10. The Hittites and the City of Hattusha

The Hittites and the City of Hattusha
This week I have noticed the Hittites and their capital city of Hattusha. Over 3,000 years ago a mysterious and ruthless civilization rose from nothing, created a brutal and unstoppable army and built an empire that rivalled Egypt and Babylon. But, just as it was at the height of its powers, the great empire suddenly vanished from history.

The city was built in inaccessible mountainous region far away from trade routes, the sea, or fresh water. The city was built to withstand any external force that might threaten it. Huge ramparts were built with regular towers filled with the equivalent of re-enforced concrete. Water was engineered into the city through complex irrigation systems, and a network of tunnels was built to allow free passage of people and supplies into the city. The culture was based on strict laws ruling behaviours and dominating the lifestyles of the inhabitants. In short a brutal controlling regime which rigidly educated its people to uphold the nation state and its empire.

Ironically the end of the Hittites was a civil war: the enemy within. The city of Hattusha could withstand any external force, yet it was defenseless against the people choosing sides, and fighting one another. In the end the city could not be sustained: so they gathered up their wealth setting fire to the significant buildings behind them, and disappeared.

Perhaps people are like this. If we exert a rigid self- control over ourselves we in the end encourage our own civil war. The person who we want to be and present to the world is perhaps not the person we are. What do we do with this discrepancy? At first we try and control ourselves. There are many ways of doing this. Exerting a rigid code of conduct on our behaviour, is one way. Covering up our ‘bad’ behaviour with sex, drugs, and alcohol is another. Self-control is widely approved of in the 21st century to be the key to a work ethic, to earn money, to live life to the full, to travel to far off places before we die, to avoid ourselves, to look the other way.

Distraction is the key: as long as we are distracted we can kid ourselves that we are behaving in the way that we want to, and find acceptable.
The problem is that this costs lots of energy. We become fatigued, depressed, lose interest in once what fascinated us. With luck we enter a crisis. The luck is that we can no longer carry on how we wish we were, but give into accept and embrace ourselves.

This process is slow and painful, and sometimes cannot be achieved in one go. Some philosophies would argue this is the work of a life. Knowing and being at ease with ourselves is the key to a healthy, balanced life.
The Hittites and the City of Hattusha



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