Hittite's Aryan Connections
The Hittites were the people who ruled the central Anatolian kingdom of Hatti from c. 1900 - 800 BCE. They formed the earliest known Anatolian civilization and employed an advanced system of government based on an established legal system. Their military was well trained, well equipped, and employed chariots that were the lightest and fastest of their time.
Together with their southern neighbours, the Mitanni, the Hittites acknowledged Aryan (Indo-Iranian) deities such as Mitra, Varuna, Indra and used names with Aryan roots. Both apprear on the historical stage in the Upper Euphrates basin, the Hittites to the north of the Euphrates and the Mitanni to the south. At different periods, they were allies or rivals. The land of the Hittites was called Katpatuka (Cappadocia) during Persian Achaemenian times (675 - 330 BCE). Strabo in the first century ACE, noted that the magi of Cappadocia "... have Pyraetheia (fire-houses), noteworthy enclosures...", the first record of Zoroastrian fire temples. Katpatuka / Cappadocia - the old Hittite land - could have been the western extent of Ranghaya, the sixteenth and last Aryan land in the Vendidad - the last land mentioned before the Avestan canon was closed.
While the Hittites may have been immigrants to the land of Hatti, they peacefully adapted to the language, custom and religion of the aboriginal Hattians with whom they enjoyed a mutually profitable and amicable relationship. They brought with them various technologies including Metal Age manufacturing methods such as the smelting and casting of iron.
Hittites first appear in the historical stage (though we use the word 'first' cautiously as this relates only to archaeological evidence) as rulers of the city of Kussara in south-eastern Anatolia somewhere between Nesa (Central Turkey today, see map below) and Aleppo (Northern Syria). The earliest known member of a Hittite speaking dynasty, Pithana, was based in Kussara. Pithana conquered the town of Nesa (or Nesha), near present-day Kayseri in central Turkey, and the city which the Hittites considered their city of origin. Shortly after 1800 BCE Pithana's son Anitta extended these conquests, capturing Hattusa, near present-day Bogazkale (Boğazkale, formerly Bogazköy) in north-central Turkey. Under subsequent kings of the Old Kingdom, Hattusa would become the future Hittite capital. Anitta, left records indicating his achievements, but he does not appear to have created an empire or to have founded a dynasty. The period after him was characterized by power struggles.
|Site Map of Anatolia / Asia Minor. the Hittite Hatti heartland occupied land in the centre of this map. Base image courtesy Microsoft Encarta|
It was the Hittite king Labarna, or Tabarna, (r. 1680-1650 BCE) who established what some call the Old Kingdom (c. 1680 - 1400 BCE), and from the time of its establishment, the Hittite kingdom rapidly grew in size. The establishment of the kingdom and the dynasty are chronicled in the Proclamation of Telepenus (c. 1525-1500 BCE). The Proclamation states that King Labarna consolidated power among the disparate Hittite city states and then proceeded to conquer nearly all of central Anatolia up to its shores. His successor Labarna II also known as Hattusili I (c. 1650-1620 BCE) continued to consolidate the kingdom as well as a dynastic line. Hattusilis' (adopted son or grandson?) successor, Mursili I (r. 1620-1590 BCE), further extended Hittite rule by conquering Aleppo (what is Halab today) in Assyria, and then went on to raid, but not rule, Babylon c.1595 BCE.
The consolidation and expansion of the Hittite kingdom into an empire (sometimes known as the New Kingdom or Empire c. 1400 - 1180 BCE) took place during the reign of Prince Suppiluliuma (r. c.1380-1346 BCE), a reputed usurper of the Hittite throne. Suppiluliuma rebuilt the capital at Hattusa and reorganized the government. He built on his military successes by defeating the Mitanni King Tusratta with whom his relations had become advesarial. In Tusratta's place, he installed his Mitanni ally Prince Shattiwaza, who had fled Mitanni and sought sanctuary in Hatti. The two kings concluded a treaty c. 1380 BCE, which we know as the Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty, the result of which gave Suppiluliuma control over various Mitanni vassal states including parts of Assyria. With his acquisition of Assyrian lands, Hattusa's empire now rivalled the power of Egypt under pharaoh Amenhotep IV, or Akhenaton, as well as that of Babylonia and Assyria. During the 15th and 14th centuries BCE, subsequent Hittite kings extended the extent of their empire westward to the Aegean Sea, eastward into Armenia, south-eastward into upper Mesopotamia, and southward as far as the mouth of the Litani River (a territory known as Amqu) in present-day Lebanon.
The Hittite king Hattusili III (r. 1289-1265 BCE) concluded a treaty of peace and alliance with Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses and gave Ramses his daughter in marriage. In c.1200 BCE the Hittite Empire fell to invaders called the Sea Peoples in Egyptian records, and shrank to collection of Neo-Hittite city states such as Carchemish and Milid (present-day Malatya).
