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Anatolian Civilizations  :: The Hittite

During the 18th century B.C., towards the end of the Assyrian Colonial Period and while the Hittites were still a small principality, they took control of Hattushash while under the command of Anittash. By securing sovereignty among the other principalities, the Hittites established a state. After Anittash, came Tudhalish I, Pusharummash, who was followed by King Labarnash.

When Labarnash died in 1660 B.C., he was succeeded by Hattushilish I, and during his reign the boundaries of the Hittites extended as far as Aleppo. Hattushilish left a will in which he bequeathed his kingdom to his grandson Murshilish, thus disinheriting his own eldest son, Huzzihash. Murshilish I, who became king in 1660 B.C. in accordance with the will, captured Babylon by defeating King Shamsu-Ditana and extended the Hittite boundaries to include annexed Syria as well. However, a revolt that occurred back in Hattushash while he was in Syria eventually ended with his dethronement.

However, he then recovered the throne from Hantilish, who had overthrown him together with Zidantash and he was killed by his son Ammunhash. During the period of this patricidal ruler, famine was rampant and there were several revolts. Cities such as Arzawa, Adanuya and Shalappa were the first to revolt, and these were joined by the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna, with whom the Hittites were finally forced to sign a treaty on equal terms. Northern Syria fell under Mitanni domination, while the state continued to diminish in power and began to shrink. Continuous struggles for the throne lingered on until Shuppilulima came to power in 1375 B.C. thus putting an end to the struggles for supremacy that had begun in 1590 B.C. Telipinush, who took the throne between the years 1535-1510 B.C. also tried to put an end to conflicts over succession, for which purpose he issues his famous proclamation, the Telipinush Decree. After his reign the entire ancient Near East was engulfed in a period of darkness until 1450 B.C. During this period, the area was inundated by new influxes of migrating tribes, of which we have little information.

The reign of Telipinush was followed by several brief reigns in succession. These were the reigns of Alluwamnash, Hantilish II, Zidantash II, Huzzihash II, Tudhaliyash II, Arnuwandash I, Hattushilish II, Tudhaliyash III and Arnuwandash II. The once-powerful Hittite state lost its power and influence in the south and southeast.

The Hurrians took advantage of this situation by setting up the Mitanni state and for a period of almost 100 years, it was the period’s second most powerful political entity after Egypt. After the reign of Huzzihash II, which lasted between 1460-1440 B.C., Tudhaliyash II sat on the Hittite throne and became the founder of the great Hittite Kingdom. This ruler had campaigned against Syria, Kizzuwatna, Kargamysh and Halpa and brought them back into the Hittite realm. After King Tudhaliyash II, Arnuwandash I came to power between 1440-1420 B.C. while his wife Queen Asmunikal managed the throne. This was followed by Hattushilish II taking over the throne between 1420-1400 B.C. and who was followed by Tudhaliyash III. This ruler protected the benefits of the Hittites against the Aleppo kingdom in the Southeast, the Kasga Kingdom in the north and Arzova Kingdom in the south. However due to his illness, he sent his son Shuppiluliuma I as commander of the expeditions. Despite the fact that Shuppiluliuma took the throne by disregarding the laws, he went on to become the most powerful commander and most successful statesman in Hittite history. (1380-1345 B.C.). On the death of Shuppiluliama in 1345 B.C., the throne was taken over by his son Arnuwandash II, but due to his death from plague in the same year, Murshilish II succeeded to the throne at a very young age. This ruler considerably extended the borders of the Hittite state, and when he died of the plague after a reign of thirty years, in 1315 B.C., he was succeeded by his oldest son, Muvattali. He first strengthened the borders of his country, like his father, before beginning preparations for an assault on Egypt. The Hittite Army, comprised of 35,000 infantry and 3,500 battle chariots, marched against Egypt, who retaliated with four army battalions. The two armies clashed at Kadesh and it was after this battle, which ended as a stalemate, that Amurru was handed back to the Hittites. The war that began in 1286 B.C. ended in 1269 B.C. with the signing of the first peace treaty ever written in history, known as the Treaty of Kadesh. The war’s architect, Muvattali died in battle and the agreement was thereby signed by Hattushilish III. Prior to becoming ruler, Hattushilish III had succumbed to the abuse of his nephew, Urhi Teshup. The territory that Hattushilish once controlled was away from him. Finally, he could not put up with the situation any longer and decided to declare war against his nephew. The people of the country supported the sensible Hattushilish III, whereas he won the war and was proclaimed king (1275-1250 B.C.). At first, the monarch skillfully managed to put his internal and foreign politics in order and the country attained a sense of peace and tranquillity. This climaxed with the Treaty of Kadesh. The silver slabs on which the original treaty was etched upon are lost. However, there are two copies of the treaty that were found engraved upon the walls of the Karnak Temple in two different languages, complete with translations of the opposing party’s conditions for peace. In this treaty, it was written that the Hittites got the better end of the deal and giving the daughter of Hattushilish III to Ramses proved to be the icing on the cake. One of the copies of the treaty that was originally engraved on the wall of the Karnak Temple in Egypt, was uncovered in the Bogazkoy excavations and is presently on display at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

When the Hittite ruler Hattushilish III, who was a fine soldier and skillful diplomat, finally died, he left behind a peaceful country. His successor was the child king Tudhalish IV, who reigned over the Hittites together with his mother, the dowager Queen Puda-Hepa (1250-1220 B.C.). Queen Puda-Hepa was so highly respected and her name mentioned so often, her seal was stamped everywhere together with that of the king’s. Meanwhile, the Assyrians were constantly gaining power and were turning into a dangerous risk. They caused rebellions all along the southern boundary and Tudhalish IV spent his the rest of his life trying to surpress these rebellions. Upon his death, in 1220 B.C., he was succeeded by his son Arnuwandash IV. According to documents uncovered during an excavation, Arnuwandash was succeeded by his brother Shuppiluliuma II (1200-1190 B.C.). However, during the reign of this king, continuous streams of migrant hordes, called "the people of the Aegean," began flowing into Anatolia from Europe. These hordes disrupted the empire by burning everything in their path and advancing as far as Egypt. These influxes wiped out the Hittite Empire, which had evolved into a highly sophisticated civilization over 600 years in Anatolia. We can find examples of Hittite architecture and sculpture at the Bogazkoy site as well as two open-air temples located nearby, one of which is in Yazilikaya and the other in Alacahoyuk. Other significant works that reflect the magnificent artistic skills of the Hittites are found at sites such as Gavurkale, Hanyeri, Karabel, Niobe, Sirkeli, Fraktin, Eflatun Pinar and the Tasci Kaya Monuments.

One can also find numerous examples of Hittite ceramic art on display in several museums. Some of more important pieces that have provided us with priceless knowledge about Hittite ceramic handicrafts are bull-shaped pots, spouted jugs, and two vases. One of them, the Bitik vase, depicts a marriage ceremony, and the other, known as the Inandik vase, depicts musicians and religious ceremonies.

After the collapse of the Hittite State in 1200 B.C., their culture continued in the Late Hittite city states until the year 650 B.C. These were centers like Meliddu and Kummuhi near Malatya, and Gurgum, Kargamis, and Samal (Zincirli) near Maras.

 



Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey".

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