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The documents which give information about the 13th century Queen Puduhepa, wife of the Great King Hattuşili III (1275-1250 BC) are prolific. Her fascinating personality and strength of character are attested in numerous letters, prayers, sacrificial and ritual texts from Boğazköy and Ugarit. There also exist a number of official documents concerning the duties of Hattuşili III where Puduhepa’s name appears alongside that of her husband. Among the historical texts referring to his reign is the autobiographical Apology of Hattuşili III, in which he justifies his deposing of his nephew Urhi-Tesup, and which opens with the words of the great King Hattuşili and the Great Queen Puduhepa.

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Hattuşili and his wife Puduhepa
(Relief found in Fraktin)


On his return from campaign against Egypt, where he had assisted his brother Muvatalli at the Battle of Kadeş in 1275/4 BC. Hattuşili arrives at the city of Lavazantiya in Kumanni with the purpose of making the customary sacrifies to his protective goddess Iştar. There, on the instructions of the goddess, he marries Puduhepa, the daughter of Pentipşarri, priest of Iştar. The goddess bestows on them the love of a husband and wife, and they have sons and daughters. Another version of Hattuşili’s autobiography contains more detailed and interesting information concerning this marriage. Here, not only is Puduhepa the daughter of a priest, but she is also referred to as a handmaiden of Iştar in the city of Lavazantiya, i.e. a priestess. It is also stated that Hattuşili did not take Puduhepa as a result of his own desire, but married her at the command of Iştar, who appeared to him in a dream. So Hattuşili, before he was king, and probably not very young, married a noble girl from a family of high priests in Kumanni. The family of only two Hittite queens is known for certain. One of these is Tavananna (III), the third wife of Şuppiluliuma l, who was the daughter of a Babylonian king. The second is Puduhepa. In the introduction of a votive dedication to the goddess Lelvani, composed some time after she had become queen, probably during her most powerful period. Puduhepa refers to herself as Puduhepa, the daughter of the city of Kumanni. Puduhepa, like almost all of the queens of the Hittite Empire, bore a typical Hurrian name, in accordance with the land of her birth.

The names of some of the children of Hattusili and Puduhepa are known. Their eldest son was Tuthaliya lV, who succeeded to the throne on his father’s death. Another son was Nerikkaili, who married the daughter of Bentesina, king of Amurru. One daughter, Gaşşulaviya, was married off to Benteşina on condition that she became queen.

Besides the children of Hattuşili by Puduhepa, documents also refer to the existence in the palace of other children of the king. In a letter, Puduhepa writes: ...The daughters of the king whom I discovered when I came to the palace gave birth with my assistance, and I raised their children. I also raised the children who had already been born and I made them commanders in the army. Hattuşili’s son Nerikkaili and his daughter Gaşşulaviya, who became son-in-low and wife of the neighbouring king of Amuru, appear not to have been the children of Puduhepa, and must have been born to a previous wife of Hattuşili. Written sources attest that Puduhepa was the mother both of the daughters sent as brides to Ramses II of Egypt, and of Hattuşili’s successor Tuthaliya  IV. Egyptian sources refer to one of these daugters by the Egyptian name of Mahornefrure or Manefrure. According to Egyptian temple inscriptions, Ramses married this princess in the thirty forth year of his reign, and she became a member of his harem. Correspondence between the Hittite and Egyptian rulers discuss at great length this marriage arrangement and dowry of the princess, from which it can be seen that Puduhepa was personally involved in arranging royal marriages for her children.

The reign of the Great Queen Puduhepa is so well documented that it is clear that she played a very active and successful role in affairs of state, in political, legal and religious matters alike, performing her duties alongside and on an equal footing with her husband, as well as independently. It is unfortunate that the version of the famous Treaty of Kadeş written on a silver tablet has not survived. On one face of this tablet was the stamp of the Great King Hattuşili III, and on the other face was the stamp of the Great Queen Puduhepa.

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The great Queen Puduhepa offering a libation to the
Sun Goddess of Arinna Hepatu


The letters concerning the political marriages, or plans for marriage, between the Hittite and Egyptian dynasties are particularly important in revealing the independent part played by Puduhepa in diplomatic affairs. As many as 15 letters were received by Puduhepa. Those sent by Ramses ll are identical to those he sent to Hattuşili, showing that the Egyptian king himself accorded an equal status to the queen and the Great King. Possibly this was one of the rules of politics dictated by the state laws of the period. The style of the letters from Ramses II is very striking. The tone is quite formal, and importance is given to the use of long and polite formulae. In one of his letters, Ramses addresses Puduhepa as my sister, and mentions the comfortable state of the land of Egypt and his own good health. Then he expresses his wish to the queen that she should also posses the same favourable circumstances as he himself does.
Among the letters received by Puduhepa are diplomatic letters from Egyptian queens, which seem insignificant in comparison with her other correspondence. Only one letter is known from Ramses II’s wife Naptera/Nobretari, and another from his mother Tuya. In this light, the letter sent by the Egyptian pharaoh Tutenkamen’s young widow to Şuppiluliuma I, requesting one of his sons as a husband, is unique.

