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History of the civilizations of Ancient Asia Minor

The first cultural centers of Asia Minor

Asia Minor (also known as Anatolia) is one of the main centers of civilizations of the ancient East. The formation of early civilizations in this region was due to the entire course of the cultural and historical development of Anatolia.

In the most ancient era (in the VIII-VI millennium BC), there were important cultural centers of the producing economy (Chaiyun-Tepesi, Chatal-Huyuk, Khajilar), the basis of which was agriculture and cattle breeding.

Already in this period of history, the importance of Anatolia in the historical and cultural development of the ancient East was determined not only by the fact that the cultural centers of Asia Minor influenced many neighboring regions and themselves experienced reverse influences. Due to its geographical location, Asia Minor was a natural place for the transfer of cultural achievements in different directions.

Science does not yet have accurate information about when the first early state formations appeared in Anatolia. A number of indirect data indicate that they probably originated here as early as the third millennium BC. In particular, this conclusion can be made on the basis of some Akkadian literary texts that tell about the trading activities of Akkadian merchants in Anatolia and the military actions of Sargon the Ancient and Naram-Suen against the rulers of the city-states of Asia Minor; these stories are also known in the retellings recorded in Hittite.

Trade-as a link between the regions

A female statuette. The Hittites

A female statuette. Silver and gold. Hasanoglan. Around 2100 BC.

The evidence of cuneiform tablets from the city-state of Ebla in the middle of the third millennium BC is also important. According to these texts, close trade relations were maintained between Ebla and many places in Northern Syria and Mesopotamia located near the borders of Asia Minor — Karkemish, Harran, Urshu, Hashshu, and Hakha. Later, in these and more southern regions, the ancient Hittite and later New Hittite kings carried out their military enterprises. Eventually, a number of these areas were incorporated into the Hittite State.

The conclusion about the presence of city-states in Asia Minor in the third millennium BC is in good agreement with the results of the analysis of texts (“Cappadocian tablets”) originating from the territory of Anatolia itself. These are business documents and letters found in the trade centers of Asia Minor, which existed here in the XIX-XVIII centuries BC. They are written in cuneiform script in the Old Assyrian (Ashur) dialect of the Akkadian language. Analysis of these documents shows that the activities of the merchants were controlled by the rulers of the local Anatolian city-states. Foreign merchants paid the latter a certain fee for the right to trade. The rulers of the cities of Asia Minor enjoyed a preferential right to purchase goods. Since the city-states of Asia Minor of the XIX-XVIII centuries BC were quite developed political structures, the formation of these kingdoms, obviously, should have occurred long before the formation of the Ashur trade centers in Asia Minor.

Among the merchants in the shopping centers were not only Ashurians (Eastern Semites), there were many natives of the north-Syrian regions, inhabited, in particular, by peoples who spoke West Semitic dialects. West Semitic (Amorite) words are found, for example, in the vocabulary of the Kanish archives. The Amorite merchants were probably not the first traders to make their way from Northern Syria to Anatolia. Like the Ashur merchants, who may have replaced the Akkadian merchants, they probably followed the North Syrian merchants of the third millennium BC to Anatolia. Trade was a significant catalyst for many socio-economic processes that took place in Asia Minor in the third and early second millennium BC.

Local merchants played an active role in the activities of shopping centers:

  • Hittites
  • Luwians
  • hutts

There were Hurrian traders among them, who came from the cities of Northern Syria, Northern Mesopotamia, and probably from Asia Minor. Merchants brought fabrics and tunics to Anatolia. But the main items of trade were metals: the eastern merchants supplied tin, and the Western — copper and silver. Ashur merchants were particularly interested in another metal that was in great demand; it was 40 times more expensive than silver and 5-8 times more expensive than gold. As established in recent studies, this metal was iron. The Hutts were the inventors of the method of smelting it from ore. From here, iron metallurgy spread to the Near East, and then to Eurasia as a whole. The export of iron outside Anatolia was apparently prohibited. It is this circumstance that can be explained by the repeated cases of its smuggling, described in a number of texts.

Trade was provided by caravans that carried goods on pack animals, mainly Damask donkeys. The caravans moved in small marches. There are about 120 names of camp sites on the way through Northern Mesopotamia, Northern Syria and the eastern part of Asia Minor.

