1902 Encyclopedia > Hittites


HITTITES, a warlike and powerful nation, whose centre lay in the far north of Syria, between the Orontes and the Euphrates, but whose outposts about 1200 B.C. I extended as far to the west as the Aegean sea. In the Egyptian inscriptions they are called the Khita or Kheta; 1 in the Assyrian, the Khatti; in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Khittim. Some confusion has been caused in the treatment of the history of the Hittites by the uncritical use of the Old Testament. It is true that the Khittim or Hittites are repeatedly mentioned among the tribes which inhabited Canaan before the Israelites (Gen. xv. 20; Ex. iii. 8, 17, xiii. 5, xxiii. 23, 28, xxxiii. 2, xxxiv. 11; Num. xiii. 29; Deut. vii. 1, xx. 17; Josh. iii. 10, ix. 1, xi. 3, xii. 8, xxiv. 11; Judg. iii. 5; 1 Kings ix. 20; 2 Chr. viii. 7; Ezra ix. 1; Neh. ix. 8), but the lists of these pre-Israelitish populations cannot be taken as strictly historical documents. Not to dwell on the cases of the Perizzites (properly speaking, an appellative and not an ethnic name), and the Kenites and other Arab races, sometimes included, but evidently by an anachronism (see vol. iv. p. 763), it is obvious that narratives written, or (as all will agree) edited, so long after the events referred to cannot be taken as of equal authority with Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions. How meagre the tradition respecting the Hittites was in the time of the great Elohistic narrator is shown by the picture of Hittite life in Gen. xxiii. As Ewald remarks, "Abraham's allies in war are Amorites; but when he desires to obtain a possession peaceably he turns to the Hittites." Yet the undoubtedly authentic inscriptions of Egypt and Assyria reveal the Hittites in far different guise, as pre-eminently a warlike, conquering race. Not less unfavourable to the accuracy of the Old Testament references to the Hittites is the evidence deducible from proper names. As we shall see presently, the Hittite names preserved in Egyptian and Assyrian records are on the whole strikingly un-Semitic. The three Hittite names given in the Old Testament (Ephron, Gen. xxiii. 8, 10; Ahimelech, 1 Sam. xxvi. 6; Uriah, 2 Sam. xi. 3, xxiii. 39) are, however, of undeniably Semitic origin. Is it unnatural to infer that these three names are no less fictitious than the Semitic names ascribed in the Old Testament to the non-Semitic Philistines 1 It is not surprising that at least two eminent Egyptologists (Chabas, Ebers) should absolutely deny the identity of the Khita and the Khittim. This, however, seems to be going too far. The Old Testament writers clearly meant by the latter name the same people as the Egyptian inscriptions by the former, but in their time the memory of the Khita had grown so dim that they could include it among other shadowy names of conquered Canaanitish peoples. No impartial scholar, indeed, will deny that a branch of the Khita may once have existed in Palestine. Unfortunately there is no historical evidence that it did so. In fact, the most trustworthy notices in the Old Testament itself point to the Hittites as a nation beyond the borders of the land of Israel. In 2 Kings vii. 6 we find "the kings of the Hittites" mentioned side by side with "the kings of the Egyptians;" in 1 Kings x. 29 the same phrase occurs parallel with "the kings of Aram"; and in 2 Sam. xxiv. 6 we should probably read, " and they came to Gilead, and to the land of the Hittites unto Kadesh." The position of Heth in the table of nations (Gen. x, 15) may also be regarded as a vestige of an accurate geographical tradition.

If then we continue to employ the familiar name Hittites instead of the Egyptian Khita and the Assyrian Khatti, let it be understood that by this term we do not indicate one of the Canaanitish peoples conquered by the Israelites, but an extra-Palestinian race capable of holding its own even against Egypt and Assyria. Its centre lay, as we have seen already, and as is admitted on all hands, between the Euphrates and the Orontes. This was in fact the region which—one fears to say for how many centuries— was designated in the Assyrian inscriptions mat Khatti or Khatti-land. Under the name of Khatti we already meet with the Hittites in the astronomical work in seventy tablets drawn up by Sargina, king of Agane, in the 16th century B.C. It appears from this venerable document that hostilities were constantly arising between Babylonia on the one hand and the Hittite country on the other (Sayce's translation of the tablets, Transactions of Soc. of Biblical Archaeology, iii. 245). Among the Assyrian kings it is Tiglath Pileser I. who makes the first mention of the Khatti; in his time they are already the lords paramount of the region between the Euphrates and Lebanon. Sargon, the most enterprising of the Assyrian monarchs, was impatient of such an obstacle to his victorious arms. By the conquest of Carchemish and Kummuch, Khatti-land lost its great bulwarks on the east, and was open henceforth to the Assyrian hosts. The last reference to the Khatti is in the time of Esar-haddon, who speaks of "twenty-two kings of the land of Khatti, which is by the sea and in the midst of the sea" But it has been shown by Schrader that from the time of Sennacherib onwards the name Khatti was transferred to the western maritime lands in general, viz., Canaan and Philistia, including Edom, Moab, and ____ (Keilinschriften und Geschichtsforschung, pp. 234-5).

