Samuel macauley jackson, D. D., LL. D




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2. Discover  a few characters in random but fairly

ies; Deci 

pherment accurate fashion. The material thus of Persianpherment provided was too scantY to stimulate . pany earnest effort at decipherment. The first opportunity afforded European scholars for study of the cuneiform was given in 1774 by Carsten Niebuhr, a Dane, father of the famous Roman historian, who had copied at Persepolis a number of small inscriptions, grouped in threes upon the remains of the palaces of the Achamenian kings. Previous travelers had expressed the opinion that three languages were represented in these Persepolis texts, and later study has shown the three languages to be Persian, Suaian, and Aasyro­Babylonian. The task of decipherment was ren­dered difficult by the fact that no bilingual inscrip­tion was found in which a known language occurred.

' The method of decipherment was to be archeolog­ical rather than philological, and the process was necessarily slow and insecure. The first efforts in decipherment of the Persian inscriptions the sim­plest in each group of three  put forth by Friedrich Christian Karl Heinrich Miinter and Olaf Tychsen seemed to show that these texts contained only forty two signs, which were therefore mainly al­phabetic with some syllabic values, but only a few correct values for the signs were determined. The first decipherment of an entire text was made by George Frederick Grotefend, who was almost con­tinuously engaged upon decipherment from 1802 until 1844. The facts with which he began were that these texts came from Persepolis, and that the ruins there were the remains of palaces erected by Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes. He assumed, conse­quently, that each text began with the name of a king, and his success was achieved by comparison of two inscriptions, which Grotefend finally trans­lated as follows: " I. Darius, the mighty king,

I king of kings . . . son of Hystaspea. II. Xerxes, the mighty king, king of kings . . son of Darius, the king." This result was small in itself, but it afforded the clue for the decipherment of several languages, besides the three found at Persepolis. At the same time that Grotefend was engaged in





Inscriptions

THE NEW SCHAFF HERZOG

this task, Major (afterward Sir) Henry Rawlinaon was trying to reach a solution and in the same way. Quite independently of Grotefend he worked out some of the sign values, and, when later provided with Grotefend's results, far surpassed him in the power to translate Persian inscriptions. He dis­covered the great rock cut inscription of Darius at Behiatun in Persia, which he copied, laboriously and successfully deciphered, and published in an English translation, nearly complete, in the year 1846.

The decipherment of Persian was followed by determined attempt to solve the far more difficult

problem of the Asayro Babylonian cu­b. Decipher. neiform script, in which the third in 

meat of
scri tion in these

Babylonian. written. The first gtouatemth~ was

Assyrian. Grotefend, who identified the names of the kings, but was unable to go much further. Isidor Loewenstein secured the correct meanings of the signs for " king," " great" and the sign for the plural. He first suggested that Assyrian be­longed to the Semitic family and was therefore related to Hebrew, Arabic and Aramean. Far more successful was the Rev. Edward Hincka (q.v.), who, in two papers during 1846 and a third in 1847, determined most of the numerals, assigned correct values to a number of signs, and seemed on the very verge of being able to read a whole text. His rigidly scientific spirit, however, restrained him from such an endeavor, and he worked steadily on with the patient solution of one difficulty at a time. When the immense mass of cuneiform documents which Emil Botta had discovered at Nineveh reached Paris, the hope of deciphering Assyrian increased because of the accession of material, but diminished when Botta pointed out the great difficulty of the problem. He made little effort to decipher or translate, but collated all the inscrip­tions which they contained and made lists of all the signs which he found, differentiating 642 separate signs. This great number proved that the Assyrian cuneiform script was not alphabetic; some of the characters must be syllabic, some must be ideo­graphs and represent a word or an idea. Botta's discoveries were carried further by Edward Hincka. In a paper read before the Irish Academy on June 25, 1849, he showed that there was a sign for RA, another for RI, and yet another for RU. He proved the sign for AR, and presumably also for IR and UR, though he did not fully define the last two. This represented a great advance in the study of the problem. Rawlinson soon dared to do what Hincks would not, and ventured to translate the great Behistun text. There was needed then only the minute study of the characters until the entire syllabic system with its polyphones and ideographs should yield up its secrets. To this not only Rawiinson, but in even greater degree Hincka, contributed, and also the distinguished French Aseyriologiat, Jules Oppert. Contemporaneously with the decipherment of Assyrian went forward the decipherment of the Susian, or second language of the groups of three found at Persepolis. In this work the chief leaders were Niels Ludwig Wester­Based, Hincka, Fdlicien Caignart de Saulcy, and

8

Archibald Henry Sayce. When Persian, Susian, and Assyrian (or Babylonian) had been deciphered, the foundations of the new science of Aesyriology had been laid.

The cuneiform method of writing originated among the Sumerians, the earliest known inhabi 

4. Origin fasts of Babylonia. When the Semites

and Char 

acter
entered the land they found in posaes 

acter of aeon a round headed people, of small

the Script. stature and with black hair, whose

origin and racial connections are un­

known. A small though learned company of

scholars has maintained that the supposed Sume­

riana had no existence, and that their script, civiliza­

tion and religion were all originated by Semites.

This view has lost support, and can hardly be

longer regarded as seriously disputing the current

view as stated above. The cuneiform characters

were originally a form of picture writing. At first

the pictures represented natural objects; they then

became associated with certain words, and were

used phonetically to represent the sound of the

words without the meaning. In very early times,

these rude pictures were scratched on any material

that came to hand. Later stone was used for per­

manent records. But as stone is scarce in Baby­

onia, the easily worked clay took its place, and

the straight lines made by a single pressure on the

stylus tended to become wedges. The pictures

therefore lost their original character and gradually

became groups of wedges which were so thoroughly

conventionalized that it is now impossible to deter­

mine their origin save in a very few cases. Even

to the Assyrians themselves the original form of but

very few characters was known, though a few

tablets still preserved (of. TSBA, vi. 454 and Cunei­

form Tents from Babylonian Tablets in British

Museum, part v., London, 1898) show that the

Assyrians retained a consciousness of the pictorial

origin of their script. The Assyrians never devel­

oped a consonantal alphabet. They had only a

syllabary, with separate signs for the vowels a, i

or e, and u. The syllabic signs consisted, in the

first instance, of a separate sign for each conso­

nant with each separate vowel, thus, ab, ib, ub, ba,

bi, bu, ag, ig, ug, ga, gi, gu, the former serving also

for ap, ip, up, etc. In addition to these simple

syllables, the script had a large number of com 

pound signs, such as bal, bit, kak, may, kun, etc.

There were also very many ideograms, a sign being

used as the symbol for a whole idea; thus there

was a single sign for ilu, "god," belu, "lord " a lu

p

"son," duppxc, "tablet," umu, "day." Difficulties are further increased by the fact that many signs are polyphonous; a single sign may have several

syllabic values, and besides may stand se an ideo­gram for several ideas. The difficulties were some­what lessened by the use of signs called deter 

minatives placed before a word to show the class

to which it belonged. ROBERT W, ROGERS.

III. Christian Inscriptions: By Christian inscrip­tions in this article are meant non literary writings executed or provided by Christians which have some relation to the Christian religion. Christian epigraphy is concerned with inscriptions carved, scratched, painted, or stamped on various materials,





9 RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA Inscriptions

such as stone, metal, clay, ivory, and wood, in­tended to designate the source or purpose of an object, and also with documents which, on account of general or permanent interest, are inscribed on durable material, usually stone or metal. This comparatively new science has hitherto devoted its attention chiefly to the days of the early Church, but it is hoped that more attention will be paid to the collection and study of medieval and later inscriptions which are in danger of perishing with the lapse of time.

1. Ancient Christian Inscriptions: (1) Letters and figures. The workmen who made the earliest 1. Methods Christian inscriptions adopted the let 

' of tere a°d numeral system of their pre 

W~g, decessors, which was already old, and

continued its development steadily,

except in cases of deliberate archaism. Thus by

degrees new forms arose, more slowly in some places

than in others, and usually later in the provinces

than in Rome. At the date of the earliest Christian

inscriptions, there were three principal types of

characters: one used for carving on atone or metal,

one for painting on walls or woodwork, which corre­

sponded to that inscribed on parchment or papyrus,

and the vulgar or cursive script, which was either

impressed on soft material such as wax, fresh clay,

or plaster, or scratched on a hard surface, especially

walls (the so called graffito). These three types

were not always sharply distinguished, and Christian

epigraphy shows examples that can with difficulty

be assigned to any of the three class, and others

in which the forma appear in a confused mixture­

sometimes even one half of a letter being in monu­

mental and the other half in painter's script. The

most important class of letters, in the Christian as in

the older pagan inscriptions, is the capitals, in­

cluding the largest number of symbols for letters

and numbers. Besides these there were the uncial

forma, developed from the capitals by the rounding

off of sharp angles, and the cursive form, which

sought for speed in writing by using as few separate

strokes as possible. This last form occurs among

the dated inscriptions in Rome as early as 291.

(2) Ligatures. In the formation of words the letters

are sometimes separate, sometimes two or more are

united into a single symbol. These ligatures were

originally peculiar to coins, where the limited space

made them useful, and then were adopted in in­

scriptions. The rule for reading them was that

each element entering into their composition was

to be read only once. From the ligatures developed

the monogrammatic signs, which continued even

in the Middle Ages to be employed for imperial

signatures and the like. (3) Abbreviations. The

words may be either written in full or abbreviated,

sometimes to a single letter. The omission of letters

is indicated by strokes or projections above, below,

or beside the letters, or by periods and other signs

following them. Connected with these signs are

the strokes frequently, though not invariably,

placed over numbers to distinguish them from

ordinary letters. (4) Punctuation. A large number

of various punctuation marks were used. The com­

monest is the period, usually written, not on the

line, but half way up the letters; its shape is

generally round or approximately so; sometimes

it is represented by a small circle, and less often by

two sides of a triangle in various positions. Out of

this latter form developed leaves, somewhat like

ivy leaves, which used to be considered as intended

for pierced hearts, and thus as signs of martyrdom.

Occasionally the Greek cross, or even the Chi Rho,

is used as a punctuation mark. It was the rule in

the classical period to place punctuation marks

only within lines, not at the end, but in many

Christian monuments this rule is not observed;

indeed, in many the entire system of punctuation

is irregular, points being placed even in the middle

of words though this is to be distinguished from

" syllabic punctuation," where the syllables were

divided to facilitate reading. (5) Direction of the

writing. Writing from right to left had become

very rare among the Greeks and Romans at the

date of the earliest Christian inscriptions, and only

a few instances of it occur among them. While

no certain example of the ancient boustrophedon

form is known, there are a number which are read

downward, and arrangements still less usual exist,

dictated sometimes by the shape of the apace at

command, but in other cases probably by nothing

more than a love of singularity.

The great majority of extant early Christian in­scriptions are in Latin, Greek coming next. Even

in the West there is a considerable 2' Lan  number of Greek inscriptions, generally

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