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The Hittites were an ancient people of Asia Minor , who lived in the 2nd millennium BC. Was also politically and militarily influential in Syria and Canaan (parts of today's Lebanon and Israel). Most of the time , its capital was Ḫattuša , right next to today's village of Boğazkale . The Hittites spoke Hittite , an Indo-European language . The Hattians , who used a non-Indo-European language, are distinguished from the Hittites . However, the Hittites themselves called their empire Ḫatti .

The discovery of the Hittites

The existence of the Hittites was unknown until the end of the 19th century , with the exception of a few scattered Bible passages . Even in classical antiquity there was no longer any memory of them; the remnants of their culture were believed to be Egyptian . Herodotus , from whom the only tradition of Greco-Roman antiquity comes, held the Hittite rock relief of Karabel to be a representation of the Egyptian pharaoh Sesostris III . According to current knowledge, it represents Tarkasnawa of Mira . The first archaeological reference to the Hittites comes from the Assyrian trading colonies in Kaneš (today's Kültepe ), in which records show a trade between the Assyrians and a certain "land of Hatti". Some names in the records were neither Hattic (ancient Anatolian) nor Assyrian, but clearly Indo-European.

The inscription on a monument found by William Wright near Boğazköy in 1884 seemed to match peculiar hieroglyphic inscriptions in Aleppo and Hamath (northern Syria ). In 1887 the archives of Tell-el- Amarna were found, which contained the diplomatic correspondence of Amenhotep III. and his son Akhenaten included. Two of the letters from a "Kingdom of Cheta" - located in the same area as the Ḫatti land in the Mesopotamian texts - were written in common Akkadian cuneiform , but in an unknown language. They could be read by the scientists, but not understood. Shortly thereafter, Archibald Sayce proposed an identification of the Ḫatti land and the kingdom of Cheta with the tribe of the Hittites known from the Bible. This was able to prevail in the early 20th century, so that the biblical name Hittites passed on to the civilization found in Boğazköy.

During the sporadic excavations in Boğazköy that began in 1905, the archaeologist Hugo Winckler (1863–1913) found a royal archive with 10,000 tablets written in cuneiform and in the same unknown language as the Egyptian letters from Cheta, confirming the identity of this name with the Hittites could be. He proved that the ruins at Boğazköy are the remains of the capital of a powerful empire that temporarily controlled northern Syria.

The language of these tablets was finally deciphered by the Czech linguist Bedřich Hrozný (1879–1952), who presented his results in a lecture on November 24, 1915. His book The Language of the Hittites; Their structure and their affiliation to the Indo-European language family appeared in Leipzig in 1917 . In this book he was able to show that the hitherto mysterious language of the Hittites is one of the Indo-European languages ​​and is therefore their oldest written representative.

Employees of the German Archaeological Institute have been systematically excavating Ḫattuša since 1932 (with interruptions due to the war).

Historical overview


A reliable dating of the reigns of Hittite kings / rulers is not possible because Hittite sources have not yet provided any reliable evidence. Letters with other kings and inscriptions therefore only allow selective dating options, which are also based on the “short” or “medium” chronology (see chronologies of ancient oriental historiography ). In addition, Muršili II mentions a possible solar eclipse for his 10th year of reign ; In his reign, however, several solar eclipses occurred at short intervals, which allow different dates, with a total solar eclipse in 1312 BC. Is currently preferred by research (see also solar eclipse of Muršilis ).


Origin and possible immigration routes of Indo-European Anatolians cannot yet be documented. The following information from linguists is based on individual estimates: For example, Oettinger (2002) takes “Indo-European language carriers” in the 3rd millennium BC. Chr. At; Melchert (2003) takes an immigration in the 4th millennium BC. Chr.

In the 3rd millennium BC The linguistically isolated Hattier lived in Central Anatolia . In contrast, Indo-European- Anatolian languages have only been in existence since the middle of the second millennium BC. In Anatolia (individual names and loanwords can be found in ancient Assyrian texts, however, as early as the early 2nd millennium). This makes them the oldest recorded Indo-European languages. Almost at the same time, the Palaic in the north and the Luwian in the southwest; only in the 1st millennium BC Chr., The Lydian , another branch of the Anatolian languages. The Lycian , Sidetic, and Carian , which also only existed in the 1st millennium BC. Are documented, show strong affinity with the Luwian and are derived from this.

