BMCR 2006.11.34

The Kingdom of the Hittites. New Edition

, The kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. 1 online resource (xix, 554 pages) : illustrations. ISBN 9781429469807 $55.00 (pb).

Table of Contents

1998 saw the original publication of Trevor Bryce’s (henceforth B) The Kingdom of the Hittites (henceforth κἠ, reviewed by the Hittitologist Gary Beckman for BMCR the next year (BMCR 1999.04.18). KH immediately became indispensable, the only up-to-date narrative history in English of Bronze Age Anatolia’s once-forgotten empire, a great power contemporary with Pharaonic Egypt, Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece, the Hurrians of Mitanni, and the Assyrians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia. Now Oxford University Press has brought out a “New Edition” of this acclaimed and useful book (henceforth κηνἐ, expressly targeting students of the Near East, Classics, and Egyptology; scholars of Aegean prehistory should also be among its readers. Completely re-typeset, KHNE retains KH’s division into 14 chapters plus a “Final Comment” and two appendices on chronology and sources. They trace the political and military fortunes of the polyglot Hittites from their first appearance (as Nesites) in the early second millennium BCE and the reigns of early kings Labarna, Hattusili I, and Mursili I, to the breakdown of Hittite hegemony during Tudhaliya IV’s reign in the waning years of the 13th century.

Is KHNE worth buying if you or your institution’s library already own KH? Yes, because archaeological research and textual scholarship are constantly increasing and modifying our knowledge of the Hittites and their world, so that any comprehensive survey more than 20 years old is basically obsolete. KHNE’s back cover states that all the chapters have been “revised and partly rewritten” to include “recent discoveries,” textual and archaeological, and “reassessments and updates” of material already known, producing an expanded bibliography and notes, and that “maps have been redrawn, and a number of illustrations added.” B himself confirms (preface, xvii-xix) the need to revise a text first submitted for publication in June 1996, noting new additions to the written record of Hittite diplomatic and military activity, in particular Hattusili I’s letter to Tuniya (also known as Tunip-Teshub) king of Tikunani, and the Hatip and Karabel inscriptions, new archaeological discoveries at Hattusha, as well as errors and omissions noted in KH.

KHNE is some 90 pages longer than its predecessor because of the numerous changes and expansions in response to criticisms regarding various philological and chronological points.1 They affect the running text, the notes, and the bibliography (xviii: “almost 300 new items”). Many of the translations of primary sources on which the narrative depends have been improved and updated. The spelling of many proper names has been corrected to reflect current scholarship on Hittite phonology.2 The orthography of the maps (22, 43, 53, 162) has also been corrected; newly added are a map of the Syrian principalities in the 14th century and more place-names. Sprinkled through the text are eight black-and-white plates, of which more anon. The principal innovations of substance are the following. B has introduced a new section (78-81) discussing the letter of Hattusili I to Tuniya mentioned above, evidence that Old Kingdom Hittites advanced further into Mesopotamia than hitherto supposed. The presentation of theories about tin sources has been revised to allow more space for the views of Turkish scholars (9, 82). The potential significance of the word Tawananna — a woman’s proper name, royal title, or both? — has been expanded (88, 90-94, cf. 159). Completely new are the paragraphs about a silver bowl, inscribed with Luwian hieroglyphs referring to king Tudhaliya I/II and Taruisa (Troy?), and Tudhaliya’s campaigns against the Assuwan Confederacy (125-26). King Tudhaliya III’s problems with the Kaska peoples feature in a new section (145-46). The consequences of the murder of Tudhaliya by Suppiluliuma, and the latter’s relations with Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten and eventual fate occupy another new passage (154-56) enlivened by an extra quotation from Mursili II’s First Plague Prayer. B has revised and expanded his account of Suppiluliuma’s dealings with the Egyptians and with Sharrupshi of Nuhashshi (166-67); he also relates the fortunes of Rib-Hadda and Aziru, leaders of the unquiet land of Amurru, a bone of contention between Egyptians and Hatti (172-75) at greater length. Sorting out the documentation for Mursili I and II and Danuhepa/Tanuhepa (one woman, or two?) results in another expansion of the text (211), as does the enlarged discussion of Urhi-Teshub’s exile in Egypt and Phoenicia, to the great annoyance of the new king Hattusili (280-81).

