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Extinct Languages 


Johannes Friedrich 



IvilsuMft WW* 5 '* 

B908*9«» Center 

SIS W. D®I8.»& P « Stl 


JNDIANAPGUS, IN 46202-5198 


Copyright, 1957, by Philosophical Library, Inc. 
1 5 East 40 Street, New York 16, N. Y. 

All rights reserved. 

Translated from the original German Entzifrerung 
VerschoIIener Schrif ten und Sprachen by Frank Gaynor 




Tbt Librurjr 
Xaiiaaa Usiv«r*ity 

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518 N. Delaware St, 

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Printed in the United States of America 


' . . vii 


I. The Three Great Decipherments in the Study of the 
Ancient Orient • 

!. The Egyptian Hieroglyphics . ... . . : l 

a Land and People, History and Culture 1 

b The Principles of the Egyptian Writing 5 

c The Decipherment of the Egyptian Writing ... 10 

d. The Meroitic Script and Its Study 20 

2. Cuneiform Writing i'^'\''V'""^ * 9 

a. Land and People, History and Civilization of 

Mesopotamia • • • ; y • 2 9 

b The Essential Features of the Cuneiform Writing 34 

c The Spread of Cuneiform Writing to the East 

and to the West • • v ; • • • • • • 44 

d. Remarks concerning the History and Civilization 

of the Hurrians and Hittites 45 

e. Alphabetic Scripts Based on the Cuneiform Writ- 

1 ing .* • • ' ' ' ' .* ^ 

f. The Decipherment of the Early Persian Cunei- 

form Script • • • • • ; 5° 

g. The Decipherment of the Neo-Elamite Cunei- 

form Script • • • • 59 

h. The Decipherment of the Babylonian Cuneiform 

Script • . , R 

i. The Interpretation of Sumerian Records 05 

j. The Interpretation of Hittite and of Cognate 

1 Languages of Asia Minor 6 9 

k. The Interpretation of Hurrian 79 

*.- 1. The Interpretation of Urartaean o 1 

m. The Interpretation of Early Elamite ^ 

• n. The Decipherment of Ugaritic b 3 




3. The Hittite Hieroglyphic Writing 86 

a. General Facts 87 

b. The Basic Principles of the Hieroglyphic Script 

and the Possibility of a Decipherment 90 

c. The Progress of the Decipherment 94 

II. The Decipherment and Study of Other Scripts and 

Languages of the Old World , 102 

1. The Decipherment of Other Unknown Scripts and 

Languages 104 

a. The Translation of the Lycian Language 104 

b. The Translation of the Lydian Language 109 

c. On the Translation of the Language of Side 115 

d. The Decipherment of the Numidian Script 117 

2. The Decipherment of Other Unknown Scripts 123 

a. The Decipherment of the Cypriote Script 124 

b. On the Decipherment of the Proto-Byblic Script 131 

3. The Translation of Other Unknown Languages 136 

a. On the Translation of Etruscan 137 

b. On the Translation of Other Languages of An- 

cient Italy 143 

c. On the Translation of Phrygian 146 

III. Principles of the Methodology of the Decipherment 

of Extinct Scripts and Languages 151 

IV. A Few Examples of Undeciphered Scripts 159 

1. The Sinaitic Script 159 

2. The Cretan-Minoan Script 163 

3. The Carian Script 167 

4. The Indus Valley Script 169 

Appendix 175 

Index 181 


|n the history of human knowledge, the transition from the 
i8th century a.d. to the 19th is of no less a significance than 
is the turn of the 15th century a.d. into the 16th, which is 
regarded traditionally as the change-over from the Middle 
Ages to the Modern Era. Whereas about 1500 a.d. the dis- 
coveries and the Renaissance were reshaping the knowledge 
and mental attitude of mankind, the era about 1800 a.d.— 
quite apart from the then nascent radical shift in political 
thought—is characterized by a whole series of new and radical 
Sets of knowledge, notably in the fields of the physical sci- 
; and technology, and in connection with the latter in 
\ technique of communications as well, which would jus- 
' the contention that in those fields the Modern Age be- 
1 about 1800 a.d. This change in the natural sciences went 
ad in hand with a parallel change-over in various human- 
' \ sciences. That was, for instance, the time when archae- 
w was given its new look, by Winckelmann, by the re- 
ensified study of original inscriptions, etc., and when the 
: steps were taken toward a true science of linguistics by 
: recognition of an Indo-European linguistic community, 
f Study of Germanic antiquity and by a systematic investi- 
pon and classification of all the recognizable languages of 

