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 Hittite Empire
Perhaps you have heard of the legend of the lost city of Atlantis, a splendid city on an island that eventually sunk into the ocean never to be seen again. The Hittite empire was much like this for thousands of years. It was a major ancient power for about 500 years, from around 1700-1200 BCE, alongside Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. Though the empire was mentioned in the Hebrew Bible of the Israelites and the Amarna Letters, which had a correspondence between the Egyptian pharaohs and other nations, most people thought the Hittites were fictitious until archaeological evidence was found in the 19th century CE that showed they not only existed, but were a major empire of the Ancient Near East. At the height of their empire, the Hittites ruled over most of what is now modern-day Turkey.
The Building and Overtaking of Hattusa
Because evidence about the Hittites was found relatively recently, many things are unclear about who they were and where they came from. About a thousand years before the Hittites became a major power, an indigenous group called the Hatti inhabited the area of modern-day northern central Turkey. They built a small city-state named Hattusa in the area they called the ''land of the Hatti.'' Despite attacks by the Akkadians under the rule of the famous Sargon the Akkad, the Hatti still kept their city-state strong.
However, after maintaining Hattusa for nearly a millennium, the Hatti had trouble with the neighboring city-state of Kussara. Kussara seems to be the origin place of the Hittites, whether before or after they overtook Hattusa. Regardless of their origins, their king, Anitta, decided to lay siege to Hattusa and eventually captured the city-state and drove the Hatti away. Anitta decided, instead of just laying claim to the property, to burn the city to the ground and curse it, writing there, ''Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattusa, may the weather god of heaven strike him down.'' This event marked the beginning of the Hittite Old Kingdom.
Hattusa: Capital of the Hittite Empire
Despite Anitta's curse, another king from Kussara decided to rebuild the city. His name was Hattusili I. Notice the similarity to the city name? His name literally means ''one from Hattusa'' and most scholars think he changed his name upon rebuilding the city to lay claim to it as his capital. Hattusili I was responsible for founding the Hittite Empire with its capital at Hattusa. As the capital of the empire, the succession of kings resided there. However, there was much political turmoil with successors killing their predecessors and others usurping the throne. The Hittite empire went into a ''dark age'' before reemerging as the New Kingdom under the rule of Tudhaliya I.
Destruction, Abandonment, and Reconstruction
Around the 14th century BCE, the city of Hattusa was attacked and destroyed by a group called the Kaskas who lived in the Kaskan mountains in the north. The king was forced to abandon his city. Under Suppiluliuma I, Hattusa was rebuilt. The Hittites strengthened their empire and used Hattusa as a place of welcome to allow people to pay tribute and even used the reception hall to host visitors from neighboring nations of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria. In comparison to other nations' cities, however, Hattusa seemed lackluster, so the royal seat was moved to another city.
Under Hattusili III, Hattusa became the royal seat again and his son and successor Tudhaliya IV was responsible for rebuilding and expanding it. He doubled the city in size, including adding 31 temples and expansive fortifications around the city's walls. This was probably an act of panic on Tudhaliya IV's part, however. The Hittites were probably in a time of famine, sickness, and pressure from surrounding nations. The last king of the Hittite empire who ruled Hattusa was Suppiluliuma II. During his and his predecessor's rules, the Kaskas as well as ''Sea People'' probably from the island of Crete, repeatedly attacked Hattusa. It is not clear whether Suppiluliuma II fled Hattusa or was killed in battle, but around the year 1190 BCE, the Kaskas burned and destroyed Hattusa, which was eventually overtaken by the Assyrians.
The Hittite empire ruled most of modern-day Turkey for about 500 years. They overtook the Hatti people and their city Hattusa, though the Hatti had even defended attacks from Sargon the Akkad. The sacking of Hattusa by King Anitta from Kussara, probably a Hittite city-state, marked the beginning of the Hittite Old Kingdom. Despite the curse Anitta put on the city, it was rebuilt and made the capital by Hattusili I.
After a dark age, the Hittite empire reemerged as the New Kingdom. However, not much time passed before a mountain group called the Kaskas overtook Hattusa, causing the king to abandon his city. Under Suppiluliuma I, Hattusa was rebuilt and under the rule of Tudhaliya IV, it was doubled in size and expanded tremendously, despite the tough situation the Hittites were going through. Suppiluliuma II was the last king of the Hittite empire and was probably killed in battle when Hattusa was conquered by the Kaskas.
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