By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: In the path of the alphabet - an historical account of the ancient beginnings and - evolution of the modern alphabet
Author: Jermain, Frances
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the path of the alphabet - an historical account of the ancient beginnings and - evolution of the modern alphabet" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                      IN THE PATH OF THE ALPHABET.


[Illustration: ‘Frances D Jermain’]


                             IN THE PATH OF
                              THE ALPHABET

                      AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE


                         OF THE MODERN ALPHABET

                         BY FRANCES D. JERMAIN


                            FORT WAYNE, IND.

                       WILLIAM D. PAGE, PUBLISHER



                            Copyright, 1906
                            BY S. P. JERMAIN
                         Published in December

                 Fort Wayne  [Publishers logo]  Indiana



In one of the closing days of August, 1905, the author of this work,
FRANCES D. JERMAIN, received the summons of her Maker to join the Silent
Majority. The call came suddenly, finding her in the full possession of
her ever remarkable intellectual powers, and with the ambition for much
yet to do.

For nearly twenty-five years, she had been at the head of the Toledo
Public Library, in the upbuilding of which she was ever the inspiration
and the guiding spirit.

With more than the ordinary capacity for organization and the practical,
she planned and carried out the working details of all notable
improvements, in that thoroughly modern library.

Others, who took up the work from which she retired about a year before
her death, will carry it forward with that devotion and capacity which
it should inspire; but they will but build additions to the edifice
which she reared.

Her death brought forth a remarkable outpouring of voluntary tributes to
her worth and work. From these has come the realization that by her
death Toledo has lost one whose influence upon its intellectual life was
the most potent and far reaching of any citizen it has ever lost.

Living and working nobly in public as in her ideally perfect domestic
life, her loss is profoundly felt.

Political administrations came and went, party triumphs and party
defeats lived out “their little day” and are long since forgot; but year
after year, until a quarter of a century had nearly gone, this brave and
learned little woman ruled, with gentle power and kindly wisdom, the
destinies of the Toledo Public Library.

In the growth and development of this notable public institution,
selecting its contents, the literary advisor of lawyers, journalists,
educators and students, she acquired, with her discriminating judgment
and retentive memory, a remarkable knowledge of the contents of books. A
subject practically never arose upon which she could not at once give,
either the needed reference or the full information required, and the
library contained seventy thousand volumes!

In this reference work, she became deeply impressed with the need of a
concise history of the beginnings and development of our modern

The information on the subject was widely scattered and very great. It
was found nowhere in a condensed and yet adequate form. She knew from
experience what the value to libraries, educators and students
generally, a concise history upon the subject would be.

This she undertook and finally completed. Not confining her account to
information gathered from works already published dealing with the
subject, she kept in constant correspondence with the leading
archæologists carrying on researches in both Egypt and the valley of the
Tigris and Euphrates.

Thus she literally walked with these great scholars “In the Path of the
Alphabet,” and her work took on that original and valuable character
based upon those most recent and wonderful discoveries which have
forever silenced the voice of “The Higher Criticism.”

This work, which we now reverently give to public print, is therefore
based upon her broad and deep knowledge upon the subject—from original
sources; a work of patient labor; of a profound Christian faith; a work
begun and finished in that spirit by which alone the best work of God’s
laborers needs must be done.

Upon her behalf, grateful acknowledgment is here made to Professor A. H.
SAYCE, Professor H. V. HILPRECHT, Professor JAMES A. CRAIG and Professor
C. R. CONDOR, who walked with her “In the Path of the Alphabet.”

                                                             S. P. J.

  Toledo, Ohio, December, 1906.



                              In Memorium

                       From the loving hands
                       of those to whom her life
                       was an inspiration which
                       shall abide.




               CHAP.                                PAGE

                  I. EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS,           9

                 II. CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTIONS,          21

                III. PHONETISM,                       27

                 IV. SYLLABISM,                       41

                  V. ARCHAIC LIBRARIES,               55

                 VI. THE CHALDEAN FIELD,              67

                VII. MESOPOTAMIAN INFLUENCE,          85

               VIII. BABYLONIAN CONTRIBUTIONS,        99

                 IX. THE TEL-EL-AMARNA LETTERS,      113

                  X. PROTO-MEDIC ALPHABET,           134

                 XI. ZOROASTER AND MAHOMET,          147



        MRS. FRANCES D. JERMAIN,                    Frontispiece

        The Rosetta Stone,                          Opp. Page  9

        Hieratic and Hieroglyphic Writings,               “   20

        Cuneiform Vowels and Consonants,                  “   26

        Form of Rebus Script,                             “   34

        Hieroglyphic and Hieratic Figures,                “   40

        Hieroglyphic Translation,                         “   54

        Hieroglyphic Hymn of Praise,                      “   66

        Hieroglyphic Signs and Equivalents,               “   98

        Hieroglyphs and Translation,                      “  112


[Illustration: THE ROSETTA STONE.]


                               CHAPTER I.

OF all the splendid achievements of archæological research during the
present century, there are none of more universal interest and
importance than those which are revealing the origin and history of
letters; this, not alone for the historic values of these discoveries,
for their illumination of a past of which hitherto there was but a faint
conception; but also for what letters have to tell us in explanation or
confirmation of Biblical narrative, of their bearing upon our most
sacred beliefs.

At the beginning of the present century the great mass of testimony now
laid open before us was an apparently impenetrable mystery. Egyptian
hieroglyphics and cuneiform inscriptions yet remained, for the most
part, but confusion of ornament and meaningless signs. Some little
advance, it is true, had been reached during the latter part of the
eighteenth century, as to the signification of certain hieroglyphic
characters, but these were as yet but conjecture; a groping in the dark,
with no means to verify, uncertain, unassured.

With the opening of the present century two events occurred which were
to place in the hands of scholars the keys to these mysteries. The first
in date of these discoveries, though not in results, was the finding of
the Rosetta Stone in 1799.

This was an outcome of the French scientific expedition to Egypt under
the first Napoleon. At this date, a French artillery officer, named
Boussard, while digging among some ruins at Fort St. Julian, near
Rosetta, discovered a large stone, of black basalt, covered with
inscriptions. This tablet, now known as “The Rosetta Stone,” was of
irregular shape, portions having been broken from the top and sides. The
inscriptions were in three kinds of writing; the upper text in
hieroglyphic characters, the second in a later form of Egyptian writing,
called enchorial or demotic, and the third was in Greek. No one of these
had been entirely preserved. Of the hieroglyphic text, a considerable
portion was lacking; perhaps thirteen or fourteen lines at the
beginning. From the demotic, the ends of about half the lines were lost,
while the Greek text was nearly perfect, with the exception of a few
words at the end.

The immediate inferences were that these three inscriptions were but
different forms of the same decree, and that in the Greek would be found
some clew for the decipherment of the others. It was first presented to
the French Institute at Cairo where it was destined not long to remain.

The surrender of Alexandria to the British, in 1801, placed the Rosetta
Stone, by the terms of the treaty, in the hands of the British
Commissioner. This gentleman, himself a zealous scholar and keenly alive
to the importance of the treasure, at once dispatched it to England,
where it was presented by George III to the British Museum.

A fac simile of the inscriptions was made in 1802, by the “Society of
Antiquaries,” of London, and copies were soon distributed among the
scholars of Europe. When the Greek inscription was read, it was found to
be a decree by the priests of Memphis in honor of King Ptolemy
Epiphanes; B. C. 198;

  That, in acknowledgment of many and great benefits conferred upon
  them by this king, they had ordered this decree should be engraved
  upon a tablet of hard stone in hieroglyphic, enchorial and Greek
  characters; the first, the writing sacred to the priests; the
  second, the language or script of the people, and the third that of
  the Greeks, their rulers.

  Also, that this decree, so engraved, should be set up in the temples
  of the first, second and third orders, near the image of the ever
  living King.

It might be supposed that with this clew the work of decipherment would
be readily accomplished. On the contrary, many of the most distinguished
scholars of Europe tried, during the twenty following years, without

The chief obstacle in the way was the prevailing opinion that the
pictorial forms of Egyptian hieroglyphs were mainly ideographic symbols
of things. In consequence, the absurd conceptions read into these
characters, led all who attempted the decipherment of these far away
from the truth.

It is true that Zoega, a Danish archæologist, and Thomas Young, an
English scholar, each independently, about 1787, had made the discovery
that the hieroglyphs in the ovals represented royal names, and were
perhaps alphabetic; but the signification of these characters were never
fully comprehended by either of these great scholars.

The claim made by the friends of Mr. Young as the first discoverer of
the true methods of decipherment, rests upon the fact that he gave the
true phonetic values to five of these characters in the spelling of the
names of certain royal personages, and in 1819 published an article
announcing this discovery. He seems, however, to have had so little
confidence in this conception that he went no farther with it, and still
later, in 1823, lost the prestige he might have gained, by the
publication as his belief, that the Egyptians never made use of signs to
express sound until the time of the Roman and Greek invasions of Egypt.

The real work of decipherment was reserved for Champollion, who, born at
Grenoble, in 1790, was but nine years old when the famous stone was
discovered which later on was to yield to him the long lost language of
the hieroglyphs.

Among the characters on the Rosetta Stone, in the hieroglyphic text,
were to be found certain pictorial forms enclosed in an oval. It had
hitherto been suggested that these ovals contained characters signifying
royal names. Were these symbolic signs, or how were they to be
interpreted? Champollion concluded that some of these signs expressed
sound and were alphabetic in character. Thus, if the signs in the
cartouche supposed to signify Ptolemy, could be found to be identical,
letter for letter, with the _Ptolemaios_ of the Greek inscription, an
important proof would be obtained. It so happened that on an obelisk
found at Philæ there was a hieroglyphic inscription, which, according to
a Greek text on the same shaft should be that of Cleopatra. If, then,
the signs for _P_, _t_ and _l_ in Ptolemaios corresponded with the signs
for _p_, _t_ and _l_ in Cleopatra, the identity of these as alphabetic
signs would be confirmed. The comparison fully justified his theory, and
further confirmation was supplied by further comparisons, until he
finally came into possession of hieroglyphic signs for all the

Again; certain indications convinced him that these characters appearing
in proper names must be also initial letters or initial sounds of
Egyptian words of which these signs were the pictorial representations.
If this was so, the sign for the letter _L_, which in the royal names
was the picture of a lion, must be the beginning of some word signifying
“lion,” which in old Egyptian would begin with the letter or first
syllabic sound of _L_.

The pictorial sign for the letter _R_ was the mouth. The word for mouth,
then, in Egyptian must begin with the letter or syllabic sign for _R_,
and so forth.

The early opportunities which Champollion had enjoyed for the
preparation of his great work were peculiarly significant. He was
educated by his elder brother, a man of great learning, professor of
Greek in the Academy of Grenoble, whose companionship early influenced
the direction of his younger brother to linguistic studies. In addition
to this, the intense interest aroused throughout Europe by the vast
collection of antiquities brought thither by the men of letters and
science who accompanied Napoleon’s army in Egypt, had compelled the
attention of scholars to this special field of research as never before.

With this guidance, and moved by the spirit of the times, Champollion’s
studies in ancient Greek led him to an early acquaintance with the
Coptic language. It is said that, as a result of this study, at the age
of sixteen he read a paper before his academy, maintaining that the
Coptic was the language of the ancient Egyptians. This is not now a
spoken language, having been supplanted by the Arabic since the
seventeenth century, A. D. It, however, survives in the service ritual
of the Coptic churches of to-day, and, though written in old Greek
characters, the ancient language is still heard, though but few
understand it.

As Champollion made use of his hieroglyphic alphabet for the spelling of
other words than proper names, his satisfaction may be imagined when he
found that these were Coptic words. Thus, the sign for “mouth” for the
letter _R_, was the initial letter or syllabic sign of the Coptic word
_Ro_, signifying mouth. The picture of a lion for the letter _L_ also
represented the initial letter or initial syllable of _Lavo_, the Coptic
for lion. The picture of an eagle, representing the sign for the letter
_A_, is also the sign for the initial sound or letter in _Ahem_, the
Coptic for eagle, and so on.

The language, then, of the Hieroglyphs was Coptic, or rather in the
Coptic we have a survival of the ancient Egyptian, the language of the
pyramid builders. More correctly speaking, it is the Egyptian language
of the Ptolemaic period, corrupted with Arabic and Greek idioms, but
still including the language of old Egypt.

It was, indeed, a thing which might have been expected, that the
language expressed by the ancient Hieroglyphs should bear a resemblance
to Coptic, but that the resemblance should be as close as it has proved
could scarcely have been expected.

Again, of special interest in this connection, is the fact that in the
Greek the writing and language of Egypt should be thus preserved.

[1]“The romance of language could go no further,” says Mr. Butler, “than
to join the speech of Pharaoh and the writing of Homer in the service
book of an Egyptian Christian.”

At this point, a brief reference, bridging the centuries from the
decline of the use of hieroglyphics to the later appearance of the
language in its Coptic and Greek forms, should have a place.

The extensive use of Phœnician and Greek alphabets in Egypt and
throughout the Orient, for some centuries before the Christian era, had
affected the Egyptian script as a social and commercial medium. The
hieroglyphics, however, held their own with the priesthood, for sacred
and secular uses, until the time of the Emperor Trajanus Decius,
249-252, A. D., which is the latest period in which we find them
employed for monumental purposes.

A little over a century later,—with the spread of Christianity, the
decline of paganism, the destruction of the Egyptian temples and the
dispersion of the priesthood under the Emperor Theodosius,—the
interpretation of the hieroglyphics was gradually lost, not again to be
read and understood until the discovery and interpretation of the
Rosetta Stone.

In 1822 Champollion announced the results of his studies to the “Academy
of Inscriptions” of Paris, and followed this by the publication of his
work on the “Hieroglyphic System of the Ancient Egyptians,” in which he
discussed the proofs that the phonetic alphabet was used in the royal
legends of all ages and is the key to the whole hieroglyphic system.

It will be remembered that those who before Champollion had undertaken
the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, had based their efforts
on the theory that these signs were mainly ideographic. With this as a
working theory, all advance was impossible. Champollion, on the
contrary, finding the Egyptian system including a phonetic structure,
made this a basis for research, achieving a brilliant success. He never
fully recognized the composite character of these phonetic signs. From
these he constructed an alphabet of nearly two hundred signs, to which
his pupil, Salvolini, added one hundred more, thus producing an alphabet
of nearly three hundred characters. As Lepsius was to show a little
later, while these signs are all phonetic, only a small
number—thirty-four in all—are alphabetic, the remainder representing

It is impossible, in this brief survey, to refer to the special
advancements made by other distinguished scholars in this field of
research. Since the death of Champollion the work of decipherment has
progressed steadily on until the life, the literature and the language
of the old Egyptians are open pages which all may read.

There are, however, many things not yet fully understood. Of the Rosetta
Stone, two of the texts may now be said to be fully translated; namely,
the Greek and the hieroglyphic. This has not been possible until
recently, in consequence of the mutilated condition of the tablet, a
considerable portion of the hieroglyphic text and part of the demotic,
being included in the fragment broken off and lost. Not long ago,
however, another stele was found at En Nobeira, near Dammamour,
containing a duplicate copy of the Rosetta texts in perfect condition.
This is now in the museum at Boulak.

The demotic text has never yet been fully translated. This writing is a
cursive script, developed from the hieratic to express the vulgar
dialect spoken by the people. As hieratic bears the same relation to
hieroglyphic that ordinary writing does to printing, so the demotic,
which is a further abridgment of the hieratic, is compared to the latter
as bearing the same relation which short-hand does to writing. Some of
these latent signs have been identified, but not all.

      The first five lines of a Papyrus (containing 75 lines),
      being the beginning of an ancient hymn addressed to the
      Deity, are added in the original Hieratic, with the
      transcription in Hieroglyphic characters. The Hieratic is
      read from right to left, the Hieroglyphic from left to
      right. The dots in the middle or end of the lines, written
      in red ink in the original manuscript, indicate that this is
      a poetic composition.





Footnote 1:

   Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt. Vol. II. P. 47.

                              CHAPTER II.

THE other event referred to, which was to open to scholars another field
of research, in interest and importance equal to the Egyptian
discoveries, was the work of Grotefend, early in the century, in the
decipherment of cuneiform inscriptions.

In many parts of Persia, there are to be found engraved upon the native
rocks, or upon ruined temples, inscriptions in peculiar characters.
These characters are called cuneiform, because they are made up from
combinations of a single sign resembling the head of an arrow or a thin
wedge. This sign was formed in three ways, either horizontal, [—];
vertical, [|]; or angular, [<]. From these primary signs, a great
variety of combinations appear, either in groups or forming single

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, fragments of these
inscriptions, and copies of others, had found their way to Europe and
into the hands of scholars. Although some of the most powerful
intellects of Europe had attempted their interpretation, but little, if
any progress had been made until the beginning of the past century.

In the year 1802, Grotefend, then a young student in the University of
Bonn, announced to his colleagues his success in the decipherment of a
trilingual inscription copied by Niebuhr from the ruins of a royal
palace at Persepolis. It will be remembered that this young scholar had
no Rosetta Stone, with an inscription in a known language to indicate
either subject or language; simply the strange combinations of these
singular signs.

The inscriptions were in three different systems of assortment of the
elemental signs, evidently representing three different languages, and
as they were placed side by side, it was also evident that they were
three versions of the same decree, or record of the same event. One of
the versions, which always came first, was simpler than the others. This
consisted of about forty signs, while the others were more complicated
and numerous. Again, in this version the groups of signs, which
evidently formed words, were separated, each from the other, by a
slanting wedge which did not appear in the others.

Grotefend also observed that each inscription usually began with a
certain group of words. One of these words, on different inscriptions,
varied, while the other words of this group remained the same. By a
happy guess, he conceived these groups to be royal names and titles, the
words which varied on the different inscriptions to be names of
different kings, while the words which always continued the same in
these groups were their titles. Upon this basis he began his work.

It was known to scholars that certain Achæmenian princes—Darius and his
successors—had erected some of the monuments from which copies of the
inscriptions were taken. Turning then to the older Persian language, of
the time of Darius, for the spelling of the name of this king, he gave
alphabetic values to certain of these signs which he supposed might
spell the name of Darius. Also, to the words which he supposed
represented the titles of this king. These alphabetic values were based
upon the spelling of the name and titles in the ancient Zend. In this
way he obtained supposed values of six letters in the cuneiform. He then
turned to another royal name which might be Xerxes. The name of Darius,
in old Persian, or the Zend, is spelled: D-A-R-H-E-A-U-SCH.

Again, the name of Xerxes, in Persian, is KH-SCH-H-E-R-E. Now, if the
third sign in the spelling of the name of Darius was the same as the
fifth sign in the spelling of the name Xerxes, in the Zend, this must
have the phonetic value of _R_. The comparison proved the correctness of
his conception. And again, further confirmation appeared in another
royal name, Artaxerxes, where the latter part of the name was the same
as the second royal name, and the sign for the second character again
corresponded with the letter _R_.

