The Indo-European-speaking Hittites probably began arriving peacefully in northwestern Anatolia from the Balkans about 2500 B.C., traveling from the Kurgan pit-grave culture of the Eurasian steppe. They settled in northwestern Anatolia, across the west and south of the peninsula about 2300 B.C., although many more may have immigrated from the south over the next three centuries. A northeastern route, through the Caucasus has also been suggested, but that seems linguistically and archaeologically less likely. In any event, when Assyrian traders reached central Anatolia around 1900 B.C., they found an Indo-European-speaking people firmly established, who had harmoniously integrated with the indigenous Hattian population of the local city-states.
By 1650, the ruler Hattusilis I founded the Hittite Kingdom when he established the capital of Hattusas. The ensuing two centuries constitute the period known as the Hittite Empire's Old Kingdom. Hattusilis recognized that controlling trade routes and metal sources were fundamental to the early empire's prosperity, and he and his successor, Mursilis, began tracing the commercial route running along the Euphrates to northern Syria. Hattusilis failed to subjugate the northern end of the Euphrates from Aleppo, but Mursilis not only conquered Aleppo, he rashly advanced on Babylon, which he captured in 1595 B.C. Holding the city proved untenable, and when Mursilis returned to Hattusas, he was assassinated. The Hittite kingdom was rocked by a period of instability, known as the Middle Kingdom, lasting for a 70-year period from 1500-1430 B.C. Yet the seeds for the Hittites' emerging cultural prosperity and military dominance had been sewn.
Hattusili's early and original contribution in legal thought, one that lays the groundwork for a crude form of democratic government, was the "pankus." The pankus was a council of nobles. It was not a popularly elected legislative body, however, but did serve as a check and balance to the actions of the king. The pankus was officially charged to "advise" the king, but its powers could extend so far as to execute the Hittite leader if he overstepped his moral authority.
It's also clear, during Hattusili's reign, that the movement and trade of metals was a stimulus to the Hittite economy. Assyrian merchants had traditionally ventured into Anatolia in search of tin, silver, and gold, commodities that were essential to the outside world. But there were other valuable commodities as well, and Hittite miners and metal workers were intent on exploring them (James D. Muhly, Mining and Metalwork in Ancient Western Asia, in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. J. M. Sasson et al., New York: Scribner, 1995).
Among merchant colonies and urban communities, the Hittites began acquiring a reputation as a people skilled in metallurgy. They were also recognized as fierce warriors, and the products their craftsmen forged - particularly in the area of weaponry - reflected their kings' strong imperialistic ambitions. Fortified double-walls with deep gorges between them made Hattusas impenetrable to invaders, and it was in the capital city that modern blast furnaces were