Photograph by David Finn from Egyptian Sculpture: Cairo and Luxor, by Edna Russman, 1989/by permission of University of Texas Press.

Five years into his reign, Amenophis IV (1352–1336 B.C.) changed his name to Akhenaten to pay homage to the sun disk Aten, the god of his new religion. In the beginning, Akhenaten simply elevated Aten over the other gods in ancient Egypt’s pantheon. But he soon began to worship Aten as the sole, exclusive, self-created creator—“with no other except him”—and set out to destroy the names and images of the other deities. According to author James Allen, the so-called Heretic Pharaoh thus invented the idea of an exclusive monotheism, in which there is no god but God. A pensive Akhenaten is shown in this detail from a 10-foot-high limestone statue from Karnak.