Akhenaten, the Black Pharaoh Edit
Amenhotep IV - later known as Akhenaten - was an 18th Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh. He is one of the most mysterious and notorious kings to ever wear the two crowns of the Black Land.
He changed, slowly at first, then more and more dramatically over the years. He went from a devout husband, father and king to a man devoted entirely to radical religious change, obsessed with mounting a blazing new sun over the sands of Egypt, no matter the cost.
History has painted a peculiar picture of a sickly, solitary and aloof figure with a strange effeminate physique overseeing the most dramatic artistic and religious revolution ofany of the old kingdoms. Was he an idealist, a power-hungry megalomaniac, or just a madman?
Born into a life of luxury, decadence and opulence during a golden age of the New Kingdom, waited on hand and foot, wed to the most beautiful woman ever to grace the face of the earth, and treated like a living god, he seemed destined for a life of ease and greatness. But history wanted it otherwise.
Despite the abundance in which he lived, the love his wife and children showed him, and the adoration of his people, he could not help but ask questions. If he was, in fact, a living god, then what was his purpose? What was the meaning of all this? And how was he supposed to make his permanent mark on history?
So he searched for answers. He dug in the royal libraries, consulted wise men and mystics from around the world, and travelled his entire kingdom in search of a truth he knew had to be out there.
One day the answer appeared in the form of a woman. An agonisingly beautiful and hauntingly alluring woman - a priestess of a new god - came with a message of light and wonder, of hope and inspiration. One god under the sun of Egypt, she said. One god to please them all, who had to be communicated through the Pharoah's guidance, through his image. One god - with one divine messenger - who could cleanse the land and the people, end the corruption and decadence, and usher in art and beauty and divine justice.
After his father died he gained the Pschent - the Double Crown - and embarked upon his revolution. Slow at first, attempting to ease change upon the nation, his efforts became more urgent and violent as the years passed. He decreed that all of Egypt must banish its old gods and bow down before the Aten, the sun disc. Temples to the old gods were rased, statues decapitated, lands redistributed - all to the bitter chagrin of the Amun priesthood.
As relations between the king and the priesthood deteriorated, Thebes became a pit of discontent. A new capital was built - Akhetaten - and the old capital was abandoned by the court. The king changed his name to Akhenaten - Living Spirit of Aten - and all life in Egypt was bent to serve the glory of the Aten. But gods are not like concubines; new ones cannot replace the old so seamlessly and demand the same devotion. The nation was split and the splendour of Egypt started to wane.
He distanced himself even more from his people when he built a temple city in a remote valley, only accompanied by his most fervent followers. Not long after, he abandoned the capital, the court and any remaining semblance of sanity to move into the valley. His disconnect was absolute.
Egypt's enemies encroached on her borders; the nation was struck by natural disasters, poverty and disease. The glorious empire of his father was crumbling around him, but Akhenaten didn't care.
The only thing standing between the king and the people was the queen, the beautiful Nefertiti who still enjoyed the faith and popularity of the people. Lovingly, but determinedly, she went to him and asked him to reconsider his revolution. The people weren't ready. There was still time, she said, to win the people back and save the kingdom. There was still time to secure his legacy and the future of his children.
As Nefertiti spoke thus to the king, the mysterious priestess of Aten returned, appearing before him as suddenly and hypnotically as the first time. She whispered in his ear. Every revolution is ahead of its time. All progress demands great sacrifice. One's own vanity, one's own persona, must never be allowed to dictate the progress of a nation. No man - and no man's wife - can stand before the will of god and the destined future of Egypt.
The king was torn between words of love and whispers of omnipotence.
The two formidable women fought for the heart and mind of the king, but only one had her clutches on his black and innermost breast.
Akhenaten decided he was entitled to it all. He wanted the devotion of his queen and the rapture of his new god. He told his wife to live up to her vows and lie down like a loving servant at his feet.
Headstrong and determined, Nefertiti refused to obey. She secretly gathered support and rose up against him. In a small palace revolt she managed to liberate the king's children and flee the capital, never to return to his side. Akhenaten, furious, disowned his wife and children. He cursed them in the name of Aten and vowed to avenge their betrayal. His mind then sank into the din of dark voices; Aten consumed him.
With nothing left between the king and the whispering priestess at his side, Akhenaten's zeal was now madness. Where Nefertiti had counselled him to move slowly, he now charged like a berserk soldier into battle. Everything that was not dedicated to the sun disc was torn down and destroyed. Even in his new capital, filled to the brim with cohorts and supporters, there was visible unrest.
A new pitch of darkness spread over the valley; religious worship turned into something twisted and abominable. Something evil. Blood offers were made to appease their god, human sacrifice soon followed. To all who lived in the valley, only the blood-warm voice of Aten mattered. They drank and drowned in it.
The whispers ordered Akhenaten to search - keep searching - for a divine source, and the king obeyed. He ordered thousands of slaves to the valley to dig up the ground. When they came upon strange, alien artifacts the likes of which none had seen before, he knew Aten was pleased. These celestial relics - these divine gifts - were placed there for him to find. They were not only proof of his god, but proof of his god's love for him.
Although the Atenists couldn't possibly comprehend their intended use, the artifacts granted them aphotic powers. Morbid rituals reanimated the tortured dead and terrible monsters were summoned to spread terror.
In Thebes, Queen Nefertiti heard of the malicious events in her husband's temple city. Knowing there would be no end to his exploits, she decided to confront him one last time and travelled to the valley accompanied by Akhenaten's only son and an escort of soldiers.
What met them was a most shocking truth, far worse that what Nefertiti had imagined. Everywhere, grotesquely disfigured people shambled between the many temples, alien eyes followed them from the shadows and a slick, oily substance oozed from the cliffs. The corruption extended into the throne room, where Akhenaten's guards were swathed in burial linen, standing upright as living mummies.
On the throne sat a man who had lost his humanity. He was a fearful beast, his body swollen and decayed, his words slurred, his eyes the mirrors of a deep, dark delirium. Nefertiti realised that there could be no redemption; there was no salvation for the Egyptian people and the Two Kingdoms. The only deliverance for the man who had once been her husband was death.
While the royal guard fought Akhenaten's embalmed guards, the Pharaoh attacked his young son, who had crept instinctively close to his father. He would have succeeded in killing him if his wife had not stepped between them. The guards got the boy out of harm's way, but she paid for the child - the future of Egypt - with her life.
In the ensuing confusion, Akhenaten slipped away. The queen's dead body was brought back to Thebes, where the boy - only nine years old - assumed the throne of Egypt.
The next time he returned to his father's temple city, he brought with him thousands of warriors and mystics - a revolutionary group he called the Marya.
They successfully fought the valley cultists and buried the entire city - with its monsters and Akhenaten himself - under sand and rock and secured the site with wards. Giant sentinel statues were built to keep the Pharaoh's multitude of shackles intact, empowered by strong magic and the immutable sacrifice of loyalists. Every measure was taken to prevent such evil from spreading again.
It seemed like the end of the cult and Pharaoh Akhenaten, but no amount of effort - no loyal slew of Marya - could hold back the relentless trill of whispers forever.
The corruption of the valley had changed Akhenaten so much that death couldn't claim him. Locked away in his temple tomb, he has waited thousands of years, waited for the whispers of his dark god to return and rise and come to a crescendo. Once more, madness spreads in the valley and Akhenaten's will swells again, ready to continue digging toward his master.
Very few know the true story of Akhenaten, the madness that wrecked him and the way he met his end. His real legacy has been all but buried, until now.