Thus he compared letter by letter, and sign by sign, until he had found
agreement in signs and sound for the names of these kings and their

Grotefend never succeeded much beyond this discovery, which was confined
chiefly to the Persian inscription. The language of the others was
unknown, and the characters peculiar and more numerous. They each
evidently represented more ancient forms of writing, with complications
not found in the simpler Persian version. Other scholars have however,
carried forward the work begun by Grotefend, some of these reaching the
same results independently, as in the case of Sir Henry Rawlinson, who
applied the same processes to the other trilingual inscriptions, quite
ignorant of Grotefend’s methods, and with further success. Still, to
Grotefend is due the honor of first discovering the clew to the
cuneiform system, and he it was who first laid a basis for future
labors, which, wherever adopted, has reached the most satisfactory

As rightly conjectured, the other texts of the trilingual inscriptions
are copies of the same decrees, addressed to other peoples of the realm,
speaking different languages and possessing different systems of
writing. As a Persian ruler of to-day publishes an edict in Persian,
Arabic and perhaps a Turanian dialect, so that it may be understood by
all his subjects, so the ancient Persian kings put theirs into the
languages and systems of writing peculiar to the principal races or
people inhabiting the country.

It was not, however, until the discovery and translation of the
inscriptions at Nineveh, that the full story of these Persian
inscriptions was distinctly revealed. It was then found that the two
other texts were addressed, the one to a Semitic people of Persia, the
other to a Turanian people, descendants of the primitive inhabitants of
the country. The close relations of these two systems of writing to the
two similar systems found in Assyria and Babylonia, were in evidence of
the kinship of these separate races.

Through the systematic arrangement of the vocabularies of the Semitic
and Accadian people, found in the Ninevite remains, the secret of the
Persian trilingual inscriptions came to light, revealing the extensive
use of the cuneiform writing among the various people of western Asia.

A significant fact in the early history of the decipherments of
hieroglyphic and cuneiform characters, are the coincidences in these
narratives. Thus the keys to both interpretations came through the sound
and spelling of the royal names. Again, the clew given by the Coptic to
the sounds of the old Egyptian, was also afforded by the ancient Zend,
the sacred language of the Parsees.

Notwithstanding the fact that alphabetic signs were the key to each of
these systems of writing, we are not to find that either the
hieroglyphic or cuneiform systems were founded on the alphabet. We are
to find that alphabetism and a pure alphabet are not identical. We are
also to find that before the simplicities of an alphabet are reached;
the art of writing in all systems is a series of bewildering

Subjoined are illustrations of cuneiform vowels and consonants as

[Illustration: Cuneiform Vowels and Consonants]


                              CHAPTER III.

WHILE yielding to the charm of some master of language, who of us gives
a thought to the fact that the grace and flow, the flexibility, the
mysterious eloquence of written speech is largely due to the invention
of letters. Only twenty-six simple signs, yet what marvels of simplicity
and power! In the readiness of these for new combinations, their varied
adjustments and readjustments in the formation of words, we find the
life and growth, and practically unlimited expansion of language; the
rhythmical melodies of verse; those inherent powers which render them so
adaptive to the wants of man; and withal, so easy to be acquired. Yet
writing without an alphabet is quite possible. In fact, the history of
the past is revealing great nations and people in possession of systems
of writing and of extensive literature, not founded on an alphabet.

We are nevertheless to find that writing without an alphabet is a
difficult and complicated matter. So serious and difficult, that
comparatively few could acquire the art, and that though in great
measure this was confined to special classes, as the scribes who devoted
themselves to the practice, and the priesthood who were invested with
the power, yet the art of writing was understood and in common use to an
extent incomprehensible when the difficulties of its acquirement are
considered. The results were nevertheless to limit the extensions of
knowledge, proving in all directions a barrier to progress.

Truly has it been said that “The history of our alphabet is the golden
thread which entwines itself with the long story of man’s civilization;”
that “It is the greatest triumph of the human mind;” and again, as “The
most wonderful of intellectual achievements.” For we are coming to know
that letters are an invention, not spontaneous productions or miracles
of language, and that evolution, as in other directions of human
inquiry, has much to say upon their origin and history.

Though taking us to a past so remote, the record for the greater part is
singularly distinct and clear. The story is, however, but a recent
revelation, not even as yet fully told, gathering only sufficient
coherence within the past forty years to make the telling intelligible
or possible. A fragment of inscription here, a roll of papyrus there,
illuminated by the inspirations of genius, and the ages which have so
long withheld from us the story of our alphabet, are slowly yielding the

To give in brief review the leading facts in this story is the simple
purpose of this history.

Before entering upon our narrative, however, we can best understand the
obstacles in this path of research—perhaps best understand letters
themselves—by a brief survey of the principles upon which the origin and
development of graphic representation are said to depend; perhaps we may
see more clearly how scholars groping in the dark in their study of
these unknown characters came to perceive first one fact and then
another, until the great story of letters was revealed.

We are thus first directed to the fact that at different periods of
time, in various parts of the globe, different races of men, each in
their own way, have invented methods of communicating with the absent,
and for the record of events.

Independently of speech, or the art of writing, other methods employed
by primitive man of communicating with his kind should first be noted.
Thus, the ancient gesture language, common to all races and people,
whereby facial expression, attitudes or gesticulations, sorrow, hatred,
love, confidence, regret, all emotions were expressed; that picture
action which we find appearing in picture writing.

Again, objects representing ideas which were used as message bearers. In
illustration of this we have the story told by Herodotus[2] of the King
of the Scythians who sent as gifts to Darius when about to invade
Scythia, a bird, a mouse, a frog and five arrows. When the Persians
asked of the messengers the meaning of these gifts, they would not
explain, but told them they should discover for themselves what these
things signified. The interpretation suggested by Darius was, that since
a mouse is bred in the earth, and a frog lives in the water, the
Scythians gave up land and water. The bird signified their speedy
flight, and the arrows the surrender of their arms to the Persians.

“Not thus,” said Gobyas, “should you interpret this message. It means, O
Persians, unless you become birds and fly into the air, or mice, and
hide yourselves beneath the earth, or frogs, and leap into the lakes, ye
shall never return to your homes, but be smitten with these arrows.”

Akin to objects as message bearers, is the knight’s glove sent as a
challenge to combat, the pipe offered by the North American Indian in
token of amity, the rosemary sent in remembrance, or the rose as a token
of affection.

Other methods employed for sending messages are of curious interest as
commonly used by people far removed from each other in time and place.
[3]As the knotted cords of the Chinese, or the quippas of the Peruvians,
which by their numbers, the style of knotting, or the distribution in
groups, were used as message bearers to all parts of the country. In the
same category also are the notched sticks of the North American Indians,
the tally sticks of the Danes, the English and other people.

But while in different parts of the world human beings have invented
ways of communicating with the absent without the art of writing, to
depict an object instead of conveying an object, would result as a
simpler and more lasting method of expression.

Thus, in simple pictures of objects, we find the earliest beginnings of
the art of writing. How these may be employed as message bearers or for
the record of events we have abundant illustration in the picture
writings of the North American Indian on the bark of trees, or inscribed
on rocks, metal and stone.

In the same way, in rude carvings with flint chips on bone and ivory,
records of the chase have come down to us from that far off time when
paleolythic man hunted the hairy rhinoceros, the mammoth and the hyena
in the forests of Europe.

Though hardly attaining the art of writing, pictorial representations in
kind were the earliest human attempt in this mode of expression. Later,
when pictures became the symbols of ideas, as the picture of a bee to
symbolize royalty, of an eye to indicate seeing or knowing, two legs to
signify walking or going, or a sparrow for cruelty or inferiority, we
reach a higher stage of progression—relics or reminiscences often of the
old gesture language, or objects sent as symbols of ideas.

These two first stages in the development of the art of writing are
known as ideograms, where signs, symbols or figures suggest the ideas of
objects without expressing their names. To construct a sentence in this
way with the various parts of speech, is impossible.

The next advance was phonetism, the representation of the sound of
words. Thus, the picture of a lion or a camel will be understood
whatever the language of the picture-maker may be. Perhaps, also,
symbols for things, as the sun for light, or an eye for seeing. “But
how,” says Hereen, “can the names of persons, as Henry, Lewis, and the
like, be distinguished by symbolic pictures?”

This is true also of many other words without the adoption of signs or
characters to represent sound, or the names of things, any adequate
expression of facts or ideas is impossible. It thus came about that when
pictures of objects or symbols of ideas obtained a fixed and permanent
sign for the sound in any language phonetism began.

Among the confusions which appear at this stage are the homophones;
relics of that primitive stage in speech, the monosyllabic, when few
sounds were used to express many things. As an example in modern
English, we have such words as pair, pare and pear; or rite, write,
right and wright; words so like in sound, so unlike in meaning.

In our language, these homophones for the greater part are defined by
the variant spelling, but as without an alphabet there could be no
variant spelling, other devices were necessary to indicate the various
meanings of words having the same sound.

Of these ingenious devices, numerous, clever, though cumbrous, yet so
essential before letters appeared, more hereafter.

In the meantime, we find the same sound sign thus came to be used for
words differing widely in sense and signification. These sound signs
were still picture writing. In no sense were they letters or alphabetic
characters, but pictures of objects which were used to express sound.
This first stage in phonetism is therefore often called by philologists
the rebus stage.

A distinct illustration of this method of sound representation is given
in the rebus form of the sentence, “I can sail round the globe.” Thus,
the pronoun “I” is expressed by the picture of an eye; the verb “can” by
the picture of a can; “sail” by the picture of a boat or ship’s sail;
“round” by a circle, and the word “globe” by a student’s globe.

[Illustration: The five pictures.]

In this first stage of phonetism we find that pictures of objects do not
represent these special objects as in the purely ideographic stage, but
the sound. Again, that writing had reached the point where signs and
symbols stand for entire words.

For a monosyllabic language this might suffice. The necessities of a
polysyllabic language, however, suggested a further advance. This was to
syllabism, the second stage in phonetism, and here signs are used to
represent the separate articulations of which words are composed.

In an advanced stage of syllabism not all of the articulations of
polysyllabic words were thus represented. Some sign attached to the word
as a whole came to be used as the sound value of the initial syllable of
the word.

This use of signs for the initial syllable of the word is one of those
tricks of abbreviation to which the human mind inclines. It is however
scientifically known as an application of the acrologic principle; viz:
the use of a sign primarily representing a word to denote its initial
syllable, or the initial sound. Thus we have the use of the letters “C”
for century; “A. D.” for Anno Domini, and other familiar examples. Also,
the signs for the Phœnician words Alph, Beth, Gimel, etc., which came
finally to appear as the initial letters of these words.

At the same time we are to remember that at this stage these simple
signs are as yet representing syllables. They do not as yet separate the
vowels from the attached consonants, denoting both together by a simple

Nor at this stage of writing was there any conception of such a
division. The vowel seems to have been regarded as inhering in the
consonant. As yet no way had been devised to express the vowel sounds.

We can, however, readily perceive that any attempt to treat pure
syllabic signs alphabetically would be impossible. The power of the sign
for Ne is not “n;” the sign for Ro is not “r;” Se, Si and Su are not
“s;” nor is Tu “t.”

The selection of a number of such signs representing initial syllables
of words is termed a syllabary. Its formation occurred when all, or a
greater part, of the unions of single consonants with vowel sounds in a
language had received each its phonetic and characteristic sign and was
thus used independently of any previous signification of the word from
which it was derived.

Selections of these signs could be used almost as the alphabet is used
to form words. That they were not entirely depended upon by many
intelligent nations that possessed a syllabary is one of the curiosities
in the history of written speech.

The influence of the syllabaries which developed under different
conditions in various languages is an exceedingly interesting study,
sometimes so increasing the simplicities of written speech as to nearly
approach the powers of the alphabet; again, increasing the extraordinary
complexities writing had assumed at the syllabic stage.

Thus these syllabaries have been at once the despair and the
illumination of scholars, who, attempting to decipher these unknown
characters as letters, could make nothing of them, but when finally
recognizing their syllabic values, a wonderful period in the history of
letters was revealed.

Syllabic systems, wherever found, are a study of special significance;
so nearly alphabetic, yet so remote; always suggesting the greater
simplicities to be, and yet so oblivious of these simplicities.

But one step further and alphabetism is at hand. Instead of the use of
the sign for the phonetic power of the syllable, the use of this sign
for the phonetic power of the letter was all that was necessary.

To many nations such an advance was inconceivable. For this, the
conception of the elementary sounds of which words are composed is
necessary; the vowels and the consonants, the consonant being the chief
power in this development.

It has been suggested that this advance when reached was the result of
the prominence of the consonant in the syllable. For instance, the
phonetic power of the consonant in the syllables sa, se, si, so, su, is
constant while the vowels are variable.

The consonants thus appeared to be the substantial elements of words
while the vowels were complementary and inconstant. In this way the sign
for the syllable came finally to be the sign for the consonant, with the
vowel understood. In confirmation of this we find that the first
appearance of alphabetic writing—that is where letters only are used for
the formation of words—was consonant writing. The earliest, nearest
approach to a pure alphabet, was an alphabet of consonants.

The Semitic languages differ from all other idioms in structure. The
original roots of Semitic words are tri-consonantal, consisting of three

Out of a language so constructed it is easy to understand the
development of such an alphabet. The confusions of its use are also
manifest. Thus, in the changes of signification of the Semitic root
word, _k-t-b_, signifying “write” we have, when spoken, _ka-ta-ba_, “he
has written,” _ku-ta-ba_, “it has been written,” _ka-ta-bu_, “writing,”
and _ka-tu-bu_, “written.” In script, however, whatever the
signification, in ancient form we have simply _k-t-b_ with the many
meanings supposed to be explained by the context. In early Semitic
script there was no notation for vowel sounds, nor did these appear
until a comparatively recent date.

From this source, as well as from the similarities which these
consonantal signs assumed, have arisen many embarrassments in the
translation of Hebrew, and curious evidences in textual criticism.

With the Semitic letters, however, we have reached the first alphabet;
not the first appearance of letters, or alphabetic characters, but that
stage in the evolution of letters where these were used independently to
express words.

At this point, surveying the course from its beginnings, we find the
tendencies of progression are, first, simple pictures of objects; again,
these simple pictures representing ideas, then as denoting sound or the
names of objects, later on as syllabic signs, and finally as letters.

Along this line of progress there are, however, certain curious
phenomena which record the historical course of writing as distinctly as
do the successive deposits of geological periods.

While the tendency of all systems of writing is from ideographism to
alphabetism, not all reached this latter stage; some gradually reached
phonetism, where they stopped. Others advanced to syllabism and there

Another singular circumstance is that this progress in phonetism is
always without giving up ideographism; that every stage is still picture

Again, we find each stage of progress including previous steps of
advance, until at last, as in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, we have the
full series of pictures of objects and pictures for sound with a
formidable array of determinatives and other special signs and
significations. This order of progress has been found so constantly true
with all original systems of writing among all races, near and remote,
that it may be regarded as a natural, universal law.





Footnote 2:

  Herodotus. Melopemene, IV 131-133.

Footnote 3:

  Confucius states, in the famous historical work, Gih King, that “In
  great antiquity knotted cords served them (the Chinese) for the
  administration of affairs; and that later, the saintly Fou Hi replaced
  these by writing.”

                              CHAPTER IV.

MANY eminent philologists suggest a time in the history of human speech
when language was monosyllabic, when by a few simple utterances human
beings were able to express many things, indicating by gesture or tone
which of the words having the same sound was the thing expressed.

Later on we find language developed by the connection of two or three of
these root words, agglutinated, or stuck together as one word, by which
this obtained a broader meaning. This is the first stage in
polysyllabism, and is known as the agglutinative stage. Later, human
speech passed into the inflectional stage, where these agglutinated
words having coalesced or melted into one, became so changed in time by
phonetic corruption that finally it becomes impossible to determine
which part was the original root and which the modifying element of the
earlier stage.

Of the monosyllabic stage in language, the Chinese is a distinguished
example. This language is referred to by many eminent philologists as
the most primitive in structure of any living tongue. It is a language
of monosyllabic roots, limited in number, these roots possessing neither
inflections nor parts of speech. Each word is a root and each root is a
word, which in turn may be used, according to its place in a sentence,
as a verb, a noun, an adjective, a participle, or some other grammatical

In speaking, the Chinese express these homophones by varying tones and
gestures. In writing, their meaning is ingeniously explained by the use
of two characters. One of these is a phonogram, which gives the sound of
the word; the other is an ideogram or picture form, that explains which
of the words having this sound is the one indicated. These ideograms are
styled “keys,” and later on it will be observed are identical with the
determinatives of the Assyrian and Egyptian systems. As an instance of
the Chinese use of these keys, is the phonogram, _ha_. This has eight
distinct significations. Thus, it may denote a banana tree, a war
chariot, a scar, a cry, or any other of its various significations
according to the key associated with this phonogram.

Thus this language, possessing but a limited number of root words, is so
expanded by the varying combinations of phonetic signs and ideographic
characters, that its acquisition for reading or writing is a formidable

Some of the recent dictionaries of the English language record a
vocabulary of two hundred thousand words. To write any or all of these
one needs only to learn the twenty-six signs of our alphabet. To write a
common business letter, or to read an ordinary book in Chinese, it is
necessary that the scribe or student should know familiarly from six to
seven thousand of these groups of characters by which to express the
forty or fifty thousand words in the vocabulary of the Chinese.

Again, many of these characters are so similar in form that to write
them accurately requires intense concentration, and acute powers of
memory. Notwithstanding this, China has been a center of culture and
intellectual activity from her first appearance upon the stage of

From the earliest period, the social and political system of the Chinese
has been based upon educational qualifications. All political dignities,
honors and preferments, by unalterable law and usage depend upon the
educated abilities and scholarship of candidates for office.

The rank of mandarin comes by no hereditary right, nor by favor of a
sovereign, but through severe intellectual effort. If in some cases this
is obtained through corruption and bribery of some clever scholar who
sells his literary privileges to some richer competitor, this does not
alter the case; honors still go to scholarship.

It is said of these successful men, the true students, that it would be
difficult to parallel them in any country for readiness with the pen and
retentive memory. If they are not highly educated, it is due to their
false system of educational merit, which consists in an undue exercise
of the memory at the expense of the thinking powers. It is also due to
the fact that it is a stereotyped system, based upon an ancient usage
and custom, concerned with the past and ancient tradition rather than
present or future progress.

The early history of this people is specially interesting in the light
of recent discoveries. These suggest, and the suggestions are confirmed
in the ancient literature of the Chinese, that at a period about B. C.
2500, these people made their first appearance in China from some
locality south of the Caspian Sea, in western Asia. This is supposed,
from certain historical correspondences, to have been Susiana, and that
their emigration was the result of political disturbances occurring
throughout western Asia at that date. That, driven from their early
home, they wandered eastward, finally settling in the fertile districts
of Shansi and Honan, near the Yellow river. About the same time, other
families of this people settled to the south in Annim, from whence these
kindred people finally spread over all China.

When they first came into the country, they found there aboriginal
tribes of various races. In their historical annals the most important
of these primitive inhabitants are referred to as the “Kwei people.” It
is said of these that they practiced the art of writing and possessed a
literature which is referred to by the Chinese as the “Kwei Books,”
which included a treatise on music. M. de Lacouperie conjectures these
primitive people to be of the Aryan stock, of whom remnants are to be
found at the present day in Cambodia.

