History of Hittites - The Fall of The Empire

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The Fall of The Old Hittite Kingdom

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Around 1100BC all of the civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean were attacked by what historians have called "The Sea Peoples". Their identity is unknown but their attacks were so successful that at the end of what is known as "The Late Bronze Age Collapse" only the Egyptian Empire remained out of the 3 great powers that had ruled the eastern Mediterranean

 

A major re-examination of the Hattusa libraries records shed no light on the end of the Hittite Empire. If there had been a disastrous natural catastrophe like an earthquake the site at Hattusa would not have been cleaned of all artefact. It was as if the entire city had just been abandoned and the clay tablet records just stopped. Many of the great Mediterranean civilisations collapsed at the same time as the Hittite empire and their demise has been attributed to the invasions of a so called “Sea People”. It has long been believed that the Hittite Empire also fell to the Sea People invasion but Hattusa was impregnable, hundreds of miles inland and there were no signs that Hattusas walls had ever been breached or the city sacked.

 

The mysterious end of the Hittite Empire remained a secret until the second hieroglyphic Hittite language was understood. Small cylindrical clay tablets were excavated that seemed to be like calling cards. A round emblem had cuneiform writing in a circle with hieroglyphs in the centre. The linguists realised that the cuneiform and hieroglyphs had the same meaning so could finally they could start to unravel the Hittite hieroglyphic code.

 

At Hattusa a small underground chamber had been excavated by German archeologists which was at first thought to be a tomb. When no burial remains were discovered its purpose became a mystery. It was obviously of importance as it was lined with stone panels covered in hieroglyphs. Once the hieroglyph code had been broken the panels could be read for the first time and it was revealed why the Hittite Kingdom collapsed.

 

10th - 8th century BC stone Neo-Hittite/ Aramaean Orthostats from the city of Sam'al (Hittite: Yadiya) near Zincirli Höyük in the Anti-Taurus Mountains of modern Turkey. The Orthostats are in a Neo Hittite style and depict mythical animals and figures that have magical properties. Pergamon Museum, Berlin
10th - 8th century BC stone Neo-Hittite/ Aramaean Orthostats from the city of Sam'al (Hittite: Yadiya) near Zincirli Höyük in the Anti-Taurus Mountains of modern Turkey. The Orthostats are in a Neo Hittite style and depict mythical animals and figures that have magical properties. Pergamon Museum, Berlin. Photography by ©

 

 

The hieroglyphs revealed the name of the last Hittite King, his final war and more importantly the enemies he fought against. The archaeologist at last could learn the name of the foreign power that finally brought down the Hittite Empire, but the enemy turned out not to be foreign at all, the Hittite Empire was destroyed by civil war.

 

The return of prince Hattusili from his great victory at Kadesh sparked a feud fuelled by envy and fear with his nephew King Mursili III. The victory at Kadesh heightened the importance of Hattusili and Mursili III, fearing a rebellion to put Hattusili on the throne, became increasingly nervous. Mursili III started stripping Hattusili of his powers and left him with no choice but to retaliate if he wanted to survive. In a Palace coupe Hattusili arrested Mursili III and sent him into exile so breaking the sacred bond of brotherhood that had held the Hittites together. The loyalty at the heart of Hittite unity was shattered eventually starting a civil war that spiralled out of control. Over time neighbours in Hattusa became enemies and thPicture of Neo-Hittite orthostat describing the legend of Gilgamesh from Karkamis,, Turkey. Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, Ankara. Symetrical mythological Scene depicting "Winged Griffin Demons", half men with birds heads & wings. Their hands are raised above their heads supposidly carrying the sky.from external attack Hattusa was over a few generations torn apart from within and the citizens of Hattusa were brought to the edge of starvation.

 

Picture of Neo-Hittite orthostat describing the legend of Gilgamesh from Karkamis, Turkey. Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, Ankara. Symetrical mythological Scene depicting "Winged Griffin Demons", half men with birds heads & wings. Their hands are raised above their heads supposidly carrying the sky.. Photography by ©

 

 

As the Hittite Imperial system broke down its administrative centres broke down and dissolved. Important trading centres such as Urgarit and Emar did not survive beyond the thirteenth century BC.

 

Archaeological evidence shows that the Palace Acropolis, administrative buildings and temples of Hattusa were emptied and set on fire. It seems likely that the last King of the Hittites abandoned Hattusa as it was no longer a viable city. Treasures and documents were removed and the Hittites disappeared from history. Because Hattusa was never fully re-occupied myths and legends about the Hittites were not passed down the generations to give us some clue of their existence, so their history disappeared for 3000 years.

 

The last attested Hittite viceroy of Carcamesh, Kuzi-Tesub, took the opportunity of the fall of Hattusa to proclaim himself Great King and even extended his territory into the Kingdom of Malatya. Several other Hittite states carried on as indiopendant Neo Hittite states but without the driving force from Hattusa the Hittite Empire was slowly absorbed back into the old Ancient World order and was forgotten.

 

 

Related MuseoPics Hittite Pages

Museopics the free online historical museum links to resources

 

Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Hittite History - The Begining Breaking Hittite Cuneiform Code Hittites Battle of Kadesh Fall of Hittite Empire Sam'al Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Charchamis Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Yazilikaya Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures. Asalepte Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Coba Huyuk Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Alaca Huyuk Hittite Artefacts Relief Sculptures Hittite Heiroglyphic Relief Sculptures Hittite Heiroglyphic Relief Sculptures

 

 

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