Asia Minor before the establishment of the Hittites

Political history

The golden vessel. Aladja-Hyuk. 2300 BC

The golden vessel. Aladja-Hyuk. 2300 BC

During the last phase of the Assyrian trade centers (approximately in the XVIII century BC), the struggle of the rulers of the city-states of Anatolia for political leadership became noticeably more active. The leading role among them was originally played by the city-state of Purushanda. Only the rulers of this kingdom bore the title of “great ruler”. Subsequently, the struggle against Purushanda and other city-states of Asia Minor was led by the kings of the Little Asian city-state of Kussara: Pithana and his son Anitta. After a long struggle, Anitta captured the city-state of Hattusu, destroyed it, and forbade it to be inhabited again. He took over Nesa and made it one of the strongholds of the part of the population that spoke the Hittite language. According to the name of this city, the Hittites themselves began to call their language Nessian or Canessian. Anitta also managed to defeat the ruler of Purushanda. In recognition of his vassalage, he brought Anita the attributes of his power — the iron throne and the scepter.

The names of the kings of Kussara, Pithana and Anitta, who achieved significant success in the struggle for political hegemony in Anatolia, are mentioned in the “Cappadocian tablets”. A dagger with a short inscription containing Anitta’s name was also found. However, the very story of the successful struggle between Pithana and Anitta is known to us from a later document revealed in the archives of the Hittite state, which was formed approximately 150 years after the events related to Anitta. This period of time between the reign of Anitta and the formation of the Hittite state is not covered in written documents. We can only assume that the formation of the Hittite state (XVII-XII centuries BC) was a natural result of socio-economic, ethno-cultural and political processes, especially intensified at the turn of the III-II millennium BC and at the very beginning of the II millennium BC.

Sources on the history of the Hittite State

Rhyton in the form of a lion. Cultepe. XVIII century BC.

Rhyton in the form of a lion. Cultepe. XVIII century BC.

Written documents-cuneiform tablets, illuminating the history of the Hittite state, were discovered at the very beginning of our century in the archives of the Hittite capital Hattusa (modern times). Bogazkei, 150 km east of Ankara). Relatively recently, another Hittite archive was found in the town of Mashat-Huyuk, in the north-east of Asia Minor, near the city of Zile. Among the several tens of thousands of cuneiform texts and fragments found in Hattus (more than 150 texts and fragments were found in Mashat-Hyuk), there are historical, diplomatic, legal (including the code of laws), epistolary (letters, business correspondence), literary texts and documents of ritual content (descriptions of festivals, incantations, oracles, etc.).

Most of the texts are in Hittite; many others are in Akkadian, Luwian, Palai, Hattian, and Hurrian. All the documents of the Hittite archives are written in a specific form of cuneiform script, different from the spelling used in the letters and business documents of the Ashur shopping centers. It is assumed that the Hittite cuneiform script was borrowed from a variant of the Old Akkadian cuneiform script used by the Hurrians in Northern Syria. The deciphering of texts in the Hittite cuneiform language was first carried out in 1915-1917 by the outstanding Czech orientalist B. Grozny.

Ceramic vessel. Cultepe. XVIII century BC.

Ceramic vessel. Cultepe. XVIII century BC.

Along with cuneiform writing, the Hittites also used hieroglyphic writing. Monumental inscriptions, inscriptions on seals, on various household items and letters are known. Hieroglyphic writing was used, in particular, in the first millennium BC for writing texts in the dialect of the Luwian language. This writing system was also used in the second millennium BC. However, the ancient hieroglyphic texts that have come down to us have not yet been deciphered, and it is not known exactly in what language they were composed. Moreover, most of the hieroglyphic texts of the II ths. B.C., recorded on wooden tablets, apparently, has not reached us.

Hittite cuneiform texts often refer to “scribes (in hieroglyphics) on wooden tablets”.

In many cuneiform documents, it is noted that they are made according to the original, composed (in hieroglyphs) on a wooden tablet. Based on these and many other facts, some researchers suggest that hieroglyphic writing may have been the earliest writing system of the Hittites. Many foreign scientists, in particular P. Merigi, E. Forrer, I. Gelb, H. Bossert, E. Laroche, etc., made an important contribution to the deciphering of the hieroglyphic Luwian language.

