HITTITES
   A people speaking an Indo-European language who formed a powerful state in central Anatoliain the second millennium B.C.
   Having penetrated into Asia Minor by several routes since the late third millennium, they took the name of an indigenous people, the Hatti, whose main land lay around the bend of the river Halys (Kizilirmak). A Hittite king called Anitta is mentioned in the tablets found at Kanesh (19th century), although a Hittite source from the 16th century says that a certain Labarna was the first king of Hatti.
   The expansion of the Hittite kingdom began during the reign of Labarna’s successor, Hattushili I (around 1680). He moved the capital to the rocky hillsides of Hattusa and extended Hittite control from the shores of the Black Sea to the borders of western Mesopotamia. His grandson Mursili I (c. 1620–1590) conquered Aleppo and made a surprise raid down the Euphrates, where he sacked Babylon and returned with much booty.
   The stability of the Hittite state was precarious due to frequent palace intrigues and assassinations until Telepinu issued an edict around 1525 to regularize the royal succession. Despite his efforts, the Hittites were not major players until the reign of Suppiluliuma I (reigned c. 1344–1322). He successfully incorporated the fertile and wealthy north Syrian region and subdued the Hurrian state of Mitanni. He conducted an alliance with the Kassite kings of Babylon and married a Babylonian princess. However, the Hittite expansion into Syria was much resented by the Egyptians, who had long controlled the Syrian coastal regions. This conflict eventually led to a military confrontation in the Orontes valley near Qadesh (c. 1265) that resulted in a bilateral treaty.
   The Hittite empire was enlarged further by Tuthaliyas IV, who conquered Cyprus. His successors were forced to make alliances at the expense of territory in order to hold onto their power, which was increasingly threatened by their old enemy, the Kaska-people. In the 12th century B.C., the Hittite empire collapsed in the turmoil of various invasions and unrest that engulfed Anatolia and all of Syria. Descendants of the Hittites continued to survive and eventually to prosper in southern Anatolia, where a number of small kingdoms retained a precarious independence in the first half of the first millennium, in the face of Assyrian pressure.
   The main languages spoken in the Hittite kingdom were Hittite (called neshiliby the Hittites after the city of Nesha) and Luwian, another Indo-European language. The Hittites wrote their language in cuneiform; later they developed a hieroglyphic system of writing.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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