Hattuşuş – Capital of the Hittite Empire

Here we are, embarking on another journey through time, aboard the ‘Tardis’. On this adventure we head back to 2004 and a trip J and I made to Erzurum Province. One of the places we dipped into on route was at Boğazkale, site of the ancient Hittite capital of Hattuşuş. Join us as we wander around this amazing place . .

HattusasWe arrived at the site pretty early in the morning – so early, in fact, that the guardian was nowhere to be seen. As the gates were open we drove in and followed the road as it curved around and climbed the hill that dominates the remains of the city. The view from the top puts the size of the place into perspective – it is vast! It also meant that we had the pleasure of watching the poor guardian, who had seen us enter whilst still eating his breakfast, racing along the roads to try and find us and ensure we paid the entrance fee.

The Hittite Empire once challenged both the Assyrian and Egyptian empires, controlling huge Hattusas postern tunnelareas of Anatolia and northern Syria; and the scale of their capital city is awe inspiring. Huge earthworks, faced with millions of cut stone blocks, stretch for about 5 miles and literally changed the landscape! (A bit like Kent after the Channel Tunnel went through!) Originally eight tunnels or posterns, ranging from 70-120mts in length, led through this massive fortification. These days only one is accessible and walking through the narrow, triangular, dry-stone construction left us very aware of all the tons of ramparts above us.

Hattusas Lion GateAt the top is the much-photographed Lion Gate; what you see today is a reproduction, the original being inAnkara. The site really is ‘monumental’ with amazing reliefs of gods and kings and fantasmagorical beasts. The place was known as the City of a Thousand Gods for a good reason!

An additional bonus for me was that our visit was in Spring forCentral Anatoliaand the whole site, not to mention all the roadside verges, in fact everywhere is a botanist’s wet dream come true. I could have spent days just taking pics of flowers, so many and so beautiful! Another time.

Hittite War GodsA quick drive along the processional way from Hattuşuş and we were at the sacred site of Yazilikaya where two small ravines contain the pantheon or temple site that has relief carvings of all (it is claimed) of the Hittite gods and goddesses. Here we were accosted by the inevitable ‘student of history who just happens to be staying with his brother who carves stone replicas, but didn’t want any money’ chap. He seemed pretty disappointed when his job description was proved correct!

Then we were off to the place described as the most important Hittite site – Alacahöyük. Hittite gold treasureAmazing finds were made here back in the 1930s when a bunch of royal burial chambers were excavated.You’d have to go to Ankara to see real things, but we were told that the site museum contained loads of other stuff as well as very convincing replicas of the original finds. The site is a bit of a detour to get to along pretty duff roads, so you can imagine our delight to find that the place had been closed since 2001 for ‘restoration’. Restoration my arse! I was pretty miffed to be charged TL4 million (2004, remember those days?) to view some supposed Winged Lions etc that turned out to be made of crumbling concrete!! The highlight of the site was a rusty old miner’s tilting trolly on six feet of rusting track! Burası Türkiye! This is Turkey!

As we were passing through Çorum we decided to stop off at their local museum. What a little gem! More than made up for the earlier disappointment at Alacahöyük.

Hattusus Massive Ramparts and lower Postern Gate
Hattusus Massive Ramparts and lower Postern Gate

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

21 thoughts on “Hattuşuş – Capital of the Hittite Empire

  1. Should’ve known not to come into your blog to read this when I saw the title. That’s the rest of my Sunday spent daydreaming about ANOTHER place you’ve written about. 😉 The Hittite history fascinates me.

  2. Alan — I am so envious of you being able to explore such amazing places! Your slipping in without the guardian seeing you reminds me of slipping into the Villa Jovis on the Island of Capri last spring with my daughter and my mother. It was the end of the day and I think he had fallen off to sleep. We slipped in and enjoyed spectacular views. We saw the famous Tiberius Fall, where the Emperor Tiberius had anyone he didn’t like (including wives he was tired of) tossed over the rocky cliff down to the sea. We could see over to Naples and Mount Vesuvius. When he got back to the gate, the guardian was waiting for us, eager to get our few euros entrance fee. He pointed out that he had been battling the enormous rats in his little guard house. Indeed the rats were huge. I would have tossed them over the Tiberius Fall. Keep up the fascinating posts! Trisha

    1. we’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly wonderful guardians over the years. Some of Turkey’s sites are miles from anywhere and see few visitors so the guardians have time for the personal guided tour and copious glasses of tea! Delightful way to do the tourist bit.

  3. When we first wadded ashore, we vowed we’d take full advantage of the opportunity to explore the incredible depth and breadth of Anatolian history. Did we? No. We used to see more when we came on holiday. Life and the laptop just got in the way. Then there was the book, now there’s the trip to London. It has to stop. We need to get back to basics as John Major once said (didn’t do him much good). Will we? I hope so.

    1. . . take it from this ‘BOFFER’, you really don’t know what is coming down road – before we burnt our boats and shipped out I’d been given two great options; being dead by age 55 and being in a wheelchair within 5 years. Trust me, such things focus the mind on what is important!
      Don’t put off or miss out you two – I know you said you need to earn a crust as well and I have a suggestion, it’s called the Benjamin Franklin method of decision making. Each get a sheet of paper with 2 columns, list all the things that are important to you and all the things that are not that get in the way – this way lets heads and hearts lead you to doing the best thing for both of you. Love to hear how you get on 😀

    1. Hello Stephen! First off, welcome to comments here on Archers. You’re absolutely right about the importance of this site in world history; the Hittite Empire tends to get overlooked in British history books but there is no doubt that it once rivaled the Assyrian and Egyptian Empires.
      Look forward to more of your input to comments.

    1. . . from the period when the empire was at its zenith and controlled most of Anatolia and what is now Syria, so about 1700BC. From this time it went into steady decline and the city was sacked around 1150BC. It is assumed that the Assyrians looted most of the treasure, very little survived to find its way into museums although there are plenty of items such as writings, treaties etc and items of a ‘non-valuable’ nature.

  4. What an amazing place ever! Love to go this place. It is really great to have some travel in an amazing and exciting places.

    1. Hello again Nicholle! It really is an amazing place to see – the site covers a vast area. In Springtime it is especially wonderful because of all the flowers and creatures. 😀

  5. I think there needs to be a whole “back roads” series.

    And Burası Türkiye indeed on the cement, and rust.

    In this post – and in these comments – I get closer and closer to finding a new way, akin to Jack and Liams’ pivoting. Thank you for that.

  6. After the Hittites came to power, they took control of much of Anatolia and their first kingdom was in an area called Nesa, near Kultepe. The first capital of the Hittite Empire was at a place called Kushshar or Kussara, which has not yet been located.

    1. Thanks for the comment and welcome to Archers – the Hittite Empire was certainly a mighty one; the info you provide about Kussara is new to me and has tweaked my curiosity – I’m looking forward to learning more.

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