Akkadian Prayers and Hymns: An Introduction by Alan Lenzi (editor)

By Alan Lenzi (editor)

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Most of them would have worked for one or both of the great institutions of their day: the royal palace and the temples. It follows that the composition and preservation of much of the material treated in this volume was due to the patronage/support of the king and/or the temples. , palaces and temples), and clues from texts such as royal letters, the king was the most important, though certainly not the exclusive, user/beneficiary of these prayers and hymns. The three most important institutional groups of scholars/ritual experts with regard to the Akkadian prayers and hymns in this volume are the diviners (bārû), the exorcists (āšipū), and the cult-singers (kalû).

Other forms of ritual speech will be brought into the present discussion only in so far as they help delineate the conceptual parameters of prayer and praise by way of contrast (see fig. 1). Second, does the descriptor “communication via words” in the initial definition do justice to the Mesopotamian data about prayer and praise? Despite the prominence and therefore usefulness that verbal communication has for the present purpose (this book does after all deal with language), the answer is negative.

The broader social embeddedness of the individual and the manner in which this shaped their identity occupies a much more important role in the proper understanding of ancient Akkadian prayers. 55 Even when praying alone (or only with the ritual expert), these communal aspects of life were everpresent concerns and therefore unsurprisingly impacted the kinds of petitions we find in the prayers. For example, the ubiquitous petition for life (balāṭu) included more than biological health or longevity; “life” encompassed the entire social and physical well-being of the person, as is clear from the poem Ludlul bēl nēmeqi.

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