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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia

 

Middle Hittite Empire (Bronze Age) (Anatolia)
c.1500 - 1450 BC

Once they had conquered and settled central Anatolia, and following a short spell of obscurity, the Hittites had quickly centralised their power in the form of their 'Old Empire'. A new capital had been formed at Hattousha (Hattusa, former city of the Hatti and now known as Boğazkale in Turkey), which would remain the centre of the empire until its fall.

They had also been culturally influenced by the Hurrians on their eastern border during this period, with several rulers bearing Hurrian names and Hurrian Vedic gods being worshipped (for instance at Yazilikaya).

However, problems set in when Hantili I seized the throne through murder around 1590 BC. Hittite power may have been damaged by this act, or was in decline despite it. Thirteenth century Hittite records which can be attributed to Muwatalli II show that the state lost territory in the north to the ever-problematic Kaskans:

'The town of Tiliura was empty from the days of Hantili [presumed to be Hantili I] and my father Muršili [II] resettled it. And from there they [the Kaskans] began to commit hostilities and Hantili built an outpost against them... The [important religious] city of Nerik... was in ruins from the days of Hantili', ruined by the Kaskans. Hantili's efforts against the Kaskans may not have been successful as he was murdered towards the end of his long reign.

Various parties then contested the throne and this internal instability prevented the Hittites from gaining any benefit from their conquests in the Near East's Syria and Mesopotamia. The Hittite state did not re-emerge as a major power until the fourteenth century BC. Instead it was restrained by the successful Hurrian empire of Mitanni, unable to gain direct access to Syria.

Relations were initially good with the neighbouring kingdom of Kizzuwatna on its south-eastern border but, at some point after about 1470 BC, the Kizzuwatnans were conquered by Mitanni, and the Hittites were even more cut off and unable to respond, prevented from expanding to the east or south (it should be noted that the Hittites were never entirely able to expand to the west, instead maintaining or encouraging client or allied kingdoms there such as Arzawa or Troy). While at this low point, Hittite record-keeping for this period was very sparse.

During the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the criteria for dating Hittite texts gradually evolved. In the first stage, what could be termed 'orthographic' peculiarities were identified which enabled a rough division of texts into 'Old', 'Middle', and 'Late' texts. The middle group was a new discovery, one which caused a major reshuffle of texts and a consequent rewriting of Hittite history.

The two most prominent studies involved pioneering work by Carruba in 1969 and further work by Houwink ten Cate in 1970. Both made use of a larger corpus of texts. The latter work also separated distinctive features into linguistic and philological characteristics, and added some observations on the use of topoi which were divided into groups which exhibited similarities in content matter, and similarities in structure and lexical correspondencies, all of which were typical of certain periods.

These criteria were largely accepted, with a notable dissension by A Kammenhuber and strong scepticism by J D Muhly. A general survey of current subdivisions of periods was summarised by J J S Weitenberg, while Silvin Košak provided an overall study of the process in 2013.

As a consequence, three different dating theories are available for the middle Hittites. The one used here matches most closely with the 'middle list', the others adding ten or twenty years onto these dates or taking twenty years away from them.

One or two gaps here are plugged from other sources. The uncertainties surrounding Hittite dating are still very great, so no one list can be said to be definitive. Despite their establishment of one of the great late second millennium BC empires, the surviving written record for the Hittites could do with a great deal of expansion.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Arzawa Letters in Recent Perspective, J David Hawkins (British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 14 (73-83, 2009)), from Ancient Israel and Its Neighbours: Interaction and Counteraction. Collected Essays Vol 1, Nadav Na'aman, from The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I E S Edwards, from Hittite Diplomatic Texts, Gary Beckman (Second Ed, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1999), from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from Annals of Mursili (Years 1 to 8), Ian Russell Lowell, from The Hittites, J G Macqueen (1996), from Hittite Prayers, Itamar Singer (Scholars Press, Atlanta, 2002), and from External Links: A Brief History of Hattusha/Boğazköy (Archive.today), and Anatolian Conference abstracts (Emory University), and Dating of Hittite Texts: a Test, Silvin Košak (Cambridge University Press, 2013).)

