Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Liakos, Avra S.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

School of Art


Akhenaton; King of Egypt--Art; Kings and rulers in art; Art; Egyptian--History


In this thesis, examination of the art of the Amama period and its relation to kingship will reveal the attempt of the Eighteenth Dynasty ruler, Akhenaten, to elevate the status of kingship back to its former exalted position of the Old Kingdom. By integrating radical religious reforms with traditional elements of kingship and expressing them in a new visual language, the divine aspects of his leadership were emphasized. The daunting task of interpreting the complex personality of the King and the true message of his reforms is based on visual examples because very little textual evidence of Akhenaten’s existence remains. Akhenaten reigned for approximately seventeen years, in ancient Egypt, during the second quarter of the fourteenth century B.C. He ruled as a god-king, based on the Egyptian conception of kingship, and performed his royal duties by the principle of Maat (truth and justice). The king was the link between human existence and supernatural forces; as a divine leader, the king was a god who had descended among men to their benefit, and as a terrestrial leader, he provided religious and political leadership. He used Egypt’s traditions and customary regalia to establish and secure his divine authority and earthly status. In addition to the accepted concepts of kingship, he introduced radical religious and artistic reforms to express his dogma that had a direct impact on the status of kingship. Before Akhenaten’s reforms were implemented,Egyptian religion was polytheistic. He brought radical changes to the established tradition by projecting a new approach to divinity. He chose an age old symbol of the Solar religion: the physical disk of the sun, the “Aten,” and established it as the sole, universal god. He also radically altered the perception of the afterlife. Egyptian religious traditions had stressed the importance of maintaining eternal life; however, Akhenaten de-emphasized the afterlife. The radical reforms introduced by Akhenaten, a monotheistic religion and a vague conception of the afterlife, produced the first significant break in the history of traditional Egyptian religion; consequently, the manifestation of artistic reforms also resulted in the first significant break in the history of traditional Egyptian art and produced an original, naturalistic, somewhat exaggerated style in the arts of Egypt. The unusual stylistic portrayal of the king, elongated head and neck, protruding abdomen, and wide hips, as well as his unorthodox religious attitude, has continually captivated scholars’ attention. The previous Eighteenth Dynasty kings de-emphasized divine leadership and gave preference to terrestrial leadership in the form of aggressive demonstrations of might, such as military campaigns, public appearances, and hunting expeditions. It seems that Akhenaten introduced his radical changes and integrated them, to a certain extent, with traditional elements of kingship, in an effort to strengthen the divine aspects, thereby elevating the status of kingship back to its former exalted position of the Old Kingdom Period. Puzzled scholars have labeled Akhenaten an individualist, an innovator, a prophet, a revolutionary, even a heretic, and to this day he still remains an enigma and one of the most controversial figures in the history of the Ancient World.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 83-86)


vii, 86 pages




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