Hittites: Wikis


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Lion Gate of Hattusa, the capital of Hittites, modern Boğazköy, Turkey

The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian people who spoke a language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family[1] and established a kingdom centered at Hattusa (Hittite URUḪattuša) in north-central Anatolia (on the Central Anatolian plateau) ca. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height ca. the 14th century BC, encompassing a large part of Anatolia, north-western Syria about as far south as the mouth of the Litani River (a territory known as Amqu), and eastward into upper Mesopotamia. After ca. 1180 BC, the empire disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some surviving until as late as the 8th century BC.

The archaeologists who discovered the Anatolian Hittites in the 19th century initially identified them with the Biblical Hittites. The term "Hittites" was taken from the KJV (King James Version) translation of the Hebrew Bible, translating חתי HTY, or בני-חת BNY-HT "Children of Heth". (Heth is a son of Canaan.) Today the identification of the Biblical peoples with either the Hattusa-based empire or the Neo-Hittite kingdoms is a matter of dispute.[2]

The fullest identified designation of the Hittite kingdom is "The Land of the City of Hattusa". This description could be applied to either the entire empire, or more narrowly just to the core territory, depending on context. The word "Hatti" is actually an Akkadogram, rather than Hittite; it is never declined according to Hittite grammatical rules. Despite the use of "Hatti", the Hittites should be distinguished from the Hattians, an earlier people who inhabited the same region until the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, and spoke a non-Indo-European language called Hattic. The Hittites themselves referred to their language as Nesili (or in one case, Kanesili), an adverbial form meaning "in the manner of (Ka)nesa", presumably reflecting a high concentration of Hittite speakers in the ancient city of Kanesh (modern Kültepe, Turkey). Many modern city names in Turkey are first recorded under their Hittite names, such as Sinop and Adana, reflecting the contiguity of modern Anatolia with its ancient past.

Although belonging to the Bronze Age, the Hittites were forerunners of the Iron Age, developing the manufacture of iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BC, when letters to foreign rulers reveal the demand for their iron goods. Recent excavations, however, have discovered evidence of iron tool production dating back at least as far as the 20th century BC.[3] Hittite weapons were made from bronze though; iron was so rare and precious that it was employed only as prestige goods. But the Hittites were famous for their skill in building and using chariots. These chariots gave them a military superiority as illustrated on a plate from Carchemish.[4]


Archaeological discovery

The Hittites used cuneiform letters. Archaeological expeditions have discovered in Hattushash entire sets of royal archives in cuneiform tablets, written either in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the time, or in the various dialects of the Hittite confederation.[5]

The first archaeological evidence for the Hittites appeared in tablets found at the Assyrian colony of Kültepe (ancient Karum Kanesh), containing records of trade between Assyrian merchants and a certain "land of Hatti". Some names in the tablets were neither Hattic nor Assyrian, but clearly Indo-European.[citation needed]

The script on a monument at Boğazköy by a "People of Hattusas" discovered by William Wright in 1884 was found to match peculiar hieroglyphic scripts from Aleppo and Hamath in Northern Syria. In 1887, excavations at Tell El-Amarna in Egypt uncovered the diplomatic correspondence of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaton. Two of the letters from a "kingdom of Kheta" -- apparently located in the same general region as the Mesopotamian references to "land of Hatti" -- were written in standard Akkadian cuneiform script, but in an unknown language; although scholars could read it, no one could understand it. Shortly after this, Archibald Sayce proposed that Hatti or Khatti in Anatolia was identical with the "kingdom of Kheta" mentioned in these Egyptian texts, as well as with the biblical Hittites. Others such as Max Müller agreed that Khatti was probably Kheta, but proposed connecting it with Biblical Kittim, rather than with the "Children of Heth". Sayce's identification came to be widely accepted over the course of the early 20th century; and the name "Hittite" has become attached to the civilization uncovered at Boğazköy.

During sporadic excavations at Boğazköy (Hattusa) that began in 1906, the archaeologist Hugo Winckler found a royal archive with 10,000 tablets, inscribed in cuneiform Akkadian and the same unknown language as the Egyptian letters from Kheta — thus confirming the identity of the two names. He also proved that the ruins at Boğazköy were the remains of the capital of an empire that at one point controlled northern Syria.

