THE HITTITES - THE STORY OF A FORGOTTEN EMPIRE

CHAPTER VI

HITTITE RELIGION AND ART

 

LUCIAN, or some other Greek writer who has usurped his name, has left us a minute account of the great temple of Mabog as it existed in the second century of the Christian era. Mabog, as we have seen, was the successor of Carchemish; and there is little reason to doubt that the pagan temple of Mabog, with all the rites and ceremonies that were carried on in it, differed but little from the pagan temple of the older Carchemish.

It stood, we are told, in the very centre of the 'Holy City.' It consisted of an outer court and an inner sanctuary, which again contained a Holy of Holies, entered only by the high-priest and those of his companions who were 'nearest the gods.' The temple was erected on an artificial mound or platform, more than twelve feet in height, and its walls and ceiling within were brilliant with gold. Its doors were also gilded, but the Holy of Holies or innermost shrine was not provided with doors, being separated from the rest of the building, it would seem, like the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple, by a curtain or veil. On either side of the entrance was a cone-like column of great height, a symbol of the goddess of fertility, and in the outer court a large altar of brass. To the left of the latter was an image of 'Semiramis,' and not far off a great 'sea' or 'lake,' containing sacred fish. Oxen, horses, eagles, bears, and lions were kept in the court, as being sacred to the deities worshipped within.

On entering the temple the visitor saw on his left the throne of the Sun-god, but no image, since the Sun and Moon alone of the gods had no images dedicated to them. Beyond, however, were the statues of various divinities, among others the wonder-working image of a god who was believed to deliver oracles and prophecies. At times, it was said, the image moved of its own accord, and if not lifted up at once by the priests, began to perspire. When the priests took it in their hands, it led them from one part of the temple to the other, until the high-priest, standing before it, asked it ques­tions, which it answered by driving its bearers forward. The central objects of worship, however, were the golden images of two deities, whom Lucian identifies with the Greek Hera and Zeus, another figure standing between them, on the head of which rested a golden dove. The goddess, who blazed with precious stones, bore in her hand a scepter and on her head that turreted or mural crown which distinguishes the goddesses of Boghaz Keui. Like them, moreover, she was supported on lions, while her consort was carried by bulls. In him we may recognize the god who at Boghaz Keui is advancing to meet the supreme Hittite goddess.

In the Egyptian text of the treaty between Ramses and the king of Kadesh, the supreme Hittite god is called Sutekh, the goddess being Antarata, or perhaps Astarata. In later days, however, the goddess of Carchemish was known as Athar-Ati, which the Greeks transformed into Atargatis and Derketo. Derketo was fabled to be the mother of Semiramis, in whom Greek legend saw an Assyrian queen; but Semiramis was really the goddess Istar, called Ashtoreth in Canaan, and Atthar or Athar by the Aramaeans, among whom Carchemish was built. Derketo was, therefore, but another form of Semiramis, or rather but another name under which the great Asiatic goddess was known. The dove was sacred to her, and this explains why an image of the dove was placed above the head of the third image in the divine triad of Mabog.

The temple was served by a multitude of priests. More than 300 took part in the sacrifices on the day when Lucian saw it. The priests were dressed in white, and wore the skull-cap which we find depicted on the Hittite monuments. The high-priest alone carried on his head the lofty tiara, which the sculptures indicate was a prerogative of gods and kings. Prominent among the priests were the Galli or eunuchs, who on the days of festival cut their arms and scourged themselves in honor of their deities. Such actions remind us of those priests of Baal who 'cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.'

Twice a year a solemn procession took place to a small chasm in the rock under the temple, where, it was alleged, the waters of the deluge had been swallowed up, and water from the sea was poured into it. It is to this pit that Melito, a Christian writer of Syria, alludes when he says that the goddess Simi, the daughter of the supreme god Hadad, put an end to the attacks of a demon by filling with sea water the pit in which he lived. But in Lucian's time the demon was regarded as the deluge, and the account of the deluge given to the Greek writer agrees so closely with that which we read in Genesis as to make it clear that it had been borrowed by the priests of Hierapolis from the Hebrew Scriptures. It is probable, however, that the tradition itself was of much older standing, and had originally been imported from Babylonia. At all events the hero of the deluge was called Sisythes, a modification of the name of the Chaldean Noah, while Major Conder found a place in the close neighborhood of Kadesh which is known as 'the Ark of the Prophet Noah,' and close at hand a spring termed the Tannur or 'Oven,' out of which, according to Mohammedan belief, the waters of the flood gushed forth.

