Chapter 8. The Gods

К оглавлению
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 

Divine Lords, lend me your ear, and listen to these my pleas!

And the words which I will make into a plea to the Divine

Lords, these words, Divine Lords, accept and listen to them!1

Quite apart from other considerations, monotheistic religions like

Christianity, Judaism,and Islam have one great advantage over their

polytheistic counterparts: communication with one’s god is generally

a much simpler, more straightforward process.Worshippers in a

multi-godded world have to deal with a plethora of deities, and constantly

run the risk of incurring divine wrath by failing to identify

which specific one needs supplicating or placating on a particular

occasion. And when appeal is made to a number of gods, there is

always the danger of inadvertently leaving out one or two, who will

certainly take offence. Nor is there any clearly developed sense of

divine omnipresence. In the Hittite religious milieu the worshipper

had to be sure that a deity was on hand and actually listening when a

prayer was offered up to him or her, so that the prayer would not go

astray. The deity’s current whereabouts might be unknown.

Elaborate rituals might be necessary to entice him or her to the place

where his or her services were required. Special priests or ritualists

were often employed for the task of divine evocatio2—godbotherers

in the true sense of the word. Sometimes extensive,

time-consuming oracular enquiry was needed to determine which

god’s wrath was being vented on the community, and why.

Further, a multitude of gods require a multitude of temples and

temple personnel, and a constant flow of gifts and sacrifices as

rewards for services rendered or promised, or to ensure that services

are not withheld. Monotheistic worshippers are spared much of this.

Their god is both omnipresent and omniscient. Prayers can be

offered to him at any place and at any time. Churches or synagogues

or mosques may be built and rituals performed in his honour. But

these are non-essential trappings, for the omniscient god can see into

the minds and hearts of all his creatures, and for this reason the true

believer does not need to make tangible demonstration of his devotion

with gifts or other material goods in order to secure the god’s


‘An Extreme Form of Polytheism’

In place of a single omnipresent, all-knowing deity, the Hittites

believed that the world was populated by a multitude, indeed a

plenitude, of spirits and divine forces. The whole cosmos throbbed

with supernatural life. Gods inhabited the realms above and below

the earth. And on the earth every rock, mountain, tree, spring, and

river had its resident god or spirit.These were not mere abstractions,

but vital living entities. Even substances like silver and fire were

regarded as conscious living forces endowed with human emotions:

‘The fire, the son of the Sun God, bore ill will, and it came to the point

that he went forth into the dark night, he slid into the dark night,and

he coiled himself together like a serpent.’3

The Hittites were polytheists in the fullest possible sense. By the

time of the New Kingdom they practised what has been referred to

as an extreme form of polytheism.4To begin with, local Hattic deities

predominated, but with the political and military expansion of the

Hittite world, the divine ranks of the pantheon were swelled by new

members, many of whom were the gods of the city states and kingdoms

that had succumbed to the military might of Hatti. The act of

removing the statues of the local gods and relocating them in the

temples of the conqueror physically marked the transference of

these gods to the conqueror’s pantheon.5 No longer could they be

summoned by the conquered, for the material casings into which

they entered had now been removed to another land. In effecting

this transfer, the conqueror showed all due respect and deference to

his newly acquired gods, and perhaps it was regular practice for him

to go through a process of seeking the gods’ consent for their transference.

6 For their goodwill had to be secured if henceforth they

were to extend their protection over, and generally act in the interests

of, the land of their new worshippers.

In this land they retained their individual identities, even if they

were identical in function and character and name with the gods

of other conquered territories, or gods already long established in

the conqueror’s homeland. Thus there were a plethora of Storm

Gods, of Sun Gods, of Ishtars or Ishtar-equivalents.7 All were or

became members of the Hittite divine assemblage and were differentiated

merely by adding to their names their local places of origin.

The result was an enormously complex, unsystematic, and sometimes

thoroughly confusing agglomeration of deities making up

the pantheon.8 In this respect the Hittites went far beyond the relatively

systematic pantheons of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian

worlds. And they took great pride in doing so.Their boast that Hatti

was ‘the land of a thousand gods’ was hardly an exaggerated

one. Palaic gods from northern Anatolia, gods from the Luwian

regions of western and southern Anatolia,9 Hurrian gods,gods taken

from a whole range of cult centres in Mesopotamia and Syria

were all added into the Hittite pantheon, so that eventually the

majority of the pantheon was of foreign origin. Liturgies to foreign

gods were often sung or recited in the native language of their place

of origin.

Leaving aside theological considerations, the Hittites’ unfiltered

reception of ever more deities from all regions of their expanding

realm was not without its advantages. In the first place it provided

another dimension to the high degree of tolerance—political, social,

cultural—which Hittite kings were at pains to cultivate in their dealings

with their subject peoples. It reflected a policy of what Professor

Akurgal has referred to as ‘conscious politically conditioned religious

tolerance’.10To boast of a thousand gods was on the one hand

to demonstrate how far and over how many peoples the Hittites’

conquests extended. On the other hand it demonstrated their policy

not merely of tolerating but of absorbing and assimilating within

the fabric of their own culture and society elements of the cultures

and societies of the peoples who made up their realm.The lack of an

official religious doctrine or of any form of theological dogma

enshrined in sacred texts like the Bible, the Koran, or the Torah,

ensured that there were no obstacles to the reception of foreign cults

and deities from anywhere the Hittites wished, whether for political

or other reasons.

Religious Reforms

In the final decades of the empire, attempts were made at the highest

levels to bring some order to the vast array of gods who were crowding

the pantheon. In her role as chief priestess, the indefatigable

Puduhepa, wife of Hattusili III, embarked on a major review

of religious practices and traditions throughout the Hittite world,

and began rationalizing the pantheon by establishing syncretisms

between some of its chief deities, in particular identifying Hittite

gods with their Hurrian counterparts. Thus the great Storm God of

Hatti was now formally equated with Teshub. His consort (as recognized

in the official state cult) the Sun Goddess of Arinna, chief

female deity of the Hittite world, was equated with Hurrian Hepat,

as reflected in the opening lines of the queen’s prayer to the goddess:

‘O Sun Goddess of Arinna,My Lady, Queen of all countries! You are

called “Sun Goddess of Arinna” in the Land of Hatti, but in the

country which you have made the cedar land you are called


In her purely Hurrian milieu Hepat, who was in origin a kind of

Syrian mother-goddess figure,12 had never actually had the character

of a solar deity. But her prime position alongside her consort Teshub

in the Hurrian pantheon and in numerous individual cult centres in

Syria and eastern Anatolia made quite natural the syncretism with

the most important divine couple in the Hittite pantheon. The

couple’s offspring were now reduced essentially to one prominent

son Sharruma, a southern Anatolian Hurrian god who was equated

with the Storm God of Nerik,and a daughter Allanzu,who had a particularly

close association with the cult centre Kummanni. Sharruma

achieved high prominence in the last decades of the empire as the

personal deity of King Tudhaliya IV. At Yazılıkaya he appeared in

both the male and female files of deities, in each case immediately

behind his respective parent. He is symbolized in Hittite art as a pair

of human legs.

