Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In this picture Nefertiti is depicted giving offerings to the sun god Ra. Nefertiti played a big role in the religious reform, during the time that Nefertiti and Akhenaten were trying to convert Egypt to Monotheism. It was originally Amenhotep III, Akhenaten's radical daddy, who wanted to worship Ra only. When he died, Akhenaten and Nefertiti inherited the task of getting the ball rolling on the religious reform, (ooh, fun!)Akhenaten changed his name from Amonhotep IV to Akhenaten, meaning beams of Aten (another name for Ra). The biggest part Nefertiti played in the religious reform was starting the cult that rejected the other gods and goddesses and only recognizing Ra as a god, or the god, I guess. Anyway, Nefertiti fully supported her husband's teachings and even helped create new religious ceremonies. The coolest part is that the Egyptians thought that they would only receive Ra's blessings through Nefertiti and Akhenaten together. Awww, so sweet! Apparently, later on after Egypt started to settle down a little, Akhenaten was starting to regret reverting Egypt and Nefertiti still thought it was the right thing, and, viola, she was banished (maybe) just like that. (So now is when Akhenaten banishes her for defying him? He's just a little late for that...) And this is where things start going haywire. Just because Nefertiti disagrees with Akhenaten, her popularity plummets and things go way down for her.
After Akhenaten and Nefertiti died, the old gods and goddesses were restored and Nefertiti and Akhenaten's names sere taken off of documents. The state of chaos that Egypt was in was blamed on Nefertiti and Akhenaten because they rejected the other gods and goddesses. In restoring them, King Tutankhamen promised restored order. A negative side affect of this was that Nefertiti and Akhenaten's names were more despised and feared than "Voldemort". All of Nefertiti's fancy burial things were melted down to use for King Tutankhamen. Sorry, for doing this but I have to bring Smenkhara up again. Yet another thing we don't know about Nefertiti is when she died, but it is hypothesized that she died before Akhenaten (if she wasn't Smenkhara) and that Akhenaten was actually Smenkhara. If that's true, then Nefertiti and Akhenaten's daughter Ankesenpaaten married King Tutankhamen, her half brother, in an attempt to resolve the rift that formed when Nefertiti was banished by Akhenaten and King Tutankhamen. It gets worse: Nefertiti and Akhenaten's oldest daughter Meretaten married her dad, Akhenaten. Congratulations if you kept up with that-you know how Egyptian family trees are! You've got an enviable attention span.
In a previous post I talked about Nefertiti's big climb on the ladder of power. So what now? Where does she go from there? Well, to tell you the truth, after the religious reform (more on that later) Nefertiti basically disappears from history, as if she spontaneously fell off the face of the earth. What we know: after Akhenaten died, a pharaoh named Smenkhara ruled for a short time. What we don't know: everything else-the gender, the origins of him/her, and where he/she ties into the story. There are many theories on what happened to Nefertiti and who Smenkhara was. The story of Smenkhara is very intriguing because we don't know anything about him/her except that he/she ruled after Akhenaten before King Tut the boy king took over (and very rudely erased his father and stepmother, Akhenaten and Nefertiti, off the records making it very difficult to find any solid information on them!). Some people think that Akhenaten ruled as Smenkhara and others believe that Smenkhara was Nefertiti herself. You might be wondering why Nefertiti would have such a major identity crisis that she would want to be a completely different person. How did Nefertiti lose popularity so fast you ask? Well, this is also unclear but again, there are many theories. One idea is that Nefertiti was banished to her palace in the new capital, Amarna. I'm sure you see the huge hole in this theory though. Nefertiti was co-king, beloved by her people, a goddess serving Ra. My point is, if Akhenaten said "Jump!", Nefertiti wouldn't say, "How high?". Similarly, if Akhenaten says, "You're banished," she wouldn't say, "How long?" For now, we can draw our own conclusions on who Smenkhara was.
Monday, December 15, 2008
So, earlier I mentioned that Nefertiti became a co-ruler, right? But in ancient Egyptian society, even though women in Egypt were treated very well, women weren't typically thought of as equals. I, being a feminist and all, thought that it was great that Nefertiti blatantly ignored the "rules". So what made them equals? (Not that I believe that Nefertiti had to do something to be equal to her husband) The ancient Egyptians thought that their pharaohs were gods, but the cool thing about Nefertiti and Akhenaten (or Akhenatiti, as I like to call them) is that the Egyptians thought that only together could the power of Ra be present. Further more, Nefertiti started the cult that recognized Ra as their only god. This might be why there are pictures of her and Ra together without Akhenaten. (More power to ya!) I suppose it helped her popularity that she was the most common model for artists. They loved her for her beauty (strangely enough, she shaved her head so that she could wear her tight fitting crown). In one picture Nefertiti was even shown standing next to her husband and wearing a king's crown. Quelle horreur! (the horror!)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
You have probably heard about the crazy Egyptians who married their cousins right? Well, thankfully, Nefertiti wasn't one of those people. Archeologists guess that she was just an extraordinarily beautiful commoner and heir to the throne Ahkenaten must have noticed. Ahkenaten wasn't even pharaoh yet and he had numerous wives (the pig!). However, Nefertiti was his favorite and was eventually appointed the position of co-ruler. I'm guessing that Vizier Ay was glad that she named her daughter Nefertiti meaning "the beautiful one has come". Rest assured, this very famous queen wasn't reliant on just her beauty and her husband. For a short while after her husband's death, Nefertiti might have ruled as pharaoh Smekhkara. This pharaoh was thought to be male but maybe Nefertiti was tired of being "just a pretty face" and decided to embrace her masculine side? Whatever floats your boat...