The Hittites took over the name Ḫatti for the land from the Hatti . They called their language nešili , after the city of Kaneš / Neša . The first Hittite great king who resided in Ḫattuša / Boğazköy, like Anitta, originally came from Kuššara , a city that has not yet been identified.

The Hittite Empire

The Hittite Empire and its neighbors around 1230/20 BC Chr.

Large parts of Anatolia and temporarily also the northern half of today's Syria belonged to this empire . The capital of the empire was Ḫattuša in the north of central Anatolia, about 150 kilometers east of Ankara.

Ḫattuša became famous above all for about 30,000 text panels that were discovered here at the beginning of the 20th century. Until then, the Hittites were only known from ancient oriental and Egyptian texts; the corresponding languages ​​/ scripts had already been deciphered at the beginning of the 19th century. The Czech orientalist Bedřich Hrozný also deciphered the Hittite texts from 1915, which have since been available as sources on the history, religion and culture of this people.

The rulers of Egypt , Babylonia and Assyria regarded the Hittite great king largely as an equal partner with whom they maintained diplomatic contacts and trade relations, but also waged wars. An example of this game of powers is the battle of Kadesch (1274 BC) and the subsequent peace treaty between Ramses II and Ḫattušili III. This is the oldest known peace treaty in the world, a copy of which can be seen in the UN building in New York City as a symbol of peace .

The Hittite empire comprised a number of vassal and neighboring states such as Tarḫuntašša or Karkemiš . Of particular interest in research in recent years is the possible Hittite influence on the Troas ( Troy ) and contacts with Mycenaean city-states, especially on the west coast of Asia Minor (especially with the country of Arzawa and the city of Milet / Millawanda ). The rare evidence of these contacts includes the Mycenaean import vessels in the Hittite provincial town of Kusakli (Heth. Šarišša ) in Eastern Cappadocia .

The fall of the Hittite empire dates back to the early 12th century BC. Dated. Most of the urban centers of Central Anatolia were destroyed or abandoned by fire. The causes of the collapse are unclear. Attacks by the “ sea ​​peoples ” were considered, as was a campaign by the Kaškäer . Internal conflicts or a war against Tarḫuntašša are also increasingly discussed. Harvest failures and wars on several fronts could have accelerated the fall of the great empire.

Late Hittite minor kingdoms

After the end of the great empire, late Hittite empires in the east ( Karkemiš and Tabal ), Tarḫuntašša in the south and Meliddu in the south-east , as well as (small) principalities such as Karatepe and Zincirli, lasted for several centuries . Some of them were increasingly Aramaic and eventually fell under Assyrian rule. Presumably the mentions of the Hittites in the Bible are traces of the memory of these small kingdoms.

The structure of the Hittite Empire

Location of the sub-areas and the surrounding realms

The empire of the Hittites was a relatively complicated structure with clear echoes of a feudal system. At the head was the great king ( Labarna , later also Tabarna ), who was the highest priest, judge and general and ruled over a number of subordinate kings, most of whom came from the ancestral rulers of the areas. These vassal kings had to swear a personal oath to the great king, which had to be renewed with every change on the Hittite throne, which also regularly led to unrest. In addition to these vassal kings, there were also the viceroyalty of Karkemiš and Ḫalpa in northern Syria during the period of the Great Empire (i.e. from around 1350 BC) , which were administered by members of the royal clan and enjoyed great independence from the central authority, especially in the military field. The King of Mira , who was also responsible for the western areas of Anatolia in the late period , had a similar position .

Next to the great king stood the great queen , the Tawananna , who was very independent and was able to conclude state treaties in her own name. She was the chief priestess and did not lose this position when her husband died.

Next to the king stood the Hittite senate ( panku ), which participated in laws and treaties and even had the right to judge the king. This was laid down in the Telipinu constitution (around 1460 BC). Constitution is a not-so-far-fetched analogy here - the document looks relatively similar to a modern constitution. In essence, it is a succession regulation for the throne of the great king, which precisely stipulates the order in which the princes are entitled to succession to the throne. The panku is used as the guardian of these regulations and thus forms the highest legality authority. The purpose of this constitution to put an end to the constant confusion of the throne, however, was missed: even in later Hittite history, disputes over the throne and usurpations are very frequent. Overall, however, the position of the king as primus inter pares appears here , which is rather rare in the ancient Orient.