On one level these syncretisms were obviously aimed at reducing

the multiplicity of like gods in the pantheon. But they also clearly

reflect the progressive Hurrianization of Hittite culture. This had

become particularly marked in Hattusili’s reign, no doubt partly

under his Hurrian wife’s influence. The syncretizing process seems

not to have extended, at least officially, below the highest level of

divine society. But further efforts were made to give some sort of

system to the divine ranks of the pantheon by new groupings of male

and female deities into kaluti or ‘circles’, as depicted in the separate

male and female files at Yazılıkaya13 (with one exception on each


Such reforms were not just a matter of theological housekeeping.

They must also have been intended to promote a greater sense of

coherence and unity, both cultural and political, within the empire as

a whole. Not a plethora of different gods of different regions,but the

same gods for all peoples and all regions of the empire. In theory the

advantages are obvious, if one takes the overlord’s point of view. But

care had to be taken that the promotion of imperial unity, on a cultural

and political level, and official attempts to rationalize and systematize

the gods of the realm, did not run contrary to the spirit of

tolerance in which the Hittites obviously took such pride, and to

the preservation and maintenance of local traditions, local beliefs,

local gods. Theological rationalization, abstract concepts of cultural

homogeneity and unity count for little with local communities if they

believe that the individuality and the very ‘localness’ and distinctiveness

of the gods whom they worship are in danger of being lost to

a broader, more impersonal unity.

Such considerations must have been taken into account in the

comprehensive programme of religious reform, including a census

of local cults, undertaken by Tudhaliya IV, perhaps in continuation

of the initiative taken by his mother Puduhepa.14 Indeed the programme

may well have been a collaborative one between mother

and son,at least in the early years of Tudhaliya’s reign.To begin with,

Tudhaliya sent officials to all parts of the realm to inspect the condition

of the temples and sanctuaries, their personnel and equipment.

Temples that had fallen into disrepair were renovated or rebuilt, old

cult equipment, old divine images were replaced with new, often of

precious metals in place of original wood or stone, the numbers of

temple personnel were increased, land-grants were made for the

upkeep of temples and sanctuaries.

There were no doubt several reasons for this burst of religious

activity. On the one level, Tudhaliya obviously sought to build up

as much credit as he could with the divine powers in the everdarkening

final years of the empire. But perhaps just as importantly

he was seeking to assure the peoples of his kingdom that far from

threatening to destroy their cherished religious traditions, or

showing indifference to them, he was in fact intent on strengthening

them beyond all previous measure.This too as a demonstration that

in spite of the mounting threats which were beleaguering him from

many different quarters, his hands were still firmly on the reins

of empire, and his concerns were still very much with the welfare of

his subjects.

The Nature of the Gods

To the adherents of a religion whose god epitomizes perfect goodness,

the gods of the Hittites, and for that matter those of the Near

Eastern world in general, may appear to have offered little that was

either morally or spiritually uplifting. By and large the gods of the

ancient Near East, as indeed those of ancient Greece and Rome,

were human beings on a grand scale. They were subject to the same

range of emotions, like love, anger, fear, jealousy, they sometimes

neglected their responsibilities, they could deceive and be deceived,

they enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh, and they liked a variety of

entertainment—dancing and music, horse races, comedy acts, mock

battles, and athletics contests. ‘Are the desires of gods and men different?

In no way! Do their natures differ? In no way!’15

The gods’ relationship with their mortal worshippers is like that of

a king with his subjects, a master of a household with his servants.

And like kings on earth the great gods lived in magnificent palaces,

with a staff of subordinate gods to assist them in their duties and tend

to their every need. Just as subjects and servants are dependent on

their king or master for their welfare and well-being, so too are the

worshippers of a god. And just as a master is dependent on the

labours of his servants for his physical sustenance and well-being, so

too a god is dependent on his worshippers. A god who neglects his

responsibilities to his subordinates can become the victim of his own

negligence, just like a bad master. Prayers to such a god can contain

rebukes and direct appeals to his self-interest,in the hope that he will

be shamed into resuming his responsibilities.

Yet prone though the gods were to the frailties of humankind,they

none the less were concerned to ensure the exercise of justice,morality,

and right conduct amongst their mortal worshippers. Again an

element of self-interest was involved. For without such things law

and order break down within society, and it was the gods as beneficiaries

of the fruits of organized human endeavour who would ultimately

bear the consequences of this. A life lived in obedience to the

gods in which a mortal pursued no evil course ensured that the

mortal would enjoy the protection and blessings of divine favour,

reflected in the concept of para handantatar. But those who

offended the gods, either through neglecting due observance of

their ceremonies or through sinful conduct, would surely incur the

full weight of divine wrath. A violated oath, an act of parricide or

fratricide, illegal seizure of another’s rightful authority, other crimes

committed by mortals against their fellow creatures would be

adjudged and punished by their divine overlords.

Vengeance might sometimes be slow in coming. But sooner or

later the penalty for sinful conduct must be paid—even by a subsequent

generation, for the Hittites firmly believed in the notion of the

sins of the fathers being visited upon their sons.Thus in King Mursili

II’s Second Plague Prayer: ‘It is indeed true that man is sinful. My

father sinned and offended against the word of the Storm God, My

Lord. Though I myself have in no way sinned, it is indeed true that

the father’s sin falls upon his son, and my father’s sin has fallen upon

me.’16 More comprehensive still are the threats of divine vengeance

directed at temple officials:‘When someone arouses a god’s anger, is

it only on him that the god takes revenge? Does he not also take

vengeance on his wife, his children, his descendants, his family, his

male and female slaves, his cattle and sheep together with his crop?

Will he not destroy him utterly? Be sure to show special reverence

for the word of a god!’17

Any god could be invoked as a defender of justice and punisher of

wrongdoing. Thus Hattusili III proclaimed that his patron deity

Ishtar had acknowledged the justice of his cause in his conflict with

Urhi-Teshub and guaranteed his final victory. The Storm God too

was sometimes invoked as a god of justice.When vassal and international

treaties were drawn up, all the gods of both treaty-partners

were called upon to witness and protect the terms of the treaty, and

to punish violation of these terms.They alone had the power and the

right to do so, for such agreements once divinely endorsed became

sacrosanct and inviolable.

Hittite prayers often have the character of a defence made before

a judge in a lawcourt, a concept common to many religious systems

both ancient and modern. In the Hittite world, the most frequent

type of prayer was the arkuwar (cognate with English ‘argument’

from the Latin argumentum) in which the worshipper pleaded his

case before a divine judge, defending himself against an accusation,

or justifying an action of which he stood accused, and perhaps confessing

to some wrongdoing in the hope that the god would deal

more leniently with him.18 Considerations of right and justice rather

than grace and mercy generally determined how gods judged and

dealt with those who appeared before the divine tribunal. Yet they

might be prevailed upon to discard their hostility and to show a

quality of unstrained mercy, by prayers and rituals of a type designated

by the term mugawar: ‘O Sun God, My Lord, Just Lord of

Judgement,King of the Universe.You rule constantly over the lands.

