Narrated with the characteristically soothing lilt of Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, The Hittites is a sprawling and ambitious portrait of a hugely influential empire unknown by many. Exhaustive in scope and excitingly cinematic in its execution, the film breathes vital life into ancient history.
The journey begins over 3,500 years ago in the war-torn regions around what is now known as Turkey. From the blood-drenched struggles for territorial dominance rose the Hittites, a military power renowned for their effectiveness in defeating even the most ardent opponents. They continued to rule over the next 500 years until their eventual fall in 1200 BCE.
For many throughout the world, exposure to the Hittite legacy was limited to their inclusion in sections of the Old Testament. That all changed with one of the most remarkable discoveries in archaeological history. In the early 1900's, excavators uncovered thousands of clay tablets on which contained a series of communications written in the oldest recorded Indo-European language. Researchers quickly decoded this language, and deciphered a detailed military history of the Hittites.
The pearls of wisdom they gleaned from these tablets work to inform the content of the film. The filmmakers provide insights into the Hittite culture, its people, their string of successful battles, and the personalities of its hierarchy. We learn their strategies of combat; the mercy they granted to those who surrendered to their power, and their savage response to those who didn't. We gain knowledge of their rituals and customs, and recognize how certain tenants of their legal system still echo in modern society. The film also spends a generous amount of time in examining how the empire ascended and faltered under the guidance of various military leaders. Collectively, these revelations deepen our appreciation of the period and - in some cases - its connections to the world we live in today.
The Hittites contains polished production values, interviews with noted scholars of the period, and impressive re-enactments of key events, including the infamous Battle of Kadesh led by Pharaoh of Ramesses II and King Muwatalli II. Whether you're an expert in this period of history or a newcomer, the film provides a dense and satisfying understanding of its subject.