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Aten is a creator of the universe in ancient Egyptian mythology, usually regarded as a sun god represented by the sun's disk. His worship (Atenism) was instituted as the basis for the mostly monotheistic religion of Amenhotep IV, who 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 was the focus of Akhenaten's religion. Aten is the name given to represent the solar disc. The term Aten was used to designate a disc, and since the sun was a disc, gradually became associated with solar deities. Consequently, Aten expresses indirectly the life-giving force of light.


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 disc. (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, more usually referred to as Ra-Herakhty (Ra, who is Horus of the two horizons), is a synthesis of two other gods, 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, i.e. the introduction, apparently by Akhenaten, of monotheism. This is readily apparent in the Great Hymn to the Aten.

The timing of Akhenaten's existence, together with his apparent, and significant, break from henotheism, has lead some to think he has some connection to the biblical character of Moses, although quite what the connection is is a matter of some considerable dispute.

Royal Titulary
During the Amarna Period, the Aten was given a Royal Titulary (as he was considered to be king of all), with his names drawn in a cartouche. There were 2 forms of this title, the first had the names of other gods, and the second later one which was more 'singular' and refered only to the Aten himself.

Early Form
Live Re-Horakhti who rejoices in the Horizon
In his name Shu which is the Aten

Later form
Live Re, ruler of the 2 horizons who rejoices in the Horizon
In his name of light which is the Aten


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