You alone bestow victory. You alone in your justice always have

mercy. You alone are just, you alone always have mercy, you alone

respond to prayers of supplication. You alone are a merciful Sun

God.You alone always show mercy.’19 Just as a master may forgive a

slave who confesses to having done wrong so, one may hope, a god

will treat kindly a sinful but contrite suppliant.

Solar Gods

In the introductory lines of the Hittite Appu myth (see Chapter 12),

reference is made to a deity ‘who always vindicates just men, but

chops down evil men like trees’. The deity, unnamed, is almost certainly

the Sun God, supreme Lord of Justice in the Hittite world and

a close counterpart to the Babylonian Shamash. He is the god who

appears first (almost invariably) in the list of deities invoked in

treaties,20 he who as the all-seeing divine power presides over justice

and right conduct on earth. ‘O Sun God of Heaven, My Lord,

Shepherd of Mankind!’ prays King Muwatalli,‘You rise, O Sun God

of Heaven, from the sea and go up to heaven. O Sun God of Heaven,

daily you sit in judgement upon man, dog, pig, and the wild beasts of

the field.’21

Of all the surviving Hittite royal prayers, more than half are

addressed to solar deities.The obvious reason, comments Dr Singer,

is the Sun’s central function as the ‘shepherd of mankind’, a

Mesopotamian concept in origin. ‘A suppliant who is uncertain of

the reason for which he is being punished by the gods naturally

directs his prayer to the all-seeing Sun, who can reveal his sin

and can soften his punishment.The Sun is best informed not only on

“terrestrial” matters, but, as the “Sun God of the Gods”, he is also

aware of all that happens up in heaven and can reveal the cause

of the anger of other gods.’22 This concept of a supreme Lord of

Justice, an all-seeing Sun God of the Gods, a god who appears to

all humankind as a universal celestial disc shedding light and warmth

on all lands, might seem to indicate that here at least was a deity

who was everywhere recognized as a single, indivisible, divine

omnipresence.Yet neither here nor anywhere else is such a notion

to be found in Hittite religious tradition. As other gods appeared

in multiples, so too there were a number of solar deities—and of

both sexes.

The concept of a female sun deity was adopted initially from the

indigenous Hattic culture. By the Hittite period, if not earlier, there

were dual aspects to the deity’s role, for she was both a goddess of

heaven and a goddess of the underworld; she was honoured as

‘Queen of Heaven’ and ‘Torch of the Hatti-Land’,while her chthonic

associations were indicated by her epithets ‘Mother-Earth’,‘Queen

of the Earth’.23 The concept of duality may have arisen out of

attempts to explain the sun’s disappearance below the western

horizon in the evening and its reappearance on the eastern horizon

the following day. What happened to it in between times? It must

have passed the night in the netherworld regions—as Sun Goddess

of the Earth, Mistress of the Underworld. But why a female deity?

Was the nature of the sun sexually transformed according to the

hours of the day?24 Did the duality arise from two separate traditions

which were never properly reconciled—that of a predominantly

male-oriented sky-god cult representing an intrusive Indo-

European element into central Anatolia, and that of an earthgoddess

cult originating with the autochthonous population of the

region? Something similar has been postulated for the early development

of Greek religion in the second millennium. But this is all

very speculative, and we should remember that the Hittites were

quite comfortable with the notion of a deity who had both male and

female aspects, reflecting the different roles which the deity fulfilled

in different contexts.

In her chthonic role the Sun Goddess was commonly identified

with the Hattic goddess Lelwani, Queen of the Gods of the Infernal

Regions.25 Lelwani’s cult had been established in Hattusa during the

Old Kingdom, and already at that time she had a temple or cult

centre within the palace complex on Büyükkale. But it was in the last

century of the New Kingdom, in the reign of King Hattusili III, that

she came into particular prominence. This was due primarily to

Queen Puduhepa, who considerably raised the goddess’s profile by

praying constantly to her for the restoration of the health of her

forever ailing husband, and rewarding her handsomely whenever

His Majesty’s condition took a turn for the better (see Chapter 9).

Of the divine circle (kaluti) of solar deities to which Lelwani

belonged one figure stands out conspicuously from the rest—the

great Sun Goddess of Arinna (Hattic name Wuru(n)semu). The

goddess was so named from her close links with the city of Arinna,

one of Hatti’s most important cult centres lying a short day’s journey

from the capital. This Sun Goddess, consort of the mighty Storm

God, and highest-ranking female deity in the Hittite pantheon, was

regarded as patron and protector of the Hittite state and monarchy:

‘Queen of the Land of Hatti, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mistress

of the kings and queens of the Land of Hatti, directing the government

of the King and Queen of Hatti.’26 It was to her above all that

the prayers to solar deities were addressed.

In a prayer spoken by King Mursili, she is addressed as though she

were male:‘You alone are the Lord (en-as) of just judgement.’27 One

explanation offered for this form of address is that the passage in

question was taken from a hymn to the Babylonian Sun God

Shamash,addressed as ‘Sun God,My Lord,Just Lord of Judgement’,

without adapting the words to make them consistent with an invocation

to a female deity.28Yet as we have noted, the Hittites had no difficulty

with the notion that deities who performed both male and

female roles had both male and female sides to their persona, and it

was appropriate to address and depict them as male or female

according to the particular role in which they were engaged at the

time. This is particularly evident in Hittite concepts of the goddess

Ishtar, as we shall see below.

The Storm God

From the very beginning the Storm God held the most exalted place

among the gods of the Hittites.29 He was the preserver of order in the

cosmos, and the supreme overlord and protector of the Land of

Hatti. The king was his deputy on earth. The maintenance of life

itself depended on his benevolence; the most cataclysmic natural

disasters were due to his wrath. He personified the forces which

brought thunder and lightning and storms to the land; he also came

in the form of the soothing, gentle rain of heaven that brought new

life and growth to fields and meadows. To an agriculturally based

society like the Land of Hatti his favour and goodwill were indispensable.

If he withheld his life-giving rain, the land was plunged

into drought and famine; his wrath in the form of devastating storms

destroyed the land’s crops and orchards and gardens—and again

there was famine. He dwelt amongst mountain-tops close to the

heavens, his natural sphere, and travelled across the mountains in a

chariot pulled by a pair of bulls. In art he is depicted with axe and

lightning flash. The bull is his sacred animal, the symbol of his

strength and his powers of fertility.

As we might expect, the cult of a powerful sky-god who controlled

and unleashed mighty elemental forces and who in benevolent

mood made the lands fertile and prosperous was well nigh a universal

one in the ancient Near East. He was particularly prominent in

those lands that suffered much from the ravages and were greatly

dependent on the blessings of such forces. In his overall concept and

functions, he was essentially the same god wherever he was worshipped,

though there were some regional variations in his titles and

trappings. In Anatolia his pre-Hittite Hattic name was Taru, his

Luwian name Tarhunt-. In the Hurrian religious milieu, particularly

in south-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria, he was known by his

Hurrian name Teshub. He was the Akkadian Adad (west Semitic

Hadad). In the Ugaritic script he was called Ba‘lu, ‘Lord’. Old

Testament Yahweh had much in common with him, and his chief

powers and functions were also those exercised by the Greek god

Zeus,Roman Jupiter.Yet in each region where he held sway his worshippers

thought of him not as a universal god, a god of all peoples,

but as a god specific to them. They were his special people. Their

enemies were his enemies, against whom his protection might

be sought. He shared with them in the spoils of their victories, he

suffered with them the consequences of their defeats.

