwhelming tide of inherited thought, custom, and tradition had been diverted from its channel by the young king who was guiding this revolution. It is only as this aspect of his movement is clearly discerned that we begin to appreciate the power of his remarkable personality. Before his time religious documents were usually attributed to ancient kings and wise men, and the power of a belief lay chiefly in its claim to remote antiquity and the sanctity of immemorial custom. Even the social prophets of the Feudal Age attribute the maxims of Ptahhotep to a vizier of the Old Kingdom, five or six centuries earlier. Until Ikhnaton the history of the world had been but the irresistible drift of tradition. All men had been but drops of water in the great current. Ikhnaton was the first individual in history. Consciously and deliberately, by intellectual process he gained his position, and then placed himself squarely in the face of tradition and swept it aside. He appeals to no myths, to no ancient and widely accepted versions of the dominion of the gods, to no customs sanctified by centuries—he appeals only to the present and visible evidences of his god's dominion, evidences open to all, and as for tradition, wherever it had left material manifestations of any sort in records which could be reached, he endeavored to annihilate
it. The new faith has but one name at Amarna. It is frequently called the "teaching," and this "teaching" is attributed solely to the king. There is no reason to question this attribution. But we should realize what this "teaching" meant in the life of the Egyptian people as a whole.
Here had been a great people, the onward flow of whose life, in spite of its almost irresistible momentum, had been suddenly arrested and then diverted into a strange channel. Their holy places had been desecrated, the shrines sacred with the memories of thousands of years had been closed up, the priests driven away, the offerings and temple incomes confiscated, and the old order blotted out. Everywhere whole communities, moved by instincts flowing from untold centuries of habit and custom, returned to their holy places to find them no more, and stood dumfounded before the closed doors of the ancient sanctuaries. On feast days, sanctified by memories of earliest childhood, venerable halls that had resounded with the rejoicings of the multitudes, as we have recalled them at Siut, now stood silent and empty; and every day as the funeral processions wound across the desert margin and up the plateau to the cemetery, the great comforter and friend, Osiris, the champion of the dead in every danger, was banished, and no man dared so much as utter his name. 1 Even in their oaths, absorbed from childhood with their mothers' milk, the involuntary names must not
be suffered to escape the lips; and in the presence of the magistrate at court the ancient oath must now contain only the name of Aton. All this to them was as if the modern man were asked to worship X and swear by Y. Groups of muttering priests, nursing implacable hatred, must have mingled their curses with the execration of whole communities of discontented tradesmen—bakers who no longer drew a livelihood from the sale of ceremonial cakes at the temple feasts; craftsmen who no longer sold amulets of the old gods at the temple gateway; hack sculptors whose statues of Osiris lay under piles of dust in many a tumble-down studio; cemetery stone-cutters who found their tawdry tombstones with scenes from the Book of the Dead banished from the cemetery; scribes whose rolls of the same book, filled with the names of the old gods, or even if they bore the word god in the plural, were anathema; actors and priestly mimes who were driven away from the sacred groves by gendarmes on the days when they should have presented to the people the "passion play," and murmuring groups of pilgrims at Abydos who would have taken part in this drama of the life and death and resurrection of Osiris; physicians deprived of their whole stock in trade of exorcising ceremonies, employed with success since the days of the earliest kings, two thousand years before; shepherds who no longer dared to place a loaf and a jar of water under yonder tree and thus to escape the anger of the goddess who dwelt in it, and who might afflict the household with sickness in her wrath; peasants who feared to erect a rude image of Osiris in the field to drive away the typhonic demons of drought and famine; mothers soothing their babes at twilight and fearing to utter the old sacred names and prayers learned in childhood,
to drive away from their little ones the lurking demons of the dark. In the midst of a whole land thus darkened by clouds of smouldering discontent, this marvellous young king, and the group of sympathizers who surrounded him, set up their tabernacle to the daily light, in serene unconsciousness of the fatal darkness that enveloped all around and grew daily darker and more threatening.