But there were many other festivals at Mabog besides that which commemorated the subsidence of the deluge. Pilgrims flocked to it from all parts—Arabia, Palestine, Cappadocia, Babylonia, even India. They were required to drink water only, and to sleep on the ground. Numerous and rich were the offerings which they brought to the shrine, and once arrived there were called upon to offer sacrifices. Goats and sheep were the most common victims, though oxen were also offered. The only animal whose flesh was forbidden to be either sacrificed or eaten was the swine; as among the Jews, it was regarded as unclean. After being dedicated in the court of the temple the animal was usually led to the house of the offerer, and there put to death; sometimes, however, it was killed by being thrown from the entrance to the temple. Even children were sacrificed by their parents in this way, after first being tied up in skins and told that they were 'not children but oxen.'

Different stories were current as to the foundation of the temple. There were some who affirmed that Sisythes had built it after the deluge over the spot where the waters of the flood had been swallowed up by the earth. It is possible that this was the legend originally believed in Mabog before the traditions of Carchemish had been transferred to it. It seems to be closely connected with the local peculiarities of the site. The other legends had doubtless had their origin in the older Hierapolis. According to one of them, the temple had been founded by Semiramis in honor of her mother Derketo, half woman and half fish, to whom the fish in the neighboring lake were sacred. Another account made Attys its founder, and the goddess to whom it was dedicated the divinity called Rhea by the Greeks. Derketo and Rhea, however, are but different names of the same deity, who was known as Kybele or Kybebe in Phrygia, and honored with the title of 'the Great Mother.' Her images were covered with breasts, to symbolize that she was but mother-earth, from whom mankind derived their means of life. Her attributes were borrowed from those of the Babylonian Ishtar, the Ashtoreth of Canaan; even the form assigned to her was that of the Babylonian Ishtar, as we learn from a bas-relief discovered at Carchemish, where she is repre­sented as naked, a lofty tiara alone excepted, with the hands upon the breasts and a wing rising behind each shoulder. She was, in fact, a striking illustration of the influence exerted upon the Hittites, and through them upon the people of Asia Minor, by Babylonian religion and worship. Even in Lydia a stone has been found on which her image is carved in a rude style of art, but similar in form to the representations of her in the bas-relief of Carchemish and the cylinders of ancient Chaldea.

This stone, like the seated figure on Mount Sipylos, is a witness that her cult was carried westward by the Hittite armies. Later tradition preserved a reminiscence of the fact. The Lydian hero Kayster was said to have gone to Syria, and there had Derketo for his bride, while on the other hand it was a Lydian, Mopsos, who was believed to have drowned the goddess Derketo in the sacred lake of Ashkelon. We have here, it may be, recollections of the days when Lydian soldiers marched against Egypt under the leadership of Hittite princes, and learnt to know the name and the character of Athar-Ati, the goddess of Carchemish.

The Babylonian Ishtar was accompanied by her son and bridegroom Tammuz, the youthful Sun-god, the story of whose untimely death made a deep impression on the popular mind. Even in Jerusalem Ezekiel saw the women weeping for the death of Tammuz within the precincts of the temple itself; and for days together each year in the Phoenician cities the festival of his death and resurrection were observed with fanatic zeal. In Syria he was called Hadad, and identified with the god Rimmon, so that Zechariah speaks of the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. At Hierapolis and Aleppo also he was known as Hadad or Dadi, while throughout Asia Minor he was adored under the name of Attys,  the shepherd of the bright stars.' The myth which told of his death underwent a slight change of form among the Hittites, and through them among the tribes of Asia Minor. He is doubtless the young god who on the rocks of Boghaz Keui appears behind the mother-goddess, riding like her on the back of a panther or lion.

