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Hittite Kingdom - 1800 BC - 1200 BC

In the history of the Ancient East, besides the two great centers of civilisation Egypt and Babylonia, there was in the north, especially in Asia Minor, a third to which the name "Hittite" is usually given. In the 14th century BC the Hittites became the supreme political and military power in the Near East. It was a power and a civilization which once dominated Asia Minor and north Syria and occupied all the continental roads of communication between the East and the West of the ancient world.

The Hittites were lost for millennia to the world under the sands of Asia Minor (Turkey) and other countries at the northern end of the Tigris and Euphrates. The credit of having been the first to divine the importance of the Hittites should always be ascribed to Archibald Henry Sayce. These are not the Hittites of the Bible (who are later, located in Syria and/or Canaan and are only to an unclear extent influenced by the earlier Hittites).

The land mass occupied by the Asian part of the Republic of Turkey, east of the Sea of Marmara, is known as Anatolia. The region was inhabited by an advanced Neolithic culture as early as the seventh millennium BC, and metal instruments were in use by 2500 BC. Late in the third millennium BC, the warrior Hittites invaded Anatolia and established an empire that made significant economic and administrative advancements. The Hittites were an Indo-European speaking people. This was rather surprising, given that the other languages in the area are of the Semitic line, a non-Indo-European language family that included Sumerian and Akkadian. They rose to become one of the greatest powers of the Ancient Middle Eastern world by conquering Babylon and challenging the power of the Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses II at the battle of Quadesh. In about 1200 BC, the Phrygians overthrew the Hittites in western Anatolia, where a Phrygian kingdom then ruled until the seventh century BC. The Hittites were destroyed in the wake of movements of the enigmatic Sea peoples around 1180 BC.

The Hittites, an ancient people of Asia Minor and Syria, flourished from 1600 to 1200 BC. The Hittites, a people of Indo-European connection, were supposed to have entered Cappadocia around 1800 B.C. The Hittite empire, with its capital at Bogazk÷y (also called as Hattusas), was the chief power and cultural force in Western Asia from 1400 to 1200 BC. It was a loose confederation that broke up under the invasions (c.1200 B.C.) of the Thracians, Phrygians, and Assyrians.

The Hittites were one of the first peoples to smelt iron successfully. The ancient Egyptians did not "discover" the wheel until they were invaded by the Hittites riding horse-drawn chariots. It is now believed that they used wheels for toys and in a land-measurement device but never had the gestalt to transfer the concept of the wheel to something as simple as a wagon.

The Hittites were a northern Indo-European people who called themselves "Aryans" (like the Persians)-a term meaning "noble people", they established an empire formally known as the Kingdom Of Hatti which stretched from Anatolia (modern Turkey), Canaan (Palestine and Jordan) and Syria to northern Mesopotamia (northern Iraq). The general bearing has been to emphasize the division of Hittite history and remains into two main periods; the first, imperial Hatti rule radiating from Cappadocia; the second, not of Hatti rule but of either Muski empire or Hatti civilisation surviving in small states of Eastern Asia Minor and North Syria (e.g. Tyanitis whose monuments show non-Hittite bearded figures). In the latter period fell the relations of the Hebrew monarchies with "Hittites," who, resigning mid-Syria to the Aramaean powers of Damascus and Hamah, ceased to be an imperial power in the 12th century BC. It should be added that the hostile relations of the Hatti with Assyria began at least as early as the reign of Shalmaneser I at Calah (14th century BC).

Excavations reveal a civilization extending back to about 3000 BC which resembled that found at Susa in Elam belonging to the same period. This civilization may not have been Hittite in its beginnings. It is possible that the coming of the Hittites is marked by a transition period in the art - a period the termination of which is marked by the date of the fall of the first dynasty of Babylon. It may well be that Indo-Europeans followed by Mongols came about 2100 or 2000 into this region, or that the Mongols were there earlier and that the Indo-Europeans then came.

