The beginnings of chariot warfare in Anatolia

Although in Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia the military use of chariots does not seem to have begun until later, we have reason to think that in Anatolia it may have begun as early as 1750 bc. Some fragmentary texts mentioning Anum-herwa of Mama (Mama seems to have been a city not far from, and in competition with, Kanesh) also mention “foot-soldiers and charioteers,” and Anum-herwa came to power in the fifth year of Zimri-Lim (1770 bc). It is not clear, however, whether the texts date to Anum-herwa’s own time or whether they are much later and belong in the category of “Sacred Lore Literature.”16

More certain evidence comes from the “Anitta text,” a text that originally stood in a three-part display inscription at the city first called Kanesh, then Nesha, and now the site of Kultepe (“ash mound” in Turkish). In the eighteenth century bc Kanesh was easily the largest city in Anatolia, and the seat of a Great Kingdom. In the text Anitta declares (§9, Beckman) that he set up his inscription at the city’s main gate. Anitta is mentioned in several Akkadian tablets from the karum of Period 1b at Kultepe, and his name is incised on a bronze spearhead from the same stratum. The 1b karum was burned ca. 1740 bc, indicating that Anitta was a contemporary of Ishme-Dagan, son of Shamshi-Adad I, and active ca. 1750 bc.17

Anitta’s proclamation may have been the first inscription ever set up in the “Hittite” language (more correctly, “the language of Kanesh”). Anitta was a Great King, and although his roots were in the small city of Kussara, his father had captured Kanesh and had made it his capital. Anitta enlarged his father’s realm. Toward the beginning of his inscription he boasts that he had conquered Hatti and destroyed the city of Hattusha, cursing anyone who dared to rebuild the city (either Labarna or Hattushili rebuilt it with impunity). The “Anitta text” became a classic for Hittite scribes (it was very likely the oldest Hittite text they had), and we have three copies of it on clay tablets, one copy made in the sixteenth century bc and the other two in the thirteenth. Gary Beckman has provided a new translation of this important text,18 and below is his translation of four sections of Inscription C:

§15 (A 57-8) I furnished the temple of Halmasuitt, the temple of the storm- god, my lord, and the temple of our deity with the goods I brought back from campaign.

§16 (A59-63) I made a vow, and I [went] hunting. In a single day I brought to my city Nesa 2 lions, 70 swine, 60 wild boars, and 120 (other) beasts— leopards, lions, deer, gazelle, and [wild goats].

§17 (A 64-67) In the same year I went to war against [Salatiwara]. The ruler of Salatiwara set out together with his sons and came [against me]. Leaving his land and his city, he took up a position on the Hulanna River.

§18 (A 68-72) [But the army] of Nesa went off behind [him], set fire to his fortifications, and [. . .] them. The besiegers of the city (Salatiwara) were 1,400 infantry and 40 horse-drawn [chariots]. He (the ruler of Salatiwara) gathered up [his treasure] and departed.

We can be fairly sure that Anitta had chariots that carried skilled archers. The Great King boasts that he went out on a hunt and in a single day brought back to Kanesh (the carcasses of) lions, leopards, wild boars and scores of other animals. Such a feat would have been possible only if Anitta and a fair number of archers went out on their hunt in chariots. More explicit, although including a reading debated by Hittitologists, is the mention of forty chariot teams at Salatiwara, a city that apparently lay near the Sakarya (Sangarios) river in northwestern Anatolia. Erich Neu, adhering closely to the texts, regarded the 1400 men on foot and the forty chariot teams as the force that the king of Salatiwara had left behind to defend his city.19 Philo Houwink ten Cate disagreed, and concluded that the forty chariot teams were part of the booty that Anitta took out of Salatiwara. Although Houwink ten Cate acknowledged that the three copies of the text seem to involve the chariot teams somehow in the siege of the city, he believed that the copyists must have misunderstood the original inscription. Houwink ten Cate came to this conclusion because he believed that in Anitta’s day chariots were not yet used militarily.20 That argument is no longer valid. What has been found in the graves at Sintashta suggests that long before Anitta’s day chariots on the steppe were used in combat. Gary Beckman reads the forty chariot teams as part of the force that Anitta commanded in besieging the city. Because Anitta’s hunting feat makes it fairly clear that he had chariots and chariot archers, Beckman’s interpretation is probably correct. Although some of this remains uncertain we must conclude that in Anitta’s part of Anatolia at least small chariotries were apparently being used militarily already by the middle of the eighteenth century BC.

