• Proto-Indo-European Religion
• Indo-European Languages
• Hittite and the Anatolian Dialects
• Proto-Indo-European Goddesses
• Proto-Indo-European Myths
• Proto-Indo-European Rituals
• Festivals, Food and Farming
Hittite is one of the Anatolian Dialects which include Palaic, Luwian, Lycian, and later Lydian. These languages were spoken from about 2300 BCE to about 300 BCE, in Anatolia, the geographic region that corresponds roughly to modern day Turkey. Etruscan may be a later form of Lydian, though this is still debated among linguists.
The Anatolian Dialects make up one branch of the Indo-European Language family. Most people have heard of Hittite (it’s mentioned in the Bible), an ancient and extinct language that is known from hieroglyphic writing found in central northern Turkey near Ankara. The Hittites are first referred to in inscriptions in Akkadian records as early as about 2300 BCE. Inscriptions in the Hittite language date from approximately 1900 to 1700 BCE. By 1200 BCE all records of the Hittites ceased, apparently because of invasions of the mysterious “Sea Peoples” who also attacked Syria and Egypt.
Other closely related dialects such as Luwian and Palaic continued in use in the Taurus mountains in southeastern Anatolia. These languages are known from extensive inscriptions in tablets dating to 1350 BCE. Among the texts are a great number that describe ceremonies in which the king was required to participate in extensive (in fact, interminable) rituals to ensure good harvests, etc. The texts include law codes, myths, descriptions of Gods and lists of temple possessions including images of Gods--these last especially rich in Luwian.
Lydian is a later form of the Anatolian dialects and was spoken in the Lydian kingdom which was founded in western Anatolia by about 700 BCE. Sardis was the capitol and main city and when placer gold was found in the river, the Lydians became the first people to mint money. The dynasty ended with King Croesus, famously rich, who was conquered by the Persians in 548 BCE. Eventually the Greeks gained control of the area and while the Greek language came to be spoken with a Lydian accent, some Lydian words and Lydian Goddesses were absorbed into Greek. The Goddess Tyche “Luck” was borrowed into Greek. She is the tutelary Goddess of the city of Antioch, which is named for her. The Lydians also worshiped the Manes and Artemis among other Indo-European deities. Little historical information and no long texts are known in Lydian, as only a few inscriptions on gems and grave markers survive. Considerable information has been put together on the history of Lydia by numismaticists like Reid Goldsborough.
The Etruscans, among the indigenous tribes of Italy thought that they were originally from the territory of the Lydians (western Anatolia, modern day Turkey). They are not considered to speak an Indo-European language, however, many of their Gods and Goddesses have Indo-European names. This may be because they borrowed them from the Greeks along the way, who may have gotten them from the Lydians, but the relationships are still not clear. One very important God of the Etruscans is Tarkhunies, after whom they are named. His name is a form of the Hittite God Tarhunt. Most of what is known about the Etruscans comes through Roman sources, though modern archaeology has added to the small corpus of linguistic information. In Roman legend, the Etruscans made up the first dynasty of the kings of Rome and they were called the Tarquins. This is possibly another form of the name Tarhunt.
In Hittite, all voiced stops appear as unvoiced stops, either because there was a distinct sound change or because they were not distinguished in the writing system. Hittite is written in a hieroglyphic alphabet, not cuneiform, although some words are known from Akkadian cuneiform also. The hieroglyphs are in the form of little pictures; many represent the heads of animals.
“When it becomes spring and it thunders. . . the priests . . . carry the Mountain-God Halwanna up to the mountain . . . . They set down meat, bread and beer by the cult-stand and other bread and beer for display . . . . They eat and drink, they fill the cups. In the presence of the God there is wrestling. They start fighting, they make merry. When the sun sets they carry the God down to the city and set him up in the temple.” (Hittite Religion Gurney, p. 27.)
Notably missing from Hittite religion is any reference to sacred horses (although they did have horse racing at the festivals), horse gods or myths that include horses despite the widespread appearance of such elements in other Indo-European forms of Paganism. The Hittites certainly had horses since they are referred to in the inventories of the kings’ war gear, along with chariots and harness which were used in war. In the Hittite version of the myth of the horse twins, it seems that a cow has the position of the horse as mother of the twins who appear in other versions of this myth in the Proto-Indo-European religion.
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