Task Forces


The Diplomatic era in Hittites civilizatiion



modern archaeological excavations in Turkey indicate that the Hittites today. Were all  able to keep the peace treaty for a century, and became good friends. The peace treaty lasted the rest of Hittite Empire, until the Assyrians destroyed it a century later.The Hittites were an ancient group of Indo-Europeans who moved into Asian Minor and formed an empire at Hattusa in Anatolia (modern Turkey) around 1600 BCE.The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian (modern-day Turkey) people who formed an empire between 1600-1180 BCE. The Hittites manufactured advanced iron goods, ruled over their kingdom through government officials with independent authority over various branches of government, and worshipped storm gods The Hittites’ ongoing conflicts with Egypt produced the world’s first known peace treaty.

The Battle of Kadesh

One military engagement the Hittites are famous for is the Battle of Kadesh against the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II’s army in 1274 BCE. This battle is especially important because both sides claimed victory, which led to the first known peace treaty in the history of the world, in 1258 BCE. The Egyptian and Hittite armies were pretty evenly matched, which is probably why both were able to claim victory. The Egyptian chariots were faster because they only had two people aboard them, while the Hittite chariots accommodated an extra person, allowing more spears to be thrown from each chariot. The combination of chariots and iron tools, which were stronger than bronze ones, meant that the Egyptian and Hittite military technology was some of the most sophisticated of its time. Both civilizations boasted strong state power and the ability to send troops to war in order to fight for control over their empires.  The battle of Kadesh from a military point of view was an Egyptian victory, as they displayed for future readers Egypt’s new military technology (a new type of chariot) but one can also find the personal bravery of Ramses II. If Ramses had a “Go to Hell Plan to Survive the Next Crises”, he used it that day at Kadesh. While Muwatalli and his force were defeated, he did win in the game of “go” by using the fewest number of pieces to acquire the most amount of territory at Egypt’s expense. However one looks at it, Kadesh provided the first detailed account of a battle in recorded history. Because of this, one can learn much from this battle and compare the tactics, strategies, logistics, and international relations.

Conflict between Hittites and Egyptians

The Hittites had been making headway into the Egyptian empire and had caused trouble for the Pharaoh Tutmoses III. Pharaoh Ramesses II resolved to drive the Hittites from his borders. He hoped to gain an advantage by capturing of the city of Kadesh, a center of commerce which the Hittites held. Ramesses marched from Egypt at the head of over 20,000 soldiers in four divisions to fight against the troops of Muwatalli, the king of the Hittites.

the peace treaty was so well respected by both cultures and the two kings were completely dedicated to it, how did the circumstances change so that they two areas started fighting each other again? Was it the break up of the Hittites, which caused a complete overthrow of all previous relationships?

We are also not really aware How could Ramesses claim victory if the Hittites could keep Kadesh?  Hittites simply were unable to destroy Egyptians at this time Did the Egyptians win in some other aspects (if there are)

Hattuša was a king of Ahhiyawa: see the independent arguments of Gurney (2002: 135), citing already Kammenhuber (1981, pers. comm.), and of Starke cited by Latacz (2004: 243-4) and set forth in detail in this volume. As per Starke, we may also be sure that this letter is not isolated, but forms part of an extended correspondence.

KUB 26.91 is written in the standard Boğazköy ductus of the Neo-Hittite period: the tablet was thus inscribed by a scribe of Hattuša or trained in Hattuša. The Hittite chancellery did not typically make multiple copies of letters (see van den Hout 2002: 864 and also 872-3 for a notable exception). The extant tablet is thus a contemporary copy, either sent from elsewhere and received in Hattuša or written there based on a message sent in some other form. For arguments dating the letter more specifically to the reign of Hattušili II/III see Starke in this volume.

KUB 26.91 argues that the author (i.e, the composer of the text) was a Hittite native speaker (whose language contained Luvianisms, expected in Neo-Hittite).

The “Arzawa” letters in Hittite exchanged between the pharaoh Amenophis III and Tarhuntaradu, king of Arzawa, show the presence of such scribes in Egypt. I would argue, however, that the situations here are quite different. The well established international use of Akkadian as an Ancient Near Eastern diplomatic language and the implication of accommodation by the pharaoh in a matter of national prestige make such a practice vis-à-vis the Hittite king very unlikely.[1]

letters received from Egypt in Akkadian as usual were translated by Hittite scribes for purposes of drafting replies. This hypothesis is consistent with the remark of Edel (1994: 2.320) that all such extant letters are closely tied in content with letters sent to Egypt. It is unlikely that outgoing letters on such affairs of state were drafted without careful review of the previous correspondence in both directions, which would have been kept together as a sort of dossier. The frequent backward references in the extant letters confirm such consultation. Hittite versions of incoming letters would have facilitated discussion of appropriate replies with the king, queen and advisors not fluent in Akkadian.

all current evidence argues that KUB 26.91 is a Hittite translation. Where then was the translation made? One possibility is that messages were conveyed in writing to the respective frontier outposts of each kingdom in its own language and script (an accompanying oral version conveyed by messenger is not excluded). Messages were then conveyed to other side orally under conditions of mutual security,

Accounts on clay tablets describe the region's conquest by one of the Bronze Age's superpowers, the Hittite Empire, in 1340BC. This helped to reduce Egyptian power in neighbouring Palestine and played a key part in creating biblical-era Israel. The invasion also led, in effect, to the invention of the concept of the international treaty.