Hittite State

The history of the Hittite state is now divided into three periods:

  • Ancient Kingdoms 1650-1500 BC
  • Middle Kingdoms 1500-1400 BC
  • New Kingdoms 1400-1200 BC

The creation of the ancient Hittite state (1650-1500 BC) in the Hittite tradition itself is attributed to a king named Labarna. However, the texts that would have been composed in his name have not been found. The earliest king known from a number of documents recorded in his name was Hattusili I. He was followed by several kings during the Ancient Kingdom, among whom the most important political figures were Mursili I and Telepinu. The history of the Middle Kingdom (1500-1400 BC) is less well documented. The Hittite kingdom reached its greatest power during the time of the kings of the New Hittite period (1400-1200 BC), among whom the personalities Suppiluliuma I, Mursili II, Muvatalli II and Hattusili III stand out.

State structure

Tsarist Vlas Institute

The system of government of the Hittite Kingdom is characterized by a number of specific features. The supreme ruler of the country bore the title of the Hutt origin tabarna (or labarna). It had important military, religious, legal, and economic functions. Along with the king, an important role, especially in the sphere of worship, was played by the queen, who bore the Hattic title of Tavananna.

Queen Tavananna, who survived her husband, maintained her high position even under her son, the king. Her title was apparently inherited independently of the title of king by the next queen. The queen had her own palace, which was served by her courtiers, she owned many land possessions; the region from which the queen came, apparently, paid a special tax in favor of her mistress. She managed the property belonging to her, could judge her subjects.

Rhyton in the form of a lion. Cultepe. XVIII century BC Asia Minor

Rhyton in the form of a lion. Cultepe. XVIII century BC.

In the functions of the king-tabarna and the queen-Tavananna, the legacy of the early stage of the development of the societies of Ancient Asia Minor is felt. Thus, the functions of the Hittite king and queen are sometimes considered as a relic of the dual system of power (dual reigns, like many societies in Africa, in which the bearers of power are the king and the queen-co-ruler). The status of the queen in the Hittite state administration was probably due to the custom of succession to the throne in the female line. So, even in the ancient Hittite period, one of the main contenders for the throne was considered the son of the king’s sister (who could also be the king’s wife, i.e. the wife of her brother), as well as the son-in-law (the husband of the king’s sister). Along with the main wife, tavananna, the king could have other wives and concubines, whose status was significantly different from that of the queen-co-ruler.

The power of the king and queen in Hittite society remained largely sacred. The performance of many cult and religious functions by the ruler and ruler was regarded as an activity that contributes to ensuring the fertility of the country and the well-being of the entire population. Many essential aspects of the whole complex of ideas about the king and queen as symbols of fertility (as well as about the specific attributes associated with them: royal throne, rod, etc., sacred animals-embodiments of power) They retain distinct connections with the ideas characteristic of the traditions of the Hatti country.

People’s Assembly

At the same time, the institution of the Hittite royal power seems to be influenced by the practice that existed among the Hittite-Luwian population of the early period, and in particular the custom of electing a king (leader) at a popular assembly. The Hittite pancus is considered a relic of such an assembly. During the period of the Ancient Hittite Kingdom, the” assembly ” included warriors (part of the free population of the Hatti kingdom) and high dignitaries. Pancus had legal and religious functions. Subsequently, this institution dies out.

A sacred amulet in the form of a figurine of a god. XIX-XVIII centuries BC Hittites

A sacred amulet in the form of a figurine of a god. XIX-XVIII centuries BC.

The state was governed by a large administration. Its top members were mainly relatives and relatives of the tsar. They were usually appointed rulers of cities and regions of the country, became the highest courtiers.

Public relations

The basis of the Hittite economy was agriculture, cattle breeding, crafts (metallurgy and the manufacture of tools from metals, pottery, construction, etc.). An important role in the economy was played by trade. There were state lands (palace and temple), as well as communal ones, which were at the disposal of certain collectives. The ownership and use of state land was associated with the performance of natural (sahhan) and labor (luzzi) duties. Land belonging to temples and other religious institutions was freed from Sahhan and Luzzi. The lands of a private person who was in the royal service, received by him as a “gift” from the king, could also be released from the obligations associated with the sahhan and luzzi.

At the same time, some Hittite documents preserve some evidence that in the early period of the history of the societies of ancient Anatolia, the relationship between the king and his subjects could be regulated on the basis of the institution of exchange gifts. Such an exchange was voluntary in form, but essentially mandatory. The offerings of the subjects were intended for the king for the fact that he had the function of ensuring the fertility of the country. For their part, the subjects could count on a return gift from the king. Mutual exchange, apparently, took place at the moments of the most important public festivals, timed to coincide with the main seasons of the year.