Turning now to the hieroglyphic monuments, we find the Khita playing a still more important part in the history of Egypt,—first of all, under Thothmes III. One of his generals has left us an account of his personal experiences in the campaign against the Khita (Brugsch, History of Egypt, i. 354), and in the Statistical Tablet of Karnak we have a record of the tribute brought from "the great land of the [Khita]" (ibid., p. 334, comp. Records of the Past, ii. 25). At this period, however, the Khita were but one among a number of peoples; in the wars of Seti I. and (especially) Ramses II., they occupy the first rank among the adversaries of Egypt. The account of the battle of Kadesh (the island city on the Orontes), given by the Theban poet Pentaur, presents a vivid picture of the military prowess of this rising power (comp. Brugsch's translation with that of Lushington in Records of the Past, ii. 65-78). Ramses was indeed victorious, but he owed his life and consequently his victory to his personal bravery, and, as Pentaur represents it, to his childlike faith in his god. On an outer wall of the temple of Karnak the treaty of peace between Egypt and Khita-land may still be read (comp. Brugsch's translation with that of Goodwin in Records of the Past, iv. 25-32), and the same fruitful source of primitive history has furnished inscriptions of Ramses, with the names of conquered towns of the Khita, corresponding with those already recorded by Thothmes III. Thus the long feud between Egypt and Khita was closed, and the happy result was celebrated by the marriage of the Pharaoh to a daughter of the king of his chivalrous antagonists. The name of the Khita almost disappears henceforth from Egyptian history. M. Lenormant indeed (Ancient History of the East, i. 268) mentions them as assailing Ramses III., but Dr Birch (Egypt, p. 139) and Brugsch Bey more accurately describe the war referred to as one between Ramses and the conquerors of the Khita, viz., the confederated "Carian-Colchian nations" (see Brugsch Bey, History of Egypt, ii. 147).

"We have spoken of the Hittites as we know them from the monuments, as a people of Syria. But the extramonumental history of the Hittites, which is only beginning to be divined from scattered indications, shows that their power was not limited to the area between the Euphrates and the Orontes. Not only had they their confederates or vassals in their near or more distant neighbourhood, but they also (as it seems) despatched conquering hosts into the far-off regions of Asia Minor. Even the Egyptian records have been thought to indicate this fact. At that great battle of Kadesh on the Orontes to which we have already referred, there were present, besides the princes of Khita, the kings of Arathu, Khilibu, Naharain, Qazanadana, Malunna, Pidasa, Leka, the Dardani or Dandani, the Masu, Kerkesh or Keshkesh, Kairkamasha (so Lushington; Brugsch, somewhat arbitrarily perhaps, Quirqimosh), Aherith, Anangas, Mushanath,—a mighty host "gathered" (as the poet Pentaur tells us) "from the margin of the sea to the iand of Khita." The late M. de Rouge, a coryphaeus in Egyptology, actually supposed that this list included the Dardani of Asia Minor, the Mysians, Ilion, and perhaps the Lycians; Brugsch Bey, however, who is now a greater authority, is satisfied to identify the Dardani with those of Kurdistan (comp. Herod., i. 189), the Leka with the Ligyes (comp. Herod., vii. 72), and the Masu with the people of Mount Masius. But putting M. de Rouge's opinion aside, it seems to be evident from other sources that the influence of the Khita extended even into Asia Minor. Prof. E. Curtius has already pointed out "that one of the paths by which the art and civilization of Babylonia and Assyria made its way to Greece was along the great high road which runs across Asia Minor," and Professor Tiele has been struck by the presence in the religions of Asia Minor of an unexplained element which with all reserve he conjectures may be Hittite. Professor Sayce has added an important contribution to the question by showing that the Hittite capital Carchemish (rightly identified by Mr George Smith with the modern Jerablus) was the source from which that modified type of Assyrian art was derived, which specially characterizes the early monuments of Asia Minor. The sculpture accompanied by inscriptions in Hittite (or Hamathite) characters which Mr Davis discovered at Ibreez in Lycaonia (Transactions of Soc. of Bibl. Archceology, iv. 2) proves that the Hittites had penetrated through the eastern barrier of Asia Minor formed by the Taurus range; and the two or three characters that still remain in the rock-cut inscription engraved in his Life in Asiatic Turkey (p. 222), and found near Bulgar Maden, make it clear that Hittite power had once extended at least as far as the central plateau of Asia Minor." Evidence has now been supplied of the extension of Hittite power to the very shores of the Aegean in the occurrence of Hittite hieroglyphics (the same which occur at Jerablits or Carchemish) on the pseudo-Sesostris (a fellow to which has, however, been pointed out) at Ninfi, the ancient Nymphamm, on the road from Smyrna to Sardes (Letter of Professor Sayce, in Academy, Aug. 16, 1879). In a subsequent letter, Professor Sayce remarks that there were two roads open to the Hittites, and both, to judge by the scattered monuments already found, appear to have been travelled by their armies. The one was that taken by Croesus on his march against Cyrus; its course was through Pessinus, Ancyra, and Pterium. The other was that traversed by Xenophon and the Ten Thousand; this road passed through the Cilician Gates by Iconium. Both roads met in Sardes.

