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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Languages of the Near & Middle East at SOAS: Hittite

It was in the ancient Near East more than five thousand years ago that mankind first learned to live in cities, invented writing and developed the first high civilisations. The origins of modern man's spiritual and intellectual adventure were once sought in the Bible and in Greece but the fascinating discoveries of Near Eastern archaeologists have revealed the crucial roles played in forming our common heritage by the peoples of the ancient Near East. Hittite, the oldest attested Indo-European language, is one of the major ancient Near Eastern languages, and is attested in cuneiform inscriptions from ancient Anatolia and Syria dating to the second half of the 2nd millennium. Speakers of Hittite first arrived in Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the 3rd millennium, but it was in the 16th and 15th centuries that Hittite became the official language of a central Anatolian kingdom that rose to be one of the major players on the political scene of the ancient Near East. Thousands of cuneiform texts found at the Hittite capital Hattusa and in Hittite provincial towns bring to life the fascinating political history, religious concepts and literature of the Hittites. These texts also shed light on the many other languages of ancient Anatolia, including Hattic, Hurrian and Luwian; the latter is still attested in the 1st millennium and is closely related not only to Hittite, but also to later Anatolian languages such as Lycian and Carian.

If you would like to learn Hittite, contact Professor Andrew R George (ag5@soas.ac.uk) in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East.