Key Points from the Treaty

The treaty itself contains more than 20 principles and obligations for both sides. However, some of the key points are the following.

The third obligation is that neither side will attack the other, and is in force till the end of time. Neither the Egyptians, nor the Hittite should and could pass the land of the other nation: “There shall be no hostilities between them, forever. The great chief of Kheta shall not pass over into the land of Egypt, forever, to take anything therefrom. Ramses-Meriamon, the great ruler of Egypt, shall not pass over into the land of Kheta, to take anything] therefrom, forever


Aside from ending the war between the two empires, the treaty also forged an alliance between the two sides in future wars with a third enemy. Obligation No.5 from the treaty states “If another enemy come against the lands of Usermare-Setepnere (Ramses II), the great ruler of Egypt, and he shall send to the great chief of Kheta, saying; "Come with me as reinforcement against him," the great chief of Kheta shall [come], and the great chief of Kheta shall slay his enemy. But if it be not the desire of the great chief of Kheta to come, be shall send his infantry and his chariotry, and shall slay his enemy


The treaty also regulates whether prisoners from the one country could ask for exile in the other country. According to the treaty, no man could flee from Egypt to the land of the Kheta (Hittite territory) and vice versa. This obligation is No.11 and it states “Or if any great man shall flee from the land of Kheta, [and he shall come to] Usermare-Setepnere, the great ruler of Egypt, (from) either a town or a district, or [any region of] those belonging to the land of Kheta, and they shall come to Ramses-Meriamon, the great ruler of Egypt, then Usermare-Setepnere, the great ruler of Egypt, shall not receive them, (but) Ramses-Meriamon, the great ruler of Egypt, shall cause them to be brought to the great chief of Kheta. They shall not be settled”.

Interesting Facts

While the treaty has huge historic value, there are many interesting facts that make the treaty special.

- The treaty is often referred as the Treaty of Kadesh. However, the word Kadesh and the battle of Kadesh is never mentioned in the treaty. One assumption for the reference is that the battle was the turning point after which the parties started negotiating

- The two emperors, Ramses II and Hattusilis III never met in person. The whole treaty was negotiated between intermediaries

- The treaty was in force for just eight years. Eight years after the treaty was signed, the Hittite Empire collapsed, thus ending the treaty

- The negotiations started after the battle of Kadesh, but the conflict lasted for 15 more years. The treaty was finally ratified by both sides in 1258 BC.


In Hattuša a Hittite-language version of a letter from a king of Ahhiyawa to the Hittite king, responding to a letter sent to him by the latter, written in standard Boğazköy ductus and so far as the extant text is concerned in quite idiomatic Hittite of the Neo-Hittite period. How are we to imagine that this correspondence was carried out? e Battle of Kadesh is the last direct and official military confrontation between the two empires. After the battle, which was considered a draw for both sides, since both suffered enormous amount of casualties, the two sides started negotiating. The conflict lasted for 15 more years, and the period is nowadays considered as “cold war between the Hittite and the Egyptian empire”.

The closest available model we have in trying to address this question is that of the Egyptian-Hittite correspondence (for which see globally Edel 1994). This exchange generally employed Akkadian, but there are some letters attested in Hittite (Edel 1994: 1.214-233 and 2.320-355). The ductus and language again match those of Hattuša. As per Edel (1994: 2.320), Hittite versions of letters sent to Egypt may be copies of drafts translated and sent in Akkadian. Hittite versions of letters from Egypt must have some other source and motivation.

The Treaty

The treaty was ratified in Year 21 of Ramses II ruling, and therefore, the Egyptian version starts with the words “Year 21, first month of the second season, twenty-first day, under the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Usermare-Setepnere, Son of Re: Ramses-Meriamon, given life, forever and ever, beloved of Amon-Re-Harakhte, Ptah-South-of-His-Wall, lord of "Life-of-the-Two-Lands," Mut, mistress of Ishru, and Khonsu-Neferhotep; shining upon the Horus-throne of the living, like his father, Harakhte, forever and ever”.

The next paragraph shows how Ramses II pleased everyone with the signing of the treaty, stating “On this day, lo, his majesty was at the city (called): "House-of-Ramses-Meriamon," performing the pleasing ceremonies of his father, Amon-Re-Harakhte-Atum, lord of the Two Lands of Heliopolis; Amon of Ramses-Meriamon, Ptah of Ramses-Meriamon, "/// great in strength, son of Mut," according as they gave to him eternity in jubilees, everlastingness in peaceful years, all lands, and all countries being prostrate beneath his sandals forever. There came the king's messenger, the deputy and butler, together with the king's messenger[bringing to the king] Ramses of [Kheta, Ter]teseb and the [second messenger (?)] of Kheta [bearing (?) a silver tablet] which the great chief of the Kheta, Khetasar (xtAsrA) [caused] to be brought to Pharaoh, L. P. H., to crave peace [fro]m [the majesty] of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ramses II, given life, forever and ever, like his father, Re, every day. “

The clay tablets – discovered at the site of the ancient city of Qatna, 200km north of Damascus – appear to tell the whole story of the Hittite conquest of the region. What seems to be one of the first letters in the sequence – probably from a diplomatic or intelligence officer in northern Syria – describes how the Hittites invaded with a large army and great numbers of chariots and destroyed many towns, including one 100km north of Qatna. The diplomat implores the King of Qatna – a ruler called Idanda – to reinforce his defences.

