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Hattusa Ruins: Lion Gate, Sphinx & Reconstruction

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has been an adjunct professor of religion at Western Kentucky University for six years. They have a master's degree in religious studies from Western Kentucky University and a bachelor's degree in English literature and religious studies from Western Kentucky University.

The Hittites, after having their city destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, finally reconstructed and expanded it in the 14 century BCE, adding impressive architectural works, like the Lion Gate. Learn more about these works in this lesson.

History of Hattusa

The city of Hattusa has a rough history. It was cursed, destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again several times. It was built by an indigenous people called the Hatti sometime around the mid-third millennium BCE. Around the 18th century, the city was captured and razed by a Hittite king who cursed it. But about 200 years later, another Hittite king rebuilt the city and made it his capital. This king, Hattusili I, indicated the importance the city took on for the Hittites in choosing his own name, which means ''one from Hattusa.''

Major Reconstruction of Hattusa

After several years of destruction and rebuilding, the city of Hattusa was abandoned because it was not as lavish as other nations' capitals. When Hattusili III took over, however, he decided to move the capital back to Hattusa and began rebuilding the city once more. In the 14th century, under the reign of his son and successor, Tudhaliya IV, the city saw its greatest reconstruction, fortification, and decoration. Tudhaliya IV, however, was anxious about it because at the time the Hittites were struggling with famine, disease, and warring neighbors.

Religious Buildings

Tudhaliya IV did not just expand and rebuild Hattusa, he doubled it in size. Under his reign, dozens of temples were built within the city to the various Hittite gods, some as large as 16,000 square feet—that's about one-third the size of the White House! Nearly all of the temples had a basic structure: an outdoor courtyard and a long hall leading to an indoor worship area with a statue of the deity. The Grand Temple was a unique temple in the city that not only had warehouses for sacrificial goods (like the other temples), but also had chambers for royalty to sleep in, most likely for religious ceremonies.

Fortifications and Gates

Tudhaliya IV also strengthened the defense of the city to help protect it from enemies and invaders. One of the ways he did this was with fortifications, or large and thick walls that were difficult to break down. The walls of Hattusa were mostly made of mud-brick, which was mud and straw baked or dried into brick form. The fortifications contained watch towers to allow soldiers to see incoming forces.

The Lion Gate

Perhaps the most famous of Hattusa's defensive structures is the Lion Gate. The Lion Gate was one of six gates in Hattusa and was named for the two lion statues that flanked the gate. The gate was located on the southwest side of the city and had wooden doors, probably overlaid with bronze for additional defense, that opened into the city.

The lions that were on either side of the gate were carved into the rock and had incredible detail, with carefully carved faces and manes. The lions were probably carved for a two-fold purpose: to intimidate visitors and to protect the city from evil spirits. Despite the great detail of the gate, it was never completely finished, as evidenced by some rough areas of stone.

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