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Hatti › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 20 January 2012
Map of Mesopotamia, c. 1400 BCE (Javierfv1212)
The Hatti were an aboriginal people in central Anatolia (present-day Turkey ) who first appeared in the area around the River Kizil Irmak. The prevailing understanding is that they were native to the land although it has been suggested they migrated to the area sometime prior to 2400 BCE. The region was known as `Land of the Hatti' from c. 2350 BCE until 630 BCE, attesting to the influence of the Hattian culture there. They spoke a language called Hattic and did not seem to have a written language of their own, using cuneiform script for trade dealings. As the region was heavily forested, the Hatti built their homes of wood and made their living through trade of timber, ceramics, and other resources. Their religion focused on the worship of a Mother Goddess who ensured their crops would grow and their livestock remain healthy. They kept domesticated animals and made clothing and blankets from sheep's wool. As an agrarian society, they also domesticated the fields and planted grains which they primarily lived on but also supplemented their diet through hunting. Since their religion was based on the concept that everything in nature was sacred and possessed a divine spirit, however, it does not seem that hunting for meat was a common practice and may have only been engaged in for specific festivals involving royalty.
Controlling a significant number of city states and small kingdoms, they had established lucrative trade with the region of Sumer (southern Mesopotamia ) by the year 2700 BCE. The historian Erdal Yavuz writes:
Anatolia offered a mild climate with reliable and regular rainfall necessary for a regular agricultural production.Besides the timber and stone essential for construction, but deficient in Mesopotamia, Anatolia had rich mines which provided copper, silver, iron, and gold (1).
Their trade with the cities of Mesopotamia enriched the region and helped to develop their kingdom. The historian Marc Van De Mieroop includes the Hatti among the nations and nation-states in the diplomatic and trade consortium he refers to as The Club of the Great Powers. This `club', as Van De Mieroop designates it, included Mitanni, Babylonia, Assyria, Hatti, and Egypt, though by the time Kingdom of the Hatti was involved with international relations (c. 1500-1200 BCE), they were governed by the Hittites and had already lost their language and culture.


In 2500 BCE the Hatti established their capital high on a hill at the city of Hattusa and held lands securely in the surrounding areas, administering laws and regulating trade in a number of neighboring states. Between c. 2334-2279 BCE the great Sargon of Akkad invaded the region after sacking the city of Ur in 2330 BCE. He then turned his attention to Hattusa but failed to gain an advantage over the city's defenses which were especially strong in that it was located high on a well-defended and fortified plateau. Following Sargon ’s campaigns in the region, his grandson Naram-Sin (2261-2224 BCE) continued his policies, fighting against the Hattic King Pamba late in the 23rd century BCE with as little success as his grandfather had. In spite of the constant harrassment from the Akkadians, Hattic art flourished around 2200 BCE and, by 2000 BCE, their civilization was at its height with prosperous trading colonies established between Hattusa and their other city of Kanesh and, of course, continuing trade relations with Mesopotamia.
In 1700 BCE, the Kingdom of the Hatti was again invaded, this time by the Hittites, and the great city of Hattusa was stormed and destroyed by a king named Anitta from the neighboring Kingdom of Kussara. Excavations at the site show that the city was burned to the ground. King Anitta had such contempt for the city he had vanquished that he cursed the ground and further cursed whoever should re-build Hattusa and try to rule there. Even so, not long after, the city was re-built and re-populated by a later king of Kussara who called himself Hattusili. Van De Mieroop describes this, writing :
A ruler called Hattusili created the Hittite state in the early or mid-seventeenth century. Heir to the throne of Kussara, he rapidly defeated his competitors in central Anatolia. Among his conquests was the city of Hattusa, located in the center of the region in a strategic and well-protected site thanks to its position on a hilltop. He made Hattusa his capital, and possibly changed his name to coincide with that of the city (121).
The name Hattusili means `One from Hattusa' but it is not clear whether the king took that name after the reconstruction of the city or he was already known by that designation. Through the famous document, The Edict of Telepinu (16th century BCE), which was a stipulation of laws and ordinances based on past precedents, modern scholars have learned much of the history of the rulers of the Old Kingdom of the Hittites (as Hatti is referenced) and know that Hattusili I was also known as `Man of Kussara'. It is likely, therefore, that he took his new name once he had occupied Hattusa. As there remain a scarcity of records from this period, scholars disagree over when Hattusili I took his name or why. It is also not known whether the city was re-built after Anitta's conquest (and therefore Hattusili had to take it by force) or if Hattusili simply occupied the site and built on the ruins of the old city.
Hattian Ceremonial Standard