The armies were usually led by the king himself. Before the battle, oracles were usually asked about the outcome. According to Hittite belief, the gods hurried ahead of the army and intervened directly in battle, for example by storming, thunderbolts or by beating the opposing king with illness.


Writing and language

The language of the Hittites belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European languages. At the beginning of the second millennium, it layered the language of the non-Indo-European Hattier , from which they also adopted the name Ḫatti for the country, along with many other words . The Hittites themselves called their language nešili (Nesian) after the city of Kaniš / Neša.

The Hittite is the oldest known Indo-European language. In the Hittite Empire, various other languages ​​such as Luwish in the west and Palaic in the northwest, which were related to Hittite and also belong to the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European languages, became common. Luwian and pre-Indo-European Hattic played a special role in the cult. With these languages, Hittite forms the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, which differs greatly from the other branches, especially in terms of vocabulary.

One also wrote with different writing systems. While the official diplomatic correspondence and the palace archives were written in the Assyrian ( Akkadian ) cuneiform script, hieroglyphic script, which, as we know today, belongs to Luwian , was used for the numerous rock reliefs and inscriptions . Even the Hurrian was an important diplomatic language, especially in contact with the Mittanireich was used.


Hittite bird head idol made of clay, 4.8 cm high, 2000 to 1500 BC Chr.

The Hittite mythology was subject to constant change and had a very extensive pantheon with over a thousand gods . The main gods were the weather god Tarḫunna and the sun goddess of Arinna . As in many ancient cultures, the Hittites' idol was strongly anthropomorphic, so that they were particularly familiar with human weaknesses such as anger, fear, lust or envy.


Metallurgy - the invention of hardenable iron

A pioneering invention of the Hittites that was previously underestimated in scientific reflection was, in addition to the early use of (soft) iron (possibly from iron meteorites ), the smelting of iron ore to make hardenable steel .

From the cuneiform records of the Hittites in the archives of Boğazkale (formerly Boğazköy , near the former capital Ḫattuša in Central Anatolia) excavated in 1907 and 1911/12 , it emerges that soft iron - not hardenable - already at the time of King Anitta (approx. 1800 BC) .) was known.

Due to its rarity and difficult production, it was initially used for cultic customs in the form of tiny figurines and sun discs or to lay the foundation stone for important buildings in the form of nails and pegs . It was also considered a prestige metal for representation. There are several copies of the same text in the Boğazkale archive, which describes how King Anitta received an iron throne and scepter from his last adversary, the ruler of Purušḫanda , in recognition of his sovereignty. Iron on this scale not only symbolizes a sign of incredible wealth, but also an expression of power in downright mythical dimensions. Only gods were otherwise ascribed to have iron seats. A forging of the rare iron meteorite seems excluded by the order. A group of six iron artifacts from a grave in Alaca Höyük , including a dagger with a golden handle, could prove this. Chemical analyzes indicate human production, as the nickel content of 2.4% and 2.7% is too low for production from meteoric iron. A richly decorated ax with an iron leaf, from 1450 to 1365 BC. Dated BC, was found in Ugarit , which belonged to the immediate Hittite area of ​​influence.

"The words of the ruler, king and great king Arnuwanda (...) (are) of iron, not to be destroyed, not to break."

- Archive of Boğazkale, in: Brandau / Schickert: Hittiter. The unknown world power. P. 233

No later than 1400 BC. . Chr (Konig Telipinu ) managed by the Hittites smelting of iron ore in the simplest Rennöfen (also: sponge iron ) and subsequent carburizing and quenching , from the soft iron curable to produce steel. From this they could forge weapons or tools that were often superior to weapons made of bronze . There is written evidence that iron weapons were used against the Egyptians in the Battle of Kadesh (1274 BC), who only had bronze weapons at their disposal. In the Hittite records, steel was referred to as good iron . In their language it was called AN.BAR SIG5 .

“Regarding the good iron you wrote me about. - There is no good iron in Kizzuwatna in my sealed house. I wrote (yes) that (time) is bad for making iron. They're going to make iron, they're not finished yet. As soon as they're done, I'll have it brought to you. Now I have iron (sword) blades sent to you. "

- Excerpt from a letter from Ḫattušili III. to his brother , probably the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II.