In placing the movement of Ikhnaton against a background of popular discontent like this, and adding to the picture also the far more immediately dangerous secret opposition of the ancient priesthoods, the still unconquered party of Amon, and the powerful military group, who were disaffected by the king's peace policy in Asia and his lack of interest in imperial administration and maintenance, we begin to discern something of the powerful individuality of this first intellectual leader in history. His reign was the earliest age of the rule of ideas, irrespective of the condition and willingness of the people upon whom they were to be forced. As Matthew Arnold has so well said, in commenting on the French Revolution: "But the mania for giving an immediate political application to all these fine ideas of the reason was fatal. . . . Ideas cannot be too much prized in and for themselves, cannot be too much lived with; but to transfer them abruptly into the world of politics and practice, violently to revolutionize the world at their bidding—that is quite another thing." But Ikhnaton had no French Revolution to look back upon. He was himself the world's first revolutionist, and he was fully convinced that he might entirely recast the world of religion, thought, art, and life by the invincible purpose he held, to make his ideas at once practically effective. And so the fair
city of the Amarna plain arose, a fatuous island of the blest in a sea of discontent, a vision of fond hopes, born in a mind fatally forgetful that the past cannot be annihilated. The marvel is that such a man should have first arisen in the East, and especially in Egypt, where no man except Ikhnaton possessed the ability to forget. Nor was the great Mediterranean world which Egypt now dominated any better prepared for an international religion than its Egyptian lords. The imperial imagination of Ikhnaton reminds one of that of Alexander the Great, a thousand years later, but it was many centuries in advance of his age.
We cannot wonder that when the storm broke it swept away almost all traces of this earliest idealist. All that we have to tell us of him is the wreck of his city, a lonely outpost of idealism, not to be overtaken and passed till six centuries later those Bedouin hordes who were now drifting into Ikhnaton's Palestinian provinces had coalesced into a nation of social, moral, and religious aspirations, and had thus brought forth the Hebrew prophets.
312:1 Pyr. § 1434.
312:2 See above, pp. 13–14.
313:1 See Thutmose III's Hymn of Victory, BAR, II, 655–662.
313:2 BAR, II, 98.
315:1 British Museum Stela, No. 826. This important monument much needs an adequate publication. It is accessible only in two very incorrect copies, published by Birch, Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch., VIII, 143, and Pierret, in his Recueil, I. I had also my own copy made in student days, and not much more reliable than the publications. I have not yet seen Scott-Moncrieff's recent volume of British Museum stelæ, and do not know whether it was included by him. The above translation could undoubtedly be corrected in parts on the basis of a better text.
315:2 Or "Begetter without being born," as already in the Middle Kingdom; see above, p. 274.
316:1 The word "hues" is the word commonly meaning "skin." That it has the meaning "hue" or similar is shown by similar passages in Naville, Mythe d’Horus, pl. xii, 1. 2; Amarna Hymn of Tutu, l. 2, and Amarna Hymn of Api, ll. 2–3.
318:1 See above, p. 211.
318:2 His name occurs four times in the Turin Book of the Dead, published by Lepsius. It does not occur at all in the Pyramid Texts, unless the reference in Pyr. § 1095 is to him, which seems to me not entirely certain.
319:1 Hapuseneb, the first High Priest of Amon, who occupied the position at the head of the new sacerdotal organization, was grand vizier under queen Hatshepsut, but it is more likely that her husband, Thutmose III, effected this organization than that she should have done it. However this may be, the evidence will be found in BAR, II, 388 ff.
320:1 BAR, II, 869; see also the author's History of Egypt, p. 360.
320:2 BAR, II, 987.
320:3 Pyr. § 334.
321:1 The decree for the burial of the sacred bull of Heliopolis, Mnevis, at Amarna (Davies, Amarna, V, p. 30) is clearly a compromise with the Heliopolitan priests, but of course does not mean "animal worship."
322:1 See Sethe, Zeitschr. für aegypt. Sprache, 44, 116–118, where this new rendering of the name is demonstrated. The rendering in the author's history, p. 364, is to be changed accordingly.
322:2 It has been widely stated that the hostility of Ikhnaton did not extend beyond his erasure of Amon; but this is an error. I found other gods expunged in Nubia. See also my remarks in Zeitschr. für aegypt. Sprache, 40, 109–110.
322:3 There were at least four. The earlier Boundary Stelæ give five (Davies, Amarna, V, p. 30), but one is evidently a dittography of the preceding in the ancient scribes copy.
323:1 A list of the Aton temples will be found in my essay in the Zeitschr. für aegypt. Sprache, 40, 106–113. The Nubian city of Ikhnaton was found in 1907 by the University of Chicago Expedition. See my Monuments of Sudanese Nubia, pp. 51–82.
