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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Pala (South Indo-Europeans) (Bronze Age)

MapThe Pala seem to have been a relatively small group in the Near East, and one about which virtually nothing is known. They settled the southern Black Sea coast of central Anatolia at an equally unknown point between about 2400-1800 BC. They had arrived in Anatolia as part of the South Indo-European group of at least three main divisions (see map link), which eventually emerged into history as the Palaic-speaking Pala, the Hittites, and the Luwians (with Palaic also being known as Palaumnili, this perhaps also being used to name the country of the Pala).

Their pre-Anatolian-speaking ancestors had divided from the main collective of Indo-Europeans by 3500 BC, and perhaps up to a millennium earlier. They most likely headed down through the Caucasus by following one of the coastal routes, either along the eastern coast of the Black Sea or the western coast of the Caspian Sea.

FeatureFrom there, following what may have been a period of cultural gestation in the southern Caucasus region, the Pala group are presumed to have headed west to find the Black Sea coast and reach territory which lies to the north of today's Ankara. An alternative is that they remained close to the Hittites and migrated west with them, heading north when they got closer to the indigenous Hatti. Once settled, there they stayed (see feature link for more on the Anatolian branch of Indo-Europeans).

Unfortunately, unlike the Hittites in their conquest of the various indigenous city states, the Pala never really emerged into recorded history. The northern Anatolian region was usually outside of Hittite control, largely thanks to the very quick emergence of the aggressive non-Indo-European Kaskans. Since it is generally Hittite and Luwian records which supply the somewhat limited knowledge of Anatolian history in the second millennium BC, there was no one else capable of creating any records. It even has to be wondered rather than stated what effect the Pala had on the established native cities which they passed.

One of the most powerful, Zalpa, apparently suffered at the hands of the Hittites by the mid-eighteenth century BC, but were the people of Zalpa weakened before that by the Pala? Sadly recorded history has nothing to say in any surviving sources.

The Pala land is hard to pinpoint, but the Classical name of Blaene (used by Strabo) can be equated with it. Pala territory seems to have remained undeveloped, largely natural with no fortifications or defences - something which was certainly true during the New Hittite empire period, by which time the Pala themselves seem to have disappeared. It seems likely that they did not become town dwellers like their Hittite cousins, and failed to prepare for the arrival of the Kaskans who could be found on their eastern flank by about the sixteenth century BC. The Pala disappeared fairly early, perhaps destroyed by the aggressive Kaskans and then most likely absorbed by new arrivals - the Phrygians - in the late thirteenth century BC. Their dialect - Palaic - died out with them.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, 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: Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Anatolian Conference abstracts, Emory University, and Linguistics Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), and The historical geography of north-central Anatolia in the Hittite period: texts and archaeology in concert, Roger Matthews & Claudia Glatz (Anatolian Studies Vol 59, 2009, pp 51-72, available via JSTOR).)

c.2300 BC

Some time after this point, Luwian-speakers settle in Anatolia, just to the south of the (probably indigenous) Hatti. Like the Pala themselves, the Luwians are Indo-Europeans of the South Indo-European group - generally agreed to have been the first to migrate out of the original Indo-European homeland to the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

Map of proto-Anatolian migration 3000-2000 BC
This map attempts to illustrate in basic terms the separate paths taken by the Luwians, Hittites, and Pala during their westwards migration and their progress from proto-Anatolians to kingdom-builders (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The route they have taken in their migration is open to interpretation (and guesswork!), but a route through the Caucasus seems most likely, followed by a more easterly route around the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. The Luwians eventually form two major regional states, Arzawa and Kizzuwatna.

mid-1800s BC

At the very start of his reign, Anitta of the Hittites defeats Piyusti, king of Hatti. A second battle at the city of Salampa sees Piyusti defeated again. He retreats and fortifies his capital at Hattousha (Hattusa), but Anitta storms and conquers it after famine has weakened the defenders. Anitta also attacks the city of Zalpa close to Pala territory. Any potential preceding attacks on Zalpa by the Pala remain unrecorded.

c.1560 BC

Having seized the Hittite throne through murder, Hantili I reigns for around thirty years. Hittite power may have been damaged by this act though, or is in decline despite it.

Southern coast of the Black Sea
The southern coast of the Black Sea is a dramatic and mountainous territory, and it is here in lands which became better known as Paphlagonia that the hard-fighting Kaskans emerged

Thirteenth century BC Hittite records which can be attributed to Muwatalli II show that the state early on loses territory in the north to the newly-arrived 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.

The main reason for the eventual decline of the South Indo-Europeans can be found through Hittite, Pala, and Luwian religions, always a strong indicator of cultural values. It seems they have largely adopted the deities of their indigenous neighbours (with the exception of the storm god, Tarhunt, and the glowing god of light, Tiwaz). The result is that they lose their aggressive steppe culture, and instead become completely sedentary.

The Pala are the first of them to fall, seemingly to aggressive newcomers in the shape of the Kaskans. Their land appears initially to become a possession of the Hittites, but not a secure one. They can barely even secure the nearby holy city of Nerik which remains a Kaskan possession throughout the fifteenth century.

With the Pala having been destroyed as a cohesive group, their remnants are probably absorbed by the Phrygians during their arrival from the late thirteenth century BC.

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)

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