Amarna: The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti

Amarna, Akhenaten’s Capital

In Amarna, Egypt, Pharaoh Akhenaten and his great wife, Nefertiti waited with Pahhanate, the commissioner of Canaan and Amurru for the scribe to unwrap the latest tablet from Gubla. Akhenaten was a handsome king, a bit over six feet tall. The dark-skinned ruler had curly black hair and a long, slender face, with flashing dark brown eyes. He knew all about Gubla's mayor, Rib-Hadda, whose name came up often in Amenhotep III, Akhenaten's father’s court.

But Akhenaten didn’t understand the urgency the mayor felt. So long as trade continued to flow, a small distant skirmish was not significant. It took a lot of money and promises to get the army on the road.​

However, the question of Pharaoh’s ultimate authority was indeed becoming an issue. When he rose to power, Akhenaten destroyed all Egyptian gods except one. Now only Aten, the sun god mattered. Akhenaten ordered the names of all the others removed from walls, tombs, and monuments, severely angering the right wing of his constituency because his New Age theocracy put the priests of Amun out of work, and they were complaining mightily. Now, Akhenaten found himself embroiled in domestic power issues. Things worsened as time went on and the pharaoh developed frailties of old age.

“Frankly, I’m glad Gubla isn’t within shouting distance,” the Pharaoh complained to Pahhanate. “How many tablets do we have now from Gubla? Thirty? Forty?” He asked the scribe.

“Fifty-six.”

“Fifty-six, wow! Send, this message back right away.” Pharaoh dictated to his scribe.

"'You are the one who writes to me more than all the other mayors. What you do not comprehend is the Egyptian King will not organize and dispatch an entire army north to preserve the political status quo of your minor city on the fringe of His kingdom.”

Akhenaten paused. “Did you get it all?” He asked.

The scribe nodded.

“Send it off when you’re done. Rib-Hadda is not important enough to worry about.” That was it, end of discussion.

Next, Akhenaten directed his ire onto Pahhanate, instructing the scribe to another tablet. “Read us Rib-Hadda’s report on Simyra,” the pharaoh directed.

“Why did you hold back and not speak to the king? He would have sent archers to recapture Simyra.”

“Rib-Hadda also reports Abdi’aširta has broken into your house, and slept in your bed, Pahhanate!” Pharaoh exploded. “And he has broken into the royal treasury. You should not have left.”

“It was time for my reports, sire. Abdi’aširta is destabilizing the region. Rib-Hadda is correct. We need to send troops. I will send a letter to Abdi’aširta and return at once.”

Pharaoh focused on his next problem.

Currently, Akhenaten was in dispute with his foreign brother-in-law, Tušratta, the King of Mitanni, and a smooth relationship was crucial right now. Both Tušratta’s and Akhenaten’s empires were being threatened by the Hittites. The Hittite leader, King Šuppiluliuma was pushing into Mitanni’s western border along the Euphrates River and on Egypt’s northern border into Syria, where Byblos was located.

Pharaoh felt his age in his bones. His muscles tired quicker, and his joints complained louder than ever. Now he worried he had created his own misery. Each line of kings before him adopted one deity as the royal patron and supreme god, but other gods were also recognized and worshiped. When Akhenaten installed Aten as his god, he was the first pharaoh to exclude other deities in his pantheon, insisting Aten was the only God of Egypt. Yet, Pharaoh went further. By changing his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, he finalized this installation by declaring himself the son of God; Akhenaten literally; means the son of Aten.

Now Pharaoh needed help with bodily insufficiencies and Aten didn’t give a damn about Akhenaten’s arthritis, or obesity, or his inability to achieve an erection. Placing himself as the sole intermediary between Aten and the Egyptian people Akhenaten exiled gods who may have been able to help.

When Akhenaten diminished the old priesthoods, he lost the support of the Amun priests, and when he kicked the Amun priests out, they took Osiris and Isis as well as a plethora of helpful spirits. Unless Akhenaten reversed his dismissive attitude toward the Amun priesthood, none of the gods of the traditional Egyptian pantheon could be called on to help the aging king. Akhenaten needed to look elsewhere for gods or Goddesses of healing.

Pharaoh asked his beautiful consort, Nefertiti, the Great Royal Wife about the Goddess Ištar. Nefertiti was born in Akhmim, a city on the Nile known