By ca. 1650 bc chariot warfare was well under way in Anatolia and elsewhere in the Near East. Cuneiform texts in Hittite and Akkadian show that Hattushili I, the Great King of Hatti, had a large chariotry of his own and also confronted chariots in battle.21 Although the precise regnal dates of the Hittite kings are uncertain, the approximate dates for Hattushili I are ca. 1640-1610 bc.22 Hattushili was the first to rule from Hattusha and is generally thought to have created the Great Kingdom over which he ruled. As clearly stated in the “Proclamation of Telepinu,” however, Hattushili was the second king in the dynasty, having been preceded by a shadowy Labarna. Massimo Forlanini has brought some light to the shadows, making a good argument that Labarna—not a title, but a proper name—ruled from Kanesh, and that Hattushili was his nephew and his heir (and as such brought “the language of Kanesh” to Hatti).23 Forlanini’s reconstruction would date most of Labarna’s reign at Kanesh to the second quarter of the seventeenth century BC.

The texts say nothing about Labarna’s army, but they leave no doubt that Hattushili employed military chariots, and evidently quite a lot of them. Richard Beal has pointed out that two of Hattushili’s officers bore the title, “Overseer of One Thousand Chariot fighters.”24 That suggests that at a minimum Hattushili had several hundred chariots at his disposal. If ca. 1750 bc Anitta had forty military chariots, by ca. 1650 bc chariotries had grown tenfold.

A text pertinent to Hattushili’s chariotry is the Siege of Urshu. This text of about seventy lines has been thoroughly analyzed and re-translated by Gary Beckman.25 Most of the text is in Akkadian but two sentences are in Hittite. The original was probably composed in Hittite during the Hittite Old Kingdom.26 The text presupposes that Hattushili’s generals are besieging Urshu, which probably was located not far from Ebla, and are not having much success. The first few lines on the reverse side of the tablet refer to the capture of thirty chariots from another enemy city.27 In a longer exchange between Hattushili and his generals we hear about the Great King’s own chariots:

While they did nothing to the city, many servants of the king were hit, and many died. The king became angry and said, “Guard the roads—keep watch on those who would enter the city and on those who would go out of the city! Let no (one) go over to the (other) enemies—to the city Zaruar, to the city Aleppo, to the Human army, or to Zuppa!” They replied, “We will be on guard. Eighty chariots (and) eight armies encircle the city. May the heart of the king not be troubled. I am in place.” Then a fugitive came out of the city and said: “The servant of the man of Aleppo has entered five times; the servant of Zuppa is present in the city; the men of Zaruar go in and out.” . . . The king became angry.28

The eighty chariots patrolling the wall of Urshu were evidently supposed to prevent such surreptitious flights to or from the city. Like Hittite chariots in a later period,29 Hattushili’s chariots were mobile platforms for archers, armed with either self or composite bows. The “Anecdotes Text,” dating from the Old Kingdom, includes an anecdote about the training of archers: after learning the necessary skills, from holding the bow to sharpening the arrowheads, the trainees shoot before the king:

When they shoot before the king, he who hits the mark, to him they give wine to drink. They [. . .] the king. But he who does not hit the mark, to him they give a bitter (?) cup. There he runs the review naked.30

Also relevant are entries in the Annals of Hattushili (or the Deeds of Hattushili).31 In Hattushili’s account of Year 4 in the Annals he claims to have driven off chariots “of the country of Abbaya” when they attacked him en route from Sanahuitta to Hattusha.32 Although Sanahuitta’s location is uncertain, Trevor Bryce believed that it lay to the northeast of Hattusha.33 In the Year 6 entry of his Annals Hattushili boasts of sacking the city of Hassu (or Hassuwa) in Syria, and bringing back much gold and silver for the gods and goddesses of Hatti.34 Hassu was one of the cities that owed allegiance to the kingdom of Yamhad, centered at Aleppo, and the Great King of Yamhad sent an army to aid his vassal against Hattushili’s aggression. The two forces met near Mt. Atular (Adular), and after defeating his opponents Hattushili crossed the Purana river and proceeded to Hassu. The Mt. Atular battle was of course fought in open country.35 That Hattushili’s opponents relied on at least one chariotry and perhaps two we learn from another text relating to the destruction of Hassu: the “Zukrasi text,” one of the earliest texts in Hittite that archaeologists have thus far recovered. In Houwink ten Cate’s translation this text reads:

Zaludis, the commander of the Manda-troops, (and) Zukra(s)sis, the commander of the heavy-armed (?) troops [of the Ruler (?)] of Aleppo came down from Aleppo with the foot-soldiers and his charioteers.36

The Manda-troops, the umman-manda, to whom this text refers almost certainly manned chariots because in the only other reference to Manda-troops in Hittite documents they are quite clearly a chariot force.37 That in the middle of the seventeenth century bc the king of Aleppo was apparently employing chariot troops from Manda is a point to which we shall return.

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