The Hittite civilization presupposes the existence of Mesopotamian civilization on Anatolian soil. The correctness of this inference is shown by the Cappadocian tablets, which belong to the period 2400-2100 BC, as is proved by the seals of Ibi-Sin and Sargon I [2371 BC] of Assyria, found impressed on two of them. They are all business documents emanating from the two Cappadocian trade-centers of Gani or Kani (Kiil-tepe) and Burushatim or BurSa^anda. It is not accidental that they come to a close just before the Hittite Empire first emerges in history, under Labarna. Though we know the date of the fall of these colonies, the date of their foundation is obscure.

There is evidence for the existence of a Hittite power in the nineteenth century BC. The Bible says without any reservation that the Hittites were Canaanites (Gen. x. 15). The Egyptian inscriptions are much occupied with a great and warlike people called the Khita, the centre of whose power lay north of Syria, in the region of the Orontes and upper Euphrates. These are called in the Assyrian inscriptions Khatti, and may be identified with the Hittites of the Bible.

The Hittites were among the settled inhabitants of Canaan while as yet Abraham was only a wandering sheikh. By peaceful pastoral pursuits, and by skill and valor in war, Abraham had attained to a high position of wealth and influence. He finds himself, however, in the land of the stranger, with no sons to support or succeed him, and the only heir to his wealth and fame Eliezer, a Damascene, and when, in presence of the uncertain future, he begins to despond, the Lord appears to him and renews his former promises, and in addition makes with him a new covenant, that his own children shall possess the land then occupied by the Hittites and other heathen tribes, from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates (Gen. xv. 20).

The Israelites crossed the Jordan, and in the taking of Jericho (Josh. xxiv. 11) first met the Hittites with the Amorites. The Hittite power in Palestine was crushed, but some of the people continued to dwell in the land (Judg. iii. 5), and the Israelites dwelt among them, and intermarried with them, and served their gods. King David had among his mighty men Hittite warriors, and Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, and ancestress of our Lord, was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

In the astrological tablets, compiled for the library of Sargon of Agane (about BC 1900) the Hittites are already spoken of as formidable rivals of the Babylonians in the north-west, at a time when the kingdom of Assyria did not exist. The Hittites appear for the first time in the national history of Babylon, just about the time, according to Usher's chronology, when they are mentioned as a people in the Book of Genesis (xv. 20).

The larger Hittite monuments carved on living rock or on stones which are either in situ or so ponderous that they are not likely to have moved far after leaving the carver's hands, are distributed, so far as is known at present, over all Asia Minor except the north-west and south-west, and over North Syria almost as far southward as Homs on the Orontes and Meskineh on the Euphrates, with an outlying fringe on the Mesopotamian bank of the latter river. No large Hittite stones have come to light outside the above area, with the exception of some found at Babylon, which almost certainly were transported thither from original positions in Syria or Asia Minor.

Nevertheless, it is not safe, on actual knowledge, to include any part of western Asia Minor in the Hittite glyptic area. The Hittite monuments found west of the Axylon plain are too few and far between to offer convincing evidence of local occupation by a Hittite people, or even by Hittite culture. They may be memorials of no more than occasional raids from Cappadocia. Therefore, in Asia Minor, the Hittite area had better be restricted (for the present) to the lands between the Axylon and the Euphrates and between the Axylon and the Cyprian Sea-that is, to the lands known later as Cappadocia, Lycaonia, Cilicia, and Cataonia. To these must be added the north and the north-central districts of Syria.

This was an area of distinctively Hittite culture at a certain period, but not (necessarily an area either completely inhabited by Hittite races, or comprehending the whole radius of Hittite culture. On the one hand it includes some races who were almost certainly not kin to the Cappadocian Hatti - the representative 'Hittites'. On the other hand it excludes more than one region, e.g. north-central Mesopotamia, which we know (from Oppenheim's researches at Tell Halaf) to have had a culture related to the Hittite; in other excluded lands, e.g. Phrygia, Cyprus, and Phoenicia, Hittite art can be shown to have exercised influence. What, however, that area does include is all regions in which Hittite culture appears to have been the predominant element and responsible for the local contemporary glyptic.