The people of Mabog did not forget that their temple was but the successor of an older one, and that Carchemish had once been the 'Holy City' of Northern Syria. The legends, therefore, which referred to the foundation of the sanctuary were said to relate to one which had formerly existed, but had long since fallen into decay. The origin of the temple visited by Lucian was ascribed to a certain 'Stratonike, the wife of the Assyrian king.' But Stratonike is merely a Greek transformation of some Semitic epithet of Ashtoreth, and marks the time when the Phoenician Ashtoreth took the place of the earlier Athar-Ati. A strange legend was told of the youthful Kombabos, who was sent from Babylon to take part in the building of the shrine. Kombabos was but Tammuz under another name, just as Stratonike was Ishtar, and the legend is chiefly interesting as testifying to the religious influence once exercised by the Babylonians upon the Hittite people.

Semiramis may turn out to have been the Hittite name of the goddess called Athar-Ati by the Aramaean inhabitants of Hierapolis. In this case the difficulty of accounting for the existence of the two names would have been solved in the old myths by making her the daughter of Derketo. But while Derketo was a fish-goddess, Semiramis was associated with the dove, like the Ashtoreth or Aphrodite who was worshipped in Cyprus. The symbol of the dove had been carried to the distant West at an early period. Among the objects found by Dr. Schliemann in the prehistoric tombs of Mycenae were figures in gold-leaf, two of which represented a naked goddess with the hands upon the breasts and doves above her, while the third has the form of a temple, on the two pinnacles of which are seated two doves. Considering how intimately the prehistoric art of Mycenae seems to have been connected with that of Asia Minor, it is hardly too much to suppose that the symbol of the dove had made its way across the Aegean through the help of the Hittites, and that in the pinnacled temple of Mycenae, with its two doves, we may see a picture of a Hittite temple in Lydia or Cappadocia.

The legends reported by Lucian about the foundation of the temple of Mabog all agreed that it was dedicated to a goddess. The 'Holy City' was under the protection, not of a male but of a female divinity, which explains why it was that it was served by eunuch priests. If Attys or Hadad was worshipped there, it was in right of his mother; the images of the other gods stood in the temple on sufferance only. The male deity whom the Greek author identified with Zeus must have been regarded as admitted by treaty or marriage to share in the honors paid to her. It must have been the same also at Boghaz Keui. Here, too, the most prominent figure in the divine procession is that of the Mother-goddess, who is followed by her son Attys, while the god, whose name may be read Tar or Tarku, 'the king,' and who is the Zeus of Lucian, advances to meet her.

In Cilicia and Lydia this latter god seems to have been known as Sandan. He is called on coins the 'Baal of Tarsos,' and he carries in his hand a bunch of grapes and a stalk of corn. We may see his figure engraved on the rock of Ibreez. Here he wears on his head the pointed Hittite cap, ornamented with horn­like ribbons, besides the short tunic and boots with upturned ends. On his wrists are bracelets, and earrings hang from his ears.

Sandan was  identified  with the  Sun,  and  hence it happened that when a Semitic language came to prevail in Cilicia he was transformed into a supreme Baal. The same transformation had taken place centuries before in the Hittite cities of Syria. Beside the Syrian goddess Kes, who is represented as standing upon a lion, like the great goddess of Carchemish, the Egyptian monuments tell us of Sutekh, who stands in the same relation to his Hittite worshippers as the Semitic Baal stood to the populations of Canaan. Sutekh was the supreme Hittite god, but at the same time he was localized in every city or state in which the Hittites lived. Thus there was a Sutekh of Carchemish and a Sutekh of Kadesh, just as there was a Baal of Tyre and a Baal of Tarsos. The forms under which he was worshipped were manifold, but everywhere it was the same Sutekh, the same national god.

It would seem that the power of Sutekh began to wane after the age of Ramses, and that the goddess began to usurp the place once held by the god. It is possible that this was due to Babylonian and Assyrian influence. At any rate, whereas it is Sutekh who appears at the head of the Hittite states in the treaty with Ramses, in later days the chief cult of the 'Holy Cities' was paid to the Mother-goddess. His place was taken by the goddess at Carchemish as well as at Mabog, at Boghaz -Kern as well as at Komana.

