Hittite mythology

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Hittite mother goddess with child

The mythology of the Hittites is heavily influenced by the religion of the Hattians , Luwians , Hurrians and Babylonians . The Hittites adopted numerous cults, deities and myths from them. Their pantheon has often been summarized as "the 1000 gods of Ḫatti ".


The source material on the Hittite religion and mythology is rich and varied. Almost two thirds of the cuneiform clay tablets from the archives of the royal city of Ḫattuša consist of religious texts. These contain rituals , hymns , prayers , vows , curses and incantations , lists of sacrifices , prophecies and omens , myths and legends , but also testimonies of superstition . The oldest written testimony is the Anita text (18th century BC), which mentions the building of temples for Ḫalmašuit, the weather god and “my god” (Šiušmi). The texts go back to the fall of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC. Chr.

The religious texts are not only written in Hittite , but also contain Hattic , Hurrian , Luwian and, more rarely, Palaic text parts and expressions. Text parts in unknown languages ​​can also occur, for example in a vineyard ritual of the goddesses Maliyanni . Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions, like those in the rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, are rarer than cuneiform texts .

Archaeological finds consist of statuettes of gods and ritual objects, such as cult vessels, especially animal vessels , and cult weapons or clay liver models for liver viewing .

The Hittites also built many temples, a large number in the capital Ḫattuša alone. In the important rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya , over 60 reliefs of gods were carved into the rock. Also of importance are the spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar , the mountain sanctuary of Gavurkale and the rock relief of Fıraktın .


The source sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar

The Hittite religion was constantly changing and developing rapidly. In the Old Kingdom (1600–1450), hattic rituals and deities predominated in the state cult . The main deities at that time were the weather god Tarḫunna , the sun goddess of Arinna , Mezulla , Inar and Telipinu .

In the Middle Kingdom (1450-1350), Luwian and Hurrian cults and deities were gradually adopted , and the pantheon took on countless deities of various ethnicities through conquests, so that the tablets also speak of the "thousand gods of the land of Ḫatti". The Luwian influence mainly concerned magical rituals.

In the Younger Kingdom (1350–1180) the official state pantheon was heavily hurricaned, as the ceremony of gods in Yazılıkaya vividly illustrates. The main couple was referred to by the Hurrian names Teššup and Ḫepat , which were joined by Šauška and Šarruma . After Ḫattuša towards the end of the 14th century BC Was depopulated by a plague, Luwians seem to have been settled in the city and again, as Ḫattušili III. moved the Hittite capital from Tarḫuntašša back to Ḫattuša. The reconquest of the northern areas also meant that Luwians and Hurrians were settled in these areas.

After 1180 the Hittite Empire disintegrated into many smaller city-states , in which old Hittite and especially Luwian cults lived on, in some cases until ancient times.

Geographical differences

The city pantheeas are typical of Anatolia during the Bronze Age. Many cities had their own cults and rituals. In the northern part of the country of voratti, there are primarily Hattic cults, in the southern part and in Cilicia the Indo-European character was partly more clearly preserved and the Syrian influence was stronger, while in the eastern part and on the Euphrates the Hurrian element predominated. In contrast, the peculiarities in the western parts of the country are poorly known. These cults were not entirely different, but formed a loose organic whole that could always change.

The empire was covered with cult cities. According to paragraphs §§ 50ff. According to the Old Ethite law, Arinna was, along with Nerik and Zippalanda, one of the three holy cities ( šiunan URU "city of gods"), to which the capital Ḫattuša joined the assembly of gods early on . Other cities were added later, such as Kummani and Tarḫuntašša . There were also other important cult cities, such as B. Šamuḫa or Ištanuwa . The establishment of holy cities in Anatolia lived on in antiquity in the hieropoleis ( ancient Greek ἱερόπολις hieropolis "holy city").


The strict rituals of the Hittites are characteristic. The king is also high priest . Wars were often interrupted in order to carry out religious ceremonies in the homeland. A defeat in war has been attributed to the wrath of a deity. Special myths were presented on festive days and in certain emergency situations, e.g. B. the Illuyanka myth on New Year's days or the Telipinu myth on drought.


