|Other Egyptian Gods|
Aten is a sun god in ancient Egyptian mythology, and represented by the sun's disk. His worship (Atenism) was instituted as the basis for the mostly monotheistic religion of Amenhotep IV (who later took the name Akhenaten). The worship of Aten ceased shortly after Akhenaten's death.
Viewing the Aten as Akhenaten's god is actually a simplification. Aten is the name given to the solar disk, whereas the full title of Akhenaten's god was Ra-Horus, who rejoices in the horizon in his name of the light which is in the sun disk. (This is the title of the god as it appears on the numerous stelae which were placed to mark the boundaries of Akhenaten's new capital at Amarna.)
This lengthy name was often shortened to Ra-Horus-Aten or just Aten in many texts, but the god Akhenaten had raised to supremacy was in fact a synthesis of very ancient ones viewed in a new and different way. In particular, it was not depicted in anthropomorphic (human) form, but as rays of light extending from the sun's disk. Furthermore, the god's name came to be written within a cartouche, along with the titles normally given to a Pharaoh, another break with ancient tradition.
The Aten first appears in texts dating to the 12th dynasty, in The Story of Sinuhe. Ra-Horus is a synthesis of two other gods (Ra and Horus), both of which are attested from very early on. During the Amarna period, this synthesis was seen as the invisible source of energy of the sun god, of which the visible manifestation was the Aten, the solar disk.
Thus Ra-Horus-Aten was a development of old ideas which came gradually. The real change is the apparent abandonment of all other gods following the advent of Akhenaten. This is readily apparent in the Great Hymn to the Aten.
- Wikipedia (2005). Aten (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aten). Retrieved March 8, 2005