Hittites

Hittites first became known from the bible as a small group from Northern Syria living in the hills of Canaan during the era of the Patriarchs. The earliest finds related to the biblical Hittites were hieroglyphic scripts found at Aleppo and Hamath in Northern Syria. The script matched the script on a monument at Boghazkoy by an Indoeuropean "People of the Land of Hatti" whose rule was then hastily identified by Archibald Sayce as that of the biblical Hittites. Although it has since been discovered that the language & people commonly referred to as Hittite cannot actually be the same as the Biblical Hittites, as T. Bryce states the name has stuck for convenience sake (Oxford 1998).

Thus Hittite is used to describe a kingdom in central Asia Minor, which at its height controlled Asia Minor and Mesopotamia (today's central, eastern and southern Turkey and northern Syria) in the 2nd millennium B.C. Although their empire was composed from many diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds an Indo-European language known as nasili, was spoken by the dominant group. Today this language is known as Hittite. In this tongue there are many loan words particularly religious vocabulary from Hatti and Hurrian. Hatti was the non-Indo-European language of the inhabitants before the ancestors of the Indo-European Hittites became the dominant group.

The beginnings of the Hittite civilisation has been traced to the "merchant colonies" established by the Assyrians in Asia Minor. From this contact the existing inhabitants of the area obtained technologies such as cuneiform writing and the use of the cylinder seal. The largest Assyrian colony was established at Kültepe (Karum Kanesh).

The survival of the Hittites' royal archives have enabled us to reconstruct much of their past. They apparently emerged as a small city-state named Kussara, which has yet to be identified by archeologists. Under king Anittas, the Hittite state grew to encompass the cities of Kanesh and Hattush (aka Hattusas), which was the capital at the zenith of Hittite power. Located near the Turkish village of Bogazköy in central Anatolia, Hattush can still be visited today.

The founding of the Hittite Empire is usually attributed to Hattusilis I, who conquered the plain south of Hattush, all the way to the outskirts of modern-day Aleppo in Syria. Though it remained for his heir, Mursilis I, to conquer that city, Hattusilis was clearly influenced by the rich culture he discovered in northern Mesopotamia and founded a school in his capital to spread the cuneiform style of writing he encountered there.

Mursilis continued the conquests of Hattusilis, reaching down Mesopotamia and threatening Babylonia itself. This lengthy campaign, however, strained the country's resources and left the capital in a state of near-anarchy. Mursilis was assassinated shortly after his return home, and the Hittite Empire was plunged into chaos. The Hurrians, a people living in the mountainous region along the upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers, took advantage of the situation to seize Aleppo and the surrounding areas for themselves.

Their prosperity was largely depending on the control of trade routes and metal sources. For this reason, all the kings' reigns passed mainly by struggles and wars with neighbouring Assyrians, Hurrians and Egyptians, especially when Hittites began to extend their control to Mesopotomia. Not surprisingly, they signed the earliest surviving treaty in history with Egyptians known as Kadesh (or Qadesh) treaty (about 1286 - 1300 BC) after endless and unsuccessful fights against Egyptian forces commanded by Rameses II (see Battle of Kadesh). After this date their power began to diminish temporarily and they were pushed back by the Assyrians and Egyptians. However, the end of the kingdom came from the assaults of nomadic and warrior tribes migrating from Northern territories. The Hittite people, language and culture remained as late as the 5th century AD, as they went on living as discrete and diverse small independent states in central and southeastern Anatolia.

Conventional Chronological Info

Old Hittite Kingdom (1750 - 1500 BC) Hattusas becomes the capital

Middle Hittite Kingdom (1500 - 1450 BC)

New Hittite Kingdom (Empire) (1450 - 1180 BC) Suppiluliumas I conquers Syria; Mutawallis attacks Egyptians (Kadesh)

Biblical Source Info

According to data recorded in the book of Genesis, they would have originally been an Afroasiatic people from the levant, the later Indoeuropean language and Hurrian vocabulary being adopted from their western & eastern Ionian and Eberite neighbours respectively. The Abrahamite family burrial cave at Machpelah was bought in the 19thC.BCE, from Ephron of the Hitities (Genesis 23:10) who were considered natives of Hebron. Two of Esau's wives were Hittites.

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