In the Cappadocian Komana the goddess went under the name of Ma. She was served by 6000 priests and priestesses, the whole city being dedicated to her service. The place of the king was occupied by the Abakles or high-priest. We have seen that the sculptures of Boghaz Keui give us reason to believe that the same was also the case in Pteria; we know that it was so in other 'Holy Cities' of Asia Minor. At Pessinus in Phrygia, where lions and panthers stood beside the goddess, the whole city was given up to her worship, under the command of the chief Gallos or priest; and on the shores of the Black Sea the Amazonian priestesses of Kybele, who danced in armour in her honor, were imagined by the Greeks to constitute the sole population of an entire country. At Ephesos, in spite of the Greek colony which had found its way there, the worship of the Mother-goddess continued to absorb the life of the inhabitants, so that it still could be described in the time of St. Paul as a city which was 'a worshipper of the great goddess.' Here, as at Pessinus, she was worshipped under the form of a meteoric stone 'which had fallen from heaven.'

We may regard these 'Holy Cities,' placed under the protection of a goddess and wholly devoted to her worship, as peculiarly characteristic of the Hittite race. Their two southern capitals, Kadesh and Carchemish, were cities of this kind, and their stronghold at Boghaz Keui was presumably also a consecrated place. Their progress through Asia Minor was characterized by the rise of priestly cities and the growth of a class of armed priestesses. Komana in Kappadokia, and Ephesos on the shores of the Aegean, are typical examples of such holy towns. The entire population ministered to the divinity to whom the city was dedicated, the sanctuary of the deity stood in its centre, and the chief authority was wielded by a high-priest. If a king existed by the side of the priest, he came in course of time to fill a merely subordinate position.

These 'Holy Cities' were also 'Asyla' or Cities of Refuge. The homicide could escape to them, and be safe from his pursuers. Once within the precincts of the city and the protection of its deity, he could not be injured or slain. But it was not only the man who had slain another by accident who could thus claim an 'asylum' from his enemies. The debtor and the political refugee were equally safe. Doubtless the right of asylum was frequently abused, and real criminals took advantage of regulations which were intended to protect the unfortunate in an age of lawlessness and revenge. But the institution on the whole worked well, and, while it strengthened the power of the priesthood, it curbed injustice and restrained violence.

Now the institution of Cities of Refuge did not exist only in Asia Minor and in the region occupied by the Hittites. It existed also in Palestine, and it seems not unlikely that it was adopted by the great Hebrew lawgiver, acting under divine guidance, from the older population of the country. The Hebrew cities of refuge were six in number. One of them was 'Kadesh in Galilee,' whose very name declares it to have been a 'Holy City,' like Kadesh on the Orontes, while another was the ancient sanctuary of Hebron, once occupied by Hittites and Amorites. Shechem, the third city of refuge on the western side of the Jordan, had been taken by Jacob 'out of the hand of the Amorite'; and the other three cities were all on the eastern side of the Jordan, in the region so long held by Amorite tribes. We are therefore tempted to ask whether these cities had not already been 'asyla' or cities of refuge long before Moses was enjoined by God to make them such for the Israelitish conquerors of Palestine.

Closely connected with Hittite religion was Hittite art. Religion and art have been often intertwined together in the history of the world, and we can often infer the religion of a people from its art, as in the case of the sculptures of Boghaz Keui. Hittite art was a modification of that of Babylonia, and bears testimony to the same Babylonian influence as the worship of the 'Mother-goddess.' The same Chaldean culture is presupposed by both.

