Hattusa: the capital of the Hittite Kingdom

Hattusa is the ancient capital of the Hittites, also known as Hattusas and Hattushash. Its ruins are now located on the territory of Turkey, near the village of Bogazkale (Bogazkey).

What was once a majestic city can now be seen in central Anatolia, where the longest river of Turkey flows — the Kyzylyrmak (Red River), in ancient times called Galis. Hattusa stood east of Kyzylyrmak, where the river valley turns sharply.

This river was extremely important for the Hittites, who called it Marassantia: the river served as the southern and western border of the country of Hatti — the historical core of the Hittite kingdom. And even earlier, it was the border of the spread of the Hittite language.

After the Hittites, Kyzylyrmak served as the eastern border of Asia Minor. Here, along the river, after several bloody battles, the boundary between the ancient eastern states of Media and Lydia passed.

At first glance at this area, one can only wonder what the warlike Hittites found in this mountainous area, where the climate is quite harsh, even arid. To find at least some vegetation on the site of the ruins, you will have to walk pretty much: there are almost no trees here, a mountain steppe with extremely rugged terrain is spread out around.

However, judging by the records of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484 – 425 BC), the author of the first major scientific and historical work “History”, which describes the life of many modern peoples, during antiquity, there was plenty of water around Hattusa, and there were many watermills.

It remains to be assumed that the Hittites liked these mountains from a purely defensive point of view: rocky ridges and artificial fortifications, as well as cliffs from the east and north, made the city almost impregnable.

The city of Hattusa has been known since the second half of the III millennium BC as a settlement founded by the Hittites. In ancient times, there was a trade route from central Cappadocia to the Black Sea in these places.

At the same time, dense forests grew here, and the Hittites had no shortage of building materials for the capital. Merchants built their own quarters, inhabited by immigrants from certain areas of Asia Minor and the Middle East.

At first, Hattusa was one of the city-states of Asia Minor, among which there was a struggle for power over peoples and trade routes. At first, the city of Purushanda won, then Kussar took over, whose king Anittas captured and destroyed Hattusa in about 1700 BC.

However, already at the beginning of the XVII century BC, the city was restored under King Hattusili I, who proclaimed it the capital of the Hittite kingdom, and under King Khantilis I, it was surrounded by a fortress wall.

Interestingly, Hattusa, even having the status of capital, was by no means the center of the ancient Hittite culture (it was located to the south) and was closer to the northern borders of the state. It turns out that the Hittites were more concerned about the security of the capital, not at all trying to make it a place to receive foreign ambassadors and trade caravans. As a result, when the Hittite empire flourished, it expanded noticeably to the east and south.

The city was abandoned by the population at the beginning of the XII century BC, when famine began in the country, and then it was invaded by the “peoples of the sea” (Philistines, Achaeans, etc.), who destroyed the Hittite kingdom.

Hattusa is the ruins of the capital of the once-mighty Hittite kingdom, which controlled the vast lands of Asia Minor and the northeastern Mediterranean. To get the latest stories, install our app here.

Today Hattusa is the site of the most important archaeological works that can shed light on many mysterious pages in the history of the Hittite kingdom.

The ruins of the Hittite capital Hattusa were discovered in 1834 by a group of enthusiasts led by Charles Dexter. However, the first person to connect the found ruins with the Hittite kingdom was the Reverend Archibald Henry Sayce (1846-1933), the founder of assyriology and professor of assyriology at Oxford University. It is he who has the honor to prove — based on the study of ruins and cuneiform tablets – that the Hittites were not just one of the many peoples mentioned in the Bible, but the people who inhabited the vast Hittite Empire.

The expeditions were disorderly, the times were restless, robbers ruled the mountains. Those Orientalists who managed to get to the ruins hurried to collect everything that came to hand and leave the dangerous places as soon as possible.

It took many more years for systematic excavations to begin in 1906. They were conducted by the German Oriental Society, but excavations were interrupted during the First World War and the Great Depression (1913-1931), during the Second World War, and post-war reconstruction (1940-1951). The German Archaeological Institute is still carrying out this work.

In 1986, the excavations of Hattusa were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, the entire excavation area in the vicinity of Bogazkale is relatively small, it is divided into several sections, and its total area barely exceeds one and a half square kilometers.

The central excavation site consists of two rocks united under the common name Buyukkale, which means “Big Fortress” in Turkish. At a distance of half a kilometer to the north of Buyukkale stands Buyukkaya, or “Big Rock”. To the east of Buyukkale, where a relatively flat area is located, in ancient times the Lower City was located: it was the oldest part of the Hittite capital. To the south of Buyukkale was the Upper Town, which was actually the fortifications of the capital. The fortress wall surrounding it stretches for more than three kilometers. To get the latest stories, install our app here.

In addition to these sites, which are located in the area of the city of Hattusa itself, there are three small hills in the vicinity that were once inhabited. The southern edge of the city — Yerkari Hill — is all that remains of the once-powerful defensive rampart built in the last centuries of the Hittite empire.

The most important find was two sculptural images of the sphinx, discovered near the southern gate of Hattusa. In 1917 they were taken to Germany for restoration.

During detailed excavations of the city, of which, admittedly, there is little left, the remains of fortress walls, a palace, temples, an aqueduct, living quarters, and other buildings were found.

Apart from all the finds is the so-called Bogazkey Archive, found in 1906 by the expedition of the German orientalist Hugo Winkler (1863-1913). The archive consisted of over 15 thousand clay cuneiform tablets in Hittite, Akkadian, and other languages. The texts on the tablets contained the most important documents: royal annals, chronicles, decrees, diplomatic correspondence, religious texts. All of them belonged mainly to the XIV-XII centuries BC.

The Turkish village of Bogazkale consists of one street, completely built up with shops serving tourists who come to admire what remains of the great Hittite empire. To get the latest stories, install our app here.

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