Ages of Bronze: The Hittites

Ages of Bronze: The Hittites
The Hatti were only a temporary presence. As they declined, a new people, the Hittites, assumed their territory. From Alacahöyük, the Hittites shifted their capital to Hattuşa (near present-day Boğazkale) some time around 1800 BC. The Hittites’ legacy consisted of their great capital, as well as their state archives (cuneiform clay tablets) and distinctive artistic styles. By 1450 BC the kingdom, having endured internal ructions, was reborn as an empire. In creating the first great Anatolian empire, the Hittites were necessarily warlike, but also displayed other imperial trappings – they ruled over myriad vassal states and princelings while also being noted for their sense of ethics and an occasional penchant for diplomacy. This didn’t prevent them from overrunning Ramses II of Egypt in 1298 BC, but did allow them to patch things up with the crestfallen Ramses by dividing up Syria with him and marrying him to a Hittite princess. The Hittite empire was harassed in its later stages by subject principalities, including Troy on the Aegean coast. The final straw was the invasion of the iron-smelting Greeks, generally known as the ‘sea peoples’. The Hittites found themselves landlocked – hence disadvantaged during an era of burgeoning sea trade – and lacking in the use of the latest technology: iron. Meanwhile a new dynasty at Troy was establishing itself as a regional power. The Trojans in turn were harried by the Greeks, which inevitably lead to the Trojan War (1250 BC). This allowed the Hittites some breathing space. However, later arrivals, from both east and west, sped the demise of the Hittites. Some pockets of Hittite culture persisted in the Taurus Mountains, but the great empire was dead. Later city states created a Neo-Hittite culture, which attracted Greek merchants of the Iron Age and became the conduit through which Mesopotamian religion and art forms were transmitted to the Greeks.