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By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Old Hittite Kingdom

Middle Hittite Kingdom

Hittite Empire


Shupiluliuma I

~1274 BC

Battle of Khadesh

Arrival of Hittites (before 2000 BC)

Hittites drifted into central Anatolia from the Caucasus during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. They retained the name Hatti from their land but called their Indo-European language Neshian/Nesili, meaning language of Nesa. Nesili became the official written language of the Hittite state, even if it was not spoken by most of its subjects.

Nesa was the indigenous name for Kanesh. This provides a link between the Old Assyrian colonies and later Hittite history. Another link is the find of a dagger in the citadel at Kanesh, inscribed in Old Assyrian script and language with the name Anitta, who is identified as the ruler; the figure Anitta is central in the early Hittite Anitta Text.Also entering Anatolia were the Luvians (south and west) and Palaians (north and northwest).

Old Hittite Kingdom (1650 - 1400 BC)

Sources for the Old Hittite Kingdom are very different from those in the rest of the Near East; the palace archives of the later Hittite state contained a set of texts relating military campaigns of these early rulers or dealing with succession problems. However, it is unclear if these texts are actual copies of older texts or later compositions set in ancient times for current political purposes.

Hattushili IEarly 17th CentHattushili I built an empire via military campaigns in Central Anatolia and to the south in northern Syria. He re-introduced cuneiform writing into the derelect Hattian site of Hattush when he chose it for the Hittite capital Hattusha.

Mursili's reign is attested by few sources, but what is available shows he continued Hattushili I's southward campaigns, delving further south in an effort to seize the Mesopotamian trade routes. He committed two extremely important acts: the destruction of Aleppo; and the destruction of Babylon, which ended Hammurabi's reign. He did not occupy these cities, however, and it is unclear why he even went to Babylon since it was so far away he could only raid it. Upon returning home, Mursili's brother-in-law Hantili assassinated him and seized the throne. Hantili quickly met the same fate and the succession was contested. Internal instability caused the recension of Hittite hegemony to its heartland in central Anatolia.

Mursili's destructions of Aleppo and Babylon, and the collapse of the Hittite state, led to a power vacuum in Anatolia, Syria and Mesopotamia which plunged the Near East into turmoil and ushered in the ensuing Dark Age of the mid-2nd millennium.

Middle Hittite era

Lands south of the Taurus and distant territories to the south and east of Anatolia were captured from the Hittites by the Mitanni. Attacks of marauding Kashkan tribes living in the northern mountains of Central Antaolia became a direct threat to Hattusha. Hattusha was destroyed in 1400 BC under the reign of Tudhaliya III; a cuneiform text explains, "Hattusha, the city, was burned to the ground and only [ . . . ] and the Heshti-House of [ . . . ] remained standing" 2. Hittite hegemony was limited to the Central Anatolian plateau 1.

Hittite sites

TabiggaMasat Höyük


Seeher, Jürgen. 2006. Hattusha Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital. Ege Yayinlary: Istanbul. p 173-175