"Forgotten Empires" Remembered

Restoring the Hittites and Mitanni to Their Places in History

Part I - The Hittites in History

In his article, "Hittites and Phrygians",[5] Clapham has attempted to deal with the thorny problem of fitting the Hittite Empire into a historical situation some 550 years after its conventional setting. Noting the archeological Dark Ages in Asia Minor and the Armenian Plateau (which match the Greek Dark Age in date and duration), both areas ruled by the Hittites at the peak of their power, Clapham compared the pre-Dark Age inhabitants of these regions (the Hittites) with their post-Dark Age inhabitants (the Phrygians and Urartians, respectively). His conclusion consists of several parts. First, the Hittites are to be seen as a multi-ethnic polity, with an aristocracy (possibly of foreign origin) ruling over native peoples:

According to Gurney the kings' kinsmen were known as the "great family" and enjoyed special privileges, including high office. The greater part of the community remained outside this system, "suggesting the Hittite state was the creation of an exclusive caste system superimposed on the indigenous population." The empire was a patchwork of provinces and fiefs controlled by "princes" and "nobles" (much the same as later Celtic society), owing general allegiance to the "great king" in Hattusas. The nobility possessed large land holdings, and estates held as fiefs, and it was they who provided the chariotry on which Hittite power depended. An aristocracy so established, therefore, over several centuries may have become indistinguishable in the eyes of foreigners not in direct contact with the indigenous elements that aristocracy controlled. Assyrian references to the Muski, Tabal, Kashkai, and so on, may totally ignore the Hittite ruling class who we may identify with the Phrygians of the Greeks.[6]
Thus, Homer's description of the Phrygians at the time of the Trojan War as "dwellers in fenced cities" is accurate, contrary to claims of historians that they were recently arrived horse barbarians from Europe, and possibly a part of the "Sea Peoples". Just as Homer informs us that the Phrygians were allies of the Trojans, so also do we find "drdny" (Dardanoi being a Homeric term for the Trojans) as allies of the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh. Clapham cites case after case of cultural diffusion between Greece and the Hittite Empire, with Greek historians invariably ascribing the source of such cultural intrusions to the Phrygians. Thus, we have the Greeks crediting the Phrygians with the invention of the cymbals, flute, triangle and syrynx, all Hittite musical instruments. Religious cults attested to in Hittite records were introduced from Anatolia into Greece. The boustrophedon style of writing, adopted by the Greeks, is ultimately derived from Hittite hieroglyphics. Hittite sculptural traditions were adopted by the Ionians.

Conventional Phrygian strata are to be seen as post-Imperial Hittite remains. Clapham mentions the fact that the Lydian dynasty ended by Gyges lasted 505 years, the approximate length of the Hittite Old Kingdom and Imperial phases combined. He concedes that this may be coincidental. I think it is more likely that the Greek historians were confused by the relationship between the Phrygians and the Lydians. The Mita of Pakhuawa who rebelled against the Hittite Arnuwandas III is identified in Clapham's revision as the Mita of Mushki recorded in the annals of Sargon II. Recognizing Gyges of Lydia (Guggu in Assyrian sources) as the biblical Gog, who is described as ruler of Meshech and Tubal (Mushki and Tabal), we can see him as a successor of Mita. This would suggest that at the time of Arnuwandas III, a group of Hittite subject peoples rebelled against the Imperial authority, forming the new nation of Lydia. (Mention of Lud (Lydia) in the table of nations in Genesis 11 suggests that the name existed as far back as the Exodus. Judging from its usage in classical histories, it may have been the ancient equivalent of the modern term Asia Minor.) When Gyges of Lydia overthrew the last post-Hittite king, Candaules/Myrsilus (possibly a Mursilis IV?), that king was understandably seen as the last of the previous Lydian dynasty. A further implication of this confusion was that since it was known that Mita did not belong to this "Lydian" dynasty; that he was in fact a rival of that dynasty, he was assumed to have been a Phrygian. Thus we have the legendary "Phrygian" King Midas.

The section of Clapham's revision dealing with that part of the Hittite Empire further east is more complicated. The Urartian kings from Sarduris I through Rusas I are seen as the eastern "facades" of the Imperial Hittites from Suppiluliumas I through Suppiluliumas II. These Urartian names were those by which the Hittites were known by the Hurrian peoples native to the area. Styles of art and architecture in Urartu and the Hittites are shown to have been virtually identical. The Urartian language (Hurrian) was one of the eight languages in use in the Hittite capitol, Boghazkoy.

The entire second half of Clapham's article, along with a later interaction piece,[7] deals largely with a comparison of the Imperial Hittite records and what we know of Urartian history, which is mostly from Assyrian records. The comparison itself is highly successful. Not only do details of battles, conquests and losses of certain cities match, down to the relative chronology of specific campaigns, but even personal names are found to match. I will discuss this more at length in the second part of this article, which discusses the Mitanni in detail. Aside from the wars between the Hittites and Mitanni, though, we have the example we already saw of Mita of Pakhuwa, who rebelled in the reign of Arnuwandas III, but by the time of his successor Suppiluliumas I (Rusas I) was considered an ally against Assyrian encroachments under Sargon II, who mentions Mita of Mushki as an ally of Rusas I.

