THE HITTITES OF THE BIBLE
THE HITTITES OF THE BIBLE THE HITTITES DATE
The first civilization of which we possess ample written records was the Hittite Kingdom and later Empire, which occupied ,the whole of Cappadocia and much of its peripheral regions in Central Anatolia.
In the Old Testament, we find frequent references to the Hittites, one of the several tribes the migrating Israelites encountered in Palestine when they arrived to take possession of their Promised Land. The Hebraic texts call them “Chet”, or in plural “Chittim” and one passage of the Bible (Numbers XIII 29) reads: “Amlek dwells in the Negeb and the Hittites dwell in’ the mountains”.
During the early period of Israelite history, the “Old Testament does not distinguish the Hittites from other, now forgotten tribes, such as the Amorites, Jebusites, Kenites and Hivites, to name a few; but the chronicles dating from the period of Jewish monarchy bestowed upon the Hittites more distinction. Kings XI, 1. of the Old Testament tells us about the Hittite wives of King Salomon. Chronicles II, 1,17. records that King Solomon purchased horses from Egypt and sold them to the king of the Hittites. And, “hearing the din of many horses and chariots” a Syrian king exclaims: “Ho! the King of Israel has hired against us the Hittites!”. Whereupon his soldiers fled in the twilight.
Egyptian hieroglyphs reveal that the pharaohs of the 18th dynasty had been in contact with a northern country called “Kheta”, whose warriors had fought against Rameses II at Kadesh in Syria. The war terminated with the signing of a peace treaty, the Egyptian text of which is still extant on the walls of the temple of Karnak. Its Hittite equivalent, though incomplete, was recovered during the excavations at Hattusas, the ancient Hittite capital near the modern village of Boğazköy.
The scholars are in accord that the Kheta folk mentioned in the Egyptian documents and the Cheta, or Chittim of the Old Testament were one and the same people; which was later confirmed by deciphered Assyrian tablets that carried frequent reference to the land of Hatti and its capital, Carchemish (near the village of Barak on the Turkish-Syrian border). However, these people were the so-called Neo-Hittites, a minor residue of a formerly vast empire based on Hattusas, which disintegrated during the Phrygian-Cimmerian onslaughts centuries before.
In 1812, a German traveler, Johann Ludwig Burkhardt discovered an inscribed stone encased in the wall of a house in Hamath, the hieroglyphs of which were different from those found in Egypt. His efforts to obtain at least a copy of the mysterious text failed in account of local hostility rooted in superstition. It was only in 1872 that a missionary, William Wright could copy the inscription in the company of the Turkish governor and, at long last, the enigmatic hieroglyphs became available to experts. Thanks to the enlightened pacha, Wright could study the text unhindered and prepare a plaster cast of it. Abiding by the Englishman’s counsel, the pacha ordered the removal of the invaluable stone. Together with four similar relics found in the local houses the stone was sent to the Archeological Museum of Istanbul.
Reports on similar discoveries in different Turkish localities began to converge and point toward the ruins near Boğazköy, a small village situated in a bend of the river Kizilirmak. In the vicinity of Hattusas, the famous Yazilikaya (inscribed rock) disclosed more similar hieroglyphs.
The discovery of the cuneiform tablets at Tell-El-Amarna in 1887 had given Hittitology great impetus. The majority of the tables were written in the already known Akkadian language and covered the period between 1385 and 1360 B.C., which corresponded with the reigns of Amenopsis III and his son, Akhenaton. Amons the letters was one in which the Hittite king Suppiluliumas (1380-1346 B.C.) congratulated Akhenaton upon his ascension to the throne of Egypt.
Excavations in Boğazköy began in 1906 and their result surpassed the most optimistic expectation. The German Dr. Hugo Winckler found the Royal Archives of more than 10.000 clay tablets, some written in Akkadian. The experts were able to establish Hattusas as the Hittite capital. Within a year Dr. Winckler published a list of Hittite kings until the reign of Arnuwandas (end of the 13th century B.C.). During those well-documented years the Hittites dominated much of Anatolia together with Carchemish, Milid and Hamath.
Around 1200 B.C., the Hittite Empire was overrun by the “Muski,” as the Assyrian annals refer to the Phrygians of King Midas. The confederate Hittite states south of the river Euphrat continued to exist independently until they gradually became absorbed by expanding Assyria between 750 and 700 B.C. History records them as Neo-Hittites.
During the presidency of Kemal Atatürk, Turkey divested much of her obsolete customs that were hindering modernization. The Arabic alphabet had been replaced by a Latinbased one and monogamy was enforced by law. Following the reforms, industry and commerce experienced a powerful upswing. Turkey became a member of the European community of nations.
Effective conservation of historical monuments also began and one may rightly assert that almost everything now displayed in Turkish museums comes from post-1924 excavations. Scholarly and methodical exploration of the one-time Hittite dominions initiated in the twenties, directed by prominent local archeologists.
Excavations at Alaca-Hüyük, under the guidance of Dr. Hamit Kosay, and at Kültepe, Fraktin, Karahüyük, under the supervision of Professor Tahsin Özgüc and Professor Sedat Alp, recovered important relics of the past, among them inscribed tablets, royal seals, seal impressions and artifacts. Excavations at Acemhüyük (Yeşilova village near Aksaray), the ancient Archaleia, under Prof. Nimet Özgüc, the wife of Prof. Tahsin, unearthed the ruins of another important Assyrian trading colony in Anatolia, together with a number of records and artifacts.
Hattusas, the Hittite capital, occupied a strong position between two torrents, close to the junction of major trade routes; one connecting Smyrna (Izmir) with Sivas and Assur, the other tone running between Amisus (Samsun) and the Cilician Gates, by way of Kanesh (Kültepe) and Tuwanuwa (at Nigde) to the Mediterranean coast.