Under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute, excavations at Hattusa have been underway since 1907, with interruptions during both wars. Kültepe has been successfully excavated by Professor Tahsin Özgüç since 1948 until his death in 2005. Smaller scale excavations have also been carried out in the immediate surroundings of Hattusa, including the rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, which contains numerous rock-cut reliefs portraying the Hittite rulers and the gods of the Hittite pantheon.


The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey houses the richest collection of Hittite and Anatolian artifacts.


The Hittite Empire (red) at the height of its power in ca. 1290 BC, bordering on the Egyptian Empire (green)

The Hittite kingdom was centered on the lands surrounding Hattusa and Neša, known as "the land Hatti" (URUHa-at-ti). After Hattusa was made capital, the area encompassed by the bend of the Halys River (Turkish: Kızılırmak, which Hittites called the Marassantiya) was considered the core of the Empire, and some Hittite laws make a distinction between "this side of the river" and "that side of the river", for example, the reward for the capture of an eloped slave after he managed to flee beyond the Halys is higher than that for a slave caught before he could reach the river.

To the west and south of the core territory lay the region known as Luwiya in the earliest Hittite texts. This terminology was replaced by the names Arzawa and Kizzuwatna with the rise of those kingdoms.[6] Nevertheless, the Hittites continued to refer to the language that originated in these areas as Luwian. Prior to the rise of Kizzuwatna, the heart of that territory in Cilicia was first referred to by the Hittites as Adaniya.[7] Upon its revolt from the Hittites during the reign of Ammuna,[8] it assumed the name of Kizzuwatna and successfully expanded northward to encompass the lower Anti-Taurus mountains as well. To the north lived the mountainous people called the Kaskians. To the southeast of the Hittites lay the Hurrian empire of Mitanni. At its peak during the reign of Mursili II, the Hittite empire stretched from Arzawa in the west to Mitanni in the east, many of the Kaskian territories to the north including Hayasa-Azzi in the far northeast, and on south into Canaan approximately as far as the southern border of Lebanon, incorporating all of these territories within its domain.


Egypto-Hittite Peace Treaty (c. 1258 BC) between Hattusili III and Ramesses II is the best known early written peace treaty. Istanbul Archaeology Museum

The Hittite kingdom is conventionally divided into three periods, the Old Hittite Kingdom (ca. 1750–1500 BC), the Middle Hittite Kingdom (ca. 1500–1430 BC) and the New Hittite Kingdom (the Hittite Empire proper, ca. 1430–1180 BC).

The earliest known member of a Hittite speaking dynasty, Pithana, was based at the city of Kussara. In the 18th century BC Anitta, his son and successor, made the Hittite speaking city of Neša into one of his capitals and adopted the Hittite language for his inscriptions there. However, Kussara remained the dynastic capital for about a century until Labarna II adopted Hattusa as the dynastic seat, possibly taking the throne name of Hattusili, "man of Hattusa", at that time.

The Old Kingdom, centered at Hattusa, peaked during the 16th century BC. The kingdom even managed to sack Babylon at one point, but made no attempt to govern there, enabling the Kassite to rise to prominence and rule for over 400 years.

During the 15th century BC, Hittite power fell into obscurity, re-emerging with the reign of Tudhaliya I from ca. 1400 BC. Under Suppiluliuma I and Mursili II, the Empire was extended to most of Anatolia and parts of Syria and Canaan, so that by 1300 BC the Hittites were bordering on the Egyptian sphere of influence, leading to the inconclusive Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC.

Civil war and rivalling claims to the throne, combined with the external threat of the Sea Peoples weakened the Hittites and by 1160 BC, the Empire had collapsed. "Neo-Hittite" post-Empire states, petty kingdoms under Assyrian rule, may have lingered on until ca. 700 BC, and the Bronze Age Hittite and Luwian dialects evolved into the sparsely attested Lydian, Lycian and Carian languages.

Remnants of these languages lingered into Persian times and were finally extinct by the spread of Hellenism.

Hittite government

Relief of Suppiluliuma II, last known king of the Hittite Empire

The Hittites are thought to have had the first constitutional monarchy. This consisted of a king, royal family, the pankush (who monitored the king's activities), and an often rebellious aristocracy. The Hittites also made huge advances in legislation and justice. They produced the Hittite laws. These laws rarely used death as a punishment. For example, the punishment for theft was to pay back the amount stolen.


