Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Hittites

[The following post is extracted from a post written on April 14, 2010, but got lost in the shuffle in my drafts folder when its overambitious original scope got out of hand.  I am posting it now, retroactively, without modification to reflect new information, so that the sources and facts noted at the time are available for reference purposes.  Further edited for style and grammar on February 18, 2015.]

The Pre-Hittites

The capitol of the Hittite empire, where the first documents written in an Indo-European language are found, was Hattusa. Archaeological evidence shows that it was founded sometime between 5000 BCE and 6000 BCE, and Hittite history records the fact that it and the city of Nerik to the North of it, were founded by the non-Indo-European language speaking Hattic people who preceded them.

Both Hattsua and Nerik had been founded by speakers of the non-Indo-European, non-Semitic language called Hattic. Hattic shows similarities to both Northwest (e.g., Abkhaz) and South Caucasian (Kartvelian) languages, and was spoken sometime around the 3rd to 2nd milleniums BCE. The pre-Indo-European language spoken in Eastern Anatolia and the Zargov mountains, which also shows similarities to the languages of the Caucuses was Hurrian.

"Sacred and magical texts from Hattusa were often written in Hattic [and] Hurrian . . .even after Hittite became the norm for other writings." This is similar to the survival of Sumerian for religious purposes until around the 1st century BCE, despite the fact that it was replaced by the Semitic language Akkadian in general use roughly 1800 years earlier.

The Early Hittites

The first historical record of an Indo-European language is of Hittite in eastern Anatolia. An Indo-European Hittite language speaking dynasty dates back to at least 1740 BCE in a central Anatolian city (see generally here).

The Hittites called their own language the "language of Nesa," which is the name in Hittite of the ancient city of Kanesh, about 14 miles Northwest of the modern city of Kayseri in central Anatolia. This was an ancient Anatolian city, of pre-literate non-Indo-European language speaking farmers to which an Akkadian language speaking trading colony attached itself as a suburb for about two hundred years until around 1740 BCE.

Around 1740 BCE, the Assyrian culture ends and a Hittite culture appears in the archeological record, when the city was taken by Pithana, the first known Hittite king.

The Hittites of Nesa conquered this city from Kussara, which is believed to be between the ancient cities of Nesa and Aleppo (which was first occupied as a city around 5000 BCE), which continues to be a major city in Northern Syria also known as Halab. Their first king was described as the king of this one city-state.

His son, Anitta, sacked Hattsua around 1700 BCE and left the earliest known written Hittite inscription. Kanesh is closer to the source of the Red River than Hattsua, which would later become the Hittite capitol, and was ruled at the time of the sack by Hattic king Piyusti whom he defeated. The text of Anitta's inscription translates to:

Anitta, Son of Pithana, King of Kussara, speak! He was dear to the Stormgod of Heaven, and when he was dear to the Stormgod of Heaven, the king of Nesa [verb broken off] to the king of Kussara. The king of Kussara, Pithana, came down out of the city in force, and he took the city of Nesa in the night by force. He took the King of Nesa captive, but he did not do any evil to the inhabitants of Nesa; instead, he made them mothers and fathers. After my father, Pithana, I suppresed a revolt in the same year. Whatever lands rose up in the direction of the sunrise, I defeated each of the aforementioned.

Previously, Uhna, the king of Zalpuwas, had removed our Sius from the city of Nesa to the city of Zalpuwas. But subsequently, I, Anittas, the Great King, brought our Sius back from Zalpuwas to Nesa. But Huzziyas, the king of Zalpuwas, I brought back alive to Nesa. The city of Hattusas [tablet broken] contrived. And I abandoned it. But afterwards, when it suffered famine, my goddess, Halmasuwiz, handed it over to me. And in the night I took it by force; and in its place, I sowed weeds. Whoever becomes king after me and settles Hattusas again, may the Stormgod of Heaven smite him!
The capitol of the Hittites is moved to Hattsua within a century or two. The Hittites sacked Babylon around 1595 BCE.