The institution of mutual services is reflected in a number of Hittite texts, which prescribe to give “bread and butter to the hungry”, to give “clothes to the naked”. Such ideas are also attested in the culture of many ancient societies (in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India) and cannot be deduced from some utopian humanism of ancient societies.

At the same time, it is obvious that throughout the history of Hittite society, the institution based on the principle of mutual obligations between the ruler and the subjects was gradually replaced from public practice. It is likely that from the system of initially voluntary services rendered by the population to the leader (king), the Hittite sahhan and Luzzi also originate, which already in the period of the Ancient Hittite Kingdom designated certain duties in favor of the state.

This conclusion is quite consistent with the tendency reflected in some Hittite texts to gradually reduce the rights of free citizens. In particular, in one of the paragraphs of the Hittite laws, it is said that a person who has fields that he received as a “gift” from the king does not fulfill the sahhan and luzzi. According to a later version of the laws, the owner of such gift fields already had to perform duties and was released from them only by a special royal decree.

Other articles of the Hittite laws also indicate that the freedoms from duty, which were enjoyed in the Hittite state by residents of a number of cities, soldiers, and some categories of artisans, were abolished. The ancient privileges were reserved for the gatekeepers, priests, and weavers of the most important religious centers of the state (Arinna, Nerica, and Zipland). At the same time, persons who lived on the land of these priests and weavers as co-owners of the land were deprived of such rights. The freedom from the duties of not only priests, but also doorkeepers, is probably due to the fact that the latter professions were regarded as occupations of a ritual nature.

Clay figurines of steers. Buyukkale. XIV century BC Asia Minor

Clay figurines of steers. Buyukkale. XIV century BC.

Hittite foreign policy

The entire history of the Hittite state is the history of numerous wars that were fought in various directions:

  • in the north and north-east-with the warlike Black Sea peoples of Casca, who constantly threatened its very existence with their campaigns, in
  • the south-west and west – with the kingdoms of Kizzuvatna and Arzava, inhabited by Luvians and Hurrians;
  • in the south and southeast-with the Hurrians (including the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni).

The Hittites fought wars with Egypt, which decided which of the major powers of the Middle East of that period would prevail in the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, through which the important trade routes of the entire subregion ran. In the east, they fought with the rulers of the Azzi kingdom.

Hittite history has known periods of extraordinary ups and downs. Under Labarna and Hattusili I, the borders of the Hatti country were extended from “sea to sea” (meaning the territory from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean). Hattusili I conquered a number of important areas in the southwest of Asia Minor. In Northern Syria, he gained the upper hand over the powerful Hurrian-Semitic city-state of Alalah, as well as over two other major centers — Urshu (Barsuwa) and Hashshu (Hassuwa) – and began a long struggle for Halpa (modern day). Aleppo). This latter city was captured by his successor on the throne, Mursili I. In 1595 BC. Mursili also captured Babylon, destroyed it, and took rich booty. Under Telepinu, the strategically important region of Asia Minor, Kitzuwatna, also came under Hittite control.

These and many other military successes led to the Hittite Kingdom becoming one of the most powerful states in the Middle East. At the same time, already in the ancient Hittite period, the eastern and central regions of the country of Hatti were subjected to devastating invasions by Hurrians from the Armenian highlands and from Northern Syria. Under the Hittite king Khantili, the Hurrians captured and even executed the Hittite queen along with her sons.

A relief depicting the king (or god) from the" royal gate " of Hattusa. XIV century BC

Relief depicting the king (or god) from the” royal gate ” of Hattusa. XIV century BC.

Especially high-profile victories were achieved during the period of the New Hittite kingdom. Under Suppilulium I, the Hittites controlled the western regions of Anatolia (the country of Arzawa). The Black Sea union of Casca, the kingdom of Azzi-Hayas, was defeated. Suppiluliuma achieved decisive success in the fight against Mitanni, to the throne of which he raised his protege Shattiwaza. The important centers of Northern Syria, Halpa and Karkemish, were conquered, and the sons of Suppiluliuma, Piyassili and Telepinu, were installed as rulers. Under the control of the Hittites were many kingdoms of Syria up to the Lebanese Mountains.