Jp^other thing that happened about the same time was 
'** md this brings me right to the topic of the present book— 
Pit the human mind began for the first time to look back at 
places which had existed before the beginnings of Greek 






history, at the races which had shaped the earliest history of 
mankind in the Orient before the Greeks, at their material 
and abstract thinking, and at the residues of that thinking 
preserved in the inscribed monuments which had survived 
from that remote period of antiquity to the modern age. To 
the mind of the man of the 18th century, history had still 
begun, as it had for the Christian Middle Ages, with Homer 
and the tales of the Old Testament, and his knowledge of 
ancient tongues was restricted mainly to Latin, Greek, and 
perhaps Hebrew. Although a certain formal familiarity with 
the Old Egyptian monuments at least had been salvaged 
from remote antiquity into the modern age, the people of 
the 17th and 18th centuries still gazed with the same won- 
derment as had the Greeks and Romans at the odd pictorial 
characters with which those monuments were covered all 
over. But it never occurred either to the people of late an- 
tiquity or to those of the early Middle Ages to attempt to 
read this pictographic writing and to understand its con- 
tents. The knowledge of that script had been completely 
lost ever since it had ceased to be used. On the other hand, 
by today we have renewed our acquaintance with the Egyp- 
tian hieroglyphics and language, as well as with the cunei- 
form characters, once used in the Near East for writing a 
number of languages, but vanished from use and from the 
knowledge of mankind even earlier than the Egyptian writ- 
ing, and there are also other formerly forgotten scripts and 
languages with which we have become re-acquainted. The 
scientists who contributed to these re-discoveries thus re- 
stored to linguistic science the lost knowledge of a number 
of languages, some of them very ancient, and they laid the 
first foundation on which a historical study of writing at all 
became possible. But above all, they expanded the historical 
horizon significantly toward the past. Whereas the survey- 
able history of mankind had formerly comprised about two 

and a half millennia, it was now expanded to take in at least 
five thousand years. And not only do the political events of 
those long years unfold before our eyes, but so does also the 
material and intellectual culture of those ancient races; their 
homes, their garments, their ways of living, their religious, 
juristic and scientific thinking come to life anew and open 
for us an insight into the development of human life and 
thought from a perspective far wider in space and time. 

The decipherment of these old scripts and languages in 
the 19th and 20th centuries ranks with the most outstand- 
ing achievements of the human mind, and the only reason 
why it does not stand in the limelight of public interest as a 
co-equal of the radical triumphs of physics and technology 
and their related sciences is that it cannot produce the same 
effect on practical daily life which those discoveries can. 
J3iis inferior evaluation is also the reason why the unlocking 
of the secret of extinct languages and scripts is never de- 
scribed coherently, and it is therefore still hardly known at 
all to the general public. Yet, this subject is deserving of the 
most careful attention of the learned minds, and is absolutely 
jyorthy of a presentation per se. This is the aim of the pres- 
ent book. I hope to be able to group the abundant material , 
to a certain degree so as to provide a clear and comprehensive 
view, by first discussing at greater length the outstanding, 
and to a certain extent classical, decipherments of relics of 
the ancient Orient, that of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, of 
the many branches of the cuneiform writing, and of the 
Hittite hieroglyphics which remained enigmatic for a long 
time, but are now laid open to study. Next, I shall discuss, 
more briefly and in a looser arrangement, a few other deci- 
pherments of interest, without any attempt at completeness. 
Only then will I consider it proper to set forth a few theoreti- 
.jMjreflections relative to the decipherment of extinct scripts 
and languages, such as follow readily from the previously ex- 



plained practice. And in conclusion, I shall append the pres- 
entation of a few still undeciphered scripts^ aad I shall 
attempt to answer the query as to why they still remain un- 

