The descendants of the Hittites are all over Europe making it difficult to trace them. This is a result of many factors including the breaking up of the old Hittite kingdoms.
Some scholars suggest that the Turkish people are modern day Hittites but is that true?
Read on to discover the descendants of the Hittites race.
What Is the Origin of the Hittites?
The Hittites origin is traceable to Ham who was one of the three sons of Noah. Scholars believe the Hittites originated from the areas around the Black Sea. They came to prominence around the second millennium BCE.
Located in central Anatolia, the Hittites race expanded and became a prominent kingdom.
How the Hittites Grew Into a Kingdom From the Old to the New Empire
The land of the Hittites continued growing through wars with neighboring lands. Other times they used diplomacy to expand their frontiers. Their campaigns met both internal and external resistance. So, it took a while for them to grow into an empire.
Let’s look into who founded the old, middle, and new Hittite kingdoms and what led to their destruction.
The Founding and Collapse of the Old Hittite Kingdom
King Hattusili I founded the Old Hittite kingdom which he oversaw from 1650 to 1620 BCE. To establish the empire, Hattusili conquered the lands north and south of Hatussa.
His campaigns took him to Yamkhad where he waged war against Allepo, the capital of Yamkhad. He was unable to subdue the city, thus he turned his attention to rebuilding Hattusa.
Hattusa was lying in ruins when King Hattusili came. The rebuilding of Hattusa marked the foundation of the Old Kingdom. He established the city as the capital of the Old Empire. Hattusa’s grandson, Mursilli, inherited the throne and continued the expansion.
Years of bad rule and political instability led to the eventual collapse of the Old Kingdom. Some of the rulers were too weak to exercise their authority, thus they suffered defeat by rebels. Later, strong kings came along and regained lost territory but weaker kings lost it again. Coupled with a constant struggle for the throne, the Old Hittite Kingdom collapsed in 1500 BC.
The Beginning and End of the Middle Kingdom of the Hittites
The Middle Kingdom was a period of weaker kings. Records of this period are scarce and one reason was due to the frequent attacks on the Hittites. Their main enemy, during that period, was the Kaskans who were relentless. The period also saw the movement of their capital from Hattusa to Sapinuwa.
Later, they moved it to Samuha, the religious center of the kingdom. The Middle Kingdom saw one of history’s first signing of treaties. The Hittites entered into alliances with other neighbors to ensure their safety. Moreover, the Middle Kingdom collapsed and was later succeeded by the New Hittite Kingdom.
The Emergence of the New Hittite Kingdom and How It Broke Down
The monarchy of King Tudhaliya I sparked a revolution that gave birth to the New Kingdom. Under King Suppliuluma I the New Kingdom regained its former glory. He united all the internal warring factions under his rule and fortified Hattusa. Once again, the Hittite Kingdom resumed expansion by conquering neighboring cities.
Suppliuluma I conquered and added the Kingdom of Mitanni and the Levant region to his empire. He also added the region of Syria to his conquests. Unfortunately, however, Suppliuluma I died from a plague that was prevalent in the region.
The young King Mursilli II succeeded his father and continued expanding the kingdom. He defeated the long-standing rivals of the Hittite, the Kaskans, and made them slaves. The last king to ever rule in the Hittite Empire was Suppliuluma II.
Around this time the Assyrian empire started establishing itself as a world superpower. Its constant attacks started causing damage to the Hittite Empire. The Kaskans had also regrouped and launched attacks of their own. The sea-faring people also waged war against the New Hittite Empire.
In 1193 BCE, the New Hittite Kingdom fell. The Kaskans invaded and burned the capital city, Hattusa in 1190 BCE. King Suppliuluma II died while defending the invasion of the Kaskans. Finally, the New Hittite kingdom fell to the Assyrians who destroyed everything.
The Hittite Descendants After the Collapse of the New Hittite Empire
When the New Hittite Empire fell, many Hittites went to rural areas in northern Mesopotamia. These dispersed people formed big villages and settlements which soon became societies.
Though the Hittites never returned to their prominence they formed new states. Scholars referred to these states as Syro-Hittite kingdoms.