c.1500 - 1490 BC

Alluwamna

Son-in-law of Telipinu of the 'Old Empire'.

c.1500 BC

While the dates for Alluwamna may be hard to pin down with any precision, the case is the same for the name of his predecessor. It may be the uncertain Tahurwaili, but is more probably Telipinu who is attested in a treaty which had been signed with Kizzuwatna, although a period of exile for Alluwamna provides for some level of doubt.

His wife is Harapšeki, the first-rank daughter of Telipinu, which at least ensures that the two rulers should be relatively close together on any list of Hittite kings.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 1550 BC
A short dark age followed the Hittite collapse and the creation of power vacuums in Babylonia and Syria (caused by the Hittites) during the sixteenth century BC (click or tap on map to view full sized)

During Alluwamna's reign, around 1490 BC, he renews a peace treaty with Paddatišu of Kizzuwatna in the aforementioned treaty, only a few years before that kingdom is conquered by the increasingly powerful Mitanni state.

c.1490 - 1480 BC

Hantili II

Son. Fought Tahurwaili?

c.1490 BC

Hantili renews the treaty of friendship with his south-eastern neighbour, Kizzuwatna, and its king, Paddatišu. However, Hantili is not specifically named in the treaty, so it could be his father who concludes it.

Then there is the interloper, Tahurwaili, who is mentioned at the end of the 'Old Empire' period. Some scholars place him between Alluwamna and Hantili (or even after Hantili), suggesting a brief usurpation of the throne. Placing him this late does seem less realistic though.

c.1480 - 1470 BC

Zidanta II

Nephew?

c.1480 - 1475 BC

Although relations with Kizzuwatna are initially rocky, with both kingdoms grabbing territory from each other, Zidanta eventually agrees a new parity treaty with King Pilliya (II). It is the last such treaty to be agreed between the two states.

Hittite Lion Gates
The Lion Gates of the Hittite capital were of a style popular throughout the ancient Near East, with an example being found in Mycenae and a later version existing in Jerusalem

c.1470 - 1460 BC

Huzziya II

Relationship uncertain. Killed by Muwatalli.

c.1470 BC

Subject to frequent raids from Alakhtum, the faction-torn Hittites are unable to respond. Huzziya is murdered by Muwatalli, his own 'Chief of the Royal Bodyguard', perhaps the first break with the ancient royal bloodline.

Around the same time, neighbouring Kizzuwatna is conquered by Mitanni. With Ishuwa also independent of Hittite control (and now a vassal of Mitanni), the Hittites are contained in central Anatolia except for the south-eastern Taurus passes into Syria.

c.1460 - 1450 BC

Muwatalli I

Reign uncertain. Most lists place Tudhaliya at 1460 BC.

c.1450 BC

In what is possibly far more brief a reign than is suspected here, Muwattalli, a former 'Chief of the Royal Bodyguard', is killed in a palace coup by Himuili, the 'Chief of the Palace Servants', and Kantuzili, the 'Overseer of the Gold Chariot Fighters'.

Mitanni warriors
Mitanni warriors are shown here dressed in a typical northern Mesopotamian costume which they most likely picked up following their arrival in the region in the 1600s BC

A succession struggle follows which is scarcely documented at all. Muwa, 'Chief of the Royal Bodyguard' and probably the brother of the dead king, flees to Mitanni and solicits their help.

On the other side of the struggle, Kantuzzili joins forces with a man named Tudhaliya. The two factions meet in battle, and Tudhaliya and Kantuzzili emerge victorious. Of the conspirators, it is Tudhaliya who becomes the next great king of the Hittites, ushering in the 'New Empire' period.

 
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