J. F. 




1. The Egyptian Hieroglyphics 

Egypt is the homeland of the mysterious pictographic char- 
acters which even the ancient J3reeka contemplated with 
reverent wonderment and called hier oglyphics, "sacred 
&&£*" Jbecause they suspected that they contained secret 
jgdsdom- of the magician priests of Egypt. With the obelisks 
m Rome also, this notion of a magic significance of the 
hieroglyphics survived among the beliefs of the Occident, 
and also profound minds of modern times permitted them- 
;$#lves to be influenced by it. Without a belief in a certain 
j|i|^terious wisdom hidden within the hieroglyphics, a 
|prk of art like Mozart's Magic Flute would be inconceiv- 
|e. This is why it is fitting that a presentation of the de- 
terments be introduced by a discussion of the Egyptian 
roglyphics. For the sake of clarity, also a brief geographic 
pid historical survey will be useful. 

(a) Land and People, History and Culture 
The cultural situation on African soil is rather simple; in 
ie ancient days there was only one known civilized race 
■e, the Egyptians whose mighty edifices and the picto- 
ihic writing on them still fill the modern visitor with no 
rn . t amazement than they inspired in the ancient Greeks. 
^lEven in remote antiquity, Egypt was known as a gift of 
^ - Nile. Only the Nile Valley, about 500 miles long but 
||Py a few miles in width, is arable land, but extremely f er- 


tile at that, nurtured by the floods of the Nile, and flanked by 
barren desert on both sides. The Egyptians seem to have been 
a race of mixed .blood, of .-African and Semitic-Asiatic extrac- 
tion; their language was a remote kin of the Semitic tongues. 
They considered themselves the original inhabitants of the 
land, and actually no other race can be demonstrated to have 
lived there before them. 

Originally, there must have been two separate kingdoms in 
Egypt: A Northern kingdom (Lower Egypt) in the Delta, 
and a Southern one (Upper Egypt) in the narrow Nile Val- 
ley, extending all the way to Assuan, at the first cataracts. 
King Menes of the Southern Kingdom united both realms 
about 2850 B.C., and that event marked the beginning of the 
first of the thirty dynasties into which the Greek-Egyptian 
priest Manetho (about 280 b.c.) divided the entire history 
of the Egyptian monarchs up to Alexander. Beginning with 
the 3rd Dynasty, the city of Memphis, on the boundary line 
between the two original kingdoms (in the vicinity of mod- 
ern Cairo), was the capital of the Old Kingdom. The 4th 
Dynasty included the great pyramid builders, Cheops, Chef- 
ren and Mycerinus, and the era of the 5th Dynasty marks the 
beginning of the specific worship of the sun god Re. The 
reign of the 6th and 7th Dynasties (about 2350-2050 b.c.) 
was a period of political weakness. 

The Middle Kingdom introduced a new golden age, be- 
ginning with the 11th Dynasty. The city of Thebes, in the 
south, was the capital in those days. The political heyday of 
this era was represented by the reign of King Sesostris II, 
conqueror of Nubia (1878-1841 b.c), and the cultural high 
point by his son, Amenemhet III (1840-1792 b.c). A new 
decline ensued with the invasion of the Hyksos (15-1 6th 
Dynasties— about 1670-1570 b.c), an Asiatic race of bar- 
barians whose chief god is known to us under the Egyptian 
name 8th (Seth) and was a Near-Eastern weather deity. 


The expulsion of the Hyksos by Amosis (1570-1545 b.c) 
marks the beginning of the New Kingdom (about 1600- 
7 i 5 b.c). Thutmosis I (1524-about 1505 b.c) and above 
*U Thutmosis III (1502-1448 b.c) were great conquerors 
on Asiatic soil. Thutmosis III conquered Palestine, and in a 
battle at Karkhemish, at the bend of the Euphrates, he de- 
feated the Hurrians, a race powerful in Northern Syria. Thus 
he created an Asiatic province of Egypt, which included 
Palestine and Syria and remained in existence for a long 
time. Also Egypt was unable to escape the influence of the 
highly advanced Syrian civilization; it manifested itself ma- 
terially in the importation of clothes, furniture, etc., and 
culturally in an acquaintance with Semitic deities, such as 
Astarte and Baal, and in the many Semitic words incorpo- 
rated into the Egyptian language. 