The Syro-Hittite states grouped themselves into North and South. The North had seven states: those were Tabal, Kammanu, Hilaku, Quwe, Gurgum, Kummuh, and Charchemish. The Southern states included Palistin, Bit-Gabbari, Bit-Adini, Bit Bahiani, Pattin, and Hamath.
The most prominent of these kingdoms were Kummuhi, Tabal, Charchemish, and Melid.
Notably, these four Syro-Hittites kingdoms upheld several traditions of the past kingdoms. Some of these traditions included augury, which involved the interpretation of omens. They worshiped the god Tarhunzas who was part of the pantheon of the New Hittite Empire.
The Syro-Hittite states continued for 400 years until they fell to the Neo-Assyrians. Shalmaneser III then assimilated some of the Syro-Hittite states into the Assyrian kingdom. When Sargon II became king, he added the rest of the Syro-Hittites states to the empire.
Who Are the Modern Day Hittites: The Never-ending Debate
Some people propose that the modern-day Hittites are the people who live in Turkey at the moment. This is because they trace the origin of the Hittites to Central Anatolia which is Turkey today. Others think that the present-day Turks are a blend of Turkic and Anatolia genes.
The main view is that modern Turks are not “direct” descendants of Hittites but have some of their genes.
Many believe that the Hittites spread around modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and the Levant. They formed small kingdoms but had no one to unify them. Thus, they integrated into the population of Turkey, Mesopotamia, and the Levant. As such scholars consider the people of these areas to be descendants as well.
The discovery of Hittite artifacts near a Turkish village showed that Turks were descendants of Hittites. The village, called Bogazkoy, contained several tablets from the Old Hittite Empire. The tablets even revealed that the Hittites referred to themselves as Neshians.
The topic of whether Turks are direct descendants of Hittites or not is still debated. Both sides are yet to come to a consensus. As things remain the Turks may or may not be true descendants of the Hittites.
What Were the Famous Achievements of the Ancient Hittites?
The Hittites were unique because of their valuable contributions to humanity. Some of these contributions are a major influence on modern society. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
The Ancient Hittites Discovered Iron Metallurgy
The Hittites’ ingenuity helped to bring about the Iron Age. Before that was the Bronze Age where bronze was the main metal used in manufacturing weapons. Bronze was heavier, difficult to carry around, and it also slowed down the movement of troops during battles.
Iron metallurgy proved decisive in winning or losing battles. This technology helped them in the conquests and the expansion of their kingdoms. Soon, iron metallurgy spread throughout the whole of the ancient world and exists to this day.
The Hittites Were Among the First To Use Constitutional Monarchy
The Hittites practiced constitutional monarchy and were its earliest sources. A constitutional monarchy is when a king rules by a constitution. It was also known as a democratic monarchy.
In the ancient Hittite Kingdom, the king or queen was the head of state but did not have absolute power. Power and authority rested with both the king and an assembly called Panku. The Panku was like a modern-day parliament. The Panku were representatives of the ordinary people of the empire.
What Was the Language of the Ancient Hittites?
The Hittites spoke Hittite, an Indo-European language. Like other ancient languages, Hittite is now extinct. The language started to lose ground when the Hittite Kingdoms collapsed. As the people began assimilating other cultures, they abandoned their language.
At the time of the Syro-Hittite states, the Hittites adopted the language Luwian. This transition was easy because Luwian was like the Hittite language. Records state that by the time of the Iron Age, Luwian was the most popular language in Hattusa.
So, we’ve covered a lot of grounds, from the origin of the Hittites to their extinction.
Let’s sum up all that you have read:
- The ancestor of the Hittites was Ham, the son of Noah
- The Hittites originated from lands surrounding the Black Sea
- They became popular around the second millennium BCE
- King Hattusili I established the Old Hittite Kingdom in the year 1650 BCE.
- The collapse of the Old Kingdom led to the founding of the Middle Hittite Kingdom
- When the Middle Kingdom collapsed, the New Hittite Kingdom sprung up
- The destruction of the New Hittite Kingdom contributed to their decline
The Hittites were a unique people whose contributions were well documented. It is difficult to trace their descendants due to their complete assimilation so, the modern descendants of the Hittites may be difficult to identify.