The Hittite language (or Nesili) is recorded fragmentarily from about the 19th century BC (in the Kültepe texts, see Ishara). It remained in use until about 1100 BC. Hittite is the best attested member of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family.

The language of the Hattusa tablets was eventually deciphered by a Czech linguist, Bedřich Hrozný (1879—1952), who on 24 November 1915 announced his results in a lecture at the Near Eastern Society of Berlin. His book about his discovery was printed in Leipzig in 1917, under the title The Language of the Hittites; Its Structure and Its Membership in the Indo-European Linguistic Family. The preface of the book begins with:

The present work undertakes to establish the nature and structure of the hitherto mysterious language of the Hittites, and to decipher this language [...] It will be shown that Hittite is in the main an Indo-European language.

For this reason, the language came to be known as the Hittite language, even though that was not what its speakers had called it. The Hittites themselves apparently called their language nešili "(in the manner) of (the city of) Neša" and hence it has been suggested that the more technically correct term, "Nesite", be used instead. Nonetheless, convention continues and "Hittite" remains the standard term used.

Due to its marked differences in its structure and phonology, some early philologists, most notably Warren Cowgill even argued that it should be classified as a sister language to Indo-European languages (Indo-Hittite), rather than a daughter language. By the end of the Hittite Empire, the Hittite language had become a written language of administration and diplomatic correspondence. The population of most of the Hittite Empire by this time spoke Luwian dialects, another Indo-European language of the Anatolian family that had originated to the west of the Hittite region.


Hittite religion and mythology was heavily influenced by Mesopotamian mythology, increasingly so as history progressed. In earlier times, Indo-European elements may still be clearly discerned, for example Tarhunt the god of thunder, and his conflict with the serpent Illuyanka.

Biblical Hittites

The Hebrew Bible refers to "Hittites" in several passages, ranging from Genesis to the post-Exilic Ezra-Nehemiah. Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) links them to an eponymous ancestor Heth, a descendant of Ham through his son Canaan. The Hittites are thereby counted among the Canaanites. The Hittites are usually depicted as a people living among the Israelites - Abraham purchases the Patriarchal burial-plot of Machpelah from "Ephron HaChiti", Ephron the Hittite, and Hittites serve as high military officers in David's army. In 2 Kings 7:6, however, they are a people with their own kingdoms (the passage refers to "kings" in the plural), apparently located outside geographic Canaan, and sufficiently powerful to put a Syrian army to flight.

It is a matter of considerable scholarly debate whether the biblical "Hittites" signified any or all of: 1) the original Hattites of Hatti; 2) their Indo-European conquerors (Nesili), who retained the name "Hatti" for Central Anatolia, and are today referred to as the "Hittites" (the subject of this article); or 3) a Canaanite group who may or may not have been related to either or both of the Anatolian groups, and who also may or may not be identical with the later Neo-Hittite (Luwian) polities.[9]

Other biblical scholars have argued that rather than being connected with Heth, son of Canaan, instead the Anatolian land of Hatti was mentioned in Old Testament literature and apocrypha as "Kittim" (Chittim), a people said to be named for a son of Javan.

Physical appearance, origins, and genetics

Pharaoh Ramses II often referred to the Hittites as humty which translated from ancient Egyptian meant "women-soldiers", as it was the practice of male Hittite warriors to wear their hair long.[10] Scholars have also regarded the Hittites to be of a "Mediterranean ethnic group".[11] Archeologist Henry Heras's analysis of Egyptian portrayals of the Hittites, coincided with this view as they appeared to possess physical characteristics typical of Mediterranean people.[12] Some scholars believed that this may point to a north-east African origin as such physical traits have been thought to originate in this area.[13][14] Similar physical characteristics were possessed by the ancient Greeks leading some to suspect that both ancient Greeks and Hittites descended from similar prehistoric populations in the Near East and Aegean.[15] Physical anthropological analysis of populations alone, however, is an insufficient basis for grouping peoples into races, substantiating theories of folk migrations and accounting for the origins of ancient people due to many complicated factors.[16][17]

The exact origins of the Hittites have been shrouded in mystery for quite some time. While it has been argued that Hittite culture and language developed locally in Anatolia,[18][19] it has been far more common to view the Hittites and their ways as intrusive. Possible geographic origins from the west (Balkans), east (via or along the Caspian Sea or from the Armenian highlands), and north (across the Black sea) are just some of the proposed migration routes.[20] The process has been viewed as one of conquering elites[21] but alternatively as peaceful coupled with gradual assimilation.[20] In archaeological terms, relationships of the Hittites to the Ezero culture of the Balkans and Maikop culture of the Caucasus have been considered within the migration framework.[22]

