Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Age of Revolution

The book for this entry is Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Age of Revolution.

This title grabbed me because of a personal connection to the word “Amarna” actually. And the book was free. I’m not enough of an ancient Egypt person to know if it’d be of particular interest for any ancient Egypt people out there. I kind of think there are easily a dozen better ancient Egypt books, and mostly I’m leaving this placeholder for myself to remind myself that it tends to be the case that I can read an entire book on a plane, and making good choices about what book to have with me is important.

The book explains the story of Akhenaten, a particular Egyptian king, whose rule broke the mold, both in terms of introducing dramatic changes in the official religion of Egypt (toward something more monotheistic, although I don’t really understand old religions generally or Ancient Egypt in particular), the physical relocation of the capital, and, an unusually large role in leading the country belonging to a woman-king, Nefertiti. Two fun stories from this book:

1. The book’s author notes (nowhere in a single list, just here and there throughout) various reasons this-or-that Egyptologist expected the Amarna experiment proved a failure, including several that play with his personal life, such as that Akhenaten had exotic physical disease like Marfan Syndrome, that he was lonely after most of his close connections died toward the end of his life, that he had mommy-issues and lived his life dominated by women, or even that his story forms the source material for the Oedipus story, or else that he was a man ahead of his time in terms of having an advanced intellectual and spiritual life… and also some theories that relate only to the politics of the day, such as how the new state religion was just a cynical move by Akhenaten to undermine the growing power of certain priests.

2. When Tutankhamun died childless, his wife Ankhesenamun wrote to a neighboring king and asked him to send her one of his adult sons to marry, rather than allow power to be taken by the other elites in line for control. That the son was in fact eventually dispatched by his father, and then dispatched on entering Egypt by soldiers not answering to Ankhesenamun… that is an neat trivia fact. But what’s really interesting is the first part–that Ankhesenamun even thought that her best hope involved working with a strange man whose language she might not speak, and whose religion would not be her own…  very strange.

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