Sources of Information
Information about the Hittites comes from a 1906 discovery of the Hittite's royal archives during excavations at Boğazkale. Another source is Egyptian records. The Hittites may also be mentioned in the Jewish scriptures as the sons of Heth, but this theory is disputed.
The royal Hittite archives at Bogazkale contain over 10,000 tablets whose cuneiform inscriptions are written in eight different languages:
1. Hittite (most of the texts were written in the Hittite language which the authors called Nesili (or Kanesili). The earliest examples of Nesili were found in the Hittite settlement of Nesa, also known as Kanesh (near Kültepe and about 20 km southwest of modern Kayseri) in the record of trade between Assyrian merchants and the 'land of Hatti'),
4. Native Hattian (the native language of the Hittite lands, Hatti, and a language completely different from Hittite. It was used for religious texts only),
3. Native Hurrian (the native language of neighbouring Mitanni. Significantly, the Hurrian language was used for non-official texts to a far greater extent than native Hattian, Luwian or Palaic, leaving the impression that native Hattian was used only for religious purposes in the same manner Sanskrit and Avestan are used today),
5. Akkadian (the international language of the region that was used for treaties and state letters),
6. Luwian (also spelt Luvian - a language closely related to Hittite and spoken in Arzawa and Kizzuwatna to the southwest of Hatti - an area called Luwia and later Lydia. By the end of the Hittite Empire, the population of most of the Hittite Empire spoke Luwian dialects),
7. Palaic (Palaumnili - language of the people of Pala who appear to have lived to the west of the Hittite core area between modern Kayseri and Sivas), and
The use of eight different languages spoken throughout the region is significant and indicate the intended readership of both local and international visitors to the Hittite capital. Of the eight languages, for their official documents, the Hittite kings used only the Nesili Hittite and Akkadian.
In multi-lingual texts found in Hittite locations, passages written in the Hittite language are preceded by the phrase "in Nesumnili ( i.e. language of the people of Neša, otherwise called Nesili, Nasili or Nisili)". In one case, the label is "in Kanisumnili (i.e. language of the people of Kanesh)". The religious native Hattian texts are introduced with the phrase "in Hatilli (i.e. language of the people of Hatti).
In the Boğazkale archives, native Hurrian is used frequently for a wide range of non-official texts such as those on rituals and even the Epic of Gilgamesh - more so than native Hattian. Native Hurrian texts have been found throughout the region. One such text dated to 1750 BCE was found at Tell Hariri (ancient Mari), a Middle Euphrates site, and another at Ras Shamra (Ugarit) on the Syrian coast indicating Hurrian i.e. Mitanni influence in the region preceded the rise of Hittite power under Suppiluliuma. A similar language to Hurrian is the language of Urartu located to the west of the Hittite lands at the headwaters of the Euphrates and around Lake Van. According to the literature (cf. The Hittites by O. R. Gurney, Penguin Books 1981), The Hurrians were migrants to the Upper Euphrates and Habur basin from the Elburz Mountains east across the Taurus Mountains from about 2300 BCE onwards.
For a script, the Hittites used the cuneiform system and hieroglyphs. The cuneiform Hittites texts were written on clay tablets that were discovered during excavations at the end of the 19th century CE. Identification of the language had to wait until 1915 when Czech linguist Bedřich Hroznı, after examining tablets that had been brought to Vienna from the Istanbul Museum, identified the language of the Hittite tablets as Indo-European. He published his findings in a 1917 book titled Die Sprache der Hethiter. In 1951 a comprehensive Hittite grammar was presented in a book titled A Comparative Grammar of the Hittite Language by Edgar H. Sturtevant.
As evidenced by the records discovered, the Hittites had a highly developed literature consisting of stories, religious texts, historical records, legal system and legal documents.
On line pages on Hittite grammar and language:
» Hittite Language Lesson at University of Texas
» The Hittite Grammar Homepage
In the Hittite system of governance, the Hittite king acted as the supreme priest, military commander, and chief judge of the land. In the early years of the empire, the king was assisted by the pankus, an advisory council of nobles. The different provinces of the empire were administered by provincial governors. Certain states at the edge of the empires were ruled by vassal kings under terms of a formal treaty.
In their legal code, the Hittites rarely resorted to the death penalty or to bodily mutilation as punishment for breaking the law - penalties that were frequently used by other ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms. Rather than relying on retribution or vengeance, the principle for redressing transgressions was restitution. For instance, the penalty for theft was restoration of the stolen property and payment of an additional recompense. In due course, restitution in kind was gradually replaced by payment of money.
The Hittite economy was based on agriculture, trade and manufacture. The mineral resources that they processed were copper, lead, silver, and iron. Their metallurgical techniques were advanced for the time and parallel the metallurgical advances by Indo-Iranians in Central Asia.
Hittite weapons were made from bronze. Iron was so rare and precious that it was employed only for the manufacture of prestigious goods. Correspondence with other governments indicate international demand for Hittite iron goods. The evidence of iron tool production dates back at least as far as the 20th century BCE.
