Garoufalis PhD

New Solar Theology in Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age and its survival during the transitional and early Historical Times.


Pharaoh Akhenaten brought about major changes in the religious tradition and worship customs of Egypt, with the abandonment of traditional polytheism which had characterized the religious traditions of Egypt since the dawn of its history, and with the establishment of the solar ecclesiastical disc. Traditional temple iconography was abandoned for the sake of a new one depicting the god as a solar disk whose rays ended in palms touching the pharaoh and his family, thereby extending the symbols of power and life to its universal realization, while also receiving their offerings.

Tutankhamen showed very quickly his intention to halt his predecessor’s political and religious reform in favor of a more traditional approach. In 1329 BC he transferred the state capital to Memphis, abandoning Akhetaten, and he strengthened the religious center of Thebes and the priesthood of Amun. His reaction to the new religion that his predecessor had tried to impose was nothing more than a “religious compromise” or, as Jan Assmann has termed it, a “New Solar Theology”: between the traditional polytheistic pantheon and the monotheistic religion of Akhenaten, he chose a doctrine of three gods, Amun, Ptah and Pe, to which was added a fourth, Seth, while declaring that religious and secular life were not separate from one another.

The spread of Egyptian artifacts to the wider Mediterranean is evident from the Early Bronze Age, but their spontaneous and systematic dissemination begins in the Late Bronze Age and culminates in the Early Iron Age, in a period of systematic commercialization and networking. a very well organized network of intercultural interaction with a wealth of material residue and movement of ideas and symbols. In the Mediterranean, the majority of Egyptians consist mainly of figurines, caskets and scarabs and a variety of Fajian vessels as well as bronze statues of deities.

We are not sure if the presence of Egyptian artifacts in the Aegean indicates the presence of Egyptians in Greece during the 2nd millennium BC. The Egyptian influence varies at many levels, for example there were imports of raw materials, imports of Egyptian artifacts, possible local imitations of Egyptian objects (Aegyptiaca) and the consequent possible adoption of aesthetic standards, technologies, semantics, ideologies, etc. The questions arise, however, both on the question of the nature of the transfer of figurative motifs from one culture to another and on the question of the transfer of figurative motifs with specific symbolic value and significance from Egypt to the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. The question of the transfer of symbolic values and standards cannot be answered easily and certainly not because we have identified the same pictorial pattern in two different regions. The complexity of a potential venture of understanding whether it is also an ideological transfer (beyond just a figurative one) is illustrated by the repetition of this phenomenon during the 1st millennium BC: the “Orientalizing” period of Greek art has seen an abundance adoption of “Eastern” patterns

Dimitris Garoufalis