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The Hittites (2003)

Review; Sep. 10, 2012; Channels: Movies; By Charles Rector
This thoroughly educational film is based firmly in history


You might be wondering what that is. What is a Hittite?

Most folks don't know. This goes for college educated people, too. This is due to the fact that the U.S. educational system, including private schools, have done a poor job of educating people about the Ancient Near East (ANE). Most institutions of higher education don't even have courses relating to the ANE, and if they do, it's usually classes called "Ancient Greece and the Near East" in which the focus is on the Greeks, and the ANE gets short shrift.

Who, then, were the Hittites? The Hittites were an Indo-European people who entered Asia Minor, aka Anatolia, sometime around 2000 B.C. By 1600 BC, they had established a kingdom in an area that was called "Hatti." For the next 400 years, the Hittite Empire was one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, realms in the ANE. It was a leading force in the arts of war and diplomacy. The Hittites sacked Babylon, ending the dynasty of Hammurabi and defeated the Egyptian king Ramses II at the Battle of Kadesh.

There is also evidence that there really was a Trojan War. It involved a Hittite vassal state called Wilusa, whose capital was known as Wilios. There is a variant Greek spelling of Troy that is Ilios. The Trojan prince Paris from T" by Homer is also known by the Greek name of Alexander. One of the princes of the Hittite vassal state of Wilusa went by the Asian name of Alakshandu.

Given all of this, one might wonder just why the Hittites are so obscure today while other ancient civilizations from the same time period -- such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians -- are so well known. One reason is that the Hittite realm was overrun by barbarians known as the Sea Peoples sometime after 1200 BC. Because the Hittites -- unlike the Assyrians, Babylonians or Egyptians -- never made a resurgence, they were forgotten other than some references in the Old Testament. By the time Homer wrote The Iliad, a few centuries after the events that he portrayed took place, the Greeks had forgotten all about the Hittites. Additionally, almost all of the archeological work done in the Hittite world was done by non-English speakers; thus, the great majority of published work about the Hittites was not in English.

Now that we are done with the history of the Hittites, what about the film itself?

The producers made expert use of digital technology, doing recordings on location in the Near East. The production took two years to complete. A number of experts, including several archaeologists, were interviewed. A great many actors were used in historical reenactments. All of this is very well done. 

The Hittites is an excellent educational documentary about a mostly forgotten civilization. While its 2 hours running time makes it awkward for classroom use, it is acceptable for home viewing. This is a documentary that is well worth the wait from Netflix or any of the few video stores that are likely to carry such a unique DVD.


Review Score

Not Rated by MPAA

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