The Role and status of women in Hittite society

Authored by: Trevor R. Bryce

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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The Late Bronze Age kingdom of Hatti, better known to us today as the kingdom of the Hittites, emerged in north-central Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the seventeenth century bc. At its peak in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries bc, it held sway over an empire which extended over much of the Anatolian peninsula, from the Aegean coast in the west, to the western fringes of Mesopotamia in the east and southwards through the northern half of Syria to the frontiers of the Damascus region, where Egyptian subject territory began. The heartland of the kingdom lay within the region defined by the river called the Halys in classical times, and is now known as the Kızıl Irmak. In the Hittite period, it was called the Marassantiya. Scholars often refer to this region as the Hittite homeland. Its dominant city was the Hittite royal capital Hattusa, the political and administrative centre of the whole empire. Beyond the homeland, the empire was made up largely of a network of vassal states in both Anatolia and northern Syria. These were ruled by local kings who were bound to their Hittite overlord by treaties of allegiance, and sometimes marriage alliances as well, but were generally allowed considerable freedom in the administration of their kingdoms. In the mid-fourteenth century, the Hittite king, Suppiluliuma I, fresh from his conquest of the Hurrian kingdom called Mitanni, extended direct Hittite rule over parts of Syria by establishing viceregal seats at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Aleppo to the south-west of it. The viceroys were invariably members of the Hittite royal family, often the king’s own sons. The Hittite empire collapsed early in the twelfth century bc during the widespread upheavals of the period which affected many parts of the Greek and Aegean and Near Eastern worlds.

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