Akhenaten began his reign under the name Amenhotep IV. As the son of Amenhotep III and queen Tiye, he inherited a prosperous and peaceful nation.
However, it became clear early on in his reign that the young king was prepared to go against normal convention. In his first year, he built a Temple dedicated to the Aten at the perimeter of the Temple of Amun at Karnak.
Amenhotep IV built several structures at Karnak during the early part of his reign. In the fifth or sixth year of his reign, he changed his name to Akhenaten, and constructed a new capital city, Akhetaten (Horizon of Aten) at modern Armarna, in an area not associated with any other god. He then declared that Aten was the only god, and that he, himself, was the only way between the Aten and the people. He ordered Amun's name to be cut from his temples throughout Egypt and even defaced the name of his father because it contained the name of Amun.
The Eighteenth Dynasty was known for its powerful women, however, Akhenaten seems to have given his chief wife, Nefertiti, power surpassed only by the Pharaoh himself. There are even some studies that say that she ruled as co-regent for part of his reign.
Akhenaten has been described as a visionary who changed the formality of Egyptian religion to establish a connection with one God, the Aten.
The reign of Akhenaton is said to have brought not just religious reforms, but artistic ones as well. Akhenaton was usually shown with long spindly arms and a feminine like figure. It has been suggested that perhaps this is evidence of disease, or kind of like a caricature of the king's possibly slightly feminine appearance. In some paintings, he was also shown with a long face, heavy eyelids, and full lips. The daughters of the king were painted with elongated skulls and Egyptologists still debate whether this was a true-to-life depiction or if it was just a new artistic style.