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HITTITES , an ancient people of Anatolia. The name Hittites is taken from the biblical Hebrew Ḥitti (gentilic), plural Ḥittim, which stems from the form Ḥatti found as a geographic term in cuneiform texts, the vowel change resulting from a Hebrew phonetic law. The form Ḥatti is used in Akkadian. Since this name always occurs in combination with a noun, such as "country of Ḥatti," "king of Ḥatti," etc., it is uncertain whether the final-i is part of the stem or rather the Akkadian genitive ending that would make the nominative Ḥattu. The occurrence of a term Ḥattum in Old Assyrian texts (with the-m suffix of the Old Period) had been cited in support of the second alternative. The problem is, however, complicated by the fact that the same sources mention a place called Ḥattuš, whose relation to Ḥattum is not clear, and that in later periods the Hittites themselves used the form Ḥatti for both the country and its capital when they wrote Akkadian, but Ḥattuša, also in both usages, when writing Hittite, while an adjective, Ḥattili, was derived from the short form. In writing these names the Hittites often used the word sign for "silver," writing silver-ti for Akkadian Ḥatti, silver-ša for Hittite Ḥattuša. It is worth noting that one of the Ugaritic words for "silver" Ugaritic ḥtt is an Anatolian loanword (Tropper, 111, 122). Conventionally the form Ḥatti is used by moderns.

Ḥatti was originally the name of the region comprising the large bend of the river Halys (Kizil Irmak) and of the city whose ruins are at the village of Boghazköy (c. 100 miles directly east of Ankara). The Hittites who ruled that country during most of the second millennium b.c.e. were invaders speaking an Indo-European language; when they arrived they found a population that spoke a different language, of agglutinative type, and this non-Indo-European tongue they called Ḥattili – "belonging to Ḥatti." Although both the name Hittite and the term Ḥattili are derived from the same geographic name, they refer to entirely different entities. To avoid confusion scholars call the old indigenous language "Hattic" or "Proto-Hattic," the people "Hattians" or "Proto-Hattians," while reserving the term "Hittite" for the Indo-European-speaking newcomers, who took over much of the civilization of the indigenous population in material culture and religion. The reason that Hattic texts have survived at all is that the Hittites still used them in the cult. Thus, there is cultural continuity, the Hattian element being an integral part of the civilization of the Hittites. The Indo-European language called Hittite by moderns was called Nesian by the Hittites themselves, the name being derived from that of Neša, one of their early capitals (see below).


It is not known when or from where the Indo-European-speaking Hittites came. The problem becomes even more complex if the other Indo-European languages of Anatolia are considered. The documents of the Assyrian merchant colonies (see *Asia Minor) give only partial answers to these questions. Among the proper names of local persons there are some that contain Indo-European Hittite elements; accordingly, some individuals, at least, belonging to the newcomers were present in Kaneš in the 19th century b.c.e. The Hittites derived their own kingdom from the kings of Kuššar, a town, according to Old Assyrian documents recently made available, situated in the mountainous region southeast of Kaneš. An important source for the early period is the inscription of a certain Anitta, king of Kuššar, found in the Hittite capital and written in Hittite (cos i, 183–85). In it the king relates that his father, Pithana, conquered the city of Neša but spared its people. When he subsequently speaks of his own deeds Anitta mentions Neša as his own city to which he brings captives and booty and where he builds temples. Thus, despite the title King of Kuššar, Neša seems to have been the royal residence. Both Pitḫana and Anitta are attested to in the Assyrian merchant documents found in the later settlement at Kaneš (see *Asia Minor) where they apparently ruled. According to some scholars Neša and Kaneš are the same city; this theory, if correct, would greatly contribute to an understanding of the historical situation.

