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  Gebel es-Silsila
  Kawa (Gem-Aten)






Known to the Egyptians as Iunu and to the Hebrews as On, Heliopolis, as its Greek name suggests, was the seat of an ancient sun cult. Its major deity was Ra, the active force of the sun who sails the sky in his bark during the day and defeats the terrors of the Underworld at night. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, as the power of the Theban priesthood of Amun continued to grow, the pharaohs subtly began to counterbalance it with patronship of Ra-Harakhty of Heliopolis.

As a prince stationed on military duties at Memphis, Tuthmose IV, grandfather of Akhenaten, claimed that Ra-Horakhty himself came to him in a dream and promised him the throne if he would clear the sand away from the Sphinx, considered at that time to be a representation of that god. Hence Ra-Horakhty became something of a patron to the young pharaoh. A scarab from his reign contains the first important mention of the Aten. Indeed, Akhenaten later took one of the didactic names of Ra-Horakhty as the name of his sole god.

Support for the Heliopolitan cult, and for the Aten, increased during the reign of Amenhotep III. Finally, during the reign of his son Akhenaten, the cult of Amun would be abandoned altogether, and the Aten, one aspect of Ra-Horakhty, would be elevated to the point of becoming the only god of Egypt. Thus the Heliopolitan priesthood clearly had less to fear than that of Amun, although the city was not as important politically as nearby Memphis. Akhenaten even made special provisions for the Mnevis Bull, sacred animal of Heliopolis, to be buried in the hills near his new city.

Aurelien Joly is a Tunahead.