Clashes with Egypt

The significant strengthening of the Hittite position in Syria eventually led to a clash between the two major powers of the time — the Hittite Kingdom and Egypt (see Ancient Egypt). In the battle of Kadet (Kinza) on the Orontes River, the Hittite army under the command of King Muwatalli II defeated the Egyptian troops of Ramesses II. The Pharaoh himself narrowly escaped capture. Such a major Hittite success, however, did not lead to a change in the balance of power. The struggle between them continued, and eventually both sides were forced to recognize strategic parity. One of the evidences of it was the Hittite-Egyptian treaty already mentioned by us, concluded by Hattusili III and Ramesses II around 1296 BC.

Close, friendly relations were established between the Hittite and Egyptian courts. Among the correspondence of the kings of the country of Hatti with the rulers of other states, the majority are messages sent from Hatti to Egypt and back during the reigns of Hattusili III and Ramesses II. Peaceful relations were consolidated by the marriage of Ramesses II with one of the daughters of Hattusili III.

Contact with the State of Ahhiyawa

At the end of the Middle Hittite and especially in the New Hittite period, Hatti came into direct contact with the state of Ahhiyava, apparently located in the extreme south-west or west of Asia Minor (according to some researchers, this kingdom may be located on the islands of the Aegean Sea or in mainland Greece). Ahhiyawa is often identified with Mycenaean Greece. Accordingly, the name of the state is associated with the term “Achaeans”, which (according to Homer) denoted the union of ancient Greek tribes. The bone of contention between Hatti and Ahhiyawa was both the regions of western Asia Minor and the island of Cyprus. The struggle was fought not only on land, but also at sea. The Hittites captured Cyprus twice, under Tudhalia IV and Suppilulium II, the last king of the Hittite state. After one of these raids, a treaty was concluded with Cyprus.

Hittite military organization

Step ascent to the western slope of Hattusa

Step ascent to the western slope of Hattusa

In their policy of conquest, the Hittite kings relied on an organized army, which included both regular formations and militia, which were supplied by the peoples dependent on the Hittites. Military operations usually began in the spring and continued until late autumn. However, in some cases, they went hiking in the winter, mainly to the south, and sometimes even to the east, in the area of the mountain country of Hayasa. In the periods between the campaigns, in any case, part of the regular forces were quartered in special military camps. In many of the border towns of the Hatti country, as well as in the settlements controlled by the Hittite kings of the vassal states, special garrisons of Hittite regular troops served. The rulers of the vassal states were obliged to supply the Hittite garrisons with food.

The army consisted mainly of chariot troops and heavily armed infantry. The Hittites were one of the pioneers in the use of light chariots in the army. A Hittite chariot drawn by two horses, carrying three men-a charioteer, a warrior (usually a spearman) , and a shield-bearer covering them-was a formidable force.

One of the earliest evidences of the use of chariots in Asia Minor is found in the ancient Hittite text Anitta. It says that for the 1,400 infantry of Anitta’s army, there were 40 chariots. The ratio of chariots and infantry in the Hittite army is also indicated by the data on the battle of Kadesh. Here, the forces of the Hittite king Muwatalli II consisted of approximately 20,000 infantry and 2,500 chariots.

Lion Gate of Hattusa. Hittite power

Lion Gate. Hattusa. XIV century BC.

Chariots were products of high technical skill and were quite expensive. For their production, special materials were required: various types of wood, which grew mainly in the Armenian highlands, leather and metals. Therefore, the production of chariots was probably centralized and carried out in special royal workshops. The Hittite royal instructions for the craftsmen who made chariots have been preserved.

The instruction of Kikkuli

No less time-consuming, expensive and highly professional work was the training of a large number of horses harnessed to chariots by a special method. Hittite methods of horse care and training of team horses are known from the world’s oldest treatise on training, compiled in the name of Kikkuli, and other similar texts. The main purpose of many months of training horses was to develop their endurance, necessary for military purposes.

The Kikkuli manual is written in the Hittite language. However, the very name of the coach, apparently invited to the Hittite service, is Hurrian. Some of the special terms found in the treatise are also Hurrian. These and many other facts give reason to believe that the history of the invention of war chariots and the methods of training horses harnessed to them is closely connected with the Hurrians. At the same time, the Indo-Iranian tribes also had a certain influence on the Hurrian methods of horse training. So, the special horse-breeding terms – “horse trainer”, “stadium” (arena), “turn” (circle) – and the numerals used to indicate the number of” turns “were borrowed from” Mitanni”, an Aryan dialect, the speakers of which spread to parts of the territory of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni.