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Impression of a seal of the Great King Hattuşili and Great Queen Puduhepa

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Puduhepa also sent a letter personally to Ramses II, concerning the plans to marry her daughter to the king of Egypt. These documents manifest the significant and active involvement of Puduhepa in foreign policy and in the arrangements for diplomatic marriages with the aim of creating international peace. This is a situation which does not apply to all Hittite queens, although it seems that a queen was required to posses the personality and strength of character to be able to wield independently her official authority. The official status of a queen according to the Hittite constitution, however, is not completely certain. Equality between a king and queen in international politics is indicated by the royal correspondence, and the use of personal seals of queens to ratify agreements indicates that queens made decision in their own names. No other queen, however, illustrates these conditions as well as Puduhepa.

There are no documents which explain the social activities Puduhepa performed alongside her political duties and functions. With the Hittites, however, as with the whole of the Near Eastern world, the royal social functions were closely related to religion and cults, and some ritual texts show that Puduhepa was in charge of the activities associated with the cults. This subject will be touched on below in a discussion of the queen’s involvement in the sphere of religion.

Among the documents which demonstrate the active independent role played by Puduhepa in judicial affairs, there is a group of texts, referred to in judicial affairs, there is a group of texts, referred to in Hittite literature as the Ukkura Affair, which record the minutes of court proceedings.

One interesting document of this type, more specifically appertaining to the international shipping laws of the time, was discovered during excavations of the ancient city of Ugarit. The text, written in Akkadian, concerns the case of an Ugarit ship which had sunk outside the limits of its own waters. On the front face is the seal impression of Puduhepa. It is understood that the decision of the inquiry was made in the name of the Hittite king, most probably Tuthaliya IV when he was too young to assume control of his responsibilities and the reins of power were in the hands of his mother Puduhepa.

The same situation occurred if a king was absent because of religious duties (cult tours etc.) or on campaign, when legal documents were endorsed by the queen’s seal. The tablet under discussion is Hittite, and the sailor mentioned in the document is a subject of the Great Hittite Kingdom. The minutes of the inquiry are written in epistolary style.

’My sun writes thus to Ammiştamru: When the man from Ugarit and Şukku came to trial in the presence of My Sun. Şukku spoke in this way: ’His ship broke up against the quay’, but the man from Ugarit said : ‘No, Şukku forcefully broke my ship on purpose’. My Majesty gave the following verdict: ‘Let the head of the Ugarit sailors swear on oath; then Şukku will pay for the ship and the goods on it.’

This verdict of compensation was issued in the name of the justice of the Hittite king and stamped by Puduhepa on behalf of her son. The person liable for reparation, who had been found guilty of causing the damage to the ship, was Şukku, a citizen of the Hittite Kingdom. The name of the person awarded damages is not mentioned; he is referred to only as the head of the Ugarit sailors and was probably a ship-owner or merchant of the city of Ugarit.

A number of interesting documents show that the great and powerful Queen Puduhepa also had political influence on the small kingdoms which were subject to the Hittite state. The peace between Egypt and the Hittites also improved the relationship between Egypt and the small vassal states of the Hittite Kingdom. During the reign of Ramses II King Niqmadu II of Ugarit, a city dependent on Hatti, made a peace treaty with Egypt at the request of Puduhepa.

Joint seal impressions of Puduhepa and Hattuşili III have been found at the Hittite capital of Hattuşa (Boğazköy) and at Ugarit (Ras Şamra in northern Syria). At first glance it can be seen that these are stylistically different from those of other kings, the writing and motifs characterized by plasticity. At the top of the circular seal is a winged sun disc. The disc shaped like a petalled rosette and standing unattached from the wing on either side. The plastic form is seen especially with the signs which represent the queen, the volute symbolizing Great and the female head symbolizing Queen. The head symbol is worked realistically in the manner of a relief statue, and the smallest details are picked out on the disc-shaped head-dress and fine veil which hangs to the neck.

