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The Hittite Empire, Mitanni Civilization, Aryans and Their Indo-European Descent

The Hittite Empire, Mitanni Civilization, Aryans and Their Indo-European Descent

Updated on September 12, 2017
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Katie graduated from LDS Seminary, Institute of Religion and BYU. Her studies included both a religious and academic study of the Bible

The Hittite, Aryan, and Mitanni Civilizations

The Hittites are frequently mentioned in the Bible, but little background information is given about them. This article summarizes how the Hittite Empire and Mitanni civilization came to be and their relationship to their common ancestors, the Aryans. It also gives a historical overview of the Hittite and Mitanni civilizations.

Hittites are Credited with the Invention of the Chariot

The Hittites, descendants of the Indo-Aryans, are credited with the invention of the horse drawn chariot.
The Hittites, descendants of the Indo-Aryans, are credited with the invention of the horse drawn chariot. Source

The Aryans

The Indo-Iranian or Indo-Iranic peoples are sometimes known as Aryans. This was a self-designated term but has fallen out of popular use among scholars due to negative modern day connotations. The Proto-Indo-Iranians are believed to be descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. They are believed to be the people of the Sintashta culture and the Andronovo culture on the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River and Tian Shan.

The Indo-Aryans were nomadic and pastoral Indo-European people who settled in South Asia after 1500 BCE. They kept sheep, goats, cattle, and horses and worshipped Indra. Indra was a God known for fighting, feasting, and drinking. When the Aryans came into conflict with the Dravidian peoples, who were already living in the Indian peninsula, they took Indra as their guide. Eventually, they intermarried and united with the Dravidian people.

The Indo-Aryans had to import horses because they didn’t breed well in India. Cattle were the principal measure of wealth in the Aryan society. Centuries later, due to the religious beliefs of the Indo-Aryans' descendants, cattle would come to be seen as sacred and unfit for consumption.

The Indo-Iranians are frequently credited with the invention of the chariot. With its help, it is believed that they underwent several waves of migration. Scholars believe that they moved from their homelands north of the Caspian Sea to the Caucasia (a region between the Black and Caspian Seas), Central Asia (Caspian Sea through China), the Iranian plateau, and Northern India, with smaller groups migrating to Mesopotamia and Syria. These migrations explain the introduction of the horse and chariot to the cultures of these areas.

Pontac-Caspian Steppe

The Yellow area shows the steppe on which the Indo-European peoples are believed to have lived.
The Yellow area shows the steppe on which the Indo-European peoples are believed to have lived. Source


The modern day languages: Albanian, Armenian, Latvian, Lithuanian, German, Dutch, English, Greek, Sanskrit, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Czech, and their extinct predecessors, as well as the extinct languages of the Hittites, Lycians, and Lydians, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Prussia, and many others, are classified as Indo-European languages. They all have grammatical structures that suggest that they originally descended from one language, known as the Proto-Indo-European language.

Scholars are unsure but believe that this language was spoken by a group of people they call the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It is believed that they lived in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, which is now eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia. As the domestication of horses allowed, and the invention and spread of agriculture forced, the Proto-Indo-European people spread across the Indian subcontinent, the Ancient Near East, Europe and parts of Asia.

They became the ancestors of the Anatolians, Armenians, Mycenaean Greeks and the Indo-Iranians during the Bronze Age. These groups were the primary ancestors of the Indo-Aryans, the Iranians (who included the Scythians, Persians, and Medes), the Celts (including the Gauls, Celtiberians, and Insular Celts), the Hellenic people, the Italic peoples, the Germanic peoples and the Paleo-Balkans/Anatolians (which included the Thracians, Dacians, Illyrians, and Phrygians) of the Iron Ages and the Balts, Slavs, Tocharians, Albanians, Medieval Europeans, Greater Persians and Medieval Indians of the Middle Ages.

Aryan Migrations

The first wave of Indo-Iranians to migrate are known as Indo-Aryans. They settled in Anatolia, modern day Asia Minor, which is bounded by the Black, Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and the Indian Subcontinent. Those that settled in Anatolia were the primary ancestors of the Hittites and Mitanni. Those that settled in India, mixed with the Late Harappan cultures in the Indus River Valley and were the primary ancestors of the Vedic people. This wave migrated about 1500-1600 BCE.

The second wave of Indo-Iranians to migrate are known as the Iranian wave. This wave gave rise to the Scythians, Sarmatian tribes, Medes, Parthians, and Persians. This wave began during the 8th century BCE and continued through the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Common Era.

Hittite Empire Location

Bogazkale, Turkey: 
Boğazkale, 19310 Boğazkale/Çorum, Turkey

get directions

This was the site of the capital of the Hittite Empire.

Hittite Empire

Indo-Aryans gave rise to the Hittite and Mitanni empires after settling in the Iranian plane. Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite empire established in the late Bronze Age (About 1600 BCE). Hattusa lies near modern Bogazkale, Turkey. The height of the Hittite Empire was in the mid-14th century BCE. At that time, the Hittite Empire was ruled by Suppiluliuma I and encompassed Asia Minor, parts of the Northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia.

The empire collapsed around 1180 BCE with the civil unrest that occurred during this time. Possible causes for this unrest include the end of the Bronze Age, the dissolution of trade networks, and the arrival of Sea People, raiders of unknown origin (possibly from Western Anatolia or Southern Europe) who travelled by sea. This collapse created several Neo-Hittite or Syro-Hittite states who spoke Luwian, Aramaic, and Phoenician. These states eventually fell under the control of the Neo-Assyrian Empire between 911 and 608 BCE.

Locations of the Hittite Empire and Mitanni civilization

This map shows the locations of the Hittite Empire and Mitanni Civilizations at their heights.
This map shows the locations of the Hittite Empire and Mitanni Civilizations at their heights. Source

Mitanni Civilization

The Mitanni people were also known as Hanigalbat in Assyrian and Naharin in Egyptian texts. They lived in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from c. 1500 BCE-1300 BCE. They become the rulers over Babylon after the Hittites destroyed the ruling Amoritish Dynasty in the 1500s BCE. Egypt was originally their biggest rival. However, as the Hittite empire arose, the Mitanni people made alliances with Egypt to protect both groups from falling to Hittite control. Eventually, they fell to Hittite and Assyrian attacks and were reduced to a province during the Middle Assyrian Empire (1392 BCE-934 BCE).

Works Cited

Bentley, Jerry H., Herbert F. Ziegler, Heather Streets-Salter, and Craig Benjamin. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the past. Vol. 1. McGraw-Hill Education, 2016. Print.

"The Hittites and Ancient Anatolia (article)." Khan Academy. Web.

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