One example of Hittite technology skills is their skill in building and using chariots.
Hattusa - Hittite Capital (near Bogazkale)
|Satellite view of the ruins of the Hittite capital Hattusa next to the modern town of Bogazkale. Base image courtesy Google Earth|
Click to view Larger Map
|Interactive satellite image of Hattusa / Bogazkale from Google Maps. Zoom in to see a close-up of the structures|
|Aerial view of Lower Hattusa (a) looking south. Upper Hattusa is in the background.|
Bogazkale (Bogazköy) town is to right (west). Image at hattuscha.de
|Aerial view of Upper Hattusa looking east. Bogazkale (Bogazköy) is to the left (north). Image at hattuscha.de|
The ruins of the ancient Hittite city of Hattusa (known as Hattus in Hattic), capital of the Old Hittite Kingdom, can be found next to the village of Bogazkale (formerly Bogazköy), in Çorum Province and some 87 km. southwest of the city of Çorum. Bogazkale (Bogazköy) is located at the southern end of the Budaközü River valley, at an elevation of 300 metres, and where the northern plains enter a valley surrounded by rock outcrops.
Evidence of a settlement at Hattusa predates Hittite presence by thousands of years goes back to the sixth millennium BCE, when it was inhabited by the native Hatti people. The Hittite's initial capture of the city was destructive. A carbonized layer in the excavations that is dated at c. 1700 BCE, indicates a burning of the city - a burning credited to the Hittite king King Anitta who was then based in southern city of Kushar. After destroying the city, Anitta left behind an inscription stating, "At night I took the city by force. I have sown weeds in its place. Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattush (the city's name in Hittite), may the Storm God of Heaven strike him down." This inscription known as the Proclamation of Anitta is the earliest text found at Hattusa and the earliest known text composed by a Hittite king.
A subsequent Hittite king, Labarna II (c. 1650-1620 BCE) seems to have ignored Anitta's curse and returned to the site to resettle Hattusa and make it his capital. He called himself Hattusili I.
Evidence in the form of cuneiform tablets, shows that in the 19th and 18th centuries BCE, merchants (apparently from Ashur (Assur) in Assyria), established a trading post and separate living quarters in Lower Hattusa. Among the goods they traded were tin, wool, foodstuffs, spices, and woven fabrics. Assyrian trading colonies in Anatolia were called kârum and the largest known karum and the centre of Hatti's trade network was at the ancient settlement of Kanesa (or Kanesh) - commonly contracted to Nesa (or Nesha) and located near the modern village Kültepe in Kayseri Province. Kültepe is about 200 km. southeast of Hattusa.
Upper Hattusas is about a kilometer square in size and was developed during the 13th century BCE. It was surrounded by a wall with several gates. A large part of the upper city consisted of temples and ritual areas.
» Bogazkale pictures
» Hattusa by Günther Eichhorn
» German ArchaeoIogical Institute - Excavations at Hattusa
Excavations at Hattusa, Bogazkale
After Charles Dexter examined the ruins in 1834 and evoked interest in the significance of the ruins, Sayce made the first connection between with the ruins and the Hittite state. Until then, the Hittites were thought to have been based Syria. In 1882, Carl Human and Otto Puchstein visited Bogazkale with the intention of making a comprehensive study of the site. It was not until the years 1893-1894 that Ernest Chantre dug some explorative trenches.
In 1905-06 excavations of Hattusa were conducted under the supervision of Hugo Winckler and Theodor Makridi, members of Deutsche Orientgesellschaft (the German Oriental Society). These two archaeologists were joined in the following year by Otto Puchstein, and their work continued until 1912. After a hiatus due to the First World War, excavations were resumed in 1931 under the direction of Kurt Bittel - excavations that were again interrupted and resumed after the Second World War.
In 1917, the German excavators removed a sphinx from Hattusa and sent it to Germany. The Turkish Government has been unsuccessful in seeking its return and the sphinx remains on display in Berlin's Pergamon Museum.
|Hoyuk or tepe - a mound on a plain|
caused by soil covering a buried site.
Also called a tel in archaeology. Image at Anatolia
Excavations conducted at the undisturbed tepe at Sakje-Geuzi revealed evidence of a continuous culture which began to flourish before 3000 BCE. Discovered buried in a lower layer were Neolithic Age yellow-painted pottery with black geometric designs. The painted design on the pottery resembles the design on painted fabrics found in Turkestan by the Pumpelly expedition, as well as the design on artefacts found at great distances from one another - at sites in Susa and its vicinity by De Morgan, in the Balkan peninsula by Schliemann, in a First Dynasty tomb at Abydos in Egypt by Petrie, and in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age (Minoan) strata of Crete by Evans.
The similarity in design could be more than coincidental and could be the result of trade and other connections between nations from Egypt to Central Asia - nations that were on the Aryan trade roads.
» Hittite/Hurrian Mythology