Even within regions he was conceived of as very function- and

location-specific. The texts provide us with a bewildering multitude

of Storm Gods.There are Storm Gods of the army,the military camp,

the palace, the door-bolt of the palace, the rains, the fields and the

meadows. Specific individual Storm Gods are associated with the

dozens of sub-regions, districts, communities making up the Hittite

kingdom, each god anchored to his location by the label applied to

him: the Storm God of Nerik, of Samuha, of Zippalanda, of

Manuzziya, etc. These may all have begun their existence as independent

local deities of independent small communities—deities

who coincidentally had many features in common, as one might

expect in agricultural societies whose life and livelihood centred

upon the productivity of the soil and the benevolence of the elements.

With the absorption of the communities into the Hittite

kingdom and the adoption by the Hittite bureaucracy of the

cuneiform script, the local gods were labelled with the common

Mesopotamian ideogram for Storm God, but retained their own

individual local identities.

Whether or not they really were no more than local versions of

the one god was a question to which the Hittites probably gave

little thought, at least before the reform programme instigated by

Puduhepa. Hittite religion was not much bothered with theological

speculation and contemplation. It was much more oriented to the

practical, the pragmatic, the functional, the expedient. And even if

one suspected that all Storm Gods were really one and the same

(similarly all other deities labelled with the same name and/or

having similar characteristics), why take the risk of being wrong and

gravely offending a local deity whose favour and good will might be

urgently needed? Thus King Mursili II went to great lengths to identify

a specific local Storm God as the cause of his speech affliction, in

order to undertake the rites of appeasement which were the necessary

preliminary to his cure. Simplistic and unsophisticated as Hittite

theology may appear to be, one has only to reflect on the bloody conflicts

which repeatedly plagued the Byzantine world, the result so

often of disputes over abstruse theological issues, to appreciate the

practical wisdom of a policy of absolute tolerance which the Hittites

demonstrated in dealing with the multitude of religious beliefs and

activities of the peoples making up their world.

From Old Kingdom times the Storm God of Hatti and the Sun

Goddess of Arinna were the paramount couple in the Hittite pantheon,

and presided over what might loosely be called a divine royal

family.Their numerous offspring include lesser Storm Gods,notably

those of Nerik and Zippalanda, a daughter Mezzulla (a Hattic name

in origin), whose chief cult place was also Arinna and who like her

mother was worshipped in the form of a sun disc, and a granddaughter

Zintuhi. Also prominent amongst their children is the vegetation

and grain god Telipinu, ‘who harrows and ploughs and irrigates and

makes the grain grow’. Again a Hattic deity in origin (whose cult had

spread into southern Anatolia by the fourteenth century bc), he is

best known for his close association with the mythological tradition

of the Vanishing God (see Chapter 12).

Thus already from the beginning of recorded Hittite history there

was a belief in some sort of hierarchical ranking within divine

society, with a broad distinction between a small number of deities

occupying the first rank in the pantheon and deities of lesser status

down to the very localized spirits of trees, rivers, and springs. The

lower-ranking deities might sometimes serve as intermediaries for

conveying prayers or requests of mortal worshippers to their colleagues

on the more exalted levels of the hierarchy, just as one might

appeal to the king of Hatti through lower levels of the royal bureaucracy.

Thus Puduhepa asked both Mezzulla and Zintuhi to act as

messenger gods on her behalf, to convey her prayers to the Storm

God and Sun Goddess, their divine parents and grandparents


In the reign of King Muwatalli II (c.1295–1272), barely a century

before the end of the Hittites’ Bronze Age kingdom, a new version

of the great god of elemental forces made his appearance in the

divine assembly—the Storm God of Lightning (pihassassi).We have

no earlier record of this god in our sources, and he may in fact have

been a newcomer, introduced into the pantheon by Muwatalli and

given high prominence as His Majesty’s personal deity and intermediary

with the rest of the assembly:‘The gods whom I have invoked

with my tongue and have pleaded to them, intercede for me with

these gods, with all of them!’ Muwatalli prays. ‘Take the words of my

tongue . . . and transmit them before the gods!’30 It may be that the

newcomer’s appearance in the pantheon was closely associated with

Muwatalli’s shift of the royal capital from Hattusa to Tarhuntassa.31

At all events from this time on the god remained firmly linked with

Tarhuntassa as its patron deity, even after the royal seat was transferred

back to Hattusa following Muwatalli’s death.


Throughout his life King Hattusili III had dedicated himself to the

service of the goddess Ishtar. This sickly youngest son of Mursili II

had not been expected to survive his childhood. But the goddess had

appeared in a dream to his brother Muwatalli with the promise that

the child would live if he were made a priest in her service.And so it

came to pass. Under Ishtar’s guidance and protection, Hattusili went

on to achieve great things, in the process seizing the Hittite throne

from its rightful incumbent, his nephew Urhi-Teshub. He was never

in any doubt about the rightness of his actions (at least in his official

declarations), for his patron goddess Ishtar was always by his side,

bestowing upon him her divine favour, shielding him against all his

enemies and granting him victory over them.

The goddess identified in our Hittite texts by the Akkadogram

ISHTAR, the Babylonian equivalent of Sumerian Inanna, makes her

first attested appearance in Anatolia in the texts of the Assyrian

Colony period. By the middle of the fifteenth century her worship

had spread westwards from Hurrian Nineveh in northern

Mesopotamia through northern Syria and from there into eastern

Anatolia. Frequently appearing under her Hurrian name

Shaushka,32 she had important cult centres dedicated to her at

Samuha on the Upper Euphrates and Lawazantiya in Kizzuwadna.

Like the Sun Goddess, she had both male and female aspects to

her character, visually illustrated by sculptural representations of

her in both male and female garb, and her appearance at Yazılıkaya

in the files of both male and female deities. In her female aspect she

was goddess of love and sexuality, and was often depicted without

any garb at all. In her male aspect, she was god of war, god of the battlefield;

her animal symbol was the lion, her weapon the mace. Her

war-god aspect was by far the dominant one in her Hittite and

Hurrian milieu. But it was her dual aspect which enabled her to exercise

to the full her powers over human activity and behaviour. For as

she chose she could move men to peace and love and harmony,or to

hatred and conflict. Her dual aspect also enabled her to deprive the

enemy of their manhood on the battlefield, to ‘change them into

women’ and so render them incapable of fighting.

In any case the goddess’s two aspects were not so very far apart.

For Ishtar’s brand of love often equated with aggressive sexuality, as

in Gilgamesh’s encounter with her, arousing passions closely akin to

those which incite men to war. So too the similarity of the experiences

and dangers, the passions and emotions, generated by love and

war provide one of the favourite topoi of Latin erotic poetry in the

Augustan age, and one of Virgil’s main themes in his Georgics.

