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Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

From 1351 to 1334 BC, Egypt was ruled by a pharaoh named Akhenaten. One of the most popular deeds during his reign was to reform the nation’s religion from polytheism to monotheism. Before Akhenaten’s reign, Egypt worshipped many gods; however, after Akhenaten became pharaoh, he enforced religious revolution by worshipping the only god he believed in, Aten or the sun god (Puchner, Martin, et al., 6) ( McArthur 20). Basically, the pharaoh believed the sun to be a god. Accordingly, Akhenaten wrote hymns-poems known as The Great Hymn to the Aten, which he dedicated to the god Aten (McArthur, 51). The hymn pays tribute to the cosmos by stating how the morning is filled with beauty, noontime with dominion, and night with chaos. The lines are as follows, “You rise in perfection on the horizon of the sky, living Aten, who started life. You are appealing, great, sparkling, high over the land; your rays hold together the lands as far as everything you have made” (Faulkner & Raymond Oliver 290). The poem states that the earth would be in darkness once sunset, which is similar to death. In lines 67-76, the hymn talks about cosmic creation whereby all matter exists, like every living thing that walks, or flies, different languages, skin colour, foreign lands, and one’s lifetime in lines 111-127 (Faulkner & Raymond Oliver 293).

Further, the hymn pays tribute to the connection between heaven and earth, which was the pharaoh himself. In paragraph 12, lines 108-110, the hymn states that no one knows the god more than his only son, Akhenaten (Faulkner & Raymond Oliver 292). The lines also state how Aten taught his way to the pharaoh and bestowed his might. The pharaohs were recognized as the closest to the gods, creating a connection between heaven and earth.

According to the Babylonian Creation Epic, the only thing that existed in the beginning was water swirling around. From this water arose a god and a goddess who later unified to create many other gods. This beginning story reminded me of the scientific theory of evolution, which states that everything came from a primordial soup that, through various biochemical reactions, started forming simple organisms that later evolved to form complex organisms that exist today (Mark, 1). The Creation Epic goes on to state that there was a conflict between the older gods and the younger ones, which led to the older god’s death and the goddess declaring war on the younger ones. Eventually, the younger ones, particularly Marduk, won the war, and from the goddess’s remains, heaven and earth were created by the young gods. Later, Marduk used the corpses of gods who had instigated the first goddess to war to create human beings (Mark, 1). In my opinion, this myth, like many myths, shows that the gods are flawed just as humans would, despite their power and divinity. For example, the first god wanted to kill the younger ones because they were too noisy and kept him from sleeping. This is not a problem one would expect a god to have, and more importantly, one would not expect a god to plan to kill their children just because they were too noisy.

Comparing the myth mentioned above with the Genesis creation, though there are very big differences, there are a few alignments. For starters, both stories tell how man and the universe were created, with both describing how everything was filled with darkness and then there was light. Secondly, the accounts describe how heaven and earth were separated and humans were created to serve both creators. Lastly, yet importantly, both accounts describe the origin and founding of their religions.

Works Cited

Faulkner, Raymond Oliver. The literature of ancient Egypt: an anthology of stories, instructions, stelae, autobiographies, and poetry. Yale University Press, 2003.

Mark, Joshua J. “Religion in the Ancient World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www. Ancient. eu/religion (2018).

McArthur, Riana. “The Revolution Of Atenism: Akhenaten’s ‘Religion Of Light and Its Reflection In Amarna Art.” (2013).

Puchner, Martin, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. London and New York: WW Norton, 2018.


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This week, you read information from the Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literary Periods. As a part of this period, you read several creation stories. Please answer the following questions:

Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

1. How does “The Great Hymn to the Aten” pay tribute to the cosmos and the connection between the heavens and the earth?

2. Offer your thoughts on “The Babylonian Creation Epic.” Though there are many beliefs about how the world came to be, how does this creation story align with what you’ve read/heard about creation and how the world came to be?

Make sure to cite evidence from the readings to support your answers.

UNIT 1: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature

Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature 3-17

Creation and the Cosmos pgs. 21-23

The Great Hymn to the Aten pgs. 24-28

The Babylonian Creation Epic pg. 29-34

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