If you haven't seen it already, I would recommend "The Chosen"! The first episode of Season 2 can be viewed by clicking here!

Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


Additional Links

A race of doubtful ethnic and linguistic affinities that occupied, from the sixteenth century until 717 B.C., a territory of vague extent, but which probably centered about Kadesh on the Orontes and Carchemish on the upper Euphrates. The sources for present knowledge of this people are five: the Old Testament, and Egyptian, Assyrian, Hittite, and Vannic inscriptions.

—Biblical Data:

In the Old Testament the Hittites are represented as dwelling in the mountains in the heart of Palestine (Numbers 13:29), and are frequently mentioned with the Canaanites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Exodus 3:8,17; 13:5; 23:23; 34:11; Deuteronomy 20:17), as well as with the inhabitants of Jericho (Joshua 24:11), all dwelling to the west of the Jordan, between Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon and Mount Seir (Joshua 12:7-8). To this list the Girgashites are added in Deuteronomy 7:1, Joshua 3:10, and Nehemiah 9:8, while Genesis 15:19-21 adds also the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, and the Rephaim. Of all these the Hittites, Canaanites, and Hivites seem to have been the most important (Exodus 23:28). The geography of these lists is, however, quite vague. In Joshua 1:4 the Hittite territory stretches from Lebanon and the wilderness to the Euphrates (although "all the land of the Hittites" is omitted in the LXX.). Hittites also dwelt at Hebron, for Abraham was buried in a cave in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar, a Hittite (Genesis 23:10,20; 25:9; 49:30; 13), and the Hittites preserved a certain individuality as late as David's time, since Uriah and Abimelech are expressly characterized as Hittites (1 Samuel 26:6; 2 Samuel 11:3,6,17,21,24; 12:10; 23:39; 1 Kings 15:5; 1 Chronicles 11:41). They were regarded as aliens, however, and taxed as such by Solomon (1 Kings 9:20-21; 2 Chronicles 8:7-8). The relations between the Israelites, on the one hand, and the Hittites and the rest of the conquered peoples, on the other, had long been friendly, for the Hebrews had not only adopted some portion of the Hittites' religious cult soon after the invasion of Palestine, but had intermarried with them (Judges 3:5-6), as Esau had done (Genesis 26:34) and as Rebekah feared Jacob might do (Genesis 27:46).

The Hittites are identical with the "children of Heth" (; υἱοὶ [τοῦ] Χέτ: Genesis 23:3,5,7,10,18,20; 25:10; 49:32), while their close ethnic affinity with the Canaanites and the other tribes with which they are usually mentioned is implied by the genealogical table of the sons of Canaan (Genesis 10:15-19; 1 Chronicles 1:13-16, where the LXX. and the Vulgate respectively render by Χετταὶος and Hethæus"; 1 Chronicles 1:13-16 is omitted in the LXX.). While the Hittites mentioned in the Old Testament are usually regarded as dwelling in the south-central part of Palestine, there are distinct traces of a more northerly habitat in the location of the new city of Luz in the land of the Hittites (Judges 1:26), and this is confirmed by 2 Samuel 24:6, if, on the basis of the Septuagint (L) γῆν Χεττεὶμ Καδής, the corrupt passage (omitted in the Peshiṭta) may be read . It was probably for these northern Hittites that Solomon imported Egyptian horses (1 Kings 10:29; 2 Chronicles 1:17); and his harem contained Hittite princesses (1 Kings 111). The Hittites' power and their friendship for Judah and Israel are shown by the fact that an alliance of Jehoram with the Hittites and Egyptians was regarded by the Assyrians as neither impossible nor improbable (2 Kings 7:6). In the prophetic writings the Hittites are mentioned only in Ezekiel 16:3,45 (R. V.), where Yhwh says of Jerusalem: "Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of the Canaanite; the Amorite was thy father, and thy mother was an Hittite."

In the Egyptian Inscriptions.