The Hittites did not inhabit the North Black Sea plain of Anatolia to the Northeast, however. In this region, they were blocked by the Kaskians who make their first appearance three hundred years into the Hittite written record, around 1450 BCE, when they took the Hittite holy city of Nerik to the North of the then Hittite capitol of Hattsua. Less than a century before the Kaskians sacked the city of Nerik and moved to Anatolia, the Kaskians conquered the Indo-European Palaic language speaking people of Northwest Anatolia.

The Kaskians probably hailed from the Eastern shores of the sea of Marmara, which is the small sea between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.  The Kaskians continued to harry the Hittites for centuries, sacking Hattsua ca. 1280 BCE, although Hattsua was retaken as was the city of Nerik which they had again lost to the Kaskians. The Kaskians in an alliance with the Mushki people, toppled the Hittite empire around 1200 BCE, were then repulsed by the Assyrians, and appear to have migrated after being defeated by the Assyrians to the West Caucuses.

The Mushki were a people of Eastern Anatolia or the Caucuses, associated with the earliest history of state formation for Caucasian Georgia and Armenia. This suggests that they were likely non-Indo-European speakers, at least originally, although they may have adopted the local Luwian language of their subjects in Neo-Hittite kingdoms that arose after the fall of the Hittite empire in East Anatolia.

From about 1800 BCE to 1600 BCE, the city of Aleppo ruled the Kingdom of Yamhad based there and ruled by an Amorite dynasty.  The Amorites were a linguistically North Semitic people.  There had been Amorite dynasties in the same general region for two hundred years before then (i.e. since at least around 2000 BCE). This fell to the Hittites sometime in the following century (i.e. sometime between 1600 BCE and 1500 BCE) and was subsquently close to the boundary between the Egyptians to the Southwest, the Mesopotamian empires to the Southeast, and the Hittites to the North, for hundreds of years. There was a non-Indo-European Hurrian minority in Yamhad that exerted a cultural influence on the Kingdom and on its ruling Amorites who were a Semitic people whose language was probably ancestral to all of the Semitic languages (including Aramahic, Hebrew and Arabic), except Akkadian and language of Ebla, which is midway between Akkadian and the North Semitic language of the Amorites.

The Amorites a.k.a. the Mat.Tu were described as of sometime around the 21st century BCE as follows in Sumerian records (citing E. Chiera, Sumerian Epics and Myths, Chicago, 1934, Nos.58 and 112; E. Chiera, Sumerian Texts of Varied Contents, Chicago, 1934, No.3.)
The MAR.TU who know no grain.... The MAR.TU who know no house nor town, the boors of the mountains.... The MAR.TU who digs up truffles... who does not bend his knees (to cultivate the land), who eats raw meat, who has no house during his lifetime, who is not buried after death...

They have prepared wheat and gĂș-nunuz (grain) as a confection, but an Amorite will eat it without even recognizing what it contains!
In other words, the early pre-dynastic Amorites were probably nomadic herders.

The ancient Semitic city of Ebla was 34 miles southwest of Aleppo and was destroyed between 2334 BCE and 2154 BCE by an Akkadian king. It had a written language between Akkadian and North Semitic written from around 2500 BCE to 2240 BCE and was a merchant run town trading in wood and textiles whose residents also had a couple hundred thousand herd animals. The early Amorites were known to the people of Elba as "a rural group living in the narrow basion of the middle and upper Euphrates"(original source: Giorgio Bucellati, "Ebla and the Amorites", Eblaitica 3 (New York University) 1992:83-104), although Ebla would later become a subject kingdom of Yamhad.  The Akkadian kings campaigned against the Amorites following the fall of Ebla and recognized them as the main people to the West of their empire, whose other neighbors were the Subartu (probably Hurrians) to the Northeast, Sumer (in South Mesopotamia) and Elam (in the Eastern mountains).

The oldest Akkadian writing is found around 2600 BCE.

The Hittite, Mittani and Egyptians at 1400 BC

By around 1400 BCE, the Hittites ruled an area corresponding to the Red River (a.k.a. Kizilirmak basin) (map here citing Cambridge Ancient History Vol II Middle East & Aegean Region 1800-1300. I. E. S. Edwards (Ed) et al. as its source).

