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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY

'Arinnas! Istanue! Ishassara mi. Kwit Ta Wekmi. Nat Mu Pai...' Have you ever listened to the sound of cuneiform tablets? The voice of those strange symbols speaking the language of a civilisation that existed thousands of years ago? If you read this sentence aloud you will have spoken in Hittite, and your meaning will be: 'The sun goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of heaven and earth. Grant to me what I ask.' So spoke Queen Puduhepa when she pleaded with the gods that her beloved husband King Hattusili III be allowed to live. Her entreaties that misfortune might not befall her sick husband, and that he might be granted long years, months and days of life were engraved on a clay tablet. Let us listen to more words from the ancient past, this time those of King Telipunu: 'To whichever city you return, treat all the people of that city equally. Whoever pleads their cause, judge them fairly.

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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY

Do not do evil for good and good for evil. Act with justice.' The last words of the edict echo against the walls of the hall: 'If anyone defy the judgment of the king his house will be demolished. If anyone defy one of high rank his head will be cut off!' Then we tremble at the roaring voice of King Suppiluliuma, one of histry'su most ambitious and merciless commanders: 'I raised you up, Hukkana, miserable dog! I behaved well to you! In Hatti by custom no brother should take his sister or his cousin to wife. Whoever in Hatti should do this shall not remain alive, but be condemned to death.' Another king, Mursili, takes us into the streets of cities that are today reduced to dust and rubble. We witness the disaster through his words of grief and remonstrance: 'What is this, O gods, what have you done? You have brought plague upon the land. The land of Hatti is ravaged. My lords it is true that man is sinful. My father too sinned...

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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY
and so the sin of my father has been laid upon me. In the name of my country, at this time of sickness I offer you a gift that will win favour. Gods, will you show me your goodwill one more time?' In his endeavour to find release from the curse, Mursili admits his share of guilt in all sincerity: 'My punishment was the death of my wife. Because Tawananna killed her, in her name my spirit will remain in the dark underworld for the rest of my life. This is an unbearable agony for me.' The entreaties, desires, testaments and life stories of kings and queens; happenings at court, conquests, edicts, international treaties, laws, rituals, ceremonies and legends all paint a vivid picture of the Hittites. The dramatic documentary 'The Hittites' which was released in May this year brings to life the world of a powerful empire which ruled Anatolia for nearly 500 years. Written and directed by Tolga Ornek, one of the most memorable aspects of the documentary is that the characters speak in Hittite.
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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY

This carries history out of the dry pages of books to make us feel, for a brief time, as if the divide of 3000 years had been swept away. For two hours we are immersed in the ancient Hittite world, gleaned from tens of thousands of tablets that the Hittites left behind. Theirs was Anatolia's first centralised state and empire, its territories stretching from the shores of the Aegean to northern Syria and Lebanon. They challenged Egypt and Assyria, the super powers of the time. The Hittites were a warrior people, but at the same time skilled politicians and diplomatists, who drew up the world's first peace treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh, between the Hittites and Egyptians. A copy of this stands today in front of the United Nations building. Pitiless towards those who resisted them, they also sought to protect the weak, creating a sophisticated legal system that defended the rights of slaves, women, the old, and even animals.

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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY

They assimilated different cultures and religions in a multicultural society that recognised a pantheon of a thousand gods and goddesses. Where the Hittites came from remains a mystery. They spoke one of the oldest known Indo-European languages. In the documentary the way that King Hattusili pounced like a lion on the Anatolian principalities in the 1650s BC and subjected them to his authority is vividly portrayed. We see the works of art that they left behind, their artefacts, the Hittite capital of Hattusa and other Anatolian Hittite cities and sanctuaries, such as Yazilikaya, Alacahoyuk, Gavurkale, Fasillar, Karabel and Sapuniva. We travel to Karnak, Luxur, Abu-Simbel and Aswan in Egypt, where temples bear carved portrayals of the Battle of Kadesh. The camera shows us scenes from peace as well as war: reliefs depicting the marriage ceremony between the daughter of Hattusili III and Ramses at Abu-Simbel. Tolga Ornek, who spent two years making the film, says that when he first read about the Hittites he was astounded by the wealth of their culture and history,

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Children of the Empire of the Sun The Hittites
2003 / JULY
and even more astonished that no major documentary had ever been made about them. What influenced him most, he explains, was their unbiased recording of history: 'Even if the texts are full of elements relating to the kingdm'sg ideology, they endeavour to give an objective account so that future generations can learn from history. They record their mistakes and adversities without hesitation.' Ornek also stresses that despite such a wealth of written documentation, there is still much that is unknown about the Hittites. 'We do not know, for example, how their buildings were furnished or illuminated, and in recreating scenes for the film this was one of our greatest difficulties.' The world premiere of 'The Hittites' was shown in Los Angeles in April, and the film is going to Japan in August as part of the Turkish Year programme of events, and will be shown at cinemas in Australia.

* Nermin Baycin is an archaeologist
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