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Akhenaton, detail of the sandstone pillar statue from the Aton temple at Karnak, c. 1370 BC; —Hirmer Fotoarchiv, Munich
(r. 1353–36 BC) Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (1539–1292 BC). He came to power during a period of Egyptian preeminence, with Egypt controlling Palestine, Phoenicia, and Nubia. Shortly after his reign began, he began to encourage the exclusive worship of the little-known deity Aton, a sun god he regarded as the source of all blessings. Assuming the name Akhenaton (One Useful to Aton), he moved his capital from Thebes to present-day Tell el-Amarna to escape established religious powers and make a fresh start. A new art style that focused on the details of actual life rather than on timeless conditions became popular. In government, Akhenaton tried to recapture the old authority of the ruler, which had been largely diverted to bureaucrats and officials, but his focus on his new religion to the exclusion of affairs of state resulted in the disintegration of Egypt's Asian empire. He was succeeded by two of his sons-in-law, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamen, but after Tutankhamen's early death the army took over the throne, and Akhenaton's new religion was abandoned.
Variants of AKHENATON
Akhenaton or Akhnaton orig. Amenhotep IV
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Akhenaton, visit Britannica.com.