—Non-Jewish Sources:

In the Egyptian inscriptions the Hittites, who had apparently conquered Syria, first appear in the reign of Thothmes III. (1503-1449), when they received their first decisive reverse. After a battle at Megiddo on the Kishon. Thothmes captured the King of Kadesh; in successive campaigns the Egyptians advanced to Carchemish and Kadesh, and traversed Naharina or Mesopotamia. The Hittites were only temporarily checked, however, and on the death of Thothmes they regained their prestige. The conflict continued under Thothmes IV., while his successor, Amenophis III., was obliged to enter into an alliance with the Hittites, and to marry a princess of their royal house. The son of this union was Amenophis IV., better known as Khu-n-aten, who, attempting to overthrow the Egyptian religion, introduced into Egypt the peculiarly Hittite worship of the sun. At this period the Hittite power was such that a treaty, offensive and defensive, was concluded between Rameses I. and Sap(e)lel, King of the Hittites. On the accession of Seti I. to the Egyptian throne in 1366, the Hittite war was renewed, and Kadesh was taken by surprise, although peace was soon restored. But in the following reign, that of Rameses II., Kadesh was again the scene of a battle, which was described by the Egyptian poet Pentaur two years later. This battle seems to have been indecisive, however, and a new treaty was concluded which was confirmed by the marriage to Rameses of the Hittite princess called by the Egyptians "Urma Noferu-Ra." The demoralization resulting from these wars explains the slight opposition to the Hebrew invasion of Palestine after the Exodus. The friendship of the Hittites and Egyptians lasted, however, through the reign of the successor of Rameses, Me(r)neptaḥ II., who aided the Hittites with food in the time of famine. Before long the Hittite power revived, and in the reign of Rameses III. (1180-1150) they were prominent among the invaders of Egypt. They were beaten back at Migdol, their country was laid waste, their king was captured, and their advance south of Kadesh was definitely checked. From this time the Hittite power in Syria waned, and with the cessation of their conflict withEgypt their name disappears from the Egyptian inscriptions.

In the Assyrian Inscriptions.

There is a gap of almost a century in the history of the Hittites after their defeat by Rameses III. About 1100, however, they became the enemies of the Assyrians. The first expedition of Tiglathpileser I. was undertaken against them. He forced his way through Kummukh, or Commagene, as far as Malatiyeh, and penetrated to Carchemish. Despite a series of expeditions, however, he was unable to pass the last-named city. After the reign of Tiglath-pileser there is no mention of the Hittites in the Assyrian inscriptions until the time of Assur-naá¹£ir-pal (885-860), who extended his conquests to the Hittite cities of Carchemish, Gaza, and Kanulua, penetrating as far as the Mediterranean, and returning laden with booty. The succeeding Assyrian monarch, Shalmaneser II. (860-825), continued the war, and repeatedly ravaged Syria, draining its wealth, and defeating the Hittites, by this time rich and decadent, at Pethor, Sangara, Carchemish, Karkar, and other cities, thus crushing the Hittite power south of the Taurus. In the reign of Tiglath-pileser III., war against the Hittites again broke out, and in 717, during the rule of Sargon, Carchemish was finally conquered, and its last king, Pisiris, became an Assyrian captive.

In the Vannic Inscriptions and the Classics.

The inscriptions of Van, dating from the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., contain several allusions to expeditions against the Hittites. In the ninth century the Vannic king Menuas plundered the Hittite cities Surisilis and Tarkhi-gamas, and later forced his way to Malatiyeh, setting up a triumphal inscription at Palu on the northern bank of the Euphrates, the eastern boundary of the Hittite territory at that period, as Malatiyeh was the western. Argistis I., successor of Menuas, continued his father's policy, conquering Niriba and Melitene.

