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Posted on July 21st, 2012, by

Historically, various productions affected dramatically the cultural environment and, being objects of art or some religious cult, for instance, they could influence the cultural development of the entire society. In this respect, it is possible to name a variety of artifacts that prove their importance and significance for their epoch. At the same time, there are artifacts which were produced in their epoch, but they contradicted to their cultural environment. To put it more precisely, some artifacts, such as Aten Disk that was created during the rule of the pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, can be viewed as marks of the resistance to their cultural environment. At any rate, their role and perception in the society provoked protest or certain apprehension because such artifacts changes traditional cultural views and norms of people and they could affect consistently the development of society in the future.

Speaking about the Aten Disk depicting the pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who later took the name Akhenaten, and his family adoring the Aten, the ancient Egyptian deity, it should be pointed out that this artifact was created at the epoch, which was probably the most turbulent from the cultural point of view. Basically, the depiction of ancient Egyptian gods and pharaohs was not unusual in the epoch and society could normally perceive the Aten Disk as another symbol of respect of humans to gods. However, it is important to underline that the pharaoh and his family is worshipping the god, Aten, though in ancient Egypt pharaohs were treated as gods. To put it more precisely, pharaohs were not perceived as humans but, instead, they were rather perceived as gods or, at least, they were very close to gods. As a result, they were traditionally depicted along with gods, though the images of pharaohs could be smaller than more important deities. In such a situation, the depiction of the pharaoh worshipping god, even though it was not extraordinary, did not fully meet Egyptian tradition.

In fact, what was probably the most unusual about the Aten Disk depicting the pharaoh, his family and the god, Aten, was the fact that there was only one god and the entire pharaoh’s family is worshiping this god. Basically, the problem is that it was a norm in Egypt to worship only one god, instead, there existed a huge pantheon of gods which could range by their significance and importance, butt, nevertheless, they still remained gods and had to be worshiped. In this regard, in order to better understand the significance of the artifact, it is necessary to refer to the historical context in which the artifact was actually created. It should be said that it was created during the rule of Amenhotep IV, who was the first pharaoh of Egypt that attempted introduce monotheism in the country and the Aten Disk may be viewed as a part of the ideological campaign targeting at the promotion of the idea of monotheism.

In such a situation, it is important to underline that in such a context the Aten Disk does not seem to be just an unusual artifact. In fact, it intends to show to ordinary people that Aten is worth worshiping since even the pharaoh does it. However, such an innovation in the field of the religious was apparently new and unusual for Egyptian people who were spiritually unprepared to refuse from their numerous gods and the Aten Disc was perceived as a challenge to the traditional cultural views and religious beliefs of ancient Egyptians. As a result, the Aten Disc, as a part of the monotheistic policy of Amenhotep IV and as a tool of its practical implementation, naturally provoked the strong opposition from the part of religious elite of the country, which naturally appealed to the public for support.

On the other hand, the Aten Disk was extremely important for the pharaoh since such works could spread his idea about the introduction of the only one god instead of the pantheon of gods existing in ancient Egypt. Obviously, it was not a spontaneous decision of the pharaoh to start such a policy, but, in all probability, it was an attempt to unite the country and make people feel that they are a solid community that shares similar cultural values and religious beliefs. In fact, the Aten Disk was the symbol of the resistance of the pharaoh to the domination of the religious diversity, which torn his country apart spiritually, while the introduction of Aten as the only god of ancient Egypt could strengthen his power and unite people. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that the Aten Disk, as a part of the new monotheistic ideology promoted by the pharaoh, was a tool of the resistance of Amenhotep IV to the religious rigidity and the power of the religious elite of the country.

Possible consequences of the successful introduction of monotheism, which was actively promoted by means of the Aten Disk and other, controversial in the epoch, artifacts, could lead to the dramatic cultural change, which, by the way, would have significant political and even economic effects. What is meant here is the fact that, if ancient Egyptian people accepted the new religious philosophy, which Amenhotep IV attempted to convey to large masses by means of such works as the Aten Disk, then he would more likely became not only political but also religious leader of the country because there would only one god and one pharaoh. As the pharaoh is a closest living being to gods or he may be even perceived as god himself, it would be logical to presuppose that the monotheism would lead to the growing role of the pharaoh and his public image, while the role of different religious cults and, therefore, religious elite would decreases consistently because people would not need them anymore. Instead, they could refer directly to the pharaoh as the most powerful being in the world.

However, the intentions of Amenhotep IV were not realized and the Aten Disk, which was a symbol of cultural resistance and change, was of a little help for the introduction of the monotheism because ancient Egyptian society was not really prepared for such a radical change of their cultural norms and religious beliefs. As a result, the new cult, promoted by such artifacts as the Aten Disk, was rejected not only by the religious elite of the country, but also by large masses of ordinary Egyptians, who were unwilling to refuse from their traditional religious beliefs and were willing to continue traditional worshipping of various gods.

In such a way, it is possible to conclude that the religious and cultural innovations suggested and introduced by Amenhotep IV with the help of such artifacts as the Aten Disk failed because they were too innovative for the cultural environment of that epoch.

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