When the Chinese came into the land they had a culture of their own.
They were advanced in the industrial arts and they possessed a system of
writing and a literature.

They date the origin of writing with them to a mythical emperor,
Hwang-le, who invented the art, selecting for this purpose objects in
the air, and on the earth, and in the world around, substituting these
representations or symbols of things for the knotted cords then in use.

Modern Chinese writing gives but a faint suggestion of a derivation from
ancient pictographs. These, however, can be traced by referring to
archaic forms of these characters.

Again, in Chinese words formed by two characters, the one representing
the sound, and the other the key which indicates the sound, these two
characters are so imposed, the one upon the other, as in a modern
monogram, or are so closely associated, that to the uninitiated they
appear as one character.

When, however, these characters are separated, they bear often distinct
resemblance to objects, and in the archaic forms of these characters
their picture origin is distinctly apparent.

Dr. S. W. Williams, in his work “The Middle Kingdom,” Vol. I, has
illustrations, showing fine examples of archaic and modern forms of
Chinese characters that are in evidence of the pictorial origin of the
Chinese system.

The references to the mythical emperor, Hwang-le, who, according to
Chinese annals, invented their system of writing, seems to have
antedated the appearance of this people in China. In their historical
literature, his name is written Nak-hon-ti, and he is so nearly
identical in name, character and works to the Susian deity, Nak-hun-ti,
that the two are evidently the same. This correspondence suggests the
early association of the Chinese with the families of the same race who
inhabited Susiana in primitive times, which continue in the names of
other heroes common to Accadian legends and the annals of the Chinese.

Again, the accordance of the Chaldean and Chinese chronology in
astronomical and other scientific data cannot be regarded as accidental.

Among many remarkable parallelisms in the literature of both races are
the astrological chapters of the “She King,” the most ancient of the
dynastic histories of the Chinese, and an astrologic chapter in an
Accadian document. These have been translated by Professor Sayce, from
the cuneiform, who finds constant occurrence of the same expressions in
both records relating to particular forecasts, connected with certain
planets, as “Soldiers arise,” “Gold is exchanged,” and many others.

Again, the division of the Chinese empire by the Emperor Yaou into
twelve portions, governed by twelve “Pastor Princes,” in imitation of
the feudal system of ancient Susa, is another evidence of the former
association or close contact of these distinct people.

In the literature of the Chinese there is a work for which they claim
the highest antiquity. Until recently no clew had been found for its
interpretation. This was the “Yih King,” or “Book of Changes,” which has
been a sealed mystery to the ablest Chinese scholars of all ages,
including Confucius. Its interpretation has, however, been accomplished
by M. de Lacouperie who finds this work to be a collection of
syllabaries such as are common in Accadian literature. These are
interspersed with chapters on astronomical and astrological lore. Others
again, refer to the ethnology of primitive inhabitants of the country;
all of these, however, taking the form of vocabularies only possible to
interpret by recognizing their syllabic character.

The appearance of this work in ancient Chinese literature is explained
in two ways. Prof. Douglas regards this as an evidence that in by-gone
ages this language was polysyllabic. He points to the fact that certain
words indicate a former polysyllabism and from this infers that the
language as it now appears is an example of phonetic decay. Others, on
the contrary, see in the occasional but rare evidences of agglutination,
the influence of contact with other races speaking an agglutinative or
polysyllabic tongue, and of which the above example in their ancient
literature is perhaps a literary remains.

It is incredible that a race so advanced in polysyllabism as evidenced
by the “Yih King,” or “Book of Changes,” could revert to so pure a
monosyllabism as is now presented by the Chinese language. Phonetic
decay is possible to many words in a language, but so general a
reversion to primitive conditions is scarcely possible of a whole

Reference has been made in the Chinese system of writing to their use of
picture forms or ideographic signs, in association with the phonograms
to explain the meaning or particular use of these signs.

This principle, so often referred to, is by no means a special invention
of the Chinese, but as we shall see, occurs in all original pictorial
systems of writing with the development of phonetism. This is, that when
phonetic values begin to attach themselves to the primitive ideographs,
these are retained and attached to the signs expressing the primitive

“As if,” says Prof. Sayce, “to assist the memory in remembering the
meaning and pronunciation of a particular word.”

In this way evidently the “keys” of the Chinese system had their origin,
as also the determinatives of the cuneiform, the hieroglyphic systems of
the Egyptians, the Maya or Mexican, and other pictorial systems.

Among the many advantages obtained from a purely syllabic, or purely
alphabetic system of writing is the easy adjustment of these signs to
various forms of speech. This is eminently true of alphabetic systems.
On the other hand the application of non-alphabetic characters to other
than the original language to which these were adapted is by no means so
simple and manageable in results.

We have seen how the Chinese, by the simple use of the phonogram and the
ideogram, were enabled by the structure of their language to retain this
form without variation through the ages.

The tendency in polysyllabic languages after reaching the phonetic
stage, was to greater complexity and an increase of explanatory signs in
systems of writing. Sometimes the transmissions of these primitive
systems from one race to another, led to simpler methods.

It, however, not infrequently happened that these transmissions led to
greater complexity. This depended somewhat upon the diversity between
the languages spoken by the authors of the primitive system of writing
and those who adopted it.

While speech and mode of writing are distinct and independent, the one
of the other, the influence of language structure in the evolution of
graphic systems is conspicuous. Thus a sentence of English speech might
be expressed by Chinese characters or Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the Tel
Armana tablets, more than one language appears in the cuneiform. We have
seen how the so called Hittite characters were found on occasion
yielding Greek words, and the use of the Roman alphabet for French,
German, Italian and other languages, are every day examples.

The fact however remains, that in the process of the development of
primitive systems of writing, before the use of an alphabet, the
influence of language structure upon the systems of writing is an
important factor in the case.

A curious phenomenon in the history of human speech is the preference
shown by certain families of language for special combinations of vowels
and consonants. The simplest combination is of a single vowel with a
preceding consonant in the formation of syllables. For instance, such
words as Ho-no-lu-lu, Mi-ka-do and others.

The Japanese form their syllables only in this way. The same is true of
Polynesian dialects and also certain families of language in Africa
south of the Equator.

Some distinguished philologists suggest this relation of consonant and
vowel as survivals of the original elements of speech; an example,
perhaps, in language, of “the line of least resistance.” It is easier to
utter _sa_ than _as_, _ta_ than _at_, and so on. However this may be, it
is a notable fact that certain families of speech form their syllables
only in this way.

Again, the Semitic languages are alone in their use of three consonants
in the formation of root words; three consonants with their
complementary vowels and no more.

Other languages form their syllables with every possible combination of
consonants and vowels, some showing a preference for the consonants,
others for the vowels, while again others combine their syllables as the
case may be, showing no decided preferences for special combinations of
vowels and consonants.

These conditions have had their influence on the development of graphic
systems. In the simplest combination of a consonant and vowel, as _sa_,
_se_, _si_, _so_, _su_, if the combining power is only one way and never
another, as _as_, _es_, _is_, _os_, _us_, the number of syllables that
can be formed in such a language are few, and the number of signs to
express these are consequently limited. But when the combining power is
both ways, the number of possible syllables increases with every
increase of these combinations of vowels and consonants, and the number
of signs correspondingly.

The transmission of the Chinese system of writing to the Japanese, which
occurred about the third century, B. C., indicates this influence of
language structure towards simplicity. The Japanese language is
polysyllabic. No syllable contains more than one vowel, with a single
preceding consonant.

In the adoption by the Japanese of the Chinese characters in the
Ka-ta-ka-na syllabary, a certain number of phonograms were selected
which would give the sound of the unions of consonants and vowels in the
Japanese language. As spoken, this includes five vowels and fifteen
consonants. As these combine only in one way there are but seventy-five
possible combinations of vowels and consonants in this language. As some
of these possible combinations never occur, the use of forty-five of
these syllabic signs are all that is necessary to form any word in the
Japanese language, with the Ka-ta-ka-na syllabary.

In the formation of this syllabary the ideographic characters of the
Chinese system were found unnecessary and were rejected. The result has
been one of the best syllabaries that has ever been constructed.

The Japanese have another syllabary, the Hi-ra-ka-na, derived from a
cursive script of the Chinese. This syllabary, however, is more
complicated, including with the syllabics a greater number of signs as
variants, and homophones, in all nearly three hundred; a marked contrast
to the simplicity of the other. It is, however, one among the many
instances we have in the evolution of letters, where the simpler way
seems so easy and evident, but yet is not recognized.





    Lines 1 and 2 read in the original from right to left! Below
    lines 1 and 2 the god Osiris is represented as sitting on his
    throne, and the inscription of these two lines refers to him.
    Below lines 8 and 9 we find Amen-neb, the dedicator of the
    tablet, kneeling, and below line 11 his wife Hûi kneels.

    Transcription: (1) Usar heq zeta nuter â (2) suten ânxu (3) mer
    ârât en Amen Amen-neb zedef (4) anez hirek qa amenti heq nefer
    (5) neb zeta iu ena xerek (6) seka-ut sûshu (7) nefer-uk duk
    hotepa (8) em ast ent neheh set hesu (9) amen hâti-a nen ger
    (10) amef (11) himtef nebt per mertef Hui zed nes.

    Translation: (1) [This is] Osiris, the god of eternity, the
    great god, (2) The King of the living. (3) The chief of the
    store-house of Amen, Amen-neb says: (4) Hail to thee, ruler
    [literally: ‘bull’] of the Lower World, gracious god, (5) lord
    of eternity, let me come before thee, (6) let me extol in praise
    (7) thy beauty. Give me peace (8) in the abode of eternity, in
    the country of praise [i. e. Hades] (9) that will hide my heart.
    There is no de- (10) ceit in it [i. e. the heart]. (11) His
    wife, mistress of his house, his beloved, Hui, she [also]
    repeats [this prayer].


                               CHAPTER V.

THE path of our alphabet seems to be taking us far afield when we turn
to Chinese systems of writing and to the origin and development of
cuneiform. Nevertheless, it is in this course that some of the richest
developments have appeared and the greatest rewards have been obtained
by scholars in this special direction of research.

In the narrative given of the decipherment of cuneiform writing
reference was made to the three distinct combinations of the
arrow-headed or wedge-shaped characters in the trilingual inscriptions
at first deciphered.

It was found that these three distinct combinations of cuneiform signs
represented three languages of three distinct races of men, the
Persian, an Aryan people speaking an inflectional language; the
Assyro-Babylonians, Semitic people who spoke a language related to the
Hebrew, and the third a Turanian people who spoke an agglutinative
language, allied to that of the modern Turks or Finns.

It was some time after the decipherment of the Persian version of the
cuneiform texts before these facts became fully understood. The Semitic
text presented unusual difficulties, while the language of the other
version remained for a time unknown.

The discoveries of Mr. Layard, shortly after, on the site of ancient
Nineveh, were to throw more light upon the subject.

With the unearthing of the royal palace of Assur-bani-pal, at Keyunji,
the remains of the great library founded by this monarch were discovered
beneath the ruins.

These remains consisted of more than twenty thousand bricks, tablets and
cylinders, some of which were in fragments, but a greater part entire,
and the inscriptions thereon as distinct as when first impressed in the
soft clay.

This was a fine, tenacious clay of the region which had been moulded
into bricks and cylinders of various sizes, upon which when moist the
cuneiform letters had been impressed by a wooden or metal stylus. They
had then, for the greater part, been hardened by a slow fire, and were
thus made practically indestructible. These cuneiform books were soon
distributed in the great libraries and museums of Europe, and thus
became accessible to scholars.

Among these literary documents were found a large number which consisted
of translations, either interlinear or in parallel passages, from a
non-Semitic language into Assyro-Babylonian.

It appeared in two dialects, the speech of the early people of northern
Babylonia—the people of Accad—and the speech of the primitive
inhabitants of southern Babylonia—the people of Sumir or Shinar.

The close alliance of the peoples of Accad and Sumir in race and
language has led to the general application of the name of Accadians to
both families. A closer distinction in general terms now adopted by
scholars is Sumerian.

Further discoveries rapidly following the unearthing of the Ninevite
tablets, confirmed the evidences that these people were the inventors of
cuneiform, and that the Sumerian dialect represented the most ancient of
the cuneiform scripts.

In the oldest inscriptions which have yet been found the characters are
hardly as yet cuneiform. The lines are straight and simple, resembling
somewhat the strokes and dashes appearing in words spelled by the
electric telegraphic code.

The arrangement of these is pictorial, forming picture hieroglyphics,
and these were found to be ideographic and not phonetic.

By degrees the wedge-shaped and arrow-headed characters appear, the
pictorial forms are not so distinct and these characters express sound
as well as ideas.

The story revealed by these older inscriptions was a genuine surprise to
scholars. It not only presented the remoter occupation of Mesopotamia by
a hitherto unknown people, but also that while to Mesopotamia is to be
accorded the distinction as the “mother land” of the arts and sciences,
it was not to its Semitic inhabitants, the Assyrians and Babylonians of
history, that this is due.

Here, long before the appearance of a Semitic people in the land,
scientific applications to the industrial arts were abundant. An
extensive system of irrigation and canals were in use in the arid
regions and drainage for the low lands near the sea. The arts of
metallurgy were practised. Mathematics and geometry were applied to
structures, and astronomy to measurements of time and planetary

They were builders of cities. As we have seen, they had invented a
system of writing. In certain cities they had schools for scribes, and
they had libraries where the literature thus developed was collected.

When we learn that this testimony takes us back to a date older than the
pyramids and to the earlier Egyptian dynasties, we may well exclaim at
the astonishing facts archæology is presenting.

Until recently there were no evidences of a civilization in Babylonia
which approached the antiquity of Egyptian monuments.

In 1883, Dr. Taylor placed the earliest dates from the cuneiform at
between 2700 and 3000, B. C. Recent discoveries, however, refer back to
a period, according to Prof. Hilfrecht, at least three milleniums
earlier, and point to a civilization distinct and original with the
Turanian races of Asia preceding that of other races and people in these

Mesopotamia, “The land between the rivers,” is a tract of country
extending about seven hundred miles from its northernmost boundaries,
near the mountains of Armenia, to the southernmost limit, the Persian
Gulf. A range of hills crosses this region near the center, running east
and west, from the Euphrates to the Tigris. North of these hills the
country is the ancient Assyria, with its capital, Nineveh, situated on
the Tigris. South of these hills to the Persian Gulf, is the ancient
Babylonia, or Chaldea, where, on the Euphrates, its later capital,
Babylon, was situated.

In the more ancient records Assyria appears as “Accad,” or “Agade;” the
southern portion, or Babylonia, as “Sumir,” or the land of “Shinar,” and
later as Chaldea.

For the greater portion, this region is a dead level, its monotony
unbroken but for the rich verdure of the lands bordering upon these
great rivers, and the long lines of slightly elevated embankments
marking the course of ancient, or more recent canals, and the solitary
mounds rising here and there from the plain.

These are the sites of ancient temples and cities and are sometimes very
extensive. The mounds of Warka, the ancient Erech, are nearly six miles
in circumference and in some places rise to the height of one hundred

The great mound of Koyunjik covers an area of over one hundred acres in
extent, and is ninety-five feet high at its most elevated point. That of
Nippur, with the ruins of the great temple of Bel, rose over one hundred
feet above the plain. Others are smaller, and sometimes were intended to
support but one palace or temple.

These mounds are artificial, their foundations consisting of earth mixed
with burned bricks in alternate layers, the whole encased by a wall of
bricks cemented with bitumen, or as in Assyria, where stone could be
obtained, by a facing of stone masonry.

Upon these artificial hills or mounds, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia,
from the most remote to later times, built their cities, their palaces,
their temples and other important structures.

The heavy rains of the winter season coursing down these declivities for
so many centuries, have in places worn deep ravines in the mounds,
through which the torrents have carried the crumbling debris far out
upon the plain. In this way many valuable relics have come to light;
bits of pottery, inscribed bricks, seals and cylinders, the form and
style of the inscriptions upon some of these indicating great antiquity.

These indications of greater antiquity include inscriptions on bricks
for building purposes as well as those used for record and literature.
They include also the form and character of the inscriptions, whether
archaic or later cuneiform, and again the use of bitumen or cement in

In primitive times the first bricks which succeeded the mud wall were
sun-dried and were laid up with reeds and plastered with soft mud or
bitumen. This bitumen was applied hot and adhered so firmly to the
bricks that it is almost impossible to break them apart to obtain the
cement and is one cause why the masonry consisting of sun-dried bricks
has in many cases withstood the ages. Later the sun-dried bricks came to
be used only for interior walls, while for the outer walls bricks were
made from selected clay and were carefully prepared and burned, forming
bricks of superior quality and strength. So well have these withstood
the ravages of time that some of the mounds, notably those of the later
Babylonian period, are veritable quarries of building brick.

It is stated that the bricks of which the temples and palaces of Babylon
were built, have for the past two thousand years supplied cities of the
surrounding region with the material used in the construction of public
and private edifices, and that certain families of the Babili tribe, who
claim to be direct descendants of the Babylonians, are exclusively
employed in quarrying them.

As has been stated, bitumen was used for laying the masonry in the
remoter times long before Babylon was built. Of this substance an
abundant supply was to be obtained at various places in southern
Mesopotamia, near the Arabian desert, notably in the neighborhood of Ur,
now Mugheir, “the bitumened,” so called from the bitumenous springs of
the vicinity. In time, the use of this for masonry gave place to a fine
white mortar made from a peculiar calcareous clay, found near the
Arabian frontier to the west of the Euphrates in southern Mesopotamia,
which for lightness and strength has never been surpassed.

These evidences, including also the inscriptions originally stamped upon
the bricks, with the name of the king or ruler under whose orders they
had been prepared, furnish indications of their time and place in

It thus came about that explorers following the work of Botta, Layard,
George Smith and others, found their way to sites more ancient by many
centuries than the beginnings of Nineveh or Babylon, and have obtained
from these records of great historical importance.

The more ancient of these sites are in the southern portion of the
country, in that region anciently known as Sumir, or Shinar, and later
as Chaldea.

This was on the lower courses of the great rivers, the Tigris and
Euphrates, towards the Persian Gulf. This region abounds with the ruins
of ancient cities as yet unexplored. The most important of the cities of
this region were Eridu, the most ancient and sacred, now marked by the
mud heaps of Abu Sharein; the city of Ur, now Mugheir, once a maritime
and commercial city of these earlier times, and of special interest as
that “Ur of the Chaldees,” the early home of Abraham; Nippur, or Neffur,
the seat of older Bel; Tel-Loh, the ancient Sirgulla, and Larsa.

The sites of Ur and Eridu, once near the sea, are now far inland. Eridu,
formerly directly upon the shores of the Persian Gulf, is now one
hundred and fifty miles distant, while Ur, once situated at the mouth of
the Euphrates, is now about one hundred and fifty miles distant from the
sea, and about six miles to the west of the present course of the
Euphrates on the western banks of the older bed of the river, nearly
opposite the point—though six miles away—where the Shat-el-Hic enters
the Euphrates from the east, as it approaches from its source in the

It is estimated that the alluvium brought down by these great rivers has
encroached upon the Persian Gulf by the formation of land about sixty
feet annually, creating a delta at the head of the gulf of ninety miles
in three thousand years.

These deposits have been more rapid in later times than anciently. The
great cause of the difference between ancient and modern Chaldea is the
neglect of the water courses. In ancient times, a well arranged system
of embankments and irrigating canals held these great rivers in their
courses by distributing the superabundant waters of the great flood
times to all parts of the country, thus enriching the soil with abundant
water supply at all seasons.

In the present neglected condition of this region the floods as they
come down from the mountain sources of the Euphrates are liable to wash
away the banks, sometimes changing the course of the river, and
overflowing large tracts at slightly lower levels, which have become
unwholesome marshes, while other large tracts which are never inundated,
in the fierce heats become parched and desolate sand wastes. It is said
that such is the spread and waste of the Euphrates in its lower course,
that, except in flood time, but a small proportion of this great volume
of water reaches the sea.

These conditions do not so seriously affect the Tigris, which for the
greater part of its course flows over a rocky bed, between high
embankments, and which, though a narrower, is a deeper and swifter
stream than the Euphrates.

Within historic times, the Tigris and Euphrates entered the sea by
separate channels nearly thirty miles apart. At the present time, and
for many centuries, these two rivers have been united, forming the great
river, the Shat-el-Arab, through which, in a course of about one hundred
and twenty miles, their united waters reach the sea.



                     _Hieroglyphic Transcription._


                   _A free Translation of the above._

      Praise ye Amen-Râ,—the mighty one who dwells in Heliopolis,
      great above all the gods!—A gracious god is he to those who
      love him.—His rays of life enlighten—All his grand
      creation.—Hail to thee, oh Amen-Râ, whose seat is Egypt’s
      double throne!—Thou art the prince in Southern Thebes,—Grand
      sovereign in thy realm.—Thou goest through the Southern
      land,—And nations call thee lord, Arabia calls thee
      prince.—Thou Ancient One of Heaven, and Oldest One of
      Earth,—Who didst produce existences and govern things, doest
      still support creation.—Thou art unchangeable amid the
      changes of the gods.—Thou art benign, a ruler of the
      heavenly cycle,—Yea, lord of all the deities,—The prince of
      truth and sire of the gods.


                              CHAPTER VI.

THE immense antiquity suggested in the maritime conditions at Ur and
Eridu is again emphasized by the astronomical tablets. At this remote
date it appears that these ancient Turanian Chaldeans had traced the
yearly course of the sun among the stars.

The twelve constellations forming the signs of the zodiac had also been
established by them, with the significations which have continued to the
present day.

They had divided the year into twelve months, and the first month of
their year—which began with the vernal equinox—was named for the
constellation, or zodiacal sign, which opened the year.

This was Taurus, whose figure appears in these ancient calendars as
leading the months at the beginning of the year. At the time this was
prepared the sun was in Taurus at the vernal equinox. About 2500 B. C.,
the sun entered Aries at this period of the year, while the date when
the sun entered Taurus at the vernal equinox was 4700 B. C.

Other evidences from these principal cities of southern Mesopotamia,
present, in the remoter times, this land of Sumir as a populous,
fertile, well watered and cultivated country.

It was divided into small states, each surrounding a city containing a
temple devoted to the service of certain astral divinities, as Ur, the
city of the Moon God; or Larsa, with its Temple of the Sun.

Near these temples, and accessible from them were the Zigguratas, the
temple observatories for astronomical and astrological studies.

They had also priestly colleges, schools for scribes, and libraries as
at Erech, which was known as the “City of Books.”

These small states with their cities, were in the earliest times each
governed by “patesi,” priest-kings, corresponding to the “pastor
princes” of ancient China, or the Horsheshu, of ancient Egypt. Later on
as certain of these priest kings became more powerful, the neighboring
states and cities came under their domination, until finally we find all
southern Mesopotamia ruled by kings of Sumir, and northern Mesopotamia
by kings of Accad.

Of the explorations which have been undertaken of these older cities of
Chaldea, the most extensive are those which have occurred on the sites
of the ancient Nippur and at Tel-Loh, the ancient Shirpulla.

The former excavations, which have been conducted under the auspices of
the University of Pennsylvania, since the year 1888 to the present date,
have recovered the most ancient remains as yet discovered of these older
civilizations, dating, as estimated by Prof. Hilfrecht, from a period
about 7000 B. C.

This includes the enormous structure dedicated to the older Bel, which
had been rebuilt by successive monarchs, its later ruins rising to a
height of over one hundred feet above the plain, while its lower
foundations reach as great a depth below.

From this and other great buildings in the vicinity were obtained
sacrificial vessels, marble and silver vases, objects in gold and
bronze, stone door sockets and over thirty thousand clay tablets.

These include remains from the earliest periods of civilization to the
latest Babylonian history, from the earliest primitive Sumerian rulers
to the latest Semitic kings.

They give records of powerful kings as rulers of Accad during the two
milleniums preceding the reigns of the great Sargon and his son,

Of these two monarchs a great number of inscribed objects have been
obtained, some of the most important relics as yet discovered verifying
inscriptions found elsewhere of the extent of their power. Remains were
also found here of later kings of Ur and other cities of this region,
whose names elsewhere appear as great builders or restorers of ancient

Of this earlier period, that of the “patesi,” or priest kings, some very
wonderful records have been discovered by M. de Sarzec at Tel-Loh. The
group of mounds of which Tel-Loh is the chief, is the site of a very
ancient city in southern Mesopotamia, the ancient Zirgul, or Sirgulla.
It is situated between the Tigris and Euphrates, near the junction of
the former river with the Shat-el-Hic, a small river which flows
southwesterly to the Euphrates, connecting the waters of these two great

The mound of Tel-Loh, “The Mound of the Idol,” formed part of the royal
quarter of the ancient city, rising at this point forty feet above the

It was in this locality that, in 1880-1881, M. de Sarzec, French consul
at Bagdad, who was carrying on excavations in this region under the
direction of the French government, came upon ten statues in the ruins
of a very ancient structure.

This proved to be the royal residence of an ancient king of Zirgul, the
patesi, or priest-king Gudea, whose date is fixed by various authorities
at about 4800 B. C.

The statues were nearly life size, and all were headless. Two heads soon
after were found in the ruins, one of them turbaned and the other
uncovered and shaved, supposed to represent the king as priest.

The type of feature reproduced in these finely sculptured heads is
unmistakably Turanian, of the Tartar branch of this great family, while
the turban, another characteristic indication in costume, might serve
for a copy in sculpture of the head dress worn by some living
representative of this race in central Asia at the present day.

All these statues were inscribed; nine of them with memorials of Gudea,
and the tenth of Urbahu, an earlier king who ruled in Zirgul before

The ruins of his palace were found by M. de Sarzec below the palace of
Gudea, and also the foundations of an ancient pyramid temple first
erected by Urbahu and rebuilt by Gudea.

The inscriptions were in very archaic cuneiform and were incised upon
the robes of the figures. Upon the principal statue of Gudea were
inscribed three hundred and thirty-six lines of writing, divided into
nine columns. About one hundred and thirty characters are used, and
these texts represent the longest of the ancient cuneiform writings

The material of the statues is a peculiar variety of granite, a dark
green diorite, one of the hardest of stones. This was nowhere to be
found in Mesopotamia. So far as known, it only appears in the peninsula
of Sinai.

Again, the facility and skill in the manipulation of the material has
indicated that the tools used for the work must have been of the hardest
metals. They are supposed to have been of the hardest bronze. But this
presupposes an amazing antiquity for the practice of metallurgy.

The replies to the question, from whence the bronze? are now abundant,
and come from a variety of sources, but the testimony from the
inscriptions of the statues is the most direct and ample, opening before
us a commercial intercourse between nations and people of these regions
scarcely suspected of such very remote dates.

There are indications that even in these early days tin from Cornwall
was exported to these far off regions.

The inscriptions relate chiefly to the building of a pyramid temple by
Urbahu, and on the Gudea statues to the rebuilding of the temple by this
later prince.

Referring constantly to himself as patesi, or priest-king, he says that
for this purpose his God, Nin-Girsu, has opened the way for him “from
the sea of the highlands,”—the Persian Gulf—“to the upper sea,” the

“I,” says Gudea, “made the lordly temple of the God who enlightens the
darkness; of costly woods I made it for him; with wood from Lebanon
(Amanus); wood of seventy and fifty cubits. I raised its roof
twenty-five cubits high.”

From the copper and silver mines of the Taurus, near “the great pass,”
“the gate of Syria,” copper was brought for the great pillars. Marble
also from the “Mountain of Canaan,” (Tidalum), in Phœnicia, for the
foundations. He sent ships to upper Egypt, where gold was obtained for
the porch of the temple. “To the country of Gubi and to the country of
Nituk which possesses every kind of tree, vessels to be laden with all
sorts of trees for Sippara I have sent.”

Sippara, “The City of the Bright Flame,” was another name by which
Zirgul was known. Reference to this comes in the inscriptions concerning
the “God who enlightens the darkness.”

Then of his statues he says: “Strong stone being brought from Magan
(Sinaitic peninsula) I made an image therewith that my name may be
remembered gloriously.”

Again of this statue he says: “Neither in silver, nor in copper, nor in
tin, nor in bronze let any one undertake the execution. An image
yielding none of these no man will demand as spoil; made of hard stone
may it remain in the place thereof, forever.”

These statues thus had a peculiar religious significance. Placed in the
sacred temple, always before the god to whose service they were
dedicated, they were supposed to represent the king constantly in life,
and like the “Ka” statues of the Egyptian kings, to be the residence of
the soul of the departed prince which was thus ever reverently before
his god. Thus we can understand the terrible curse pronounced by Gudea
upon whosoever should remove this statue from its place.

This and the companion statues from Tel-Loh, were nevertheless sent to
Paris and placed in the Louvre, where they will receive more distinction
than has been accorded them for ages. Perhaps this, and also the fact
that the inscriptions on them could not be read until they were placed
where competent Assyriologists could have access to them, may induce the
Ka of Gudea to revoke his maledictions should they threaten this later
disturber of his repose.

However this may be, the view thus given of this far off time, of which
we have no trace in history, is one of the most interesting
archæological discoveries of the century.

Here, long ages before the time of Hiram, king of Tyre, the friend of
David and Solomon; long ages even before the days of Abraham, the ships
of Gudea were navigating the seas from the trading ports of Ur and
Eridu, then at the mouth of the Euphrates on the Persian Gulf; coasting
down the shores of the Arabian peninsula, which they circumnavigated,
into the waters of the Red Sea; sailing northward to Magan, “the
enclosed port,” on the peninsula of Sinai, where the diorite for the
statues was obtained, and perhaps copper also from the Wady Magarah,
“the land of bronze;” then to various trading ports of the Egyptian
coasts, for gold from Meroe, and for timber from Ethiopia, and then for
the return voyage.

Other confirmation of the trade communications of southern Mesopotamia
with the peninsula of Sinai appears in the beautiful statue of Kephren,
the builder of the second pyramid, now in the Boulak museum. This statue
was recently exhumed from the sands of the desert near the great Sphynx
in Egypt, and is of stone so similar to the diorite of the Tel-Loh
statues that it is evident they were both obtained from the same source.

We know in this connection, that Seneferu, a predecessor of Kephren, had
conquered and held in possession the Sinaitic peninsula with a strong
garrison of Egyptian troops, which were maintained here during his reign
and the reign of his immediate successors; that under this protection
the fine stone of this region was quarried, and that at Wady Margarah
the rich mines of copper, turquoise and other precious stones were

Another evidence of the contact of Gudea with Egypt is the fact that on
the lap of the principal statue of Gudea the plan of the city is carved,
and the scale of measurement used is the “pyramid inch,” instead of the
Babylonian or Chaldean.

Aside from this, the finish, detail and workmanship of the Tel-Loh
statues is so similar in style and character to the statue of Kephren
that they all suggest the same influence and the same school of

There are many evidences from other sources of the commercial
intercourse between the Babylonians and Egyptians at these early dates,
and it is probable that the cities of Eridu and Ur may have maintained
the same relations in the prehistoric commerce of the Persian Gulf which
obtained in later times with Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean. The
commercial horizon thus opening before us is a broad one but is
constantly extending.

The natural depressions of the Mesopotamian valley extend from the
Persian Gulf northerly and northwesterly, thence through the Orontes
valley to the Mediterranean. In prehistoric times and for long ages this
was “the highway of nations,” by the great rivers, the Tigris and
Euphrates, from sea to sea, the chief trade route between India and the
western coasts of Asia Minor.

Solomon is said to have founded Tadmor in the Desert for the extensive
trade from the Euphrates, by Damascus to Jerusalem, whence the rich
stuffs and spices from India were conveyed.

Later on, Nebuchadnezzer established the port of Teredon, on the Persian
Gulf, for the commerce brought from the southern seas destined for the
great waterways, the Tigris and Euphrates, northwards.

These facts are comparatively modern history to Gudea and his days, when
the waters of the Persian Gulf washed the shores at Eridu, while ships
from India, Ceylon and the different trading ports on the Red Sea
unloaded their cargoes on the docks of the great maritime city of Ur of
the Chaldees.

The city of Ur, then not far from the mouth of the Euphrates, was
situated upon its western shores, and was at this time, and later, a
city of great commercial and political importance, and the first capital
of the kings of all Chaldea.

As in all maritime cities trading with distant countries, people of
various nationalities were gathered here. It is not improbable that the
name of “Ur of the Chaldees” may have reference to certain families of
foreign stock, the “Kaldai” or “Kaldi” who inhabited the regions round
and about Ur, perhaps nomadic tribes from Arabia. Other authorities,
however, speak of these “Kaldai” as a priest class, magicians and
astrologers, possessing strange learning and speaking a peculiar
language; as representatives also of the primitive inhabitants of the
country, filling a sacred office and consulted by the king on all
religious subjects.

The divinity of this city was Hurki, or Sin, the great Moon God, and
here may be seen at the present day on the mounds of Mugheir the remains
of an ancient temple dedicated to this deity, rising to the height of
seventy feet above the plain. This was founded by Urukh, or Ur Gur, one
of the earliest known of the kings of united Sumir, who exercised
dominion over the greater portion of southern Mesopotamia.

The remains of temples built by him are found in all the larger of the
ancient cities of this region and the enormous proportions of these and
their number have won for him the name of “The Builder.” It is evident
that this king had at his command vast resources in human skill and

The Bowariyeh mound at Warka is described as two hundred feet square and
one hundred feet high and that above thirty million bricks must have
gone into its construction.

Other structures on a similar scale, the remains of which are found at
Erech, Larsa, Calneh, Ur, Nippur and other cities in this region, show
the magnitude of his resources and the extent of his authority. These
buildings are, for the most part, temples dedicated to the tutelar
divinity of each special locality, as at Larsa, where he erected a
temple to the Sun God, and at Calneh to Belus.

The distinguishing features of his structures which were continued in
the later Babylonian temples, are the rectangular base, the peculiar
orientation of these with their angles to the cardinal points, the rise
in receding stages, the sloped walls, the buttresses for increased
strength, the drains for the ventilation of the walls, the external
staircases for ascent and the ornamental shrine crowning the whole.

The temple founded by Ur Gur at Ur, was originally of great size. It
rose in three receding stages to a vast height, where, upon the final
platform, the temple was placed, containing the statue of the Moon God,
which was thus visible to a great distance from the surrounding plain.

The lower stages of this structure were built of large bricks laid with
bitumen. In the upper stages the masonry is cemented with mortar.

It appears that this was the work of two monarchs, Ur Gur, and his son,
Dungi, who as his successor, completed here, as elsewhere, the buildings
unfinished by his father. The names of both kings are inscribed upon the
bricks in the structure, and on the signet and clay cylinders found in
the ruins.

These kings, are, however, of later date than Gudea. In their day the
priest kings of one city had become kings of many, gathering various
localities in Sumir under their dominion.

Among the discoveries obtained during the explorations at Nippur, by the
Babylonian expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, there are many
relics of Dungi and Urea, or Ur Gur.

At this time, there are evidences of an organized priesthood in whose
hands were placed the religious interests of the king and the people,
who proclaimed to them the will of the gods as observed in the relations
of the planets and the stars.

In more primitive times the religion of this people was pure Shamanism,
a worship of demons and the evil influences of nature, a religion common
to all Turanian people even at the present day.

Very early, however, in the history of this people, a recognition of the
benign influences in nature is apparent, and while the older belief
never became entirely extinct, yet the propitious influences were
regarded as attributes of the higher gods.

The sorcerers and magicians held a power of their own, but they were
subject to the greater divinities by whose influence their mischiefs
could be averted.

Whether this religious development was brought about by contact with
another race possessing nobler religious ideals, or was a development
through their scientific applications of astronomy to astrology, it is
impossible to say. However this may be, these higher religious
conceptions had developed very early into a cult which became the
inheritance of later races that came into contact with them.

The peculiar and distinct civilization of these primitive Babylonians
must have continued through long ages. Their system of writing had
developed from the simple pictorial lines into the cuneiform and these
signs had become phonetic, expressing sound as well as ideas. They had
also developed a syllabary.

Finally, there are evidences of the gradual increase among them of
another race of people. This was a Semitic people who seem at first to
have established themselves in northern Babylonia in the kingdom of
Accad, finally becoming supreme in the land.

About 3800 B. C., the kingdoms of Accad and Sumir are found united under
Sargon I, a Semitic king. There are indications of Accadian or Sumerian
kings who ruled over the separate kingdoms of Accad and Sumir at earlier
and later dates, but the main course of testimony after Sargon I tells
of Semitic kings as rulers in northern Babylonia, or Accad, and a
Semitic influence dominant there.

The influence of such close social contact brought about material
changes in the life, literature and language of both people.

In Accad, which came first under Semitic influence, the old language
rapidly declined. In Sumir, or southern Mesopotamia, which continued
much longer under the ancient rule and influence, the old language held
its own down to comparatively recent times.

The Semites, however, seem to have received from the Accadians more than
they gave. The arts and sciences and civilization of this ancient people
became the arts and sciences and civilization of the Semitic Assyrians
and Babylonians.

They appropriated the religion and gods of these early Chaldeans. They
became heirs of their literature and they adopted their system of

The most curious instance in these various adoptions of the Semites was
the Sumerian syllabary.

Now in applying the syllabary of one language to the uses of another, it
might be expected that the signs expressing a certain syllabic sound in
one language would be used to express the syllabic sounds in the other.
This however, was not the case in this instance. When the Semites
adopted the old Accadian syllabary they used these signs quite as often
to express the Semitic sounds of the original ideographs as for syllabic

As an instance of this curious example of polyphony, Mr. Taylor gives
the cuneiform sign which in the primitive pictorial form represented an
ear. The name of ear in Accadian is _pi_. This sign had another syllabic
value, signifying a drop of water. When the Semites adopted this sign to
their uses they retained the phonetic value of the sign as _pi_. They,
however, used this sign also to express the sound of the Semitic words,
“eznu,” an ear, and “giltanu,” a drop of water.

This use of signs is the reverse of homophonism, where by the use of one
sign many words having the same sound are expressed. It is an instance
of polyphonism where one sign is used to express words having different
sounds. The result was, however, the same. It led in both cases to the
increase of determinatives, and other explanatory signs to indicate the
word to be expressed by the sign.

The use of ideographs as determinatives was evidently suggested by the
Sumerian syllabary, but the language of the Sumerians was simple,
requiring fewer signs to express sounds. On the contrary, the Semitic
language was more copious, possessing a greater variety of syllabic

It will thus be seen that when the decipherment of the Assyrian
cuneiform was first attempted, scholars could not for a time master the
curious complications they found.

The Assyrian syllabary could only be explained as a foreign importation,
not as an evolution from a Semitic speech. As Professor Sayce says:
“Like the discoverers of the planet Uranus, they had to presuppose
another language to account for its origin and appearance.”

The decipherment of the older cuneiform soon after, and the discovery of
the bilingual texts, where copies from the old Sumerian originals were
placed side by side with the Semitic translations, soon explained the
sources of confusion, the original values of these signs and their
application to another language.

                              CHAPTER VII.

OF the great rulers in Mesopotamia, both Turanian and Semitic, who stand
out most distinctly in the records of this remote past, are the Turanian
prince, Gudea, about 4800 B. C., the great Sargon I and his son,
Naram-Sin, Semitic princes, both to whom the date 3800 B. C., is
accorded, and the Arabian prince, Khammuragas, or Hammurabi, the founder
of the city of Babylon and contemporary with Abraham. The date now given
for Sargon I, is 3800 B. C. Long before this date various families of
Semitic race had evidently made their appearance in the land; Phœnician
traders from the Persian Gulf, or nomadic tribes from the Arabian
borders, Semitic families, attracted hither by the rich fertility of the
Mesopotamian plains. These were Sabeans, perhaps, with a faint, far-off
remembrance of the One God, ruler and creator of the universe, but now
worshippers of the stars, the abodes of ministering spirits.

At this time in Sargon’s reign, long before the date accorded to Urea,
The Builder, in the new empire arising in Accad, we find the early
beginnings of the Assyrian people. There was as yet no Assyria or
Assyrians. The ancient Turanian capital of Accad was named Aushar or
Asshar, signifying “watered plain,” but this had not yet given its name
to the region or country.

Sargon’s new capital was Agane, or Agade of Accad, while Nineveh, “the
mighty” of the coming kingdom, was as yet but a collection of
fishermen’s huts on the swift-flowing Tigris.

As yet there was no kingdom of Babylonia, and no city of Babylon. This
region was situated in the northern portion of Sumir, south of Accad,
and was at first designated by the Turanian name, “Gar Dunyash,” or “Kar
Dunyash,” the “Garden of the god, Dunyash.”

The site of the future great capital was then called either by its more
ancient Turanian name, “Tin-Tir-ki,” signifying The Tree of Life, or its
later Accado-Sumerian name, “Ka-Dimmirra,” Gate of God. In later times
this name translated into Semitic was Babilu—Babylon—which finally
became the name of the whole of Sumir south to the Persian Gulf, as

At the date of Sargon, of Accad, Sumir, or southern Mesopotamia, was
chiefly Turanian. The displacement of the Mongol peoples by the Semites
in this region had not at this time obtained. That fusion of races which
so distinctly distinguished the Babylonians of the later era from the
more purely Semitic Assyrians had scarcely begun.

The Babylonians, as a distinct people under this name, do not make their
appearance on the stage of history until over fourteen centuries later
than Sargon, in the time or a little earlier than Hammurabi, or
Khammuragas, about 2300 B. C., at the date accorded to Abraham.

It is probable that Semitic people had settled in this region long
previous to the reign of Sargon, but it was not until the period of
Hammurabi, who at first was simply king of Gar-Dunyash that the Semitic
element dominated in Babylonia.

This powerful prince, who became in time master of all southern
Mesopotamia, was the founder of the city of Babylon, from which the
country and people received the names Babylonia and Babylonians.

Returning to Sargon, we find in the Ninevite remains that in this
earlier time he had founded one of the most famous libraries of ancient
Mesopotamia. This was at his new city of Agane, or Agade. The literature
of this library was entirely based on that of ancient Sumir. It
consisted completely of translations of these older books into what we
may call Assyrian, or were copies of the older books in the old language
of Sumir.

This older language was to these Semitic Assyrians the language of the
learned, the classic tongue of the time, bearing the same relation to
the Assyrian as do Greek and Latin to modern literature. It was then
even more important to the Semitic student as it included all of
learning which in Mesopotamia had as yet obtained literary form.

These ancient texts were copied on clay tablets with translations from
the language of Sumir into Semitic, either between the lines or the text
in the old language in one column and the translation opposite.

For further aids to students, vocabularies were compiled, giving the
Accadian word and the Assyrian translation; also, syllabic forms, and it
is by these wonderful literary aids, especially wonderful when we
consider their antiquity, that scholars of to-day are able to read this
ancient Turanian speech as readily as the Semitic Assyrian language of
Sargon’s reign.

The systematic methods adopted in this library are also remarkable.
Doubtless Sargon’s librarians introduced ideas of their own in the
arrangement of this literature, but they had evidently adopted methods
long in use in the more ancient libraries of Erech, Larsa and other
cities of southern Mesopotamia. As instances of this literary
undertaking the great work on astronomy and astrology called “The
Observations of Bel,” which long ages after Berosius translated into
Greek, was by order of Sargon compiled for his library. It consisted of
seventy-two books, and a certain place in the library was set apart for
this. These tablets were arranged and numbered according to the subject.
A catalogue of these was also prepared, giving the number of the tablets
as arranged under the subjects.

Other literary documents from this collection are The Story of Creation,
in prose and verse; The Deluge Story, and Adventures of Izdubar, the
famous Nimrod of Hebrew tradition.

When the student wished for any special tablet or subject, he was
required by the librarian to consult the catalogue and to write down the
number of the book he wished for, when it would be given to him. The
librarian of to-day, to whom the same system and methods are so
familiar, can scarcely claim these as modern improvements, but may well
exclaim with the philosopher of old, “there is no new thing under the

Another great work, prepared for the library of Sargon, of Agade, was a
theological collection in three books and two hundred tablets. This
consisted of magical texts and incantations from the primitive religion
of Turanian Chaldea, which still held power and influence as magic and
divination. It included also the literature of the later development of
the Sumerians into higher spiritual conceptions.

This literature of the later period comprised hymns of praise,
invocations to the gods, and penitential psalms which in spirit and form
bear a remarkable resemblance to the confessions of the later Hebrew

Perhaps we may trace in this a contact with Semitic thought and
influence long before the Semites appear as an established people in the

There are two distinct periods in the religious development of the
Turanians of Chaldea, the era of Shamanism or demon worship, and later
Sabeanism, the deification of the planets and the stars or the benign
influence of nature.

As early as Gudea they had entered upon this later period of religious
development, and now, under the influence of Sargon occurred a blending
of these systems with Semitic conceptions which continued the
established religion of the Assyrians and Babylonians to the latest

The latent tendencies of the Semitic mind seem to have been towards
monotheism. While this did not prevent their recognition of the gods of
the nations with whom they came in contact, and their frequent adoption
of these as objects of worship, this tendency is yet manifest.

With the later Assyrians, they united in the adoption of their national
deity, Asshur; with the Moabites, in Chemosh; with the Hebrews, in
Elohim, or Yahveh; and with them all, the Supreme One who united in
Himself the great attributes of all the gods, the Creator of all things,
the Arbiter of all human events.

The Turanian Chaldeans, on the other hand, were unreserved polytheists.
Their gods were as the sands of the sea for number. Each city, with its
surrounding locality, had its special god, and the greater the city the
greater the god, the more magnificent the temple dedicated to his
worship, and the more powerful its priesthood.

This was the case in the city of Ur, where Hurud, or Sin, the Moon God,
was the local divinity. There were other moon gods in other localities,
each worshipped in a special way, but the Moon God of Ur was greater
than all.

Thus it was with the worship of Ea, the god of the deep, the local god
of the more ancient city of Eridu; and again of Anu, the Sky God of

This organization of the Chaldean Pantheon by Sargon was simply the
orderly arrangement of these into greater and lesser divinities, the
blending of these separate local cults into one general system.

At the head of this pantheon was placed the Semitic Illu, or El,
signifying God, and whose name is the root word of the Hebrew Elohim and
the Arabian Allah.

Next in order, was a triad of great gods, Turanian divinities,
consisting of Anu, the Sky God of Erech; Bel, or Mul-lil, the local god
of Nippur, the Lord of the lower world, and last in this triad, of Ea,
of Eridu, the god of the great waters, and creator of the Accadean race.

The position of these gods in this triad is explained by local
circumstances. At the time of this new arrangement of the Chaldean
deities Erech was a prominent city of southern Mesopotamia. It had a
richly endowed library, perhaps the greatest collection of literary
treasures at this time known in the ancient world. This was greatly
enlarged by Sargon, who, perhaps from motives of policy towards his
Chaldean subjects, thought it wisest not to enrich his library at Agane
at the expense of this the oldest of the libraries of southern

It is also possible that some of the literary treasures obtained by him
in other decaying cities of this region may have been placed in the
library at Erech for the same reason, as it offered better opportunities
for the safe deposit of these ancient documents. At any rate, we find
that when Assur-bani-pal founded his great library at Nineveh many
centuries later, and the ancient cities of Chaldea were ransacked for
their literary treasures, it was at Erech that he reaped his richest

As suggested, Erech was at the time of Sargon’s reformation of the gods
of Chaldea, a populous and wealthy city. It possessed a powerful
priesthood devoted to the service of Anu, the Sky God, the local god of
Erech, who, for these reasons, was placed first in the trinity of gods,
before the more ancient and sacred divinities of Turanian Chaldea.

Nippur, the second capital of Chaldea, was also at this time a wealthy
and populous city. Here was located a temple to Belus, the older Bel,
identical with Mul-lil, the Lord of the lower world, and as the local
god of Nippur, Bel became the second god in the trinity.

The most ancient and sacred of all the gods of ancient Chaldea, Ea, the
god of the great waters, the local divinity of Eridu, was not to be
ignored, and was thus placed in the trinity of great gods.

The triad thus formed represented the gods of the heavens, the lower
world, and the great waters. Below this was another triad, consisting of
Sin, the moon; Samas, the sun, and Vul, the atmosphere.

Then followed other gods, representing visible planets, and still below
these a host of lesser nature divinities. The transformation of some of
these gods under Semitic influences, and their gradual absorption of the
attributes of the older deities is a curious study in Chaldean

It is of special interest as we find in these many familiar deities of
Syria, Palestine, Egypt and other countries, who had their origin in
ancient Chaldea.

A prominent instance of this is the rise of Bel-Merodach, the great
Baal, from a lesser to one of the greater gods, and whose cult extended
with the increase of Assyrian and Babylonian power. When Bel-Merodach
comes first distinctly in view it is as a local god of Babylon. With the
consolidation of all southern Mesopotamia into the Babylonian empire,
and the establishment of Babylon as its capital, the local god of this
city waxed great with the greatness and importance of his local abode.
This occurred under Hammurabi, or Khammuragas, the founder of the city
and the empire, about 2356 B. C.

The attributes of Bel-Merodach are various. He is the son of Ea, “The
first born of the gods,” “The benefactor of mankind,” “The mediator
between gods and men,” “The warrior god, who leads the forces of light.”
Like Nin-Girsu, the god of Gudea, he is the “Lord of the pure flame, who
conquers and puts to flight the spirits of darkness.” Finally assuming
the attributes of Samas, the Sun God, he appears as the solar deity of

Among the cuneiform documents in the British museum, there is a group of
fragments known as the Assyrian Epic of Creation. Portions of these were
first translated by the late George Smith, who directed attention to
their peculiar significance. Other fragments have since been found and
translated by Mr. Pinches, producing the epic nearly complete.

In its present form, the poem is probably of the later days of the
Assyrian empire. It bears within it, however, the embodiment of ancient
Babylonian legends of the origin of things, and is specially remarkable
in certain similarities to the Hebraic account of creation. A very great
and marked contrast between these two narratives is that in one case the
story of creation is told by a polytheist, as the effort of many gods;
in the other, by an uncompromising monotheist, who attributes the work
to a decree of one Supreme God.

The Assyrian version of that portion of the Hebrew narrative: “And the
Spirit of God moved upon the waters, and God said, ‘Let there be light,’
and there was light,” in the Chaldean epic is the office of

As he leads the forces of light against the powers of darkness he enters
into mortal combat with the great dragon, Tiamat, the goddess of chaos
and darkness. This contest all the great gods have refused to attempt.
In the conflict which ensues Merodach is victorious, vanquishing and
destroying the great dragon of chaos. Whereupon there was great
rejoicing among the great gods. Then:—

  “They established for him the mercy seat of the mighty.”

  “Before his fathers he seated himself for sovereignty.”

  “O Merodach! thou art glorious among the great gods!”

  “Since that day unchanged is thy command.”

And thus Bel-Merodach, the great son of Ea, was enthroned.

He never becomes the national god of Chaldea, as Asshur became to Syria.
Local influences were opposed to this. The local deities of other
important cities of southern Mesopotamia, more ancient and venerated,
maintained their hold upon the affections of their worshippers to the

This was the case with Mul-lil, the local deity of Nippur, the second in
the triad of great gods, the older Bel, with whom Bel-Merodach is
sometimes confounded.

The Moon God was to the latest day the favored divinity of Ur of the
Chaldees, and so of the local deities of other Sumerian cities.

These divinities were many of them of great antiquity. They were
reverenced in their special localities as nowhere else. Thus the
indignation of the priesthoods of these local cults, and of the local
aristocracies, may well be imagined at the attempt of Nabonidus, the
latest king of Babylon, 555-538 B. C., to concentrate all these local
worships at the city of Babylon.

When they saw their gods taken from their ancient shrines and gathered
at Babylon in the great temple of Bel, as subordinate gods to magnify
the worship of Bel, their resentment ripened into secret intrigue
against their king, which resulted in the banishment of Nabonidus from
his kingdom, the occupation of the throne by Cyrus, and finally the
overthrow of the Babylonian empire.




                             CHAPTER VIII.

THIS latest king of Babylon is, however, an interesting personage. To
him we are indebted for many records which but for him the archæologists
of this present time would not have recovered. He was a zealous restorer
of ancient temples and shrines, which in his day had fallen into decay
through all Mesopotamia. This seems to have been a duty enjoined by the
gods upon all kings of Chaldea. But, whatever his motive, whether as a
fulfillment of religious duty or of antiquarian inclinations, Nabonidus
is said to have undertaken these restorations to an extent no king
before him seems to have attempted.

Of famous temples rebuilded by him are those of the Moon God of Ur, and
Haran; also of the Sun God at Larsa and of Sippara.

The custom of placing the records of the founder of an edifice in
chambers or cavities in the foundations of the structure is of immense
antiquity. These records were inscribed generally on clay cylinders and
usually ended with injunctions to any future king who might, in
rebuilding, come upon the secret hiding place of the cylinders that
these records should be replaced in their original depository with
religious rites. Failing to do this, the wrath of the gods is invoked
upon his sacreligious head.

It was in this way that Nabonidus came upon some very ancient and
important documents. As in all cases he followed his discoveries with
the record of the event upon inscribed cylinders deposited by him in the
foundations of the new structure, the value of these to later explorers
can scarcely be estimated.

It was during his excavations in the foundations of the Sun temple at
Larsa that he came upon a cylinder inscribed and deposited by Hammurabi,
or Khammuragas, at the rebuilding of a more ancient temple on the same

Hammurabi states upon his cylinder that this more ancient temple was
founded by Urea, or Ur Gur, seven hundred years before his time.

On annalistic tablets of Babylonian kings in the British Museum,
Khammuragas is mentioned and the date accorded to him B. C. 2315, or the
end of his reign B. C. 2259, which gives the date of Urea, The Builder,
as about 2959 B. C.

The most important of the discoveries of Nabonidus, was, however, the
finding of the foundation cylinder of Naram-Sin, the son and successor
of the great Sargon of Accad.

This occurred at the time of his restoration of the Sun temple at
Sippara, near the ancient city of Agane.

Of this, Nabonidus says:

  “I brought the Sun God from his temple, and placed him in another

  “I sought for its old foundation stone, and eighteen cubits deep—”

  “I dug into the ground and the foundation stone of Naram-Sin, Son of
  Sargon, which for thirty-two hundred years no king who had gone
  before me had seen.”

  “The Sun God—the great Lord of E Bara. Let me see; even me.”

Before the discovery of the cylinder of Nabonidus the date of Sargon of
Accad was uncertain. He had often been regarded as identical with the
later Sargon, the Assyrian king who carried the Ten Tribes of Israel
into captivity about 722 B. C. The numerous records remaining of the
earlier Sargon had made the identity of these two monarchs confusing and
impossible, which was cleared away by the discovery of the records of

This king had data for his statements which subsequent discoveries have
confirmed, thus giving to Naram-Sin the date of thirty-two hundred and
fifty years before Nabonidus, which was 550 B. C., and allowing for the
long reign of Sargon I, we have the immense antiquity of B. C. 3800 for
the time of the great Sargon of Accad.

The site where this important discovery was made is one of the two
Sipparas, situated on opposite sides of the royal canal, not far from
the Euphrates, and running parallel with the river.

These two cities were anciently known by their rival sanctuaries, the
one dedicated to the worship of the Sun, and the other to the worship of
the Moon, and were known as the Sippara of the Sun and the Sippara of

The Sippara of Annuit is the supposed site of the ancient Agade of
Sargon. It was, however, at Sippara of the Sun that Naram-Sin, the son
of Sargon, founded the temple which was discovered by Nabonidus and
rediscovered by Mr. Rassam a few years ago.

While making excavations in a mound near the supposed site of Sippara,
Mr. Rassam made his way into some rooms of a vast structure which he
found to be a temple. Passing on from room to room, he at last entered a
smaller chamber which was paved with asphalt. As this kind of pavement
was unusual in Babylonian and Assyrian structures he concluded this must
be the secret depository of records. Having broken into the pavement, he
came finally upon a sealed casket or chest of earthenware, about three
feet below the surface, in which was found a stone tablet, beautifully
inscribed, and also other documents.

This stone tablet was the archive of the famous Sun temple as was proved
by the inscription on it, and also by the documents found with it, which
gave the names of the founder and the restorers of the temple.

The tablet had upon it a representation of the Sun God, seated upon a
throne receiving the homage of his worshippers, while above him the sun
disc is suspended as from heaven by two strong cords held up by two
ministering spirits.

The inscription declares this to be the image of Shamash, the great Lord
who dwells in the House of the Sun which is within the city of Sippara.

This established at once the site as that of ancient Sippara, which to
this time had been doubtful, and may lead to further discoveries of
still greater antiquity on the site of the Sippara of Annuit, the
supposed site of the ancient Agane.

In the records remaining of Sargon, from various localities, it is
stated that he built here a palace, which, after some important military
campaigns he greatly enlarged; that he built also a magnificent temple
to Annuit, and that afterwards a statue of him (Sargon) was here
erected, inscribed with memorials of his birth and career.

The tablets in the British Museum containing these records are probably
copies of these older inscriptions, the originals not having as yet been
discovered. They record Sargon’s invasions of Elam with victorious
armies, another successful campaign in Syria, the subjugation of all
Babylonia and the peopling of his new city, Agane, with the conquered

His longest and greatest campaign was a later invasion of Syria at which
he was absent from his kingdom for three years. At this time he
penetrated to the “Sea of the setting Sun”—the Mediterranean—conquering
all the countries through which he passed.

In the rocky cliffs of the Asian shore he left inscriptions recording
his triumphs, and memorial statues of him were erected in various
places. It is possible that he crossed to Cyprus where relics of him,
and of his son, Naram-Sin, have been found.

He seems to have had ambitions of universal empire, and it is stated
that after his return from this expedition, “he appointed that all
places should form a single kingdom.” Of this he says:

  “Forty-five years the kingdom I have ruled, and the black Accadian
  race I have governed.”

  “In multitude of bronze chariots I rode over rugged lands.”

  “Three times to the coast of the Persian sea I advanced.”

  “The countries of the Sea of the setting Sun I crossed.”

  “In the third year at the setting Sun my hand conquered.”

  “Under one command I caused them to be only fixed.”

Naram-Sin—the beloved of Sin, the Moon God—continued the military
advances of his father. The records remaining state that he invaded
Egypt and held in possession for a time Maganna, the land of Magan, the
region of the turquoise and copper mines and of the famous diorite.

A vase discovered at Babylon and since lost in the Tigris, has on it the

“To Naram-Sin, King of the Four Races, Conqueror of Apirak and Magan.”

A second alabaster vase was found by M. de Sarazec in the ruins of
Tel-Loh, having inscribed on it the words:

“Naram-Sin, King of the Four Regions,” or king of the north, south, east
and west.

This vase was imbedded in the masonry, evidently later restorations of
the earlier buildings of Gudea.

A cylinder found by General Cesnola, at Cyprus has on it an inscription
declaring its owner as a worshipper of Naram-Sin, who it seems had been
deified by his subjects.

In the first volume of Babylonian inscriptions found at Nippur, Prof.
Hilfrecht records six inscriptions of Sargon, two brick stamps of baked
clay, fragments of many vases and three door sockets, most of these
temple offerings to Bel—Mul-lil, of Nippur. The door sockets contain the
longest inscriptions of Sargon thus far known.

There are many inscriptions of Naram-Sin in the Nippur remains, and yet
more now in course of translation. These refer again to the restoration
by these kings of the temple of Bel and their dominion over the whole of
South Babylonia.

As these explorations are yet in progress, it is too early to indicate
the farther evidences of these early rulers of Babylonia remaining at

The various localities in which these relics have been found indicate
the extensive sway of these monarchs. They suggest also the period when
certain gods of Chaldea were adopted by the various nations and people
conquered by Sargon or Naram-Sin.

Sinai, the mountain of Sin, the Moon God, may be a reminiscence of the
invasion of Arabia by Naram-Sin directed by this divinity.

Mount Nebo, the mountain upon which Moses died, received its name from
the Chaldean Nebo, the god of science and literature, the god of wisdom
and prophesy.

Istar, the evening star, the Chaldean Venus, the goddess of love and
fertility, became the Atthar of southern Arabia, is identical with the
goddess Hathor, of Egyptian mythology, and was worshipped by the
Canaanites as Ashtaroth, and finally by the Greeks as Astarte.

Against this background of history and tradition, of civilization so
remote, a notable figure appears about fifteen hundred and forty years
later than the great Sharrukin, or 2260 B. C., in whom the most sacred
traditions of later civilizations were to have their rise.

This was Abraham, or Abu-ramu, “the exalted father” with whom the
history of the people of Israel begins. A Semite, and a native of Ur,
his historical position is an important landmark in the story of

Of special significance in this connection is this early contact of
Abraham and his family with the land and people of Chaldea;—the
lingering survivals of Accadian speech and traditions in Hebrew language
and literature.

Again, when Abraham left Chaldea to found a great nation in another
land, writing and literature could not have been unknown to him.

The constant use of cuneiform signs in architectural structures, in
business forms and in every department of social and industrial life and
the ever present schools for scribes in all the great cities of
Mesopotamia made this impossible. The art of writing was no new thing to
this young Semite prince. It was an art even then hoary with age.

With all to whom Abraham is a historic personality, the story of his
life and times as recorded in the biblical narrative, is illuminated as
never before in the testimony of these cuneiform documents from old

The biblical narrative does not touch upon the causes which led Abraham
away from the land of his nativity. Jewish and Arabian traditions,
however, state (and there may be a grain of truth in these traditions),
that this was the result of the revolt of Abraham against the idols of
Ur, and his refusal to acknowledge them as divine; that this brought
upon him and his father’s family a storm of persecution from the priests
and people which ended in their banishment from Ur, and their departure
for a distant country.

The references in the scripture narrative to Terah, the father of
Abraham, as an idolator, and the Arabian tradition as a sculptor or
maker of idols, is significant in these connections.

The destination of this family was Haran, at that time a Turanian city
in northern Mesopotamia, an important frontier station on the high road
to Syria and Palestine, and the various roads to the fords of the Tigris
and Euphrates.

The word Haran is from the Accadian, Kharran, “a road,” and was thus
named for its position. It is said to lie in a region of exceeding
fertility and beauty. Its fine, free air and commanding views make it
the delight of the Bedaween tribes who find here luxuriant pasturage for
innumerable flocks and herds.

Previous to the time of Abraham, there seems to have been at Haran, and
in the region round about, a considerable colony of Semitic people, as
indicated by Assyrian inscriptions. Since Abraham’s date, “Nahor’s City”
and the “Well of Rebekah,” located near Haran, bear these ancient names
to the present day.

The deity of Haran was then the Moon God, the same deity as worshipped
at Ur, always a favorite divinity with all Semitic people, and which
might have been an influence that drew Terah there. During the remaining
years of Terah’s life, Abraham remained in this locality, prospering
greatly; but with his father’s death his long conceived purpose of
establishing himself in Canaan was finally achieved.

After Abraham’s arrival in Canaan with his numerous household, his
princely retinue and his great possessions, we find him again in contact
with certain Babylonian princes who have invaded Canaan and have
obtained sovereignty in various localities.

The fourteenth chapter of Genesis gives account of the battle of Abraham
with these kings of Babylonia for the rescue of Lot, his nephew, in
which he put the invaders to flight, establishing peace and security in
the land.

The names of these kings as given in the scripture narrative are
Chedorlaomer, king of Elam; Amraphel, king of Shinar; Arioch, king of
Ellasar, or Larsa, and Tidal, king of nations.

These kings are now identified by Babylonian records, Chedorlaomer, king
of Elam, as Kudur-Lagomar, an Elamite king of that date; Arioch, king of
Ellasar, with Eri-Aku, then king of Larsa. Amraphel, king of Shinar, is
identified as Hammurabi, or Khammuragas, and Tidal, king of nations, as
Thorgal, king of Gutium, a region to the north of Elam.

The evident correspondence of these kings with Abraham’s contemporaries,
furnish continued evidence of the political contacts of Babylonia and
Canaan from the earliest times, and in many ways confirm the historical
verities of the early scripture records.

Another document, reflecting new light from the cuneiform inscriptions,
is the last exhortation of Joshua to Israel assembled at Shechem. In the
review he then gives of the history of his people, he says:

  “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood—the Euphrates—in
  the old time; even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of
  Nahor, and they served other gods.

  “And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood and
  led him throughout all the land of Canaan. And I brought you into
  the land of the Amorites ✴ ✴ and I gave them into your hand; ✴ ✴
  now, therefore, fear the Lord ✴ ✴ and serve him in sincerity and
  truth and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other
  side of the flood and in Egypt, and serve ye the Lord.”

The whole discourse bears internal evidence of a written report, fresh
from the voice of the speaker. We now know that the functions of the
scribe were as constantly employed as the modern reporter through all
Babylonia and Assyria as well as Egypt at these early dates.

Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, evidently had
no lack of scribes among the Israelites. The Tel-el-Amarna tablets give
evidence of the general practice of the art of writing through all
Canaan before the days of Moses and Joshua.

We have thus little need to refer to the period of the Babylonian
captivity for the appearance of Accadian and Aramean words in early
Hebrew history, or for the correspondences of Chaldean legends with
scripture records.

The origin of the documents which in Ezra’s time were collected and
re-written in new form, were historical remnants surviving from the
earlier periods to which they are assigned in history and tradition.



  The order both of the columns and the hieroglyphs is from left to
  right. Verbally translated it reads:

          1.   _nuk      neb          aamt_
              I  am     a  lord      excellent

          2.  _uah      mert      heka_
              very     beloved    ruler

          3.   _mer       tamaf             arna       kar_
              loving     his  country      passed I    for

          4.  _rēnpau      em        heka        em_
              years        as     the  ruler      of

          5.  _Sah        baku     neb      en_
              Sah      the  work   all      of

          6.   _sutna           kheper       em         tuta_.
              the  palace    was  done     by       my  hand.


                              CHAPTER IX.

THE Semitic Assyrians and the Semitic people of other portions of
Mesopotamia, had adopted the cuneiform script and the Turanian syllabary
as early as the days of Sargon. From this time onward, and until the
days of Assyrian and Babylonian supremacy, these signs were the common
medium of literary intercourse among the nations of western Asia and
expressed various languages and dialects.

The famous documents recently found in Egypt, known as the
“Tel-el-Amarna” letters, indicate the extensive use of cuneiform writing
in the fifteenth century before Christ, or about seven hundred and
twenty years after Abraham.

The story of the discovery of these documents is still another among the
many romances which archæology so constantly and so unexpectedly

The site of the modern Arab village, Tel-el-Amarna, is about one hundred
and ninety miles south of Cairo, on the eastern bank of the river Nile.

The mountain chain which here follows the course of the river, recedes
at this point in the form of a bay, and upon the sandy plain thus
partially enclosed, many interesting remains appear, indicating the site
of an ancient city.

The tombs on the hillside have long been of special interest to

This city was known to have been the royal residence, and for a time the
capital of Egypt, under Amenophis IV, the ninth king of the eighteenth
dynasty. This king, son of Amenophis III and Queen Teie, a princess of
Mitanni, was through several generations of maternal descent more
Asiatic than Egyptian.

The royal house of Mitanni—the Aram-Nahairam of the Hebrews—had given in
marriage several successive princesses to the kings of Egypt. Tothmes
III, during his wars of conquest in western Asia, had obtained a
princess of Mitanni in marriage, and this alliance was further cemented
by the Egyptian kings, his successors, to the period of Amenophis III,
the father of Khu n Aten, Amenophis IV.

These frequent alliances had brought about an inclination for the gods
of the Mesopotamian mothers, and after while this younger son of the
royal house of Egypt, openly professed his adoption of the worship of
Aten, the supreme Baal of the Semitic people of Asia, and attempted to
substitute this for the worship of Amon, the god of Thebes. He erased
the name of the Egyptian god from the monuments and temples wherever
found. This so aroused the indignation of the powerful priesthood
devoted to the worship of Amon, that Amenophis found it necessary to
leave for a time the capital of his kingdom at Thebes and to found
another elsewhere.

This was established on the site of the modern Tel-el-Armana. The king
took to himself a new title, Khu n Aten, “The Splendor of the Sun’s
Disc,” by which name also he designated his new city. His reign after
this seems to have been of short duration. After him, two or three
princes of his house succeeded him, but with him Egyptian supremacy in
western Asia was at an end and the subject provinces of Syria and
Palestine passed out of Egyptian hands and rule.

The mummy of this monarch has recently been found in a royal sepulcher
of the kings of Thebes with those of other kings of this ancient

The revolt against the heretical king was extensive and Egypt was
distracted with civil wars. The adherents of the ancient religions soon
brought the worship of the new heresy to an end, and Rameses, first king
of the nineteenth dynasty, restored the worship of Amon and the ancient
gods of Egypt, with all power and dignity and brought with him a return
of peace.

Such was the aversion of the Egyptian people for the capital of the
heretic king, that, although his city was built almost entirely of
sun-dried bricks, it has suffered less from the ravages of time than the
more solidly constructed cities of Thebes and Memphis.

Prisse D’Avennes, who gives a description of the site of Khu n Aten,
says that the principal streets of the city are distinct and the greater
buildings can in part be traced. And again, that some of the buildings
of sun-burnt brick are the best preserved and most ancient dwellings in
the valley of the Nile.

In 1887 some clay tablets of peculiar and foreign character were found
in these ruins in company with Egyptian relics. These tablets resembled
for the most part small pillows of clay and they were inscribed with
cuneiform characters. With them were found a few larger tablets, some
small cylinders also inscribed in cuneiform, and seals and other relics
with hieroglyphic inscriptions.

The ruins where they were found were at first supposed to have been the
remains of the royal residence, but further examination indicates this
structure as the depository of the royal archives, the abode of the
king’s scribe and custodian of documents. It was near the palace though
not of it. A portion of these documents were placed in the museum at
Cairo, some were obtained for the British Museum, and the remainder by
the Royal Museum of Berlin. They include in all three hundred letters
from kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Mesopotamia and northern Syria, and
from subject princes and governors in Palestine and throughout Canaan.

Although in cuneiform script, these characters varied with the locality
from whence they came. The indications are that this system of writing
had been long in use throughout western Asia.

The language chiefly used in these documents was the Semitic Babylonian,
in the syllabary of the older Turanian form. In one or two cases the
writer uses the Babylonian script to express his native language, the
speech of the locality from whence the letter was sent, but these
instances are rare.

In one letter from Tushratta, or Dusratta, king of Mitanni, the first
seven lines are in Assyrian, but after this the remaining five hundred
and five lines are in his native language, the speech of Mitanni, a
language as yet unknown, having never been translated.

The meanings of a few words have been determined by Dr. Sayce and other
scholars and the indications are that the language was a Mongol dialect,
akin to the Accadian. The similarity of some words to those used by the
Hittite prince, Tarkondara, who also writes about this time to Amenophis
III, indicates this to be of the same family of speech.

The writing of this document is syllabic; and in the older cuneiform,
with very few determinatives.

In some later explorations at Tel-el-Amarna Mr. Petrie came upon some
fragments of other tablets in cuneiform which proved to be dictionaries.
“In one case the dictionary expresses Semitic Babylonian and Sumerian,
and as the Sumerian words are written phonetically as well as
ideographically, it would appear that Sumerian must have been still a
living language.”

On one of these later found tablets, Babylonian words are given to
explain words of two other languages, one of which Mr. Boscawen thinks
to be old Egyptian. If this is the case it is the only instance in the
Tel-el-Amarna collections where this appears. In no other portion of
this correspondence is the language of Egypt used.

Throughout the vast region represented by these letters, including
various races and forms of speech, from the upper Euphrates to
Babylonia; from northern Syria to southern Palestine; everywhere, the
Babylonian language and Babylonian script were the common medium of
literary intercourse in this correspondence.

The fact that many of these letters seem to have been individual
productions and not the work of special schools of scribes indicates the
widespread influence of Babylonian culture, and the opportunities for
education existing throughout the Orient in the century before the

There are evidences that the schools and libraries of the ancient cities
of Mesopotamia had their counterparts in the cities of southern
Palestine; as for instance Kirgath-Seper, “The City of Books,” to which
we find later reference as Kirgath-Sanneh, “The City of Instruction.”

The glimpses afforded of social and political conditions in various
localities at the period of this correspondence are of historical
importance, furnishing data and verifying documents found elsewhere, of
the same persons and events.

We have in the Tel-el-Amarna collection, letters from Burraburyash and
his father, kings of Kardungyash or Babylon, to Amenophis III of Egypt,
in which reference is made to the Egyptian princess, sister of
Amenophis, wife of the king of Babylon.

Burraburyash also wants gold, “much gold” from the Egyptian king, for
the building of his temple, and complains that this does not come to him
in sufficient quantities.

There is one letter from the king of Assyria and many letters from
Tushratta, or Dusratta, king of Mitanni. These latter refer chiefly to
the princesses of Mitanni, wives of the Egyptian kings, Queen Teie,
mother of Amenophis IV, and the princess Kirghipa, whose magnificent
dowry occupies a great portion of some of the largest tablets in the
collection. The lists include horses and a chariot covered with gold,
ornaments of silver and gold of finest Babylonian workmanship, decorated
with precious stones and rich garments of variegated stuffs.

Upon the death of Amenophis III, this princess became the wife of
Amenophis IV, his son, who thus continued his alliance with the powerful
and wealthy Tushratta, king of Mitanni.

Some of the most interesting letters in the collection are from Syria
and Palestine, from the native princes and governors of cities, at this
time subject to the Egyptian kings.

The correspondence of Ebed-tob, priest king and governor of Jerusalem,
is of special interest. Jerusalem was at this time a city of the
Amorites, a Semitic people of Palestine and its name in these documents
is Uru-Salim, signifying “The City of the god Salim,” or the “God of

Ebed-tob impresses the fact upon his royal correspondent that though
subject to the Egyptian king, he is king of Uru-Salim by an oracle of
the god of Salim. He was thus priest king of the city by divine
appointment and not by heredity. This statement suggests that earlier
king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek, who, as king of Salem and priest of the
“Most High God,” comes forth with bread and wine and blessings for
Abraham, the Deliverer of the country from its foes; the Restorer of

The Assyrian form, Sar Salim, “King of Salem,” is identical with the
Hebrew Sar Shalom, “Prince of Peace.” This again illustrates the
application by Isaiah of the title of “Prince of Peace” to that later
“Prince of the House of David,” who, in a higher spiritual sense than
his great prototype, Melchizedek, was yet to be to all nations and
people “King of Salem” and “Prince of Peace.”

The most remarkable event in the history of archæology has its
connections with the Tel-el-Amarna discovery.

Among the letters in this collection addressed to Amenophis IV, from the
governors of cities in southern Palestine, are those from the governor
of Lachish. This dignitary was named Zimrida and his dispatches to the
king of Egypt were chiefly upon the political conditions of his
province, its dangers from approaching foes and the necessity of relief
from Egypt.

It seems that Zimrida was in greater danger from foes within than
without, for in one of the later letters from Ebed-tob, he alludes to
the murder of Zimrida by servants of the Egyptian king.

The discovery of these cuneiform tablets from southern Palestine had
strengthened the growing convictions of Prof. Sayce that lying beneath
many of the _tels_ or mounds that marked the sites of ancient cities
throughout southern Palestine, other similar treasures were buried. The
name Kirgath Sepher, “Book Town,” was strongly suggestive, and acting
upon these impressions he urged the Palestine Exploration Fund to
undertake explorations in this region.

The Tel-el-Amarna letters were discovered in 1887. It was not, however,
until 1890 that the officers of the Palestine Exploration Fund were able
to obtain the necessary permission from the Turkish government, or to
secure the services of the distinguished explorer, Dr. Petrie, for the
work. This gentleman began excavations in the month of April of that

After some days of examination of various _tels_ in this region for the
site of Lachish, he decided to commence work at the _tel_ or mound
Tel-el-Hesy, so called from the river Hesy which flows by the hill on
which the mound is located. It is about seventeen miles to the east of
Gaza. The natural eminence upon which it is situated rises to a height
of forty feet above the valley. Above this the mound consists of a
succession of town levels, the one above the other, sixty feet higher,
from which a commanding view of the region is obtained.

Fortunately for the explorer, the turbulent stream flowing over these
declivities has cut this _tel_ on the eastern side from top to bottom,
leaving the whole face exposed and revealing distinctly the various city
levels of the several periods of occupation. The commanding position of
the site, the fine springs of water, gushing from the hillsides, and the
rapid stream, affording an abundance of fresh, sweet water, the locality
agreeing in so many particulars with the site of ancient Lachish, the
evidences also in the hillside of the existence at various periods of
ancient important cities, justified his convictions which subsequent
discoveries verified.

After some months of excavation, Dr. Petrie was obliged to discontinue
his work here for engagements elsewhere, leaving further explorations in
the hands of Mr. Bliss.

[4]The result of Dr. Petrie’s labors had been to establish known facts
in the history of ancient Lachish. The lowest and earliest town must
have been of great strength and importance. The remains of the walls are
twenty-eight feet and eight inches in thickness, of bricks unburnt, with
two successive patchings of rebuilding occupying thirty-nine of the
sixty feet in the height of the mound. At this level the fragments of
pottery were distinct and peculiar, very different from the relics of
the cities above and which, from relics elsewhere obtained, give the
period of their use and manufacture at 1500 B. C.

The next level indicated a barbaric invasion when rude huts were piled
up, to fall soon after into ruin. After this comes successive strata of
Jewish cities until about 400 B. C., since which time Lachish passed out
of history and no later relics are found.

Of these things Dr. Petrie says: “The Amorite pottery extends from 1500
B. C., to 1000 B. C. Phœnician and Cypriote begins about 1000 and goes
to 700 B. C. Greek influence then begins and continues to the top of the

Upon leaving, he pointed out to Dr. Bliss the indications that the lower
portions of the _tel_ would bring to light the ruins of a city destroyed
by the invading Israelites.

Among the early relics found by Mr. Bliss, when the lower stratum of
cities was more thoroughly explored, were a number of Egyptian beads and
scarabs of the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty, on one of which the name of
Queen Teie, wife of Amenophis III and mother of Amenophis IV, appears.

There were also a number of seal cylinders, some of Egyptian and some of
Babylonian manufacture, of the same period or earlier.

The most wonderful discovery, however, was to come, verifying the
predictions of Prof. Sayce and the judgment of Dr. Petrie, but in a way
to astonish even these eminent scholars to whom all things seem
possible. This was the discovery of a clay tablet inscribed in cuneiform
characters similar in size, form and other peculiarities, to the letters
from Lachish in the Tel-el-Amarna documents.

It is written in the Babylonian language and with the Babylonian
syllabary, and what is still more astonishing, the name of Zimrida
appears upon it.

It proves to be a letter addressed to an Egyptian officer, received at
Lachish about the time Zimrida’s letter was sent to the king of Egypt.
In this the name of Zimrida, who, according to the Tel-el-Amarna
dispatches was governor of Lachish, is twice mentioned.

Here in Canaan, deep beneath the remains of many cities, and there upon
the banks of the Nile, these two fragments of a correspondence have lain
through many centuries, waiting the time when this long forgotten story
might be read and explained.

The Lachish letter was claimed at once by the Turkish government, and
those who have attempted its translation have been obliged to do this
from squeezes or impressions of the original document, which in some
cases are imperfect, as some of the characters are partly obliterated or
on the edges of the tablet. Quite enough, however, is apparent to
identify the date and significance of the documents.

The Tel-el-Amarna documents also indicate in a way the date of the
Exodus. They at least prove, of the periods sometimes assigned, when
this could not have happened, and to point to the probabilities when it

In the letters from southern Canaan we have a distinct view of Palestine
before its occupation by the Children of Israel. They had not taken
possession of Lachish, nor had they entered Jerusalem. At this time
Palestine and all Syria were under Egyptian domination.

The governors of many of the cities were often times native Egyptians,
and Egyptian garrisons were stationed at all important points for their

From the time of Thotmes III, of the eighteenth dynasty, to the close of
the reign of Amenophis IV, this state of affairs had continued and
during this period no Egyptian king corresponds to the Pharaoh of the

At the time of the invasion of Canaan by the Israelites and their
occupation of its cities, the domination of Egypt had ceased. This did
not occur until the close of the eighteenth dynasty.

When the nineteenth dynasty came in, with Rameses I, a new order of
things arose. The reaction against the heresies of Amenophis extended to
all Asiatic influences, and the Semitic people throughout the realm
found in Rameses and his immediate successors the Pharaohs who “knew not

Again, in certain of these letters from southern Palestine, there are
references to the “Khabiri” who were threatening these cities, and in
the Khabiri some scholars read the word Hebrews and their approaching
invasion of Palestine.

This would place these letters at the close of the “Wandering in the
Wilderness,” instead of earlier. Against this view is urged that the
political conditions of Canaan at the time of this correspondence do not
agree with those of the Israelitish invasion of Canaan.

The word Khabiri signifies “confederates.” They are probably the people
of Hebron, one of the old Amorite cities, and confederated against the
alien Egyptian authorities, with their stronghold at Hebron.

In the letters of Ebed-tob to the king of Egypt, he complains of certain
officials in the neighboring cities who are conspiring with the Khabiri,
the most dangerous foe to the constituted authorities in that part of

The preservation of these documents among the archives of the Egyptian
king show that these appeals were received. The evidences are that they
were sent to Amenophis IV near the close of his reign. Then civil war,
which continued for some time after his death, and during the reign of
his immediate successors, made it necessary to recall the Egyptian
troops abroad, and the strongholds of Egyptian rule in Asia soon
surrendered to native and foreign claimants of Syria and Canaan.

It is scarcely possible, in so brief a sketch, to give an estimate of
things indicated, or the historical importance of these documents. The
most striking of the things indicated is the large range presented of
Babylonian influence and culture.

This is not more noticeable in the countries bordering upon the
Euphrates valley than it is throughout the region lying along the
eastern coast of the Mediterranean and the western slopes of Amanus,
from northern Syria to the valley of the Nile.

From Tyre and Sidon, Beyrut and Joppa, Gaza and Askalon, Jerusalem,
Lachish and other ancient cities of Syria, Palestine and Canaan, letters
were addressed to the king of Egypt; not in the language of Egypt, nor
yet of Syria or Canaan, but in the language and script of Babylonia.

This is hardly what might have been expected. We might have expected,
for instance, the speech of the Semitic people of Syria or Canaan—this
older Hebrew—to have assumed Hebraic forms; that older Phœnician script
for which scholars are so earnestly searching. Or we might reasonably
have supposed that documents from this region and at this time would
have been expressed in the written forms of the hieroglyphic system of
Egypt; but this was not the case.

The problem of the use at this date of the script and language of
Babylonia by the Semitic people of Syria and Canaan, must be referred to
the extensive influence of Babylonian culture and power, which had been
more or less dominant in Canaan from the period of Sargon I.

Of this, Prof. Sayce says:

  “So long had this system of writing been adopted in western Asia,
  and so long had it had its home there, that each district and
  nationality had time to form its peculiar hand. We can tell at a
  glance by merely looking at the forms assumed, whether a particular
  document came from the south of Palestine, from Phœnicia or from
  northern Syria.”

Again, the prevalence of its use throughout the vast region represented
by these documents, from the Persian Gulf to the mountains of Armenia,
from beyond the Tigris to the Mediterranean Sea and from northern Syria
to Arabia, implies the centuries.

It indicates that what our alphabetic system is to modern civilizations
the Babylonian cuneiform was to the civilizations of western Asia in the
century preceding the Exodus.

Another influence for the persistency and spread of the cuneiform
writing, was due to the great libraries established in various cities,
to which the people had access. These had existed from the earliest
times in Babylonia, and undoubtedly spread with the spread of Babylonian
influence and culture.

Of legendary libraries in Chaldea, Berosus tells of the antediluvian
city Pantabibla, town of Books, and Sippara, also City of the Sun, where
Xisthurus, the Chaldean Noah, buried his books before the Deluge, and
from whence they were disentombed after the subsidence of the waters.

Of actual collections, literary remains from the library of Erech, the
most ancient of Chaldean cities, give evidence of the antiquity of these
institutions, as also others from Cutha, Larsa and various localities.

The library of Larsa, or Senkereh, was famous for its mathematical
works, and here students of that science came from all parts of the

Some tablets from this library are now in the British Museum, among
which are tables of squares, and there are traces of a Chaldean Euclid,
with geometrical figures.

In Assyria, the great libraries established in various cities were at
the expense of the libraries of Babylonia. They were founded by the
kings of Assyria who became for the time masters of Babylonia.

For the enrichment of Assyria, the Babylonian libraries were despoiled
of many treasures of which such books were selected and removed as would
add to the glory of Assyria.

The books of the Assyrian libraries established in various cities
consisted either of works from the older libraries or were copies of
books left in their original homes.

The most ancient of the Assyrian libraries of which we have account,
after that of the great Sargon, of Agane, was that of Calah. This city
was founded by Shalmaneser, about 1300 B. C., but later on was laid
waste during some invasions of Assyria. It was afterwards rebuilt by
Assur-natsi-pal, king of Assyria, 885 B. C.

At this restoration of Calah, he founded the celebrated library in
which, with other literature, was deposited the great work on astronomy,
entitled the “Observations of Bel.” This work was first composed for the
library of Sargon at Agane, and throughout Assyrian and Babylonian
history had a wide reputation. It was translated in later times into
Greek by Berosus, the Chaldean historian, from many copies of the work
made for the great library of Assur-bani-pal, at Kouyunjik. Many
fragments of these copies are now in the British Museum, but the table
of contents which remains gives a good conception of the subjects
treated in the original work.

Assur-bani-pal says of the founding of his royal library, that inspired
by “Nebo, the prophet god of Literature,” and “his wife, Tasmit, the
Bearer,” he had regard to the engraved characters of which, as much as
was suitable on tablets, he had written and explained and placed in his
library for the inspection of his subjects.

To this library, strangers from all countries were also admitted, and
for their assistance in the study of literature and the translation of
these documents, syllabaries were prepared in which the cuneiform
characters were classified and arranged. With these were the phrase
books and dictionaries presenting the ancient Accadian form of the word
with its Assyrian equivalent.

By these means the modern student of cuneiform has been able to
translate this long forgotten language as readily as the student of the
period of Assur-bani-pal.

Like testimony from other localities is coming to light, of the
literary activity which prevailed for long centuries—we may say
milleniums—throughout the vast region affected by Babylonian
influence. There were books and libraries everywhere, and those who
could read and write them.

The imperishable nature of these baked clay records is yet to furnish
other and greater surprises. Beneath the mounds which dot the plains and
valleys of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine, the treasures of many
ancient libraries undoubtedly still await the spade of the explorer.


Footnote 4:

  Palestine Explorations, 1890. Journals of Dr. Petrie.

                               CHAPTER X.

THROUGHOUT the whole history of cuneiform writing, with the Babylonians
and Assyrians it continued a syllabic system. There was no development
with them of alphabetic characters.

The first evidences we have as yet of such development through this
cuneiform was at the time when the Medes, an Aryan people related to the
Persians, received from the primitive or earlier inhabitants of Media
their system of writing.

These Proto-Medic tribes were a Turanian people of Ural-Altaic stock
speaking an agglutinative language. Their system of writing was the
cuneiform, and had been a development from the Semitic Babylonian

In the adaptations of this to the requirements of an agglutinative
speech a process of simplifying had occurred quite similar to that which
the Japanese present upon the transmission to them of the graphic system
of the Chinese.

The Semitic Babylonian system which was originally adopted from the
cuneiform of a Turanian people, had developed a complicated and cumbrous
method of writing, including over five hundred signs. This had arisen in
the attempts to adapt a syllabary and characters expressing an
agglutinative speech to the uses of a Semitic language.

It was from this that the Persian cuneiform was derived, and in the
further simplicity which appeared in the transmission of this to an
Aryan people, and its applications to an Aryan speech, that we find a
development towards alphabetism.

With the adoption of the Proto-Medic cuneiform by the Medes and
Persians, many of the syllabic signs, instead of representing syllables
came on the acrologic principle to be used as alphabetic characters.

As certain of these signs retained a syllabic character, the Persian
cuneiform was never a pure alphabet, though far on the way to this as
early as the period of the Achæmenian kings.

Dr. Taylor says of this:

  “The idea of alphabetism may not improbably have been suggested to
  the Persians by their acquaintance with the Phœnician alphabet,
  which as early as the eighth century B. C. was used in the valley of
  the Euphrates concurrently with cuneiform writing.”

At the date of the Persepolitan and Behistun inscriptions, and during
the two previous centuries, the Aramean alphabet, daughter of the
Phœnician, had been a commercial script of the Semitic people of
northern Mesopotamia and Syria.

At the time of Darius it was used at the courts of the Assyrian kings in
official records, and later on at Babylon.

Again, upon the decline of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, and with
these the decadence of the cuneiform, this was superseded by the Aramean
alphabet. Of this, however, later on.

Whatever influences the alphabet of Aram may have had in suggesting the
idea of alphabetism to the originators of the Persian cuneiform, the
result was original and distinct.

Of this Persian cuneiform, which has furnished the key to the
decipherment of all cuneiform, the fullest vocabulary has been found in
the Behistun inscriptions.

The rock on which these are engraved is situated near the western
frontier of Persia on the direct route from Babylon to Ecbatana. It
rises an isolated mountain from the plain to a height of seventeen
hundred feet.

On one side is a sheer wall of precipitous rock. At its base is a
copious fountain. On one of the great highways of travel, its isolated
position and peculiar features have made this a notable landmark
throughout the ages. At the northern extremity of this escarpment, in a
recess to the right, are the famous inscriptions of Darius, son of
Hystapes. To make these inaccessible to foreign invaders or domestic
foes, they were placed about three hundred feet above the base of the

Sir Henry Rawlinson, who first deciphered these inscriptions, attempted
the work by the aid of powerful field glasses, but later succeeded in
obtaining a closer inspection by means of ropes let down from the cliffs
at great expense and at the risk of his life.

The wonder is, how the engravers could have done the work. The rock was
beautifully polished before inscribed, and in some places where there
were inequalities of surface, pieces of the rock were fitted in and
fastened with molten lead. This was done with such delicacy that only by
close and careful scrutiny can it be detected.

After the engraving had been completed, a fine coat of silicious varnish
was laid over, to give clearness of outline to each letter, and to
protect the surface against the action of the elements.

Of the inscriptions, Sir Henry Rawlinson says:

“For beauty of execution, for uniformity and correctness, they are

The purpose of King Darius in these memorials was to set forth to his
subjects his hereditary right to the throne of Persia, and the glories
of his reign.

“I am Darieiros,” he says, “the great king, the king of kings, the king
of Persia, the king of nations.”

And then, after giving the record of his genealogy back to Achæmenes,
the first of his line, he says: “There are eight of my race who have
been kings before me; I am the ninth. In a double line we have been

The inscriptions consist of a thousand lines in three columns and in
three languages; an Aryan, a Turanian and a Semitic speech.

The first column, addressed to the Persian people of his realm, was
written in the Persian cuneiform, with thirty-six alphabetic signs and
but four ideograms. The second was to the Proto-Medic, or as now called,
Scythic inhabitants of the kingdom, and was written in the Turanian
cuneiform, with ninety-six pure syllabic signs, accompanied by seven
surviving ideograms. The third version, to the Assyrian or Semitic
subjects of the Persian king, was inscribed in the Semitic Babylonian
cuneiform, including five hundred characters.

After the discovery by Grotefend of the key to the decipherment of the
Persian cuneiform, Sir Henry Rawlinson, an English military officer in
the service of the East India Company, while on duty in Persia,
undertook the study of cuneiform characters.

This he attempted independently, with no one to aid him, as at this time
he was not acquainted with the discoveries of Grotefend, or the methods
pursued by him.

The greater simplicity of the Persian versions in the trilingual
inscriptions, suggested less difficulties to overcome and led him to
pursue the same lines by which Grotefend had previously obtained

Sir Henry Rawlinson was able to carry forward the decipherment of
cuneiform much farther than Grotefend, owing partly to the better
knowledge of the ancient languages of Persia attained at this time, and
partly to the fact that he had escaped the mistakes which obstructed
Grotefend in his later decipherments of cuneiform.

It will be remembered that Grotefend discovered the true values of
twelve of the forty-eight letters of the Persian alphabet. Further than
this he did not go. He made the mistake of supposing all the vowel
sounds were expressed in this system, which is not the case.

With some of the consonants, the vowel sound is inherent and is not
written with an independent sign. This mistake prevented his further
progress; but his success had pointed the way, and a host of eager and
able scholars at once entered this new field of oriental philology.

The most promising direction seemed to be the Zend, the so called
language in which the sacred books of the Parsees was written. Of this,
but one or two fragments known to be genuine were at this time to be
found in the libraries of Europe; one in the Bodleian Library, chained
to the wall, and here and there a few stray leaves of Zend manuscript in
other collections.

In the year 1771 a work had been deposited by its author, Anquetil
Duperron, which he claimed to be a translation from the original
Zend-Avesta, with copy of the texts.

The work had been pronounced a forgery by certain distinguished
scholars; but the well known scholarship of its author held the
judgments of other learned philologists in abeyance.

The story of this effort is of romantic interest. While a youth,
preparing for priesthood in the seminaries of Paris, he became so
absorbed in the study of language, that he gave himself entirely to
these pursuits, abandoning his intentions of the study of theology.

While thus engaged, some stray leaves of a Zend manuscript came into his
hands, which so filled his mind with a desire to read the language of
the Parsees that he determined to do so.

At this time the conflicting interests of the English and French in
India reached a crisis. Enlisting as a private soldier in the French
army, he was about to sail for India when the officers of the institute
to which he was attached, affected by his zeal for learning, obtained
from the Minister of War a free passage for him to Pondicherry, with a
seat during the voyage at the captain’s table and a salary to be paid
him on his arrival in India while he carried on his studies.

After reaching Pondicherry, he began the study of Sanscrit and Arabic,
and later on, through great hardship, finally reached Surat.

Here he obtained the confidence of certain Parsee priests, who permitted
him access to their sacred books, and through whose assistance he
acquired sufficient knowledge of the language in which they were
written, to enable him to translate the Zend-Avesta.

Returning to Paris in 1762, with over a hundred precious manuscripts, he
obtained a small post in the royal library, where he spent the next nine
years in the preparation of his copies of the original texts of the
Zend-Avesta, translating these for publication. In 1771 the work was
completed and he had the satisfaction of placing in the Royal Library of
Paris the first authentic version of the Zend-Avesta and the first
translation that had ever appeared in any European language. As before
stated, many scholars of the time were not prepared for the work,
denying its authenticity and proclaiming it an audacious forgery.

Under this cloud, the intrepid author of this work, conscious of the
importance of his contribution to learning, undaunted by the fate which
so long delayed the just recognition of his labors, passed the remainder
of his days in cheerful resignation.

He lived to congratulate Grotefend upon his achievements in the
decipherment of cuneiform and died shortly after, in 1808, at the
advanced age of seventy-seven.

Twenty years later, the honors due his name came through the researches
of the illustrious scholars, Rask and Burnouf, who proved this great
work of Anquetil Duperron to be a genuine if not correct translation of
the Zend-Avesta, as obtained through the sacred books of the Parsees.

It was by a study of this translation that the key to the ancient
Persian language was obtained and has since served an important use in
the study of Zend[5] philology.

Notwithstanding its value, this translation of the Zend-Avesta was by no
means perfect. The faulty teachings of the Parsee priests led the author
into occasional errors which obstructed the progress of later scholars
who depended too closely upon it for results. Little by little, however,
from the work of Sir Henry Rawlinson on the Behistun inscriptions, thro’
the researches of Burnouf in the original Zend manuscripts; again from
testimony furnished by other distinguished scholars, from coins and
other inscriptions, and still again by a comparative study of Sanscrit,
modern Persian and Arabic, all the letters of the old Persian cuneiform
have been obtained, until now it is as easily and distinctly read as
Greek or Hebrew.

It is impossible, within these limits, to follow the steps by which
these important results were obtained. The methods employed in such
researches are often only intelligible to philologists themselves.

In this special study, the epigraphic materials examined included not
only cuneiform signs, but characters representing the fully developed
alphabets of later periods, alphabets which had superseded the cuneiform
as systems of writing, though expressing the ancient speech of Persia.

The most ancient copies of the Zend-Avesta are only to be found in
Pehlivi characters, a Persian alphabetic system of the Sassanian period,
dating from the 3d century A. D.

The Pehlivi alphabets are direct descendants of the Aramean alphabet, a
daughter of the older Phœnician, which had developed in the highlands of
Aram, or Upper Mesopotamia, before the Achamenian period in Persia.

The Aramean language originally expressed by these characters, was at
this time one of the most widely spoken of the Semitic dialects,
including the idioms of Syria, Aram and Assyria.

At first, as a commercial and literary script, it came to be extensively
used in these and adjacent countries conjointly with the cuneiform.

In the ruins of ancient Nineveh, there are the remains of what must have
been a public registry office. From this a great number of terra cotta
tablets have been exhumed on which were inscribed in cuneiform
characters records of legal contracts, including loans of money, sales
of estates and exchanges of other properties. Many of these tablets were
docketed on the sides or edges in Aramean or Phœnician letters, by which
the subject of each document could be readily found when piled on the
shelves or in recesses where they were deposited. Reference in some of
these appears from the time of Tiglath Pileser and Sennacherib, 741 to
681 B. C.

Other evidences of the extensive use of this script comes from the later
Assyrian kings, and from Babylonia, until the decline of these empires,
606 to 538 B. C.

After the conquests of Babylonia by the Persians, the Aramean alphabet
gradually became the official script of these regions, finally
supplanting the cuneiform.

Of historic documents of this period in the Aramean script and language
was the royal decree given by Artaxerxes to Ezra for the rebuilding of
the temple at Jerusalem.

The Aramean was the language spoken at this time by all the Semitic
people of Babylonia.

It is probable that during the whole period of the Achæmenids a local
variety of the Aramean alphabet was in general use as a cursive script
throughout the empire.

The perishable materials used for this purpose, as the bark of trees,
skins, papyrus, unbaked clay, etc., have furnished but few remains of
this form of writing, but that it existed and was in extensive use at
this date, there are unmistakeable evidences.

It is not impossible that the works of Zoroaster may have been so
written in the old Bactrian, as Darius Hystaspes states in the Median
text of the Behistun inscription, that he has made a book in the Aryan
language which before him did not exist.

  “The text of the divine law (Avesta)—the prayer and the
  translation.” “And then this ancient book was restored by me in all
  nations and the nations followed it.”

The inscription of King Asoka, at Kapur di giri on the northern and
western confines of India, is evidently a survival of this ancient

About 500 B. C., the Punjaub was invaded by the Persians under Darius,
and during the remaining period of the Achæmenian kings continued a
satrapy of Persia. After the conquests of Alexander, and later, of the
decline of Greek rule, this province was restored to India. About 251 B.
C., Asoka, then king of India, an earnest and devout believer in Buddha,
ordered certain edicts to be inscribed in various parts of his empire.
These are known as the fourteen edicts of Asoka.

The type of the alphabetic character employed in the various localities
differs. Those used at Kapur di giri are in a cursive script from the
Aramean, and are often designated “the Bactrian alphabet,” from its
close relationship to these early Iranian forms.

Of this, Dr. Taylor says:

  “The Kapur di giri record must be regarded as an isolated monument
  of a great Bactrian alphabet, in which the Zoroasterian books and an
  extensive literature were in all probability conserved.”


Footnote 5:

  This use of the word Zend is incorrect as referring to the language in
  which the works of Zoroaster appear. There is no Zend language.

                              CHAPTER XI.

FOR monumental purposes, the Persian cuneiform remained the official
script of the empire conjointly with the Semitic Scythian cuneiform
until the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, about 334 B. C.,
with which the period of the Achæmenids closed.

Immediately following this, the use of the Greek alphabet appears on
coins and inscriptions, and this continued during the Greek domination
in Persia under the successors of Alexander.

The early Arsacids, the Parthian kings who brought an end to the rule of
the Greeks in Persia, used also for a time the Greek alphabet for
monumental records and numismatic legends.

This, however, only lasted for a brief period, for a little later on we
find that the Greek letters have given way to a variety of the Aramean
alphabet, which evidently had been in general use for a long period as a
cursive script.

This special variety of the Aramean belongs to a group of alphabets
known as Pehlevi, and is the oldest of the group. The name Pehlevi is
derived from the word Parthivi, signifying Parthian. It continued,
however, to be applied not only to the alphabet which first appears in
the early period of Parthian domination in Persia, but also to the later
forms that developed under the Sassanian kings who succeeded the
Arsacids, or Parthian kings.

The so called Zend alphabet was the latest of the Pehlevi, and appears
during the later years of the Sassanian empire. Although the latest
development of the Persian scripts, the Zend alphabet represents the
most ancient form of Persian speech.

It was in these characters that some time during the Sassanian dynasty
the Zend-Avesta, or sacred books of the Persians, were transcribed in
the ancient speech of their origin, which have thus been preserved to
the present day by the surviving representatives of this ancient faith.

The language expressed in the Gathas, or hymns, the most archaic
portions of the Avesta, is in the ancient vernacular of eastern Persia;
sometimes called “Old Bactrian,” and is the most archaic of Iranian

This was apparent when Sanskrit became known to European scholars.

The striking resemblance of the Gathas to the older Sanskrit of the
“Vedic Hymns,” indicated a close relationship. They seemed, indeed, like
two dialects of the same speech. In fact, the readiness with which this
old Persian was converted into pure Sanskrit by a few slight phonetic
changes, verified these indications.

In the further comparative study of the older Sanskrit with this older
Persian, it was found that while the Sanskrit may be regarded as the
older brother of the Aryan group, this ancient Persian is in some
respects more archaic.

It nevertheless remains that the Sanskrit is in the main the elder
representative of this family of languages, retaining the characteristic
forms of phonetic structure once common to the whole family, with their
meanings less changed, than any other branch of the Aryan group.

It is this fact which enabled philologists to base a science of Aryan
philology upon the Sanskrit. And not only this, but from which has
arisen the science of comparative philology for all families of

Whatever may be said of the ethnic affinities of the Aryans, or their
primitive home, this much has been made evident in the comparative study
of the Vedas and the Avesta; that there is close kinship here.

They tell of a time not so remote in history as that of older Chaldea or
Egypt, when these Indo-Iranians were one people, with a common ancestry,
inhabiting the same country, speaking the same language, with the same
social institutions and the same beliefs. They indicate that the home of
these Indo-Iranians, before their separation, was somewhere near the
head waters of the Oxus, to the north-west of the Hindu-Kush. That
finally there was a separation of these families, those afterwards known
as the Hindus penetrating these great mountain passes into the Punjaub,
“The land of the Five Rivers,” in the northwestern part of India, from
whence they spread southward over this great peninsula.

The other branch, the Iranians, remained for a time north of the
Hindu-Kush in Bactria, which formed later on a part of the ancient
empire of Iran, or Persia, on the northeast.

This country was situated in an upper valley of the Oxus, formed by the
Hissar mountains on the north, and at the south the Hindu-Kush,
extending from the Pamir plateau on the east to the great desert of
Chorasmin on the west, a fruitful valley, well watered, affording on the
hill slopes of the southern range favorable pasturage for flocks and

From this region the Iranian branch finally spread westward and
southerly throughout the lands later known as Iran or Persia.

It has been suggested that the separation of the Indo-Iranians was the
result of religious differences. The schism indicated in the Rig Vedas
and Avesta seems to have grown out of the distinction which finally
arose between the signification of the words “Asura” or “Ahura,” as
applied to Deity.

The earlier faith of these people seems to have been a pure nature
worship, the sun, the sky, light, fire, the elements, throughout which
appears also a spiritual conception of a Supreme Being, Lord of the Sky,
the Sun, Creator of all things, who was known as “Asura,” or “Ahura.”
The most ancient signification of this word is “The Broad and
Enfolding,” its earliest application as Lord of the Sky, is, perhaps, a
reminiscence of that remote period in the history of these people when
they roamed the vast steppes of northern central Asia.

In the spiritual conception which grew from this, Asura became the Lord
of the Broad Heavens, the God of Light, the Infinite.

The word Deva, from the Sanskrit Div, signified “brilliant,” “shining.”
In its spiritual sense, the “Shining Ones” applied originally to the
ministering spirits, the bright messengers of Asura. From the word Deva,
we have the word Deus, God; Divus, divine; dæmons, and other similar
forms in various branches of Aryan speech.

At first, Asura is the most sacred name used for Deity. Later on, with
the increase of gods in the Hindu pantheon, the term Asura is conferred
as a highest dignity upon the greater gods, as Asura-Varuna,

There came a time, however, as appears in the Vedas, when the Asuras
signified a class of spirits inferior to the Devas, and finally as
spirits opposed to the gods. As the Asuras were degraded, the Devas were
exalted. With the Iranian branch, there was no such change. The ancient
“Asura,” in Persian, “Ahura,” remained from first to last their great
divine One; nor throughout the whole history of Persian mythology are
there “any gods before” him. The word Dævas, with them came to signify
evil spirits—devils.

That a schism arose, is apparent; and also that it was local. “Hard by
the believers in Ahura,” says Zoroaster, “dwell the worshippers of the

Such were the conditions when the great prophet and sage appears upon
the scene, not as the apostle of a new religion; but as a teacher of the
higher meanings of their ancient faith.

As priest and leader of the believers in Ahura he strikes at once at the
root of the dissension. The worshippers of the dævas are blind followers
of the Evil One, who seek the souls of men to destroy them.

The Hindus developed into gross polytheism.

The Iranians grew into a monotheism, at once all comprehending and
simple; a philosophy profound, and yet without dogma; a system of
morality noble and true, which has compelled the admiration of the wise
and spiritual of all ages.

This was the work of Zara-thustra, or Zoroaster. He pointed to the
existence in all nature of two principles—Good and Evil. These were the
offices of Ahura-Mazda, the all good, and Angro-Mainyash, the all evil.

In the regions of Light, the abode of Ahura-Mazda, there could be no
contact between Ahura-Mazda and the Spirit of Evil and of Outer

In his wisdom, Ahura-Mazda, the Creator, brought man into existence,
forming the earth for his abode. He endowed man also with intelligence
to perceive, and freedom to choose between good and evil, so far as his
immediate actions were concerned. As a natural consequence, the earth
became the arena of conflict between the powers of Good and Evil. The
object of both was the souls of men.

Over those who chose purity of life, who were pure and noble in all
their dealings with others, were just and merciful, over these, Ahriman,
the Evil Spirit, could obtain no mastery.

To the man impure in thought and action, unjust, dishonest and cruel,
the great god Ahura-Mazda could not extend his protection, and except
through earnest and honest repentance his soul was doomed in the life to
come to the service of the Evil One and to final destruction.

On the other hand, the man who followed the leadings of the God of
Goodness and Wisdom, was assured that at his death his soul passed to a
state of eternal blessedness.

These “sweet and reasonable doctrines” included no taint of fanaticism.
While pervaded by the spirit of their founder, they were never urged at
the point of the sword.

In the 30th chapter of the Yasna, in which is preserved the celebrated
speech of Zoroaster to Vistacpe and his court, it is distinctly stated
that the great prophet relied solely upon persuasion and argument.

In the account given by Firdusi of this occasion, Zoroaster is quoted as
saying: “Learn, O King, the rites and doctrines of the religion of
excellence; for without religion there cannot be any worth in a king.”
“When the mighty monarch heard him speak of the excellent religion, he
accepted from him the rights and doctrines.”

The date of Zoroaster is uncertain. Various authors assign him to
different periods, from 2500 to 1000 B. C.; while others refer him to
still remoter dates.

Anquetil Duperron places him in the time of Hystaspes, father of Darius;
and Bunsen at 2500 B. C.; but scholars generally agree upon the period
between 1400 to 1000 B. C.

At the date of Darius, 521 B. C., Zoroastrianism was the national
religion of the Persians. In one of the inscriptions of Darius, we find
this reference:

  “Mazda, who created this earth and that heaven, who created man and
  man’s dwelling place, who made Darius king, the one and only king of

This and other references in the inscriptions indicate the time of
Zoroaster as before the date of Darius.

Ancient Persian traditions represent Zoroaster as a native of Bactria,
and that the important address to king Vistacpi and his court was
delivered in the ancient city of Balkh.

Dr. Bunsen says of Zoroaster’s conception, that “it was not less grand
than that of Abraham; but that the distinctive difference lay in these
facts; Zoroaster attempted a conciliatory compromise between his stern
antagonism to nature worship, and the retention of the ancient rites and
symbols of such worship.”

Abraham, on the other hand, excinded nature worship altogether, and
sought to banish it as utterly as possible from his religiously
segregated society. “In this,” he urges, “the Hebrew man of God stands
above the Aryan.”

From happy Bactria, this religion of “excellence” spread among the
numerous tribes of Iranians into all Persia, finally becoming the state
religion. This was also known from its earliest to its latest history,
as the “Book Religion.”

According to Parsee tradition, Zoroaster was the author of the Avesta,
which, when first written, consisted of twenty-one nosks or parts.

It is also stated that this book was in a form of writing invented by
Zoroaster, and which the Maga, or priests of this cult called the
“writing of religion.”

It was written on twelve thousand cow-hides, in ink of gold and the work
was bound together by golden bands.

Various Greek writers, who followed the wake of Alexander’s conquests in
Persia, claim to have seen the original, which was preserved in the
archives of Persepolis.

Traditional accounts state that there were two copies of this work, one
of which was destroyed in the palace of Persepolis, which was burned by
order of Alexander, and the other was destroyed by the Greeks in some
other way.

There were also copies of the various nosks or parts in the hands of the
priesthood, which thus escaped destruction.

After the death of Alexander, the Zoroastrian priests gathered the
remaining fragments, putting these into book form.

Five hundred years later, at the close of the Parthian dynasty in
Persia, another collection of the Avesta fragments, both oral and
written, was instituted, at the command and under the patronage of King
Vologases, the last of the Arascids, about A. D. 225.

The work of editing and revising these collections was continued under
the early Sassanian kings, with whom the ancient nationality again
became ascendant, and with this, the ancient Persian religion and its

The new Avesta thus produced was proclaimed canonical.

Under the later Sassanian kings, the Avesta was transcribed in the later
Pehlevi or Parsee script, in which form it has survived to the present
day. Of this, however, but a portion remains. The Sassanian dynasty
ended with the conquest of Persia by the Mohammedan Arabs in 641 A. D.

In the fury of persecution which broke over all Iran at this time,
Zoroastrianism as a national faith was crushed, and the sacred
literature of Persia was again scattered abroad by the devastating
influences of war and fanaticism. To the religion of Zoroaster that of
Mohammed succeeded, the Avesta was replaced by the Koran, and the
Arabian alphabet supplanted the Persian as a national script and has so
remained to the present.

The ancient national life of Persia was not crushed out at once, but
continued a vigorous though ineffectual resistance for centuries.

During these troublous times, probably about the ninth century A. D., a
colony of Persians who held fast to their ancient faith, fled from their
country, and after many years wanderings, finally established themselves
on the western coast of India, from Bombay to Surat. They brought with
them the remains of their sacred literature, to which other missing
portions were added from time to time, as they could obtain them from
their brethren in the faith who remained in Persia, chiefly at Kerman
and Yezd.

They adopted the language of the Hindus among whom they settled, but
steadfastly maintained their religion and customs.

It is from the descendants of these refugees—the Parsees of India—that
the ancient sacred books of Persia have come into our hands.

The Avesta as it now exists, consists of four[6] parts, the Yasna, the
Visparad, the Vendidad and the Kordash, or Little Avesta. Each of these
parts are remainders of the older collection and are of different dates.

The Yasna, a collection of hymns and prayers for divine service,
includes the “Gathas,” the most ancient and sacred portion of the
Avesta. These are evidently what they claimed to be—the work of
Zoroaster. The language in which they are composed is as old, if not
more ancient than the Sanskrit of the oldest Vedas.

The allusion to these hymns throughout the various parts of the Avesta,
shows them to have been in existence long before all other portions of
these collections were written.

Again, to all to whom Zoroaster is a living personality, the internal
evidences of these utterances point distinctly to him as their author.
Claiming no higher distinction than a teacher and preacher among his
people, there could have been no time in the history of the religion of
which he was the founder, than during his own life and work in which
they could have had their origin.

These devout pleadings with the Divine for his people, that he and they
might be led aright, does not savour of the higher spiritual dignities
accorded to Zoroaster in later times.

The following quotation from the Gathas expresses very clearly the
devout and reverent attitude of the author:

  “With verses of my own making which now are heard; and with
  prayerful hands I come before Thee, Mazda; and with the sincere
  humility of the upright man, and the believer’s song of praise.”


Footnote 6:

  Some authorities divide the Avesta in three parts, in which the
  Visparad is included with the Yasna as an appendix.


[Illustration: decoration]


                          Transcriber’s Notes

A few minor obviously typographical errors have been silently corrected.

In Table of Illustrations, typo “Heirogyphic” was changed to

Typo p. 14: Duplicated word was deleted.

Typo p. 17: “Egytians” was corrected to “Egyptians”.

Typo p. 34: “expresed” was corrected to “expressed”.

Page 63: hyphen was added to Tel-Loh to agree with the other 8 and be
parallel to similar names.

Typo pp. 64-65: duplicate “of” at page boundary was deleted.

Page 72: hyphen was added to Nin-Girsu to agree with other on p. 95 and
be parallel with Nin-Girsu construction.

Typo p. 79: “hign” was corrected to “high”.

Typo p. 85: hyphen was added to Naram-Sin to agree with the 13 others.

Page 92: hyphen was added to Mul-il to agree with 3 times spelled

Both “priest kings” (3 times) and “priest-king(s)” (2 times) were found
and left unchanged.

Both Sanscrit and Sanskrit were found multiple times and left unchanged.

On page 143 the one instance of “Parsi” was changed to “Parsee”, which
had been used as both an adjective and as a noun.

On page 154, judging from the context, “rights” should probably have
been “rites” but it was within a quote, so it was left as printed.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the path of the alphabet - an historical account of the ancient beginnings and - evolution of the modern alphabet" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.