Other Deities

All mountains, rivers, and springs were inhabited by or identified

with gods or spirits—generally male in the case of mountains, female

in the case of rivers and springs. Mountains were themselves gods or

sacred numinous regions where gods dwelt or assembled. The

rugged Anatolian plateau and the great sweeps of mountain ranges

in Anatolia and northern Syria provided a fitting environment for

their activities and their worship.33 Mountain-gods figured frequently

in the state cults of Hatti and among the oath-gods in the

state treaties. Some had independent status, others of more humble

status appear to have functioned as servants of the Storm God. The

latter had a number of mountains associated with his worship,one of

the most famous being Mt Hazzi (= later Mt Kasios) in northern

Syria near the mouth of the Orontes river. In mythological tradition

Hazzi was well known as the setting for the conflict between Teshub

and Ullikummi in the Hurrian Kumarbi myth cycle (see Chapter 12).

The mountain’s place in Hittite religious tradition provides a further

instance of the importation of Hurrian elements into the Hittite

world, particularly in the last century of the New Kingdom. It also

provides a locational link between Near Eastern and Classical

mythological tradition, as we shall discuss below.

The pantheon included a number of tutelary, or protective deities,

both male and female, often identified by the Sumerogram lamma,

used as a title and represented in the iconography by a hunting bag

(kursa-) which served as a cult image.34 These deities functioned as

guardian spirits of individual persons, of places including the home,

and of particular activities. A number of festivals were held in their

honour, including one which was dedicated to all the tutelary deities

of the Hittite world.35

Of the dozens, indeed hundreds, of other gods making up the

Hittite pantheon, the majority scarcely ever appear in our texts, and

we know little about them except their names or titles. Those who

appear to have played a more significant role in Hittite religious life


(amongst the males):

A war god Wurunkatte (a Hattic name which literally means ‘King of

the Land’), the equivalent of Mesopotamian Zababa, who appears

among the oath-gods in state treaties,and in whose honour an annual

festival was celebrated by the king and queen.37 In the iconography

he is depicted standing on a lion and brandishing lance and shield.

The Moon God Arma (Hurrian Kushuh), who appears among the

oath-gods invoked in rituals and treaties, but otherwise keeps a low

profile amongst his fellow gods. His Hattic equivalent Kasku features

in the Hattic myth of the moon who fell from the sky.38

(amongst the females):

Inar(a), a Hattic goddess in origin,and an important female member

of the Hittite pantheon in the Old Kingdom,when she was honoured

as patron goddess of Hattusa. She was also patron and protectress of

wildlife, roughly equivalent to Greek Artemis.39

Halmasuit, also a Hattic goddess in origin, who was worshipped as

the deified Hittite throne. Her initial association with Hattusa dates

back to the Assyrian Colony period when she had been the deity

responsible for delivering the city to the Nesite king Anitta.40

Kamrusepa (Hattic Katahzipuri), the goddess of magic who

served as midwife in birth-rituals41 and acted as guardian of herds

and households.

Kubaba was another minor deity in the Hittite pantheon. From at

least the Old Babylonian period she had been the city goddess of

Carchemish. She was adopted into the Hittite pantheon when King

Suppiluliuma I conquered Carchemish and made it a viceregal

kingdom. But it was only after the fall of Hattusa, in the neo-Hittite

period, that the goddess achieved high prominence, in northern

Syria and south-eastern Anatolia, corresponding with the increasingly

important role now assumed by Carchemish. In the course of

the early first millennium bc, her influence became widespread in

Anatolia. She had connections with the mother-goddess of the

Phrygians, and her cult was adopted in Lydia where according to

Herodotos she was called Kybebe.42 Henceforth her worship may

have spread across the Aegean, via the civilizations of western

Anatolia. It is generally believed that she was the goddess who came

into contact with the Greek world under the name Kybele (Cybele),

the goddess whose cult was later to enjoy great popularity in many

parts of the Roman empire. However, some doubt has recently been

cast on the equation.43


Just as the smooth management of the kingdom’s affairs depended

on effective communication between the king and his officials, so too

the well-being of the land depended on advice and guidance which

the king received in communications from his divine overlords.

Sometimes messages from above might be sent by way of omens,

often in the form of natural phenomena like lightning flashes,

eclipses, or thunderstorms.The colour and shape of the moon could

also convey a divine message. But while omens of a celestial or astronomical

nature figure prominently in the Hittite collection of omen

texts (which are virtually all of Babylonian origin),44 there were

many other types as well; for example, the omens observed at the

time of a new-born child’s birth, which provided a basis for casting

the child’s horoscope. Features of the birth itself, including whether

it was premature, had a direct bearing on this. As did also the month

of the year in which the birth took place:

If a child is born in the first month (of the year), this child will demolish his


If a child is born in the second month, this child will be healthy of heart.

If a child is born in the fourth month, this child will be sickly.

If a child is born in the fifth month, this child’s days will be shortened.

If a child is born in the seventh month, a god will favour the child.

If a child is born in the eighth month, this child will die, and if it does not die,

great distress will seize upon the father and the mother of the child.45

Here as in other cases knowledge of precedent must have played an

important role in the interpretation of omens.Texts were consulted,

including those inscribed on various models, to indicate what a particular

omen or series of signs portended on the basis of what had

happened in the past.

Sometimes a god sent information in the form of a dream. We

know of at least two occasions when the prince Hattusili (later King

Hattusili III) benefited from advice conveyed in this way by the

goddess Ishtar. A king might learn in a dream that his life was in

imminent danger; but the dream came in sufficient time for him to

take appropriate preventative measures by arranging a substitution

ritual (see Chapter 11). It was only rarely,however, that information

so acquired was offered on the god’s own initiative. More often than

not an enquirer had to seek it out, through the process of incubation.

This meant spending the night in some appropriate holy place in

the hope that as the enquirer slept the god would provide an answer

to his enquiry via a dream. If the enquirer was so favoured, he

recounted his dream the following morning to the local seer who

then provided him with an interpretation. But dream experiences

seem not to have been a particularly popular way of soliciting a god’s

advice. Although they could be a quick and relatively inexpensive

way, too much had to be left to chance. A great deal depended on

how accurately the enquirer could remember the details of his

dream, on how much he could trust the ability or the honesty of its

interpreter,46 or indeed on whether the dream offered for interpretation

really did come from the god.

There were a range of other ways in which the divine will might be

ascertained or divine advice solicited—through the process of oracular

enquiry. In theory the process was quite simple. Using the

services of an expert in the art of divination, the enquirer put his

question to the god, an action was performed or a series of observations

were made, and the outcome of the action or observations—in

effect the god’s response—was interpreted by the expert. But the

god communicated only by means of signs, and it required extensive

training to recognize, analyse, and translate the signs into an intelligible

response. Even then the standard oracular response was

laconic in the extreme—a simple yes or no.Which meant that to have

any hope of obtaining the information he was after, the enquirer had

to ask leading questions of the god:‘Are you angry because. . . . ?’ ‘If

I take this course of action, will the outcome be. . . . ?’ If the answer

was negative, the whole process had to be repeated, with no hints

from the god as to whether the enquirer was getting any warmer. It

could be a long, drawn-out business, particularly in cases where the

person seeking the information had fallen victim to divine wrath and

had no idea why.The god might have been brooding over a particular

offence for many years, and on the ‘sins of the fathers’ principle

the luckless enquirer might not himself have been to blame. In fact

he might eventually discover that the punishment being inflicted

upon him was due to an offence committed many years earlier by his


The oracles were of various types. Lot- or kin-oracles involved the

use of a board with symbols drawn on it representing various aspects

or activities of life. The actual procedure for seeking a divine

response is unknown, though presumably it involved an action by

the consultant involving the board, perhaps casting dice or some

other form of token upon it. The outcome of the action was interpreted

by a diviner, in this case one of the so-called ‘Old Women’ (see

Chapter 11).

