Life and Reign of Ḫattušili III, the famed ruler of the Hittite Empire

Upon the death of his older brother King Muwattalli II, the famed king who went toe-to-toe with the Great Ramesses II of Egypt (Ramses II), Hattusili III supported the reign of his nephew Urhi-Tesub (Urhi-Teshub or Mursili III).

However, with Hattusili losing a lot of power and influence in the kingdom, he decided to turn on his nephew and seize the throne. Similar to the heroic feats chalked by his brother, Ḫattušili III went on to become a prominent ruler of the Hittite Empire, known for military campaigns, social reforms, and diplomatic achievements.

Below, World History Edu explores the life and reign of this king of the Hittite Empire.

Hattusili III

Ḫattušili III was a renowned as one of the prominent rulers of the Hittite Empire. He lived during the 13th century BC. Image: Rock relief of Hattusili III, the king of the Hittite Empire

According to the stone tablet – the Apology of Hattusili III – the king was the youngest child of his father, King Mursili II and queen Gassulawiya.

Growing up, Hattusili was a frail and often fell sick. As a result, his parents did not expect him to survive beyond childhood. The young boy’s life was believed to have been reinvigorated by Ishtar, the powerful Mesopotamian goddess of love, fertility and war. This explains why Hattusili forever remained a strong devotee of the goddess.

Upon the death of his father, his older brother, Muwattalli II succeeded to the throne. Like his predecessor, Muwattalli II proved himself a competent ruler, continuing the gains made by the Hittite Empire in northern Syria relatively at the expense of the Ramesses II’s Egypt. He led Hittite forces against Egypt at the Battle of Kadesh around 1274 BC. The conflict between Egypt and the land of Hatti would sort of enter into a cold war-like situation for the remainder of Muwattalli II’s reign.

It is said that before Ḫattušili became ruler of the kingdom, he tied the knot with a noblewoman called Pudehepa, who was also a priestess of Ishtar. The couple had a number of children, including Ḫattušili III’s successor and son Tudaliya IV.

Ḫattušili III’s conflict with his nephew Mursili III

Following the death of Muwattalli II, Mursili III (also known as Urhi-Tesub), the deceased king’s son, ascended to the throne. However, a fierce power struggle soon erupted between the new king and his uncle, Ḫattušili III. The latter had grown sour because Urhi-Tesub took away much of his lands and power in the kingdom.

During the reign of Muwattalli II, Ḫattušili III served as the ruler of the Hittite territories in northern Syria, including areas such as Kadesh. And so Ḫattušili became extremely influential and wealthy in the kingdom. He helped the Hittite Empire secure a strong footing in the region. He also came to the aid of his brother in quelling a number of rebellions that popped up in the kingdom.

Therefore, Ḫattušili very much expected the same kind of respect given to him by the new king, Mursili III. When he did not receive it, a conflict emerged between the two men, resulting in the empire being plunged into a political instability.

Ḫattušili was also incensed by Urhi-Tesub’s decision to move the capital from Tarhuntassa to Hattusa. As a result of this move, Ḫattušili power was further weakened.

Fed up with his nephew’s deliberate attempt to weaken him, Ḫattušili decided to usurp the throne. He tried to undermined Urhi-Tesub’s position by claiming that he was the son of his deceased brother’s concubine.

In the end, he successfully deposed Urhi-Tesub, overcame the internal rivalries and challenges, and then established his rule.

Reign and accomplishments of Ḫattušili III

Hattusili III engaged in several military campaigns during his reign, aiming to expand the Hittite Empire’s territories and secure its borders. He sought to strengthen the empire’s military power and protect its interests.

He was also credited with implementing administrative and judicial reforms within the Hittite Empire. These reforms aimed to centralize power, ensure law and order, and promote stability throughout the empire.

For example, he introduced legal reforms to ensure justice and fairness within the empire. He established clear laws, regulations, and procedures to govern various aspects of Hittite society, further promoting a sense of order and stability.

Hattusili III pursued diplomatic relations with other regional powers, including Egypt. He engaged in diplomatic correspondence and negotiations, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh (also known as the Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty) with Pharaoh Ramses II, marking a period of peace between the Hittites and Egypt. Known as the first known peace treaty in history, the Treaty of Kadesh helped to establish a precedent for future diplomatic negotiations and paved the way for continued communication and trade between the two powers.

Basically, Hattusili III’s reign brought stability and prosperity to the Hittite Empire. His diplomatic efforts, military campaigns, and administrative reforms contributed to the empire’s overall strength and endurance.

Treaty of Kadesh

Hattusili III’s reign marked a significant period in Hittite history, characterized by military achievements, diplomatic engagements, and administrative reforms.


After his death, Hattusili III was succeeded by his son, Tudhaliya IV, who continued his father’s policies and upheld the stability achieved during Hattusili III’s reign.

Answers to popular questions about Ḫattušili III

Hattusili III’s reign and contributions to the Hittite Empire played a crucial role in shaping its trajectory and solidifying its place among the great powers of the ancient Near East.

Here are some more details about the life and reign of Ḫattušili III:

How did we get to know about Ḫattušili III?

Much of what scholars and historians know about this Hittite ruler comes from a stone tablet known as the Apology.

