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Attarsiya was a 15th-14th century BC military leader of Ahhiya.[1] In the Hittite archives of c. 1400 BC he is described as a man from Ahhiya, a country identified with the Achaeans and Mycenaean Greece.[2] The campaigns of Attarsiya, as well as his conflict with the Hittite vassal, Madduwatta, represent the first recorded Mycenaean Greek military activity on the Anatolian mainland,[3] as well as the first conflict between Achaeans and Hittites.[4]

Contemporary Hittite accounts about the campaigns of Attarsiya and the Ahhiya in general, may indicate that there was a possible Mycenaean empire centered on late Bronze Age Greece.[5] Moreover, Attarsiya might be a possible Hittite reconstruction of the Greek name Atreus, a king of Mycenae according to Greek Mythology.


14 century BC Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East

Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East during the time of Attarsiya (Mycenaean Greece in purple, Arzawa in light green)

All we know about Attarsiya is recorded in the Hittite archives, in particular in the Indictment of Madduwata.[4] He is described as a man from Ahhiya, which is a typical Hittite way to refer to an enemy king. This makes Attarsiya the first known Achaean leader.[5] Nevertheless, the exact authority of Attarsiya of Ahhiya is unclear. According to the Hittite descriptions he might have been a local Achaean ruler in western Anatolia rather than a recognized supreme leader of all the Achaeans.[6]

The chronology of the correspondent Hittite texts was initially estimated at the end of 13th century BC, but more recent research placed it, together with the events described, two centuries earlier.[7]

Military campaignsEdit

The campaigns of Attarsiya represent the earliest recorded Mycenaean Greek military activity on the Anatolian mainland,[3] as well as the first conflict between Achaeans and Hittites.[4] It seems that these campaigns made a big impression on the local population, while a decorated shard of pottery from the Hittite capital, Hattusa, from that time, appears to depict a warrior of typical Achaean appearance, with body armor and boar's tusk helmet.[2] Achaean military activity in the Anatolian coast continues to be attested through several Hittite records until ca. 1250 BC.[4]


The Hittite archives of c. 1400 BC, during the reign of Arnuwanda I, describe the military campaign of Attarsiya in southwest Anatolia,[8] probably in Lycia.[5] He probably used the city of Milet, in west coast Anatolia, which was already under Achaean influence, as a military base.[3] Attarsiya launched a campaign deploying an army that included 100 war chariots and attacked regions which were Hittite vassals, or at least under a certain decree of Hittite influence.[5] Among them, he attacked the Hittite vassal, Madduwatta, possibly a prince of the kingdom of Arzawa, and managed to expel him from his country.[8] The latter found refuge in the court of the Hittite ruler and was installed by him as a vassal in Zipasla, somewhere in western Anatolia. However, Attarsiyas attacked the region and the Hittite vassal was unable to provide any opposition.[8] The Achaean expedition in Anatolia is associated with increased Mycenaean findings in Milet during this period (early 14th century BC), indicating that a number of Greek people moved from mainland Greece to this region.[9]

Eberzahnhelm Heraklion

Boar's tusk helmets were typical of Mycenaean warfare. The campaigns of Attarsiya in Anatolia must have made a great impression to the local population, since a depiction of a soldier wearing such a helmet was found in the Hittite capital, Hattusa.

As a result of Achaean military activity in the region, the Hittites dispatched an army under Kisnapli. The Indictment of Madduwatta gives a brief description of the battle:[3]

Kisnapli went into battle against Attarsiya 100 [chariots and... infantry] of Attarsiya [drew up]. And they fought. One officer of Attarsiya was killed, and one office of ours, Zidanza, was killed. Then Attasiya [...] to Madduwatta, and he went off to his own land.

