Narrow pass, black mountain; the discovery of the Hittite Empire,

by C. W. Ceram, 1915-1972.

Book, 1956



Call number

DS66 .M284


Publisher Unknown


The author of the acclaimed Gods, Graves, and Scholars tells the dramatic tale of the Hittites, an Indo-European people who became a dominant power in the Middle East. Their struggle in Egypt with Ramses II for control of Syria led to one of the greatest battles of the ancient world. The fall of the Hittite empire was sudden, and historical records were scarce--until the discovery of cuneiform tablets yielded a rich store of information on which this work is based. "...a saga richly charged with dramatic twists and with enthralling accounts of scholarly detective work."--The Atlantic.

User reviews

LibraryThing member keylawk
Ceram is one of the classic German scholars who writes with patience and excitement. This is his second volume on aspects of the unfinished story of the discovery of this Empire, with its multicultural richness, its rise and fall.
One of the few battles to have really shaped the future of mankind, Kadesh [165]. Muwatallis faced the mightiest ruler of antiquity, Ramses II rising out of Egypt to dispute the Syrian border at the Orontes river [167]. For three thousand years even the scholars have fallen for the "propaganda" written by Egyptian sycophants concerning this war, which still eludes us. But there can be no doubt about the actual outcome. The biggest armies ever before assembled in the field up to that time, approximately 20,000 on each side. Using Bedouin allies, and Ramses own high opinion of himself, Mutawallis deceived Ramses into believing he had withdrawn. And then after Rameses was drawn into a long line of march unprepared for battle, the Hittite made a river crossing, struck at the divided center of the leading corp, and enveloped the remnants with light chariots in pursuit.
According to the Egyptian poet, Ramses is left entirely alone in his chariot on the battlefield, and prays to Amon, the "lord of victory, who loves strength". Inscriptions show the Hittites driven into the river and drowning. He must have attacked the Hittite encirclement where it was weakest in an attempt to break out. The poet clearly states that Rameses defeated the Hittite singlehandedly. Actually, he did manage to escape with the remnants of his army to a geographical rampart near Damascus [184]. At that point, whatever the facts, Ramses the Great and Muwatallis, King of the Hittites, signed a treaty of friendship. This averted further major conflicts. The Egyptian never again stepped near the frontier border.
And the Jews and Arabs formed the tribal values they have passed on to the world, within this contested frontier, which have blessed and cursed the world to this day.
In 1945 a small group of travelers crossed the Taurus Mountains hunting for traces of the Anatolian civilization in what is now almost trackless waste. [219] Someone told them about a "lion stone" -- the lion is one of the symbolic beasts of the Karatepe. There, Helmut T. Bossert, a German Professor whose books were burned by the Nazis, discovered Semitic writing on a Hittite Temple sculpture. [227] Could this provide a Rosetta-key? Helmuth T. Bossert and his assistant Halet Cambel were the discoverers, as the first interpreters, and "Brave Rainbow" Bahadir Alkim, the polyglot they brought in to perform the translating. [230] Of course this was on Domuztepe, the "mountain of the swine", in the Black Mountain slopes. Beneath Roman ruins, the Hittite citadel was discovered, and we have been able to read the Code ever since. A remarkable literature and history has been re-opened.
The last Hittite was absorbed into the Assyrian Empire about 700 BC. [239] Until 70 years ago, they had been forgotten entirely. [254] Schools still teach about Egypt and Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. This people is one of the bridges between them all.
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LibraryThing member slaveofOne
The focus of this book is culture. Good for explanations of various issues of the Hittite civilization like language, location, politics, customs, kingship, etc. Easy reading. The problem: many texts quoted, but few referenced! We just have to trust he isn't making things up as he goes along. Read this in conjuction with "The Kingdom of the Hittites".… (more)


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