The Royal Citadel of Büyükkale


Büyükkale ( = Great Fortress) is indeed an ideal place to establish a royal residence. This plateau with a relatively flat surface about 250 x 140 m is naturally protected on every side by steep slopes or precipitous bluffs.


Reconstruction of the palace complex on Büyükkale.
(U. Betin after P. Neve)

The Royal Citadel of Büyükkale from the air


Plan of Büyükkale in the 13th century BC




Originally a great viaduct (1) led upwards from the south to the citadel gate. The South Gate (2), the main entrance to the Royal Citadel, was originally adorned with two lions similar to those at the Lion Gate. Passing through, one entered what is known as the Court of the Citadel Gate (3). Here a pavement of flat red stones originally conducted the visitor across the center of the court to a gate (4) opening into the Lower Court of the Citadel. The relatively long and drawn out Lower Court of the Citadel (5) is the second in a series of four courtyards varying in size. As you can see on the plan, this court was bordered by long colonnaded porches, or stoas (6). We assume that the various structures surrounding this court, Buildings M, N, H, G and A, served as residences of the palace officials as well as shelter for the "Bearers of the Golden Lances," that is to say, the palace guard. At the opposite end of the Lower Court stood an imposing gateway (7) providing admittance to the Central Court. This structure provided an optical as well as a physical barrier between the outer courts and the palace area proper. The Central Court of the Citadel (9) that lay behind this gateway was also surrounded by colonnades. At the north-western end of this court lay Building D, the upper floor of which is thought to have served as the King's reception hall. This hall would have had a direct entrance through a portal (10) opening off the Central Court. At the end of this series of buildings along the northwest side of Büyükkale, then, stood Building E and Building F, which must have comprised the private apartments of the King. From here, in privacy at the far back -in the innermost reaches of the Citadel- one has a fantastic view out over the city and across the valley receding into the north. Building E, as well es buildings K and A at the southern side of the palace, have yielded archive of clay tablets. These archives have played a most important role in our research of Hittite history. The hundreds of tablets that had been stored on wooden shelves here have perpetuated not only contracts and official documents, but oracular prophecies, instruction in cult practice, folklore, collections of legal decisions and historical texts as well. While most of these survived the burning of the palace complex, the information included in the archives of wooden tablets has been lost forever.