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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read about a forgotten people worth getting to know!,
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This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)A stunning presentation of the Hittites and their civilization, which looks at their history through their own words and in the light of their contemporaries. Trevor Bryce has previously published books about the records of the early Hittite Kingdom (mid 17th to 15th century BC) and also of the Lycians and their Late Bronze Age antecedents the Lukka people. Here he has broadened the canvas to present a largely unknown civilization that had a unique culture and became one of the great powers of the Late Bronze Age in the ancient Middle East. Speakers of the earliest Indo-European language (before Sanskrit and Latin), the Hittites also were the mediators between Mesopotamian culture and that of the Mycenaean Greeks. In this book we see the beginnings of the kingdom c. 1650 BC centred on the ancient capital Hattusa, to its apogee and disintegration from numerous pressures internal and external at the turn of the 2nd millennium BC. Plus we see its continuation in the Neo-Hittite states that lasted up until their destruction under the expansion of Assyria by 705 BC. Written with great style, with plenty of translations, it is excellent!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History written the way it should be,
This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)Trevor Bryce achieves the near impossible here - he weaves a coherent, detailed and dramatic history of the Hittite empire out of the fragmentary available base of information. It is rare to find a book that is so readable without sacrificing standards of scholarship. I particularly admired the manner in which Bryce was prepared to take a view on the numerous controversies whilst providing the reader with a good understanding (through endnotes) of the nature of the where scholarly dispute exists. Detailed references then allow the interested reader to delve into the academic details.
I would heartily recommend this book for those with an interest in the Ancient Near East and Bronze Age civilisation. It also provides fascinating background and context for those with an interest in the historical reality underpinning Homer's tale of the Trojan War.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Half of the Best Book on the Hittites,
This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)This book is one part of what is essentially a duology. Trevor Bryce wrote two books on the Hittites, one dealing with their history and the other with their culture and society. This book is the former. Some people might not like how it never deals with Hittite culture but this makes the history far easier to understand. This book is as close to a straight narrative of the Hittite empire as we are likely to get. The first few chapters cover the period before the the empire, when the region was dominated by Assyrian merchants. After that there's a chapter dealing with the foundation of the kingdom and another with the dynastic problems of the next few centuries. The main core of the book is the last century and a half of Hittite rule because that is the period for which we have the most sources. The final chapter is one that is almost unavoidable for Bronze Age Anatolian studies and includes an analysis of the evidence for the Trojan War. Bryce gives his opinion and backs it up, but everybody who reads up on this subject will have their own opinion on this topic anyway and his opinions are unlikely to change anyone's mind.
This book is by far the most readable and accurate available on this subject. Dr. Bryce has truly outdone himself. It is written in a very readable style and the chapter divisions are intelligently chosen dividing the history into distinct periods. He includes a large number of quotes which both demonstrate his conclusions and give a real feel for the nature of the time. Unlike earlier books where there wasn't enough information available to give more than a brief overview of Hittite history, by this time there has been enough deciphered to make reasonable conclusions and place events in their proper order. The only real problem is the small number of photographs. The maps are adequate and help establish exactly where events were taking place. To fully understand the Hittites I would recommend you get the companion piece. It is more expensive and harder to find, but it is definitely worth it of you can get your hands on it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The superb first half,
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This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)I knew very little on the Hittites and their Kingdom, and how they dominated the Near East for some 500 years, before picking up this book. This first volume of two (the second is "Life and Society in the Hittite World") is about the political history of the Kingdom and it was an eye-opener in many respects.
Written by a specialist of the Hittites, it presents a clear, readable and up to date (as far as I can assess and at least as long as the new findings have not been published) chronological narrative of the Kingdom's history starting around BC 1650. It is however more than this, partly because it also presents the period prior to the Late Bronze Age in order to search for the origins of the Hittites and partly because it is about the Hittite Kingdom in its geographical context. What you get in fact with this book is a history of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the Middle East (modern Irak, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and IsraŽl) seen through the perspective of the Hittite's. The Myceneans (or Acheans) and Egypt are also present, to the extent that they interrelate with the Kingdom's history and clash against its kings.