The letter provides information that Ḫattušili III. Middle of the 13th century BC A royal manufacture with a smelting center existed in the Cilician iron ore area and the smiths were able to harden the good iron . It also indicates that iron was not a common metal at that time. From the Hittite texts it emerges that iron was 40 times more valuable than silver at that time and thus was also far more valuable than gold. During the time of the Hittite Empire, iron seems to have gradually lost its status as a godlike luxury material, as knives, daggers, axes and swords are also mentioned in the cuneiform tablets.

Everyday tools and weapons continued to be made of bronze (bronze was and is cast in molds, so it can be produced quickly, whereas at that time, a complex process and - above all - a lot of experience were required to manufacture hardened iron).

Before and then, the smelting of iron ore remained largely a monopoly of the Hittite Empire and was a factor in its rise. From 1200 BC The long transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age took place with the fall of the Hittites and the spread of knowledge about the Near East . There are theses that, in addition to the material superiority of iron, a lack of tin , which is required for bronze production and which mostly had to be imported by sea via traders (see tin islands and historical Britain ), accelerated development and transition.


Hittite clay vessel

The Hittite dam of Gölpınar is known from Alaca Höyük in the province of Çorum . A canal led the water from several springs in the reservoir to a sedimentation tank. The dam is 130 meters long and 15 meters wide and consists of andesite rocks that are sealed with clay. A plaque with Luwian hieroglyphs from the sedimentation basin reports that Great King Tudḫaliya built the dam in honor of the goddess Ḫepat . It was discovered in 1935 and uncovered in 2002 during the excavations in Alaca Höyük. The Turkish Office for Water Management (DSİ) had the reservoir cleaned in cooperation with archaeologists, and in 2007 the dam was operational again and could be used to irrigate 20 hectares of land.

In total, in response to the drought of 1240 BC, Built ten dams. Other Hittite dams are known from Böget (Eşmekaya) in Aksaray and Örükaya in the province of Çorum. They are also made of rocks that are sealed with clay. The Örükaya dam is 40 meters long, 16 meters high and 5 meters wide and had a lock with a wooden gate.

The "Hittites" in the Bible

In the Old Testament both the people of the Hittites and individual members of this people are mentioned frequently, among others in four of the five books of Moses , in the book of Joshua and in the book of judges . Uriah ( Uriah ), with whose wife Bathsheba King David broke up and whom he later sent to death in a battle, was also Hittite. The report can be found in 2 Samuel 11: 1–26 EU .

Before the excavations in Ḫattuša, the Hittites were only known from the Bible, and it was assumed that they were a native tribe in Canaan . The identity with the Hittites of Asia Minor has not been proven, as is whether the biblical mention of the Hittites can be derived from the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian language, in which the region of Syria-Palestine is called “Hatti Land” at all, or whether the biblical “Hittites " Denote Hurricane circles, which from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. Were resident in Palestine and were called "Hittites" due to ethnic and cultural relationships in the Syrian area belonging to the Hittite empire.