To capture cities, the Hittites often resorted to sieges, using assault weapons, and they widely used the tactics of night marches.Diplomacy
An essential tool of Hittite foreign policy was diplomacy. The Hittites had diplomatic relations with many states of Asia Minor and the Middle East in general; these relations were in some cases regulated by special treaties. The Hittite archives contain more diplomatic records than all the archives of other Middle Eastern States combined.

Hittite seals

The content of the messages exchanged between the Hittite kings and the rulers of other countries, as well as the content of the international agreements of the Hittites, shows that in the diplomacy of that time there were certain norms of relations between the sovereigns, and in many respects the standard type of contract was used. Thus, depending on the balance of power of the parties, the kings addressed each other as “brother to brother” or as “son to father”. Periodic exchanges of ambassadors, messages, gifts, as well as dynastic marriages were regarded as acts of friendly relations and good intentions of the parties.

International relations were managed by a special department attached to the tsarist chancellery. Apparently, the staff of this department included various ranks of ambassadors, envoys and interpreters. Through the ambassadors, often accompanied by interpreters, the letters of the sovereigns, diplomatic acts (cuneiform tablets in clay envelopes) were delivered to the sovereigns-addressees. The delivered letter usually served as a kind of credentials of the ambassador. The letters sent from the land of Hatti by the rulers of the kingdoms of Asia Minor, as well as the treaties concluded with these latter, were written in the Hittite language. Letters were sent to other kings of the Middle East in Akkadian, which was the language of international relations. The treaties were usually drawn up in two versions, one in Akkadian and the other in Hittite.

The messages of the sovereigns of foreign powers, as well as the texts of international agreements, were sometimes discussed by the Hittite king at a special royal council called Tulia. It is also known that the approval of the treaty could be preceded by lengthy consultations, during which a mutually acceptable draft agreement was agreed, as, for example, in connection with the conclusion of the treaty between Hattusili III and Ramesses II. Contracts were sealed with the seals of the kings, sometimes they were written not on clay, but on metal (silver, bronze, iron) tablets, which was practiced, in particular, by the Hittites. The tablets of the treaties were usually kept in front of the statues of the supreme deities of the country, since the gods, the main witnesses of the treaty, had the right to punish anyone who violated the agreement.

“Suzerain-vassal” agreements

Most of the international agreements of the Hittites were acts that consolidated the military victories of the Hittite army. Therefore, they often feel the unequal nature of the relationship between the parties. The Hittite king is usually presented as a “suzerain” and his partner as a “vassal”. Thus, the Hittite kings often obliged the vassal to pay tribute, to return the fugitive farmers and dignitaries who were hiding with him, who were involved in political intrigues. They oblige the “tributary” to pay an annual visit to the eyes of the Hittite king, to take care of the garrisons of the Hittite troops stationed in the cities of the vassal, at the first call to come with an army to help the Hittite ruler, not to maintain secret relations with the sovereigns of other countries hostile to the Hittites.

Rock relief from Yazylykai. XIV-XIII centuries BC Hittites

Rock relief from Yazylykai. XIV-XIII centuries BC.

The vassal was obliged to re-read the agreement every year (sometimes three times a year). The sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of the vassal were obliged to observe the contract, in other words, it was concluded as if for ever. In reality, however, such hopes were rarely realized. In order to encourage the subordinate party to take joint action against hostile forces, some treaties contain articles regulating the rules for the division of loot: the loot belongs to the army that captured it.

Dynastic marriages

A characteristic feature of the Hittite diplomatic practice was also dynastic marriages. The Hittites, apparently, treated international marriage unions differently than, for example, the Egyptians. Among the latter, as evidenced by the correspondence between Amenhotep III and the Kassite ruler of Babylon, Burnaburiash, it was believed that an Egyptian princess could not be given in marriage to the king of another country. Not only the princess, but even a noble Egyptian woman was not given to Burnaburiash as a wife, although the latter agreed to such a replacement. One of the reasons for the refusal, apparently, was that the Egyptians were guided by the principle that the status of “giving wives” is lower than the status of” taking wives ” (similar ideas are attested in many other archaic collectives). Accordingly, “giving up the wife” could mean belittling the status of the Pharaoh and the country as a whole. At the same time, it is known that during the periods of decline of the power of Egypt, the pharaohs sometimes gave their princesses in marriage to foreign sovereigns. Moreover, during the heyday of the Hittite state under Suppilulium I, Tutankhamun’s widow tearfully begged the Hittite ruler to send her any of his sons as husbands.

