This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Hattusas was razed to the ground by fire in the 2nd Century B.C.

Posted in Ancient History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Bible, Historical articles, History, War on Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about the Hittites originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.

Hattusas, picture, image, illustration

Hattusas, the mountain stronghold of the warlike Hittites by Ron Embleton

A mountain-top in Turkey seems a more fitting site for the castle of a robber chieftain than the capital of a great empire. But it was here that archaeologists discovered the ruins of the chief city of the Hittites, a powerful race which the Bible mentions several times as the rulers of an empire somewhere in Asia.

The discovery of the heart of this lost empire of the Hittites had no one dramatic moment. Instead the work was carried on by experts over many years.

Scholars concerned with records of ancient Egypt had found many references to a warlike people called Hatti, with whom even the mighty Pharaohs dealt carefully. These people used chariots in war, were able to put thousands of soldiers in the field, and had built up a complex series of alliances with neighbouring kings. In a great battle in 1288 B.C., they and the Egyptians fought to a standstill and thereafter treated each other with respect.

Meanwhile, other scholars in Turkey and the Middle East discovered that statues, ruins and inscriptions of an unknown race were to be found over a wide area. Certain links seemed to connect the Hatti of the Egyptian annals and the Hittites of the Bible with this mysterious race.

The information picked up in Egypt and Turkey was assembled together in Europe by other experts, until gradually a picture was built up of a people who had ruled their empire from the mountains of Turkey. Expeditions were sent out to try to locate the nerve-centre of this empire.

In 1906, systematic excavations began among strange ruins on a mountain-top near the Turkish village of Boghazkoy, and it was here that the archaeologists found what they were looking for. The ruins at Boghazkoy turned out to be the remains of Hattusas, the long-sought Hittite capital.

Built upon precipitous cliffs over 4,000 feet above sea level, in the middle of rugged, mountainous country, the city of Hattusas must once have commanded the major routes out of Asia Minor into Europe. From this admirably situated stronghold the soldiers and government officials of the Hittites administered their empire.

The archaeologists found a hill which was crowned with a line of fortifications four miles long. Inside lay the city, which in its prime must have been the home of about 20,000 people.

The city seemed to grow out of the rock upon which it was built. Its builders were so certain of their skill that they had not even troubled to cut the enormous stones they used into easily-handled blocks but had slotted them into place in their natural shape. In some places the walls towered up sheer from a ravine, as solid as the day they were built.

In contrast to this massive, primitive architecture were the carefully executed sculptures adorning the city. The Hittite artists did not put much detail of everyday life into their work; but their sculptures nevertheless gave a good indication of the Hittite way of life.

The most important discovery at Boghazkoy was made during the early stages of the excavations, when a vast hoard of baked clay tablets was unearthed within the citadel of the city.

To the untrained eye, they would appear as flat slabs, little differing from bricks as they lay embedded in earth. But, unexciting though they might look, these tablets held the key to over 1,000 years of history!

The manner in which they were clustered together in the earth showed clearly that they had been part of an organised system. They did not merely form a library – they were the actual records of the kings of the Hittites.

Some of the tablets recorded treaties with neighbouring kings, and were particularly valuable because they gave a summary of the events that led up to the treaty. Each was, in effect, a history of the time. Other tablets contained military regulations, and these careful instructions to commanders, covering every aspect of their duties, show that the Hittite army was as highly organised as that of the Romans.

The discovery of this data at last allowed the Hittites to ‘speak’ for themselves, instead of through the records of their neighbours and enemies.

The Hittites were not a single race or nation but rather an alliance of at least six related tribes dominated by one – the Hatti. It was probably a king of the Hatti, called Hattusil, who established the city as a mountain top capital in about 1500 B.C. But Hattusas had been in existence long before this time, for tablets referred to dates as early as 800 years before Hattusil!

About the year 1200 B.C., the carefully-preserved records came to an end. The ruins of the city gave some explanation for this abrupt ending. Hattusas was destroyed by a fire so fierce as to fuse bricks together.

Examining the traces of the fire, archaeologists came to the conclusion that it must have been deliberately maintained, for there would not have been enough combustible material in the city to produce such a result.

It is probable that, about the year 1200 B.C., a wave of invaders swept down from Europe and attacked Hattusas from the rear. The city had been built to repel invaders from the south and it could have collapsed before this assault.

The Empire was too well organised to be destroyed, and so the capital was moved to Carchemesh in Syria. But from then onwards the Hittites found themselves surrounded by enemies and gradually sank before new peoples who were striving to found empires of their own.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.