Other Names:
Aton, Yiten

(Aton, Yiten) - "Sun's Disk" Aten is the physically visible sun, the yellow sphere in earth's sky that can fructify or scorch. The Aten-disk is venerated as a form of Shu, Ra, or Heru from the late Middle Kingdom onward and was not, as some have erroneously stated, "invented" by New Kingdom pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten. However, beginning with Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III, Aten enjoyed a higher level of worship, and during Akhenaten's reign, for reasons not entirely clear in the historic record, Akhenaten declared all other Names invalid and Their priests useless, and ordered Kemet to worship him as the "Sole One of Aten," who would then take the people's prayers to His Father (he did not order them to worship Aten; the texts state that only Akhenaten is qualified to do this as the Disk's intermediary). Akhenaten's religious reforms, which did not represent monotheism as has been often suggested (Akhenaten offers Ma'at in friezes, and some of his hymns refer to "Ra-Heru-akhety in His Name of Shu Who is in Aten," indicating Akhenaten's "destruction" of other Names was selective), did not long outlast him; a backlash against the Atenist movement by the priesthood of Amen-Ra after Akhenaten's death resulted in the loss of much of this Name's information.