Cover image for Akhenaten and the religion of light
Akhenaten and the religion of light
Hornung, Erik.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Echnaton. English
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 146 pages : illustrations, map ; 23 cm
Personal Subject:
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2443 .H6613 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, was king of Egypt from 1375 to 1358 BC. The cult he founded broke with traditional polytheism, focusing its worship on a single deity - the sun god Aten. This work offers a concise account of Akhenaten and his religion of light.

Author Notes

Erik Hornung is Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Basel

Reviews 1

Choice Review

From 1375 to 1358 B.C.E. Akhenaten, or Amenhotep IV, reigned as King of Egypt in the Eighteenth Dynasty. His "new religion" broke with the polytheist religions of his ancestors. Based on the monotheistic worship of one god, it has fascinated and intrigued scholars throughout the history of Egyptology and interested Christians as well. In this volume, first published in Germany in 1995, the investigation of this fascinating "deviation" from the norm of Egyptian religion both before and after is carefully presented. Hornung (Univ. of Basel) studies the religion of Aken, the Sun God. He begins with 19th-century scholastic ventures into this field and continues through the most recent archaeological finds. The single principle ruling Akhenaten's monotheism is the concept of light. The book is infused with critical inquiry; instead of merely repeating past theories, Hornung discusses and contextualizes the scholarship into the trends of the time it was written. Although small, this book is excellent. It makes a great addition to any scholar or student bookshelf; also suitable for interested general readers. L. L. Lam-Easton; California State University, Northridge

Table of Contents

Translator's Notep. xi
Map of Egyptp. xiv
1. The Founder of a Religion Is Discoveredp. 1
Champollion's Impressionsp. 1
Lepsius Discovers the Founderp. 2
Vague Recollections in Antiquityp. 4
The Discovery Is Completedp. 6
The "Heretic" as Precursor of Modern Ideasp. 8
New Archaeological Findsp. 10
A New Religion Comes to Lightp. 12
The First Biography and Its Influencep. 13
Critical Notes Are Soundedp. 15
Not in the Mists of Later Legendsp. 17
2. The Religious Backgroundp. 19
The New Solar Theologyp. 19
His Father's Policiesp. 20
The Royal Sed-Festivalp. 24
The Festival of the Elder Kingp. 26
The Search for New Intermediariesp. 27
3. The First Stepsp. 31
The Royal Titulary as Program for a Reignp. 31
Pharaoh's Titularyp. 31
The Origin of a Godp. 34
The Sanctuaries at Karnakp. 36
Once Again, the Sed-Festivalp. 39
The Grotesque Pharaohp. 42
No Fear of Emotionp. 46
Only One Godp. 48
Akhenaten's "Perestroika"p. 49
"The Beautiful Child of the Living Aten"p. 50
4. A New Religionp. 52
No Divine Revelationp. 52
God as Pharaohp. 54
Pharaoh as Godp. 55
The Female Element: Nefertitip. 57
Possible Advisersp. 58
5. A City for a Godp. 61
The Founding of Akhetatenp. 61
An Unusual Residencep. 64
Comfort Is Requiredp. 67
The City of Lightp. 70
6. The Pure Teachingp. 72
New Sanctuaries for the Atenp. 72
A Holy Familyp. 74
A Change of Namep. 76
The Great Hymn to the Atenp. 79
The Universal Deity: Lightp. 84
7. The Question of Monotheismp. 87
Persecution of the Old Deitiesp. 87
Egypt as the "Cradle of Monotheism"?p. 88
The Cosmic God of the Ramesside Periodp. 92
The Monotheistic "Cosmic Formula"p. 93
8. Belief in an Afterlife without a Hereafterp. 95
Osiris in the Shadow of the New Lightp. 95
The Afterlife Becomes This-worldlyp. 96
Living On in the Templep. 99
External Formsp. 100
The King's Grace Replaces the Judgment of the Deadp. 101
The Inyotef Songp. 103
9. Dark Yearsp. 105
The Eventful Year 12p. 105
Kiya, the Belovedp. 106
The Dakhamanzu Affairp. 108
A "Sunset" Filled with Mysteryp. 109
Mockery of the "Heretic King"p. 110
The End Is Uncertainp. 112
10. The Successorsp. 114
Many Women, but No Heirp. 114
Tutankhaten Makes His Appearancep. 115
Return to Amun and Ptahp. 116
The End of the Dynasty: Aya and Haremhabp. 119
11. Epiloguep. 121
Failure and Continuityp. 121
More Than an Episodep. 122
The Sun Enduresp. 123
Roots of Fundamentalismp. 125
Afterwordp. 127
Bibliographyp. 129
Indexp. 141