The name Hatti is not Hittite but defines a still remoter race that inhabitated the region before the Hittites between 3000 and 2000 B.C., and were known as Hattians. The Hittite language had only been superimposed on the Hattian by the conquerors. We know that they did not call themselves Hittites before occupying the Land of Hatti.
Known Hittite history begins with King Labarnas to whom many successive kings traced their ancestry. No written records by him have so far surfaced, but one of his successors recorded: “Whenever he marched into battle, he subdued the lands of his enemies with might. He destroyed the land of his enemies and made them powerless, and he made the seas his frontiers. And when he returned from war, his sons went each to every part of the land, to Hupisna, to Tuwanuwa, to Nenassa, to Lenda, to Zallara, to Parsuhanda and to Lusna and governed the lands”.
The capital of King Labarnas was not Hattusas but Kussara. The site of this ancient town is still unknown, but based on comparative research of existing data it should have been situated somewhere south of the river Kizilirmak and naturally close to abundant source of water.
Labarnas’ successor, Hattusilis I, bestowed upon posterity the text of a speech he had delivered at Kussara. In subsequent documents he declared Hattusas his capital and also acquired a new name. In the beginning of his reign he was called Labarnas, like his father; later, however, he adopted the throne name, Hattusilis, suggesting that sometime during his reign he had transferred his capital from Kussara to Hattusas.
Hittite expansion was formidably fast, especially toward the east and south. Syria was conquered. The Babylonian Chronicles record the fall of this great Amorite kingdom and the extinction of its First Dynasty. “In the years of Samsudiana, the men of Hatti marched against the land of Akkad.” Consequently, the scholars were able to determine that the Hittites had captured Babylon around 1600 B.C.
Telipinus is generally regarded as the last ruler of the old Hittite Kingdom.
The Hittite Empire was founded between 1580 and 1650 B.C. by the outstanding military leader Suppiluliumas. Deciphered records suggest that he was not a descendant of Telipinus, but rather the founder of a new dynasty. This hypothesis is supported by the sudden appearance of distinctly Hurrian names in the family of Suppiluliumas, a phenomenon without precedence during the Old Kingdom period.
The Hittite names of the subsequent rulers too were very likely only throne names that replaced the genuine Hurrian ones. During the empire period, strong Hurrian influence became evident in all aspects of life. (The Hurrians were living east of Cappadocia and their domains extended to the present Lake Van in Eastern Turkey.)
During the reign of Suppiluliumas, the towns of Halep (Aleppo in Syria) and Carchemish had been captured and turned into Hittite dependencies. When Suppiluliumas and his son, Arnuwandas II, died of the plague, young Mursilis II became monarch and the empire experienced a short period of decline. A number of vassal kings allied themselves against the barely seventeen years old Mursilis, whom they considered inexperienced and feeble. But astonishingly, young Mursillis II was quite capable of planning and executing grand strategies. In a campaign of two years he crushed the powerful kingdoms of Arzawa and Gasgaland along the Black Sea shore. (The friction between the Hittites and Gasgas ought to have had deep roots, for in twenty-six years Mursilis conducted ten separate military expeditions against them, none of which could secure lasting peace.)
In the seventh year of his reign, Mursilis II reconquered the Kingdom of Azzi-Hayasa in Eastern Anatolia. Two years later, Egypt fostered a rebellion in Syria. The Imperial Army marched south to suppress the insurgency and the mere news of its coming had been enough to shake the rebellious rulers into submission.
Mursilis II was succeeded by his son Muwattalis who fought a great battle against Rameses II on the river Orontes, after which Hittite power extended almost as far as Damascus.
During the reign of Hattusilis III (1289 B.C.) the Hittite Empire enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. Probably on account of the steadily rising Assyrian power relationship between the Hittite Empire and Egypt became very cordial and the friendship was farther cemented by the marriage between Rameses III and a daughter of Hattusilis.
The subsequent ruler, Tudhalyas IV, was a deeply religious man who initiated the carving of the marvellous stone reliefs at Yazilikaya, a one-time Hittite sanctuary. In the main gallery, the king himself is depicted, identified by his monogram. He is also seen in a side gallery embraced by Samrah, the Weather God of Hatti.
A serious threat to Hittite hegemony began to cast its long shadow across the western dependencies. The Ahhiyawa (probably the Acheans, or Phrygians) were gathering along the frontiers. Within a few generations they overran the empire and replaced the Hittites as overlords in Anatolia. After the fall of the empire, Hittite culture lingered on for about five hundred years in the southeastern provinces and in Northern Syria. Assyrian records continued referring to the regions south of the Taurus range as the Land of Hatti.
It is this Neo-Hittite kingdom that is recorded in the Old Testament. The armies of the Hittite Empire had never actually been in Palestine and consequentelly could not have encountered the migrating Israelites.
Around 777 B.C. the Neo-Hittite territories became incorporated in the Assyrian realm. When in 500 B.C. some Greek traders traversed those lands, they encountered only Assyrian cultures and even the name Hatti was already forgotten.
After the Phrygian conquest, the Hittite Empire split into two lesser kingdoms, with the Phrygians dominating the northern and the Lydians the southern regions. It is quite possible that the old Lydian royalty descended from Hittite ancestors. The last king of the Lydian dynasty (terminated in 689 B.C.) was called Myasilius, the local analogue of the Hittite Mursilis.
It is not within the scope of this book to analyse the Hittite society, religion, customs, economy, politics and literature which would call for a book by itself. In its own epoch, Hittite civilization was the most advanced in all those aspects which render a race superior, namely military science, political organization, legislation and the administration of justice.