Was this enterprising race a member of the Semitic family? Let us consider—

(1.) The evidence supplied by the pictorial representations on the ancient monuments.—" If it is allowable to form a judgment on the origin of this cultivated and powerful people from its outward bearing and appearance, it seems to us, under the guidance of the monuments, to be at least very doubtful wdiether we should reckon this chivalrous race among the Canaanites" (who, see art. CANAANITES, were probably in the main Semitic). "Beardless, armed in a different manner, fighting three men on each chariot of war [the Egyptian chariots only carry two], arranged in their order of battle according to a well considered plan previously laid down, the Khita present a striking contrast to their Canaanite allies." Such is the verdict of Brugsch and of all who have seen the wonderful wall-sculptures in the greet temple of Abusimbel. No modern artist is more careful to represent distinctive racial features than this primitive sculptor. Even at such a distance from this national centre as Ninfi (see above), Professor Sayce maintains that no one who has once seen a Hittite figure can mistake the resemblance. The peaked tiara and the turned-up shoes are the peculiar marks of the Hittite, and of the Hittite alone.

(2.) The evidence from language,—Our knowledge of the Hittite language is confined to the proper names mentioned in the Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions—those which occur in the Hebrew Bible being, as we have seen, of insufficient authority. Opinions differ as to the character of the names derived from hieroglyphic sources. M. de Rouge was strongly convinced of their Semitic origin, but his explanations are for the most part adventurous, and Brugsch Bey's verdict seems philologically much more sound,'' that these names do not bear a Semitic, or at any rate not a pure Semitic stamp." The names, of persons are the following, as represented by M. de Rouge:—Kheta-sar, Maursar, Kauisar, Taurteribu, Aktasib, Net'era, Tot'as, Raba-sunana, Tarakaunasa, Mait'arima, Kamaiut'a, Taatur, Sapalel, Sama-risa, Paiusa, Akama, Tuber, Kirabsar. To these may bo added the following from the list of nations of Thothmes III.:—Pirkheta, Ai, Amau, Tliuka, Thel-manna, Legaba, Tunipa, Ni, Ar, Zizal, Zakai, Arzakana (Brugsch, History of Egypt, ii. 5). No less un-Semitic for the most part are the names of Hittite persons and places which occur on the Assyrian monument, The following is a list of the kings of Khatti-land given by Shalmaneser II. on the monolith inscription : ''Sangar of Carchemish, Kundaspi of Kummueh, Arami, son of Gusi, Lalli of Lallid, Chayan, son of Gabar, Girparud of Patin, Gir-parud of Gamgum" (lines 82, 83), to which should he added " Sapalulmi of Patin" (lines 42, 43), which so strongly reminds one of the name of the king of Khita, Sapalili, mentioned in the treaty between Bamses II. and the Khita, The un-Semitic character of this group of names is the more remarkable, because (as Professor Sayce remarks) Assyrian, being itself a Semitic language, could not help representing foreign Semitic names in a form recognizable as Semitic. How obviously Semitic, for instance, are the names of the kings of Hamath and Damascus, handed down to us in the Assyrian inscriptions! True, one of the above names of Hittite places, Carchemish ("fortress of Chemosh"), has a Semitic air, and the same may be said of Kadesh, the scene of the victory of Ramses II. But (1) it is not quite certain that Carchemish is Semitic (the Assyrians generally reproduce it under the form Gargamis, though sometimes Kargamis), and (2) even if it is Semitic, this may arise from the towns having been occupied by Semites prior to the Hittites. As for Kadesh (in the Egyptian inscriptions, Ketesh), though under the jurisdiction of the Khita, it was reckoned as a Canaanitish or more strictly an Amoritish town (Birch, Egypt, p. 116), while Orontes (in Egyptian, Arunata) has not even a Semitic appearance. It is true, again, that several of the Hittite proper names are compounded with sar—e.g., Khita-sar (the king who warred against Ramses II.), and that sar is evidently the Assyrian for "king" (also Hebrew for "prince"). But sar is also found in Egyptian inscriptions; it is in fact of Accadian (non-Semitic) origin, and was therefore borrowed by the Assyrians, before the Hittites and the Egyptians adopted it from them. The form of names like Kheta-sar (see list above) favours the view that the Hittite language was agglutinative, and consequently non-Semitic.