Four independent seal impressions belonging to Puduhepa have been discovered, one at Tarsus, one at Ugarit and two at Boğazköy. The plastic style is even more evident with these than with the joint seals. The composition of the motifs and signs is symmetrical and decorative, and these had been carved deeply into the surface of the seal, emphasizing the plasticity of the relief impression on the bullae. The name and title of the queen are given in pictographic signs (Hieroglyphic Hittite) in the field at the centre of the seal, and this is ringed by a cuneiform legend, although the legends of two of Puduhepa’s seal impressions are damaged. In the field, at both left and right, appears a small female head with a disc-shaped head-dress, symbolizing Queen, on top of whish is the volute which symbolizes Great. Thus, the title SAL.LUGAL.GAL (great Queen) is written on both sides. In the upper part of the field is the winged sun disc. The sign for the title My Sun (My Majesty), symbolizing royalty. Down the centre of the field, below the sun disc and between the two female heads, are the four signs of the queen’s name: Pu-tu-he-pa. The cuneiform legend around a royal seal generally gives the name, titles and ancestry of the rulers.

Among the finds from excavations at Boğazköy and Ras Şamra are clay tablets and bullae which bear the joint seal impressions of Puduhepa and Hattuşili III. Also from Ugarit (Ras Şamra) is a seal impression of Puduhepa’s son Tuthaliya IV which displays an unusual composition and plastic style. In the cuneiform legend around the field, the king is styled son of Hattuşili and Puduhepa, indicating that Tuthaliya was not content with giving merely the name of his father, but also wanted to record the name of his mother. This is the only known example of a royal seal which specifies the name of the king’s mother. No joint seals have been discovered as yet of Tuthalia IV with another queen.

Besides these examples of seal impressions on clay bullae or tablets, the personal seal of Puduhepa on one face of the silver plaque which originally recorded the Treaty of Kadeş is also known, from Egyptian sources.

All of these documents, in particular the independent seals which bear the queen’s name, provide the clearest proof of the equal status of the Hittite queens with the kings and the independent position of the queen. Despite the fact that Puduhepa bears the official titles of rule, it is notable that she is not represented by the title Tavananna. Nor is her husband Hattuşili referred to as Tabarna on either written documents or on seals.

The publication of ritual texts has enabled us to appreciate the Hittite queen’s role in important religious activities and sacred rites. The queen took her place as chief priestess, alongside the king who was chief priest of the Hatti lands. The documents in which the religious duties of the Hittite queens are mentioned are known collectively as Descriptions of Festivals. They show that the queen was responsible for conducting numerous religious ceremonies, either together with her husband or independently. When it is recalled that there was a female deity at the head of the Hittite pantheon, the Sun Goddess of the city of Arinna (the Hurrian Hepatu), the involvement of the Hittite queens in the ceremonies is recorded not only written texts, but also on rock reliefs. One of the most important of these is that Fraktin in Cappadocia: other examples are those of Alacahöyük and Aslantepe (Malatya). It is known from the descriptions of the rituals that the king and queen wore special garments during the ceremonies (H. anniyat-/KIN-att). They are also shown dressed in these special ceremonial costumes on the rock reliefs. On the Fraktin rock relief, Puduhepa is depicted clothed from head to foot in her priestess’ robes, pouring a libation to the goddess Hepatu. This relief is the only certain archaeological evidence of a scene showing Puduhepa pouring a libation to Hepatu.

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The great King Hattuşili III, offering a libation to the Weather God

The name of Iştar, goddess of the city of Lavazantiya and protecting deity of Puduhepa, occurs frequently in documents of Hattuşili III. The signs which denote the Hittite Goddess Iştar distinguish her from the Mesopotamian Iştar (goddess of love). The Hurrian name of this goddess was Şauşga, and she was brought by the Hurrians to Anatolia and integrated into Hittite culture with the local deities. The Iştar of Lavazantiya was not a goddess of love, but in fact had warrior characteristics, which suited the serious temperament of Puduhepa. The protecting deity of Hattuşili was Iştar of the city of Şamuha, who had the same male characteristics and attributes of a warrior-god.
After Hattuşili III had deposed his nephew Urhi-Teşup and appointed himself king, the royal couple had prayers composed which open with an invocation to the Sun Goddess of Arinna, the chief goddess of the pantheon, and go on to thank her for her favour. The prayer begins as follows:

O Sun Goddess of the city of Arinna,
my lady, mistress of our lands.
Queen of Heaven and earth,
mistress of the kings and queens of the land of Hatti.

