The Great Hymn to the Aten

It’s kind of shocking how much our view on a God or someone/something that is responsible for everything that is occurring has changed over the years. In “The Great Hymn to the Aten” the focus is on the sun god. The story is about how the sun god is the all powerful being, and how the world wouldn’t run correctly without his rule. Reading this during that time period would have seemed logical just because of the lack of information, but knowing what the sun is and what its role is in the universe you start to look back at readings like this and wonder what they would have assumed this ball of light in the sky was actually doing. Where did it come from? What was its purpose? What stuck out to me is that the Egyptians seemed to have this belief that Aten the sun god was the sole creator of everything. That without him nothing would happen, almost as if life would end or stop in time. ” Every lion comes from its den, All the serpents bite.” (20-21)  Aten by the views of the Egyptians is the sole reason that life goes on, that creatures and man are able to do their work. “You set every man in his place, You supply their needs; Everyone has his food, His life time is counted.” (72-75) The Hymn shows that Aten is a creator, he is life and death. He created man, gave him what he needs to survive and live but at the same time he knows when they will die. They view him as the one to start it all, created earth and all its inhabitants. The Hymn shows a little peak into what life was like, Egyptians looked at the sun almost like a start button. When the sun was up life started but when it set life took a pause. “All labor ceases when you rest in the west.” (117) I wonder what the Egyptians would say if they knew what the sun was actually all about? and at the same time I want to know what they thought of the moon? How did the moon fall into this worship of the sun? Maybe the moon was a god too.

4 thoughts on “The Great Hymn to the Aten

  1. I think you made a good point about the amount of credit that the Egyptians gave to the sun god Aten for being the sole creator and sustainer of life. This was a way for them to justify their existence along with the environment around them. However, I feel that their views on this matter was quite conflicted because as stated in the introduction to the hymn to Aten, Egyptians were against the fact that their religious beliefs in other gods were neglected. They wanted to reject this monotheistic praise of Aten. The Egyptians tried to abandon the capital of the King Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) after his death: “…the changes that Akhenaten introduced, which were rejected within a few years of his death, when Egyptians abandoned the new capital, destroyed the king’s monuments, and tried to erase his name from their society’s memory.” (29) Also, they probably did believe in a moon god, but it was most likely set aside due to the amount of focus and attention that they put on the sun god during Akhenaten’s rule.

  2. I think you bring up some interesting points. After reading through the Great Hymn to the Aten, it was very clear to me that the sun god was the center of worship in this specific passage. To respond to your question “I wonder what the Egyptians would say if they knew what the sun was actually about?” I believe it would be rather interesting to see how they would react to the scientific facts of what the sun actually is. At first, I could imagine that there would be a tremendous amount of denial amongst the community just as how the Roman Catholic Church reacted when Galileo presented his ideas of heliocentrism. Regardless, as time were to progress, they would perhaps adapt their beliefs around a more scientific model.

  3. I agree with your comparison to the sun being like a start button to the Egyptians. The viewed it as the starts of everyday and to be the bearer of all life as you stated. Although I do not believe it was viewed as important as all Egyptians since at the end of the hymn it says that when Akhenaten dies they go back to their polytheistic beliefs rather than continue his idea of a single god. You mention how this is a peak into Egyptian life but I think it would be more accurate to say it is a peak into the life of Egyptian under the rule of Akhenaten and his personal beliefs. This hymn does emphasize the importance of the sun in Egyptian life like you show in your analysis.

  4. Your points intrigued me, well done! I feel Atenism focuses on life and the living as opposed to death. The solar disk itself may be viewed by all of earth’s inhabitants, while its passage is hidden from all who view it. Atenism is presented as a universal cult, applicable to not only Egypt, but her neighbours as well. None of the themes presented by the Great Hymn to the Aten are new, however in the previous Egyptian religion not all functions were perfomed by one god. Perhaps the Exodus and the God of the Hebrews had more of an influence on Akhenaten than on him influencing them since the Exodus occured 480 years before the building of the temple in Jerusalem. Aprox. 90 years before Akhenaten. I am sure he would have been very familiar with Egypts destruction and the one true God.

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