In myths and religious texts, magical rituals are also common. Cleansing rituals, for which the goddesses Kataḫzipuri or Kamrušepa are primarily responsible, are typical . If these rituals were carried out incorrectly, this was considered harmful magic according to the Hittite law (Heth. Alwanzatar ) and came before the royal court and could be punished with death (§44b). This also applied to the making of pictures of a person whom one would like to harm by doing so (§111), and harmful magic with the help of snakes (§170).


The Hittites were familiar with large festivals lasting several days. This included the AN.TAḪ.ŠUM festival ("Crocus Festival"), which was celebrated in spring and lasted between 35 and 40 days. Most of it took place in the capital Ḫattuša, with the royal couple playing an important role. At the beginning and the end of the AN.TAḪ.ŠUM festival, cult trips were undertaken to various shrines in the vicinity of the capital, such as the holy cities of Arinna and Zippalanda. The festival was named after a spring plant, probably a species of crocus.

In the autumn after the end of the war season, the nuntariyašḫa festival ("Festival of the Hurry") was celebrated. In the first days, thanksgiving offerings were made to the Zitḫariya and his divinely venerated symbol, a kurša hunting bag , was sent on a cult tour through several cities. The royal couple also visited several sanctuaries in the heartland of the Hittite Empire in a short time in a crowded cult trip. This festival lasted 50 days.

The purulliya festival was probably the New Year festival and is of Hattic origin. The Illuyanka myth was re-enacted with him. The KI.LAM festival (“ Gate Building Festival ”) was a three-day festival celebrated in Ḫattuša. The originally Hurrian ḫišuwa festival was first introduced by Queen Puduḫepa from the country of Kizzuwatna . It lasted nine days and benefited the royal family.


The weather god fights a snake demon, neo-Hittite relief from Arslantepe , 11th century BC. Chr.

The traditional Hittite myths are mostly of foreign origin, with the main part either being taken over by the Hatti or the Hurrites.

Hattic-Hittite myths

Main article: Hattic mythology

The motifs of the Illuyanka myth are basically similar to those in the song of Ḫedammu. The snake demon Illuyanka robs the weather god Taru's eyes and heart. His daughter Inar and the person Ḫupašiya beguile the demon at a festival, whereby he can be defeated. In a second version of the myth, the son of the weather god marries Illuyanka's daughter and thus procures the heart and eyes that Illuyanka had stolen from the weather god. This myth shows certain similarities with the more recent Greek myth about Typhon .

The myth Telipinus Disappearance tells how the fertility god Telipinu disappears out of anger. After an unsuccessful search of the gods, the bee of the god mother Ḫannaḫanna finds him . He is appeased in a cleansing ritual and he returns.

There are also myths of other deities that address their disappearance, for example in the myth of Telipinu and the sea daughter , where the angry sea ​​god makes the sun goddess disappear.

The myth of the moon fell from the sky , where it is reported how the moon god Kašku fell on the market square of the city of Liḫzina , has only been handed down in fragments .

Hurrian-Hittite myths

The circle of myths about the Hurrian grain god Kumarbi is divided into at least four myths.

The theogonic myth of royalty in heaven tells how Kumarbi came to power by biting off the genitals of his predecessor Anu , thereby becoming pregnant and giving birth to the weather god Teššup , among other things . He dethroned his father - whom, by the way, he calls "my mother". Kumarbi seeks revenge and regaining his lost dominion and testifies to this three different beings.

The song of Ḫedammu is about Kumarbis procreation of the serpent demon Ḫedammu with the sea ​​daughter Šertapšuruḫi and how the naked Šauška infatuates him with her sexual charms, whereupon he is killed by her brother Teššup.

After the song by Ullikummi , Kumarbi impregnates a huge rock, which then gives birth to the rock demon Ullikummi . Since he has no senses, he is insensitive to the infatuations of the goddess of love. Ullikummi grows continuously on the right shoulder of the world giant Ubelluri as a pillar in the sky and threatens to destroy the world. Eventually the gods of Ea learn how Ullikummi can be defeated.