Anitta tells about a number of conquests, the most important being that of Ḥattuša, which he burned and whose site he cursed. Among the remains of Ḥattuša at Boghazköy, documents of the type representative of the later merchant colony were found in houses which had been destroyed by fire, perhaps indicative of the destruction by Anitta. Within the period of the later colony, Pitḫana and Anitta fall relatively late, perhaps in the middle of the 18th century b.c.e., or even later. Still, knowledge is lacking for the period between Anitta and the beginning of the Old Hittite Kingdom, whose founder was a certain Labarna, alternatively, Tabarna, king of Kuššar, indicating that the kingdom was still connected with that town. That Labarna founded a new dynasty seems likely because of the later tradition which carries historical accounts back to him, but no further; his name was taken by all later kings, so that it almost became a title (comparable to Roman "Caesar"). Labarna's conquests, learned of only from a later source, included Tuwanuwa (near Nighde) and Hupišna (Ereghli). Contemporary sources are for the first time available on his successor, who called himself Labarna (ii) and King of Kuššar, but who was better known to posterity by his second name, Ḥattušili. This name is the gentilic derived from Hattuša, and, indeed, in his own inscriptions Ḥattuša figures as the capital. He moved there, apparently, despite the old curse. Labarna and his successors definitely were Indo-European-speaking Hittites; for Pithana and Anitta this is uncertain but not impossible. If one could reconstruct the course of events so that the Indo-European-speaking Hittites first held the eastern town of Kuššar and from there moved to Neša (= Kaneš?), then to the region of Tyana (Nighde), and finally to Ḥatti, it would indicate that the last part of their movement was from East to West, which would favor the eastern route also for their entry into Anatolia. Hattušili i fought extensive wars, partly in Anatolia and partly in northern Syria. He boasts of having been the first to cross the Euphrates and of having destroyed Alalakh (Tell Atchana). As his successor Ḥattušili appointed an adopted son, Muršili (i), who continued the move toward the southeast by conquering the kingdom of Aleppo and even raiding Babylon, which marks the fall of the First Dynasty of Babylon, dated (in the "middle" chronology) 1595 b.c.e. This brings Labarna to about 1660.

Muršili was assassinated, and a period of dynastic struggle followed until King Telipinu (c. 1550) introduced strict rules for hereditary succession (cos i: 194–98). After him only the names of some rulers are known. About 1450 a new dynasty came to the throne, founding the so-called New Kingdom. After modest beginnings and serious setbacks, this kingdom rose to empire under King Šuppiluliuma (i) (c. 1370–45). Being a younger son, he usurped the throne, but his military and diplomatic success atoned for the usurpation. Having reconquered the lost territories in Anatolia, Šuppiluliuma moved against the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia, one of the great powers of the time. After an unsuccessful first attempt, he defeated Mitanni and conquered most of its Syrian territories as far south as Kadesh on the Orontes. At a later date he took advantage of dynastic struggles in Mitanni by helping one of the contenders and installing him as his vassal. In Syria the Hittites also threatened the Egyptian possessions; Hittite sources here supplement the information contained in the *el-Amarna letters. Thus a treaty concluded by Šuppiluliuma with Aziru, king of Amurru (cos ii, 93–95), shows that the latter actually switched his allegiance from Egypt to Ḥatti despite the letters he wrote to the Pharaoh. Most characteristic of the Hittites' prestige is the request of the widow of Tutankhamen, who wrote to Šuppiluliuma asking for a Hittite prince whom she would marry and make king of Egypt. The plan failed because her opponents killed the Hittite prince when he arrived, and his father had to send an army to avenge him.

