Syro-Hittite states

The states that are called Neo-Hittite, or more recently Syro-Hittite, were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC. The term "Neo-Hittite" is sometimes reserved specifically for the Luwian-speaking principalities like Milid and Carchemish, although in a wider sense the broader cultural term "Syro-Hittite" is now applied to all the entities that arose in south-central Anatolia following the Hittite collapse — such as Tabal and Quwê — as well as those of northern and coastal Syria.[1]


Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age transition

The vast Hittite empire at its maximum expansion in the lands of central Anatolia)

The collapse of the Hittite Empire is usually associated with the gradual decline of Eastern Mediterranean trade networks and the resulting collapse of major Late Bronze Age cities in the Levantine coast, Anatolia and the Aegean.[2]In the middle of 13th century BC great groups of Greeks speaking ancient Dorian dialects moved from the north through the Balkan region to the south.The Thracians who occupied this region and northern Greece were forced to move to the western coasts of Anatolia and later to the inland where they are mentioned as Phrygians and Mysians.At the end of the 13th century the Mycenean palaces in the inland Greece were destroyed by invaders and sea-raiders devastated the palace at Pylos almost simultaneously.[3][4]A few decades later,at the beginning of the 12th century the Homeric Troy was destroyed[5] and the Hittite Empire suffered a sudden devastating attack from the Caska who occupied the coasts around the Black Sea and joined with the Mysians.They procceeded destroying almost all the Hittite sites and they were finally defeated by the Assyrians beyond the south borders near Tigris[6]These great population movements in Eastern-Meditterannean are echoed in the records of Ramesses III as an invasion by the so-called sea peoples.[7]Among them are mentioned the people of Adana (Dnnym or Danuna) in Cilicia and probably the Troyans.Hatti, Arzawa (Lydia), Alashiya (Cyprus), Ugarit and Alalakh were destroyed.[8]The invaders were defeated near the borders of Egypt.

It seems that the sea-peoples contributed to the collapse of the Empire,although they are only mentioned in the Egyptian records and the archaeological evidence is insufficient.Their invasion was involved with the movement of large populations by land and sea seeking new land to settle.[9]In fact it is recorded that the foreign countries made a conspiracy in their islands and that no land could stand before their arms.The Hittites were strong enough to survive from the first stream of emigrations but they didn't escape from the second.Anyway they were surrounded by enemies.The Caska were a continuous trouble,the borders with Arzawa were never considered safe, Mitanni at the south was always an enemy and a few decades earlier the Hittites suffered a great defeat by the Assyrians beyond the borders.[10]

Hattusa, the Hittite capital was completely destroyed Following this collapse of large cities and the Hittite state, the Early Iron Age in northern Mesopotamia saw a dispersal of settlements and ruralization, with the appearance of large numbers of hamlets, villages, and farmsteads.[11] Syro-Hittite states emerged in the process of such major landscape transformation, in the form of regional states with new political structures and cultural affiliations. David Hawkins was able to trace a dynastic link between the Hittite imperial dynasty and the "Great Kings" and "Country-lords" of Melid and Karkamish of the Early Iron Age, proving an uninterrupted continuity between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age at those sites.[12]

Aside from literary evidence from inscriptions, the uninterrupted cultural continuity in the region of Neo-Hittite states from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age is now further confirmed by the recent archaeological work at the sites of Aleppo (Temple of the Storm God on the Citadel)[13] and Ain Dara (Temple of Ishtar-Shawushka),[14] where temples built in the Late Bronze Age continue into the Iron Age without hiatus, and those temples witness multiple rebuildings in the Early Iron Age.

List of Syro-Hittite states

Historical map of the Neo-Hittite states, ca. 800 BCE. Borders are approximate only.

