Ikhnaton was a great leader with revolutionary ideas for the ancient world, but Egypt was not ready for him. Egypt had been a polytheistic empire for over two thousand years when Ikhnaton took over and expected the empire to give it up and become monotheistic with the worship of Aton. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 178) Not only was Ikhnaton the first to practice monotheism, but he also was the first to teach and promote peace. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 179).
Ikhnaton was born to Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy in 1385 BC as Amenhotep IV. As Amenhotep IV grew up, he often heard his mother oppose Amon and worship Aton and this is believed to have influenced him with the worship of only Aton. Amenhotep IV was a sick and deformed boy as was his father. He was often portrayed as having a deformed head and stomach. Amenhotep III was frightened that his only son may die a premature death and wouldn't be able to run the Egyptian empire. The Queen and King decided to have Amenhotep IV married at an early age. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 17) .
Many kings from other countries offered their daughters to the young prince. Amenhotep IV married the princess of Mitanni, but she died shortly after. Later Amenhotep IV married his sister, Nefertiti, who became his biggest supporter. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 19).
Amenhotep IV became king at eleven years of age and at first his mother handled most of the work as she did in the last years of Amenhotep III reign. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 20) At the beginning of Amenhotep IV reign, the downfall of Egypt had already begun as countries sent letters that said things like, "Gold is the price of good will; we shall keep the peace if you send gold." (Bratton, The First Heretic, 46) Amenhotep IV was greatly needed as Egypt's greatest king to bring the empire up again. Only Amenhotep IV was not a king of politics or military affairs; he was a philosopher. (Bratton, The First Heretic, 48).