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Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, was king of Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty and reigned from 1375 to 1358 B.C. E. Called the "religious revolutionary," he is the earliest known creator of a new religion. The cult he founded broke with Egypt's traditional polytheism and focused its worship on a single deity, the sun god Aten. Erik Hornung, one of the world's preeminent Egyptologists, here offers a concise and accessible account of Akhenaten and his religion of light.
Hornung begins with a discussion of the nineteenth-century scholars who laid the foundation for our knowledge of Akhenaten's period and extends to the most recent archaeological finds. He emphasizes that Akhenaten's monotheistic theology represented the first attempt in history to explain the entire natural and human world on the basis of a single principle. "Akhenaten made light the absolute reference point," Hornung writes, "and it is astonishing how clearly and consistently he pursued this concept." Hornung also addresses such topics as the origins of the new religion; pro-found changes in beliefs regarding the afterlife; and the new Egyptian capital at Akhetaten which was devoted to the service of Aten, his prophet Akhenaten, and the latter's family.
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Erik Hornung is Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Basel. Among his many books are History of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction and The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, both translated by David Lorton and available from Cornell. David Lorton, an Egyptologist, lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
"This short and eminently readable translation... focuses on the nature of Akhenaten's religion, religious beliefs, and cultic practices, bringing together concepts and discussions from a wide range of scholarly writing."(Susan Tower Hollis, SUNY Empire State College Journal of the American Oriental Society)
"In Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, Erik Hornung,...explores the metaphysical and religious dimensions of Akhenaten's 'perestroika'... shows how psychological and medical interpretations of Akhenaten's portraits based on a literal reading of their anatomy-bending style have often fed dubious moral presumptions....'Ugly' and 'sick' Hornung tells us were the most common epithets applied to Amarna art by scholars at the turn of the century."(Lawrence Osborne Lingua Franca)
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