One detail which I would add to this section concerns the short reign of Mursilis III (the Hittite throne name of Urhi-Teshub). Menuas of Urartu, who is identified as Muwatallis the Hittite, is known to have associated his son Inuspuas with him as coregent, but Inuspuas never reigned in Urartu. Clapham mentions that this fact is generally attributed to the prince's premature death, and while he does not endorse this explanation, neither does he suggest another. Once we realize that Urartu constituted a secondary Hittite throne, we may find the true explanation in the autobiography of Hattusilis III. He relates how his brother appointed him king of the Upper Lands, a position only second to the Great King in Hattusas.[8] We may see in this a reference to the Urartian throne and suggest that some time after Mursilis III was appointed coregent, Muwatallis, perhaps sensing the danger presented by his younger brother but unwilling to kill him, made him king in Urartu, hoping that this would satisfy his ambitions. In this way, the reign of Argistis I in Urartu would have begun during Muwatallis's reign as Great King. The seven years during which Hattusilis claims he was loyal to his brother and his nephew may have been from his accession in Tushpa until his accession in Hattusas, and include the end of Muwatallis's reign and the short reign of Mursilis III.

Another detail concerns the Urartian throne name of Arnuwandas III. Clapham identifies Tudhalyas IV with Sarduris II and Suppiluliumas II with Rusas I. The difficulty lies in the fact that Rusas I was the immediate successor of Sarduris II, while Arnuwandas III reigned beween Tudhalyas IV and Suppiluliumas II. Clapham suggests, therefore, that Arnuwandas III reigned only in Asia Minor, possibly parallel with Sarduris II. When we look at the information we have on Sarduris II, however, we may have a better solution. In the conventional chronology, this king is held to have reigned around 25 years. When we take into account the 30 year gap in Assyrian chronology between the reigns of Ashur-Nirari V and Tiglath-Pileser III,[9] Sarduris II's reign expands to 55 years. This is by no means impossible. Menasseh of Judah reigned 55 years, Ramses II reigned 67 and Pepi II reigned 94. But it is nonetheless an extraordinarily long reign. There is no reason why Arnuwandas III had to have chosen an Urartian throne name which was different from that of his father. And in fact, we have evidence of a "Sarduris son of Sarduris", who for want of a better idea has been tentatively been placed after the Median conquest and called "Sarduris IV".[10] I would therefore suggest that the long reign of Sarduris II was actually that of Sarduris II and Sarduris III. But rather than renumber the Sardurises (this should wait until an overall revision model is completed), I would give these names as Sarduris IIa and IIb.

The weakness of his entire second section, as well as his follow-up interaction piece, lies in Clapham's attempts to bring Mitanni and Assyria into line with his revision. Middle-Assyrian and Mitannian kings are mentioned in Hittite records, and must therefore also be accomodated in this later time frame. In his initial article, Clapham first attempted to identify the middle-Assyrian kings who reigned at the time of the Hittites and Mitanni with late- and neo-Assyrians already known to have been reigning from the time of Jehu to the Assyrian invasions. In addenda at the end of the article, he withdrew most of these proposed identifications, but left open the question of how this problem might be solved. This does not reduce the value of his Hittite/Phrygian/Urartian thesis, as the questions of Mitanni and Assyria were not central to his work. The following section of this paper discusses that issue at length.

The fall of the Hittite Empire is attributed primarily to the defeat of Rusas I by Sargon II. The conventional view is that the empire fell due to invasions of the "Sea Peoples" mentioned by Ramses III. In this connection it may be noted that Martin Sieff has already suggested that most of the so-called "Sea Peoples" destructions at the time of the Bronze Age/Iron Age interchange were actually caused by the Assyrian invasions.[11] It is likely as well that the death of Suppiluliumas II was a signal for Cimmerians and other barbarian tribes to descend upon Boghazkoy, accounting for the destructions there.

After the fall of the empire, we find two remnants. As we have already seen, the Phrygians whose remains have been found by archeologists were the immediate successors of Suppiluliumas II in Asia Minor. The Urartians who ruled after the death of Rusas I may also have been legitimate successors of the Imperial Hittite line. It is interesting to note that the Armenians, who are seen as successors to the Urartians after the Median conquest of Urartu, are considered to have been related to the Phrygians; that in fact, Herodotus refers to the Armenians as a Phrygian colony.[12] At this point, such a connection should be considered only natural.

After all of this, what can we conclude? First of all, the idea that the Hittites were unknown to and unmentioned by ancient historians can be laid to rest. There was no "Forgotten Empire". They were simply called by another name: Phrygians (and sometimes—erroniously—Lydians). Also, we have seen that the Hittites can be fit into the historical context assigned them by the JAH.

Approximate Dates for the Hittite Empire
Based on Clapham's Revision Hypothesis

Hittite Names dates BCE Urartian Names dates BCE
Suppiluliumas I 882 857 Sarduris I 862 857
Arnuwandas II 857 856 ??? 857 856
Mursilis II 856 830 Ishpuinas 856 836
-coregency- ----- -coregency- 836 830
Muwatallis 830 816 Menuas 830 816
-coregency- 816 808 -coregency- 816 814
Mursilis III
808 807 Inuspuas -----
Hattusilis III 807 783 Argistis I 814 783
Tudhalyas IV 783 764 Sarduris IIa 783 764
Arnuwandas III 764 739 Sarduris IIb 764 739
Suppiluliumas II 739 714 Rusas I 739 714

Dynasty dates BCE
Hittite Old Kingdom 1190 882
Hittite Empire 882 714
Post-Empire Phrygians 714 685
Post-Empire Urartians 714 609
Lydia before Gyges 760 685
Lydia from Gyges 685 547

Major Events dates BCE
The Hittite Raid on Babylon and
the end of the Amorite Dynasty
c. 1090
Suppiluliumas I's Syrian War 862 857
The Battle of Kadesh 817
The Trojan war 750

Continue with Part II - Mitanni: The Other Assyrians
Return to Introduction

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