Ever have the problem where you've been linking to something for ages, and only after several nodes realize the node doesn't exist?

General name for a later bronze age civilization of indo-european people, thriving roughly from 1700-1200 B.C. in Anatolia. As a source of metals and other raw materials, they developed a lucrative trade with Assyria; many texts mention the black donkey caravans of Mesopotamia travelling north to trade carpets, cloth, cedar, turquoise, and other things for more useful military goods.

Their language is indo-european (in fact, it is the oldest written/attested indo-european language, and therefore loved by linguists), but is written using the cuneiform script developed by the Sumerians, though in a much simpler form.

They are mentioned several times by cultures other than the Assyrian. The Bible mentions a certain Uriah the Hittite, and Mycenaean texts seem to indicate a certain amount of trade. A popular theory, though not definitive, holds that the Iliad of Homer is a vague memory of Greek piracy against the much wealthier Hittite cities. There was definitely some contact; the Greek word for bright blue, describing lapis lazuli from the Orient, is a Hittite derivative.

There is still very much unkown about them; obviously, it's not a very popular field (I think there are only two or three schools in America which teach the language, the University of Chicago and Harvard, possibly also Berkeley). Anyone want to join a field where nobody knows anything?

Hittite archaeology began with excavations at the village of Boğazköy in central Turkey, which turned out to be Hattusas, the capital of the Hittite empire, the land of Hatti.

The principal decipherer of the Hittite language was the Czech scholar Bedřich Hrozný around 1915. In 1927 Kuryłowicz realized that Hittite vindicated the until-then theoretical hypothesis by Saussure of extra consonants, known as laryngeals, that were known in no Indo-European language but which were required to make sense of Proto-Indo-European phonetics.

For example, the word 'fire' is related to Greek pyr, and the Hittite word turned out to be paHHur. It is still not known exactly how the laryngeals were pronounced, but they were likely some sort of H sound.

A number of languages were discovered in the imperial archive, some related to Hittite and others not. Hittite texts were introduced with the word nešili (from the city of Kanesh); those introduced by luwili are in a language now called Luwian from it; and there is also Palaic.

A language called Hurrian may be related to modern North Caucasian languages. Another one was written in hieroglyphics and is known as Hieroglyphic Hittite, deciphered in the 1940s and found to be close to Luwian. Traces of another Aryan language among the Mitanni people were found in a text on horse-breeding. There is also a non-Indo-European language that might be that of an earlier people in the area who gave their name to the area, the Land of Hatti: because this language is preceded by the adverb hattili. This presents a slight problem in naming, so it's known as Hattic, Hattian, or even (ugh) Proto-Hittite. It would have been better if we'd called the nešili language Nesite instead of Hittite, but we're stuck with that now.

Another example of Hittite's Indo-European affinities is akwantsi 'they drink', which clearly contains a root related to Latin aqua, and an ending like the Latin 3rd person plural -ant. However, most of the vocabulary is non-Indo-European. Linguists call the family including it, Luwian, and their close kin Anatolian. It is believed to be the first branch to have split from ancestral Indo-European; in fact some say that Anatolian and Indo-European should be regarded as conjoint nodes of an older Indo-Hittite family.

Anatolian does not have the three genders of the other branches. In Hittite the two classes are animate and common. This is taken as evidence for the dating of the development of genders.

Also, Hittite's two conjugations end in -mi and -hi in the first person singular, where other branches have -o and in some cases (as with Greek) a residual -mi conjugation. This again allows us to look back deeper in time. It also shows that the -o familiar from Latin and Greek developed from a laryngeal.

One of the world's foremost Hittitologists was Professor O.R. Gurney, who died a few days ago (January 2001). His book The Hittites was published many years ago in Pelican and is still in print, revised, and an excellent introduction to the field.

If I had the book by me I could tell you more about their history and culture; but all I can remember is that their kings' names included Suppiluliumas, Mursilis, and Tudhiyas; and their weather god was Teshub. The correspondence of one of them with Pharaohs has been found in the royal archive at Amarna.

They defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Kadesh, as anyone who was played Age of Empires will probably know.

There are tantalizing references in Hittite records which might be names known from the Homeric period, but none of them is established: Ahhiyawa is a western land which might be Achaea; and Ilium and Achilles might be mentioned.

Let's see if we can make Hittite science even more popular…

The Hittite society arose in Anatolia from the submission of a native people by high-class immigrants from the south of (nowadays) Russia. This happened around the year 2000 b.C. Sources tell us that one or two decades later, the Assyrian trade colony in Cappadocia was dealing with various local Hittite kings. A certain unity was achieved by labarna (upper king) Hattusilis, celebrated by founding a new capital called Hattusas, indeed currently located at Boghazköy, around 1650.

