Amarna – The City of the “Heretic Pharaoh”

Related Articles

Related Articles

Amarna, also called Akhetaten is an archaeological site and an Ancient Egyptian city, located on the eastern banks of the River Nile, in the present-day Minya governorate of Egypt.

Amarna was constructed in 1346 BC to serve as the capital city of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, the 10th ruler of the late Eighteenth Dynasty. Akhenaten (originally named Amenhotep IV) abandoned the traditional polytheistic religions of Egypt, instead introducing the worship of Atenism, which was centred on the cult god Aten and depicted as the disc of the sun.

During his early reign, Akhenaten followed the established pharaonic traditions of worship but quickly started to raise the profile of Atenism as the state religion, with the construction of temples and shrines to the Aten in cities across Egypt.


Following his death, his successors returned to the traditional deities and distanced themselves from Atenism. Akhenaten was discredited, being referred to in contemporary accounts as “the enemy” or “that criminal”, and historians often citing him as the “heretic king”.

Image Credit : Olaf Tausch – CC BY 3.0

Amarna was founded around year 5 of Akhenaten’s rule to serve as the royal capital, being described as the Aten’s “seat of the First Occasion, which he had made for himself that he might rest in it”. Unlike most Egyptian cities, Amarna was mainly built using mudbrick, with the public buildings and temples being faced with stone.

Amarna was laid out along a “Royal Road” referred to today as “Sikhet es-Sultan”, with the North Riverside Palace, the Northern Palace, and large private houses being located in the north of the city.

Image Credit : Olaf Tausch – CC BY 3.0

In the centre was the administrative and religious buildings, that includes the Great Temple of the Aten, the Small Aten Temple, the Great Royal Palace, and the “Bureau of Correspondence of Pharaoh”, where the Amarna Letters (an archive of mainly Akkadian cuneiform written on clay tablets consisting of diplomatic correspondence) would later be discovered by archaeologists.

To the south were the estates of the city’s nobles and dignitaries, most noted for being where a ruined house and studio complex was discovered in 1912 that contained the famous bust of Nefertiti created by Thutmose, the official court sculptor.

During Tutankhamun’s rule, Amarna was occupied for a decade or so after Akhenaten’s death, but was completely abandoned and forgotten, until its rediscovery during the 18th and 19th century.

Header Image Credit : Joan lalucat i Adrià Turina – CC BY 3.0

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Tenochtitlan – The Aztec Capital

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City.

Archipelago in Ancient Doggerland Survived Storegga Tsunami 8,000-Years-Ago

Doggerland, dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” is a submerged landmass beneath what is now the North Sea, that once connected Britain to continental Europe.

Cereal, Olive & Vine Pollen Reveal Market Integration in Ancient Greece

In the field of economics, the concept of a market economy is largely considered a modern phenomenon.

The Annulment of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon at Dunstable Priory

The Priory Church of St Peter (Dunstable Priory) is the remaining nave of a former Augustinian priory church and monastery, that today is part of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, located within the Diocese of St Albans in the town of Dunstable, England.

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Chetro Ketl – The Great House

Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings

The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America.

Rare Cretaceous-Age Fossil Opens New Chapter in Story of Bird Evolution

A Cretaceous-age, crow-sized bird from Madagascar would have sliced its way through the air wielding a large, blade-like beak and offers important new insights on the evolution of face and beak shape in the Mesozoic forerunners of modern birds.

Popular stories

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.