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Range of the Luwians

The Luwians /ˈlwiənz/ were a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Asia Minor as well as the northern part of western Levant in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian sub-family, which was written in cuneiform imported from Mesopotamia, and a unique native hieroglyphic script, which was sometimes used by the linguistically related Hittites also.



The origin of the Luwians can only be assumed. A wide variety of suggestions exist, even today, which are connected to the debate over the original homeland of the Indo-European speakers. Suggestions for the Indo-European homeland include the Balkans, the Lower Volga and Central Asia.[citation needed] However, little can be proven about the route that led the ancestors of the Luwians to Anatolia. It is also unclear whether the separation of the Luwians from the Hittites and the Palaic speakers occurred in Anatolia or earlier.

It is possible that the Demircihüyük culture (c.3500–2500 BC) is connected with the arrival of Indo-Europeans in Anatolia, since Proto-Anatolian must have split off around 3000 BC at the latest on linguistic grounds.[1]

Middle Bronze Age[edit]

Certain evidence of the Luwians begins around 2000 BC, with the presence of personal names and loan words in Old Assyrian Empire documents from the Assyrian colony of Kültepe, dating from between 1950 and 1700 BC (Middle Chronology), which shows that Luwian and Hittite were already two distinct languages at this point.

According to most scholars,[who?] the Hittites were then settled in upper Kızılırmak and had their economic and political centre at Neša (Kaneš), from which the Hittite language gained its native name, nešili. The Luwians most likely lived in southern and western Anatolia, perhaps with a political centre at Purushanda. The Assyrian colonists and traders who were present in Anatolia at this time refer to the local people as nuwaʿum without any differentiation. This term seems to derive from the name of the Luwians, with the change from l/n resulting from the mediation of Hurrian.

Hittite period[edit]

The Old Hittite laws from the 17th century BC contain cases relating to the then independent regions of Palā and Luwiya. Traders and displaced people seem to have moved from one country to the other on the basis of agreements between Ḫattusa and Luwiya.[2] It has been argued that the Luwians never formed a single unified Luwian state, but populated a number of polities where they mixed with other population groups.[citation needed] However, a minority opinion holds that in the end they did form a unified force, and brought about the end of Bronze Age civilization by attacking the Hittites and then other areas as the Sea People.[citation needed]

During the Hittite period, the kingdoms of Šeḫa [de] and Arzawa developed in the west, focused in the Maeander valley. In the south was the state of Kizzuwatna, which was inhabited by a mixture of Hurrians and Luwians. The kingdom of Tarḫuntašša developed during the Hittite New Kingdom, in southern Anatolia. The kingdom of Wilusa was located in northwest Anatolia on the site of Troy. Whether any of these kingdoms represented a Luwian state cannot be clearly determined based on current evidence and is a matter of controversy in contemporary scholarship.


Kizzuwatna was the Hittite and Luwian name for ancient Cilicia. The area was conquered by the Hittites in the 16th century BC. Around 1500, the area broke off and became the kingdom of Kizzuwatna, whose ruler used the title of "Great King", like the Hittite ruler. The Hittite king Telipinu had to conclude a treaty with King Išputaḫšu, which was renewed by his successors. Under King Pilliya, Kizzuwatna became a vassal of the Mitanni. Around 1420, King Šunaššura of Mitanni renounced control of Kizzuwatna and concluded an alliance with the Hittite king Tudḫaliya I. Soon after this, the area seems to have been incorporated into the Hittite empire and remained so until its collapse around 1190 BC at the hands of Assyria and Phrygia.[citation needed]


Šeḫa was in the area of ancient Lydia. It is first attested in the fourteenth century BC, when the Hittite king Tudḫaliya I campaigned against Wilusa. After the conquest of Arzawa by Muršili II, Šeḫa was a vassal of the Hittite realm and suffered raids from the Arzawan prince Piyamaradu, who attacked the island of Lazpa which belonged to Šeḫa.[citation needed]


Arzawa is already attested in the time of the Hittite Old Kingdom, but lay outside the Hittite realm at that time. The first hostile interaction occurred under King Tudḫaliya I or Tudḫaliya II. The invasion of the Hittite realm by the Kaskians led to the decline of Hittite power and the expansion of Arzawa, whose king Tarḫuntaradu was asked by Pharaoh Amenhotep III to send one of his daughters to him as a wife. After a long period of warfare, the Arzawan capital of Apaša (Ephesus) was surrendered by King Uḫḫaziti to the Hittites under King Muršili II. Arzawa was split into two vassal states: Mira [de] and Ḫapalla.

Iron Age[edit]

After the collapse of the Hittite realm c. 1190 BC, several small principalities developed in northern Syria and southwestern Anatolia. In south-central Anatolia was Tabal which probably consisted of several small city-states, in Cilicia there was Quwê, in northern Syria was Gurgum, on the Euphrates there were Melid, Kummuh, Carchemish and (east of the river) Masuwara, while on the Orontes River there were Unqi-Pattin and Hamath. The princes and traders of these kingdoms used Hieroglyphic Luwian in inscriptions, the latest of which date to the 8th century BC. The Karatepe Bilingual inscription of prince Azatiwada is particularly important.

These states were largely destroyed and incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) during the 9th century BC.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ H. Craig Melchert: The Luwians. Brill 2003, ISBN 90-04-13009-8, S. 23–26.
  2. ^ H. Craig Melchert: The Luwians. Brill 2003, ISBN 90-04-13009-8, pp. 28 f.
  3. ^ George Roux – Ancient Iraq


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