The Hittites (1600 BC - 1200 BC)
The Hittites were an Indo-European people, who in the 2nd millennium BC founded a powerful empire in Central Anatolia (present-day Turkey), a region near Mesopotamia. From there they extended their dominions to Syria and even conquered Babylon.
Probably, the location of its capital, Hatusa, in central Asia Minor contributed to border control of the Hittite Empire.
This society has bequeathed us the oldest texts written in the Indo-European language. This language gave rise to most of the languages spoken in Europe. The texts dealt with history, politics, legislation, literature and religion and were engraved in cuneiform signs on clay tablets.
The Hittites used iron and horse, which was new in the region. The horse gave more speed to the chariots, built no longer with full wheels, like those of the Sumerians, but lighter, easier-to-handle spokes.
The army was commanded by a king, who also had the functions of supreme judge and priest. In Hittite society, queens had relative power.
In the cultural aspect we can highlight the Hittite writing, based on pictographic representations (drawings). In addition to this hieroglyphic writing, the Hittites also had a type of cuneiform writing.
Pictogram showing a hitita warrior.
Like many ancient peoples, the Hittites followed polytheism (they believed in various deities). The Hittite gods were related to various aspects of nature (wind, water, rain, earth, etc.).
Around 1200 BC, the Hittites were dominated by the Assyrians, who, having permanent armies, had great military might.
The fall of this empire occurs around the 12th century BC.
The Assyrians (1200 BC - 612 BC)
Caption: Stone panel decorating King Ashurbanipal's palace in Nineveh, Assyrian archers flee a contingent of camel-mounted Arabs.
The Assyrians inhabited the northern region of Babylon and by 729 BC they had conquered all of Mesopotamia. Its capital, in the most prosperous years, was Nineveh, in a region that today belongs to Iraq.
This people stood out for the organization and development of a military culture. They viewed war as one of the main ways to gain power and develop society. They were extremely cruel to the enemy peoples they conquered, imposed on the vanquished, punishment and cruelty as a way of maintaining respect and spreading fear among other peoples. With these attitudes, they had to face a series of popular uprisings in the conquering regions.
They undertook the conquest of Babylon, and thereafter began to widen the borders of their Empire until they reached Egypt in northern Africa. The Assyrian Empire experienced its period of greatest glory and prosperity during the reign of Ashurbanipal.
Ashurbanipal was the last great king of the Assyrians. During his reign (668 - 627 BC), Assyria became the first world power. His empire included Babylon, Persia, Syria, and Egypt.
Still in the reign of Ashurbanipal, the Babylonians broke free (in 626 BC) and captured Nineveh. With the death of Ashurbanipal, the decay of the Assyrian Empire deepened, and the power of Assyria crumbled. A decade later the empire fell into the hands of Babylonians and Persians.
The strange paradox of Assyrian culture was the growth of science and mathematics. This fact may be partly explained by the Assyrian obsession with war and invasions. Among the great mathematical inventions of the Assyrians is the division of the circle into 360 degrees, having been among the first to invent latitude and longitude for geographical navigation. They also developed a sophisticated medical science that greatly influenced other regions as far away as Greece.