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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


New Hittite Empire (Bronze Age) (Anatolia)
c.1450 - 1200 BC

The previous century had been one of domination in the Near East by the Hurrian empire of Mitanni. The Hittites in their 'Middle Empire' phase had been unable to expand east or south and were largely confined to local Anatolian political efforts.

Now a resurgent Hittite empire began to change the balance of power, with the Assyrians further east doing the same. At the same time, non-Indo-European barbarians such as the Kaskans began to strengthen in northern Anatolia, and a region or state known as Ahhiyawa was first mentioned on the Anatolian coast of the Aegean.

Geographically, the borders of the reinvigorated Hittite empire shifted constantly. The capital city was in central Anatolia in the basin of the River Kizil Irmak, and military expansion efforts focussed mainly on the south in Syria. It is unclear precisely where the northern and western borders lay, but the Kaskans in the north were at times clients of the Hittites, although barely manageable ones.

As the state's organisation was not by direct territorial control but by domination over vassals, the borders were determined by the level of control which could be exercised over those vassals. The southern region of Tarhuntassa in particular began to exercise more independence as central power declined towards the end of the empire, and on the south-western Mediterranean shore, the Lukka were never entirely tamed.

Three different dating theories are available for the new 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 Drought may have doomed ancient Hittite empire (The Guardian).)

c.1450 - 1420 BC

Tudhaliya II (I)

Son of Huzziya II? Shown as Tudhaliya I in some lists.

fl 1430s BC

Mattiwaza / Madduwattas

King of Alashiya. Hittite-backed contestant for Arzawa.

c.1430 BC

Tudhaliya begins a restoration of Hittite power, conducting his third campaign against the Kaskans in the north. Arzawa concludes a treaty with Tudhaliya, but when Ahhiyawa conquers Madduwattas' kingdom of Alashiya, Tudhaliya installs the latter in the mountain country of Zippasla and supports his attempts to capture the Arzawan throne.

Map of Ancient Anatolia c.1450 BC
The state of Arzawa existed from at least 1650 BC. By around 1450 BC it controlled the solid green section of the map, which included the state of Tarhuntassa, but probably not the 'Lower Land' (click or tap on map to view full sized)

This installation would seem to be more of a re-installation, as Madduwattas has already fought several battles against the Arzawan king.

The eastern land of Ishuwa is defeated by the Hittite king, and then sides with Mitanni. Tudhaliya is unable to capture Ishuwa, revealing the limits of Hittite power in this period, so instead he successfully attacks Kizzuwatna, a Mitanni possession.

However, he does order Madduwattas to put down a revolt in Happalla. Madduwattas does so, but then forces Happalla to switch its loyalty to him. Then he bullies Pitassa into his kingdom, which brings Arzawa's borders even closer to the Hittite heartland.

c.1420 - 1400 BC

Arnuwanda I


c.1400 BC

Kizzuwatna falls to the Hittites when Arnuwanda's army overruns it. On the western border, Arnuwanda continues the support of Madduwattas, aiding him in eventually winning the throne of Arzawa. Madduwattas then expands his state right up to the Hittite borders.

Yilanlikale Castle
Yilanlikale, more colourfully known as Snake Castle, is east of Misis, on the steep southern bank of the Ceyha, and is home to this Armenian stronghold and Crusader castle, but the terrain offered similar defensive qualities to the Kizzuwatnans

Arnuwanda is distracted by serious problems which he has with the Kaskans, with many northern territories falling into their hands, including the cult centre of Nerik.

c.1400 - 1380 BC

Tudhaliya III (II)

Son. Not in all lists and his rule is uncertain.

c.1392 BC

The Hittites wrest domination of the Assyrians from Mitanni, possibly annexing their territory to Kizzuwatna. The change is to the benefit of the Assyrians as they are able to end a period of vassal kings and gain more freedom under their new overlords.

c.1400 - 1380 BC

Hattusili II

Precise position in the list is uncertain.

c.1380 - 1370 BC

Tudhaliya IV (III)

Son of Tudhaliya III. Weakened by illness and dethroned.

c.1375 BC

The Kaskans suffer the loss of their grain to locusts so, in search of food, they join up with the eastern states of Hayasa-Azzi and Ishuwa, plus the Lukka and other Hittite enemies.