323:2 These tombs were frequently visited and studied in the early days of Egyptology, and fragmentarily published. No complete publication, however, was issued until 1903–8, when N. de G. Davies published his valuable Rock Tombs of El Amarna, vols. I–VI, London, 1903–8, which includes everything at Amarna except the town site and the tomb of the king. I copied the most important hymns there in 1895, and these two sources are the bases of the renderings given above. For a presentation of the Amarna situation, historically considered, especially the life of the court in the new environment, the reader may refer to the author's History of Egypt, pp. 358–378. A popular discussion and description of the remarkable reliefs in the tombs will be found in the author's Two Thousand Miles Up the Nile, soon to be published.
324:1 The best text is that of Davies, Amarna, VI, pl. xxix. Full commentary will be found in my De hymnis in solem sub rege Amenophide IV. conceptis, Berlin, 1894, though unfortunately based on the older text of Bouriant. Some changes in the above translation, as compared with that in the author's History, are due to a few new readings in Davies's text, as well as to further study of the document also. The division into strophes is not in the original, but is indicated here for the sake of clearness. The titles of the strophes I have inserted to aid the modern reader.
324:2 There is a pun here on the word Re, which is the same as the word used for "all."
326:1 The shorter hymns follow the phrase "sole God," with the addition, "beside whom there is no other" (see Davies, Amarna, I, XXXVI, l. 1, and III, XXIX, l. 1).
This use of the word sp for "quality" or "power" will be found also in the hymn of Suti and Hor translated above (Brit. Mus. Stela 826, 1. 3); Great Hymn to Amon (1, 5), and similarly on the late statue of Hor (Louvre 88, Brugsch, Thes., VI, 1251, l. 1).
326:2 The word "heart" may mean either "pleasure" or "understanding" here.
327:1 The word is one used only of the people of Egypt.
327:2 The word used implies the nourishment of a mother at the breast.
329:1 The short hymn was put together in a composite text of all versions in the second (unpublished) portion of my De hymnis in solem, and this was later supplemented by my own copies. Davies has also put together a composite text from five tombs in his Amarna, IV, pls. xxxii—xxxiii, The above translation is based on both sources.
330:1 See above, p. 71.
331:1 Variant: "Breath, it enters the nostrils when thou showest thyself to them."
331:2 The remainder of the line is lost. Only one of the five texts Which exist from the beginning goes as far as this point. It also stopped at this place, so that only part of a line has been lost.
331:3 Stela K, Davies, Amarna, V, pl. xxix, l. 7.
332:1 Boundary Stela K, ibid., V, pl. xxix, l. 9.
333:1 See my De hymnis in solem, pp. 21–22.
333:2 Boundary Stela K, Davies, Amarna, V, pl. xxix, ll. 10–11.
335:1 Ruskin, Modern Painters, vol. I, p. 250.
337:1 It is difficult to define the exact meaning of this phrase. The Sun-god was the father of the goddess who personified Truth, and his close connection with truth is evident throughout. In the sixty-fifth chapter of the Book of the Dead, he lives "in truth" or "on truth," using the same words applied to Ikhnaton. But the passage exhibits a very materialistic conception of truth, for the Sun-god lives "on truth" as the Nile lives "on fish." (See Grapow, Zeitschr. p. 338 für aegypt. Sprache, 49, 51.) The chapter is a magical charm to force the Sun-god to justify the deceased. It was doubtless such materialistic notions of ethical concepts which led the priests to employ magic in the realm of ethics and ethical values.
338:1 BAR, II, 993, 1002.
338:2 BAR, II, 994.
338:3 BAR, II, 1013.
339:1 See Schaefer, Zeitschr. für aegypt. Sprache, 48, 45 f., and Proceedings of the Soc. of Biblical Arch., XVII, 155, No. 3.
340:1 In mortuary doctrines this Amarna movement was unable wholly to eradicate the old customs. The heart scarab is mentioned above; "ushebti" statuettes were also known. There is one in Zurich, see Wiedemann, Proceed. of the Soc. of Bib. Arch., VII, 200–3; also one in Cairo, see Maspero, Musée égyptien, III, pl. xxiii, pp. 27–28. They contain prayers for sustenance at the tomb, in the name of Aton. Osiris is not named.