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hittities

Hittites

The Hittites had firmly entrenched themselves in Anatolia by the year 1700 B.C. Their history as an independent people spans a period of roughly a thousand years. This is broken into three ages: Old, New and Late periods. The Old Empire period occurred between the years 1650 and 1450 B.C.; the New, between 1450 and 1200; and the Late Hlttite period, between 1200 and 700 B.C. The Old Hittite period starts soon after the Assyrian Colony period, when a powerful group of Hittite princes managed to unite the city-states then flourishing In Anatolia under one central authority.

The earliest history of the Hittites relates that they were descended from the ancient kings of Kussara, the whereabouts of which is still unknown. We find mention of a King Pithana and his son, Anitta, in the Hittite archives, along with lists of cities that the two had purportedly conquered. The lists include the city of Kanesh, the main Assyrian colony, which was taken over by Pithana. Kanesh was later to become the capital of this early Hittite power under King Anıtta. Because of the Indo-European tongue of the Hittites, if Is presumed that they came originally from Syria. They were particularly adept at political and military organization.

The founder of the Hittite kingdom is thought to have been Labarnas. During his reigon, the kingdom and area of Hittite control started to expand greatly. The successors of Labarnas, Hattusilis 1 and Mursilis 1, pushed the boundaries even further to include not only north and south Anatolia but also Syria. Mursilis took Aleppo In Northern Syria, then penetrated into Mesopotamia to put an end to the Old Babylonian Dynasty in 160G, From here the Hittites pulled bock into Anatolia, the center of the empire. In this period of the first three Hittite rulers, we have a very well-documented history of their exploits from state archives full of cuneiform and hieroglyphic texts, information after the time of Mursifis i becomes sketchy owing to the scarcity of similar documents. The empire went, through a period of internal struggle and battles for power among princes and noblemen. These times of unsettlement came to an end with the ascension of King Telipinus in the beginning of the 15th century B.C. He established peaceful relations with the neighboring peoples and laid down a severe reorganization of the state as well as a code for succession to power. His capita! was built at Hattusas, northeast of Ankara at the present Boğazköy. Toward the middle of the 15th century, however, the growing and powerful Mitanni peoples in Northern Syria started an expansionist campaign into Anatolia which swiftly brought an end to the first Hittite dynasty and the Old Hittite period.

Under the Hittite King Tudhaliyas II, the empire was soon to rise again across the face of Anatolia to bring on the New Hittite Empire. An important early ruler of this second dynasty was King Suppiluliumas I, who reigned from 1375 to 1335 B.C. He was able to put Anatolia effectively under Hittite control ance again, mainly by throwing the Mitanni kings back into Syria, it was during this period that the Hittites became one of the most powerful political entities in the whole of the Near East. The Hittite King Muwatallis fought a historic battle with Egyptian forces at Kadesh in 1295. Here, at the Orontes River, the Hittite king met Ramses II in what amounted to a struggle for the domination of Syria. This is considered to have been one of the greatest battles of the ancient world. The resulting Hittite victory gave the Anatolians a recognized position of superiority in the Syrian states. Ramses was not about to return home with head hung in defeat, however. He proclaimed an Egyptian victory and had the battle depicted with himself as victor on temple walls at Karnak, Abydos and Abu Simbel. The succeeding Hittite ruler, Hattusilis III, came to terms with the Egyptian Pharaoh in 1269 in a peace treaty, and both powers were seen for some time to follow as equals in military might.

When Tudhallyas tv came to rule over the Hittites, the empire was at its peak. During this time the work on the Hittite sanctuary at Yozilikaya, near the capital of Hattusas, was started. These monumental bas-reliefs have yielded a vast amount of information about the religion of these people. Tudhatiyas IV was perhaps the last of the Important Hittite rulers. The empire collapsed around 1200 B.C. with the arrival of the Phrygians, referred to as the Sea Peoples, who overran Hittite strongholds, laying waste to the very capital of Hattusas itself. The Phrygians overwhelmed not only the Hittites, but aiso conquered the Mycenaeans and reached the frontiers of Egypt They replaced the Hittites os the dominant power in Anatolia, and, by 1190, the Hittite Empire had collapsed for the last time.

The Hittites that were able to escape the Phrygian onslaught moved south and southeast into the mountainous regions of that section of Anatolia to seek refuge. There they banded together ana formed a line of small provinces or city-states. This Is referred to as the Late Hittite period. The Hittites maintained a degree of independence until about 700 B.C., when the Assyrians conquered the territory. This put an end to the Hittites as a unique entity in Anatolia.

The amount of information that the Hittites left behind In cuneiform texts is indeed vast. We find that religion played on important role in their lives, and kings were often deified upon their death. Hittite laws covered a very wide range of criminal offenses, including  rope, sexual intercourse with animals, and defiance of the authority of the state. Some two hundred laws have been translated from the Hittite texts. They had a highly intricate religious apparatus in which the king played the role of high priest on hoiy occasions. They are mentioned in the Bible, with Esau and Soiomon having Hittite wives. Their economy was one of agriculture and husbandry, and servants and slaves played a major part in the caste society. Their art work, now displayed in the Ankara Archeological Museum, was simple yet striking and often delicate. When the need arose, they were expert soldiers, using three-man chariot teams rather than cavalry. Their arms consisted of the long spear and bows; foot soldiers used a short sword and spear, and they apparently fought as well-trained units, dressed in short tunics and kilts. Their early picture writing system was unique in that it used Ideographs in hieroglyphic form, unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphs which represented letters or sounds in the language. During the later periods, the Hittites switched to cuneiform writing. The empire was contemporary with Troy on the Western coast of Anatolia but culturally very different from it.

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