Hitttite Sculpture

THE HITTITE KINGDOM. Under the general term of Hittite we group the sculptures produced in the north of Syria and in a large part of Asia Minor, especially in that part adjacent to the Assyrian frontier and in Cappadocia. The Hittites were for many centuries the dominant element in a group of tribes in this region, and formed a state that often withstood successfully such great powers as Egypt and Assyria. Their racial affinities and their language are still a mystery, and, until we can read their inscriptions, we can know but little of their history and culture. Carchemish on the Euphrates, Kadesh and Hamath on the Orontes, are the cities of which we read in Egyptian and Assyrian annals. Around them the wars were waged, and they are more familiar to us than the Hittite cities of Asia Minor. The centre from which the Hittites started in their career of conquest was the northeast of Syria and Armenia, and they gradually subdued the populations of a large part of Asia Minor and the Rutennu tribes of central Syria, finally transmitting the culture of Babylonia to the AEgean and standing by the side of the Phoenicians in acting as a link between the East and the West.

HISTORY AND STYLES. As far as we can judge, the period during which Hittite civilization and art flourished covers some seven or eight centuries, from the time when the Hittites became formidable to Egypt under Seti I. (fifteenth century), until the year 717, when the last of the Hittite states, that of Carchemish, was conquered by Sargon of Assyria. Perhaps the Hittite state of Pteria in Cappadocia was the last survivor of their power, not coming to an end until Croesus brought destruction upon their great fortified capital on the approach of Cyrus.

The primitive source of much that was radical and important in early Hittite culture was Babylonia. When that great southern empire held sway as far as Syria and Armenia, it impregnated with its mythology, its legends, and its art the populations of the mountainous plateaux of Armenia; and when the various tribes which we include under the name of Hittites started on their career of conquest they carried with them these ideas, profoundly modified by native traits, to the less civilized populations of Asia Minor and the AEgean. Perhaps there is some truth in the legends that Tiryns and Mykenai were founded by emigrant princes from Asia Minor. We may conjecture that the Hittites afterwards felt the influence of Egypt, and we know that the cuneiform system of writing, as well as their own hieroglyphics, were known to them. At the close of their civilization Assyrian art asserted its supremacy over the Hittites even before their cities were brought under the dominion of the Assyrian kings. This is proved by the late German excavations at Sendjirli.

Contemporary records would seem to prove that the Hittites were very skilful in the use of metals for sculpture, and were renowned for the production of gold and silver vessels. But the only sculptures that have been preserved, beyond a certain number of carved gems, are the reliefs cut in the’ natural rock or carved on slabs of stone and marble used for lining the walls of Hittite palaces. In style these sculptures form a class somewhat apart from the plastic development of Western Asia. While Babylonian, Asiatic, and Persian sculpture developed on the same general lines, each merely a different phase of the same style, Hittite sculpture has very marked racial characteristics. This is especially the case with the monuments in Asia Minor, for those of Syria show strong traces of both Babylonian and Assyrian influence. As a class these sculptures certainly cannot be later than the close of the eighth century B.C. nor earlier than the thirteenth or fourteenth century B.C., and of these the Assyrian examples appear to be the latest in date.

TYPES AND METHODS. There are certain characteristics that can be applied to the style as a whole. The figures are thick-set and usually with prominent noses and large eyes; they wear shoes with turned-up points, and usually on their heads high conical caps or diadems, though in many cases the female figures merely have their heads draped in a garment which descends over their shoulders. There is a lack of detail, of life, and of animation, and where, as in some cases, the artist has attempted to use detail he shows his lack of artistic ability. In general the work is extremely mechanical, and quite lacking in any of the qualities of high art that characterize Assyrian work of the same period.

Again, there are certain general followings of Assyria, such as in the arrangement of the palaces, in the use of colossal figures of genii at the entrances, in the lining of the lower part of the walls of the interiors with bas-reliefs. There was, however, a far more abundant use of sculpture carved in the natural rock in long processions of divinities, genii, priests, and male and female worshippers. Besides such processional series, we find two or three subjects in very frequent use, especially in Hittite monuments of Syria. These are the hunting scenes copied from those of Assyria; the scene with two female figures of religious import seated on either side of a sacrificial table; and single figures of gods and goddesses and of priests and worshippers.

