ABSTRACT: The Hittites who were origin of Indo-European and came to Anatolia occupied the region of Halys in central Anatolian around 1650 BC building Hattusa as a capital city. Expanding their territories into an empire they founded one of the most powerful states in their times and world. Including different ethnic groups Hittites called themselves by the expression of “1000 Gods of Hatti”. Incorporating several local gods existed in the lands they conquered they have had a lot of gods or divines. Among these gods are gods of Hatti, Luwi, Pala, Sumer, Hurri, Assyro- Babilonian and ancient Indian. Many temples discovered in the Hattusa excavations are an important clue for their paying great respect to the gods. In this article benefiting from the evidences of archaeological and philological sources Hittite beliefs as a state religion and general aspects of this religion, gods in the pantheon, temples built for these gods, festivals devoted to these gods, the place of gods and humans, magic rituals, oracles, omens, prayers and mythological stories will be evaluated.
SUMMARY: Hittites, who are from origin of Indo-European, came to Anatolia around 2000 BC and established a powerful state choosing Hattusa as their capital city in central Anatolia. It lasted until approximately 1200 BC. Several reasons such as destructions of the sea peoples, famines and some revolts struck the Hittite Empire. After the fall of the empire some small city states called Neo-Hittite occurred in Southern Anatolia. They were powerful states extending from Northern Syria to Mesopotamia. They were comprised of different ethnic identities. This aspect of it can be seen in every field of the Hittite culture. Specifically the religion of the Hittites bears a lot of marks of it. They called themselves “people with 1000 gods of Hatti”. They added the gods they met into their pantheon. Pantheon of Hittites composed of gods of Hatti, Hurri, Luwi, Pala, Sumer, Babilonia, Assyria, Ancient Indian. Religious attitudes of Hittites affected by different cultures show a polytheistic structure.
Sources of Hittite religion include many evidences of archaeology and philology such as temples, descriptions on palaces and cultic buildings, rock monuments, steles, sculptures, rythons and seals. There are festival texts, mythological texts, oracles and omens in the group of philological source.
Our main informations about religion of Hittites come from these sources. We see representations of gods of Hittites on descriptions in archaeological evidences. Our knowledge about some other cultic activities also comes from same source. Festival texts in the group of philological sources give us information especially about cultic activities. Another main source about gods of Hittites is the mythological texts. We are able to learn their views of the universe and the celestial realm by these mythological sources. It appears that the texts had been used in religious rituals too.
As understood from these sources, at the top of polytheistic religion of Hittites stand Sun Goddess of Arinna and Thunder God. Their pantheon also include a lot of gods from Hatti, Hurri, Luwi, Pala, Sumer, Babilonia, Assyria, Ancient Indian. Temples which are believed to be homes of gods were very important in daily life of Hittites. The excavations carried out in Hattusa testify to existence of many temples. Among these, Yazılıkaya Temple is of primary importance. The temple located two kilometers northeast of Hattusa includes descriptions of gods in Hittite pantheon. Besides Hattusa, archaeologists discovered many temples in Hittite sites such as Alacahöyük, İnandıktepe, Kuşaklı. Including a social structure as well as religious one, temples contained a lot of staff. A lot of documents were discovered which mention the businesses and responsibilities of these persons.
Relation between humans and gods necessitates some burdens on human side. If man couldn’t do their duties for gods perfectly, they punish the human beings. One of the most important of these duties is festival rituals. Hittites have many rituals dealing with festivals. They were celebrating these festivals in temples or sacred spaces in appointed times. Besides regular rituals, people were doing other activities such as dance, music, playing etc.
The magic concept in Hittite society can be divided into two types, white and black. Black magic was forbidden. Magical rituals had been done by persons who have mastered it. The rituals carried on generally outside settlements, far away from cities. Besides magical activities, oracles and omens were also spread. Fortune telling was also one of the important divine methods to solve problems in the Hittite society. Prayer texts which include a binding language between human and gods were also a prominent part of cultic life of the Hittites.
There is no detailed information about afterlife in this religion. After death ordinary people were belived to go under earth and royal personalities to be god to sky, divine realm. Evidence from burial sites has suggested that both interment and cremation were practiced. After burying, remaining relatives should pray for the departed lest they return into this world , otherwise they would harm to the living.
Another source that sheds light on the Hittite religion is mythological texts. From these kind of texts can be learnt about relations between gods and humans, etiological explanations dealing with nature and cosmogony. Myths had been used in the cultic rituals. Mythological texts belonging to Hittite religion come generally from Hatti, Hurri and Mesopotamia. One of the most important of those samples is the myth, called “The Missing God Telipinu”. Telipinu got angry to something and disappeared suddenly. With his departure some troubles occur in the world. A lot of rituals had been practised in order to turn the god back from the place where he went and to revive the nature. These texts were also containing the names of gods.
It seems that the Hittites, coming from outside of Anatolia, included a lot of gods into their pantheon and composed them in their understanding of religion. So they built a syncretic system of beliefs. Most important part of cuneiform texts discovered in excavations shows the importance of religion in the Hittite society. Regular and appointed times for rituals were also important for Hittites. Otherwise gods would punish the people and send calamity upon them.