In the Song of Silver, Kumarbi begets the "silver" (hurr. Ušḫune , Išḫune) with a mortal , who temporarily succeeds in wresting control from Teššup.

Cosmogony and cosmology

In the song of Ullikimmi, the world giant Ubelluri tells the gods that earth and sky were built on his shoulders and were later cut apart with a copper sickle. According to a fragmentary myth, “the crescent moon rose and darkness gave birth to the earth, and brightness gave birth to the stars” .

The Hittites believed that the sky was made of iron. It is carried by two bullmen standing on the ground, a motif that is well attested in Hittite images. The two mountains Namni and Ḫazzi , on which the weather god of the sky stands, symbolize that the sky is supported by two mountains.

The underworld is similar to the earth and is connected to it via caves and springs. The mistress of the underworld is enthroned in the palace of the underworld. She is equated with the sun goddess of the earth or Allani , who is considered the daughter of the sun goddess of Arinna. For more information on the Hittite underworld see: Hittite belief in the dead and ideas about the hereafter .


Since local and foreign, mostly Hattic, Hurrian and Mesopotamian deities were adopted, the Hittite pantheon includes over 1000 deities. The main gods are the weather god Tarḫunna and the sun goddess of Arinna . The gods had human characteristics such as anger, fear, lust, or envy.

Gods (selection)

List of the Hittite gods
Surname Alternative names Area of ​​responsibility origin
Tarḫunna had. Taru, luw. Tarḫunz , hurr. Teššup Weather god, supreme god Hittite
Sarruma   Son of Ḫepat Syrian / Hurrian
Suwaliyat hurr. Tašmiš ; "Brother of the weather god" Son of Kumarbi Hurrian?
Telipinu Telipuna, Talipinu God of fertility and vegetation hat table
Kumarbi   Korngott, 3rd King of Heaven Hurrian
Arma had. Kašku , hurr. Kušuḫ Moon god Hittite
Sun god of the sky luw. Tiwaz , hurr. Simige Sun god Hittite-Hurrian
Innara luw. Annari Patron god Hittite, Luwian
Ea Enki, luw. Iya, hurr. Eyašarri God of wisdom and depth of water Babylonian
Iyarri Yarri Plague god Luwian, possibly Babylonian

Goddesses (selection)

List of the Hittite goddesses
Surname Alternative names Area of ​​responsibility origin
Sun goddess of Arinna Ištanu, Wurunšemu Goddess of heth. Royalty hat table
Sun goddess of the earth Allani, Allatum Goddess of the underworld  
Ḫepat   Mother goddess Syrian / Hurrian
Ḫannaḫanna Ḫannanna Mother goddess hat table?
Inar Inara City goddess of Ḫattuša hat table
Išḫara   Oath goddess Syrian
Šauška Ištar Goddess of love and war Hurrian
Kamrušepa   Goddess of healing and sorcery Hittite / Luwian
Kubaba   City goddess of Karkemiš Syrian
Daganzipa   Earth deity Hittite
Ḫalmašuit - Goddess of the throne hat table
Ḫalki - Grain Goddess Hittite
Maliya - Garden goddess possibly Luwish

Others (selection)

Other figures of the heth. Myths
Surname description
Illuyanka Dragon-like creature, cf. hurrit. Ḫedammu
Ḫupašiya Man, hero figure
Ubelluri giant
Ullikummi Diorite demon
Ḫaḫḫima Frost demon

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Piotr Taracha: Religions of Second Millennium Anatolia . P. 84
  2. ^ Maciej Popko: Arinna. A holy city of the Hittites. (Studies on the Boğazköy Texts, Vol. 50). Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-447-05867-4 , p. 4.
  3. ^ Richard Haase: Capital offenses in Hittite law . Hethitica VII, 93-107. ISBN 90-6831-081-X
  4. ^ Translation: Volkert Haas: History of the Hittite religion. (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Dept. 1, Vol. 15). Brill, Leiden 1994, ISBN 90-04-09799-6 , pp. 88-96. Photos of the main text witness on the first panel.