Šuppiluliuma's successors were, on the whole, able to maintain the empire. Muršili ii (c. 1345–20) incorporated into the empire as vassals the Arzawa countries of southwestern Anatolia. Muwatalli fought the famous battle of Kadesh (1300 b.c.e.) against Ramses ii of Egypt. Claimed as victory by both sides, the battle left the status of Hittite and Egyptian possession in Syria unchanged. Against the danger stemming from Assyria's rise to power, Ḥattušili iii concluded a peace treaty with Ramses (1284 b.c.e.) and later (1271) gave him his daughter as wife. Friendly relations between the two powers continued from that time. Tudhaliya iv (c. 1250) still held Syria, including Amurru; most of his military activity was in the west. During his reign one foreign power, Aḥḥiyawa, probably the Akhean kingdom of Mycenae and mentioned already by earlier kings, seemed to be aggressive in western Anatolia. Under Tudhaliya's son, Arnuwanda, the situation in the west apparently further deteriorated. The last king, Šuppiluliuma ii, tells of a naval victory over ships of Cyprus, but shortly thereafter the Hittite empire is destroyed. The end is marked by burnt levels in all sites and by the disappearance of written sources. However, it is not known how or by whom the destruction was brought about, or what role inner weakness may have played. The only information comes from the Egyptian records of Ramses iii, which mention, in his eighth year (c. 1190), the attack of so-called Peoples of the Sea who are said to have overrun all the countries "from Ḥatti on."

The downfall is followed by a dark age at the end of which the map of Anatolia had been redrawn. Small states known as Late Hittite or Neo-Hittite, because of the inscriptions written in the so-called Hittite hieroglyphs found in the areas they occupied, extended far into Syria, Hamath on the Orontes being the southernmost. In contrast to the small states of Anatolia, some – but not all – of those in Syria were taken over by Arameans: Till Barsip on the Euphrates became Aramean Bit Adini about 950 b.c.e.; shortly after, the Aramean Gabbar founded a dynasty at Sam'al (Zinjirli), similarly the region around Arpad became the Aramean Bit Agusi about 890, while Hamath fell to the Arameans as late as about 820 b.c.e. In contrast, Carchemish on the Euphrates was ruled by "Late Hittites" (Luwians according to their language) until it became an Assyrian province in 717. The important point is that the Assyrians, who continually fought these small states until Sargon ii finally incorporated them into his empire as provinces, continued to call the whole region Hatti, regardless of whether the people were Luwians or Arameans. Even more than a century after the last "Hittite" state had disappeared, the Babylonian chronicle introduces Nebuchadnezzar's first war against Jerusalem (598 b.c.e.) with the words "he went to Ḥatti." The name Hatti was now used in a vague sense for the entire Mediterranean littoral.

Hittites in the Bible

The Anatolian Hittites of the second pre-Christian millennium seem to have left no traces in the Hebrew Bible. Those books of the Bible that mention Hittites in connection with events of the monarchy clearly refer to the "late Hittites" of that same period: "Uriah the Hittite" under David (ii Sam. 11:3; i Chron. 11:41); Solomon's Hittite wives (i Kings 11:1) and the horses sent by him to "all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Arameans" (i Kings 10:29; ii Chron. 1:17; cf. also ii Kings 7:6). In contrast to these passages are those that mention Hittites as part of the pre-Israelite population of Palestine (Gen. 15:20; 23; 26:34, et al., Ex. 3:8, et al.; Deut. 7:1; Josh. 3:10; 9:1; et al.; Judg. 3:5; i Kings 9:20 = ii Chron. 8:7; Ezra 9:1; Neh. 9:8), especially of its mountainous part (Num. 13:29; Josh. 11:3). The Hittite empire of the second millennium never included Palestine. To explain these passages some scholars have adduced the so-called Khirbet Kerak ware, a kind of pottery similar to wares found in Anatolia and further east. If this pottery really attests Anatolians in Palestine, they would be Hattians at best, and the time lapse from the Early Bronze Age to the conquest would be more than a millennium, a very long time for a name to be remembered. Others have adduced a Hittite source according to which, some time before Šuppiluliuma i, some Hittites migrated from Anatolia "into Egypt." If this means Egypt proper it has no bearing on the question (despite the convenient parallel it furnishes to the Children of Israel). Only if it is assumed that "Egypt" refers to Egyptian-held territory which happened to be Palestine can the phrase serve as an explanation for the mention of those early Hittites. Neither of these theories is convincing. It is rather that the writers of the Bible used the designations "Hittite" and "Canaanite," mostly pejoratively, for the aboriginal inhabitants of the country. Esau's Hittite wives (Gen. 26:34) are called Canaanites in Gen. 27:46. "The "Hittites" of David's time, Uriah (ii Sam. 11:3, 17, 21) and Ahimelech (i Sam. 26:6), may have traced their descent to old pre-Israelite families. By the eighth century, māt Ḧatti, "Hittite land" in Neo-Assyrian sources, had acquired the sense of everything west of the Euphrates up to the Mediterranean. The phrase ereẒ ha-ḥittim, "the land of the Hittites" (Josh. 1:4) is a Hebrew reflex of this usage and is absent from the Septuagint to this verse.

