Oedipus and Akhnaton (Book Review)

You probably heard of Immanuel Velikovsky, if at all, because of his controversial book Worlds in Collision, in which he postulated that several planets in our solar system left their proper orbits in ancient but historical times.


The thesis of Oedipus and Akhnaton: Myth and History is no less shocking to scholars, but it has not received the public attention that Velikovsky’s other work garnered, and which it rightly deserves.  In this book, first published in 1960, the author asserts that Oedipus of Greek myth is the same person as the historical Pharaoh Akhnaton of Egyptian history.


This book traces many parallels between the two stories.  Both of these figures married their mothers and had children by them.  Both lived in Thebes, Oedipus in the Greek city named after the original city in Egypt, where Akhnaton once lived. Both kings are referred to as sons of the sun god.  Both men grew up far from their homes and parents, each returning to take the throne only after the death of his father.  Oedipus was described as having swollen feet, while Akhnaton was depicted as having swollen legs.


Velikovsky speculates that the evidence from tombs in the Valley of the Kings points to the two sons of Akhnaton having killed each other in a battle for the throne in much the same way as the two sons of Oedipus met their untimely end.  In addition, he points to a strange tomb that might be the original for the story of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus who was sealed up in a cave for the crime of having buried her brother.  Ay, the father-in-law of Akhnaton, takes on much the same role as Creon, the father-in-law of Oedipus, even down to taking the throne after the death of the sons and rightful heirs of the king.


Much of the research in Velikovsky’s book is dated, since it was written more than 50 years ago.  Nevertheless, it is a fascinating read.  The tale of the Egyptian heretic Akhnaton is enclosed in bookends about Freud’s theory of the Oedipal Complex.  Notes and sources are found on nearly every page, so this is not pure speculation, and the author clearly states when he his speculating and when he is outlining the facts.


Highly recommended.