Tenth Annual Leon Levy Lecture: A People Without a Name or, Who Were the Hittites?

Theo van den Hout

University of Chicago

The Leon Levy Lecture is supported by the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and the Leon Levy Foundation.


Whereas the civilizations of the Assyrians and Babylonians in Mesopotamia and that of Egypt never faded from memory, knowledge of the Hittites was almost fully erased after the collapse of their kingdom around 1200 BC. In the now one-hundred-year-old resurrection of Hittite culture and society that followed the decipherment of the Hittite language in 1915, they were largely cast in the image of Mesopotamian civilization, especially where Hittite sources remain less eloquent or even silent. But is this always justified? Are we at liberty to assume entire text genres and social systems just because others had them? What would Hittite society look like without them? This lecture will address these questions and explore some of the definitions of the term "Hittite."

Theo van den Hout (PhD, University of Amsterdam 1989) is the Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Western Civilization and of Hittite and Anatolian Languages at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and chief-editor of the Chicago Hittite Dictionary (CHD). He is the author of several books, most recently The Elements of Hittite (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), and many articles. He is a corresponding member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 2016 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.

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