Ahkenaten was a bit of a heretical pharaoh in ancient Egypt. While it was customary at the time for the pharaoh to choose a god to be associated with, Ahkenaten went further and proclaimed his chosen god to be the only true god and disenfranchised the worship of other "old gods" such as Ahmun. The god who Ahkenaten adopted was Aten. Previously an aspect of Ra, Aten is depicted as a sun disk:
I would like to propose an alternative historical narrative in which Atenism is widely embraced. Ideally it should be accepted by Egyptians as a monotheistic religion, because archaeologists already consider Atenism to be a henotheistic religion (belief in one god but acknowledging the possible existence of other gods).
I have given much thought to this period in Egyptian antiquity; it's a very mysterious and fascinating time. To help understand the challenges of a decree that would disenfranchise an existing polytheistic belief system, I tried to look for a historical analog. One of such analogs I thought was compelling was that of Christianity spreading to Rome. While the situation is not a carbon copy of the situation that Ahkenaten faced, it still provides a few interesting insights. Namely:
- Lead Time: While Constantine is often accredited for much of Christianity's spread, Roman territories have had exposure to Christianity for roughly three centuries. While they were occasionally devoured by lions, the Christian base still saw modest growth prior to Constantine. So, in my view, this lead time to the official degree could have made a big difference.
- P2P: Also noteworthy in my opinion is the nature of the conversion. Beginning with small missionary work by Paul and later followers, the spread of Christianity can be somewhat likened to a grass-roots movement, something that was more organic in its social organizational structure. A P2P network if you will.
Hierarchical: In contrast, Ahkenaten was not grass roots at all. This was a centralized, top-down, chain of command type of conversion. He was basically shoving Aten down the throats of the polytheistic people of ancient Egypt and the clergy.
Timing: At this time in the New Kingdom, Egypt was still reeling from the recent invasion of the Hysksos. Ahmun was the deity of the region that ultimately expelled the Hyksos from Egypt. And so by disenfranchising a god that was still in such high graces, Ahkenaten had his work cut out for him.
How can we maximize the acceptance of Atenism to replace Egypt's existing pantheon of gods as a monotheistic religion? Would my P2P, grass-roots movement as theorized above be a good start or is there a flaw in my logic? (I'm just out to maximize conversion rate, you may scrap my theory if you have something more effective)
Quality Metric: The larger the population that embraces Atenism, the better. (This addresses some loopholes/corner solutions in which all non-believers are executed). Atenism should have a trajectory to last through multiple dynasties (not die out immediately after Ahkenaten's death like in our version of history).
Potential Areas of Interest
- Financial incentives
- No plague - There was a plague coming from the East during this time that ultimately affected Egypt and Ahkenaten personally, claiming the lives of his wife and children. So with Nefertiti and his daughters still alive, Ahkenaten will hopefully be more psychologically robust to deal with the task at hand of converting Egyptians to Atenism. We'll try to give him the best chance at it.
- Everything else in this alternate history is assumed to be the same