The Hittites

A history of the Hittites including their cities, kings, art and contributions to civilization

 

The rise and fall of the Hittites

The Hittite occupation of Anatolia:

The first suggestion of the Hittites' presence in central Anatolia during the Middle Bronze Age is the occurrence in the Kültepe tablets of Indo-European personal names in the correspondence of the Assyrian merchants and local rulers of central Anatolia (the "Land of Hatti"), whose non-Indo-European language is known as Hattian (Khattian, Hattic, or Khattic). Although it is now known that these Indo-Europeans called their language Nesite (after the city of Nesa), it is still, confusingly, called Hittite. Besides Nesite, two other Indo-European dialects were found in Anatolia: Luwian (Luvian), spoken by immigrants into southwest Anatolia late in the Early Bronze Age and later written with the pictographs commonly called Hittite hieroglyphs; and the more obscure Palaic, spoken in the northern district known in classical times as Paphlagonia.

The first knowledge of the Hittites, then, depends upon the appearance of typically Nesite names among the predominant Assyrian and Hattian names of the texts. The problem of the origin of the Hittites has been the subject of some controversy and has not yet been conclusively resolved. On linguistic grounds, some scholars were at first disposed to bring them from lands west of the Black Sea, but it subsequently was shown that this theory conflicts with much archaeological evidence. One authority argues for their arrival in Anatolia from the northeast, basing his theory on the burning or desertion during the 20th century BC of a line of settlements representing the approaches to Cappadocia from that direction. The evidence from the cities near the Kzl (Halys) River and Cappadocia, however, does not support this picture of an invading army, destroying settlements in its path and evicting their inhabitants. The impression is rather one of peaceful penetration, leading by degrees to a monopoly of political power. From their first appearance among the indigenous Anatolians, the Hittites seem to have mingled freely, while the more flexible Nesite language gradually replaced Hattian. It has even been argued that Anatolia was the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans and that they gradually spread east and west after about 7000 BC, carrying with them not only their language but also the invention of agriculture. There are, however, good grounds for rejecting this theory.

Only a few of the tablets of the Hittite archives found at Bogazköy can be dated earlier than the 17th century BC; nevertheless, certain historical texts of this period have survived in the form of more or less reliable copies made in the 14th or 13th centuries. One of these concerns two semi-legendary kings of Kussara (Kushshar) named Pitkhanas and Anittas. The city called Kussara has yet to be identified, but the text gives an impressive list of cities that Pitkhanas had conquered, and among them appears the name of Nesa, which his son, Anittas, subsequently adopted as his capital. Also included in the list is Hattusas (Khattusas), known to be the ancient name of the later Hittite capital at Bogazköy, which Anittas was said to have destroyed. The fact that no direct connection could be inferred between these two kings and the subsequent history of the Hittites has been explained by later archaeological discoveries, which demonstrated that Pitkhanas and Anittas were in fact native Anatolian (Hattian) rulers of the 18th century BC. Indeed, a dagger bearing the name Anittas has been found at Kültepe.

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