The Syro-Hittite states may be divided into two groups: a northern group where Hittite rulers remained in power, and a southern group where Aramaeans came to rule from about 1000 BC. Although these states are considered somewhat unified, they were though to actually be disunified, even in separate kingdoms.[15][16]

The northern group includes:

The southern, Aramaic, group includes:

  • Bit Gabbari (with Sam'al)
  • Bit-Adini (with the city of Til Barsip)
  • Bit-Bahiani (with Guzana)
  • Unqi or Pattina (with the city of Kinalua, maybe modern Tell Tayinat[17])
  • Ain Dara, a religious center
  • Bit Agusi (with the cities of Arpad, Nampigi, and (later on) Aleppo)
  • Hatarikka-Luhuti (the capital city of which was at first Aleppo, and then Hatarikka)
  • Hamath


Luwian monumental inscriptions in Anatolian hieroglyphs continue uninterrupted from the thirteenth-century Hittite imperial monuments to the Early Iron Age Syro-Hittite inscriptions of Karkamish, Melid, Aleppo and elsewhere.[18] Luwian hieroglyphs was chosen by many of the Syro-Hittite regional kingdoms for their monumental inscriptions, which often appear in bi or tri-lingual inscriptions with Aramaic, Phoenician or Akkadian versions. The Early Iron Age in Northern Mesopotamia also saw a gradual spread of alphabetic writing in Aramaic and Phoenician. During the cultural interactions on the Levantine coast of Syro-Palestine and North Syria in the tenth through eighth centuries BC, Greeks and Phrygians adopted the alphabetic writing from the Phoenicians.[19]


  1. ^ Hawkins, John David; 1982a. “Neo-Hittite States in Syria and Anatolia” in Cambridge Ancient History (2nd ed.) 3.1: 372-441. Also: Hawkins, John David; 1995. "The Political Geography of North Syria and South-East Anatolia in the Neo-Assyrian Period" in Neo-Assyrian Geography, Mario Liverani (ed.), Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” Dipartimento di Scienze storiche, archeologiche e anthropologiche dell’Antichità, Quaderni di Geografia Storica 5: Roma: Sargon srl, 87-101.
  2. ^ See Hawkins, John David; 1994. “The end of the Bronze age in Anatolia: new light from recent discoveries,” in Anatolian Iron Ages 3: Proceedings of the Third Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium, Altan Çilingiroğlu and David H. French (eds.); The British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara Monograph 16: London, 91-94.
  3. ^ C.M.Bowra (1958).The Greek experienceW.P.Company.Cleveland and New York. p.12
  4. ^ John Chadwick(1976).The Mycenean world.Cambridge University Press p.176
  5. ^ C.Mossé (1984).La Gréce archaicque d'Homére á Eschýle.Editions du Seuil.Paris p.35
  6. ^ O.R.Gurney (1978).The Hittites.Oxford University Press .London pp.49-50
  7. ^ C.Mossé (1984).La Gréce archaicque d'Homére á Eschýle.Editions du Seuil.Paris p.33
  8. ^ O.R.Gurney (1978).The Hittites.Oxford University Press.London. pp.49-50
  9. ^ Trevor Bryce.(1998).The kingdom of the Hittites.Oxford University Press.p.371
  10. ^ O.R.Gurney (1978).The Hittites.Oxford University Press. pp.43-44,49
  11. ^ See Wilkinson, Tony J.; 2003. Archaeological landscapes of the Near East. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
  12. ^ See "Karkamish" and "Melid" in Hawkins, John David; 2000. Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions. (3 vols) De Gruyter: Berlin. Also: Hawkins, John David; 1995b. “Great Kings and Country Lords at Malatya and Karkamis” in Studio Historiae Ardens: Ancient Near Eastern Studies Presented to Philo H.J. Houwink ten Cate, Theo P.J. van den Hout and Johan de Roos (eds.), Istanbul: 75-86.
  13. ^ Kohlmeyer, Kay; 2000a. Der Tempel des Wettergottes von Aleppo. Münster: Rhema.
  14. ^ Abū Assaf, Alī; 1990. Der Tempel von ءAin Dārā. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.
  15. ^ Tübinger Bibelatlas / Tübingen Bible Atlas. Siegfried Mittmann, Götz Schmitt (eds.), Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2001, Map B IV 13-14
  16. ^ O.R. Gurney, The Hittites. Harmondsworth: Pelican, 2nd ed., 1976 = 1954. p. 39-46.
  17. ^ See the Tayinat Website by the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto
  18. ^ Hawkins, John David; 1986b. “Writing in Anatolia: imported and indigenous systems,” WA 17: 363-376.
  19. ^ Brixhe, C. and M. Lejeune (1984). Corpus des inscriptions paléo-phrygiennes. Paris.

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