Formen und Inhalte althethitischer historischer Literatur.

Author:Pallavidini, Marta
Position:Book review

Formen und Inhalte althethitischer historischer Literatur. By AMIR GILAN. Texte der Hethiter, vol. 29. Heidelberg: UNIVERSITATSVERLAG WINTER, 2015. Pp. xii + 404. [euro]45 (paper).

  1. Gilan's book here under review deals with one of the most debated topics in the field of Hittitology: historiography. The vibrant debate concerns two major questions: Can Hittite historiography be defined as a genre, and can it be regarded as literature? The answer to the first question has been generally negative. The second question has caused a wider debate, for it is connected to the definition of literature itself. Another fundamental question concerns the relationship between historiography and literature. This very welcome book revives these questions and further problems related to Hittite historiography, which are fundamental for our understanding of Hittite culture.

The book consists of four main parts: an introduction, in which research questions and goals as well as methods are described; a section dedicated to three main concepts--Old Hittite ductus, literature, and historiography; an extensive analysis of the documents (the longest part of the work, chapters 3 to 9), grouped according to the criteria described in the previous section; and a concluding chapter, which summarizes the results of the analysis. A bibliography and indices of texts, as well as of personal and geographic names, close the volume.

The work originates from the recognition that Old Hittite historiography had never been the object of a monograph, while previous approaches have stressed their limitations as functional approaches to the study of Hittite historiography. Gilan's proposes to fill this gap by finding a balance between the evaluation of Hittite written sources and the use of approaches from historical and literary studies.

To achieve this goal, the author first discusses the problems related to the Old Hittite ductus, rejecting--with good reason in my opinion--the idea expressed recently by among others Th. van den Hout (see van den Hout 2009, cited in the book's bibliography) that the oldest Hittite documents that report historic events were written in Akkadian. The author explains the absence of Old Hittite historiographic documents written in Hittite by supposing that they were not inscribed in Hattusa but somewhere else. I find this idea quite convincing, but we must also consider the possibility that the oldest manuscripts were discarded when new copies were...

To continue reading