District of Temples in Hattusa

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 40.007900, 34.618401
District of Temples in Hattusa
District of Temples in Hattusa

Description: 

The highest point in Hattusa - that is the artificial embankment of Yerkapı - is an excellent vantage point of the Upper Town of Hattusa (tr. Yukarı Şehir). On the left side, you can see the fortifications of the city, ascending from the Lion Gate to Yerkapı, and stretching further to the east, to the King's Gate. Yerkapı embankment stands in the middle of the arc demarcated by the city walls.

Almost all foundations of buildings visible from this point belong to the Hittite temples. They were erected on wooden frames and filled with sun-dried bricks that stood on a stone foundation. The roofs were flat. This technology is characteristic of the Hittite architecture.

Despite the apparent differences, all the temples were built on one basic plan. They consisted of an open central courtyard, from which the way led through the corridor into the chamber of religious worship. A statue of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated stood in this room. The statues were made entirely of metal or from a combination of metal and wood. Interestingly, archaeologists have failed to find a single one of them. Their existence is attested by Hittite records. Other rooms of the temples served as warehouses and housing for priests.

In total, 28 temples have been discovered in Hattusa so far. It is not surprising as the capital of the Hittites was once called 'the City of a Thousand Gods,' and each deity demanded its center of worship. The Hittites apparently feared the deities worshiped in the countries that they had conquered. Therefore, they adopted these foreign gods into the Hittite pantheon. Moreover, each Hittite city had its protective god.

The temples in Hattusa were erected from the 13th century BCE. Their sizes range from 400 to 1,500 square meters. The archaeologists gave them numbers for easier identification. For example, the temples located to the north of Yerkapı have numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5. Some of them are two-storey. The courtyard of the Temple No. 3 was decorated with statues of lions, which are now exhibited at the Museum in Boğazköy.

The most impressive of the temples in the Upper Town is marked with the number 5. It is distinguished by the size and the layout - different from other temples. Its dimensions are 60 to 60 meters, almost the size of the Grand Temple, which also has the similar plan and the layout of the inner sanctuary. Temple No. 5 was built on the plan of a double temple as it was dedicated to two deities.

Near the ruins of the Temple No. 5, the remains of the buildings were discovered. It is believed that Hittite kings rested there during religious ceremonies. A particularly exciting discovery from these buildings is a relief depicting King Tudhaliya. It shows the ruler holding a spear in his right hand, dressed in a short tunic and a helmet with horns. The presence of horns means that the ruler died and became a god. Currently, this relief is a part of the exhibition at the Museum of Çorum.

After the Hittite Empire had collapsed, houses and workshops were built in the District of Temples. For instance, there are ruins from the Byzantine period, including a small church.

Getting there: 

The paved road leading through the area of Hattusa forks off about 300 meters after the stopover at the Lower Town. The main sightseeing route leads along the right branch of the road, in the direction of the Lion Gate. The stopover at the Sphinx Gate and Yerkapı is the third one on this route, after the Grand Temple and the Lion Gate.

Bibliography: 

Kılıçkaya, Ali, Yazıcı, Erdal, Yazıcı, Nurhayat, Anatolia: on the trail of the Hittite civilization

Image gallery: 

District of Temples in Hattusa
District of Temples in Hattusa