See also


  • Oliver R. Gurney : The Hittites. VEB Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1969. ( Fundus series 22/23) (2nd revised edition 1980)
  • Ekrem Akurgal : The Art of the Hittites . Hirmer, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-7774-2770-5 .
  • Kurt Bittel : The Hittites . Beck, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-406-03024-6 .
  • Gernot Wilhelm : "The Anatolian Empire of the Hittites" published in: DAMALS 29. Jg., 2/1997, pp. 13-18 [1]
  • Birgit Brandau, Hartmut Schickert: Hittites. The unknown world power . Piper, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-492-04338-0 .
  • Trevor Bryce : Warriors of Anatolia. A Concise History of the Hittites. IB Tauris, London / New York 2019.
  • Trevor Bryce: The Kingdom of the Hittites . 2nd Edition. Clarendon Press, Oxford 2005, ISBN 0-19-927908-X .
  • Trevor Bryce: Life and Society in the Hittite World. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-927588-2 .
  • Meik Gerhards: The biblical "Hittites" . In: The World of the Orient. Volume 39, 2009, pp. 145-179.
  • Volkert Haas : History of the Hittite Religion. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Dept. 1, Vol. 15. Brill, Leiden 1994, ISBN 90-04-09799-6 .
  • Volkert Haas: The Hittite literature. Texts, style, motifs. de Gruyter, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-11-018877-5 .
  • Bedřich Hrozný : The language of the Hittites, their structure and their affiliation to the Indo-European language tribe. An attempt at deciphering. Leipzig 1917, Dresden 2002 (repr.), ISBN 3-86005-319-1 .
  • Horst Klengel : History of the Hittite Empire. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Dept. 1, Vol. 34. Brill, Leiden 1998, ISBN 90-04-10201-9 .
  • Jörg Klinger: The Hittites. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-53625-0 .
  • Yasemin Kuslu, Sahin Üstun: Water Structures in Anatolia from Past to Present. In: Journal of Applied Sciences Research. Faisalabad 5.2009, pp. 2109-2116, ISSN  1816-157X .
  • Peter Neve : Hattusa. City of gods and temples. Zabern's illustrated books on archeology. 2nd Edition. Zabern, Mainz 1996, ISBN 3-8053-1478-7 .
  • Kaspar K. Riemschneider: Hittite fragments of historical content from the time of Hattušilis III. In: Journal of Cuneiform Studies. Vol. 16, No. 4. Boston 1962, pp. 110-121, ISSN  0022-0256
  • Helga Willinghöfer (Red.): The Hittites and their empire . Exhibition catalog. Theiss, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1676-2 .

Web links

Commons : Hittites  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hittites  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. on this in detail John David Hawkins : Tarkasnawa, King of Mira: 'Tarkondemos', Boğazköy sealings and Karabel. Anatolian Studies 48, 1998, pp. 1-31.
  2. Norbert Oettinger: Indo-European language carriers already lived in the 3rd millennium BC. In Asia Minor. The education of the Anatolian languages . In: Helga Willinghöfer (Red.): The Hittites and their empire. The people of a thousand gods . Theiss-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1676-2 .
  3. ^ Harold C. Melchert: The Luwians . Brill, Leiden 2003, ISBN 90-04-13009-8 .
  4. Otto Johannsen: History of the iron. on p. 44, 3. completely revised. Edition, Verlag Stahleisen, Düsseldorf, 1953, 621 pages, ISBN 978-3-514-00002-5 .
  5. Jana Siegelová: Extraction and processing of iron in the Hittite Empire in the 2nd millennium BC , Náprstek Museum , 1984, pp. 71-178
  6. Jens Nieling: The introduction of iron technology in the South Caucasus and East Anatolia during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, Aarhus University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-87-7934-444-0 . on p. 41
  7. Jana Siegelová: Metals in Hittite Texts , in: Anatolian Metals III, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum , 2005, on p. 38
  8. Jens Nieling: The introduction of iron technology in the South Caucasus and East Anatolia during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, Aarhus University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-87-7934-444-0 . on p. 39 f.
  9. Hans-Günter Buchholz (Ed.): Marks of recognition, rank and dignity , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen, 2012, p. 132 (Google Books) , ISBN 978-3-525-25443-1 .
  10. a b c Friedrich Cornelius : Geistesgeschichte der Frühzeit , Verlag Brill-Archive, Volume 1, first edition. 1960, p. 132 (Google Books) (currently 5th, unchanged edition 1992). DNB 456294341 .
  11. a b Ünsal Yalçın (Ed.): Symbol of Eternal Rule: Metal as the Basis of the Hittite Empire Anatolian Metal V , German Mining Museum Bochum, No. 180, Bochum, 2011, p. 82 (Google Books) , ISBN 978- 3-937203-54-6 .
  12. ^ Friedrich Cornelius: Grundzüge der Geschichte der Hittiter 5th edition, WBG (Scientific Book Society), 1992, 382 S., ISBN 978-3-534-06190-7 .
  13. Eckhard Siemer (ed.): The Hittite-Mycenaean tin trade in Europe and the decline of their empires , Liknon vom Stau Verlag, Oldenburg, 2019, p. 3 (Google Books) , ISBN 978-3-98 13693-3-5 .
  14. a b Yasemin Kuşlu, Sahin Üstun: Water Structures in Anatolia from Past to Present. In: Journal of Applied Sciences Research. Faisalabad 5.2009, p. 2110. ISSN  1819-544X .