The History Of Hittites Empire


Where was Hittites Empire located? How did Hittites Empire rise and fall? Information about the history of Hittites Empire.

hittites-mapHittites; a people who played an important part in the Middle Eastern world of the 2d millennium b. c. Their capital was Hattusas, or Hattushash, in central Anatolia near the present Turkish village of Boğazköy.

The Hittites were one of several Indo-European-speaking groups who controlled much of Anatolia. These groups probably arrived in northwestern Anatolia from the Balkans about 2500 b. c., and may ultimately be traced back to the Kurgan pit-grave culture of the Eurasian steppe in the 4th millennium b. c. Their spread from northwestern Anatolia across the west and south of the peninsula may be dated to about 2300 b. c.

It was probably from the south that the earliest Hittites penetrated to central Anatolia about 2200. A northeastern route by way of the Caucasus has also been suggested but seems linguistically and archaeologically unlikely. Rather more probable is a third possibility—a movement direct from northwestern Anatolia about 2000. At any rate, when Assyrian merchants reached central Anatolia before 1900, they found an Indo-European-speaking element firmly established and mingled with the indigenous Hattian population of the local city-states.

Old Kingdom. By 1650 the dominant position among these states had been seized by the ruler Hattusilis I, who established his capital at Hattusas and founded the Hittite kingdom. The next 150 years of Hittite history constitute the period known as the Old Kingdom.

Hittite history can be seen as largely a struggle to control the trade routes and metal sources on which the prosperity of the state depended. To the east, trade with Assyria was stopped when the routes through the Anti-Taurus Mountains were cut by the spread of Humans from around Lake Van. Inevitably, the Hittites were drawn toward the alternative route that ran along the Euphrates to northern Syria. Here they soon came into contact with other powers.

Hattusilis tried and failed to wrest the northern end of the Euphrates trade route from Aleppo. His successor Mursilis I not only conquered Aleppo, but rashly advanced down the Euphrates to capture Babylon in 1595. His speedy retreat from this untenable position and his assassination upon his return home were followed by a period of virtual anarchy.

Middle Kingdom. A partial revival under Tele-pinus marks the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (about 1500-1450), an obscure period of almost unrelieved Hittite decline. During it the Hurrians organized themselves into the kingdom of Mitanni, which wrested northern Syria from the Hittites. Egypt, too, developed a strong interest in the east coast of the Mediterranean.

New Kingdom or Empire. About 1450, Tudhali-yas I founded a new dynasty that brought the Hittites to the zenith of their power. Under Tudhaliyas the Hittites regained control of northern Syria, campaigned in western and northwestern Anatolia, and in the east conquered Isuwa, the region around modern Elazig, in which the richest copper mines of the Middle East are located. The reign of Tudhaliyas was followed by a new period of decline, during which the King of Arzawa, the principal power in western Anatolia, struck south of Hattusas toward the Cilician Gates and the southeastern trade route, and sought a marriage alliance with Egypt.

About 1380, Suppiluliumas, one of the greatest Hittite kings, recovered Isuwa, destroyed Mitanni, and reorganized nortiiern Syria as a group of subject states centered on Carchemish. Even Egypt almost became a sphere of Hittite influence. At the request of Tutankhamen’s widow, Suppiluliumas sent one of his sons to be her husband, but the murder of the prince precluded the alliance.

The conquest of western Anatolia was the work of Mursilis II, who reigned from about 1345 to 1310. Arzawa became a Hittite vassal and was surrounded by buffer states that cut it off from both the Hittite homeland and the trade route leading to northwestern Anatolia and the tin mines of central Europe. Throughout the empire Mursilis followed a policy of good organization and firm control, which became increasingly necessary with the renewal of Egyptian interest in northern Syria.

The clash came in the reign of Muwatallis (about 1310-1294), when the two armies met at Kadesh (Qadesh) on the Orontes River. Although the Egyptians were forced to retire, the war had serious consequences, because Assyria, long weak, advanced toward the Euphrates.

From then on Hittite power began to decline. During the reign of Hattusilis III (about 1287-1265) Arzawa and the other western vassals probably broke away, leaving the Hittites only the states that lay along the northwestern trade route. Under pressure from west and east, Hattusilis was forced into alliance with Egypt. The pressure mounted under Tudhaliyas IV (reigned about 1265-1240), when the copper mines of Isuwa were lost to Assyria. Suppiluliu-mas III (reigned about 1225-1200) effected a temporary revival, but it was not enough to save the empire.

The final blow came not from Assyria but from the northwest, whence a great migration of peoples was to be stopped only on the borders of Egypt. Whatever the origins and composition of the invading force, it cut the northwestern trade route, destroyed Arzawa, and finally cut the southeastern route too. With the severance of these lifelines, Hittite power was at an end. Hattusas was soon destroyed by enemies from the northern hills, and the empire disintegrated.

For another 500 years, small independent states in central and southeastern Anatolia and in northern Syria continued to uphold Hittite traditions under ever-increasing Aramaic and Assyrian pressure. The Indo-European languages of Anatolia survived even longer in Lydia, Lycia, and Cilicia, and a recognizable descendant was spoken in the south, in Isauria, as late as the 5th century a. d.

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