The period during which this area, as a whole, was Hittite in civilization, covers, roughly, fourteen centuries, from about 2000 BC, the higher limit, to 600 BC the lower. The Hittites were never united in one empire. Different kingdoms flourished here and there, such as that of the Mitanni in Mesopotamia, the Hittites at Boghaz Koi, the kingdoms of Carchemish, of Hamath, and Tyana. These flourished at different times all the way from 1400 to 700 BC. 'The Assyrian records, as well as the Egyptian, distinguish many peoples; and the most that can be inferred from these records is that there was an occasional league formed under the Hittites, not any imperial subjection or even a continuous federation.

Carchemish was in existence as a city at least as early as 2000 BC, on the evidence of two tablets of the First Babylonian Dynasty on which the adjectival, Kaikdimtsu, occurs ; and, further, that this Dynasty was brought to an end by the action of a Hattic people about two centuries later. Whence, precisely, these Hattic invaders came we are not told. The broad fact, however, stands that, before 1800 BC, some Hattic power was sufficiently expansive and organized to push right down to Babylonia and overbear the most civilized state of West Asia. This power, even if its home-land was not Syria, must have passed southward through that country, and both in going and returning, have left some trace there. These invaders held their Babylonian conquest for a few years only. Thereafter their name is not heard for about three centuries, their next appearance in recorded history being subsequent to 1500 BC.

Thothmes III, the Egyptian Alexander, began his splendid reign of over half a century in 1600 BC. According to Usher, this would be six years after Jacob went down into Egypt, and thirty-five years before the death of Joseph. The hieroglyphics of Thothmes are numerous and important. They recount numerous campaigns undertaken by Egypt in which the Hittites play an important part. In the Egyptian hieroglyphics the Hittites occupy exactly the same position as is assigned to them in the Book of Exodus. They are first in order and first in importance among the peoples of the promised land.

Around 1400 BC (approximately) iron was first produced by the Hittites, in what is now Turkey. The Hittites of the 14th century B.C. maintained detailed manuals concerning the care and feeding of their horses. A Hittite birth ritual text refers to other texts in its descriptions of how women were to be prepared for giving birth. The first recorded battle at Megiddo was between the massed ranks of Hittites and Egyptians.

In 1468 Thothmes III made an expedition into Euphratean Syria. Certain 'Hatti' sent him propitiatory gifts ; but they came, apparently, from afar, and Carchemish, in whose vicinity the Pharaoh was at the time, is not stated in the Egyptian record to have been theirs. In the light of Boghazkeui documents which record history of less than a century later, it is reasonable to suppose that this Hattic embassy came from beyond Taurus, and represented the nascent Cappadocian power, destined to emerge into prominence during the reign of Thothmes' successor. The only other records of Hittites which (perhaps) refer to a period before 1500 BC are Hebrew patriarchal traditions such as one embodied in Genesis xxv. 9, 10, that Abraham bought land at Hebron from a Hittite. These scattered notices justify the presumption that for a long time prior to 1500 BC there had been organized Hattic societies in Eastern Asia Minor and also in Syria, and something which can be called a Hittite civilization in both regions.

Izmir has almost 3,500 years of urban past, and possibly that much more of advanced human settlement. Izmir, also once called Smyrna, is modern Turkey's third most populous city and the country's largest port after Istanbul. It is located along the outlying waters of the Gulf of Izmir, by the Aegean Sea. By 1500 BC the region fell under the influence of the Central Anatolian Hittite Empire. The Hittites possessed a script and several localities near Izmir were mentioned in their records. The first settlement to have commanded the Gulf as a whole is recorded, in a semi-legendary manner, to have been founded on top of Mount Yamanlar, to the northeast of the inner gulf.