The rule of Egypt over Syria did not last forever. Under 
Amenophis III (1413-1377 b.c) and Amenophis IV (1377- 
4358 b.c), Syria suffered heavily from the attacks of the 
iJabiru, an alien race of nomads, assumed to have been the 
Hebrews. An eloquent picture of this struggle is furnished by 
Jfae correspondence of these two rulers with their Syrian 
•fteals and with independent monarchs in Asia. This cor- 
respondence was found in the archives of El Amarna, Egypt, 
Issidence of Amenophis IV, in 1887, and to the amazement 
"« the science of the late 19th century, it was found to have 
;|een written not in Egyptian, but in Akkadian (Babylonian) , 
m clay tablets, in cuneiform script-because Akkadian was 
libe language of general communication in that era. 
§ The Egyptians soon had a new enemy to fight, the race of 
Ipe Hittites, of Asia Minor, who took the place of the Hur- 
ipns in northernmost Syria shortly after 1400 b.c Ramses I 
W318-1317 b.c), Sethos I (im-13 01 B - c -) and notabl y 
flamses II (1301-1234 b.c) had to fight bitter battles 
painst the Hittites for Syria. Also the battle of Kadesh 


(1296 b.c), hailed by Ramses II in a long epic poem as a 
great Egyptian victory, failed to bring a final decision. Ulti- 
mately, a peace treaty with the Hittite king HattuSili III, 
preserved in an Akkadian version in cuneiform script in the 
Hittite state archives in Bogazkoy, and in an Egyptian ver- 
sion in the temple of Ammon in Thebes, led to a mutual 
recognition of the political status quo. The long reign of 
Ramses II was otherwise another golden age of Egypt. 

</ A new danger threatened the civilization of the ancient 
Orient about 1200 B.C.: An invasion of barbaric Indo-Euro- 
pean races from Europe, whom the Egyptians called "Sea 
Peoples/' Their first, and most powerful, attack completely 
destroyed the Hittite empire. The Egyptians were able, un- 
der Ramses III (1197-1165 B.C.), to defend their own coun- 
try at least, but they irrevocably lost Syria and Palestine 
where indigenous Semitic kingdoms arose then. A political 
decline of Egypt ensued. The rule of the Ethiopian kings 
Sheshonk, Taharka, and others (loth-yth centuries B.C.) 
was followed by a short-lived conquest by Assyria (670-663 
B.C.), another era of independence under the monarchs 
Psammetichus I, Necho and Amasis (663-525 B.C.), and 
then came the conquest of the land by the Persians (525 
b.c.) whose place was taken by Alexander the Great in 332 
b.c, and by Rome in 30 B.C. 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to present here a more de- 
tailed account of Egyptian civilization; for such information, 
the reader is referred to Agypten und agyptisches Leben im 
Altertum* by Erman-Ranke (Tubingen, 1923). There he 
will find more information on thejeligion of Egypt with its 
ric hly diversified _pgntheon of numerous, partly animal- 

^ijfadfidudeiti^Re, Ammon, Isis, etc.), its strongly developed 
beliefjn life after death (Osiris, ruler of the dead in the un- 

* Egypt and Egyptian Life in Antiquity. 


derworld in the west), as well aijOiLEgyp^ 
JBdt iahe42yi^ 

Egyptian science^ 

(b) The Principles of the Egyptian Writing 
The script and system of writing of Egypt are the very im- 
portant cultural products which command our closer atten- 
tion at this point. Let it be mentioned in this connection, 
first and above all, that the Egyptians jveie ihejii&t users of a 
sort of paper as writing material; it was manufactured from 
Tl^secl stalks of the papyrus reed, and paper still bears the 
name of that reed even in our modern languages . Their wri t- 
ingjtiemil was a kind of brush, made of rushes, which they 
^pedinto black or red ink. The direction of writing was 
not fixed; it seldom ran in the direction to which we are ac- 
customed (it is merely our custom to print Egyptian texts 
l$iostly from left to right, for our own convenience), but in 
Most cases horizontally from right to left, although often also 
4*om top to bottom, in which case, too, the vertical columns 
%Uowed from right to left. It is to be noted that all the pic- 
lures of human beings and animals face toward the begin- 
ittiag of the line, also the feet walk in that direction, and the 
hands are stretched out so as to point that way. 