Mount Nemrut
Representative of some of the terrain in Hayasa-Azzi is Mount Nemrut, north of Lake Van, which in the first century BC became a tomb sanctuary for the kings of Commagene

The devastation to the grain crops may also have been suffered by others, making it not only easy to get them all to unite but highly necessary, and the Hittites may be taken by surprise by the sheer forcefulness of the attack.

Recent Hittite resurgence suffers a knock when their fort of Masat is burned down, but then the capital, Hattusa, is itself attacked and burned (although the event is shrouded in mystery). Possibly the secondary capital at Sapinuwa is also attacked and burned.

The Kaskans make Nenassa their frontier, while Hayasa-Azzi seizes the Hittite city of Samuha. Despite being an able and active ruler before illness keeps him off the battlefield, events are clearly against Tudhaliya.

The Hittite state loses its international standing, and also loses most of its possessions both near and far, to the extent that the Egyptians wonder if the state has fallen entirely. However, while this disaster personally weakens the position of the Hittite king, it seemingly does little to set back the Hittites themselves.

Tushratta tablet to Amenhotep III
The cuneiform tablet inscribed with a letter from Tushratta, king of Mitanni, to Pharaoh Amenhotep III, covers various subjects such as the killing of the murderers of the Mitanni king's brother and a fight against the Hittites

c.1370 - 1336 BC

Suppiluliuma I

Took the throne in coup. Son of Tudhaliya III. Died of plague.

Upon seizing the throne, Suppiluliuma pushes back an invasion by the Kaskan barbarians and invades Hayasa-Azzi. Then he inflicts a shock defeat on the Hurrian empire of Mitanni (working with his son, Piyashshili), initiating that powerful state's decline and effectively creating the Hittite 'New Empire'.

Piyashshili is given the territory of Ashtata to rule from Carchemish. However, Suppiluliuma is not entirely successful at first in pushing back Arzawa, which is very powerful at this stage.

During his reign, the Hittites also solidify their control over the south and east of Anatolia (including in Tarhuntassa and Ishuwa), play politics in Arzawa, gain Mitanni territory in northern Syria, and suppress a rebellion in Kizzuwatna.

The city state of Alalakh is drawn directly under Hittite rule, removing the local rulers, while Amurru, Emar, Qadesh (scene of the great thirteenth century BC chariot battle against Egypt), and Ugarit become vassals, Carchemish and Alep are ruled by sons of Suppiluliuma, and Hittite control extends as far south as Damas, while Wilusa remains an ally.

c.1339 BC

The Syrian Mitanni territory falls completely under Hittite overlordship, to all intents and proposes ending Hurrian culture. At the same time the Assyrians regain their independence. The subject state of Amurru switches allegiance to the Hittites.

The 'Aleppo Treaty' of the fourteenth century BC
The treaty agreed between Mursili II and Talmi-sharruma of Aleppo to regulate future relations between the two states - most of the document survived three millennia of abandonment before being rediscovered by archaeologists

c.1336 - 1333 BC

Arnuwanda II

Son of Suppiluliuma. Incapacitated by plague.

c.1333 - 1308 BC

Mursili II

Brother. May initially have shared power with Arnuwanda.

c.1326 - 1321 BC

Devoting attention to the areas of Anatolia which had been ignored by his father, Mursili defeats Arzawa around 1325 BC, with the result that it disappears as a cohesive state (this event has also been dated to around 1306-1305 BC).