Unlike the Egyptians, the Hittite kings were quite willing to marry off their daughters and sisters. They often married foreign princesses themselves. Such marriages were used not only to maintain friendly relations. Dynastic marriages sometimes tied the hands and feet of a vassal. After all, when getting married, a representative of the Hittite royal family did not fall into the number of harem concubines, but became the main wife. This was the condition set by the Hittite rulers before their sons-in-law. This is stated, in particular, in the treaties concluded by Suppiluliuma I with the ruler of Hayasa, Hukkana, and with the king of Mitanni, Shattiwaza. However, there is no such condition in the treaty of Hatti with Egypt. However, it is known that unlike the Mitanni princesses who were taken into the harem of the Egyptian pharaoh, the Hittite princess who was married to Ramesses II was considered his main wife.

Through their daughters and sisters, the Hittite kings strengthened their influence in other states. Moreover, since the legitimate heirs to the throne of a foreign state were the children of the main wife, there was a real possibility that in the future, when the nephew of the Hittite king ascended to the throne, the influence of the Hatti state in the vassal country would be even more strengthened.

Requests for medical expulsions

In the Hittite diplomatic practice, there were also cases of appeals to the rulers of foreign powers with requests for the sending of doctors. The level of Hittite medicine was lower than, for example, in Egypt and Babylonia. This is evidenced, in particular, by the fact that Hittite scribes copied Akkadian medical treatises and translated them into the Hittite language. Doctors and a priest-conjurer were sent to Hatti from Babylonia. To provide medical care, doctors came from Egypt; from there they brought the Hittite king Hattusili III, who suffered from an eye disease, “a good medical remedy”. Once Hattusili III asked Ramesses to send a doctor to Hatti to treat the infertility of his sister Massanuzzi. After a brief correspondence from Egypt, a medical report followed: since Massanuzzi was 60 years old, it was impossible to make a drug that would cure her of this ailment.

Hittite culture

During the existence of the Hittite state, many cultural values were created by its people. These include monuments of art, architecture, and various literary works. At the same time, the Hatti culture has preserved a rich heritage drawn from the traditions of the ancient ethnic groups of Anatolia, as well as borrowed from the cultures of Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Caucasus. It became an important link connecting the cultures of the ancient East with the cultures of Greece and Rome. In particular, numerous myths from the tradition of the Ancient Kingdom, translated by the Hittites from the Hattic language, have come down to us in the Hittite translations:

  • about the struggle of the god of the Storm with the Serpent,
  • about the Moon that fell from the sky,
  • about the disappeared deity (the god of vegetation Telepinu, the god of the Storm, the god of the Sun).


The original genre of literature includes annals — Ancient Hittite Hattusili I, Middle Hittite Mursili II. Among the works of early Hittite literature, the “Tale of the Queen of the city of Canes” and the funeral song attract attention. In the “Tale of the Queen of the city of Canes” we are talking about the miraculous birth of the queen of 30 sons. The twins were placed in pots and allowed to float on the river. But they were saved by the gods. After a while, the queen gave birth to 30 daughters. Growing up, the sons went in search of their mother and came to Canes. But because the gods had changed the human nature of the sons, they did not recognize their mother and married their sisters. The youngest, recognizing the sisters, tried to resist the marriage, but it was too late.

The legend of the queen of the city of Kanesa has a ritual folklore source. The motif of the marriage of brothers and sisters reveals obvious typological parallels with the written and folklore texts of many peoples, which present the theme of incest. The archaic custom of dealing with twins, similar to that described in the Hittite text, is also widely known in many cultures.

The ancient Indo-European poetic norms are probably reflected in the Hittite funeral song, which is almost the only example of Hittite poetry:

Shroud Nesa, shroud Nesa / / Bring it to me. II The mother of my clothes II Bring you to me. II My grandfather’s clothes // Bring you to me. II What does it all mean? // I will ask the ancestors (Translated by Vyach. Vs. Ivanov).

