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A Beginner’s Guide to the Iliad & the Trojan War
Excursus: Being Luwian
Background: The Hittites
The Hittite language is part of the Indo-European group, and about 3000 BC speakers of Hittite moved from further east into central Anatolia (the western half of modern Turkey, lying between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea). There they eventually established a powerful state in the “plains” area of central Anatolia, centered on a capital at Hattusas (or Hattusha), the city now known as Boghazköy (or Boğazkale), straight east of Ankara and straight south of Sinop on the map in your atlas.
Historians distinguish two main periods of Hittite history, the so-called “Old Kingdom” (1700-1500) and “New Kingdom” (1400-1180 —ending at roughly the same time Troy was destroyed). The New Kingdom Hittites were a major power, but their political focus tended to be away from the Turkish coast and towards the areas that are today Syria and Lebanon. Hittite imperial interests tended to conflict with Egyptian imperial interests in this region, and to some extent we can see the two as competing major powers. (The New Kingdom Egyptians usually got the better of the deal, typically exercising sway over all the lands of the east coast of the Mediterranean.)
The Luwian Connection
The Luwians were speakers of Luwian (or Lu-ite), which was a dialect of the Hittite language and was written in the same cuneiform script. (Luwian texts are known from Bogazköy.) Luwian kingdoms existed in various parts of Anatolia, although usually towards the eastern end of the Hittite realm, and normally as Hittite client regimes. (External Map Link.)
Stimulated by archaeological finds in the 1990s, it became a best guess that Troy may have been such a Luwian city state, despite its commanding location. Here is some of the evidence:
- A metal seal was discovered containing the only text ever found at Troy. The characters are in Luwian cuneiform.
- The defensive ditch at Troy and the gate in it are Hittite in style, not Mycenaean.
- Analysis of pottery fragments shows that most of the Hittite pottery is not imported, but locally made in a Hittite style (specifically it is Gray Minyan Ware).
- A “standing warrior” bronze figure in a Hittite style was uncovered at Troy.
- A treaty of vassalage was signed in about 1280 BC between a Hittite king and a King “Alaksandru,” the lord of a place called Wilusa. In the Iliad “Aleksandros” is another name for Paris, and “Ilion” is written “Wilios.” Once we begin thinking of Troy as part of the Hittite world, it is difficult to avoid the possibility that the treaty of 1280 was with Troy, and was executed by someone named Paris.
- According to the text, the treaty is witnessed by three gods on behalf of Wilusa. One is the “Storm God of the Army,” whoever that may be. The second, however, is “Dingir Kaskal-Kur,” a Hittite earth god. Archaeologists know that in the Hittite realms Dingir Kaskal-Kur was worshipped in underground caves, real or artificial. In 1997 a similar artificial “well/cave” was found at Troy, suggesting the worship of Dingir Kaskal-Kur there too.
- The third divine witness of the 1280 treaty is one Appaliunas, probably to be identified as Apollo in the Greek world. (We recall that Apollo was the special patron of Troy in the Iliad.) In fact, stelae were discovered around the gates of Troy VI similar to those used around Greek shrines of Apollo in later times, and similar to those found in shrines in more eastern Turkish sites, possibly to Appaliunas. This seems to confirm “Apollo” worship at Troy, just as Homer suggests.