Hittites

It is generally assumed that the Hittites came into Anatolia some time before 2000 BC. While their earlier location is disputed, it has been speculated by scholars for more than a century that the Kurgan cultures of the Pontic Steppe, in present-day Ukraine, around the Sea of Azov spoke an early Indo-European language during the third and fourth millennia BC.

The arrival of the Hittites in Anatolia in the Bronze Age was one of a superstrate imposing itself on a native culture (in this case over the pre existing Hattians and Hurrians), either by means of conquest or by gradual assimilation. 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. The Indo-European element at least establishes Hittite culture as intrusive to Anatolia in scholarly mainstream (excepting the opinions of Colin Renfrew, whose Anatolian hypothesis assumes that Indo-European is indigenous to Anatolia, and, more recently, Quentin Atkinson.

The land of Hatti, located in central Anatolia, was the heartland of the Hittite Kingdom. The people of the Late Bronze Age Hittite Kingdom described themselves as the “People of the Land of Hatti,” but this name provides little help in the understanding of the dominate culture of the region. Indeed, the evidence is ambiguous as to whether any culture could be considered dominant. The population of this region was diverse, a portion was indigenous but there were also Luwians from the Aegean Coast, Syrians and Hurrians from Mesopotamia as well as others from around the Near East.


The Lion Gate of Hattusa

One explanation for how such a mixed people of different cultures and languages could be unified is revealed in their name. By denoting the geographical region, “Land of Hatti” when they spoke of themselves demonstrates that the region itself may have given them their collective identity. So that, regardless of their many backgrounds, the people who lived in the Land of Hatti were able to come together under their kings and forge an enduring legacy.


The Hittite Empire at its height around 1300 BCE

Imperial Legacy

During the height of the Hittite Empire’s power they would enter into an epic struggle with the Egypt. First the Hittites, led by their great conqueror, Suppililiuma, would topple Egypt’s long time ally in Syria, the Hurrian Kingdom of Mitanni. Then there was a rare moment in history. With the death of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1322 BCE Egypt’s 18th Dynasty was near collapse. In desperation the widowed Queen Ankesenamun reached out to the Hittite king, seeking one of his sons as a new husband.

The message from Ankesenamun reached the Hittite King as he oversaw the final stages of the siege of Carchemish, the last Mitanni stronghold. For a moment Suppililiuma held the Near East in his imperial grip but as fate would have it ultimate victory would slip through his fingers leaving the region to be ravaged by war for the next 50 years.


The Hittite copy of the treaty with Egypt

Finally, following the famous Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, the Hittites and Egyptians would reconcile and sign one of the most notable treaties of all antiquity. However it was too late. In the East the Assyrians had become so strong that they could not be denied their own imperial destiny and from the West the chaos that history has labeled the “Sea Peoples” was about to descend. Over a period of centuries the Hittite Empire would diminish and then fade. Only to be found again by Texier’s Anatolian questing.

 


Ramesses II storming the Hittite fortress of Dapur