This Proto-Hittite, native Anatolian principal deity of the Hattians entered the official pantheon together with her family. Written sources and rock monuments (in particular the open-air sanctuary at Yazılıkaya) of the 13th century BC show that the Hurrian gods had become members of the Hittite pantheon and taken the most important positions, probably as a result of the influence of Puduhepa. The principal Hurrian goddess Hepatu was identified with the Sun Goddess of Arinna. Hepatu was the protecting deity of the Hittite state and its armies, at the same time possessing the characteristics of a mother-goddess. The Hittite expression a thousand gods of the land of Hatti illustrates the magnitude of the Hittite pantheon. Within this sizeable realm of deities, the goddesses held special importance. Each deity, from the chief pair to the gods of springs and mountains, was the focus of a cult, with the result that the official and royal calendar was pretty much taken up with duties related to these cults. In the lavish ceremonies of the state cult the queen took her place as chief priestess beside her husband.

It is notable that protecting goddesses of both Hattuşili III and Puduhepa had the characteristics of a battle goddess. The goddess to whom Puduhepa promises offerings when she is requesting that her beloved husband (the life of my Sun) be protected from ill health, however, is Lalvani, who was a infernal goddess, associated with the underworld (there is no definite evidence to support E. Laroche’s theory that Lelvani was identified with Iştar of Şamuha).

But what is known about Puduhepa as a woman, and of her feelings? Unfortunately, no personal documents belonging to Hittite women are known, and so nothing is known about the private life of Puduhepa. A little light is thrown on the question of her feelings in the texts which mention the vows made to Lelvani by the Great Queen Puduhepa, daughter of the city of Kumanni and the dreams of the queen.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Puduhepa was a loyal wife to her husband, and regarded him with devotion and respect. The king himself writes about his childhood, when he suffered from bad health and the worries of being close to death. After pledging himself to Iştar of –amuha whilst he was still young, his health recovered and he developed into a strong young man. Despite this, however, it appears that his ill health must have returned when he became older. The prayers made and the offerings promised to the gods for the continued good health of the Sun (king) and a long life reflect the deep love and devotion of Puduhepa towards her husband and her fear of losing him at any moment. The most well-known and well-studied of this kind of document comprises the vows made to Lelvani, infernal goddess of the Underworld. In these documents, Puduhepa promises various kinds of offerings in return for a long life full of good health for the king. The kind of offerings promised include gold and silver goblets, vessels and drinking horns, gold images of the god, statues or busts of the king, and sometimes living things such as herds of animals, and NAM.RAS (civil prisoners/deportees) as cult personnel.

One of the most interesting aspects of Queen Puduhepa’s votive texts is that the family members in the service of the cult of the goddess Lelvani are mentioned individually by name. Thus, it is possible to distinguish two groups among the temple personnel-young girls and boys, and widows with children, referred to as ut/dati. Puduhepa involved herself in the family lives of these people, arranging marriages for the young girls and assigning the upbringing of the orphan children to the supervision of relatives.

The women referred to as SAL udati, who served the temple of the goddess along with their children, are given an important place in the text. The duties of these women comprised the production of dairy products. The temple personnel also included males who are referred to as NAM.RA. These men worked for the temple economy, performing various tasks such as planting fruit trees and working in a capacity as bakers and dairymen. The personnel were recruited annually, to replace those who had died, and a census record was kept. These procedures can be traced in the texts over a period of five years.

All procedures connected with the temple of Lelvani were related to the purpose of helping to provide the king with a healthy and long life, and were very probably performed in the city of Kumanni. Puduhepa’s organizing of the temple personnel, the recruiting when necessary, the duties performed, and the arrangements for the annual sacrifices are all recorded. These texts, then, of which there exist a number of versions, are not only of a religious nature, but they are also administrative documents which give information about the socio-economic organization connected to the cult, and they reveal the economic importance of the temple in the 13th century BC.

It is also known that Puduhepa had a series of religious documents rewritten, as well issuing orders that scattered texts be collected and organized. These were the texts related to the ceremonies of the hişuvaş or işuvaş festival. The tablets record that the queen reorganized the ceremonies and the cult.

Despite the abundance of documentary evidence for this period, however, it is known when or how either King Hattuşili III or Queen Puduhepa died. Nor has the tomb of the couple yet been discovered among the wealth of architectural structures at Hattuşa.

Letters and other documents from the Great Queen Puduhepa:
Prayer of Queen Puduhepa to the Sun Goddess or Arinna
Lawcourt Protocol (Law suit opened by Queen Puduhepa against GAL.dU and his father Ukkura)
Letter from Egyptian King Ramses II to Hittite Queen Puduhepa
Letter from Egyptian King Ramses II to Hittite Queen Puduhepa
Letter from Egyptian Queen Naptera to Hittite Queen Puduhepa
See also:
View fotos of Fraktin with Hattusili and Puduhepa relief
Women in the historical ages
Author: Muhibbe Darga
from: Woman in Anatolia, 1993
Turkish Ministry of Culture
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