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Hittites and Hittite Religion

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Hittites and Hittite Religion

Hittites/Hittite Religion

The Hittites were an ancient people who had an extreme influential role on the Ancient Near East. The Hittites were said to have an Indo-European origin and came into Asia Minor before or around 2000 B.C.E. During this period, they went on to become one of the greatest powers of the Ancient Near East. The Hittites first occupied central Anatolia and made their capital at Hattusa. The name Hittite is itself derived from the indigenous hatti, which is used as the geographical term for the land they originally inhabited, Anatolia. The geography of this area included many major cities like Kizzuwatna in the southeast, Pala in the northwest, and Luwiya in the west. Although the origins of the Hittites are not known, it is clear that they spoke in the Indo-European language. Before Hittite texts were found, researchers relied on Egyptian and Biblical sources to gain knowledge of Hittite information, however, these sources suffered from being written by enemies of the Hittites. Researchers gained a great deal of information when Hittite texts were discovered at Bokaskoy (the modern location of Hattusa) in 1906.

The Hittite government was dominated by the king who was also the supreme priest, military commander and chief judge, yet it has also been suggested that an Indo-European trait can be discerned in his kingship, which originally was less absolutist then other kingdoms in the Ancient Near East. Nevertheless the kings were said to have "become gods" when they died. There was also a relationship visible between the Hittite queen and the sun goddess of Arinna. To a certain degree, the Hittite king and queen were assimilated with the gods, whom they appear to have represented on earth and with whom they were identified after death. During this time, the Hittites "formed what was essentially a federatively organized state which during the New Kingdom or Empire was second only to Egypt in the Ancient Near East."1

There are two main periods of Hittite history that are customarily referred to as the Old Kingdom (1700-1500 B.C.E.) and the New Kingdom (1400-1180 B.C.E.). The first three kings of the Old Hittite dynasty of Hattusa were Labarnas, Hattusilis I, and Mursilis I who succeeded in establishing a realm in Anatolia and later added large parts of present-day northern Syria. It was also during this time that conflict began with Aleppo, the capital of the kingdom in Syria, which at this time was perhaps the most powerful state in West Asia. It was during this conflict that Hattusilis I probably appointed Mursilis I as his successor with the task of defeating Aleppo in the case of his death. Mursilis I did capture Aleppo when he grew older, after which he took the risk of sending his military expedition to Babylon which he then captured. There was a definite period of prosperity which unfortunately was followed by a long one of decline due to the murder of Mursilis I by his brother-in-law Hantilis I. The Old Kingdom comes to an end with the death of Telepinus, a descendant of Mursilis I and not much is known between Telepinus and the New Kingdom. This period is known as the Middle Kingdom and some archaeologists have confirmed the existence of at least five or six kings during this time that must have succeeded each other quickly and did not represent separate generations.

After this Middle Kingdom, there was a revival of the Hittite kingdom and in about 1425 B.C.E. the New Kingdom began. This period was one of reconstruction with both decline and success. Suppilulimas I took over the throne during this time and defeated the enemies of the country, principally Mitanni, and extended the territories to areas that had been under Egyptian control. Also in the New Kingdom, Muwatallis was at the center of a struggle for the domination of Syria with Egypt under Seti I and Ramses II. This led to one of the greatest battles of the ancient world. It took place at Kadesh on the Orontes in 1299 B.C.E. Though Ramses claimed a great victory, the result was probably indecisive, because 16 years later, under Hattusilis III a peace treaty, mutual defense pact, and dynastic marriage were concluded between the Hittites and the Egyptians. Shortly following this period, the Hittite kingdom began to fall due to many migrations from people like the Sea Peoples. The Hittite identity was retained for another five centuries and slowly evolved into a multitude of small independent city states which were gradually conquered by Assyria.

Agriculture provided the foundation of the Hittite economy. The main crops were wheat and barley, and the livestock was dominated by cattle and sheep. The farmers and herders were either independent or belonged to one of the two "Great Organizations" (palace and temple). The land that they lived in was rich with mineral reserves of copper, lead,

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