The Hittites with their greatly expanded Anatolian territory now border Ahhiyawa in the west. Mursili also attacks the Kaskans to the north, but in the seventh year of his reign, Hayasa-Azzi raids the land of Dankuwa on the Hittite border, capturing the area's population and beginning four years of warfare.

The Hittite general, Nuwanza (Nuvanza), resoundingly defeats them in the Upper Land before a campaign finally subdues the Hayasians.

c.1308 - 1282 BC

Muwatalli II

Son of Mursili II.

c.1300 BC

The now-independent Assyrians begin to take control of Mitanni, while Muwatalli moves his capital to the previously obscure city of Tarhuntassa in southern Anatolia (possibly due to the Kaskan sacking of Hattusa).

He leaves his brother, the future Hattusili III in charge of the northern areas, from where he re-conquers Hattusa and the long-ruined cult centre of Nerik, allowing the capital to be returned to the north. Muwatalli is also in contact with his ally, Alexandros of Wilusa, regarding the remaining Arzawan client states.

Hittite tablet mentioning Arzawa
This Hittite tablet mentions the kingdom of Arzawa, although generally the Anatolian kingdom is little-known and barely mentioned in the historical record

1286 BC

The Battle of Kadesh (the earliest surviving report of a major engagement) sees the forces of Egypt, under Ramses II, and the Hittites together with their various allies, including troops from Arzawa, plus the Lukka and Karkisa, clash for control of former Mitanni Syria.

The battle ends with no clear outcome although the Hittites come out on top, gaining uncontested control of Syria, and also raiding further south into Canaan.

Kadesh is given over to the Hittite subject state of Ashtata. The victory, though, seems to spark the beginnings of a civil war in the Hittite nobility which lasts for about three generations.

c.1280 BC

Muwatalli concludes a treaty with his ally, Alexandros/Aleksandu of Wilusa, regarding the remaining Arzawan client states. The Arzawan state of Masa (on the south-eastern border of Wilusa's territory) attacks Alexandros and is destroyed (again) by Muwatalli.

c.1282 - 1275 BC

Mursili III (Urhi-Teshub)

Son by a concubine. Deposed by his uncle.

c.1282 - 1275 BC

In the north Mursili's uncle, Hattusili, uses his powerbase to undermine Mursili, eventually deposing him, seemingly with the help of the deposed Benteshina of Amurru. This is unheard of, and it shatters the bond of trust between kings and nobility - the kingship is no longer sacred and untouchable.

Mursili makes his powerbase in Arzawa, where he is supported by the populace. Hattusili makes Mursili's son, Karunta, 'king of Tarhuntassa' in the south, while officially exiling Mursili himself to an outlying part of the state.

Cubic stone at Hattusa
The green cubic stone at Hattusa was probably a gift to the Hittite rulers of the city from the Egyptian pharaoh with whom they signed a peace treaty in 1258 BC

c.1275 - 1250 BC

Hattusili III

Brother of Muwatalli II.

Hattusili's queen, Pudu-Hepa, formerly a priestess from Kizzuwatna, aids the integration of the Kizzuwatnan pantheon into the Hittite one, with the goddess Hebat becoming very important. To the west, Ahhiyawa first becomes a major regional power at this time, and the Hittite ally in Wilusa is overthrown.

1258 BC

Egypt and the Hittites (under Hattusili) agree the earliest known peace treaty, allowing them to peacefully share Syria (including what is now Lebanon). The treaty remains in force for forty years.

From Hattusili's point of view, the agreement may be important in legitimising his rule, as well as guaranteeing a level of security against the threat of Assyrian aggression, now that they have conquered much of eastern Mitanni.

c.1250 - 1241 BC

Tudhaliya V (IV)

Son of Hattusili III. Deposed?

c.1241 - 1240 BC


Son of Muwatalli / cousin of Tudhaliya V. Only briefly great king?

Karuta, king of Tarhuntassa, may temporarily depose his cousin, as he appears as 'Great King' on seals found at Hattusa. Tudhaliya regains the throne, but Assyria attacks the state from the east, and vassals in the west and south-west of Anatolia rebel.