These women also conducted the enquiries associated with snakeor

mush-oracles. In this case a basin marked out in sections, each

with a special designation (e.g. ‘life’, ‘sin’, ‘temple’, ‘house’,

‘prison’47), was filled with water and a water-snake released into it.

The reptile’s movement through the sections so marked provided

the basis for the Old Woman’s interpretation of the divine will.

Bird- or musen-oracles were the province of trained augurs,sometimes

apparently of slave origin. From a position in a marked-out

area of land or temenos, often near a river, they closely scrutinized

the types and behaviour of the birds who came within the bounds of

the temenos.48 Every detail was carefully noted. Not only were the

birds’ flight patterns,formations, direction of flight, and landings and

take-offs carefully recorded, but also details of their individual

behaviour—the sounds they made, the directions in which they

twisted their beaks, the movement of their feet. Excellent eyesight

and acute hearing must have been essential requirements of the job

along with expertise in the interpretation of all these details.

A great deal of importance was attached to this form of enquiry.

It was used, for example, in association with military enterprises.

Augurs were amongst the personnel who accompanied the army on

its campaigns, ready to consult the auspices whenever the field commander

called upon them to do so. Indeed we hear of one occasion

on which a commander delayed military action until such time as the

auspices, in the quite literal sense of the word, could be taken.49 The

Romans too practised this form of oracular consultation. In fact

according to one body of legendary tradition appearing in the surviving

fragments of the epic poet Ennius it played a decisive role in

selecting Romulus as the founder of Rome.

Extispicy was another of the oracular practices which the Hittites

adopted from Babylonia. The messiest and probably the most expensive

of all forms of oracular enquiry, it involved the examination

of the still pulsing entrails of freshly slaughtered sheep, particularly

the liver, but also the heart, gall bladder, and intestines. As was the

case in the Old Babylonian period, clay models of livers were kept

for consultation purposes, each marked out in sections with inscriptions

identifying its individual features. Each feature had a special

meaning and significance. A comparison of the freshly sacrificed

animal’s liver with the model provided the basis of the diviner’s

interpretation of the god’s response.

The texts which record oracular enquiries set down the question

and the god’s response, and if the latter was negative, another question

and another response until a positive result was obtained.These

recorded processes sometimes provide us with quite sensitive information

not obtainable from other sources, since in his attempts

to determine the reason for divine wrath a king might be obliged

to unlock some embarrassing family skeletons otherwise kept well

hidden from the official records. The list of possible offences, any

one of which might have offended the god, reads rather like a

confessional—a breach of an oath, a murder here and there, squabbles

in the royal household, trumped-up charges against an innocent


Even if all procedures had been meticulously carried out, there

might still be some doubt as to whether a god’s response had been

correctly understood.That was the advantage of having a number of

alternative oracular procedures. A second one could always be used

to double-check the result obtained from the first. Budgetary considerations

were also a factor. Liver divination, for example, must

have been prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest classes.

At the lower end of the socio-economic scale much cheaper procedures

were available, all the way down to the interpretation of

patterns formed by drops of oil in a vessel of water, a kind of Hittite

equivalent to reading tea-leaves.

The Temples and their Divine Residents

In its overall functions the Hittite temple probably had much in

common with the medieval monastery.The core function, the prime

purpose of each institution, was service to the deity. Beyond that,

both were landowners, both were self-contained economic and

industrial units, and both were centres of learning, or at least repositories

of scribal tradition. No doubt some of the larger temple establishments

became, like many monasteries, rich and powerful

institutions within the state. They owned extensive tracts of prime

agricultural land whose income supported their personnel and

cultic operations and probably left a good deal in surplus.Whether

their wealth and influence led to the kind of friction between temple

and palace that one observes in Early Dynastic Sumer remains

unknown. But given the king’s supreme authority and active role in

the religious as well as the administrative life of the kingdom, this

seems unlikely. In any case the substantial power which Queen

Puduhepa exercised over the kingdom’s religious affairs, and the

extensive involvement of her son Tudhaliya in a comprehensive programme

of religious reform, must have greatly minimized the possibility

of temple establishments operating independently, or contrary

to the wishes or interests, of the crown.

From the common person’s point of view, the temples were very

exclusive institutions. Unlike mosques and churches which serve primarily

as places of assembly for all the god’s worshippers, access to

Hittite temples was highly restricted. On festival occasions the

temple became one of the venues where the king and his family and

royal retinue and other participants shared in the festival celebrations.

But on a day-to-day basis only authorized temple staff were

generally to be found in the temple.The regulations for temple officials

make allowance for certain other persons to be given access

under certain conditions; but a foreigner guilty of temple trespass

forfeited his life. To enter a temple without authorization and look

upon the god was a serious act of desecration: ‘People should not

look at the Storm God; but a woman looked in at the window and a

child went into the temple.’50

In a quite literal sense, temples were the houses of the individual

gods (indeed the Hittite temple is literally called ‘the house of

the god’) to whom they were dedicated. Lesser gods and spirits were

confined to particular localities. But the great gods could leave their

chief dwelling places—their celestial palaces and pastoral estates—

and roam freely through the cosmos. From time to time they took

up residence in their temples, which were rather like divine resort

hotels, providing their residents with rest and recreation leave

from their normal activities. Of course their presence in their

temples was particularly required on the occasions of the festivals

which were held in their honour and in which they were actual

participants. There were rituals for summoning a god to his temple:

‘O Cedar-gods! See! I have covered your ways with the scarf

that goes with the long gown and have spread for you fine flour

and fine oil. So walk you over it to this place! Let no fallen tree

impede your feet, let no stones inconvenience your feet! The

mountains shall be levelled before you, the rivers shall be bridged

before you!’51

Once summoned, the god might use as his first stopping-place on

earth a mountain which lay in the vicinity of the temple to which he

had been summoned, and from there he came to his temple and

entered into his cult image in the temple’s innermost sanctuary. The

image became the god’s earthly casing. His physical needs now had

to be attended to. On a daily basis he had to be washed, anointed,

dressed in clean garments, and given food and drink. This was the

task of duly appointed priests and other temple officials. Precise

instructions were laid down for the services to be performed. Firstly

there was insistence on absolute cleanliness of food preparation

areas and those who were to prepare it:

Those who prepare the daily loaves must be clean.They must be bathed and

groomed, and their hair and nails removed. They must be clothed in clean

garments. They must not prepare the loaves while in an unclean state. The

bakery where the loaves are baked must be swept and scrubbed. Further,no

pig or dog is permitted at the door of the place where the loaves are


Anyone guilty of serving the god from an unclean vessel was made to

drink urine and eat excrement as punishment. More severe were the

penalties for those who prepared the god’s food while in an unclean

state, as a result of having the previous night engaged in sexual intercourse.

