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Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt

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The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass. This The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass. This provocative biography examines both the real Akhenaten and the myths that have been created around him. It scrutinises the history of the pharaoh and his reign, which has been continually written in Eurocentric terms inapplicable to ancient Egypt, and the archaeology of Akhenaten's capital city, Amarna. It goes on to explore the pharaoh's extraordinary cultural afterlife, and the way he has been invoked to validate ideas as diverse as psychoanalysis, racial equality and fascism. Dr Montserrat makes the point that our view of Akhenaten has never been based purely on historical or archaeological knowledge, but is a cultural hallucination, influenced by western desires about ancient Egypt and modern struggles for legitimation and authority. Combining up-to-date historical synthesis with extensive new archival research, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt is the first book to assess critically why the archaeology of ancient Egypt continues to fascinate. Theoretically astute and engagingly written, and illustrated with many striking images never previously published, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in Akhenaten or in the archaeology of ancient Egypt.


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The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass. This The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass. This provocative biography examines both the real Akhenaten and the myths that have been created around him. It scrutinises the history of the pharaoh and his reign, which has been continually written in Eurocentric terms inapplicable to ancient Egypt, and the archaeology of Akhenaten's capital city, Amarna. It goes on to explore the pharaoh's extraordinary cultural afterlife, and the way he has been invoked to validate ideas as diverse as psychoanalysis, racial equality and fascism. Dr Montserrat makes the point that our view of Akhenaten has never been based purely on historical or archaeological knowledge, but is a cultural hallucination, influenced by western desires about ancient Egypt and modern struggles for legitimation and authority. Combining up-to-date historical synthesis with extensive new archival research, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt is the first book to assess critically why the archaeology of ancient Egypt continues to fascinate. Theoretically astute and engagingly written, and illustrated with many striking images never previously published, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in Akhenaten or in the archaeology of ancient Egypt.

55 review for Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    Akhenaten is no ordinary figure for a biography, and this is not an ordinary biography. He is a figure so ancient, and so different from most modern conceptions, that it is possible to impose almost any image into him. As such, this volume is a compilation of other people's biographies. There is a white Orientalist Akhenaten, a black Akhenaten, a revolutionary Akhenaten, a tyrant Akhenaten, a gay Akhenaten, a transgender Akhenaten, a Marfan's Syndrome Akhenaten, a sexual libertine Akhenaten, a Mo Akhenaten is no ordinary figure for a biography, and this is not an ordinary biography. He is a figure so ancient, and so different from most modern conceptions, that it is possible to impose almost any image into him. As such, this volume is a compilation of other people's biographies. There is a white Orientalist Akhenaten, a black Akhenaten, a revolutionary Akhenaten, a tyrant Akhenaten, a gay Akhenaten, a transgender Akhenaten, a Marfan's Syndrome Akhenaten, a sexual libertine Akhenaten, a Moses Akhenaten, an operatic Akhenaten, many fictionalized Akhenatens (Mann and Mahfouz, among many others) and even a new-age Hitler Akhenaten. Montserrat gives a brief impartial discussion to all of these (except for the Nazi version, which he finds slightly amusing), and instead leaves the reader to go through the bibliography and study which versions are most interesting to them. As such, the book is less about the man, whoever he was, and more about the shifting views of the study of history itself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael O'Brien

    This book, while it covers the life of Akhenaten, commonly known as the "Heretic Pharaoh", is more about how intellectuals and fringe groups grab some historical figure and make him part of their cause or philosophy in an effort to give their own agenda historical legitimacy and credibility otherwise lacking. For example, this pharaoh has been embraced variously as an icon by both Aryan supremacists and by black activists, by family values types as well as by the homosexual movement, by science This book, while it covers the life of Akhenaten, commonly known as the "Heretic Pharaoh", is more about how intellectuals and fringe groups grab some historical figure and make him part of their cause or philosophy in an effort to give their own agenda historical legitimacy and credibility otherwise lacking. For example, this pharaoh has been embraced variously as an icon by both Aryan supremacists and by black activists, by family values types as well as by the homosexual movement, by science fiction huxsters, and so many more. Clearly, all these different "Akhenatens" created by each of these movements can't all possibly coexist as historically accurate or authentic, and, given that this man lived many millenia neither is it possible to determine exactly what man he was. But to all these groups, none of this much matters anyway ---- the need for propaganda with which to inspire and encourage the faithful and to proselytize for new members supersedes any faithfulness to either truth or historical accuracy. It's an interesting study --- and, in pop versions of history, we've seen many similar treatments of other great figures such as Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In that respect, this is an interesting --- even if I did not find it exactly a compelling one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Who was Akhenaten? This is the question that Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt explores, holds up to the light, but doesn't answer. Montserrat explores how the historical figure of Akhenaten has been used by a number of different groups to further their own agenda or interests. Akhenaten therefore exists with a number of identities that can be contradictory: he is a racial, religious, political, domestic and sexual figure. Montserrat steers away from outright criticising these identi Who was Akhenaten? This is the question that Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt explores, holds up to the light, but doesn't answer. Montserrat explores how the historical figure of Akhenaten has been used by a number of different groups to further their own agenda or interests. Akhenaten therefore exists with a number of identities that can be contradictory: he is a racial, religious, political, domestic and sexual figure. Montserrat steers away from outright criticising these identities, or from offering his own take on Akhenaten. This is probably wise in a book such as this. He leaves the readers to explore and then make up their own minds whether any of these identities are valid. However, the chapter focused on the Akhenaten that has emerged from the archaeological remains was particularly good at stripping away some of the myths about the real man. The book turns the question I started with back to us, but re-phrases it: who IS Akhenaten? The historical figure remains elusive, a man we know less about than we think, but the cultural icon can be explored and examined.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

    I rather enjoyed Dominic Montserrat's Akhenaten. I didn't know that Frida Kahlo had done a painting with both Akhenaten and Nefertiti in. Nor did I know that the Nazi's had tried to appropriate him or the gay movement.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Connor

  6. 4 out of 5

    Derek

  7. 5 out of 5

    Em Biddle

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  9. 4 out of 5

    Danii Eifert

  10. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Beykrat

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elora

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stefano

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Allen

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zack McCullough

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jelena Jokanovic

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leviatheninutero

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jo Burl

  19. 5 out of 5

    Omowale Jabali

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jess Kissir

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Irina

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jikke Patist

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill Tucker

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ken Johnson

  28. 5 out of 5

    Louise

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  30. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Hillerup

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  32. 5 out of 5

    Vannessa

  33. 4 out of 5

    Rodolfo Lazo de la Vega

  34. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  35. 4 out of 5

    Tema

  36. 4 out of 5

    Cindie Harp

  37. 4 out of 5

    **S a b i n e l**

  38. 4 out of 5

    Krooker

  39. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  40. 4 out of 5

    Graham

  41. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  42. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  43. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Swift

  44. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  45. 4 out of 5

    Agent Smith

  46. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  47. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  48. 5 out of 5

    S.L. Stevens

  49. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Allard

  50. 5 out of 5

    Craig

  51. 5 out of 5

    Ada

  52. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

  53. 4 out of 5

    ₵oincidental Ðandy

  54. 4 out of 5

    Dana

  55. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Smith

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