But this and all other aspects of Hittite culture will appear in a new light when the explorations have made further progress. At present we can only say that the probability is that the Hittites are not Semitic; in fact, they display an originality of genius which is not strikingly characteristic of pure Semitic races. The hypothesis which regards them as the early civilizers of Asia Minor seems confirmed by the position of Carchemish, so favourable to the radiation of civilizing influences. The importance of the Hittite capital in a commercial respect is known to all. The manek or mina of Carchemish is constantly mentioned on the cuneiform tablets; probably it was of lighter weight than the silver mina in use in Phoenicia (see Mr Barclay V. Head's letter in Academy, Nov. 22, 1879). Of the religious life of the Hittites we are hardly in a position to speak. We know indeed that, like the Hyksos, they worshipped Sutekh (who was localized, like Baal, as the patron of particular cities on the treaty of Ramses II.), and, like the Canaanites, Astarata or Ashtoreth. The worship of Astarata will account for the name Hierapolis given afterwards, as it seems, to Carchemish, as well as to other Syrian cities (Jerablus being a corruption of Hierapolis). But beyond this all is dark. Did the Hittites borrow in religious matters from the Assyrians? Had they legends relative to the origin of the world, and in what relation do these stand to the Hebrew narratives? Passing to philology in the narrower sense of the word, we wait longingly for a confirmation of Professor Sayce's view that the Hittites were the authors of the Hamathite hieroglyphics. No Semitic nation ever invented a syllabic system of writing; the Hittites are in all probability non-Semitic, and from their enterprising character are precisely the people likely to have invented such characters. Professor Sayce has followed up this conjecture by another of no less importance, viz., that the enigmatical Cypriote syllabary is really derived from the hieroglyphics of Hamath. If this be proved (and the propounder of it claims to have the evidence ready), and if the Hittites he really the inventors of the Hamathite hieroglyphics, this wonderful nation steps into a position hardly surpassed by that of any of the nations of the distant East.

Authorities.—Documents in Brugsch's History of Egypt, compared with the parallel passages in Records of the Past, vols, ii., iv.; "Monolith Inscription of Shalmaneser," Records of the Past, iii. 25-30; Schiader, Keilinschriften und Geschichtsforschung, pp. 225-236; Brugsch, History of Egypt, ii. 2-8; Chabas, Voyage d'un Egyptien, pp. 818-332; Vicomte de Rouge", Melanges d'archeologie Assyrienne et Egyptienne, 1875, p. 264, &c. (posthumous); letters of Professor Sayce in Academy, Aug. 16 and Nov. 1, 1879. On the site of Carchemish, see Schrader, Keitinschriften, &c, pp. 221-225; Maspero, Journal des Savans, Oct. 1873; and Pococke's Account of the Ruins of Jerabus (Jerablus), A Description of the East, etc, 1743-45, ii 165. (T. K. C.)

The above article was written by Rev. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, D.Litt., D.D.; sometime Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford; Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Scripture, Oxford; Canon of Rochester, 1885; one of the Old Testament revisers; Bampton Lecturer, 1889; author of Notes and Criticisms on the Hebrew Text of Isaiah; joint editor of Encyclopaedia Biblica.

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