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Letter from Åmen-hetep III, king of Egypt, to Kadashman-Bel, king of
Karaduniyash. [No. 1, Table-case F, Babylonian and Assyrian Room.]
Letter from Tushratta, king of Mitani, to Åmen-hetep III, king of Egypt. (No. 8, Table-case F, Babylonian and Assyrian Room.]
was on the east bank of the Nile, near the modern villages of Haggi Kandil and Tell al-Amarna. There he built a temple to Aten, a palace for himself, and houses for his officials. As the new capital grew, so the enmity between the king and the priests of Amen increased. This can hardly be wondered at, for he caused the name and representations of the god to be obliterated from the monuments. Having moved to his new city, which he called Khut-Åten, he abandoned his name of Amen-ḥetep, because it contained the name of the god he despised, and adopted the new name of Khu-en-Åten, i.e., the “Spirit of Åten.” In his new capital he established a new form of the ancient cult of Aten, as he understood it, in the temple Het-Benben; and the new worship was carried on with the forms and ceremonies which had been in use in Heliopolis for some two thousand years. Incense was burnt on the altars, offerings of all kinds were made, but no bloody sacrifices were offered up; on certain occasions the king himself officiated. The followers of Aten declared that their god was almighty, and that he was the sole creator of the universe; they ascribed to him a monotheistic character, or oneness, which denied the existence of any other god. Their god was “One Alone,” and different in nature from any of the other gods of Egypt. It was the intolerance of the followers of the cult of Aten as formulated by Amenhetep IV which made them hated by the priests of AmenRā at Thebes.
The palace and houses of the new city were beautiful, and were richly decorated. Art developed in a new direction, and was characterized by a freedom and a naturalism which are never met with, before or after, in Egyptian history. It sanctioned the use of new colours and new designs. The reliefs and pictures of the king prove that his features were unusual in character. He had a high, narrow, receding forehead, a large aquiline nose, a thin mouth, projecting chin, a slender neck, rounded chest, and his figure in many respects resembled that of a woman (see Wall-case 105, Third Egyptian Room, Nos. 213 and 214). Whilst the king was playing the priest in his new city, and making arrangements for building shrines to Aten in the Sûdân, his Asiatic Empire was breaking up. The Tell al-Amarna letters show how rapidly the desert tribes began to harass the Egyptian garrisons in Syria and Palestine, and to hem them in. Amen-hetep IV made no attempt to maintain his