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Ancient Hattusas (Modern Bogazköy)

Description: Hattusa, with the neighboring sites of Yazilikaya, a sanctuary set in the rock a short distance northeast of the city; and Alaca Huyuk, slightly further to the north, is the major Hittite site in central Anatolia. Set on the hill called Bogazkale, the ruins of the town and its acropolis dominate the modern town of Bogazköy.

Hattusas (modern Bogazköy in north central Turkey) was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the 2nd millenium BC. It seems surprising that such a remote city could have been the capital of an empire but besides tradition there were the factors of plentiful water and good natural defenses that kept the Hittite kings there.

The first settlement at the site dates from the Early Bronze Age but no documents exist that could identify the people who built them. They lived on the high hill called Büyükkale or Great Fortress which dominates the east side of the city. This hill later became the Hittite Acropolis.

The first writing from the site are clay tablets in Old Assyrian cuneiform. These demonstrate the presence of Assyrian merchants at the city around 1800 BC. The largest Assyrian trading center in Anatolia was at Kanesh which flourished from 1950 BC to 1850 BC. It was destroyed and then became active again around 1820 BC and lasted another two generations. Assyrian trading at Hattusas is contemporary only with the later period.

The Hittite King Hattusil I began the capital circa 1550 BC. The architecture was massive and the individual stones carefully fitted. As the city grew the original area proved too small and under Shubbiluliuma a new fortified wall was built to the south. The enclosed area reached to over 300 acres and the fortifications give an impression of strength. While the Hittites had an architecture of their own recognizable as Hittite it is interesting to note there is a palace at Troy which shows Hittite influence (1) ...

International Dictionary of Historic Places: Volume 3 --- Southern Europe by Sharon La Boda (1994)

When a young French explorer named Charles-Felix-Marie Texier stumbled across cyclopean ruins in the highlands of north-central Anatolia in July 1834 he had no idea that he had found the remains of the capital of one of ancient history's most enigmatic peoples: the Hittites ... Biblical scholars however had little concept of the extent of the Hittites' power and influence and generally classified them with other Palestinian tribes who opposed the kings of Israel.

Texier was not the first European to report finds of Hittite artifacts. The Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt described Hittite inscriptions in the ancient Syrian city of Hamath in 1822 ... It was not until l874 that an Irish missionary named William Wright made the connection between the Syrian inscriptions and the Biblical Hittites. In conjunction with the British philologist Archibald Henry Sayce, Wright published the first book on the subject -- The Empire of the Hiltites -- in l884 ... It was not until 1915 however that the Hittite language was translated and revealed to belong to the Indo-European family of Ianguages -- thus providing the earliest known example of a kingdom run by people who spoke a tongue related to those of modern Europe.

The settlement that became Hattusa was originally founded sometime in the third millennium B.C., probably by native Anatolians. Ancient legends tell of early Assyrian trading parties gathering at trading posts called karum and swapping fabric -- ready-made clothes and tin for silver -- gold and copper. In time local rulers came to dominate the trading centers and warfare between the centers spread. One of the most powerful ruling houses of the time was that of Kanesh, which under the rulers Pithanas and Anittas seized control over most of central Hatti. Anittas took the title “Great King" and enforced his will over Kanesh’s rival city-states. Around 1900 B.C. Anittas sacked Hattusa, burned it and declared it accursed ...

The city was resettled within the next 250 years and a new dynasty was established there, a dynasty with connections to Anittas. Like the rulers of Kanesh the new settlers tried to control the land of Hatti by conquering neighboring city-states. Labarnas II, the ruler of this new dynasty, was faced with increasing resistance to his plans for empire. He recognized the strategic importance of Hattusa and decided to ignore the curse and to establish himself there. By 1650 B.C. he had renamed himself after his new capital -- Hattusilis, “Man of Hattusa.”

Thc heirs of Labamas were not of Anatolian extraction. They were descended from peoples who had immigrated to the area from a homeland probably north of the Black Sea and they spoke a non-Anatolian language. Although they retained their distinctive tongue they adopted much of the culture of the people they ruled and became known as the Hittites -- rulers of the land of Hatti. From approximately 1650 to 1620 B.C. Hattusilis expanded Hittite power from Hattusa across Anatolia and into modern Syria, probably in an attempt to take control over the trade routes to Mesopotamia in the east and to the rich sources of tin in Bohemia in the west. He faced opposition from the warlike states of northern Mesopotamia. At one point in his reign these states -- inhabited by people known as the Hurrians -- conquered the land of Hatti itself, forcing Hattusilis back to his fortress of Hattusa. Before his death however Hattusilis retook all the territory he had lost and expanded his borders to the Euphrates River.

(1) Hattusas by Akhenaten's World

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium