found alphabet inscription time phoenician century written aramaic
SEMITIC INSCRIPTIONS, an account has already been given (see ALPHABET) of the derivation of the Phoenician alphabet from the hieratic alphabet of the Egyptian papyri of the middle empire. No early monuments written in it have as yet been found; time first known examples belong to a time when the alphabet bad been widely spread and a literature had long existed. At this time we find the alphabet divided into two branches, the Pheenician and the Aramaean, the first being again subdivided into archaic and Sidonian. The last two are chiefly distinguished by the form of the r, which is angular in time first and rounded in the second.
The earliest inscription in the Phoenician alphabet known to us is the stele of Mesha, king of Moab, found at Dhibmin and belonging to the 9th century B.C. In this Mesha relates that after the death of Ahab his god Chemosh enabled him to shake off the yoke of. Israel, to drive the Gadites out of Ataroth, and to fortify Kir-hareseth, Aroer, Iloronaim, Diboll, and other places. The language of the inscription differs only dialectically from Hebrew, To the same form of the alphabet belong most of the Phoenician inscriptions on the engraved gems brought of late years from Assyria and Babylonia, among which may be mentioned a cone with the image of a " golden calf " and the names Shemaiah and Azariah (ins-u p The Aramaic legends on the bilingual lion-weights of Nimrud, which date from the reign of Tiglath-Pileser IL (745-727 lac.) downwards, also belong to time same form of the alphabet. With these inscriptions may be classed the Phoenician inscription on a bowl lately restored by M. Clermont Gatineau, which mentions a King Hiram, and had been brought with other merchandise from Phoenicia to Cyprus, where it was found. Of later date are the graffiti scratched on the legs of the colossi at Abu-Simbel in Nubia by Phoenician travellers or mercenaries.
The most important monument of the Sidonian period of the Phoenician alphabet is the sarcophagus of Eshmun'azar, son of Tabnith (? Tennes), " king of the Sidonians," which is probably of the Gth century B.c. It may, however, he later. The inscription upon it states that Eshmun'azar had restored the ruined temples of Sidon, and prays time gods to preserve to that city the possession of " Dor, Joppa, and the rich cornlands in the plain of Sharon." Other noteworthy monuments of the same period are the so-called " Second Sidonian Inscription," which records the installation of a subordinate "king of Sidon" by a " king of the Sidonians " of Phoenicia; the inscriptions from Citium in Cyprus of King Pumyathon and his father Melecyathon in the 4th century B.C., as well as the bilingual PhurnicianGreek and Plicenician-Cypriote inscriptions from the same island, the Phmnician-Cypriote inscription of Melecyathon having furnished Mr George Smith with time key to the Cypriote syllabary; together with six inscriptions from Athens and two from Malta ; and the three inscriptions found by M. Henan at Unmf-el-Awfnid on the Phurnician coast.
The numerous dedicatory inscriptions found on the site of Carthage are written in what is termed the Punic development of the Sidonian alphabet ; all apparently belong to the Greek period. The most important Punic inscription is the tariff of sacrifices found at Marseilles in 1845, an abridged edition of which was discovered on the site of Carthage by Mr Davis in 18GO. The regulations contained in it have a striking analogy to many of those of Leviticus. Its date, however, cannot be very early, since it makes no mention of human sacrifices. The Punic alphabet was the source of those of Numidia and Iketica, where inscriptions have been found.
The series of Aramman inscriptions begins with the dockets on Assyrian contract-tablets of the age of TiglathPileser If. and his successors, when Nineveh and Carchemish became the chief centres of trade in western Asia. To time same period may be assigned an interesting gem from Babylonia, inscribed rrl+inv n1 nr,p2'7, as well as the cylinder of the eunuch Achadban, son of Gebrod, from Babylonia, and the cone of Itadrakifi, son of Hurbad, from Nineveh. As already observed, the inscriptions on the Assyrian lion-weights, though in time archaic Phoenician form of time alphabet, are Aramaic in language. Passing over the engraved stories of the Acinemenian epoch, we may notice the famous bronze lion of Abydos, belonging probably to time 5th century &C., on which an Aramaic legend is written. Of considerably later date is the inscription on an altar found by M. Marlette in the Serapeurn, in characters which resemble those of the Aramaean papyri of Ptolemaic Egypt. The alphabet of the latter, however, is still more closely represented by certain f unereal monuments found in Egypt with Aramtean inscriptions, the best known of which is the inscription of Carpentras, which records the death of a priestess of Osiris.
Starting from the 1st century B.c., the ruins of Palmyra and Taiba have furnished us with a large number of inscriptions in the Aramaic dialect of the locality. MM. de Vogue and Waddington alone have discovered more than a hundred of them. Most of them are written in what may be termed uncial characters, but there are a few in a cursive hand. Among the persons mentioned in them is Odeinath (Odenatus), the husband of Zenobia. Palmyrene inscrip• tions have been met with in Africa and Rome, and a bilingual one (in Palmyrene and Latin) has lately been found at South Shields.
Professor Sachan has recently discovered two inscriptions in Old Syriac characters, one at Zebed, near Palmyra, accompanied by Greek and archaic Arabic transcripts, and the other among the early Christian tombs of Edessa.l.
Passing over an Aramaic legend found by M. de Saulcy on a sarcophagus of the tombs of the kings at Jerusalem, and the coins of the kings of Edessa, we may notice the Mendaite inscription of twenty lines discovered in a tomb at Abu-Shadr in southern Babylonia, and first explained by Dietrich. It probably belongs to the 4th or 5th century. Inscriptions in Western Aramaic have been found in the Hauran. Among these is one on a tomb at Sucydeh, raised by Odeinath to his wife Hamrath in the time of Herod the Great, accompanied by a Greek transcript. Six other inscriptions of the same period come from the temple of Sigh ; one of them is dedicated to the god Katsiu, the Zeus Kasios of the Greeks.
The Hauran, more particularly the neighbourhood of Bozra, has also yielded a number of Nabathean inscriptions, written in a sort of Aramaic running hand. Nabathean inscriptions have further been found at Umm' er-Russas in Moab, and at Petra, as well as on the coins of Aretas and other Nabathean princes. But they are specially numerous on the rocks of Sinai, where they were scratched by pilgrims in the 3d and 4th centuries of our era, and were first deciphered by Beer. They consist for the most part of proper names, preceded or followed by the word shalom, "peace." The Aramaic dialect of these inscriptions is tinctured by Arabisms, among which may be mentioned the use of the article el. Two Nabathean inscriptions have been discovered at Pozzuoli, where, as we learn from the Acts, there was a Jewish colony.
The Nestorian Syrians carried their language and letters as far even as China. The celebrated inscription of Sigan-fu is written in good Estrangelo of the 8th century. A Hebrew inscription has also been found at Khai-fong-fu.
Ancient Hebrew epigraphy is poorly represented. The earliest Hebrew inscriptions are three from Siloam, one of which is addressed to "Baal of the temple," a fragment found in the streets of Jerusalem by M. Vernes, and a boundary stone discovered by M. Gatineau near Gezer. The royal names on the pottery found near the foundations of Solomon's temple are not Hebrew, but Phoenician. The Maccabean period has left us several inscribed monuments and coins. The oldest are the epitaph of eight members of the priestly family of Hezir (1 Chr. xxiv. 15) on the Doric tomb of St James at Jerusalem, the beginning of an Turkey, and Egypt enable us to trace the history of Hebrew writing up to the close of the Middle Ages ; and Professor Ascoli has lately drawn attention to the inscriptions in the Jewish cemetery of Venosa, which enable us to fill up the gap that had previously existed between the memorials of the 10th century and those of the 4th. We must not forget also the exorcisms, written in a dialect allied to that of the Mishna on bronze bowls found at Babylon by Sir A. H. Layard, or the sepulchral inscriptions collected by Firkowitz in a Karaite cemetery of the Crimea, dated sometimes from the creation, sometimes from the capture of Samaria. The latter belong to the 9th and following centuries, though the discoverer falsified the dates of many of them in order to assign them to an earlier period (see Strack in the Z. D. AC G., xxxiv. 1, 1880). Hebrew inscriptions in ancient characters have further been met with from Tiflis to Derbend.
Arabic epigraphy begins with the rise of Islam. Two systems of writing were used concomitantly, the Cufic OE uncial, and the Neski or running hand, neither of which, however, can be derived from the other. The earliest inscriptions yet known are two sepulchral ones, the first of which has been published by Wetzstein, Waddington, and De Vogue, while the other has lately been discovered by Sachan at Zebed. A Cufic inscription, dated 693 A.D., has been copied by De Vogue, at Jerusalem, and the old cemetery near Assuan contains a large number of similar inscriptions, some of which, as deciphered by Count Amari, contain the names of the companions of the prophet. Unfortunately this cemetery has never been thoroughly examined. Mention may also be made of Cufic inscriptions at Bozra, in Sicily, and elsewhere. Inscriptions in Greek and Neski Arabic have been found at Damascus, Tiberias, and other places, one of which is dated 696 A.D., while others are even older.
Passing to the north, we find the rocks of the desert of Safa (south-east of Damascus) covered with graffiti written in peculiar characters which long defied decipherment. About six hundred and eighty of them have been copied. M. Halevy, however, has now succeeded in reading them (see Journal Asiatique, Jan. - Feb., 1877, and Z. D. M.G., xxxii. 1, 1878), and showing that they are mostly the productions of Thamudite soldiers in the Roman army. The alphabet turns out to be intermediate between the Phoenician and the Himyaritic. The Himyaritic is the name usnally given to the form of the Phoenician alphabet used in southern Arabia. Hero a considerable number of pre-Islamitic inscriptions have been found, belonging partly to the kingdom of Saba, partly to that of Ma'n or the Mineans, where a dialect allied to that of Had ramaut was spoken. Many of them contain the names of kings, while most make us acquainted with various deities, among others 'Athtar, the equivalent of Ashtoreth. The Himyaritic alphabet was carried to Abyssinia, where it became the Ghe'ez or Ethiopic syllabary. The earliest specimens of Ethiopic writing are two inscriptions of King Tazena copied by Rfippell on the monuments of Axum, which belong to the 5th century.
Inscriptions in still undeciphered characters, some of which resemble those of the Himyaritic alphabet, though the larger number is more closely related to the demotic and hieratic characters of Egypt, have been copied (in 1880) by Professor Robertson Smith on the rocks of Taif ; near Jeddah. (Compare the inscription from the neighbourhood of El-Wijh given by Welisted, ii. 189.) Captain Burton has also found an inscription in characters not unlike the Himyaritic, in the Wady Intaysh, with which he compares two semi-Nabathean inscriptions from Wady Unayyid copied by Dr Wallin, and an inscription at Mecca given by Dozy (The Gold Mines of Viridian, 1878).
The inscriptions of the Semitic Babylonians and Assyrians are separately treated above. 'Die curious Hittite hieroglyphics found of late years at Carchemish, Aleppo, Ilamath, and various places in Asia Minor do not seem to conceal a Semitic language.
See Fr. Lenormant, Essai sur la Propagation de l'Alphabct nicien dans l'aneien Monde, 1872-75 ; E. Renan, Histoire generale et Systeme compare des Leagues Semitiques, 1863 ; Oesenius, Scr?Ptarw Lingunne Phonicim Monumenta, 1837; Schroder, Die phuniziselbe ,*rache, 1869; Do Vogue, Melanges d'Arelteologie orientate, 1868. Clermont-Ganneau's work on the Moabite Stone will supersede previous monographs. (A. H. S.)