Hattian Ceremonial Standard

The lands of the Hatti were systematically conquered by the Hittites and the people merged into the culture of their conquerors. The Hittites were known as the Nesili to themselves and their contemporaries and the name `Hittite' comes from the Hebrew scribes who wrote the biblical narratives of the Old Testament. They may have migrated to the region or, more probably, lived alongside the Hatti for many years before hostilities between the two peoples began. By 1650 BCE, the Hittites, under Hattusili I, defeated the last of the Hatti resistance and rose to complete dominance of the area. The Hatti region of Anatolia, however, was still known as the 'Land of the Hatti' until 630 BCE, as is known from references found in the writings of both the Egyptians and the Assyrians. The importance of the Land of the Hatti in international relations is attested to by The Amarna Letters, cuneiform tablets found in the late 19th century CE in Amarna, Egypt, which are correspondence between the Egyptian Pharoah and the kings of Mitanni, Babylonia, Assyria, and Hatti. Van De Mieroop writes:
The kings saw themselves as equals and addressed each other as brothers. They discussed diplomatic matters, especially the exchange of precious goods and of royal women, which reinforced the ties between them. While most of the letters were written in Babylonian, there were two in Hittite and one each in Hurrian and Assyrian.These Amarna letters cover a short period of at most thirty years from ca. 1365 to 1335, but it is certain that this type of correspondence was maintained throughout the period at several locations (135).
The artistic renderings from Hatti at this time depict the common people with longer noses and markedly different facial features than those of their leaders, clearly demonstrating the Hittite lords and their Hattic vassals. Whoever the Hatti originally were, or where they came from, remains a mystery in the modern day owing to the eventual merging of the two cultures and the lack of anceint records. By the time of Telepinu, the last king of the Hittite Old Kingdom (reigned c. 1525-1500 BCE), the Hatti were presented simply as a troublesome faction of the populace, not as a separate ethnic group. The civilization they founded may have provided the Hittites with an established culture, trade agreements, and agricultural advances, along with religion, but it is equally possible the Hittite culture already had such things in place when they first marched on Hattusa. The actual nature of the relationship between the Hatti and the Hittites remains a mystery in the modern day and waits on the discovery of ancient documentation to be resolved.

Historical Accuracy in the Film Agora › Antique Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 17 February 2014
In 2009, film director Alejandro Amenabar brought the story of Hypatia of Alexandria (c. 370-415 CE) to the screen through the feature film Agora. Prior to the film's release, and more so following, Christian writers criticized the movie's historical inaccuracies and its depiction of Christians specifically. On his weblog, one John Sanidopoulos writes, “On May 17, 2009 I wrote a short piece on the soon to be released movie Agora, which I had not seen and still have not seen. Back then I anticipated the film would not treat this sensitive historical period fairly, and from the review below it seems I was correct.” He then re-prints a review of the film by a doctor of Theology, Irene A. Artemi of the University of Athens, which justifies his concerns about the film regarding historical accuracy and the depiction of the Christian community. Among her many critiques of the film, Dr. Artemi makes it clear that the film's historical flaws have to do with Amenabar's view of religion : “…it should be noted that the director of the film, Alejandro Amenabar, is an atheist. By his own admission, he was born and raised in a Christian family, then became an agnostic and later on an atheist.” Dr. Artemi then critiques the film in light of how Amenabar's atheism influences his depiction of the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria.
Agora Film Poster

