People who know very little about ancient Egypt are most likely, if they know anything at all, to have at least a vague idea about the Pharaoh Akhenaten and be able to recognize the face of his beautiful wife, Nefertiti. Akhenaten’s allegedly monotheistic worship of Aten and the more naturalistic art produced during his reign, a revolutionary break from the more formal art of earlier periods, have made him a sympathetic figure to many. One extremely dubious but once-popular theory, advanced by Freud and others, ascribed the development of Judaism and later monotheistic religions to him. (It might be more accurate to describe that religion as Akhenaten’s worship of Aten, with the rest of Egypt still worshipping the Pharaoh.)
But to his own people, Akhenaten was a heretic who had overturned “Ma’at,” the underlying order and balance of the universe, and opened the world to chaos.