A kitchen-hand of the god who had so indulged must bathe

at the following sunrise, before having any contact with the god’s

food. Failure to do so incurred the death penalty—a punishment

imposed upon any other servant who had knowledge of his fellow’s

unclean state and failed to report it.

The death penalty was also prescribed for misappropriating the

food and drink that had been prepared for the god—bread,beer,and

wine: ‘If you ever take sacrifices which have been placed before the

gods and fail to convey them to the gods themselves, and you withhold

them from the gods, and keep them in your own houses, and

your wives, children, or servants consume them, or if you give them

to the god in several portions—you will be held responsible for

dividing them. Do not divide them. He who does so shall be killed.’53

On a daily basis, a meal was placed on an offering table before the

god’s image.What happened to the food and drink which the god did

not consume? The instructions to the temple officials take account of

this necessary consideration by giving permission to the officials to

consume, within three days, anything left over from the god’s meal.

There were strict regulations regarding the nature of the offerings

which were acceptable to the gods—above all the first fruits of the

produce—and particularly strict regulations to prevent the misappropriation

of any offerings or gifts presented to the gods. For

example, no official could take for himself the silver, gold clothing,or

bronze implements dedicated to the gods. Similar items might,

however, be given as a gift to a man by the palace. If so, he must have

certification to this effect, stating the weight, the festival where the

presentation was made, and the witnesses present at the time. If the

recipient of a gift subsequently wished to sell it, he must do so in

public with the ‘lords of Hatti’ present. An inventory was to be made

of what the purchaser bought. This had to be taken to the palace to

receive an official seal, presumably validating the vendor’s right to

sell the item or items. Both vendors and recipients of such items who

failed to observe these formalities were liable to the death penalty.

Such measures were clearly aimed at persons who had misappropriated

or illegally received items from either temple or palace and

claimed that they had obtained them legitimately through either gift

or sale. Illegal trafficking of this kind undoubtedly occurred,perhaps

on a fairly regular basis.The insistence on certification of ownership

and on obtaining licences of sale when legitimate exchanges took

place, along with the severity of the penalty for those who failed to

comply with the regulations, were obviously designed to limit if not

prevent absolutely the theft of and black-marketeering in temple

and palace property. One is reminded of the regulations which many

countries have put in place today in relation to the antiquities trade.

Images of the Gods

Since the gods never physically manifested themselves to mortals,

never appeared to them in the flesh so to speak, it was impossible to

tell what they actually looked like.54 But they were credited with

certain physical attributes which enabled them to be visually represented,

in one or more of several forms. Occasionally they were

depicted in the abstract; thus in a text which presents information on

the whereabouts of certain cult objects, a priest Hutarli refers to

representations of the Sun Goddess of Arinna and her daughter

Mezzulla as gold and silver discs respectively.55 Occasionally they

might have been depicted in animal form, though the only known

instance of this is the representation of the Storm God as a bull—as

on a relief panel at Alaca Höyük (discussed in Chapter 11). This is

not an indication of theriomorphic worship in the Hittite world.

Rather the bull symbolized one of the Storm God’s most important

attributes—his embodiment of the male fertility principle in nature.

Gods could also be represented by a type of cult object or totem,

referred to mainly in festival texts and cult inventories by the term

huwasi. In its basic meaning a huwasi was apparently a stone stele

sometimes carved with a relief which was set up on an altar in a

temple’s sanctuary, and treated exactly the same way as a statue of

the god; it was washed, anointed, clothed and given food and drink.

Other huwasis, probably larger than those in the temples and only

roughly hewn or left in their natural state, were set upright in the

open fields, in groves near springs or rivers, or on mountain-tops.

Each stone represented a specific deity, and together they marked

off a sacred area, signifying a place where the gods were actually

present. Here in the course of the great festivals of spring and

autumn came a procession of celebrants in which the statues from

the gods’ temples were paraded.The term huwasi seems also to have

been used of the area itself as marked out by the individual stones.56

We have no idea of the size or actual arrangement of these stones. It

is conceivable that they differed from their temple counterparts not

only by being rough-hewn or left in their natural state, but also in

their size. If they were in fact of monumental proportions, their

assemblage might have borne some resemblance to the earlier

British henges.

In the vast majority of cases the gods were represented in human

form. Which is hardly surprising, given their essentially human

characteristics, needs, and frailties. In the latter part of the New

Kingdom,the statues of the gods set up on bases in the sanctuaries of

their temples were life-size or larger. They were made of precious

and semi-precious metals—gold, silver, iron, bronze—or else of

wood plated with gold, silver, or tin and sometimes decorated with

precious materials like lapis lazuli. The main features of the monumental

works were probably reproduced in miniature. In the context

of the census of local cult centres commissioned by Tudhaliya IV, a

statuette of the goddess Iyaya, chief deity of the town Lapana, is

described thus: ‘The divine image is a female statuette of wood,

seated and veiled, one cubit (in height). Her body is plated with gold,

but the body and the throne are plated with tin.Two wooden mountain

sheep, plated with tin, sit beneath the deity to the right and the

left. One eagle plated with tin, two copper staves, and two bronze

goblets are on hand as the deity’s cultic implements.’57

Images of deceased kings might also be found in the temples.And

on at least one occasion the statue of a living king was promised to a

temple, that of the goddess Lelwani. Queen Puduhepa offered

Lelwani a full-size statue of her husband Hattusili, should the

goddess cure him of his illnesses and grant him long life; the statue

would be of silver, ‘as tall as Hattusili himself, with head, hands, and

feet of gold’, and hung about with precious ornaments.58

Without these verbal descriptions, we would have little idea of the

size, composition, or appearance of Hittite monumental statuary.

Not a trace of any of this statuary survives, apart from a few statue

bases, and we can draw only limited conclusions about it from occasional

descriptions in the texts, and from a few surviving relief sculptures.

From the texts we learn of a representation of the Storm God

as a seated figure plated with gold, holding a mace in his right hand,

and in his left hand a golden hieroglyphic symbol—sig, meaning

‘good’. He was supported on two mountains represented by two

silver-plated male figures. We have textual information about

physical representations of other deities. A statue of the goddess

Ishtar/Shaushka depicted the goddess seated, holding a cup in her

right hand, with wings sprouting from her shoulders. A silver-plated

sphinx was to be seen beneath the silver statue base. The goddess

was flanked by her servant goddesses Ninatta and Kulitta, fashioned

in silver with eyes encrusted with gold.The warrior god Zababa was

depicted in the form of a silver statue armed with mace in his right

hand and shield in his left,and beneath him a lion standing on a silver

pedestal. Animals were frequent companions of divinity. Gods are

described as standing on lions,leopards, and bulls.The lion appeared

as a companion to Ishtar, to the warrior god Zababa, and to the

Moon God Kushuh.The stag was companion to the Tutelary God of

the Fields.

