Hattusha was the capital of the Late Bronze Age kingdom of the Hittites. The history of this kingdom referred to as the Land of Hatti in ancient texts, spans almost five centuries from the 17th century BC to the early 12th century. When the Hittite Empire was at the height of its power, it stretched across Anatolia and Northern Syria to the Euphrates River and Mesopotamia's western threshold. Hattusha, which was the lifeblood of this empire, was located in the northern part of Central Anatolia. At the height of its development, it became one of the largest urban centers in the ancient Near East, with over 185 hectares.
An earlier settlement in the same area was destroyed in the mid-18th century BC by a king named Anitta, who cursed it. However, Hattusili, one of the first Hittite kings, disregarded the curse, rebuilt the city, and built a palace on its acropolis. This natural rock outcrop, now called Büyükkale and surrounded by deep gorges, was almost impregnable from the north. But the new city lacked sufficient defenses in the south and remained vulnerable to enemy attack until an 8m-thick fortification was built nearly two centuries later. The city, which even the wall could only protect for twenty or thirty years, was attacked by the enemy forces that launched attacks on the Hittite homeland from all directions, was plundered and burned. The kingdom itself came to the brink of extinction sometime in the first half of the 14th century BC, in what experts call "concentric invasions."
Eventually, the occupying forces were repelled from the country, mainly thanks to the military genius of Suppiluliuma; Suppiluliuma, still a prince at that time, would become one of the greatest Hittite kings (1350-1322 BC). The reconstruction of the capital continued until the final collapse of the Hittite Kingdom almost two centuries later. The city expanded substantially to the south, more than twice its original area. The main feature of the new fortifications, more than 5 km in length, was a large casemate fortification built on an earthen trench; Towers were erected at 20 m intervals along the entire wall. In front of it was a second curtain wall with towers placed between those in the main wall. The most striking of a series of entrances to the city were adorned with monumental relief sculptures; The names Sphinx Gate, Lion Gate, and Warrior-God (King) Gate evoke these sculptures.
– From the Anitta Inscription
I planted weeds where it was found. May the Storm God strike the person who will become king after me and settle in Hattusha!
Archaeological Excavations in Hattusha
With its royal acropolis and an enormous temple dedicated to the Storm God, the original city is known as the Lower City in its reconstruction and fortified form. Archaeologists refer to the next extension that falls to the south as the Upper City. Excavations in the latter have unearthed the foundations of 26 temples, and perhaps others will be found in the future. According to Peter Neve, who directed the excavations, "new temples" clearly show that Hattusas has a sacred and ceremonial city character. In fact, it can be said that the order of the city as a whole symbolized the Hittites' cosmic understanding of the world. Simultaneously, the palace represents the material world, and the temple-city the divine world; the cult space between the two provides the transition from mortality to eternity.
- The Lion Gate, which is the main entrance to Hattusa. The loyal rulers and the envoys of foreign kings would pass through here with a ceremony in preparation for the Hittite king.
Subsequent excavations revealed large complexes of grain silos and five water reservoirs that provided most of the city's water for a short period of time. Tens of thousands of clay tablet pieces from the palace and temple archives of Hattusa constitute the main source of written information about the history and civilization of the Hittite world, including cult issues, law and relations with other great empires of the period, especially Egypt. A solid bronze tablet found near the Sphinx Gate sheds significant light on the political geography and history of the kingdom in its last years. In addition, an archive with more than 3,500 seal impressions provided important details about the family tree of the members of the Hittite royal family.
Recent excavations have scattered the impression that Hattusas was destroyed with a sudden and harsh end. Although there are certainly signs of destruction, it seems that this process may have happened after the city was partially abandoned. Remains from the late period of Hattusa, dating to the early 12th century BC, indicate that most of the valuable assets were systematically moved elsewhere before the city's fall. The king and his entourage fled with the most important items, including official records. A large military convoy must have accompanied them, but the rest of the people may well have been left to take care of themselves. When the city finally succumbs to predatory external forces, it may already have entered a state of advanced decay.
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