[Hans G. Guterbock /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

Hittite Hieroglyphic Writing

What used to be called "Hieroglyphic Hittite" is now more accurately referred to as "Anatolian Hieroglyphic" (Hawkins, Melchert). The preserved hieroglyphic texts are actually written in Luwian, like Hittite, an Indo-European language. Although closely related to the Hittite language, Luwian is distinct. The term "hieroglyphic" used for Hittite writing was borrowed from the Egyptian terminology, and it simply implies that the Hittite writing, like the Egyptian, is pictographic. In no way does it imply that the Hittite hieroglyphic writing was borrowed from the Egyptian hieroglyphic or that it was in any way related to it.

The Hittite writing was in use from about 1500 to 700 b.c.e. in a large area extending from central Anatolia to northern Syria. Two main periods are distinguished: the earlier from 1500–1200 b.c.e., and the later from 1200 to 700 b.c.e. The language of the "Hittite hieroglyphic" inscriptions is related to the so-called "cuneiform Hittite" (or "Nesian"), so named because it is preserved in the cuneiform writing borrowed from Mesopotamia. Both of these languages and writings were used at the same time in the Hittite Empire, but while the use of cuneiform Hittite was limited to a small area around Boghazköy, the capital of the empire, and died out at the time of the empire's collapse around 1200 b.c.e., "hieroglyphic Hittite" (i.e., Luwian) was used throughout the empire, and remained in use up to about 700 b.c.e. The deciphering of Hittite hieroglyphic writing was achieved only in the 1930s through the combined efforts of P. Meriggi, I.J. Gelb, E.O. Forrer, H.T. Bossert, and B. Hrozný. In the years after the Second World War, a great advancement in the deciphering of Hittite writing and language resulted from the discovery of bilingual Hittite and Phoenician inscriptions at Karatepe in Cilicia.

Two formal types of writing existed. The first was a monumental type with signs faithfully imitating the forms of pictures. The second, a cursive type, developed from the monumental type, with forms of signs so divergent from the original pictures that it is often difficult – if not impossible – to recognize their original pictographic form.

Hittite writing, like such other ancient Oriental systems as the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Chinese, represents word-syllabic type of writing. It consists of three classes of signs: logograms or word signs; syllabic signs, developed from the logograms by the rebus principle; and auxiliary marks and signs, such as punctuation marks and signs for determinatives, classifiers, or semantic indicators. In the use of logograms and auxiliary marks and signs, the Hittite system is identical or very similar to other word-syllabic systems. The normal Hittite syllabary consists of about 60 signs of the type ta, ti, te, tu, each representing a syllable beginning with a consonant and ending in a vowel. The writing does not indicate any distinction between voiced, voiceless, and aspirated consonants.

Nowhere but in the Aegean area in writings such as Linear b and Cypriote is there a syllabary identical to that of the Hittites. Accordingly, Hittite hieroglyphic writing can be assigned, together with Cretan writing and its derivatives, to the Aegean group of writings.