The Hittites are not mentioned by any of the classical writers excepting Herodotus (who speaks of them as "Syrians"), Strabo (who [p. 737] calls them "White Syrians" [AΛευκόσυροι], localizing them about Mount Taurus and the Black Sea), and possibly Homer (if the KΚήτιοι or Χήτιοι, named once in the "Odyssey" [11:521) as allies of the Trojans, were really the Hittites).

Ethnology and Religion.

The Hittites as shown both on their own and on Egyptian monuments were clearly Mongoloid in type. They were short and stout, prognathous, and had rather receding foreheads. The cheek-bones were high, the nose was large and straight, forming almost a line with the forehead, and the upper lip protruded. They were yellow in color, with black hair and eyes, and beardless, while according to the Egyptian paintings they wore their hair in pigtails, although this characteristic does not appear in the Hittite sculptures. They would seem to have come, therefore, from the northeast of Mesopotamia, and to have worked south into Palestine and west into Asia Minor. In Palestine, however, they lost their ethnic individuality to a large extent, and adapted their language and their names to those of the Semites. In religion the Hittites were in great part dependent on the Babylonians. The chief god, according to the Egyptian inscriptions, was Sutekh, or Atys, and the chief goddess was Antarata, who later became Athar-'Ati—respectively the Atargatis and Derceto of the classics. Antarata corresponds closely in attributes and in art with the Babylonian Ishtar; her husband seems to have been the sun-god Tar, or Tarku, called "Sandan" in Cilicia and Lydia. At a later period she apparently superseded Sutekh as the chief divinity. The deluge-legend was known to the Hittites, who called its hero "Sisythes." They seem, moreover, to have had cities of refuge and to have practised sacred prostitution.

Hittite Monuments.

The Hittite monuments are numerous and are found over a wide extent of territory. In their sculpture Babylonian influence is evident, although the physiognomy and costume of the subjects of representation, as well as several minor details, give Hittite art a distinct individuality. As is the case with Babylonian art, the sculptures are usually accompanied with inscriptions. Among the more important monuments of Hittite art may be mentioned those at Ivris in the district corresponding to the ancient Lycaonia; at the Pass of Karabel, near Smyrna; at Sipylus, near Magnesia; at Ghiaurkalessi, in Galatia; at Fassili, in Isauria; at Zenjirli, in the territory corresponding to the ancient Commagene; at Euyuk; and at Boghazkeui, east of the Halys. They are for the most part, therefore, in Asia Minor, although one of themost noteworthy sculptures was found at Sakchegözü in northern Syria. Representations of the Hittites are found also on Egyptian monuments, as at Abu-Simbel and Medinet-Abu. The character of Hittite art is solid, at times even heavy, but excellent in the portrayal of animal forms. The Hittites were also skilled lapidaries and carvers on ivory, as well as clever silversmiths, while their paintings of Egypt give a vivid idea of Hittite tactics in war.

The inscriptions, which must be regarded as still uninterpreted, are written in a script partly pictographic and partly alphabetic, syllabic, or ideographic. The number of pictographs frequently aids materially in determining the general content of an inscription, even though the text can not be deciphered. The lines are in boustrophedon style, reading alternately from right to left and from left to right, and possibly influenced in this regard archaic Greek inscriptions. Determinatives, or conventional signs, denoting "god," "king," "country," etc., seem to have been employed. It has been plausibly suggested that the script originated in Cappadocia, since the shoe with pointed, upturned toe (reminiscent of a snow-shoe) and the mitten (used in cold countries) are among the most common signs, while the ideogram for "country" is a mountain peak. The characters thus far discovered number over two hundred, and the list is doubtless still incomplete. The style of carving is peculiar to the Hittites, in that the figures and characters are in relief, the stone having first been carefully dressed, and the portions about the figures and characters then cut away. The most important inscriptions have been found at Babylon, Hamath, Jerabis (the ancient Carchemish), Marash, Izgin, and Bulgarmaden. In addition, a number of seals and cylinders have been discovered.

Language of the Hittites.

