One of my favorite teachers used to say that one of the fun things about history is that you could always look at the same data and see something you never before. "For example," he intoned, "I just last night realized that you can't turn a pyramid upside down."
I think I'm having an upside-down pyramid moment. The subject is the Hittites, who developed a great empire in and around Central Anatolia from (say) the 18th to the 12th Century BC.. At least in this part of the world, it was about the fourth empire ever, following the Akkadians, Ur-three, and Babylon.
It is also the first of these empires to be located outside of a river basin. At least at its height, away from the water: its focal point is the Anatolian plateau, up around 3,000 feet.
Which brings me to my pyramid moment: this is a terrible place to build an empire. Paul Collier argues that if you want to avoid poverty as a nation, one of the things you don't want to be is "landlocked." Especially not with unfriendly neighbors, of which the Hittites seemed to have plenty--and if they weren't unfriendly to begin with, the Hittites would make them so (forget Switzerland: it only looks landlocked; in fact it is the center of a thriving market).
Which brings me back to my point? Why? Even better, how? As I scan the "empires" file in the cerebral file cabinet, I can't think of many empires at any time or place who function so completely from a land base. And you can usually come up with exception-that-proves-the-rule reasons. Mongols, for example: they didn't create an empire so much as pillage other people's.
I can't think of any such reason for the Hittites. I'll bet you hadn't been worrying about this question. Now you can.