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Last Update: 2013-12-29
Hittite is the conventional English-language term for an ancient people who spoke an Indo-European language and established a kingdom centered in Hattusa (Hittite URUḪattuša) in northern Anatolia from the 18th century BCE. In the 14th century BCE, the Hittite Kingdom was at its height, encompassing central Anatolia, south-western Syria as far as Ugarit, and upper Mesopotamia. After 1180 BCE, amid general turmoil in the Levant associated with the sudden arrival of the Sea Peoples, the kingdom disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some of which survived until as late as the 8th century BCE. The history of the Hittite civilization is known mostly from cuneiform texts found in the area of their kingdom, and from diplomatic and commercial correspondence found in various archives in Egypt and the Middle East.
Early Bronze Age Anatolia
Before the rise of the Hittite Kingdom, there were three major Indo-European groups in Anatolia: the Luwians, Palaians, and Nesites. There is no historical consensus on where they came from or when. The area which would later become the center of Hittite civilization was controlled by a non Indo-European population called the Hattians. Some historians have pointed to the royal tombs at Alaca Hoyuk that show influence of Indo-European religious art, and concluded that Indo-European invaders from the Pontic steppe installed themselves as kings in this region. However, this theory is not supported by any evidence of Indo-European invasion. We simply do not know how or when exactly Indo-European groups began to appear in Anatolia - what is clear is that an Indo-European language (Nesite) and culture eventually became dominant in the central Anatolian ruling class. The ethnic makeup of Anatolia may very well have been a mixed one, with Indo-Europeans, Hurrians, and Hattians. Indo-Europeans seem to have been heavily concentrated in the city of Neša (Kanesh) which was an Assyrian trading colony. The spread of Nesite, which would later become the official language of the Hittite Empire, was probably due to its importance in the Assyrian trade network. Nesite was written in the cuneiform script borrowed from the Assyrians.
During the early second millennium BCE the Assyrians established a series of merchant colonies in Anatolia, the largest of these was Neša. The Assyrian merchants traded tin and textiles for gold, silver, and copper. From the many tablets found at the site of Neša, historians have concluded that there were various kingdoms (Matu) in central Anatolia before the rise of the Hittite Empire, including Hatti, Neša, Burushattum (Purushanda; possibly near modern Acem Hoyuk), and Wahsusana (modern Nigde).
The Old Kingdom
The early history of the Hittite Kingdom is known through tablets that may first have been written in the 17th century BCE but survived only as copies made in the 14th and 13th centuries BCE. These tablets, known collectively as the Anitta text, begin by telling how Pithana the King of Kussara or Kussar conquered the neighbouring city of Neša (Kanesh) and annexed it peacefully. After the conquest, Neša became the seat of the Kussaran dynasty. Pithana's son Anitta launched several successful campaigns against the many Anatolian kingdoms. He defeated Zalpa and captured their king. Anitta then laid siege to Hattusa and after capturing it in a night assault, destroyed it. He established his supremacy over most of Central Anatolia around the Kizilirmak basin. Anitta's kingdom did not last long, however, and had disintegrated soon after his death.
After the fall of Anitta's kingdom central Anatolia was ravaged by warfare between small states and invading peoples like the Hurrians and the Kaskians. The Hittite Kingdom would grow out of the city of Kussara, and the founding of the kingdom is attributed to Labarna I who began a new era of conquest. Hattusili (possibly Labarna's grandson) established the seat of his reign in the city of Hattusa, from which he captured the city of Sanahuitta and controlled most of central Anatolia. Hattusili then attacked Syria, taking Alalah and Urshu. Hattusili also marched against Arzawa but his kingdom was attacked by Hurrians, triggering uprisings, and he was forced to turn back to defeat them. The rebellion effectively ended after the city of Sanahuitta was subdued. Hattusili attacked Syria a second time, capturing the city of Zaruna and defeating an army of the city of Hassuwa supported by troops from Aleppo at a battle near Mt. Atalur (Adalur). He then captured and sacked the cities of Hassuwa, Zippasna, and Hahha/Hahhum, and even crossed the Euphrates to attack Tikunani and pillaged north Mesopotamian territory. While these campaigns gained Hattusili much plunder, they did not result in the establishment of permanent Hittite control over Syria. In the later part of his reign, Hattusili had to deal with several rebellions carried out by his own sons Huzziya and Hakkarpili, as well as with a rebellion in the city of Hattusa which saw the involvement of his own daughter. It was after these rebellions that Hattusili appointed his grandson Mursili I as his heir.
Mursili continued the conquests of Hattusili, his conquests reaching Mesopotamia, and even ransacked Babylon itself in 1531 BCE bringing to an end the dynasty of Hammurabi. Rather than incorporate Babylonia into Hittite domains, Mursili seems to have instead turned control of Babylonia over to his Kassite allies, who were to rule it for the next four centuries. This lengthy campaign, however, allowed for a plot to be formed by Mursili's brother-in-law Hantili and Hantili's son-in-law Zidanta. Mursili was assassinated shortly after his return home by Hantili and Zidanta. Hantili then took the throne; he campaigned against the Hurrians in Syria, but was unable to stop their advances. The Hurrians invaded the Hittite kingdom and plundered the land of Hatti. Hantili's sons were murdered by Zidanta who took the throne, only to be killed by his own son Ammuna. During this period the Hittite Kingdom began its decline and was attacked by various surrounding rebellious states such as the Hurrian Kingdom of Kizzuwadna and the Kingdom of Arzawa. Ammuna tried but ultimately failed to conquer these rebel kingdoms. After Ammuna's death, the usurper Huzziya attempted to kill off his sons but was himself deposed by Telepinu, a son of Ammuna. Telepinu established control over the Hittite core once again, and expanded towards the Euphrates, taking various towns in the region near Carchemish. He also signed a treaty with the southern Kingdom of Kizzuwadna which formalized territorial agreements.
The successors of Telepinu reigned over a period of instability in the kingdom, sometimes called the Middle Kingdom. This period saw the first invasions of Hatti by the Kaska peoples of the north, who took the town of Nerik and led to the fortification of the capital of Hattusa and other towns in the region of Hatti, which showed that the very heart of the kingdom was under threat. This period also saw the Hittite Kingdom wracked with internecine strife, as kings were assasinated and pretenders vied for the royal throne. It was also during this period that the Hurrian confederation of Mittani expanded into Syria and into Hittite controlled land west of the Euphrates.
The New Kingdom
With the reign of Tudhaliya I (who may actually not have been the first of that name; see also Tudhaliya), the Hittite Kingdom re-emerges from the fog of obscurity, entering the period of time called the "Hittite Empire period." Many changes were afoot during this time, not the least of which was a strengthening of the kingship. Settlement of the Hittites progressed in the Empire period. However, the Hittite people tended to settle in the older lands of south Anatolia rather than the lands of the Aegean. As this settlement progressed, treaties were signed with neighbouring peoples. During the Hittite Empire period the kingship became heriditary and the king took on a "superhuman aura" and began to be referred to by the Hittite citizens as "My Sun". The kings of the Empire period began acting as a high priest for the whole kingdom, making an annual tour of the Hittite holy cities, conducting festivals, and supervising the upkeep of the sanctuaries
Last Update: 2014-08-08
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Last Update: 2014-08-05
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