Agora Film Poster

There are, indeed, many historical inaccuracies in the film Agora, as there are in other recent and not-so recent Hollywood movies which treat of historical eras and people, whether Gladiator (2000), or Alexander the Great (1956), Alexander(2004), or even Troy (2004) which tried to bring a `realistic' version of Homer ’s Iliad to the screen. Each of the writers and directors of these films chose to change details in the actual history of the time for various reasons but, chief among them, simply because the medium is designed to entertain, not educate. One does not go to the movies to learn about ancient history but to be entertained. This same paradigm obtains with Agora and whether the director is an atheist or a religious adherent is irrelevant. The fact that Dr. Artemi makes a point of his atheism in discrediting the film is significant however in that it points to the real central issue Christian apologists object to in the film: that it paints early Christians in an unflattering light which is undeserved.
Agora does contain a number of historical inaccuracies. Among these are: Hypatia's age (she was closer to 50 or 60 years old), her realization of the heliocentric universe, invention of the astrolabe and hydrometer, and the manner in which she died (the historical records state she was beaten and flayed to death by a mob of Christian monks who then burned her in a church). There is also the insertion of the fictional slave Davus, the wounding of Hypatia's father Theon by the Christians, the fire walking of the monk Ammonius, and other such historical inaccuracies which are added for dramatic effect. The depiction of the Christian community, however, is accurate for the years in which the film is set. Dr. Artemi, and others, critiques the film's depiction of fundamentalist Christians destroying art and learning in the name of their god but it must be recognized that the way in which early Christians are portrayed is supported by primary sources as well as modern scholarship of the era under consideration. Artemi writes, at one point, “The movie presents the Christians - chiefly the "Bath Fraternity" members - not only as obscurantists, but also ignorant. In one of their conversations among themselves they are shown as saying that the earth and the sky resemble a chest and also as rejecting theories pertaining to astronomy.”
The anti-intellectual stance of the early church is attested to by early Christian writers themselves and so, if the Christians in the film are depicted as ignorant it is because they were so by choice. St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 CE) was openly hostile to classical learning and claimed that all the important values and thoughts expressed by writers like Plato were stolen from the Christian Bible ’s Old Testament. The early Christian apologist Tertullian (c. 160-230 CE) also rejected classical learning and famously stated:
What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem ? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from "the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart." Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief.
In these lines, from his `On the Prescription of Heretics', chapter 7, he is referencing Plato's Academy in Athens, the first university in the world, which was closed by the Christian emperor Justinian later in 529 CE (though it managed to remain a seat of learning afterwards). His claim that “with our faith, we desire no further belief” epitomizes the early Christian zeal and helps explain the wholesale rejection of classical learning. Closer to the time period of which Agora treats, the Christian writer St. Gregory of Nazianos (329-390 CE), clearly an intellectual and acquainted with classical Greek literature, still rejects the precepts of learning in favor of faith in the teachings of the church. Classical Greek and Roman literature was considered part of the `old way' which was now supplanted by the new faith. True Christians, these writers insist, would reject all such learning in favor of Christ's teachings which, as the Bible says, make “all things new again.” As the scholar Walter Nigg writes, “The Christian who triumphs and wins prestige is no longer walking in the way of the Gospel. In the eyes of genuine Christianity, all worldly success would be suspect” (15). In this same way, someone who turned back to regard the writings of the past as valid would be suspect. Just as Lot's wife turned back to look at the ruins of her old home and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26) so would a believer be endangering the soul in reading earlier, non-Christian, writing.


The depiction in Agora of early Christians as `ignorant' in the modern sense of that word is, then, in keeping with the tradition which Christian writers themselves have left us as their legacy. Regarding the charge that the film presents early Christians as `obscurantists' (those who darken or obscure a matter), it is clear that a group of individuals who actively reject the considerable amount of learning available to the literate people of the time would tend to obscure, rather than enlighten, any subject which did not coincide with what they had already decided was true. An early scene in Agora in which the Christian Ammonius mocks the `dead' statues of the pagan gods while preaching of his `living' god is precisely the argument early Christians used and is similar to the argument St. Paul uses among the Athenians in the Book of Acts 17:16-34. Ammonius is later seen in the film engaging in acts which would be considered `obscurantist' but, to such an individual at that time, there was nothing about the past worth learning in classical literature.
In early Christianity, adherents believed that Christ was going to return any day. There was, therefore, little need for books or intellectual thought as Christ had brought a new paradigm for human beings: faith in a living, present, god who provided completely for believers. When one believes one knows the ultimate truth of existence one is not interested in other's theories and thoughts on the subject. Christianity was the new found truth and paganism, and all things pagan, was the enemy of that truth. St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) who lived roughly about the same time as Hypatia, wrote that pagan temples had to be `redeemed' in the same way as pagan souls and this `redemption' often took the form of sacking the temples, destroying them, and building Christian churches on their foundations.
Rachel Weisz as Hypatia of Alexandria