For the last decades of the Hittite empire, KHNE offers new material (313-14) on Tudhaliya IV’s relations with the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, much of it formerly in a chapter dealing with Hattusili III (cf. KH 304). Kurunta’s hypothetical coup against Tudhaliya IV receives more extended treatment (319-20), as does the significance, in the so-called Südburg inscription (329-30), of his campaigns against the kingdom of Tarhuntassa, which B supposes was “lost to the Hittites in Tudhaliya’s reign.”3 The Sea Peoples’ invasion of Ugarit is rendered more fully and vividly with added direct quotation (334-35). B has rewritten his account of the end of Hittite rule at Hattusha (345-47) to reflect Seeher’s revised view of events, which discards the scenario of a massive conflagration in favor of gradual abandonment and dereliction, with some destruction and squatting, over a period of a few months to a few years in the early 12th century.4 The aftermath of the Hittite empire is illuminated by an expanded passage (352-53) on the Kizildag inscription, which has affinities to an inscription of Tudhaliya IV at Yalburt and refers to a “Great King” Hartapu, thought by B to be the son of the deposed Urhi-Teshub; B relates this text to the conflict with Tarhuntassa and the empire’s successor kingdoms. The last chapter, which offers an Anatolian perspective on the historical quotient of the Trojan War, has been revised to include Korfmann’s views on the location of Bronze Age Troy’s harbor (357), and a new paragraph (360) joins the Tudhaliya-Tarwisa silver bowl mentioned earlier with Hawkins’ recent interpretation of the Karabel Pass inscription, connecting the kingdom of Mira, ruled by Tarkasnawa, with Apasa, capital of the former Arzawa, later known as Ephesus.5

KHNE unquestionably contains more material than KH. But expansion can be problematic. The editorial decision to change the augmented footnotes into endnotes (endorsed by B: xix) necessitates the use of double bookmarks with constant flipping back and forth to elucidate particular statements, for example about Lukka as a land and a people (54): “Singer’s description of the Lukka people as ‘the Habiru of Anatolia’ is very apt.” Though this allusive remark could use some comment, as it has more resonance for students of Near Eastern or Biblical Studies than for those with a background in European history or Classics — compare ‘Phoenicians,”Bagaudae,’ and ‘Goths’ — its accompanying n. 30 has been displaced to the back of the book (404) while the Habiru reappear 110 pages later (168).

Oxford’s decision to equip KHNE with plates is a sound idea. In principle, visual evidence is a great help, especially to non-specialists grappling with a narrative rich in unfamiliar polysyllables. The images of the Lion Gate at Hattusha (84) and Sharruma protecting Tudhaliya IV at Yazilikaya (326) are quite good, while those of Büyükkale (45) and Suppiluliuma II (330) at Hattusha and the southeastern tower of Troy VI (366) are muddy and lacking in definition. Reproducing black-and-white images on plain paper is often a gamble. What is worrying, though, is that Figures 3, 4, and 7 are inadequately identified. The first (155) is captioned “Double-headed eagle, symbol of imperial power.” No location, no date. It is in fact from Alaca Höyük and dates from the 14th century BCE. The other two figures, one entitled “Hittite charioteers at Kadesh” (B’s own photograph, doing double duty as the cover image), the other “Sherden warriors amongst the Sea Peoples,” are clearly Egyptian. Again, no locations, no dates. This missing information is something non-specialists might want to know.6

OUP’s claim that KHNE takes account of all advances, textual and archaeological, since the mid-1990s does not hold true in all respects. B’s reference to “recent” excavations at Hattusha (45-46, cf. 325) is in fact a holdover from KH and effectively signifies only Peter Neve’s work at the site through 1991, particularly in discovering numerous temples.7 The final chapter on the Trojan War suffers from a comparable unfamiliarity with more recent work in Greek archaeology and philology.8 As well, a few typographical errors and other lapses have persisted despite the efforts that went into recasting KHNE.9

The frustrating aspect of KHNE is its uneven treatment of different classes of evidence. At the very beginning of the book, B alludes to interesting and valuable new archaeological discoveries at Hattusha (xvii-xviii) yet leaves them out of his revised narrative. The chasm between texts and their material context is rarely bridged. B’s old-style focus on writing and fighting — royal edicts, correspondence, apologies, annals, and treaties — excludes virtually any other disciplinary or methodological consideration. One looks in vain for a sense of Anatolia’s varied landscapes or telling historical parallels from elsewhere in antiquity or relevant anthropological or political comparative material of more recent date.10 For example, the discussion of the final centuries of the Hittite empire and the probable causes of its downfall, particularly the theory that drought and consequent crop failure may have led to destabilizing famine (322, 340-41) or that the empire was doomed by “systems collapse” (342-44), would be considerably enriched by considering what is already known about the place of water and the storage of agricultural products in the Hittite world.