About the written characters of the Egyptian script, it 
fimst be stated first of all, in general, that the pictographic 
laipL to which the Greek Clemens Alexandrinus (died 
ler 210 A.D.) already referred as hieroglyphics ("sacred 
is"), was chiefly the script used on the monuments, but 
jrier, more cursive forms developed at a very early date 
^prating on papyrus.- These simplified forms more or less 
|gt their pictorial character and became similar to our let- 
JKfi call this book script hieratic writing ( cf . Fig. 1 ) . A 


o o I i 

r\ AA/WSA * 


6. ^jw 


(i) k.t n.t ffi.t rtt'r.s (2) tpnn mrh.t ss.w jrt.t (5) ps 
swr- (4) >fe./ //./ tm rdj pr hfiw m bibiw (fijnr.t Sw.t r rs n bsbw.f (6) n pr.n.fjm 

(1) Another (prescription) for the stomach when 
it is sick: (2) Cumin, goose fat, milk. (3) Cook, drink. 
(4) Another, in order not to permit that a snake come 
out of the hole: (5) A dry fish laid on the opening of 
its hole, (6) (then) it will not come out. 

Fig. 1. Hieratic writing of the Papyrus Ebers 
with transposition into hieroglyphics. (From Er- 
man, Die Hieioglyphen, pp. 37 and 76.) 

further cursivification of the hieratic characters in the early 
part of the first millennium B.C. resulted in the development 


jpf the demotic script which resembles puLsho^ 
-very-difficult to read (Fig. 2) . These types of writing will be 
mentioned again on p. 16. All the three varieties of script are 
alike as to their inner principle, and therefore it will be suffi- 
cient to base the following discussion of the inner structure 
of Egyptian writing on the plastic hieroglyphic forms, made 
particularly impressive by their pictographic appearance. One 
more thing that I wish, however, to emphasize is that the 
following analysis of the Egyptian writing is a modern con- 
struction and has no footing in Egyptian antiquity. 

■ ; %wi 

Fig. 2. Demotic Writing. (From Jen- 
sen, Die Schrifr, Fig. 46.) 


The Egyptian writing was not an alphabetic script,- such 
as the one which we are accustomed by daily use to regard as 
something of a matter of course and naturally given. It con-„ 
sists^ofiliiee ^distinct kinds of 

as staange, viz. : woid-signs, phonetic sigm* and determina- 
tives. The wor4*signs r or ideograms, are signs which repre- 
sent the concept of the living being or inanimate object il- 
lustrated and otherwise perceptible by the physical senses, 
i.e., concrete, and they represent that concept regardless of 
the spoken form. The Chinese ideographic script is com- 
posed almost exclusively of such signs, and they abound in 
the Egyptian script, too. (A few examples are shown in Fig. 
3.) A script composed solely of pictographic word-signs 

h \ 

Soldier eye giraffe horn swallow 


beetle flower siin mountain corner 


flute sandal 




Fig. 3. Egyptian word-signs for living beings and 
concrete objects (according to Jensen) . 

would be understood, if need be, also by a person ignorant of 
the language, because it would represent only the underlying 
concepts behind the words, and not their spoken sound. Be- 
sides objects and beings directly perceptible by the physical 
senses, there are also sensorily perceptible acts, i.e., concepts 
expressed by verbs. It was possible to use simple word-signs, 


without phonetic references, for such concepts, too (Fig. 4) . 
Furthermore, sensorily not perceptible concepts and actions, 


to beat 

to fly 

to go 

DO \p * *ff 

to fight 

to walk 

to weep 

Fig. 4. Egyptian word-signs for sen- 
sorily perceptible actions (according to 

i.e., nouns and verbs, could be expressed by some descriptive 
picture (Fig. 5). In order to write "south," they drew the 
picture of a lily, the flower characteristic of Upper Egypt; 


to lead 



to find 

old age 


i Fig. 5. Pictograms of sensorily not perceptible concepts and ac- 
^Oiis (according to Jensen and Erman) . 

gjge" was indicated by a humped old man leaning on a staff, 

tol" by a vessel with water running out of it, "to rule" by 

i sceptre, "to lead" by a commander's baton, "to go" by a 

fijir of walking feet, "to fly" by a bird with its wings spread 

ide, "to eat" or "to speak" by a man who raises a hand to his 

Mith, etc. In these cases also, thepirt^^ 

concept behind the word, but not its spoken sound. 





But that spoken sound was frequently a very important 
factor. For this reason^Jt-occurred Jo Jthe Egyptians very 
early, probably way back in the initial stage of the develop- 
ment of the art of writing, that a con cept .difficulLtQJ£pie^ 
sent pictorially could be symbolized by the picture of some^ 
thing phonetically quite similar, butconceptuaMyMmdgted.^ 
This was as if we wanted to represent, say, the concept under- 
lying the verb beat by the picture of a bit, or the concept bad 
by the picture of a bed, or hate by drawing a hat. I have 
chosen these examples deliberately so as to make each ex- 
ample contain two words which are not completely identical, 
because the Egyptians also did not strive for any great ac- 
curacy. They drew the picture of a swallow (wi) to indicate 
wr y "great"; a house (pr) to indicate prj, "to go out"; a beetle 
(hpr) to indicate hpr, "to become"; a frond (m£) to indicate 
m§j, "to give birth"; a basket, dr, to indicate dr, "boundary"; 
etc. (Fig. 6a.) In fact, they could express m£dr, "ear," either 
by the actual picture of an ear alone, or by the juxtaposition 
of the signs for m§, "frond" and dr, "basket," neither of 
which has conceptually anything whatsoever in common 
with an ear. (Cf. Fig. 6b.) 

a) ^ §f (j) 

b) i. ^ 2 . [|] ^ 

a) wr, "swallow" and wr, "great"; bpi, 
"beetle/' and hpr, "to become"; ms, "frond," 
and msj t "to give birth"; di 7 "basket," and 
dr, "boundary." 

b) msdr, "ear": 1. Pictogram. 2. ms, "frond" 
dx f "basket." 

Fig. 6. Phonetic substitution by words of similar sound 
(according to Erman). 

As indicated by my vowelless rendition of the Egyptian 
words, the Egyptians apparently attached little importance to 
vowels. At any rate, they did not represent them in their 
script. This fact is evident from the words known to us both 

in Old Egyptian and inJHoptic,„lhe language. .oLtheXihris.?.. 

E.g., J&P& "end" (pahu in Coptic), stands also for ph, 
"to attain" (poh in Coptic), and phtj, "fame" (pahte in 

Phonetically considered, the signs used as phonetic sym- 
bols of words or parts of words are very different in size. Thus, 
hpr, "to become," and §pr, "to attain," contain three con- 
sonants each, whereas wr y "great," and ph, "to attain," con- 
tain only two. (See also Fig. 7 for several especially frequent 
bi-consonantal signs.) In most instances, we are ignorant of 
the exact number and positions of the vowels to be interpo- 
lated between the consonants, but in any case, some of these 
phonetic compounds seem to comprise only one syllable, 

fl"^* fib** 

b* JL b* 'o &* T$7Vf & 

i""" 1 " 1 ! mn 

^hn J 4, ^*r(|j*rf. 

Fig. 7. Bi-consonantal phonetic signs. (According to Erman.) 

others seem to consist of several syllables. It is a fact of par- 
jBeular importance that a few especially short words con- 
fined only one consonant (cf. Fig. 8). Since we are not 
re of the vowels to be pronounced with these consonants, 
se signs impress us as characters of a purely consonantal 
fhnbet But they were by no means necessarily such to an 
ptian, because the consonant, which has been drilled into 
• consciousness by school education until we have come to 
rd it as something naturally given, is by no means re- 
as such by primitive man. It was only in the Greek- 
atn era that, through an acquaintance with European 





□ P 
«— f 

ra h 

I 1 ' 

C3SZ3 I 

A q 

* — x> k 

1 * 

\ " 
J * 

Fig. 8. List of the monoconsonantal signs of the Egyp- 
tian writing, the so-called "alphabet." (According to Er- 

scripts, a sort of alphabet was developed which served pri- 
marily for writing Greek and Roman names, and therefore 
also took into consideration the vowels, to a certain extent. 
But the ancient Egyptians never thought of dissecting 
^ their words into syllables, let alone into letters, and of even- 
tually abandoning their word-signs and cumbersome syllabic 
symbols in order to write with pure monoconsonantal char- 
acters. Such a reform would have had also the result that all 
those words which differed only in the vowel within them 
would have been represented by the same written form, and 
ambiguities would have occurred in the written texts. (Just 
think of writing the English words stake, stick, stock and 
stuck by the consonants stk alone, the words wand, wind 
and wound simply by wnd y the words scare, score, scour and 
scurry simply by serf) A strong strain of conservatism was 
another factor that kept the Egyptians from discontinuing 
the use of the pictogram of a word once it had been adopted. 
j/ In fact, they added phonetic signs also to word-signs which 
expressed words sufficiently by themselves. Thus, Sdm, "to 
hear," was expressed with sufficient clarity by * , the picture 
of an ear, but they nevertheless added the picture of an owl, 
denoting m, to it, making it^k- The word wi 9 "great," was 

represented clearly by ^., the picture of a swallow, and yet 
the Egyptians liked to append the picture of a mouth, <=> , rep- 
resenting an r, i.e.: ^ . This was how the many pleonastic 
writtep symbols of the Egyptians came into existence. They 
never did get rid of this complicated mixture of different 
signs, in fact there were times when they just could not pile 
up enough pleonastic symbols to satisfy them. 

But even this complicated mixed method of writing was 
still not enough to make the vowelless Egyptian script un- 
ambiguous. How were the Egyptians to distinguish, e.g., jb, 
"kid," from jbj, "to be thirsty," when both words were 
written solely by the consonant signs 7 and b? In order to 
solve this problem, they resorted to the expedient of ap- 
pending the picture of a kid when they wanted to write ;b, 
and the picture of a man raising his hand to his mouth when 
they intended to denote jbj. (Fig. 9a.) The sign of a house 
could mean both pr, "house," and pr/, "to go out"; when a 
pair of walking feet was added, it was expressed clearly that 
pr/, "to go out," was meant. (Fig. 9b.) 

JTh^ja^p^ding of these unpronounced signs to the word- 
signs provided a convenient means of graphically distin- 

■»U*a Ui »? 

Fig. 9. Different concepts pronounced alike: 

a) ]b f "kid/' and jbj, "to be thirsty." 

b) pr, "house/' and pr/, "to go out/' 
,'■;' (According to Erman.) 

■Ipi sh i ng ^words which would have otherwise been written 

t g. We call these mute explanatory signs determinatives. 
ey constitute the previously mentioned third type of 
Egyptian written symbols and play a very important part. 
3ach a determinative was appended to most Egyptian word- 
with relatively few exceptions. Several of the most im- 



portant determinatives are shown in Fig. 10. There is the 
drawing of a seated man which was added to names or desig- 
nations of men. You see also the drawing of a woman, which 
appeared after names or designations of women. You see the 











meat, limbs 



deserts, foreign 



to tic 


eye, to see 






fixed but unpronounced determinatives), confusing as it 
may appear to the uninitiated at first, did enable the Egyp- 
' ians to express their language in writing with satisfactory 
nambiguity. The combined use of the different kinds of 
S^bols is illustrated further by the few sentences shown in 
11. The failure of the Egyptians to adopt changes in 



avenger mine, 


There protect 

(^ f In Mil 



<nh dt 

may he live forever. 




l glow 

limbs thine 



to break, 
to divide 



abstracts , 


Fig. 10. Egyptian determinatives (according to Jensen). 

determinatives for mammals (picture of a pelt with tail), 
trees, plants, irrigated land (drawing of a ditch), countries 
(demarcated stretch of land) , cities (ground-plan of a walled 
city, with two streets crossing each other) , water (three wavy 
lines), houses (ground-plan of a house with a door), meat 
(a piece of meat), time (picture of the disk of the sun), 
stones, lands (three mountains), to go, to see, liquids (ves- 
sel), to cut (knife), to tie (string), actions (beating arm), 
ships, to divide, minerals (grains), fire (coal basin with rope 
or chain for carrying it), and abstracts, i.e., spiritual things 
(book roll). 