Rachel Weisz as Hypatia of Alexandria

Even so, as the scholar Helen Saradi-Mendelovici writes, “A systematic destruction of pagan sanctuaries was never the intention of the imperial policy” (49). It would seem, more often, the destruction of pagan sites was the result of the zeal of the Christians in the community and “bishops, especially in the East and in Africa, often used the religious zeal of monks as a means of destroying temples. We also hear of the destruction of pagan shrines by newly converted Christians. The sources present such actions as a manifestation of their adherence to Christianity” (49). Often, the destruction of pagan sites was simply the result of people in the area carrying away building material from temples and shrines which had been abandoned but the intentional demolition of pagan temples and shrines by Christians has been established as historical fact.
This is also true of the depiction of Cyril in the movie (later Saint Cyril ) who plays the role of the `enemy of learning' opposite Hypatia's role as `champion of knowledge and truth'. While Cyril's role in Hypatia's death was never substantiated, it was certainly heavily hinted at by ancient writers in the primary sources on her murder including the Suda, the writings of SocratesScholasticus, and The Chronicles of John, Bishop of Nikiu. One modern day critique of the film is that there is no evidence that Cyril believed women were inferior to men and so the film's depiction of him as a misogynist, and the scene in which he reads from I Timothy 2:12, is found objectionable by modern Christians. Amenabar, however, did not write the passage, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” – that is found in the Bible and is often read in churches around the world today. Cyril was known as a “pillar of faith” and a champion of the church, which contributed to his sainthood, and his antagonism toward Hypatia and all she stood for would have been completely in keeping with his character as described by ancient writers.
Against this background, Amenabar presents the story of the scholar and teacher Hypatia of Alexandria. The destruction of the library at Alexandria by the Christian zealots as presented in the film has been criticized as inaccurate for many reasons but, chiefly, because it presents Christians in a bad light. The truth, however, is that Christians did, in fact, behave this way in c.415 CE. That dramatic license was taken with the presentation is not disputed but the historical accuracy of similar scenes enacted throughout the ancient world at that time is certain. The objections of modern day Christians to the depiction of ancient Christians in the film are unmerited. Early Christianity had to wipe out pagan thought and practice as a rival belief system and way of life. In fairness, before Constantine legitimized Christianity, pagans attempted to rid themselves of Christians in similar fashion. The early Christians were seen as `troublemakers' who refused to honor the gods of the community and so upset the relationship and harmony between the people and their deities. Even so, the early persecution of Christians did not result in the same depth of loss as the later persecution of the pagans by the Christians. The loss of ancient knowledge contained in pagan writings aside, the rise of Christianity resulted in a decline in personal hygiene, ignorance of some of the most basic instruments and methods used in medical and dental practice, a decline in the status of women, an abrupt halt to the practice of philosophical inquiry, and the overall neglect of the things of this world, including basic upkeep of cities, in favor of contemplation of the greater, better, world to come.
Whether one believes in the Christian destruction of the library at Alexandria or not, there is no arguing that early Christianity destroyed an enormous amount of ancient knowledge and crushed intellectual thought. The ancient works we have today (such as Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus ) were preserved by the church because they supported the idea of an ultimate, objective truth. From fragments of other ancient writers and references in extant texts we know there were many other writers' works which did not survive. As stated earlier, this was not a systematic policy of the early church. There was no official agenda for the destruction of temples or the murder of pagans. Walter Nigg writes, “Tertullian forcefully defended the view that no one must ever be coerced into participating in a religious function, for that would be inconsistent with the nature of faith and `no one would wish to be honored by someone who does not do it gladly'” (209). By the time of Hypatia, there were Christians who were educated and who did value learning and tolerance but there were many who were not literate, had no wish to be, and felt their faith threatened by those who were. Whether there was an official policy of destruction and murder, then, is almost irrelevant; destruction and murder did take place and did so because of religious zeal.
That early Christians should engage in the destruction of the old paradigm should not come as a surprise to modern believers in the faith. To deny those actions of the early church in trying to replace the faith of the past, seen as repellent in today's climate, is as dangerous as trying to deny or gloss over the foolish things one did in one's own youth. Everyone has done things at some point which, later on with more maturity and wisdom, one realizes were wrong and even regrets. As with the individual, so with a faith or with the rise of a country; people make mistakes in their zeal to achieve a desired end. A refusal to admit one's past mistakes is an invitation to repeat them. Today one looks at the 5th century Christians and their destruction of learning and culture in the film Agora and finds their actions deplorable; at the time, though, they were commendable to many, if not the majority, of adherents to the young faith who sought to follow Christ and to make all things new for his second coming.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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