Trouble in the regions adjoining the Aegean may be inspired by an elusive 'king of Ahhiyawa', situated between the coast and the former state of Arzawa. He is a major player, but hard to pinpoint in any detail, and Tudhaliya is unable to suppress him despite taking Milawata (classical Miletus).

The temple of Apollo at Didyma (modern Didim)
The temple of Apollo at Didyma (modern Didim) sits on what was the Milesian peninsula until silting filled the bay between that and Mount Mycale, around sixteen kilometres to the south of Miletus itself

c.1241 - 1220 BC

Tudhaliya V (IV)

Restored? Confirmed Karunta's rule in Tarhuntassa.

c.1230 BC

Amurru concludes a treaty with the Hittite king, preventing seaborne trade between Assyria and Ahhiyawa as the struggle between the two states for domination of western Anatolia heats up.

c.1220 - 1215 BC

Arnuwanda III

Son of Tudhaliya V.

c.1215 - 1200 BC

Suppiluliuma II

Brother. Fate unknown. Last Hittite king.

Tarhuntassa attacks the Hittite state, but no further details are known. Suppiluliuma II is occupied with engaging Alashiya in sea battles as he attempts to invade the Cypriot kingdom.

c.1200 BC

The international system has recently been creaking under the strain of increasing waves of peasants and the poor leaving the cities and abandoning crops. Around the end of this century the entire region is also hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops.

Habu relief at Medinet
Attacks by the Sea Peoples gathered momentum during the last decade of the thirteenth century BC, quickly reaching a peak which lasted about forty years

In what is termed the Bronze Age collapse, food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave.

Already decaying from late in the thirteenth century BC, as Assyria has risen and instability has gripped the Mediterranean coast, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace).

Researchers in 2023 are able to release the results of an examination of long-lived juniper trees which grow in the region at this time. These trees survive in an examinable form as they are later harvested to build a wooden structure in the south-west of Ankara, around 748 BC.

The trees offered a regional palaeoclimatic record in two ways: patterns of annual tree-ring growth, with narrow rings indicating dry conditions, and the ratio of two forms, or isotopes, of carbon in the rings, which reveal the tree's response to water availability.

The city of Hattusa in Anatolia
A general view of the ancient city of Hattusa, seemingly destroyed by its own starving people during the Bronze Age collapse, before they moved on to find more habitable locations in which to live

The results detect a gradual shift towards drier conditions at the end of the thirteenth century BC. More importantly, both lines of evidence indicate three straight years of severe drought, in 1198 BC, 1197 BC, and 1196 BC, which would seem to coincide very closely with the known timing of the empire's dissolution.

The likelihood that the numbers of Sea Peoples are tremendously boosted by Hattusa's own population must be greatly increased by this finding.

Some important Hittite cities and states, such as Tarhuntassa and Ugarit, disappear - and Milawata (classical Miletus) is destroyed - but others, such as Carchemish, survive. Hittite elements, now homeless, appear to join the Sea Peoples in subsequent raids on Egypt.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece 1200 BC
Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth century BC created great instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, resulting in mass migration in the Balkans, as well as the fall of city states and kingdoms further east (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Small Hittite (or 'neo-Hittite') states form out of some territories: in western Anatolia, Maeonia emerges as an independent kingdom; in the south-west, Lycia; in south-central and eastern Anatolia, Kummuhu, and Tabal; while north-east of Maeonia, an Indo-European people who are allied to the Kaskans form the kingdom of Phrygia; the Sea Peoples ravage eastern Anatolia and Syria (and some scholars associate them with Tabal).

The Philistines, more displaced settlers, arrive on the coast of Canaan. Further neo-Hittite states continue to survive in northern Syria, and some are mentioned in the Old Testament. This is also the generally-accepted period in which the Israelites begin creating a kingdom.

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