The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History. By TREVOR BRYCE. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xiii + 356, illus. $135.
After the collapse of the Late Bronze Age Hittite kingdom in the early twelfth century B.C., a number of smaller kingdoms formed in its former territories in southeastern Anatolia and northern Syria that carried on the royal Hittite traditions of architectural sculpture and monumental inscriptions written in Hieroglyphic Luwian. These Iron Age states of the twelfth to eighth centuries B.C. are conventionally known as the Neo-Hittite kingdoms. Though their native monuments have been known to scholars since the nineteenth century, the political history of these kingdoms was until the last few decades available only from the scattered references in the records of their conquerors the Assyrians, due to the obscurity of the Luwian script and language. It is a testament to the pioneering work on the decipherment of Luwian and publication of the ever-growing number of known inscriptions by J. David Hawkins and other scholars since the mid-twentieth century that a book such as that reviewed here can now be written, as fragmentary as our understanding of these kingdoms may still be.
This book is the third in Bryce's successful series of monographs on the Hittite world, following The Kingdom of the Hittites (1998; 2nd ed. 2005) and Life and Society in the Hittite World (2002). In this book Neo-Hittite history receives its first monographic treatment in English, making it accessible to a much wider audience than ever before. It is aimed primarily at students and interested lay people, with several chapters devoted to the historical context of these kingdoms amongst the other polities and cultures with which they interacted. As always, Bryce is an engaging writer, and the book is easy and pleasant to read, making even familiar material fresh again.
Following an introduction that lays out the scope and aims of the book, part I contains four chapters of introductory material. Chapter 1, "The End of an Era," begins with an evocative imagined description of the final abandonment of Hattusa by the last Hittite king Suppiluliuma II (pp. 9-11). Bryce proceeds with a useful discussion of the fairly recent discovery that in the Hittite New Kingdom the establishment of cadet lines of the Hittite royal family to rule newly conquered territories, in combination with dynastic conflict, had sown the seeds for...