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Were Hittite Kings Divinely Anointed? A Palaic Invocation to the Sun-God and Its Significance for Hittite Religion

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image of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

The aim of this paper is to improve our understanding of a difficult Palaic invocation to the Sun-god, and to elucidate its implications for the study of Hittite religion. The first part of my account contains linguistic and philological discussion that concludes with a new translation of the scrutinized fragment. According to my interpretation, the Sun-god is requested to anoint the Hittite king and to exalt him. This is the only clear evidence that the gods were thought to be personally responsible for the anointment of Hittite kings. A counterpart to this nontrivial concept is well known from the Hebrew Bible and is inherited by the Christian tradition.

The second part of this paper, which is meant to be accessible to all the historians of religion, discusses the anointment as a rite of passage among the Hittites, as well as the relevant parallels in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. I am arguing that anointment with oil was extended to both Hittite priestly kings and certain other categories of Hittite priests, and that the underlying purpose of this act was ritual cleansing. The spread of this rite to those cultures where kings were not at the head of the religious hierarchy boosted the secondary association of divine anointment with empowerment rather that purification.


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