Book Review: The World Of The Neo-Hittite Kingdoms

The World Of The Neo-Hittite Kingdoms:  A Political And Military History, by Trevor Bryce

This book would have been better if the author would have taken the Bible more seriously.  Unfortunately, it is the habit of those who fancy themselves to be insightful about the past to view the Bible as something that is less reliable than the Assyrian propaganda that is the regular source for this particular place and time.  And while the author of this book finds it perfectly reasonable to understand the approach that the Assyrians and other rulers of the ancient world had, the approach of the Bible and its historical value is difficult to appreciate.  Without wishing to speculate on the reasons why this is the case, it is at least worthwhile to know that it presents the reader with a difficulty in appreciating this work given the paucity of sources that can be found to discuss the Neo-Hittite states of the period between the fall of the Hittite Empire slightly after 1200BC and the conquest of all the Hittite successor kingdoms in the period at or before 700BC.  Even with the inclusion of the Aramaean states like Damascus and Zobah and plenty of mention of other states like Israel and Judah, this is not really a large book and there is not really as much information as one would hope about 5 centuries of history in an exciting part of the world.

This book is a bit more than 300 pages long and is divided into twelve chapters and three parts and a few other materials.  The book begins with maps, figures, and abbreviations.  After that there is an introduction and some scene setting (I) that presents the fall of the Hittite Empire and the possible escape of its last ruler (1), the successors to the Hittite Empire (2), a definition of the Neo-Hittites (3), and a discussion of their relationship to the biblical Hittites (4).  After that there is a preface to next three chapters and then a discussion of what is known about the Iron Age kingdoms and dynasties that ruled over the various Neo-Hittite and Syrian states (II), including the Neo-Hittite kingdoms of the Euphrates region (5), the Anti-Tarsus and Western Syrian regions (6), Southeastern Anatolia (7), and the Aramaean states (8), as well as other peoples and kingdoms that were sometimes allied to them in anti-Assyrian coalitions (9).  The third part of the book then looks at these kingdoms in their historical context (III), starting with their evolution in the post-imperial world of the early Bronze age (10), their subjection to Assyria and efforts to resist this in the 9th and 10th centuries (11), and their absorption by Assyria in the 8th century (12), followed by an afterword that discusses the remaining identity and speculations about the flight of the last Hittite ruler.  There are also four appendices that discuss the transliteration of inscriptions (i), the ruler lists of the Neo-Hittite and Aramaean realms (ii), the kings of late Bronze Age Hatti (iii), and the Neo-Assyrian kings (iv), as well as notes, a bibliography, and an index.

It should be noted that the sources that we do have are very limited.  The Assyrian chronicles generally only brag about the successes of Assyrian military efforts and have an obvious bias to them.  Likewise, these sources only have very narrow interests about the lands that they encounter–namely how much was paid in tribute, how the Assyrian ruler or general proved himself to be successful in battle and how many of the unworthy opponents of the Assyrians were killed or captured.  Unfortunately, if one is looking for alternate sources one is very limited.  For example, there are some Luwian inscriptions that were left by the rulers of the Neo-Hittite states themselves, but these inscriptions tend to focus on elite history and genealogy and are very limited in nature.  The author’s suspicion of the biblical history gives him even less to work with than he would have otherwise.  It is unwise for beggars to be choosers, as is the case here.  Even so, this book does present at least some interesting information about an obscure period of history for those who are fond of Iron Age politics and military history in the Middle East, as I happen to be.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Biblical History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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