[Ignace J. Gelb]


Pritchard, Texts, 120–8, 207–11, 318–9, 346–61, 393–401, 497–518; H.G. Güterbock, in: V. Ferm (ed.), Forgotten Religions (1950); idem, in: em, 3 (1958), 320–55; idem, Mythologies of the Ancient World, ed. by S.N. Kramer (1961), 141–79; O.R. Gurney, The Hittites (1961); E. Akurgal, Art of the Hittites (1962); cah2, vols. 1–2. add. bibliography: J. van Seters, in: vt, 21 (1972), 64–81; idem, In Search of History (1983), 100–126; J.D. Hawkins, in: World Archaeology, 17 (1986), 363–76 (with bibliography); idem, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions…Iron Age (2000); idem, G. McMahon, in: ba 52 (1989), 62–77; idem, abd, 3:228–31; I. Singer, apud S. Izre'el and I. Singer, The General's Letter from Ugarit (1990), 115–83; G.O. Gurney, The Hittites (1991); P. Houwink ten Cate, abd, 3:219–25; R. Drews, The End of the Bronze Age (1993); H. Hoffner, apud M. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (1995), 213–54; idem, Hittite Myths (1998); idem, Encyclopedia of Religion, 6:4068–73; S. Ahituv, Joshua (1995), 73; H.C. Melchert, in: P. Daniels (ed.) The World's Writing Systems (1996), 12–24; G. Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts (1999); J. Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik (2000).


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An Indo-European group, probably Aryans, who crossed over the Caucasus Mountains into Armenia and Cappadocia. Historians point out two eras, the Old or Proto-Hittite Kingdom (17001530 b.c.) and the New Kingdom (c. 14201200 b.c.). Internationally the Hittites reached their peak in the 13th century, only to see their empire collapse shortly afterwards. In the realm of religion and literature, the Hittites betray no striking originality but proved to be quite adept in assimilating the cultures of their neighbors.

Old Kingdom. Scholars do not agree on the precise area from which the Hittites migrated or the approximate time of their departure. Evidence found in the cuneiform documents of the Assyrian merchant colony at Kültepe reveals numerous Indo-European names. Hence it is clear that the Hittites were established in the area by 1900 b.c., when the Assyrian colony was flourishing. On arrival in Asia Minor they took for themselves the name of an indigenous group, the Hatti, or Hitti.

At first, the new invaders were organized in a loose system of city-states, such as Kusara, Zalpa, and Hattusa. By the 17th century b.c., however, determined efforts at unification resulted in the establishment of a Hittite kingdom. Though credited to Labarna (early 16th century?), this work of unification had its beginnings much earlier. The first efforts at spreading the Hittite power were pursued by Hattusili, the successor of Labarna, who pushed south into Syria and actually laid siege to Yamkhad (Alep). Not until the advent of Mursili (c. 1535 b.c.) did Aleppo actually fall under Hittite control. This ambitious monarch even swept eastward to sack Babylon in 1530 and put an end to its first dynasty. The destruction of Babylon, however, proved to be simply a passing raid by the Hittites, and Babylonia never became a part of the Hittite Empire.

After the death of Mursili an era of turmoil began, during which succession to the throne usually entailed violence. Simultaneously the Hurrians to the east began to exert pressure on Hittite borders. As a result of these factors, Hittite power retreated into Asia Minor and was unimportant for 100 years.

New Kingdom. Shortly before 1400 b.c. new vitality began to show itself. Expansionist pressure was directed against northern Syria, but the alliance of Egypt and Mitanni held the Hittites in check. However, when in 1375 the able politician and general Suppiluliuma came to the Hittite throne, a period of decline began for Egypt. Suppiluliuma moved south and took most of Syria and northern Phoenicia from Egypt. When the weak and vacillating Egyptians failed to help Mitanni, it too fell to the Hittites as a vassal state. On the international scene, the fall of Mitanni was the prelude to the resurgence of Assyria under Ashur-uballit. I (13541318; see mesopotamia, ancient, 2).