The Hittite language, whose alphabet shows at least superficial affinities with the Cypriote and Vannic scripts, is one of the most difficult problems in linguistics. Fantastic theories have not been lacking, of which the hypothesis of Clarke, that the Hittites were akin to the Peruvian Kechua, and that of Campbell, who finds Hittite names in France, Japan, and ancient Mexico, are the most bizarre. A plausible view, defended especially by Sayce and Wright, and more reservedly by De Lantsheere, connects Hittite with the Georgian group of languages, particularly on the basis of the similarity of their formation of the nominative and genitive. Further developments of this view were advanced by Lenormant and Hommel. The latter connects Hittite with New Elamitic, Cossæan, Vannic, and the modern Georgian, and this entire group with Sumerian, thus ultimately with the Turko-Tatar branch of Ural-Altaic. The Altaic affinity of Hittite has been especially emphasized by Conder, whose arguments, however, overleap themselves and prove too much. Rejecting the Altaic hypothesis, Halévy and, for a time, Ball sought to prove Hittite a Semitic language. Their conclusions, however, based on proper names obviously borrowed in many cases from neighboring but unrelated stocks and languages, can not be regarded as valid. The hypothesis has also been advanced that Hittite was an Indo-Germanic language, and was most closely akin to Armenian. The protagonist of this theory is Jensen, who, though confessedly not an expert in Armenian linguistics, has built up a series of ingenious and daring identifications of Hittite words with Armenian. The two Arzava letters, discovered in 1902, are regarded by Bugge and Knudtzon as Hittite, and as connected linguistically with Armenian and even Lycian. The time does not seem yet to have come for a final declaration regarding the linguistic position of the Hittite speech. It is not impossible that a better knowledge of the languages of Asia Minor, shown by the researches of Kretschmer to be neither Semitic nor Indo-Germanic, will throw new light on this problem. Meanwhile, the view which regards Hittite as Georgian in its affinities seems on the whole most probable, although the Armenian hypothesis has certain arguments in its favor. The date of the extinction of Hittite is unknown. If (as is not improbable from the presence of Hittite monuments in Lycaonia) Lycaonian was a Hittite dialect, it was spoken as late as the first century C.E. (Acts 14:11).

  • The bibliography on the Hittites is very extensive. Many studies are scattered through Oriental and theological journals; most of them are antiquated, and many are incorporated in later and fuller works. The most important books dealing with the subject are:
  • Clarke, The Khita and Khita-Peruvian Epoch, London, 1877;
  • Conder, Heth and Moab, ib. 1883;
  • idem, Altaic Hieroglyphs and Hittite Inscriptions, ib. 1887;
  • idem, The Hittites and Their Language, Edinburgh, 1898;
  • Wright, Empire of the Hittites, New York, 1884;
  • Perrot and Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, vol. (Sardinia, Judea, and Asia Minor), Paris, 1887;
  • Sayce, The Hittites, London, 1888;
  • Puchstein, Pseudohethitische Kunst, Berlin, 1890;
  • Campbell, The Hittites, London, 1891;
  • De Lantsheere, De la Race et de la Langue des Hittites, Brussels, 1892;
  • Peiser, Die Hetitischen Inschriften, Berlin, 1892;
  • Menant, Eléments du Syllabaire Hétéen, Paris, 1892;
  • De Cara, Gli Hethei-Pelasgi, Rome, 1894-1902;
  • Jensen, Hittiter und Armenier, Strasburg, 1898;
  • Messerschmidt, Corpus Inscriptionum Hettiticarum, Berlin, 1900-1902;
  • Fossey, Quid de Hethæcis Cuneatæ Litteræ Nobis Tradiderint, Versailles, 1902;
  • Knudtzon, Die Zwei Arzawa-Briefe, Leipsic, 1902;
  • Hilprecht, Explorations in Bible-Lands, Philadelphia, 1903.
L. H. G.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Hittites'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse: