A challenge: Piyama-Aradu & Arzawa

The Hittites had a series of disputes with another neighbouring area: Arzawa. We have a good idea of where it was, lodged between the Hittite Kingdom itself and Millawanda. It wasn’t without history either; it had even been considered by Egypt to have a ‘Great King’ at one point. Between the Hittites and Ahhiyawa was a mass of other Anatolian speaking states. Luwian (like Hittite – which is rather a misnomer) was part of the earliest branching-off from the Indo-European language and they might be more cousins than brothers of other Indo-European languages as the grammar is rather simpler – in particular nouns are defined as animate or inanimate and there is no grammatical feminine (although the presence of laringeal consonants have probably interested linguists more). Luwian’s roots seem to be from the south of the Hittite speaking area but it was widely used in Anatolia – including by the Hittites themselves.

Arzawa’s predecessor was called Assuwa – possibly the original route of ‘Asia’ which, of course, only applied to Asia Minor. It was a confederation of 22 states which was formed sometime before 1400, when it was defeated by Tudhaliya I. Assuwa may or may not have been contiguous, seemingly with a focus on North West Anatolia. Most states are now awkward to identify. ‘Wilusiya’ and ‘Taruwisa’ (note they are separate) are amongst the 22. It would seem that most – if not all – of these states had some form of Luwian as lingua franca. Those that did not seem to have focused on defining their own identity as separate from Assuwa – in particular, Lukka (Lycia) and Karkiya (Caria). That is probably because, although Arzawa wa clearly the successor state, its geographical centre seems to have been further south than that of Assuwa.

Wilusa, Ahhiyawa and Assuwa in the fifteenth century

Emil Forrer’s paper in 1924 first identified Ahhiyawa / Ahhiya as Achaea. The first mention is in the reign of Arnuwanda I. [Note here that there is often a ‘sh‘ sound after these final ‘a‘s.] Unfortunately, the list of kings around this time is messy: he could have lived in the fifteenth century or just into the fourteenth century BC. But let us try to stick to a broadly consistent chronology!

The tablet story concerns the indictment of Madduwatta. Madduwatta had been driven out of his lands and sought refuge at the Hittite court. The culprit was one, Attarissiya of Ahhiya (sic). The writer’s father (possibly Tudhaliya I – although this is complicated, so we might be back around 1450 BC) gave Madduwatta the land of Zippasla in the mountains. The Ahhiyawa came for him again and the Hittites sent in an army.

However, Madduwatta was a bit of a fair weather friend and was clearly independently-minded. And he saw an opportunity to launch an attack on Cyprus with none other than Attarissiya as ally.

There is something interesting here because this name is a rendering of the Greek, Atreus. Atreus is supposed to be mythological! Perhaps we should only consider the first part of this family tree to be fanciful? After all, many far later Anglo-Saxon kings claimed to be descended from Woden. So, discounting Tantalos and Pelops (a potential link between Sparta and Anatolia), are Atreus and Agamemnon real kings of Mycenae? This Atreus would be too early by a century or so to be Agamemnon’s father / grandfather (see later) but he could be ‘Atreus I’ of the House of Atreus?

Wilusa and Arzawa in the fourteenth century

It would seem that as at 1400 Wilusa was still part of the Assuwa federation. It was around this point that it suffered a devastating earthquake. This was followed by the rebuilding of the city as Troy VIh.

For the best part of a century the main Hittite focus was to the south and east – particularly the Hurrian state of Mitanni. And for most of the middle part of this century Wilusa appears to have been independent of both the Hittites and Arzawa. It is worth noting here that we do not enough about languages in this area to say whether Arzawa and Assuwa are cognate across two Anatolian speech areas – and Luwian was spoken across a wide portion of Anatolia – including core Hittite areas.

Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2011, pages: 32-33, ISBN 1405391057, 9781405391054. Topography taken from DEMIS Mapserver, which are public domain, other wise self-made.
Author: Alexikoua

But there was a change of Hatti (Hatti = Hittite) strategy around 1320 and this marks an end to the toleration of things going on to the west of formal Hittite territory. From now on Western Anatolia had to be controlled, kept in order.

Uhhaziti, the last king of an independent Arzawa, was defeated by Mursili II around that year and key Western Anatolian puppet states were established by the Hatti (Hatti = Hittite).  The Hittite kings of the period in which Arzawa had become a ground for skirmishes are shown in the table below, together with their Egyptian counterparts as this helps secure the dating. It also gives this some context in the light of the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Galleries at the same time as the British Museum Troy exhibition in London.

This Hittite strategy continued in 1318 when Mursili II sacked Millawanda and captured the Mira capital, Ephesus (then known as Abasa). The Haballa interior may also have fallen under vassal state control. Whilst still independent, another earthquake probably hit Wilusa around 1300. Troy VIIa may be seen as a Late Bronze Age continuation of Troy VIh.

Table: Kings of Hatti and of Egypt between 1350 BC and 1200 BC

Hittite King Start End   Pharaoh Start End
Suppiluliuma I 1350 1322   Akhenaten 1351 1334
Arnuwanda II 1322 1321   Tutankhamun 1332 1323
Mursili II 1321 1295   Horemheb 1319 1292
Muwatali I 1295 1267   Ramesses I 1292 1290
Hatusili III 1267 1237   Seti I 1290 1279
Tudhaliya IV 1237 1209   Ramesses II 1279 1213

Note here that the eighteenth dynasty pharaohs do not form a complete series here – they are included as a guide only.

Wilusa, Ahhiyawa and Arzawa in the thirteenth century

It is clear that in the thirteenth century, the Hittites had to throw massive resources at defending the Empire. This seems to have been especially the case over Hattusili III and Tudhaliya IV’s reigns (i.e. between about 1267 and 1209). They were continually attacked from the north by the Kaska, in constant dispute with the great empires of Egypt and emergent Assyria and, at much the same time, Arzawa was able to ally itself with a load of dissidents, perhaps former princes of lands in ‘Greater Arzawa’ which the Hittites had converted to vassal states. Added to this was the increasing interest of the Mycenaeans in Western Anatolia.

The thirteenth century probably sees the transition from booty raids to greater aspirations in the region. By about 1230 it is clear that there is deliberate destabilisation. Why was this?

Of course, there could be many economic drivers, but it is worth considering the mythic associations between Achaea and Anatolia,. These myths suggest that Argos, Tiryns and Mycenae had dynasties which originated in Anatolia – in which case they were defending some sort of Ur-Heimat. I am wondering whether the fact that the new strontium evidence points to Mycenaean kings not having grown up locally is reflected in this?

Sorting out the sequence of events here presents multiple difficulties, even without competing chronologies for dating. Piyama-Aradu (I have used this spelling as names beginning in R were supposedly unknown in the original Luwian) seems to have been operating across the period in the table for at least 35 years. In Hatusili’s reign he allied himself to the ‘Great King’ of Ahhiyawa.

We don’t know if Piyama-Aradu was a former king – probably not; he is described only by the Hittite establishment as ‘man of Arzawa‘.

1290s through to 1272

Mira – the state broadly around Ephesus – then became the target of Piyama-Aradu. The adventurer appears to have had some support from Tawagawala, the brother of the king of Ahhiyawa. We have to ask ourselves here whether Ahhiyawa is Mycenaean Achaea in entirety or just a part of it? I remain not entirely convinced that the man being referred to here is Etewokleweios, better known in its classical form Eteocles – or, more specifically  Ἐτεοκλῆς , the King of Thebes. But then all sorts of supposed ‘myths’ are now showing themselves to be based on an historical reality with its feet in Western Anatolia. We can broadly date this action against Mira (or, rather, against its puppet ruler, more likely) to the 1290s or perhaps the 1280s, at least according to the consistent chronology.

In 1274 was one of the greatest clashes of the ancient world, resulting in the first surviving peace treaty (copied in the UN HQ entrance hall): the Battle of Kadesh.

Ramesses II at the Battle of Kadesh

Ramesses II of Egypt, the great builder, is pretty much a household name even today. In contrast, neither Muwatali I or Hatusili III is exactly on anyone’s tongue. The largest chariot battle was very probably a complete stalemate despite the claims of both sides of victory. Amongst Muwatali’s allies is one Piyama-Inara of Wilusa. Piyama meant ‘gift’ and Uhhaziti also gave a similar name to his son, Piyama-Kurunta – an ally of the King of Ahhiyawa. But Piyama-Inara is especially interesting. Inara (pronounced Inarash) is probably Artemis, goddess of the hunt (Kurunta has a similar function – duplication of deities was very common amongst the Hittites), and Apollo’s sister and she had close links to the city of Sparta.

It may be that whilst Hatti was engaged elsewhere, the Western Front took full advantage of the situation. For Pirama-Aradu now targetted Wilusa. It is not obvious whether he had Achaean support. Muwatalli II at first ordered the King of the ‘Seha River Lands’ (the area between the Troad and Mira which included Lezpa (Lesbos) – and another vassal state established in 1320) to support Wilusa, but when he was defeated by Piyama-Aradu, the Hittites intervened directly. Light-touch control had failed in this case. Wilusa itself now became a vassal of the Hittites, decreed by treaty in typical Hatti fashion.

Muwatali was still king at the time of this Alaksandu (named after Wilusa’s king at the time) treaty. This was probably in the 1270s and almost certainly by or before 1272. Effectively a small part of North West Anatolia has been taken inside semi-direct control from Hatusa.

In the Arzawa area there are five kings mentioned in the Alaksandu Treaty:

  • Alaksandu of Wilusa
  • Manapa-Inara of Arzawa itself (possibly a puppet but far from all puppets remained loyal to Hatusa)
  • Kupunda-Inara of Mira (and Kuwaliya)
  • Manapa-Tarhunda of the Seha River Lands, the younger son of Wuwa-Walwis, made king by Arnuwanda but who had sided with Uhhaziti – reinstated
  • Ura-hahwa of Hapulla

For me there is a problem here because if all three of the main areas of Arzawa had kings, what is the need for an extra one as King of Arzawa?

By the end of Hatusili’s reign we are looking back at ‘the matter of Wilusa’ and possibly more peaceful relations between Ahhiyawa and the Hittites. We know this because it is mentioned in the dispute over Miletus / Millawanda. That would put the Trojan War sometime between 1295 (probably after 1272) and 1237 BC. But this also raises the possibility that there was more than one war and Homer has simply merged them all together as one 10 year event weaved around the Helen story?

Another letter from the King of the Seha River Land indicates that Piyama-Aradu invaded Lezpa (Lesbos) and another document seemingly from the same period (although very damaged) indicates that the King of Ahhiyawa was present in Western Anatolia.

Castleden (2005) mentions the tablet KUB XXIII 13 [German tablet reference] dating from the time of Tudhaliya IV – although he is using a slightly different chronology. The document refers to the transgressions of Tarhuna-Aradu, who was King of the Seha River Land. This would probably be around 1230 on our chronology. So, there were tensions between local kings and Hattusa at around the time the Trojan War might have taken place. Furthermore, the document is clear that the King of Seha relied on the ‘King of Ahhiyawa’.

Tudhaliya IV also lists the Great Kings in communication with the King of Amurru. Only four kings are seen of equal rank to the Hittite one – and one of them is the King of Ahhiyawa.

There is an added complication in that we have the name of a King of Wilusa living in the thirteenth century who seems to have been deposed at some point: Walmu. Walmu was clearly Tudhaliya IV’s vassal and, therefore, we are almost certainly looking at the 1230’s – shortly before Priam? Is this one of the sparks which lights the Trojan War? And what is going on in the neighbouring Seha River Land that Walmu appear to be trapped there? Unfortunately, at present, there are no textual answers.

It is tempting to jump to conclusions: Priamos / Πρίαμος (Priam) might be a Hellenisation of Piyama. We are really pushing it by going back to Book 3 of Iliad at this point, but Priam states that he once helped King Mygdos of Phrygia in the war against the Amazons. Some joining the dots is necessary because the Phrygians were supposed to dwell in the Balkans and moved to Anatolia during the vacuum of the Bronze Age collapse. But we don’t know that is the case. Dragging the Amazons back from legend is hard too: the Black Sea coast, Libya, the steppes. But there was a state called Mysia, broadly in the area of Phrygia……..

Homer tells us that from Aulis, the Achaean force travelled by way of Scyros – which it sacked – and then Lemnos. From thence they took a wrong turn and, landing in Mysia, they went to war with King Telephus. Troy had plenty of time to prepare – as long as it was in a state of peace at the time. But why does nobody ask the question: how did they get to Mysia? Mysia would have been beyond Wilusa – unless they came overland, they would have sailed right past Troy! Or is Troy not really the city that we think it is? Is the reference to Mysia what Homer might have thought of as Phrygia?

Wilusa seems ready though. Alliances were absolutely typical of Anatolian military politics. Here is what Homer tells us regarding the coalition of interests the Trojans had put together:

  • Trojans / Dardanians
  • Other Troads: Abydos, Arisbe & Zeleia
  • Mysia & Phrygia (This is inconsistent as the King of Mysia has just pointed them in the direction of Troy but it also assists with the psychological linking of Mysia and Phrygia.)
  • Paphlagonia – facing the Black Sea (with their king Pylaemenes – who is claimed to be related to Priam – note that there is also a possibility of the Piyama- connection here?)
  • Maeonia (possibly modern Manisa)
  • Caria
  • Lycia
  • ‘Halizones’ (Hittites? – I am somewhat less convinced about this identification.)
  • Possibly some Thracian element

We need to come back to the issue about Atreus and Agamemnon. If, Atreus I is too far back in history, then there may be an Atreus II and he could be in line with Hesiod. And is there one between the two of them as Hesiod claimed: Pleisthenes? Castleden suggests the following speculative chronology:

  • Atreus (1278 – 1260)
  • Pleisthenes (1260 – 1240)
  • Agamemnon (1240 – 1220)

Again all these might be slightly out with our short chronology but nothing like the difficulties presented by the dendrochronological record!

Broad decade Hatti Arzawa Ahhiyawa Wilusa Regional context
1440 Arnuwanda I Kupanta-Kurunda Atreus I (My)    
1420 Hattusili II        
1400 Tudhaliya III        
1380 Suppiluliuma I        
1340   Uhhaziti     Akhenaten’s Aten
1320 Mursili II       Tutankhamun
1300 Muwatali Piyama- Aradu (?) Eteocles (Th) Alaksandu  
1280 Musili III   Atreus II (My) Piyama- Inara Kadesh
1260 Hattusili III   Pleisthenes (My) Manapa-Inara  
1240 Tudhaliya IV   Agamemnon (My) Walmu (deposed)
Piyama- ?
1220 Arnuwanda III        
1200 Suppiluliuma II        

Mycenae’s fall

If we have our chronologies broadly right, then barely two generations after the Achaeans sacked Troy, Mycenae fell too. How is still shrouded in mystery.

For a long time, all of this was simply blamed on the ‘Sea Peoples’. But large and desperate movements of people are usually the symptom of a cause and not the cause itself. More recently, it has become fashionable to talk about climate change and a dry period. Others mention more volcanic eruptions. The truth is… we don’t know. Perhaps specialisation and over-reliance of particular source markets, interacted with a period of regional political stability. Suddenly tin was in short supply and you needed it for bronze? Perhaps people just got fed up with this very polarised society lording it over them?

But collapse it did and very suddenly. The Hittites may have seen the Achaeans as mortal enemies but they were both mortal – and by 1170 they had both gone.

For the next 500 years the ‘Age of Heroes’ has to be carried by an oral bardic tradition. Why? Because the ability to write also disappears at this point in the Eastern Mediterranean.

BBC documentary on the Hittites

The Year that Civilisation Collapsed?

Eric Cline



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