Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Liakos, Avra S.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Akhenaton; King of Egypt; Art--Egypt--History; Egypt--History--To 332 B. C


The violent upheaval of the religious and artistic revolution which occurred in fourteenth-century B.C. Egypt, the so-called "Amarna revolution," has been the subject of extensive research by Egyptologists. Considerable controversy has resulted. The actuality and chronology of the historical events of the period, the exact nature of the "new" religion inaugurated by King Akhnaton—and his role as heretic, martyr or rebel—and the value and impact of the artistic changes introduced during his brief reign continue to be subjects for debate. It is the purpose of this thesis, as stated in Chapter 1, to examine the above aspects of the period in order to analyze or explain this controversial subject. To this end, the documented historical, religious and artistic developments which led to the unusual events of the Amarna period, as well as the events themselves, are presented. Also, the various interpretations and conclusions propounded by a number of well-known scholars are examined. Questions are raised; some are answered, while others remain unanswered. Conclusions are then drawn, based on the available evidence and the explanations which seem the most rational, given the information we now possess. Chapter 2 is an historical and explanatory treatment of Egyptian religion. The development of different theological ideas which were accepted or rejected by Akhnaton and the King's religious beliefs, including his devotion to maat or "truth," are explored. The roles of the King and his family are described, and also the celebrated break with the priests of Amun which was followed by the move of the court to the new city, Amarna or Akhetaton. Finally, possible explanations for the colossal failure of the King’s religion, Atonism, are given. In Chapter 3, traditional Egyptian art is described and compared with the art inaugurated during Akhnaton's reign. Most shocking are the distortions and grotesqueries encountered in the art of the Early Period of the reign, for this "new" kind of art strongly refuted Egyptian artistic traditions and the classicising trend encountered during the rule of Akhnaton’s father. Possible explanations for the seradical changes are discussed. It is in the blending of the new artistic freedom of the Early Period with the classicizing trend that Amarna art reaches its aesthetic apex. This synthesis is explored in Chapter 4. Smoother and more elegant, the sculpture and painting of this period combine the best of traditional and innovative, and have provided the world with some of the most beautiful art works of all time. Strangely, events during this artistically serene time began to herald the downfall of the Amarna revolution. Chapter 5 deals historically, religiously and artistically with the reigns of the kings following Akhnaton's, until the end of the New Kingdom. It includes an analysis of the return to tradition in religion, the violent attempts at erasing the memory of Akhnaton, and the survival of certain Amarna stylistic innovations. Cultural and social changes affecting the future of Egypt are also explored. In Chapter 6 an evaluation of the personality of Akhnaton and the long-range effect of his beliefs is given. It is apparent that although there were certain cultural, religious and artistic trends extant in Egypt which provided a basis for the Amarna revolution, the fearless, forceful and imaginative Akhnaton—heretic, martyr and rebel though he was--provided its vigor and consistency, along with some totally original concepts of his own. Akhnaton shook tradition to its foundations. He alone changed the approach to thought and expression, and Egypt was no longer the same.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vii, 91 pages, 28 unnumbered pages




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