River Ordeal in Hittite Written Documents

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Fidan S. S.

Anadolu Arastirmalari, no.28, pp.73-84, 2023 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.26650/anar.2023.28.1239491
  • Journal Name: Anadolu Arastirmalari
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.73-84
  • Keywords: Anatolia, Crime, Hittite Laws, Judgment, River Ordeal
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Ordeal practice, which has an important place in the Laws of the Ancient Near East, can be defined as the act of judging. However, such trials were carried out to understand whether a crime had indeed been perpetrated by a certain person rather than to pass judgement on that person. The reason this act is known as the river ordeal is that rivers and River Gods played the dominant role in it. The practice of river ordeals is mentioned in important law texts, such as the Ur-Nammu Laws, the ana ittišu series, as well as the Code of Hammurabi. It can also be seen in certain texts from the Assyrian and Babylonian periods as well as in some from Nuzi, Ugarit, and Elam. Hittite laws do not mention the river ordeal. However, thanks to some letters or royal instructions, we understand that this practice was indeed used by the Hittites as well. This paper aims to examine the Hittite written sources which can be related to the river ordeal.