Aten (Aton, Adon, Eton) In Egyptian mythology, the sun disk worshipped by Akhenaton (1372–1355 b.c.e.). Surviving hymns to Aten emphasize his role as a benevolent creator. He is said to have “made everything according to his heart” when he was alone. One hymn to Aten by the pharaoh has been preserved. It opens:
Thy rising is beautiful in the horizon of heaven, O thou Aten, who hadst thine existence in primeval time. When thou riseth in the eastern horizon thou fillest every land with thy beauties. Thou art beautiful to see, and art great, and art like crystal, and art high above the earth. Thy beams of light embrace the land, even every land which thou hast made. Thou art as Ra, and thou bringest thyself unto each of them, And thou bindest them with thy love. Thou art remote, but thy beams are upon the earth.
Although this extract from the hymn gives some idea of Akhenaton’s views and those of his followers concerning the Aten, it is still impossible to gather precise information about the details of cult and belief. Incense was burned several times a day, and hymns were sung to the Aten, accompanied by harps and other instruments. Offerings to the deity consisted of fruits and flowers, with no animal sacrifice. Worship was joyous. Mika Waltari’s novel The Egyptian deals with the failure of Akhenaton to convince the priests to worship the Aten over other gods.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow – Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante