When the king speaks to the gods: on the performance of Hittite prayers

Lindewij van de Peut – Freie Universität, Berlin

When the Hittite royal family or the Hittite Empire were in dire need, the king could address the gods directly in a prayer. In this way he could ask the godsto resolve the problem. This paper examineswhat we can learn from these so-called personal prayersabout their performance. It will be argued that theywere performed to strengthen the position of the Hittite king as a rulerand that they were probably read from the tablet rather than recited from memory.Our knowledge of the performance of thepersonal prayers of the Hittite king is quite limited. Just overtwenty suchprayers have been uncovered at the ancient Hittite capital city Hattusa, modern Boğazköy/Boğazkale. The role of the prayersinstrengtheningthe legitimacyand power of the ruler is clear from thereasons for which they were composed, from the fact that they were recited by the king himself (or by someone on his behalf), and that this was done in front of a human audience. This group of people occasionally even participated in the performance. The little evidence there is for ritualactsaccompanyingthe recital of a prayer shows that offerings were presented to the gods to ascertain their presence. Finally, for one prayer within a ritual it will be demonstrated that the text to be recited was read from the tablet during the performance.