Among the original genres of Hittite literature of the Middle and New Kingdoms period, it is worth noting prayers, in which researchers find coincidences with the ideas of Old and New Testament literature, as well as the “Autobiography” of Hattusili III — one of the first autobiographies in world literature.

During the Middle and New Kingdoms, Hittite culture was strongly influenced by the culture of the Hurrian-Luwian population in the south and southwest of Anatolia. This cultural influence was only one side of the impact. Just as during the Ancient Kingdom the Hittite kings had mostly Hattic names, during this period the kings who came from the Hurrian dynasty had two names each. One-Hurrian-they received from birth, the other-Hittite (Hutt) – upon accession to the throne.

Hurrian influence is found in the reliefs of the Hittite sanctuary in Yazylykaya. Thanks to the Hurrians and directly from the culture of this people, the Hittites adopted and translated into their language a number of literary works: Akkadian texts about Sargon the Ancient and Naram-Suen, the Sumerian epic about Gilgamesh, which has a Mesopotamian primary source — the Middle Hittite hymn to the Sun, the Hurrian epics “About the kingdom in heaven”, “The Song of Ullikummi”, the stories “About the hunter Kessi”, “About the hero Gurparantsahu”, fairy tales “About Appu and his two sons”, “About the Sun god, a cow and a fishing couple”. It is to the Hittite translations that we owe, in particular, the fact that many works of Hurrian literature have not disappeared irrevocably in the depths of the centuries.

Hittite culture as a mediator between civilizations

One of the most important values of the Hittite culture is that it served as a mediator between the civilizations of the Middle East and Greece. In particular, there are similarities between the Hittite texts, which are transcriptions of the corresponding Hattic and Hurrian texts, with the Greek myths recorded in the Theogony of the Greek poet Hesiod of the VIII-VII centuries BC. Thus, significant analogies can be traced between the Greek myth of the struggle of Zeus with the serpent-like Typhon and the Hittite myth of the battle of the god of Thunder with the Serpent. There are parallels between the same Greek myth and the Hurrian epic of the stone monster Ullikummi in the Song of Ullikummi. This last one mentions Mount Hatzi, where the god of Thunder moved after the first battle with Ullikummi. The same Mount Kasion (according to a later author — Apollodorus) — the place of the battle of Zeus with Typhon.

In The Theogony, the story of the origin of the gods is described as a violent change of several generations of the gods. This story may have been traced back to the Hurrian cycle of the reign of heaven. According to him, the god Alalu (associated with the Lower World) reigned in the world at the beginning. He was overthrown by the sky god Anu. He was succeeded by the god Kumarbi, who in turn was dethroned by the god of Thunder, Teshub. Each of the gods reigned for nine centuries. The successive succession of gods (Alalu-Anu-Kumarbi-the god of Thunder Teshub) is also represented in Greek mythology (Ocean-Uranus-Cronus-Zeus). The motif of changing not only generations, but also the functions of the gods coincides (Hurrian Anu from Sumerian An — “sky”; the god of Thunder Teshub and the Greek Zeus).

Among the separate coincidences of the Greek and Hurrian mythologies are the Greek Atlantean, who holds the Sky on his shoulders, and the Hurrian giant Upelluri in the” Song of Ullikummi”, who supports the Sky and the Earth (a similar image of the god is known in the Hutt mythology). On Upelluri’s shoulder was the stone monster Ullikummi. The God Ea stripped him of his power by separating him from Upelluri’s shoulder with a cutter. According to Hurrian mythology, this cutter was first used to separate the Sky from the Earth. Ullicummi’s method of disempowering has parallels in the myth of Anthea. Antaeus, the son of Poseidon, lord of the seas, and Gaia, goddess of the Earth, was invincible as long as he touched Mother Earth. Hercules managed to strangle him only by lifting him up and pulling him away from the source of the force. As in the “Song of Ullicummi”, according to Greek mythology, a special tool (sickle) is used to separate the Sky (Uranus) from the Earth (Gaia) and castrate the latter.

The demise of the Hittite Empire

Around 1200 BC, the Hittite state ceased to exist. His fall seems to have been due to two causes. On the one hand, it was caused by the increased centrifugal tendencies that led to the collapse of the once mighty power. On the other hand, it is likely that the country that lost its former strength was invaded by the tribes of the Aegean world, called in Egyptian texts “the peoples of the sea”. However, it is not known exactly which tribes among the “peoples of the world” participated in the destruction of the Hatti country.

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