Another letter – from a fellow king, also somewhere in northern Syria – described to Idanda how the Hittite general was on the march again, laden with war booty, presumably from the sacked cities.

The clay tablets then go on to record Idanda's reaction. One text is an instruction to make 40,000 mud bricks, perhaps to strengthen the city wall. Another orders workshops to make 18,600 swords, while yet another names the 25 military captains who are to receive the weapons.

Apparently the Hittite army arrived and captured Qatna, despite the defenders' new weapons. The palace, and probably the town too, were destroyed. But the destruction, ironically, preserved the library. For when the Hittites set fire to the palace, the wooden floors collapsed and the library's clay tablets fell four metres into a basement corridor and were buried in rubble.

As well as diplomatic letters and intelligence documents, the library included reports and instructions on economic and legal matters. One tablet reveals, for instance, that a lady of the palace, called Napshi-Abi, was very rich and owned 200 gold-hilted knives, ebony chairs and knives inlaid with lapis lazuli.

The letters and reports are unique, not only for their subject matter but also because they are written in a previously unknown language, a mixture of Akkadian (the Semitic lingua franca of the ancient world) and Hurrian (which originated in what is now eastern Turkey and the Caucasus).

Also buried for 33 centuries were the tombs of Qatna's royal family, containing ivory, royal insignia, alabaster vases, gold and silver bowls and gold rosettes. So far archaeologists have found a funerary complex (complete with entrance statues) that served up to 15 generations of royalty.

Hittites also had to deal with chronic manpower shortages during some of their strategic grand campaigns. Part of this had to do with the population and logistics not keeping up with the territorial extent of the rising Hittite empire. The situation was further exacerbated when the Hittite army had to fight in different frontiers and campaigns. This is when diplomacy came to the fore, a course of action that was rather favored by the Hittite royals, possibly due to the limitations of their military logistics. Simply put, war was seen as the last resort, after all the other ‘peaceful’ options (ranging from diplomatic maneuvers, bribes to marriage alliances) had been spent. But once the scenario demanded a military action, the kings were expected to try their best to bolster the engaging army with strategic decisions, logistical supplies and of course personal bravery. Kadesh seems to be one of the  significant as the first recorded battle in history. But the two superpowers wisely decided to return to diplomacy rather than prolong a futile war. A formal written agreement was exchanged between the two parties and the agreement was sealed by a marriage between Ramses and a Hittite princess, who became his great chief wife.

I think , early diplomatic texts indicate us  concern to relate new diplomatic ‘transactions’ back to the history of the ledger. This is most evident in the nearly three dozen Hittite treaties with Hittite vassal states that survive.For instance, A preamble lists the name, title and genealogy of reigning Hittite king. Then, before the details of the diplomatic agreement, the treaty provides an often-lengthy historical prologue; that is, an accounting of the previous relationships between the Hittite king and the vassal state[2]

Hittite historical prologue was “designed to present a legal argument or a set of such arguments, justifying the imposition of obligations on the second party, and depriving that party of the ability to contest the validity or legality of the treat[3]


Amanda H. Podany, Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East

Brian Todd Carey, Warfare in the Ancient World

Carolyn R. Higginbotham, Egyptianization and Elite Emulation in Ramesside Palestine

Gurney, Oliver. 2002. The Authorship of the Tawagalawa Letter. In Silva Anatolica. Anatolian Studies Presented to Maciej Popko on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. P. Taracha), 133-141. Warsaw: Agade.

Güterbock, Hans G. and Harry A. Hoffner. 1980-89. The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. L-N. Chicago: Oriental Institute.

Manuel Robbins, Collapse of the Bronze Age

Richard A. Gabriel , The Great Armies of Antiquity


Image may contain: ProfKevin Yildirim

*Dr Kemal Yildirim is the chair of the Middle East studies center at Sastra Angkor Institute in Cambodia. He has about26 books and 100 articles  published in peer journals with different political analyses.

Dr Yildirim’s research interest  fall within Gender conflict, Early and modern Diplomacy and Political history of early and modern Middle east

[1] Mycenaean and Hittite Diplomatic Correspondence: Fact and Fiction H. Craig Melchert University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

[2] Beckman, G. Hittite Diplomatic Texts. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. 3 (1999)

[3] 6 Altman, A. “The Role of the ‘Historical Prologue’ in the Hittite Vassal Treaties: An Early Experiment in Securing Treaty Compliance,” Journal of the History of International Law 6.1 43-63 (2004) https://doi.org/10.1163/157180504773805838