First, to take water. At Hattusha, basins/reservoirs have been found in and near the palatial area of Büyükkale on the city’s east side, where a cultic function has been imputed to them. More recently (2000-2001) however, excavations in the southwestern area of the city have uncovered the so-called South Ponds ( Südteiche), which are too numerous (five) and large (the four oblong ones are c. 38-70 m long, 14-18 m wide, and c. 6-8 m deep; the circular one is c. 16 m across and 5.6 m deep) to be mistaken for Kultteiche (religious ponds). In the estimation of the excavators, the elevated siting (only 20 m below Hattusha’s highest point) of the spring-fed South Ponds and their remarkable depth, intended to minimize evaporation loss, indicate their function as a reservoir complex that could supply the entire city with water.11 Outside the capital, bodies of water with religious functions are known at several Hittite sites, including the Huwasi sanctuary with its Suppitassu spring in the hills south of the city of Sarissa (mod. Kusakli), near Sivas,12 and the massive masonry “basin” constructed in the reign of Tudhaliya IV at Yalburt (Ilgin), northwest of Konya. The latter is mentioned simply as “a hieroglyphic inscription” that tells of “military operations conducted by Tudhaliya against the Lukka Lands and Wiyanawanda” (304 and 475 n 47). But more ought to be said. The “rectangular stone basin” of Yalburt is a hydraulic installation. It has distinct structural affinities to Eflatun Pinar near Lake Egridir, a spring sanctuary of extraordinary scale and sculptural embellishment, that suggest the latter may also be attributed to Tudhaliya IV.13 In the reign of Tudhaliya IV, the region in which Eflatun Pinar is situated was part of the kingdom of Tarhuntassa. Kurunta, a cousin and sometime rival of Tudhaliya, was ruler of Tarhuntassa, and on the strength of some seal impressions from Hattusha and an inscribed relief at Hatip, B hypothesizes (319-21) that Kurunta usurped Tudhaliya’s throne as Great King in 1228-1227, although Tudhaliya then regained and kept the kingship until his death in 1209. Thus, given that the Yalburt basin was patently constructed for Tudhaliya IV, one of two conclusions may be drawn: either Tudhaliya IV had Eflatun Pinar built as well, to symbolize his dominance over Tarhuntassa and its water resources (before or after his difficulties with Kurunta), or Kurunta himself commissioned it as a sign of his kingly power, surpassing Tudhaliya’s commemorative basin in its magnificence and splendor. Either way, these projects demonstrate the importance of water not only for its own sake, in connection with thirst, drought, and crop failure, but also as an instrument by which Hittite rulers expressed their power in the final decades before the collapse of their imperial state.

Likewise, turning to the subject of food supply and the fall of the Hittite empire, it is disappointing that Jurgen Seeher’s work on grain storage, alluded to in KHNE’s preface and included in the bibliography, was not successfully incorporated.14 While the biochemical factors bearing on the subterranean storage of cereals need not occupy the political historian, Seeher communicates the relevant practical fact that at Hattusha there were at least 11 silos on Büyükkaya alone, some of them used down into the 13th century, plus the complex of 16 massive chambers built next to the Poternenmauer in the 15th/14th century, the storage pithoi of Temple 1, and several other potential granary sites; this count does not include the silo between Ponds 3 and 5 on the southwestern heights of Hattusha that was decommissioned sometime before the reservoirs were constructed, probably not later than the 15th century. Any city as large as Hattusha would have needed more grain than its immediate neighborhood could produce, but Seeher’s study shows that Hattusha had the facilities to store quantities of cereals large enough to feed thousands of people for multi-year periods.15 It is quite possible that some or all of these facilities were allowed to fall into disrepair or were emptied and not replenished as a result of crop failure or mismanagement, but their construction history and probable use should in any case figure in the debate about the factors that contributed to the collapse of Hittite power, for the alimentation of the empire and its capital (cf. 331-32) was an inescapable concern of every king.16

A lament for indexing. In the English-speaking world, we hope that basic books will possess fairly helpful indices. Since KHNE’s numerous chapter subheadings do not appear in the table of contents, which lists only the main chapter titles, the “Final Comment,” and the appendices, it is dispiriting to turn to the Index (537-54) and find that although some index entries are subdivided (e.g. “Anitta,” “Hattusa,” and “Hattusili I”) many lengthier ones — e.g. “Ahhiyawa” (21 page references), “Assyria” (28), “Egypt” (47), “Kaska (lands and peoples)” (39) — lack any subheadings.17

All in all, despite reservations arising from the treatment of non-textual evidence, this reviewer must second Beckman’s positive assessment, which exalts the book’s central virtue: “… the real strength of … (sc. the book) is that Bryce looks at the world of the Hittites with the eye of a true historian.” To construct a narrative history of the Hittite empire demands acute discernment, powers of synthesis, and appreciable fortitude, drawing as it does on collections of often fragmentary texts that range from legal and administrative documents and diplomatic communications to self-serving autobiography and intercessory prayers. Thanks to B’s decision to let his sources speak for themselves, KHNE shows that the words of the Hittites turn out to be their empire’s most lasting monument.


