From “The Great Hymn to Aten.” The son of Amenhotep III and Tiy and the husband of Nefertiti was given his father’s name at birth. After he became pharaoh, he initially maintained his father’s policies and religious customs, but within a few years he began introducing reforms and promoting the cult of Aten. He changed his name, moved the capital from Thebes to the new city of Akhetaton, and instituted what many scholars consider to be the first monotheistic religion. He denounced the old gods of Egypt and ordered the closure of their temples, which his followers destroyed.
You appear, perfect, on the horizon of the sky,
Oh, living Aten who created life!
When you rise on the eastern horizon,
You fill every land with your beauty.
You are beautiful, you are great,
You shine above every land.
Your rays embrace as many lands as you have created;
Because you are the sun, you conquer them to their limits,
And you bind them for the son whom you love.
When you set on the western horizon,
The universe is in darkness as if in death.
Men rest in their houses, their heads covered;
One man cannot see another.
Their goods can be stolen from under their heads and they do not see it.
Lions leave their den,
It is pitch-dark;
The earth is silent,
For their maker is at rest behind the horizon.
But may the earth light up when you appear on the horizon,
May your disk shine in the daytime,
And may you dispel the darkness as you cast your rays—
Then are the Two Lands rejoicing.
People awake and stand on their feet,
For you made them rise.
They cleanse their bodies,
They put on their clothing,
And they raise their arms in adoration at your appearance.
The entire land sets to its work,
Cattle are content upon their pastures,
Trees and plants grow green.
Birds fly from their nests,
Wings spread in adoration of your soul.
All beasts prance on their feet;
All that flies or alights lives
Because you have risen for them.
If the world awakes to existence, it is because it is in your hand,
As you created it.
When you rise, it lives;
When you set, it dies.
From New Kingdom Amarna Period: The Great Hymn to Aten by Robert Hari. Copyright © 1985 by E.J. Brill. Used with permission of Brill.