The Hittites under Mursilis I plundered Babylon, but the apparent power of the Hittite society was not backed by reality. It was a short spell of force by an unstable kingdom. The most important component of the Hittite society was the family. Of course, the large royal family was the highest in rank. Like the Kassites, the Hittites were chariot warriors. These warriors were all members of the high society families. These families met in an assembly called panku. Owning land had many obligations towards the serfs that were bound to it, mainly farmers, herdsmen and craftsmen. The king was the god's replacement on earth, but he was never worshipped. He was also upper priest, warlord and judge. What catches the eye is that the queen had an enormously influencial position beside him. After a king's death, the succession was usually arranged in long and bloody conflicts.

The kingdom reached its longest boundaries in the 14th century b.C., when kings Suppiluliumas and Mouwatallis conquered large areas of what we now know as Syria and Palestina. The success can partly be attributed to the Hittite's disposal of a very rare product called iron and some knowledge to manufacture it. The Hittite kings did not apply for 'world' leadership and accepted other powers easily. The king's enemy was anyone without a treaty with him. The year 1200 is usually marked as the finish line for the Hittite state. Unrest, famine, epidemics caused to weaken the capital of Hattusas, which made it an easy prey for destructive mountain people.

In religion as the Babylonians had accepted most of the Sumerian deities, the Hittites garnered both of these mostly by way of the Hurrians. Long festivals were celebrated every spring and autumn, and it was important for the king to be present. As usual in ancient cultures divination and magic were common.

A popular Hittite story told how the evil in the world angried the god Telepinu. He stalked off with his sandals on the wrong feet, causing the earth to dry up, animals to become barren and humans to die of hunger. Seeing the desolation the sun god called together all his divine colleagues to search for Telepinu. But in vain. The silly suggestion to send a bee to find Telepinu was laughed upon loudly, but the little animal, close to exhaustion, finally found Telepinu asleep. As the bee stung him to wake him up, Telepinu got even more angry and began to destroy everything he saw. The bee asked the gods for an eagle to carry Telepinu back while a magic spell was to drive out Telepinu's evil spirit. The goddess of magic soothed Telepinu's mind with cream, sweetened his disposition with honey, cleansed his body with oil and eased his soul with ointment to put him in harmony with people, gods, and the world. Telepinu's anger left him, and the earth came to life again. This ultra-sweet archetypal story of the annual renewal of spring also shows how loving care can heal the spell of anger.

Genesis 15:20; 23:10; 25:9; 26:34; Nehemiah 9:8; Ezekiel 16:3,45.

The greatest romance of archaelogical discovery in Bible lands in the 20th Century has been the coming out into the light of the great Hitite empire. Up until 1906 scholars had questioned the very existence of the Hittites as a nation of any importance. But when cuneiform tablets found in their capital at modern Boghaz Köi, Turkey, changed the historical significance of the Hittites. Their empire is comparable to the great civilizations on the Euphrates and the Nile. The Hittites were influenced greatly by the Babylonian culture, especially cuneiform writing and jurisprudence.

It is now known that there were two distinct groups bearing no resemblance to each other which occupied their great inland empire of central Asia Minor. By conquest the Hittites obtained control of the territory in central Anatolia on the Halys River.

Hittites from the city-states of northern Syria probably served in David's armies including Ahimelech (1 Samuel 26:6) and Uriah (2 Samuel 11:3).

It is now apparent that the Hittite allies mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions seem to be identical with the allies of King Priam in the Trojan War. Thus Homer's story of the wars about Troy is also a story in part of the Hittite people.

The lesser known ethnic group which lived in Palestine at the time of the patriarchs were known also as the "sons of Heth" (Genesis 15:19-21). They were descendants of Ham, Noah's son, and Canaan, his grandson (Genesis 10:15; 1 Chronicles 1:13; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 11:3).

Hit"tite (?), n. [From Heb. Khittim Hittites.]

A member of an ancient people (or perhaps group of peoples) whose settlements extended from Armenia westward into Asia Minor and southward into Palestine. They are known to have been met along the Orontes as early as 1500 BC, and were often at war with the Egyptians and Assyrians. Especially in the north they developed a considerable civilization, of which numerous monuments and inscriptions are extant. Authorities are not agreed as to their race. While several attempts have been made to decipher the Hittite characters, little progress has yet been made.


© Webster 1913.

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