ART HISTORY. Hittite art was never wholly original: at the same time it was far more so than the art of the Phoenicians, and showed an ability to assimilate foreign elements. It may even be possible that Assyria reversed matters by borrowing from it something in the arrangement of its palaces. The great similarity makes one original necessary, and this original in its general features was probably the Babylonian palace; though in the text of Sargon’s inscription in which he describes the construction of his great palace, excavated by Place at Khorsabad, it is expressly stated that its entrance was constructed on the plan of a Hittite palace.

At Boghaz-Keui, evidently the capital of Pteria, there is a great sanctuary called Iasili-Kaia, not far from the fortified city, in the form of an open-air temple among the rocks. There is a long corridor-like space for the gathering of the people, connected by a narrow passage with a smaller adyton, to which the priests alone must have had entrance. The faces of the rocks in both open halls are used for sculptures in low relief. In the main hall are two parallel processions occupying the right and left walls and meeting on the short cross-wall at the end. On the left are forty-five figures, all of them men, while the twenty-two figures on the right side, with one exception, are all women. They represent the male and female deities of the Pterians, with their priests and worshippers. Single figures of deities and priests are in the inner sanctuary. The figures are in many cases more slender and graceful than any other works of Hittite art, and in some cases show imaginative and symbolic power.

The mound of Sendjirli, recently excavated by the Germans, is but one of over a hundred artificial circular mounds in Northern Syria, in each of which lies buried a town or city, with its double or triple circuit of fortified walls studded with towers and monumental gates, and with its walled citadel within which are the royal palaces. Three periods of Syrian or Hittite art and history have been here brought to light : (1) The early period before the ninth or eighth century, a time of independence in politics and in art, though even then we trace a correspondence to Assyrian work ; (2) the period of the eighth and part of the ninth century, one of vassalage to Assyria and imitation of Assyrian art by native artists; (3) the seventh century, when the local kinglets were replaced by Assyrian governors and artists either trained in the Assyrian school or themselves Assyrians working in the city. The city of Sendjirli seems to have been destroyed, never to be rebuilt, as early as the sixth century. The sculptures of the gates of both city and citadel belong to the first of these three periods. The citadel gate was decorated with a dado of sculptured slabs containing some forty figures, mostly belonging to one grand royal hunting scene, with lions, bulls, deer, hare, and other wild animals—the continuity of the subject being broken merely by the figures of the protecting genii. The principal decoration of the city gates are pairs of colossal guardian lions, one of which was recarved in order to make it more Assyrian in style. There are many other examples of this style of sculpture in this region of Syria, especially at Carchemish, where the Assyrian influence exercised an especially refining influence upon the native style. More crude, and less dependent on Assyria, is a group of monuments from Marash and Rum Qalah.

EXTANT REMAINS. Only a few Hittite sculptures have been removed to Western museums. A few pieces, especially from Carchemish and Biredjik, have gone to the British Museum. Others, beginning with the Marash lions, have gone to Constantinople. The most important ac-cession to the Berlin Museum has been that of the Sendjirli sculptures. The sites in Syria where the most interesting sculptures have been found are Marash, Hamath, Carchemish, Saktche-gortt, Rum Qalah, and, especially, Sendjirli. In Cappadocia are the rock-cut sculptures of Iasili-Kaia, the lions of Boghaz-Keui, and the reliefs and sphinxes of Euyuk. There are rock-sculptures with Hittite hieroglyphs, or in the Hittite style, scattered over a large part of Asia Minor, especially in the inland provinces : for example, in Phrygia at Giaour-Kalessi, in Lycaonia at Ibreez and Eflatoun-Bounar ; in Lydia at Nymphi, or Karabel, and Mt. Sipylos.