History Files

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Zalpa / Zalpuwa (Bronze Age)

The Hatti were quite possibly an aboriginal people in the central Anatolian area of the ancient Near East. They were therefore related to the Neolithic farmers who had branched out into 'Old Europe' to found the Sesklo culture of the seventh millennium BC. The Hatti (Hattians or Hattis) occupied the region inside the arc of the River Kizil Irmak in modern Turkey. One of their neighbours - possibly located almost directly to the north of them on or near the southern Black Sea coast - were the people of the state of Zalpa.

Like the Hatti, it is likely that they spoke a non- Indo-European language called Hattic which was probably related to the Circassian language group. Their neighbours to the south-east probably spoke a very similar tongue, those neighbours being the Khaldi (Chalybes or Chaldoi, whose own easternmost groups were later part of Urartu and some of whom may also have formed the Halizones).

Most of what is known of Zalpa comes from the Hittite 'Proclamation of Anitta' (CTH 1). Outside of that even the location of this city state is uncertain. There are hints that it was the dominant power in central Anatolia in late nineteenth century BC. Almost certainly situated far to the north of the Hattian city of Hattusa, texts from the beginning of the Hittite settlement in the region indicate that Hattusa and Zalpa were locked in a power struggle, with the former eventually emerging triumphant. Zalpuwa was the local name for the Black Sea (as mentioned in a story about the queen of Kanesh), indicating a possible location for their territory, although their city has not yet been located.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History, William J Hamblin (Routledge, 2006), from The Horse The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The Hittites, J G Macqueen (1996), and from External Links: A Brief History of Hattusha/Boğazköy (from Archive.today), and Proclamation of Anittas (Hittite Online, Linguistics Research Center, University of Texas at Austin), 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.2500 BC

The Hatti establish a city state centred on Hattousha (Hattusa), one of many such small states in the region which are supported by farming and which produce a distinctive, highly-burnished pottery. Nearby Kanesh is probably also a Hatti state, and even Zalpa has the possibility of being founded by them.

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 Hattian Early Period begins here with levels IV and then III of Hattusa, although the lack of textual evidence suggests the inhabitants are illiterate. Already, around them are settling newly-arriving waves of 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.

FeatureThese are the Luwians, and they will eventually form two major regional states along the southern Anatolian coast, Arzawa and Kizzuwatna (see feature link).

fl c.1830s? BC


'King of Zalpuwas'.

c.1835 BC

Kanesh is destroyed, probably by the king of Zalpa, with the city apparently now a growing power in the region. The city god of Kanesh (the idol of the god Sius) is taken as a prize by Zalpa. As usual in ancient texts, 'destroyed' simply means that its defensive structures are brought down and some level of destruction is wrought, but the city can (and does) quickly recover.

early 18th cent BC

The Hittites invade Hattian territory and conquer the Hatti city of Kussara (presently unlocated). They later take the city of Kanesh, centre of the Assyrian trading colonies in Anatolia. All of a sudden none of the Hatti cities or those of their neighbours are safe from these marauding barbarians.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 2000 BC
At the start of the second millennium BC, a series of small city states in Anatolia which had existed for perhaps a millennium now began to emerge from obscurity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

If Zalpa is indeed located along the Black Sea coastline then it has to be wondered what effect on it the passage of the Pala has had. An Indo-European group of the proto-Anatolian branch which is closely related to the Hittites, they are soon to be found on the coast themselves, immediately to the west of Zalpa's generally-presumed location.

Considering the effect that the Hittites are having on the highlands to the south, and the Luwians have had in becoming dominant on the Anatolian Mediterranean coast, it is unlikely that the Pala migration has had no effect at all.

fl c.1750s? BC


Defeated and imprisoned in Nesa by the Hittites.

mid-18th cent BC

The Hittites of Kanesh (Nesa) attack Zalpa under the leadership of Anitta, recovering the city god of Kanesh. Huzziya is taken prisoner, being transported to the Hittite-dominated city of Kanesh were he is presumably imprisoned (Anitta is clear in the fact that the king is 'brought back alive to Nesa').

With this victory, the Hittites appear to unify the entire valley of the River Kizil Irmak up to its mouth on the Black Sea. Their kingdom soon collapses however, leaving the area in a power vacuum and apparently allowing Zalpa to reassert itself as a powerful minor state. No subsequent rulers are known.

Black Sea south coast
Zalpa was probably located on the southern Black Sea coast, presumably within easy reach of its neighbouring cities of Kanesh, Kussara, Hattusa, Purushanda, and Zalwar, plus others

fl c.1700s? BC


First of a brief new series of kings, none known to history.

fl c.1670 BC


Last Zalpan king. City taken by Hittites.

c.1670? BC

The conflict between Zalpa and the Hittites seems to come to an end with the latter victorious under the rule of Labarna I. Zalpa is settled by Hittites, but just how long they manage to hold onto it is unclear.

The Kaskan barbarians soon themselves appear in the region to dominate it, but possibly bolstered by (or even formed largely out of) dispossessed Zalpans who abandon city life for a more rugged existence. They control Zalpa by the mid-fifteenth century BC and lay waste to the city. Clearly any remaining Zalpan element (if any) has little desire to reoccupy the city.

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