Also, the accomplishments and reign of Hattusili III are documented in a number of Hittite texts and inscriptions, including royal decrees, treaties, and religious texts. These records provide valuable insights into the political and administrative developments of the Hittite Empire during his rule.

Hattusili III

Apology of Hattusili III

How long did Hattusili III reign for?

It is often stated that Hattusili III reigned from around 1267 to 1237 BC. Undoubtedly, he belonged to the New Kingdom period of the Hittite Empire. In some accounts, however, his reign lasted from around 1275 to 1245 BC.

What were Hattusili III’s major accomplishments?

Hattusili III conducted military campaigns to expand the empire’s territories and secure its borders. His victories in these campaigns strengthened the Hittite Empire and extended its influence.

He implemented administrative and judicial reforms within the empire, aiming to centralize power, maintain law and order, and enhance governance.

During his reign, he emphasized the importance of record-keeping and the establishment of archives. This allowed for the preservation of legal documents, treaties, administrative records, and historical accounts, facilitating efficient governance and historical documentation.

He pursued diplomatic relations with other regional powers, notably Egypt. Hattusili III engaged in diplomatic correspondence and negotiations, culminating in the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh with Pharaoh Ramses II, which established a period of peace between the Hittites and Egypt.

All in all, he brought stability and prosperity to the Hittite Empire, ensuring a peaceful environment for economic and cultural development.

Hattusili III

How did Hattusili III consolidate his power after usurping his nephew?

In addition to implementing significant reforms within the Hittite Empire, he worked to strengthen the central administration, enact legal reforms, and consolidate the empire’s power.

What did Hattusili III do to Musili III?

After removing Mursili III from the throne, Hattusili III exiled him to Syria. In his place, Hattusili III appointed Kurunta, the son of Muwattalli II, whom Hattusili III had personally raised, to govern Tarhuntassa. This position allowed Kurunta to assume a role similar to the one Hattusili III had once held.

Ḫattušili III, ruler of the Hittite Empire

Why did Hattusili III sign the Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty?

It’s been stated that the Treaty of Kadesh was Hattusili III’s way of enhancing his position – both abroad and domestically. Also known as the Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty, the Treaty of Kadesh was something that the Hittite king held dear to his heart.

Using his diplomats, Hattusili was the one who initiated the peace talks with Ramesses II. After usurping the throne, Hattusili needed to end the cold war situation with bitter rivals, Egypt. Not only had the conflict had stalemated, but it was also sapping a lot of resources from the Hittite Empire.

Furthermore, Hattusili had more pressing issues that he needed to handle – both domestically and abroad. Regarding the latter, he and his generals had grown very concerned about the rising power of Assyria to the east. Therefore, it made a whole lot of sense to have peaceful relations with Egypt.

What was the significance of the Treaty of Kadesh signed by Hattusili III?

The treaty outlined a territorial agreement, defining the boundaries and spheres of influence for both the Hittite Empire and Egypt. It aimed to resolve disputes over control of certain regions, particularly in the Levant.

The treaty included provisions for mutual defense against common enemies. It allowed for coordination and cooperation between the military forces of the two Near Eastern powers when faced with external threats, especially from Assyria to the east.

Finally, the Peace of Kadesh opened up avenues for interaction, leading to the exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies.

The surviving inscriptions and texts of the Treaty of Kadesh provide valuable insights into diplomatic practices, international relations, and power dynamics in the ancient Near East. Image: Tablet of the Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty

What was Hattusili III’s relationship with Egypt and Pharaoh Ramses II?

Prior to their diplomatic engagement, Hattusili III and Ramses II were involved in military conflicts and territorial disputes. They were adversaries vying for control over the Levant region, particularly the city of Kadesh.

The turning point came when Hattusili III and Ramses II recognized the benefits of diplomacy and chose to establish peaceful relations.

Following the treaty, the two rulers engaged in diplomatic correspondence and exchanged letters

In an effort to strengthen ties, Ramses II married a Hittite princess, Maathorneferure, possibly a daughter of Hattusili III. This matrimonial alliance aimed to solidify the peace and create a familial bond between the two powers.

Also, there was joint efforts from both Hattusili III and Ramses II to increase cultural exchange and trade. Diplomatic envoys, merchants, and travelers moved between the empires, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies.

Egyptian pharaoh

Also known as Ramesses the Great, Ramesses II was the third ruler of the 19th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Image: The Younger Memnon (c. 1250 BC), a statue depicting Ramesses II, from the Ramesseum in Thebes. Currently on display at the British Museum in London.

Who succeeded Hattusili III?

Hattusili III’s reign was followed by that of his son, Tudhaliya IV, marking a smooth transition of power within the Hittite Empire. His reign and the diplomatic achievements during his time played a role in shaping the empire’s standing in the ancient Near East.

Depiction of Tudhaliya IV on a relief

Hittite King Tudhaliya IV was the son of King Hattusili and Queen Puduhepa

Hattusili III: Quick Facts

Reign: c. 1267 – 1237 BC

Predecessor: Mursili III

Successor: Tudhaliya IV

Parents: Mursili II and Gassulawiya

Chief consort: Puduhepa

Children: Tudhaliya IV, Maathorneferure

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