So weak had Egypt become that the young widow of Tutankhamun petitioned Suppiluliuma for one of his sons as her consort in an effort to provide some stability after the chaos of the Amarna Age (see egypt). However, the young Hittite prince was murdered by the Egyptians. War was averted for a time by a plague that was ravaging Hittite lands, but open conflict came when the 19th Egyptian dynasty tried to restore Egyptian control over Syria. In 1286 Ramses II (12901224) led his forces against those of Muwattili (13061282) at Kadesh on the Orontes. Although Egyptian hieroglyphs tell of the brilliant victory of the pharaoh, Hittite reports of a savage slaughter of the Egyptian troops are closer to the truth. Confirmation of the Hittite account is the fact that Egyptian forces never ventured into Syria again, though the fighting south of Syria dragged on for another 15 years. It was only the rise of a new menace to the East, Assyria, that led the Egyptians and the Hittites to make peace. In 1270, then, Ramses II and the new Hittite monarch Hattusili III made a treaty that was sealed by the marriage of a daughter of Hattusili to Ramses.

From its position as a great world power, the Hittite Empire came to a swift collapse before the 13th-century tide of vigorous Aegean peoples migrating into western

Asia Minor. But responsibility for this collapse rests principally with the "Sea Peoples," who were next to challenge Egypt and eventually settle the coastal plain of Palestine. Some city-states did manage to survive, among them Carchemish, Zinjirli, and Karatepe, but even these bowed completely out of history in the 8th century, when Sargon II, king of Assyria seized Carchemish.

Culture. Culturally the Hittites lagged far behind the great civilizations of the 2d millennium b.c. Study, even of their era of international prominence, shows little cultural initiative. They strove, rather, to imitate and assimilate the contributions of their neighbors. Moreover, one can point to no single Hittite religion. There was a host of national and local cults. Sumero-Akkadian deities came to the Hittites through the mediation of the Hurrians. From Nineveh came the cult of Ishtar. Egypt too was to contribute to the conglomeration of Hittite practices. And a pervading syncretism led to a refashioning of these cults in their new homeland.

Hittite legal codes belong to the same class of secular laws as those contained in the Code of Hammurabi. Their formula for overlord-vassal treaties has provided a better understanding of the important OT concept of covenant [see G. E. Mendenhall, "Ancient Oriental and Biblical Law" and "Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition" The

Biblical Archaeologist 17 (1954) 2646; 5076]. The social order founded on Hittite law was actually more humane than the earlier codes from which it borrowed. The law of retaliation (lex talionis ), "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life," was not in vogue. Nor were the various classes inseparably divided; even the rights of a slave were recognized.

It is the opinion of some scholars that the Hittites probably learned the secret of making iron as early as 1600 b.c., but it is doubtful when they first employed it for military purposes. Its first uses seem to have been for ornaments, not weapons. Perhaps the first effective military use of iron was by the Sea Peoples, who effected the breakup of the Hittite Empire near the close of the 13th century. Allusion to the iron monopoly of these Sea Peoples, known to Bible readers as the philistines, is to be found in 1 Sm 13.1922.

From ancient times Hittite lands were well known for their horses. Biblical reference to this fact is seen in 2 Kgs 10.2829, where we learn that the enterprising solomon imported horses from Asia Minor and chariots from Egypt and sold both "to all the kings of the Hittites and Aram." Hittites are mentioned in the OT under the name of Hethites.

Bibliography: o. r. gurney, The Hittites (Baltimore, Md.1952). k. w. marek, The Secret of the Hittites: The Discovery of an Ancient Empire, tr. R. and o. winston (New York 1956). g. contenau, La Civilisation des Hittites et des Hurrites du Mitanni (new ed. rev. Paris 1948). a. goetze, Hethiter, Churriter und Assyrer (Cambridge, Mass. 1936). c. l. woolley, A Forgotten Kingdom (Baltimore, Md. 1953). e. neufeld, tr., The Hittite Laws (London 1951).

[j. e. huesman]


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Hittites People of Asia Minor who controlled a powerful empire in the 15th–13th centuries bc. They founded a kingdom in Anatolia (Turkey) in the 18th century bc; their capital was Hattusas (Boğazköy). They expanded e and s in the 15th century bc and conquered n Syria before being checked by the Egyptians under Ramses II. Under attack from Assyria, the Hittite Empire disintegrated in c.1200 bc.