Hittite military oath

The Hittite Military Oath (CTH 427) is a Hittite text inscribed on two cuneiform tablets. The first tablet was preserved only as fragments (KBo XXI 10, KUB XL 13, and other minor fragments), the second tablet was copied in triplicate, and was able to be restored almost completely. The oldest copy (KUB XL 13) is fragmentary, but two more recent copies (KUB XL 16, KBo VI, 34) are well preserved. The text is in Old-Hittite, and contains some transcription errors committed by later scribes, and represents the oath pronounced by the military leaders. More precisely, he describes a series of symbolic acts whose purpose is to represent the afflictions that were to fall on those who take the oath, if they failed in their word.

On one occasion, for example, women’s clothes, a brooch and an arrow are presented to those who take an oath of allegiance. The arrow is broken, and they are warned that if they break their oath, their weapons will also be broken, and they will become women who are entrusted with the tasks of women. Then, a blind and deaf woman is brought before them, and they are told that if they break their word, they will be blind and deaf women like this one. Then, a figurine representing a person suffering from ascites is presented to them, and they are told that if they miss their word, their bellies will be swollen with water, and the deities of the oath will eat their offspring (in the form of seed). in their bellies. The deities of the oath are invoked several times in the Akkado-Sumerian language with the formula NIŠ DINGIR (meaning in Hittite lengai-), and are identified with the goddess of the Ishara treatises, and the god of the moon. These symbolic acts, these swear words of acceptance, mean: “so be it.” The swearing of the oath with a threat of punishment, presented as a curse, in case of breach of promise is typical of all ancient cultures. There is another more recent text (CTH 428) with similar content, called ‘Second Military Oath’. It is more fragmentary, and its main difference from the previous one is that the oath-lenders are promised well-being in case they keep their word, at the same time they are threatened with death if they break it. Compared with the earlier oath, the most recent text indicates that the Hittite pantheon was increasingly influenced by the Hurrian gods.

* Oettinger, Die militärischen Eide der Hethiter, Mainz, Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur (collection “Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten”,), 1976. Allegeance Category: Civilization Category: Hittite Culture Category: Anatolian Language

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