Seated deity, late Hittite Empire (13th century BC)

Most of the narratives embodying Hittite mythology are lost, and the elements that would give a balanced view of Hittite religion are lacking among the tablets recovered at the Hittite capital Hattusa and other Hittite sites: "there are no canonical scriptures, no theological disquisitions or discourses, no aids to private devotion".[1] Some religious documents formed part of the corpus with which young scribes were trained, and have survived, most of them dating from the last several decades before the final burning of the sites. The scribes in the royal administration, some of whose archives survive, were a bureaucracy, organizing and maintaining royal responsibilities in areas that would be considered part of religion today: temple organization, cultic administration, reports of diviners, make up the main body of surviving texts.[2]

The understanding of Hittite mythology depends on readings of surviving stone carvings, deciphering of the iconology represented in seal stones, interpreting ground plans of temples: additionally, there are a few images of deities, for the Hittites often worshipped their gods through Huwasi stones, which represented deities and were treated as sacred objects. Gods were often depicted standing on the backs of their respective beasts, or may have been identifiable in their animal form.[3]

Though heavily influenced by Mesopotamian mythology, the religion of the Hittites and Luwians retains noticeable Indo-European elements, for example Tarhunt the god of thunder, brought in by the Indo-European immigrants; his conflict with the serpent Illuyanka resembles the conflict between Indra and the cosmic serpent Vrtra in Indo-Aryan mythology. His consort is the indigenous Hattic sun-goddess. This divine couple were presumably worshipped in the twin cellas of the largest temple at Hattusa.[4]

The liminal figure mediating between the intimately connected worlds of gods and mankind was the king and priest; in a ritual dating from the Hittite Old Kingdom period:

The gods, the Sun-God and the Storm-God, have entrusted to me, the king, the land and my household, so that I, the king, should protect my land and my household, for myself.[5]

The Hittites referred to their own "thousand gods", of whom a staggering number appear in inscriptions but remain nothing more than names today.[6] This multiplicity has been ascribed to a Hittite resistance to syncretization: "many Hittite towns maintained individual storm-gods, declining to identify the local deities as manifestations of a single national figure," Gary Beckman observed.[7] The multiplicity is doubtless an artifact of a level of social-political localization within the Hittite "empire" not easily reconstructed. For example, the Bronze Age cult centre of Nerik,[8] to the north of the capitals Hattusa and Sapinuwa, the Hittites held as sacred to a local storm god who was the son of Wurusemu, sun goddess of Arinna: he was propitiated from Hattusa:

Because the men of Kaška have taken the land of Nerik for themselves, we are continually sending the rituals for the Storm God in Nerik and for the gods of Nerik from Ḫattuša in the city of Ḫakmišša, (namely) thick-breads, libations, oxen, and sheep.[9]
The weather god was identified there with Mount Zaliyanu near Nerik, responsible for assigning rain to the city's croplands.

Among the crowd a few stand out as more than local: Tarhun has a son, Telepinu and a daughter, Inara. Inara is a protective deity (dLAMMA) involved with the Puruli spring festival. Ishara is a goddess of the oath; lists of divine witnesses to treaties seem to represent the Hittite pantheon most clearly,[10] though some well-attested gods are inexplicably missing.

The city of Arinna, a day's march from Hattusa, was perhaps the major cult center of the Hittites, and certainly of their major sun goddess, known as dUTU URUArinna "sun goddess of Arinna".[11] In the 13th century some explicit gestures toward syncretism appear in inscriptions. Puduhepa, queen and a priestess, worked on organizing and rationalizing her people's religion.[12] In an inscription she invokes:

Sun-Goddes of Arinna, my lady, you are the queen of all lands! In the land of Hatti you have assumed the name of Sun-Goddess of Arinna, but in respect to the land which you made of cedars,[13] you have assumed the name Hebat.[14]

Kumarbi is the father of Tarhun, his role in the Song of Kumarbi being reminiscent of that of Cronus in the Theogony of Hesiod. Ullikummi is a stone monster fathered by Kumarbi, reminiscent of Hesiod's Typhon.