But while the art of the Hittites was essentially Babylonian in origin, it was profoundly modified in the hands of the Hittite artists. The deities, indeed, were made to ride on the backs of animals, as upon Babylonian cylinders, the walls of the palaces were adorned with long rows of bas-reliefs, as in Chaldea and Assyria, and there was the same tendency to arrange animals face to face in heraldic style; but nevertheless the workmanship and the details introduced into it were purely native. Even a symbol like the winged solar disk assumes in Hittite sculpture a special character which can never be mistaken. The Hittite artist excelled in the representation of animal forms, but the lion, which he seems to have never wearied of designing, is treated in a peculiar way which marks it sharply off from the sculptured lions either of Babylonia or of any other country. So, too, in the case of the human figure, though the general conception has been derived from Babylonian art, the conception is worked out in a new and original manner. Those who have once seen the sculptured image of a Hittite warrior or a Hittite god, can never confuse it with the artistic productions of another race. The figure is clearly drawn from the daily experience of the sculptor's own life. The dress with its peaked shoes, the thick rounded form, the strange protrusive profile, were copied from the costume and appearance of his fellow-countrymen, and the striking agreement that exists between his representation of them and that which we find on the Egyptian monuments proves how faithfully he must have worked. The elements, in short, of Babylonian art are present in the art of the Hittite, but the treatment and selection are his own.

It is in his selection and combination of these elements that he exhibits most clearly his originality. Monsters, half human, half bestial, were known to the Babylonians, but it was left to the Hittite to invent a double-headed eagle, or to plant a human head on a column of lions. The so-called rope-pattern occurs once or twice on Babylonian gems, but it became a distinguishing characteristic of Hittite art, like the employment of the heads only of animals instead of their entire forms.

So, again, the heraldic arrangement of animals face to face, or more rarely back to back, had its first home in Chaldea, but it was the Hittites who raised it into a principle of art. We may perhaps trace their doing so to their love of animal forms.

The influence of Babylonian culture may have made itself first felt in the age of the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty, when the cuneiform tablets of Tel el-Amarna represent the Hittite tribes as descending southward into the Syrian plains. It may on the other hand go back to a much earlier epoch. We have no materials at present for deciding the question. One fact, however, is clear; there was a time when the Hittites were profoundly affected by Babylonian civilization, religion and art. Before this could have been the case they must have been already settled in Syria.

It is more easy to fix the period when the Hittite sculptor received that inspiration from Egyptian art which produced the sphinxes of Eyuk and the seated image on Mount Sipylos. It can only have been the age of Ramses II, and of the great wars between Egypt and the Hittite princes in the fourteenth century before our era. The influence of Egypt was but transitory, but it was to it, in all probability, that the Hittites owed the idea of hieroglyphic writing.

At a far later date Babylonian influence was superseded by that of Assyria. The later sculptures of Carchemish betray the existence of Assyrian rather than of Babylonian models. The winged figure of the goddess of Carchemish now in the British Museum is Assyrian in style and character, and it is possible that other draped images of the goddess may be derived from the same source. In Babylonian art Ishtar was represented nude.

However this may be, Professor Perrot has made it clear that the beginnings of Hittite art must be looked for in Syria, on the southern slopes of the Taurus, from whence it spread to the tribes of Cappadocia. It is in Northern Syria that its rudest and most infantile attempts have been found. The sculptors of Eyuk were already advanced in skill.

To Professor Perrot we also owe the discovery of bronze figures of Hittite manufacture. The execution of them is at once conventional and barbarous. Nothing can exceed the rudeness of a figure now in the Louvre, which represents a god with a pointed tiara, standing on the back of an animal. Though the face of the god has evidently been modeled with care, it is impossible to tell to what zoological species the animal which supports him is intended  to belong.   Almost equally far removed from nature is the bronze image of a bull which is also in the Louvre.