Adjacent to the Hittites to the Southeast, the Mittani empire, with commoners who spoke a non-Indo-European language called Hurrian and a ruling class that spoke an Indo-European language very close to Sanskrit, ruled the upper Euphrates and Tigris river valley about as far South as modern day Hadithah and Tikrit in Iraq. The Mittani also had a small piece of the Levant, extending Southwest to roughly the modern boundary between Turkey and Syria.

To the South of the Mittani in the East, the Kassite empire ruled the lower Euphrates and Tigris river valleys. The Kassites were a non-Indo-European Hurrian speaking people from the neighboring Zargos mountains to the East of the Mittani. The Kassites wrested power from the Akkadian empire.  The Akkadian empire, and its Semitic Akkadian language, in turn, had replaced the non-Indo-European, non-Semitic Sumerian language used before the Akkadian empire emerged.

To the Southwest of the Mittani were the Egyptians.  The Egyptian ruled from the Mittani boundary in the Levant to the greater Nile Delta in Northeast Africa.

The Hittites At Their Peak

Half a century later later, at its greatest extent, under Kings Suppiluliuma I(c.1350–1322) and Mursili II (c.1321–1295), the Hittite Empire included all of Anatolia (including Troy) except the immediate vicinity of modern Istanbul, the Levant from modern Turkey to a little bit North of Beruit on the coast and as far South as what is today Damascus further inland, and the ancient city of Mari, which is situated very close to where the Euphrates river crosses the modern Syrian border. (Map here).

The Hittites had absorbed all of the Mittani empire except some of its lands in the upper Tigris, and extended to the South the Mittani border with Egypt.

The End of the Hittite Empire and the Anatolian languages

A civil War followed by a series of regional events roughly contemporaneous with the Trojan War of the Greek epics and various historical accounts lumped together as part of the "Bronze Age collapse" destroyed the Hittite empire around 1200 BC. The Hittite language is replaced by successor languages after the Hittite empire falls.

Following this peak, one of the Anatolian languages was the Luwian language, which may have been the language of the Trojans. Luwain may have actually been a sister language of Hittite and equally old, as attested by its early use as a liturgical language along with pre-Indo-European languages of the area. Luwain may also have been an evolutionary linguistic predecessor to Hittite proper.

Luwain, in turn, evolved into the Lycian. See Bryce, Trevor R., "The Lycians - Volume I: The Lycians in Literary and Epigraphic Sources" (1986)). Other Anatolian languages including Lycian were successor Anatolian languages to Hittite that were spoken in Anatolia through the first century BCE.  Then, in the first century BCE, Alexander the Great conquered an area including Anatolia, and made Greek, which is a neighboring Indo-European language, the language of his kingdom.

Recap of Anatolian History 

All of the Indo-European Anatolian languages (with the possible exception of Luwian) spoken from around 1740 BCE to about 100 BCE, when they were replaced by Greek under Alexander the Great, trace their roots to the city-state they established by conquering the pre-existing city of Kanesh in central Anatolia.

There is no evidence for the presence of any Indo-European languages in Anatolia prior to about 2000-1800 BCE, and the available historical record seems to indicate that early Anatolian populations of Indo-Europeans were mere pockets of people at the time who may very likely have been recent arrivals.

Armenian is not an Anatolian language and is most closely related linguistically to Greek, but with many non-Indo-European and Indo-Iranian areal influences.  Armenian may have arrived in its current location shortly after the fall of the Hittite empire in a folk migration from Western Anatolia, the Aegean, or the Balkans.  It is sometimes associated with the Phrygians.

Post-Script: The Tocharians

[This fragment not about the Hittites is also salvaged from this old post.]

The oldest mummies in the Tarim basin of what is now Ugygur China (i.e. in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) in the far Northeast of modern China also date to 1800 BCE.

Pliny the Elder, in Rome, recounts a first century CE report from an ambassador to China from Ceylon who later served as an ambassador to the Roman empire, that corroborates the existence of people with this appearance and a language unlike those known locally.


terryt said...

Nice summary.

Nirjhar007 said...

Yeah one note:
The Mitannian Language shows Iranian affinity and they can be labeled as ''Pre-Zoroastrian Iranians'' with Culture close to Vedic.