A genetic study based on modern male Anatolian y-chromosome DNA has revealed gene flow from multiple geographic origins which may correspond to various migrations over time. The predominant male lineages of Anatolian males are shared with European and neighboring Near Eastern populations (94.1%). Lineages related to Central Asia, India, and Africa were far less prevalent among the males sampled. No specific lineage was determined or identified as "Hittite", however the y-chromosome haplogroup G-M201 was implied to have a possible association with the Hattians.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Dr Andrew McCarthy, University of Edinburgh, Archaeology 1B Lecture
  2. ^ See, for example, Singer, Itamar "The Hittites and the Bible Revisited" in Maeir, A.M. and de Miroschedji, P. ed., I Will Speak the Riddle of Ancient Times, Archaeological and Historical Studies in Honor of Amihai Mazar on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday (2006, Eisenbrauns)
  3. ^ "Excavation in Turkey Set to Rewrite History of Iron Age," Asahi Shimbun, 27 March 2009.
  4. ^ Kate Santon: Archaeology, Parragon Books Ltd, London 2007
  5. ^ The Hittite Empire Chapter V - by Vahan M. Kurkjian
  6. ^ A Short Grammar of Hieroglyphic Luwian, John Marangozis (2003)
  7. ^ Beal, Richard H.,"The History of Kizzuwatna and the Date of the Šunaššura Treaty", Orientalia 55 (1986) pp. 424ff.
  8. ^ ibid. p. 426
  9. ^ See Marten H. Woudstra, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Book of Joshua, p.60, fn.33 and Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, p.389 ff.
  10. ^ Healy, M. and Mcbride, A. 1992. New Kingdom Egypt (Elite). Opsrey: Elms Court
  11. ^ P. 141 Racial Theories in Fascist Italy By Aaron Gillette
  12. ^ P. 447 Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture By Henry Heras
  13. ^ P. 144 The Mediterranean Race: A Study of the Origin of European Peoples By Giuseppe Sergi
  14. ^ P. 266 Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. (Myth and legend in lit. and art). By Donald Alexander Mackenzie
  15. ^ P. 126 Man By Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
  16. ^ Jordan-Bychov, T. and Jordan B. 2002. The European Culture Area. Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  17. ^ Mallory, J. and D.Q. Adams (eds.) 1997. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn.
  18. ^ Renfrew, C. (1999), "Time Depth, Convergence Theory, and Innovation in Proto-Indo-European: 'Old Europe' as a PIE Linguistic Area", Journal of Indo-European Studies 27 (3 & 4): 257–294 .
  19. ^ Renfrew, C. (1987), Archaeology and Language. The puzzle of Indo-European Origins, Cambridge University Press .
  20. ^ a b Steiner, G. (1990), "The Immigration of the First Indo-Europeans into Anatolia Reconsidered", Journal of Indo-European Studies 18 (1 & 2): 185–214 .
  21. ^ Puhvel, J. (1994), "Anatolian: Autochton or Interloper", Journal of Indo-European Studies 22 (3 & 4): 251–264 .
  22. ^ Mallory, J. (1989), In Search of the Indo-Europeans, New York: Thames and Hudson .
  23. ^ Cinnioğlu, C.; King, Roy; Kivisild, Toomas; et al. (2004), "Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia", Human Genetics 114 (2): 127–148, doi:10.1007/s00439-003-1031-4 .