As a neophyte, my first surprise was to discover how remarkable the Hittites' achievement was, since they were surrounded and threatened by hostile and aggressive neighbours for most of their history. Even when most of these neighbours had been transformed into vassal states, as was the case in western Asia Minor and Syria, the Hittite domination always seems to have been somewhat precarious, especially in cases where the King was engaged in other campaigns or defeated. The only case of an Ancient Middle Eastern Kingdom having to face similar and multiple threats that I can think of is the neo-Assyrian Empire, who seems to have borrowed quite a few practices from the Hittites.
My second surprise was to discover the level of sophistication of their administration, government, army and what we would nowadays call their foreign policy, with a system of vassal states in both the west and Syria linked by treaties that detailed their obligations precisely. I will not mention anything more on this to avoid spoilers but the Hittite Kingdom compares with and was definitely one of the four great powers of the Late Bronze Age, together with Egypt, Babylon and the Kingdom of Mitanni which the Hittites finally destroyed.
Another surprise was to learn how much written sources are available. Thanks to recent and on-going excavations on the sites of the main Hittite cities and those of their vassal kingdoms (one of which was the city of Troy), thousands of written tablets have been found. Many of them have been found relatively recently and have yet to be published. As the author specifically mentions, many more such findings can be expected so that all of the points he makes and conclusions that he draws should be seen as tentative. Nevertheless, and as other reviewers have mentioned, he abundantly uses the written Hittite sources and inserts them in his narrative of each reign, analysing them and interpreting them to try to explain the major events of Hittite history.
While the whole book is fascinating, several elements stood out and were particularly valuable for me.
One was to show the almost constant warfare that the Kingdom had to sustain in order to survive. In particular, it showed rather well the need to regularly put down rebellions from the kingdoms it had transformed into vassals, repulse attacks from tribesmen from the north and check the ambitions from their other great powers in the East (Mitanni) and then the south (Egypt), sometimes almost simultaneously. A source of worry for the Hittite Kings, especially during the last couple of centuries, seems to have been the Mycenean attempts to extend their influence on the western coast of Asia Minor where they dominated Miletos for a time and supported the revolts and various vassal kingdoms against their Hittite overlords.
Another was the policies that the Hittite Kings were forced to develop to ensure not only their domination but the kingdom's sheer survival. These included compromises, rather than utter destruction, in order to spare military resources but also wide scale depopulation and deportation from the lands of vanquished rebels or conquered territories more generally, both to repopulate the homelands and to weaken the defeated enemy. Both types of policies would also be used by the Neo-Assyrians and in both cases, despite the fearsome reputations of both kingdoms; they were clearly born out of necessity. Add to that various instances of civil wars and palace coups and assassinations, also visible through the sources, as the succession to the throne was not always exactly as smooth as intended, and you will have an idea of what it must have meant to become and remain King of the Hittites.
There is one point, however, where I was a bit disappointed anf this was the explanations for the demise of the Hittite Kingdom and the Fall of the Late Bronze Age more generally. THis comment is, however, rather unfair, if only because the author does go a good job in summarizing the main theories around (natural disasters, invasions, or a mix of both). I must admit that by the time I got to this stagte I was probably starting to expect too much from this book.
Finally, there is the book's last chapter (the Trojan War: Myth or Reality?) from which Trevor Bryce has drawn a more recent publication titled "The Trojans and their neighbours". I will avoid spoilers or paraphrase and just state that it is a careful and very valuable assessment and comparison of the sources we have, both written and archaeological with the Illiad.
Well worth five stars on its own, even if this is only half of Trevor Bryce's work on the Hittites.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great work,
This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)Truly excellent read.Perhaps more maps would help,but then I like maps!
A very good middle road .Not too dry,but not a light read either.More please
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the Hittites,
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This review is from: The Kingdom of the Hittites (Paperback)If you want to learn about the history of the Hittites this is the only book you will need. I love ancient history and especially the late bronze age. However I am no academic so some books are more a torture than a pleasure. This book is a pleasure. It is informative and detailed yet easy for a layman such as me to read. Such a fascinating subject brought to life.
The Hittites at the height of their power were greater than even Egypt. During their 500 year existence they sacked Babylon, held sway over Anatolia and North Syria and their king was a "great king" and part of an elite club of other great kings (kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and very briefly Ahhiyawa ). They may had things turned out differently ruled over Egypt as well (Ay had other ideas) but I won't spoil that story.
All in all I can not praise this book enough. In my large library of books on the ancient world, this is one I come back to again and again.
Full praise to Trevor Bryce
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The Kingdom of the Hittites by Trevor Bryce (Paperback - 27 Oct 2005)