1. Cf. Beckman’s footnotes 11, 14, and 15 in BMCR 1999.04.18.

2. E.g., Assur now appears as Ashur, Kanes as Kanesh, Nuhasse as Nuhashshi.

3. What this phrase implies is uncertain, since Kurunta was no less Hittite than his cousin Tudhaliya.

4. B cites Seeher 2001b, the publication of a paper delivered at the October 1999 Würzburg Hittitological congress.

5. Also, the KH typographical error “Alexander Paris” has been corrected to “Alexandros (Paris)” (359).

6. Guesses can be made. The running text adjacent to the first caption (234-235) says five temples record Ramesses II’s version of the Battle of Kadesh — could the charioteers be from the Ramesseum? — while the second, judging from the text in which it is embedded (335-336), ought to be part of Merneptah’s document relief at Karnak.

7. The bibliography (523) lists all of Neve’s AA (Archäologischer Anzeiger) reports of excavations at Bogazköy-Hattusha 1983-1991, but only one ( AA 2001: 333-362) of Seeher’s. Not in KHNE: J. Seeher, AA 1995, 600-625; 1996, 335-362; 1997, 317-341; 1998, 215-241; 1999, 317-344; 2000, 355-376; 2002/1, 59-78; 2003/1, 1-24; 2004/1, 59-76. See also

8. E.g. at 361-362, in connection with a Luwian seal found in Troy VIIIb1. A basic resource missing from the bibliography: I. Morris and B. Powell, eds. A New Companion to Homer (Leiden-New York-Cologne 1997), specifically J. Bennet, “Homer and the Bronze Age,” 511-534; I. Morris, “Homer and the Iron Age,”534-559; S. Morris, “Homer and the Near East,” 599-623.

9. Nemesis is inexplicably still italicized as it was in KH (101). Hattusili’s Apology appears twice as Apol ogy, a relic of KH (246-247). For the section heading “Vale Masturi” (303), ‘Vale’ should be italicized. B’s revised discussion substitutes Tarkasnawa for Atpa as the Milawata letter’s addressee (306), but leaves an otiose “ruler” after “ruler of western Anatolia.” The Teresh contingent of Sea People, identified with the Tyrsenoi, are said to be “perhaps the ancestors of the Etruscan people of southern Italy” (336); “north-central Italy” would be more accurate.

10. E.g., historical/political parallels would be useful at 68-69, where Hattusili I establishes his capital at Hattusha, and at 106-107, where B puzzles about the pros and cons of Telepinu’s clemency towards his would-be assassins. At 88-89 and 90-94, scholarly debates about the modalities of royal succession and the significance of Tawananna as name and/or title are reviewed would benefit from anthropological comparanda. B’s own view of what happened when Urhi-Teshub assumed control of the kingdom only to be deposed by his uncle Hattusili (254-62) is less than clear.

11. J. Seeher, AA 2002/1, 61-70; online.

12. Website, last updated 23.01.2002.

13. Martin Bachmann and Sirri Özenir, “Das Quellheiligtum Eflatun Pinar,” AA 2004/1, 85-122, with full bibliography. This publication, which completely re-examines the site, appeared too late to be included in KHNE, but Eflatun Pinar has been known to scholars since the mid-19th century.

14. J. Seeher, “Getreidelagerung in unterirdischen Grossspeichern: Zur Methode und ihrer Anwendung im 2. Jahrtausend v.Chr. am Beispiel der Befunde in Hattusa,” SMEA 42.2 (2000): 261-301.

15. Cf. Joseph’s advice for the seven lean years presaged in Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41.

16. In the Çorum Museum, five bronze sickles from Ortaköy on display are inscribed with the word LU.GAL, i.e. property of the King. The discussion of Rhys Carpenter’s drought theory (341 and nn 65-69) contains no significant archaeological evidence from Hattusha or other Hittite sites supporting or discounting disruptions to agricultural production or food supplies, or water supply, unless one counts Drews (1993) on juniper log rings at Gordion, indicating Anatolian drought c. 1200, Zaccagnini (1995) on famine texts from Emar on the Euphrates, and Klengel (1992) on Syria.

17. Other examples: “Aleppo (Halab, Halap, Halpa)” and “Arzawa (gen)” (30 references each), “Muwattalli II (34), and “Ugarit” (25). The plethora of proper names is paralleled by a lack of general concepts; there are entries such as “collapse of Hittite kingdom,” “drought,” and “grain shipments,” but not “officials,” “water supply,” or “agriculture.”