So much we learn of divine images from our texts. Unfortunately

the monumental statues have long since disappeared,leaving us with

but a few remnants of the religious iconography of the Hittite

world—a small number of statuettes, a couple of impressions from

Old Kingdom cylinder seals, and a few scattered reliefs, still often in

situ and badly weathered. When we come face to face with these

remnants for the first time, we may find little to impress us in these

gods of the Hittites, gods who embody the mighty elemental forces

which control the cosmos and everything within it, gods who lead

kings to great victories, who unleash devastating storms, who in

benevolent mood confer great blessings on their worshippers.

Undoubtedly the loss of the great statues, gleaming with precious

metals and once bathing their temple sanctuaries in the glow of their

reflected light, has deprived us of the most impressive genre of

Hittite religious iconography. What is left to us is a collection of

miniature divine figures—short, squat, sometimes with little strutting

legs, and somewhat bland, even vacuous facial expressions and

bulging eyes—and rock reliefs which out of context may appear stiff,

ill-proportioned, static, and impersonal. Rather more lively are

scenes depicting gods on Old Hittite cylinder seal impressions—a

kilted god dispatching a fallen enemy with his sword,a hunting scene

depicting a god hunting deer and standing on a lion.

Apart from the reliefs of the famous sanctuary at Yazılıkaya (see

below), images of gods sculpted from living rock or from dressed

stone are found at a number of locations in Anatolia. For example a

set of ashlar blocks at Eflatun Pinar (near Lake Beys¸ehir, in the

region of Classical Pisidia) depicts two enthroned figures who probably

represent male and female sun deities; each is flanked by a pair

of hybrid monsters holding sun discs, and the whole scene is surmounted

by a large winged sun disc supported by lion-headed

demons. Seated male and female deities are also depicted in a rock

relief at Firaktin in Cappadocia, as recipients of libations offered by

Hattusili III and Puduhepa (the former to the Storm God, the latter

to the Sun Goddess). At Fasıllar in southern Anatolia an unfinished

stele almost 8 metres in height depicts a god standing on a mountaingod,

with right arm raised above his head and left arm extending

from his shoulder.

Fig. 4. Gold figurine of god

Gods are generally (though not always) easy to recognize in these

depictions, but only rarely because they are of a size or general

appearance which sets them apart from their mortal worshippers.

Rather they are identifiable from the dress, symbols, and various

accoutrements conventionally associated with them.The basic garb

of a male god is a short, sleeveless tunic which extends to just above

the knees. The sword with curving blade and crescent-shaped

pommel is the standard dress weapon for a god, though other

weapons also appear as accoutrements of particular deities—the

mace, the spear, or the bow. Male gods wear conical caps, tapering

towards a peak.The caps worn by mountain-gods droop over at the

peak, a little like Mr Punch’s cap. A god’s status in relation to his

fellows is indicated by the horns attached to his cap, front and back

or on either side. The greater the number of horns the higher the

god’s place in the divine pecking-order. Occasionally the caps are

also adorned with symbols in the form of halved ellipses. Such

symbols represent the divine ideogram (as we know from the hieroglyphic

script) and are reserved exclusively for the most exalted of

the gods. At Yazılıkaya the symbols can also be seen above the outstretched

hands of the chief god and goddess, and behind the chief

goddess as well, attached to a pair of human legs. Goddesses wear

cylindrical hats,sometimes referred to by the term polos (poloi in the

plural), and in the rock sanctuary at Yazılıkaya crenellated in the

manner of the battlements of a city. Their bodies are clad in fulllength

garments, which have loose-fitting long sleeves, are belted at

the waist, and below the waist fall in pleats to the ankles.The deities

of both sexes wear another piece of typical Hittite apparel—shoes

with upturned toes.

Goddesses are depicted fully in profile, male gods with head in

profile, upper torso frontal, and lower torso in profile.59The resulting

distortion and lack of perspective may in part reflect the limitations

of working in very shallow relief. They may also reflect the simple

transference to relief sculpture of the artistic conventions adopted in

two-dimensional painted friezes or painted shallow wall reliefs,

which probably adorned interior walls of palaces and other important

buildings in the Hittite world as elsewhere in the Near East.Yet

it is not unlikely that contacts with Egypt had the most direct influence

in shaping the artistic conventions of the Hittite world. In

Egyptian art the emphasis was on depicting, in explicit detail, all

important features of the persons and objects the artist was

instructed to record. This inevitably resulted in some distortion in

the representation of human and divine figures, and a lack of overall

compositional coherence since such figures do not readily relate to

one another in a particular scene. But we need to judge this art on its

own terms—as essentially representational rather than naturalistic.

For the Egyptians, the most important requirement in visual presentations

was to provide as comprehensive and as detailed a pictorial

record as possible. In sepulchral art this was essential in ensuring the

full materialization in the afterlife of the persons and objects so

depicted. Such considerations played no small part in establishing

artistic conventions in Egypt—conventions which may then have

been adopted in the Hittite world,though now largely divorced from

the contexts and considerations which had brought them into being.

The reliefs at Yazılıkaya are generally regarded as the pinnacle of

Hittite artistic achievement.Yet in using the term ‘art’, we should be

careful not to attempt to judge this achievement by criteria which

are inapplicable to it. The sculptor’s task, first and foremost, was to

present in visual form a hierarchical progression of the most important

deities of the by now thoroughly Hurrianized Hittite pantheon.

This he undoubtedly succeeded in doing. In the main series of reliefs

in Chamber A,the individual deities were clearly identified by hieroglyphic

inscriptions and by attributes specifically associated with

them (particular weapons, symbols of office, lesser gods, companion

animals). Their importance in the divine hierarchy was made clear

by their size and position in the series. Basically what we have is a

pictorial counterpart to the lists of deities who figure in prayers, festival

texts, and treaties.60The sculptor had one prime aim—to record

with absolute clarity the deities whose presence at Yazılıkaya was to

be invoked for the festivals and ceremonies which took place there.

The impression which the reliefs may appear to convey of two processions

of deities, male and female, moving towards each other is

almost certainly a misleading one due largely, perhaps, to the representation

of the deities’ legs in profile. The figures are static, stereotypical,

and compositionally unrelated to each other (except for

those standing on lesser gods). On aesthetic grounds such reliefs

might well be judged inferior to the artistic output of other ancient

civilizations. But to criticize them on these grounds begs the question

of what their purpose really was and is probably no more justified

than finding fault with lists of deities in treaties and religious

texts for their lack of literary merit.

Yet for all their artistic naivety, the reliefs at Yazılıkaya possess a

solemn, austere dignity which contributes much to the aura of the

sanctuary as a revered and holy place, perhaps the holiest place in

the Hittite world. Even today one needs little imagination to sense

that this was indeed a setting for an assembly of great gods, for

special sacred ceremonies. But it is difficult to have a full appreciation

of this without being there, in the original setting.There is a total

harmony between the shallow relief panels and the rock surfaces on

which they are carved. The figures conform with the contours and

irregularities of the sanctuary’s natural walls.They blend with rather

than dominate the surface, as though in recognition of and out of

respect for what nature has formed. And in places the shallowness of

the reliefs, particularly those that are now much weathered, conveys

the impression of figures actually in the process of emerging from

the rocks on which they appear. They serve to remind us that in the

Hittite world all parts of nature were the dwelling places of vital

living forces.