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Who were the Hittites?

Just over a hundred years ago, the name 'Hittite' was almost unknown, apart from one or two references in the Bible. Then, in 1880, an Englishman named Sayce said that a number of rock carvings in modern Turkey ( in central Turkey, to be precise), resembled remains of a long forgotten empire - that of the Hittites

. He was proved to be correct when, in 1906, a large number of clay tablets were unearthed at a place called Boghazkoy (in central Turkey).
The entrance to Hattusa, the symbolic "Lion's gate"

The tablets were mostly in the wedge-shaped signs of Mesopotamia and some could be read without too much difficulty. Others, although looking like straightforward cuneiform, turned out to be in an unknown language.

There were also inscriptions in a kind of picture writing. It took many years before it became possible to decipher the picture writing.

The decipherers were helped when some stone pillars with messages carved on them were found at Kaaratepe. There were two languages; Hittite and Phoenician, the latter is already known.

The columns were to the Hittites what the Rosetta stone was to the Egyptians, it gave the decoders new symbols and their meanings. Some suspect that the Hittite language might have belonged to the same group of languages as the ancestors of most modern European ones (including English!). Now, scholars could make out "WADAR" and "EZZATENI" translate into "WATER" and "EAT".

They also found out that the place where the first tablets were found was in fact called Hattusas at about 1600 B.C. and was the capital of the ancient empire of the Hittites.

Hattusas had a fortified citadel and massive surrounding walls over two miles long. The Hitties claimed that it was one of the cities taken by their legendary kings, Pithanas , and his son, Anittas. A few other conquered towns can be identified - enough to show that at its greatest extent, the whole of Anatolia, Suria, Turkey, much of present day Palestine, Cyprus and northern Iraq were under Hittite control.
The Hittite empire at its greatest extent (Hattusa marked with yellow)

One Hittite king made a surprise attack down the Euphrates in 1595 B.C. and captured Babylon.

Another, Suppiluliumash, was such a great conqueror that the widow of Tutankhamen (the legendary King Tut) wrote him an official letter asking that one of his sons to marry her.

Ordinary Hittites were of medium height, thickset and with bony noses.
They wore felt boots and short belted kilts. Some were bearded and others clean shaven. They grew barley, wheat and also raised sheep & goats.

Like most ancient people at the time, they were Pagans and worshiped numerous Gods, the chief of which was called Teshup (the equivalent of Thor).

One of the secrets of Hittite military success was their use of iron for weapons. Before 1400 B.C., it was known that some red minerals would reduce to metal at temperature not much about those for producing molten copper from blue and green ores. But iron will only flow like copper or lead in much hotter fires, a process which was not to be invented for another 3,000 years.

The Hittite method was repeated beatings and hammerings to drive out the rock impurities. If you were very lucky, and had a little carbon in your iron ore, you'd make a great sword with it. The knowledge of how to do this wasn't available to the rest of the world until the collapse of the empire in about 1200 B.C.
The Hittite and Egyptian Empire, Kadesh (Qadesh) is marked

Just before this happened, Muwatallis, the Hittite king, claimed a great battle victory against the Egyptians in the battle of Kadesh (which was the first ever recorded battle in history, in terms of details of soldiers and formation).

Rameses II, the Egyptian Pharaoh, also claimed to have won the battle, as his numerous monuments bear witness to.

The battle was probably a draw. It was the last great engagement of the Hittite army with its light, spokewheeled and horse-drawn chariots.

Great movements of peoples in the Middle East only a lifetime later, led to the disappearance of the Hittite empire.

Some of the old provincial city states survived for a few more centuries, for example Carchemish, Malatya and Karatepe. It was probably one of these shadowy 'Neo-Hittite' kingdoms that were referred in the Bible.
The Battle of Kadesh was the earliest recorded battle in history where formations were recorded

500 years after the destruction of the capital, Hatussas, the last traces of the Hittites disappeared from the pages of history. Lost for more than a millennium.


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