  • Akurgal, Ekrem - The Hattian and Hittite Civilizations; Publications of the Republic of Turkey; Ministry of Culture; 2001; 300 pages; ISBN 975-17-2756-1
  • Trevor R. Bryce, "Life and Society in the Hittite World," Oxford (2002).
  • Trevor R. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford (1999).
  • C. W. Ceram, The Secret of the Hittites: The Discovery of an Ancient Empire. Phoenix Press (2001), ISBN 1-84212-295-9.
  • Hans Gustav Güterbock, Hittite Historiography: A Survey, in H. Tadmor and M. Weinfeld eds. History, Historiography and Interpretation: Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Literatures, Magnes Press, Hebrew University (1983) pp. 21–35.
  • J. G. Macqueen, The Hittites, and Their Contemporaries in Asia Minor, revised and enlarged, Ancient Peoples and Places series (ed. G. Daniel), Thames and Hudson (1986), ISBN 0-500-02108-2.
  • George E. Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation: The Origins of the Biblical Tradition, The Johns Hopkins University Press (1973), ISBN 0-8018-1654-8.
  • Erich Neu, Der Anitta Text, (StBoT 18), Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden (1974).
  • Louis L. Orlin, Assyrian Colonies in Cappadocia, Mouton, The Hague (1970).
  • The Hittites and Hurrians in D. J. Wiseman Peoples of the Old Testament Times, Clarendon Press, Oxford (1973).
  • O.R. Gurney, The Hittites, Penguin (1952), ISBN 0-14-020259-5
  • Kloekhorst, Alwin (2007), Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon, ISBN 9004160922O
  • Patri, Sylvain (2007), L'alignement syntaxique dans les langues indo-européennes d'Anatolie, (StBoT 49), Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, ISBN 978-3-447-05612-0
  • J. Freu et M. Mazoyer,

Des origines à la fin de l'ancien royaume hittite, Les Hittites et leur histoire 1, Paris, 2007 ; Les débuts du nouvel empire hittite, Les Hittites et leur histoire 2, Paris, 2007 ; L'apogée du nouvel empire hittite, Les Hittites et leur histoire 3, Paris, 2008.

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Hittite.

Bible wiki

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From BibleWiki

Palestine and Syria appear to have been originally inhabited by three different tribes. (1.) The Semites, living on the east of the isthmus of Suez. They were nomadic and pastoral tribes. (2.) The Phoenicians, who were merchants and traders; and (3.) the Hittites, who were the warlike element of this confederation of tribes. They inhabited the whole region between the Euphrates and Damascus, their chief cities being Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Kadesh, now Tell Neby Mendeh, in the Orontes valley, about six miles south of the Lake of Homs. These Hittites seem to have risen to great power as a nation, as for a long time they were formidable rivals of the Egyptian and Assyrian empires. In the book of Joshua they always appear as the dominant race to the north of Galilee.

Somewhere about the twenty-third century B.C. the Syrian confederation, led probably by the Hittites, arched against Lower Egypt, which they took possession of, making Zoan their capital. Their rulers were the Hyksos, or shepherd kings. They were at length finally driven out of Egypt. Rameses II. sought vengeance against the "vile Kheta," as he called them, and encountered and defeated them in the great battle of Kadesh, four centuries after Abraham. (See JOSHUA.)

They are first referred to in Scripture in the history of Abraham, who bought from Ephron the Hittite the field and the cave of Machpelah (Gen 15:20: 23:3-18). They were then settled at Kirjath-arba. From this tribe Esau took his first two wives (26:34; 36:2).

They are afterwards mentioned in the usual way among the inhabitants of the Promised Land (Ex 23:28). They were closely allied to the Amorites, and are frequently mentioned along with them as inhabiting the mountains of Palestine. When the spies entered the land they seem to have occupied with the Amorites the mountain region of Judah (Num 13:29). They took part with the other Canaanites against the Israelites (Josh 9:1; 11:3).

After this there are few references to them in Scripture. Mention is made of "Ahimelech the Hittite" (1Sam 26:6), and of "Uriah the Hittite," one of David's chief officers (2 Sam 23:39; 1Chr 11:41). In the days of Solomon they were a powerful confederation in the north of Syria, and were ruled by "kings." They are met with after the Exile still a distinct people (Ez 9:1; comp. Neh 13:23-28).

The Hebrew merchants exported horses from Egypt not only for the kings of Israel, but also for the Hittites (1 Kg 10:28, 29). From the Egyptian monuments we learn that "the Hittites were a people with yellow skins and 'Mongoloid' features, whose receding foreheads, oblique eyes, and protruding upper jaws are represented as faithfully on their own monuments as they are on those of Egypt, so that we cannot accuse the Egyptian artists of caricaturing their enemies. The Amorites, on the contrary, were a tall and handsome people. They are depicted with white skins, blue eyes, and reddish hair, all the characteristics, in fact, of the white race" (Sayce's The Hittites). The original seat of the Hittite tribes was the mountain ranges of Taurus. They belonged to Asia Minor, and not to Syria.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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