The Hittites are a playable civilization.

Hittite Empire
Homeland Middle Eastern

Description Edit

Hittites (Hebrew Hittim), were ancient people of Asia Minor and the Middle East, inhabiting the land of Hatti on the central plateau of what is now Anatolia, Turkey, and some areas of northern Syria. The Hittites, whose origin is unknown, spoke an Indo-European language. They invaded the region, which became known as Hatti, about 1900 bc and imposed their language, culture, and rule on the earlier inhabitants, a people speaking a non-Indo-European agglutinative language. The first town settled by the Hittites was Nesa, near present-day Kayseri, Turkey. Shortly after 1800 BC they conquered the town of Hattusas, near the site of present-day Bogazkale. Nothing more is known of Hittite history until, in the 17th century bc, the so-called Old Hittite Kingdom was founded by the Hittite leader Labarna (reigned about 1680-1650 bc), or Tabarna, and Hattusas became its capital. Labarna conquered nearly all of central Anatolia and extended his rule to the sea. His successors extended Hittite conquests into northern Syria. Mursili I (reigned about 1620-1590 bc), the second ruler after Labarna, conquered what is now ?alab (Aleppo), Syria, and raided Babylon about 1595 BC. Mursili’s assassination was followed by a period of internal strife and external weakness that ended during the reign of King Telipinu (reigned about 1525-1500 bc). To ensure the stability of the kingdom, he issued strict rules governing the royal succession. The law code may also have been compiled during his reign. Of Telipinu’s successors only the names are known.

About 1450 BC the so-called New Hittite Kingdom was founded. One of its most important members, the royal prince Suppiluliuma (reigned about 1380-1346 bc), usurped the throne during a period of foreign invasions. After liberating his country and defeating his main enemy, the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia, he led his armies farther into Syria. There his conquests were made easier by a weakening of Egyptian power during the reign of the pharaoh Amenhotep IV, or Akhenaton. Thus the Hittite Kingdom under Suppiluliuma became a great empire rivaling the power of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria. After the death of Suppiluliuma, the Hittites were largely able to maintain their empire, although only by constant warfare. During the 15th and 14th centuries bc their holdings extended westward to the Aegean Sea, eastward into Armenia, southeastward into upper Mesopotamia, and southward into Syria as far as present-day Lebanon. 

During the last half of the 14th century bc, the Hittites continued to come into frequent conflict with Egypt. The two great powers struggled for control of Syria until a battle was fought in Kadesh, Syria, between the Hittite king Muwatalli (reigned about 1315-1296 bc) and the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Although Ramses claimed a great victory, the Hittites continued to maintain their hold on Syria. The Hittite king Hattusili III (reigned about 1289-1265 bc) concluded a treaty of peace and alliance with Ramses years later and subsequently gave him his daughter in marriage. Thereafter, relations between the Hittites and Egyptians remained friendly until the Hittite Empire fell shortly after 1200 bc to invaders called the Sea Peoples in Egyptian records. 

The downfall of the empire was followed by confusion and conflict. Subsequently a number of Hittite city-states, the most famous of which was Carchemish, emerged in southeastern Anatolia and northern Syria. These states were peopled by an intermingled ethnic group, called Syro-Hittites, consisting primarily of the Hittites, of peoples from the former Hittite Empire, and the previous inhabitants of the two areas. The Syro-Hittite rulers used the Luwian language, in which hieroglyphics were employed for writing. Some of these city-states were conquered in the 10th century bc by the Aramaeans. Even after it was conquered, all of Syria was still called Hatti by the Assyrians. Both the city-states that were conquered by the Aramaeans and those that remained independent finally were made provinces of the Assyrian Empire under Sargon II about 715 bc. 

The primary sources of information about the Hittites came from Egyptian records, notably those of the 19th Dynasty, and from certain passages in the Bible. The earliest of these passages, calling the Hittites "Sons of Heth," possibly refers to the period of the Hittite Kingdom. Later passages allude to the Syro-Hittites. In 1906 the royal archives of the Hittites themselves were discovered in excavations at Bogazkale. These discoveries cast doubt on many items of information gathered from Egyptian sources. For example, certain military engagements were mentioned as victories for the Hittites, whereas the Egyptian records identify the engagements as Hittite defeats. The importance of the discovery is that the archives made it possible to decipher the Hittite language, thus revealing information about previously unknown aspects of the culture, such as political organization, legislation, religion, and literature. 

