The Hittite civilization lay lost to history for millennia. But the sheer extent of their world and all its achievements are coming to light now thanks to the work of modern archaeologists.
Hattusili III (or Hattu for short) our hero of the Empires of Bronze saga was very much a real, living, factual Hittite, but I had to stitch together the patches of information we have about his life with a thread of fiction. But let's take away the thread for a moment and examine the facts about Hattu. Who was he really?
The tablets unearthed at Hattusa, the Hittite capital, tell of a brilliant but dark and flawed character - brave, shrewd, ambitious, ferocious - who rose to the very pinnacle of power in the Hittite Empire. But where did it all begin, and how did our hero reach such heights?
Hattu was born more than three thousand years ago, in the last decades of the 14th century BC. This was an era known as the Hittite New Kingdom. It was a time of triumph for the Hittites: they drove their age-old adversaries the Mitanni Empire into the ground, marched all the way to and conquered the legendary city of Babylon, and faced off against and almost crushed Pharaoh's Egyptian armies at Kadesh. To put the scale of the Hittite Empire into perspective, consider the Trojan War: the legendary conflict between Troy and the Greeks is far more well-known than the Hittites and anything they ever did, yet King Priam's city was but a vassal of the Hittite throne. Concisely - the Hittites were an absolute superpower.
Back to Hattu: he was the fourth son of King Mursili II and Queen Gassulawiya. It seems that he was a sickly child. He is thought to have suffered some problem with his eyes (hence my speculative depiction of him having odd-coloured eyes - one hazel, one smoky-grey). The tablets go on to tell how Ishtar, the Goddess of Love and War, came to King Mursili in a dream, demanding that she should be named baby Hattu's patron deity to guarantee the child's health. The exact inscription from the Hittite tablets reads:
“The years for your son are short. Give him into my service, and he will live”
We do not know what became of his other two brothers, but Hattu's eldest sibling, Muwatalli (or Muwa for short) was appointed as Tuhkanti - crown prince. Meanwhile, Hattu was put through rigorous training at a military academy near Hattusa by a pair of veteran generals named Kurunta and Nuwanza and a chariot expert from nearby Hurrian lands named Kikkuli (or Colta as that name roughly translates).
I don't know if the real Kurunta was quite as evil as the one I depicted in Son of Ishtar, but whatever his means and methods, he was obviously a master of his craft. I say this because Hattu was still an adolescent when he played a lead role in the campaign to reclaim the Pontic Mountain region - a land lost generations previously to the fierce Kaskan mountain tribes.
After the conquest, he was appointed as Priest of the Storm God in the overgrown ruins of the northern city of Nerik. He set about rebuilding Nerik and the other tumbledown sites of the north, repopulating and reestablishing trade and communications. More, it seems that although he was the conqueror of the Kaksans, he was wise enough to reach a noble truce and understanding with them, for they would play a vital part in his later life…
King Mursili died, possibly of a stroke, when Hattu was a young man. Thus, Muwa became Labarna, and quickly appointed Hattu as his Gal Mesedi - chief of the royal bodyguards and most trusted advisor - and gifted him governorship of the northlands he had won. More, Muwa granted Hattu custody of his second born son - named Kurunta, possibly in honour of the grizzled military trainer (long-dead by this point in time). At the same time, Muwa nominated his eldest son, Urhi-Teshub, as Tuhkanti and heir.
Hattu was clearly a pivotal figure in the Hittite Empire by this point - second only to his brother. When the long-simmering tensions with Egypt boiled over thanks to a dispute about border territories in the modern Levant, it was no surprise that Hattu was at the head of the army that marched to war.
At The Battle of Kadesh, Hattu orchestrated a deft deception, bringing Pharaoh Ramesses II's huge force to within a whisker of defeat. The exact pattern of the battle is chaotic and hard to understand, but it seems that the Egyptians avoided obliteration and fled the fray, ceding the disputed border territories to the Hittite throne.
On his way to or possibly on his return from Kadesh, Hattu met a Priestess of Ishtar named Puduhepa. They were soon married, and she bore him a child, Tudhaliya. Everything seemed set for Hattu. - war hero, general, husband, father.
But around the time when Hattu returned to Hittite lands with his new wife and child, King Muwa died. Muwa's son, Urhi-Teshub, succeeded his father as expected. Hattu had never contested Urhi-Teshub's station as the king-in-waiting, but clearly something went awry after the change of king. Urhi-Teshub apparently stripped Hattu of everything – all his armies, estates and possessions, including the cities of the north of which he had previously been Governor. More, Hattu's long-standing allies were removed from their stations.
Hattu revolted, bringing together his few remaining allies - including the Kaskans he had long-ago won over - and declaring war on his nephew. Urhi-Teshub likewise mobilised the Hittite divisions and the two forces marched to war. This would be an epic struggle for control of the greatest empire of the age.
Empires of Bronze: The Crimson Throne tells the tale of this ancient and cataclysmic clash.
Or start the saga from the very beginning, with the first three books:
Gordon Doherty, writer, history fan, explorer.
Empires of Bronze: The Dark Earth - the story of the Bronze Age's catastrophic end.