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Hittites: Religion, Women, and Temple Prostitutes

Alexis Happy
History 134
20 March 2016

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The Hittites became a very distinctive civilization during its existence. Hittites set
themselves apart from other civilizations through their ideology. Such ideology included
religion and the role of women in their society. Prostitution became a common activity
throughout temples as well for both reproductive and religious purposes. Hittites were able to
create their own unique civilization with many unique practices. Unlike other civilizations,
women were looked at highly. This made the Hittites a very distinct group of people for its time,
since women were mostly looked at as property of their male superiors. Little did the Hittites
know, their culture that held the views of women during their everyday life, as well as in
religion, would be shared with the world thousands of years after their existence from ancient
The role of women in the Hittites civilization was a major responsibility. A major role of
women in their society was child rearing. Unlike many societies that only male births were
valued, both male and female births were highly welcomed. It was said that, give her the
goods of a female child and let a male be born a year forth If a male child had been born, this
incantation was recited in the reverse."1 It was a very important part of a womans duty to
reproduce since most of the population was diminishing due to diseases. Hittite women needed
to have large families in order to repopulate the civilization. Another major duty of the women
in the Hittites civilization was to be a good wife. Once a woman reached puberty, they were
looked at for marriage. Marriage was both arranged and de-facto, unlike other civilizations that
only counted arranged marriages as valid. Once married, it was not uncommon for a woman to
never leave her home. The woman had a choice whether to live with her new husband or to stay
at her current household. If the woman chose to live with her new husband, she was then
considered not a member of her old family any longer. One unique characteristic of calling off

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the marriage is that even though the woman was considered the mans possession, the woman
actually had the power to ask for a divorce. The woman had just as much right to ask for one as
the man did.2 In addition to having to be a good wife, women had to take care of the household.
This included taking care of the children, household chores, and small gardening tasks. Women
were not permitted to eat at the same dining table as men. Women were an essential part of the
household and community. Without women, since men were gone most of the time for military
purposes, there would have likely been a major event of decline in the Hittites civilization,
which would have caused them to not last as long, as a civilization, compared to others
throughout ancient history.
Some women were portrayed as superior beings in the Hittites religion. There was both
a priest and a priestess in the Hittites religion. The priest and priestess were portrayed as having
the same amount of power. There was a Mother Goddess that contributed to good crop harvests
and maintaining healthy livestock.3 This was a major advancement, compared to other
civilizations, since women were playing higher roles than men, in some instances. Having
women play a major part of the Hittites religion allowed their women to become more involved
throughout the entire civilization itself. Three main components of the religion of the Hittites
civilization was the Word of God, the testimony of Philo of Byblos and the Ras Shamra.4 Part of
the Hittites religion included the sacrificing of their own children to their god. Their highest god
was Hepat.5 It was very unusual for a civilization to have female superior beings at that time.
The religion was based on trying to get people to embrace the Hittites culture as their own, and
to prevent people from disobeying the rulers laws.
Sex was viewed as a way to help identify themselves as Hittites. There were rituals done
by Wise Women that involved sexual acts upon a mans request. These Wise Women were

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very eager to help these men, so it was consensual on both sides. Temple prostitution was also a
common practice among normal, everyday women of the Hittites civilization. Temple
prostitution is performing sexual acts for religious purposes such as worship of gods. This
temple prostitution was seen as interconnecting with someone else of the same civilization, the
Hittites, in order to worship the god together, as one being. Hittites women were the most
involved in this practice of prostitution, but many man partook in the sexual activities as
performing as prostitutes as well. It was not uncommon for multiple people to be involved at the
same time. This act of temple prostitution allowed a lot of the people to unite and come together
throughout the Hittites existence.
The civilization of the Hittites was very unique compared to other cultures. Unlike other
cultures, women were portrayed higher up than in other civilizations. For example, there was a
woman priestess in their religion. Women were also in charge of the household, which was one
of the many roles in the daily life of a Hittites woman. Having women in charge of their entire
household was very uncommon during this era, but it had to be done since their husbands, or
other male authorities, were not home very often. If the male authorities were home, it was
highly unlikely that they would help around the house with household work, or even looking
over the children. Unlike other cultures, women had power in their marriages. For example, if
they were unhappy in their marriage, they could set up a divorce, unlike in other cultures where
the women would have to suffer through the marriage. Sex was also a very important part of the
Hittites civilization that women, obviously, played a role in. Whether it was for reproductive
use or as temple prostitution to worship their religious gods, sex was a part of their identity. The
Hittites civilization had a unique culture through their religion, roles of women, and their temple

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1. Turkilsen, Debbie. "The Lives of Hittite Women in the Late Bronze Age." Academia. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Both male and female children were welcomed in the Hittites society since they both had major
2. Turkilsen, Debbie. "The Lives of Hittite Women in the Late Bronze Age." Academia. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
It is very interesting that the Hittites allowed their women to have such power, even for choosing
their own marriage arrangements and asking for divorce.
3. Mark, Joshua J. "Hatti." Ancient History Encyclopedia. NuSphere, TsoHost, UserVoice, 20
Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
It was very uncommon in other civilizations to portray women as superior beings since the men
were always thought to be superior.
4. The Philistines, Canaanites, Sumerians, Egyptians. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
The Word of God were verses pertaining to mainly sexual sins. The testimony of Philo of
Byblos was a writing collected from religious materials. The Ras Sharma was ancient literature
of Ugarit.
5. "Hittites." New World Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Hepat was the chief deity which was the goddess of the sun.

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"Hittites." New World Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
New World Encyclopedia allowed the collection of information about the major roles of
Hittite women. This source mainly touched on how Hittite women were involved in
religion, such as the sun goddess, Hepat. In addition, this source provided information
pertaining to the Hittites religion as a whole.
Mark, Joshua J. "Hatti." Ancient History Encyclopedia. NuSphere, TsoHost, UserVoice, 20 Jan.
2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Ancient History Encyclopedia explained the difference between the roles of women from
the Hatti to the Hittites compared to other civilizations. It was very unusual that Hittite
women were considered as having more power than other women of different
civilizations. This source allowed the insight of how women were viewed during their
The Philistines, Canaanites, Sumerians, Egyptians. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
This source mainly provided information about the religion of the Hittites. The website
gave insight on what literature was considered important, and what some of their societal
norms were within their religion. The Hittites had a very structured religion, and even
used temple prostitution as a way of worship.
Turkilsen, Debbie. "The Lives of Hittite Women in the Late Bronze Age." Academia. N.p., n.d.
Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
This Academia article written by Debbie Turkilsen was written about how much power
Hittite women actually had. This article provided information pertaining to how these

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women lived their daily lives, and what rights they had as Hittite women. The Lives of
Hittite Women in the Late Bronze Age provided specific examples of their rights, such
as the right to ask for a divorce from their marriage.