Most of the texts found in the archives were written in the Hittite language, but treaties and state letters were written in Akkadian, the international language of the period. Other texts were written in the Hurrian language of southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, a language unrelated to any known linguistic group. The Hittites used the cuneiform system of writing taken from the Babylonians, but they also employed a system of hieroglyphs to inscribe a language closely related to Hittite, possibly a Luwian dialect. Although the hieroglyphs were used during the period of the empire, most inscriptions belong to the period after its downfall. The literature of the Hittites was highly developed, particularly in the form of historical records and stories. 

The Hittite king acted as the supreme priest, military commander, and chief judge of the land. During the old kingdom he was assisted by the pankus, an advisory council of nobles, which later disappeared. The empire was administered by provincial governors acting as deputies of the king. Territories beyond the empire were frequently ruled as vassal kingdoms, and formal treaties were made with their rulers. 

The most outstanding achievements of the Hittite civilization lay in the fields of legislation and the administration of justice. The law codes of the Hittites reveal a strong Babylonian influence, but their administration of justice was far more lenient than that of the Babylonians. The Hittites rarely resorted to the death penalty or to bodily mutilation, both of which were characteristic of other civilizations of the ancient Middle East. Furthermore, Hittite justice rested in the main on the principle of restitution rather than on retribution or vengeance. The penalty for thievery, for example, was restoration of the stolen object and payment of some additional recompense; restitution in kind was gradually replaced by payment of money. 

The Hittite economy was basically agricultural. The principal crops were wheat and barley, and the chief animals were cattle and sheep. The Hittites also had mineral riches in the form of copper, lead, silver, and iron. Their metallurgical techniques were advanced for the time; they may have been the first people to work iron. 

The Hittites worshiped a variety of gods. A recurrent phrase in state documents is an invocation to the "thousand gods of Hatti", deities worshiped apparently throughout Asia Minor before and during the period of Hittite domination. Scholars have traced Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hurrian, Luwian, and other foreign influences in the Hittite pantheon. 

In the rock sanctuary of Yazilikaya, near Bogazkale, is a remarkable series of reliefs cut into rock. The reliefs depict two long processions of gods and goddesses advancing toward each other. The majority of the gods remain unidentified, but the two deities heading the procession are the storm god, or weather god, and the sun goddess, the chief deities worshiped by the Hittites. Excavations at the sanctuary revealed a temple built in front of one chamber; the other, smaller chamber seems to have been devoted to the cult of a deceased king. Hittite mythology, like Hittite religion, represents a combination of elements that reflect the diversity of cults within the empire. Of special interest are certain epic poems containing myths, originally Hurrian with Babylonian motifs. These myths deal with several successive generations of gods who ruled the universe and with a monster who challenged the rule of the last king of the gods. They are similar to Greek myths contained in the Theogony by the Greek poet Hesiod and may have been their prototypes. How the myths might have reached Greece is not clear, but it is possible they were transmitted during the Mycenaean ascendancy in Greece (1400-1200 bc). Mycenaean Greeks are known to have been in western Anatolia then and to have traded with Hittite-held Syria. Hittite records refer to contacts between Hittite rulers and those of the kingdom of Ahhiyawa, which some scholars identify with the country of the Achaeans. Whether or not Hittite cultural elements were transmitted abroad, many of them survived in Anatolia until the first Roman penetration into Asia Minor in 190 bc. Such deities as the Great Mother and the storm god (called Jupiter Dolichenus by the Romans) were still worshiped at that time. 

The art and architecture of the Hittites reveal the influence of nearly all the contemporary cultures of the ancient Near East, and especially of Babylonia. Nevertheless, the Hittites achieved a certain independence of style that renders their art distinct. Their building materials were generally stone and brick, but they also used wooden columns. Their often massive palaces, temples, and fortifications frequently were adorned by stylized and intricate carved reliefs on walls, gates, and entrances.