The Hittite empire covered much of what is modern Turkey.
The Hittite empire covered much of what is modern Turkey.

The Hittite empire, first to smelt iron for tools and artifacts, emerged as a civilization and formidable military power around 1600 B.C. before eventually being weakened and defeated around 1200 B.C. Although it had been thought that the Hittite military forces were formidable because of iron weaponry, the Hittites primarily used iron for ceremonial and other highly-prized artifacts and was not suitable for making functional weaponry. Instead, bladed weaponry was more typically bronze, an alloy made of tin and copper.

Bladed Weaponry

Hittite soldiers were each equipped with a dagger, a short stabbing sword with a ribbed blade and curved hilt. Other weapons were carried in the baggage-train, but the dagger could stay on the soldier's body so he was always armed. Sickle-shaped, or slashing, swords with the blade on the outer edge were also used. Swords with curved blades were less prone to snapping than straight-edged swords. Infantry may also have used battle-axes, but most axes the Hittites used were dedicated to construction and not fighting.

Lancing and Thrusting

Both infantry and chariots used a medium-sized spear about 6 to 8 feet long. Chariots used the spear as a lance when moving and as an infantry weapon for thrusting when dismounted. In mountainous terrain, the spear was less likely to be used, as the dagger and sickle sword were better suited for close-combat fighting.

Bow and Arrow

Hittite chariots were equipped with a bow and arrows. The strong and flexible bow was a composite of wood and horn, while arrow shafts were reed or wood. Bronze arrowheads were attached the the shaft by a tang. Quivers that likely held 20 to 30 arrows were used on the chariots. Special infantry units also used bow and arrows.

Fighting as Heavy Infantry

Hittites, like Egyptians, used chariots, but the Hittite chariot was heavier than the Egyptian chariot, with an axle centered under the carrying platform. This made the Hittite chariot slower and less stable than the Egyptian chariot but allowed it to carry three men, which could dismount and fight as infantry in the thick of battle. Egyptian chariots carried just a driver and a fighter but the Hittite chariots brought a shield-bearer to protect the fighter.

Protective Equipment

Hittite shields covered the body from neck to thigh and were mostly rectangular but with slightly concave sides and a slightly convex top and bottom. They were made of leather stretched over a wooden frame, making them relatively light in comparison to metal shields, a helpful characteristic, as shields were used primarily, but not exclusively, by chariots. The soldiers' gear varied depending on the terrain and anticipated battle conditions. In mountainous terrain, infantry wore metal helmets, leather or scale armor and good boots. When fighting ground was more open, the army fought with a packed heavy phalanx formation.