This Ph.D. thesis investigated the composition and rhetoric of Hittite prayers. Different aspects of how speech is used in prayers to direct the attention of the addressed deity in such a way that he/she will grant the presented requests were examined. A special focus was on the different textual elements that can be identified in the prayers, their organisation and function within the texts, and the use of older prayers to compose new ones.


Hittite prayers (ca. 1500-1200 BCE) were found in the ancient Hittite capital Ḫattuša (modern Boğazkale/Boğazköy). The so-called personal prayers are with few possible exceptions written for the Hittite king. They were generally composed for one specific occasion as is clear from references to specific historical events. This means that they cannot easily be reused at a later moment. Nonetheless at least two prayers were combined to create the prayer of Muršili II to the Sun-goddess of Arinna concerning plague and enemies. The composition of this text and two closely related prayers forms a large part of the study.

The structures of these three texts and the rhetorical strategies that they employ were examined, as well as how the three prayers relate to each other. In addition their interrelationships with other prayers and recitations within rituals provide was explored to reconstruct a textual history of Muršili’s prayer to the Sun-goddess of Arinna and its related prayers. Another case study concerned the rhetorical function of proverbs in prayers.


The research shows that even though the Hittite prayers may seem rather free compositions tailored to a specific event, there are some principles after which the composers structured these texts. They tried to compose a text with a powerful rhetoric that would certainly persuade the addressed deity to help the supplicant and grant his requests. Older prayers were occasionally used as a source of inspiration.

This Ph.D. thesis was written within the program of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) and was successfully completed in 2018.