If these bronzes are to be regarded as the highest efforts of Hittite metallurgic work, it is not to be re­gretted that they are few in number. But it is quite different with the engraved gems which we now know to have been of Hittite workmanship. Many of them are exceedingly fine; a hematite cylinder, for instance, which was discovered at Cappadocia, is equal to the best products of Babylonian art. The gems and cylinders were for the most part intended to be used as seals, and some of them are provided with handles cut out of the stone, the seal itself having designs on four, and sometimes on five faces. These handles seem to be a peculiarity of Hittite art, or at least of the art which derived its inspiration from that of the Hittites. Another peculiarity noticeable in many of the gems, consists in enclosing the inner field of the engraved design with one or more concentric circles, each circle containing an elaborate series of ornaments or figures, or even characters, though the characters are usually placed in the central field. Thus two gems have been found at Yuzghat, in Cappadocia, so much alike, that they must have been the work of the same artist. On the larger an inscription has been engraved in the centre, round which runs a circle containing a large number of beautifully-executed figures. The winged solar disk rests upon the symbol of ' kingship,' on either side of which kneels a figure, half man and half bull. On the right and left is the figure of a standing priest, behind whom we see on the left a man adoring what seems to be the stump of a tree, while on the right are a tree, two arrows and a quiver, a basket, a stag's head, and a seated deity, above whose hand is a bird. The two groups are separated by the picture of a boot—the symbol, it may be, of the earth—which rests, like the winged solar disk, on the symbol of royalty. The smaller seal has a different inscription in the centre, encircled by two rings, one containing a row of ornaments, and the other the same figures as those engraved on the larger seal, excepting only that the arrangement of the figures has been changed, and a tree introduced among them. What is curious, however, is that a gem has been found at Aidin, far away towards the western extremity of Asia Minor, containing a central inscrip­tion almost identical with that of the smaller Yuzghat seal, though the figures which surround it are not the same.

These circular seals must be regarded not only as characteristic of Hittite art, but also as a product of Hittite invention. We meet with nothing resembling them in Babylonia or Assyria.

The gems can be traced across the Aegean to the shores of Greece. Among the objects discovered by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenae; were two rings of gold, on the chatons of which designs are engraved in what we may now recognize as the Hittite style of art. On one of them are two rows of animals' heads; on the other an elaborate picture, which reminds us of the elaborate designs on the gems of Asia Minor. It represents a woman under a tree, facing two other persons, who wear the upturned boots and flounced dress that we find in Hittite sculptures, while the background is filled in with the heads of animals.

These gems are not the only indication the ruins of Mycenae   have   afforded    that   Hittite   influence   was spread beyond the coasts of Asia Minor. Allusion has already been made to the figures of the Hittite goddess and the doves that rested on the pinnacles of her temple; another figure in thin gold gives us a likeness of the Hittite goddess seated on the cliff of Sipylos, as she appeared before rain and tempest had changed her into 'the weeping Niobe.' Perhaps, however, the most striking illustration of the westward migration of Hittite influence, is to be found in the famous lions which stand fronting each other, carved on stone, above the great gate of the ancient Peloponnesian city. The lions of Mycenae have long been known as the oldest piece of sculpture in Europe, but the art which inspired it was of Hittite origin. A similar bas-relief has been discovered at Kumbet, in Phrygia, in the near vicinity of Hittite monuments; and we have just seen that the heraldic position in which the lions are represented was a peculiar feature of Hittite art.

Greek tradition affirmed that the rulers of Mycenae had come from Lydia, bringing with them the civilization and the treasures of Asia Minor. The tradition has been confirmed by modern research. While certain elements belonging to the prehistoric culture of Greece, as revealed at Mycenae and elsewhere, were derived from Egypt and Phoenicia, there are others which point to Asia Minor as their source. And the culture of Asia Minor was Hittite. Mr. Gladstone, therefore, may be right in seeing the Hittites in the Keteians of Homer—that Homer who told of the legendary glories of Mycenae and the Lydian dynasty which held it in possession. Even the buckle, with the help of which the prehistoric Greek fastened his cloak, has been shown by a German scholar to imply an arrangement of the dress such as we see represented on the Hittite monument of Ibreez.

For us of the modern world, therefore, the resurrection of the Hittite people from their long sleep of oblivion possesses a double interest. They appeal to us not alone because of the influence they once exercised on the fortunes of the Chosen People, not alone because a Hittite was the wife of David and the ancestress of Christ, but also on account of the debt which the civilization of our own Europe owes to them. Our culture is the inheritance we have received from ancient Greece, and the first beginnings of Greek culture were derived from the Hittite conquerors of Asia Minor. The Hittite warriors who still guard the Pass of Karabel, on the very threshold of Asia, are symbols of the position occupied by the race in the education of mankind. The Hittites carried the time-worn civilizations of Babylonia and Egypt to the furthest boundary of Asia, and there handed them over to the West in the grey dawn of European history. But they never passed the boundary themselves; with the conquest of Lydia their mission was accomplished, the work that had been appointed them was fulfilled.