The Luwian god of weather and lightning Pihassassa may be at the origin of Greek Pegasus. Depictions of hybrid animals (like hippogriffs, chimerae etc.) are typical for the Anatolian art of the period. In the Telepinu Myth, the disappearance of Telepinu, god of farming and fertility causes all fertility to fail, both plant and animal. This results in devastation and despair among gods and humans alike. In order to stop the havoc and devastation, the gods seek Telepinu but fail to find him. Only a bee sent by the goddess Hannahanna finds Telepinu, and stings him in oder to wake him up. However this infuriates Telepinu further and he "diverts the flow of rivers and shatters the houses". In the end, the goddess Kamrusepa uses healing and magic to calm Telepinu after which he returns home and restores the vegetation and fertility. In other references it is a mortal priest who prays for all of Telepinu's anger to be sent to bronze containers in the underworld, of which nothing escapes.[15]

Hittite deities

  • A'as - god of wisdom, derived from the Mesopotamian god Enki
  • Alalus - primordial entity
  • Arinna - sun goddess and consort of Tarhunt
  • Arinniti - sun goddess, possibly another name for Arinna
  • Arma - minor moon god
  • Aruna, god of the sea and son of Kamrusepa
  • Aserdus - goddess of fertility and wife of Elkunirsa
  • Elkunirsa - creator god and husband of Aserdus
  • Ellel - god of the sky and protector of oaths
  • Halki - god of grain
  • Hannahannah - mother goddess
  • Hanwasuit - goddess of sovereignty
  • Hasameli - god of metalworkers and craftsmen
  • Hazzi - god of the mountains and oaths
  • Hutena - goddesses of fate, similar to the Moirae
  • Inara - goddess of the wild animals of the steppe
  • Ishara - goddess of oaths and love
  • Istanu - god of the sun and of judgement
  • Jarri - god of plague and pestilence
  • Kamrusepa - goddess of healing, medicine and magic
  • Kaskuh - god of the moon
  • Khipa - tutelary deity
  • Lelwani - goddess of the underworld
  • Pirwa - deity of uncertain nature
  • Rundas - god of the hunt and good fortune
  • Sandas - lion god
  • Sarruma - god of the mountains, son of Teshub and Hebat
  • Šauška - goddess of fertility, war and healing
  • Sutekh - weather god, possibly another name for Teshub
  • Telepinu - god of farming
  • Teshub - god of the sky, weather and storms
  • Tilla - bull god
  • Upelluri - god of dreaming
  • Wurrukatte - god of war
  • Zababa - god of war, possibly another name for Wurrukatte


  1. Gary Beckman, "The Religion of the Hittites", The Biblical Archaeologist 52.2/3, (June - September 1989:98-108) noting E. Laroche, Catalogue des textes hittites 1971, and K. Bittel, Hattusa, the Capital of the Hittites, 1970.
  2. J. G. Macqueen, '"Hattian Mythology and Hittite Monarchy'", Anatolian Studies (1959).
  3. R.Lebrun, "Le zoomorphisme dans la religion hittite," L'Animal, l'homme, le dieu dans le Proche-Orient ancien, (Leuven) 1985:95-103, noted in Beckman 1989.
  4. Beckman 1985:99.
  5. Quoted in Beckman 1985:101.
  6. E. Laroche, Recherches sur les noms des dieux hittites, 1947; O.R. Gurney, Some aspects of Hittite religion (Schweich Lectures, 1976) 1977:4-23.
  7. Beckman 1985:99.
  8. V. Haas, Der Kult von Nerik(series Studia Pohl 4), 1970.
  9. Prayer of Great King Arnuwanda I and Great Queen Ašmu-Nikal Concerning the City of Nerik
  10. G. Kestemont, "Le Panthéon des instruments hittites de droit public" Orientalia 45 (1976:147-77)..
  11. Burney, Charles Allen (2004). Historical dictionary of the Hittites. Scarecrow Press. p. 28. ISBN 0810849364, 9780810849365. 
  12. Trevor Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites :286-89
  13. Coastal Syria is intended.
  14. Quoted in Beckman 1985:99f.
  15. The Ancient Near East, J.B.Pickard, p 88

See also

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