The way the conflict is described, by counting only two casualties, may point that there was a duel between the nobles of the two sides. However, it is also possible that the dead among the common soldiers were not considered important to mention.[3] The outcome of the battle remained unresolved, although Attarsiya finally decided to withdraw from battlefield.[3] After his retreat from the Anatolian mainland, Madduwatta was again installed as a Hittite vassal in the region.[3]


Latter, Attarsiya, still posing a threat to the Hittites, invaded the island of Alashiya (Cyprus) together with a number of his Anatolian allies, including his former enemy Madduwatta.[5] This worried the Hittites since they considered the island one of their dependencies.[8]

The Mycenaean presence in Cyprus is also associated with archaeological evidence, since Mycenaean Greek settlements dating from that time were unearthed there.[5]

Possibility of a Mycenaean empireEdit

It has been established in modern scholarship that the Hittite term Ahhiya (or Ahhiyawa in latter texts) refers to Mycenaean Greek territory and its inhabitants, the Achaeans, one of the names that Homer used to refer to the Greeks in the Iliad.[2] Historically important about the Achaeans in the time of Attarsiya is that they undertook an expedition to Anatolia, as well as Cyprus. The latter expedition indicates that the Achaean leader commanded a significant fleet and that the Achaeans were a sea power.[5]

According to the Hittite descriptions, it appears that the Ahhiya were a powerful empire, at the same scale as contemporary Egypt, Assyria and the Hittite Empire.[5] Moreover, based on the fact that Attarsiya launched a military campaign in Anatolia and fielded one hundred chariots, in addition to infantry, Dutch researcher Jorrit Kelder suggested that Ahhiya must have had the military capacity of at least three times the size of the Mycenaean kingdom of Pylos, based on the information recorded on the Linear B tablets unearthed from the specific palace. Based on this view, the Achaeans under Attarsiya may have formed some kind of alliance which included several Mycenaean kingdoms.[10]

Link with mythical AtreusEdit

It has been suggested by several scholars that Attarsiya might be a possible Hittite reconstruction of the Greek name Atreus, a mythical king of Mycenae and father of Agamemnon.[11][12] However, other scholars argue that even though the name is probably Greek, since he is described as an Ahhiya and connected to Atreus, the person carrying the name is not necessarily identical to the famous Atreus of mythology.[13] According to an alternative view presented by Hittitologist Albrecht Goetze, Attarsiya might be probably a possessive adjective, meaning "belonging to Atreus" (Atreides), which was a typical Homeric term to refer to the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus, throughout the Iliad.[7]


  1. Spelling often varies based on the specific source, alternative forms include: Attar(a)s(h)iya(s), Attar(a)s(h)ija(s)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kelder, Jorrit; Uslu, Gunay; Serifoglu, Faruk (2012). Troy: City, Homer and Turkey. W Books. p. 57. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Kelder, 2004-2005: p. 5
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 D' Amato R, Salimbeti A. (2011). Bronze Age Greek Warrior 1600-1100 BC. Osprey Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 9781849081955. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Brosch, Maciej Popko (2008) (in German). Völker und Sprachen Altanatoliens. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 121–122. ISBN 9783447057080. 
  6. Bryce, 1999: p. 140
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sweeney, Emmet (2009). Gods, heroes and tyrants Greek chronology in chaos. New York: Algora Pub.. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9780875866833. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Kelder, Jorrit (2005). "Greece during the Late Bronze Age". pp. 139–140. 
  9. Kelder, 2004-2005: p. 2-3
  10. Beckman Gary Michael, Cline Eric H., Bryce, R Trevor . (2012). "The Ahhiyawa Texts". p. 5. ISSN 1570-7008. 
  11. Strauss, Barry (2007). The Trojan War : a new history (1st trade paperback ed. ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 35. ISBN 9780743264426. 
  12. Bryce, 1999: 402
  13. M. L. West, 'Atreus and Attarissiyas', Glotta, vol. 77 (2004), pp. 262-266. He suggests that Atreus is a secondary form based on the patronymic Atreïdēs, which is in turn derived from the Mycenaean *Atrehiās.


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