The Hattic (i.e. Cappadocian-Hittite) Age was dominated by a Hattic Power, which exercised political influence throughout the whole Hittite Area, defined above, and, beyond doubt, was responsible for some measure of cultural community therein. It is an Age, therefore, in which we may expect a certain uniformity in Hittite art. The earliest Hattic prince of whom more than whose name is known, was one Khattusil, reigning at Boghazkeui late in the fifteenth century. From a record of his son, Shubiluliuma, it can be gathered that Khattusil's predecessors (one of whom, perhaps, it was who sent presents to Thothmes III in 1468) had been clients of Assyria since some date unknown, and that Khattusil first asserted Cappadocian independence. Shubiluliuma marched south about 1375 B.C. to carve a realm out of Syrian and Mesopotamian lands which had subsisted previously in a loose dependence upon Egypt, and a more real subjection to the local Mitannian power seated in North-west Mesopotamia. Since Egyptian culture does not seem to have been spread far beyond the Egyptian frontier by the forces of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and the Mitannian civilization was, in some respects, near kin of the Hittite, we may safely assume some cultural community between Syria and Cappadocia even before Shubiluliuma's actual conquest of any part of the former land.

This Hattic Power came to an end about 1200 BC in a cataclysm which affected the whole area. A record of Rameses III, graven on a pylon at Medinet Habu, states that a horde which swept through Palestine to attack the frontier of Egypt had devastated, on its way, Hatti (Cappadocia), Kedi (Cilicia), and Carchemish (North Syria), i.e. the whole Hittite Area from north to south. Before that date the Boghazkeui archives come to an end. Their latest document emanates from a King, Arnaunta, of the second generation after Khattusil II; he is known to have been reigning for several years after 1280.

In the 1200s BC, invasions from the Balkans destroyed Troy VII. Central and Western Anatolia fell back into a Dark Age that lasted until the emergence of the Phrygian civilization in the 8th century BC. Hatti never recovered and continued to decline until the fall of the kingdom around 1160 BC. Thereafter the Cappadocian culture probably weakened, but not with the same rapidity or to the same extent in all parts of the area. While it survived long in the south-east of Asia Minor and, indeed, revived to inspire Syrian art down to the close of the Hittite period, its fate in northern Cappadocia is uncertain.

There was a Cappadocian Hatti occupation from about the 15th century BC, during which the city was enlarged and fortified, and Hatti art, strongly influenced by Babylonian, was introduced on the top of a native Syrian culture; that some cause produced collapse and reconstruction about 1100-1000 BC, and the subsequent civilisation, still of Hittite character, owed much to Assyria and acknowledged other gods than the Cappadocian, notably Sandan. The invasion of the Muski about 1100 B.c. was doubtless the cause of the Hatti Collapse, and possibly the subsequent reconstruction was also the work of the Muski, who are known to have adopted Hatti writing and art and to have succeeded to Hatti dominion in Eastern Asia Minor. If not, then Carchemish resumed existence as a local capital independent of Cappadocia after 1000 B.C. Reliefs in the palace court seem to commemorate victories over Assyrians, and if so, these must have been won in the interval of Assyrian weakness between Tiglath Pileser I (1100 BC) and Ashur-natsirpal (883 BC).

"White Syrians" were still in Cappadocia even after the Cimmerians had destroyed the Phrygian monarchy, allowing Lydia to become independent under the Mermnad dynasty. Croesus found them centered at Pteria in the 6th century and dealt them a final blow. But much of their secular or religious custom lived on to be recorded by Greek writers, and regarded by modern scholars as typically "Anatolian."

The Hatti of Cappadocia were responsible in the beginning for the art and script of those monuments and for the civilization of which they are memorials. Other peoples of north Syria and Asia Minor (e.g. the Kummukh or Commagenians and the Muski or Phrygians) came no doubt under the influence of this civilization and imitated its monuments, while subject to or federated with the Hatti. Through Phrygia and Lydia influences of this same Cappadocian civilization passed towards the west. The Nymphi (Kara Bel) and Niobe sculptures near Smyrna are probably memorials of that extension.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:49 ZULU