Only this system of three different classes of written signs 
(word-signs, phonetic symbols of varying coverage, and suf- 



How sweet 


I I I 

(is) friendliness thine 





°8ootr > 
the protection 


ne. I place 

&3k ^\z^i m^i 



holiness mine. 

I wonder 

about you. 







D ^ 





I lay might thine (an< 

r drw 

the terror before thee 





«*Pportt f heaven. 

Fig. 1 1 . Egyptian sentences (according to Jensen) . 





this method of writing, which strikes us as so very compli- 
cated, was due not solely to their conservative nature, buf 
also to the very concrete motive that their writing wouM 
have been ambiguous and misleading without these compli- 
cated elements. The same consideration has frustrated All 
attempts in modern China and Japan at replacing the cdm- 
plicated ideographic and syllabic script by the Latin alpha- 
betic writing. 

have already mentioned the simplification of the picto- 
graphic monumental writing into the hieratic book script, 
and the further cursivification of the latter to the shorthand- 
like demotic form. Fig. 1 (p. 6) shows a few lines from the 
famous Papyrus Ebers, a hieratic medical book dating from 
1600 B.C., now kept in the library of the Leipzig University; 
below the lines in hieratic script, you see the transcription of 
the signs into their hieroglyphic forms, followed by their 
transliteration in Latin characters and by their translation 
to English. In this connection, note thatin^llielueEati^YBt. 
sion thj^ as in the original, from right to left, 

but the signs in the hieroglyphic transcription are printedln 
the left-to-right sequence to which we are accustomed in our 
own books. The direction of the demotic writing is shown 
in Fig. 2. 

( c ) The Decipherment of the Egyptian Writing 

My readers may have grown impatient while following 
my presentation of our current knowledge of the Egyptian 
writing as seen after its decipherment, and now they are 
probably looking forward to an account of the process of 
the decipherment itself. But I had to approach the subject by 
such a roundabout way, for otherwise I would have been un- 
able to describe the decipherment with the necessary clarity, 

and furthermore, now I can afford to be so much briefer 
about many a point. 

People of antiquity did not rack their brains at all about 
a decipherment of the Egyptian script, the appearance of 
which was not unknown to them, because they had no in- 
terest in such things, and because they had the preconceived 
o pinion that the hieroglyphics were no writing like all other 
jaoitings, but concealed the secret wisdom of the philosopher 
pries ts, to be understood only by one likewise initiated into 
joaagicomystic wisdom. This view was advanced, in late an- 
tiquity, by Horapollon, in his Greek book, Hieroglyphica, a 
book that remained unchallenged for centuries. Thus, a 
j^olableban still lay on the hieroglyphics even in the early 
.jggrtj^Lliie.modratt age, and even their first great decipherer, 
ipollion, was unable to shake off its hold for many 
This was also the reason why, in the 17th century, 
ft hanasius Kircher, in his Sphinx mystagogica, could permit 
imagination to run unchecked and interpret the simple 
se faJL3V* r * y > "Osiris says," as 'The life of things, 
the defeat of Typhon, the moisture of Nature, through 
e vigilance of Anubis." Of course, more serious scientists 
fiejected such absurdities and considered the secret of the 
l|iieroglyphics unsolvable. Thus the German-Danish archae- 
fflogist Zoega was unable to combat this skepticism in the 
late 1 8th century, although Jtejregaid^JMJi^ 
joberiyand correctly recognized the fact that the names of 
Jftjfe^^gtian mpnarchs were surrounded by an oval ring, 
^JsducLtQday we call a cartouche. (Cf. Fig. 13.) 
c The interest in the civilization and language of Egypt 
then was enhanced unexpectedly by the historical events. 
One of the original aims of Napoleon's daring Egyptian cam- 
paign, parallel with the main political purposes of that under- 
taking, was to conduct an archaeological study of the land. 
wdy then did the people of the West learn how many relics 





of Egyptian antiquity still lay preserved under the sands of 
the Egyptian desert. And it so happened just then that the 
soil of Egypt presented scientific research with the best 
means to decipher the hieroglyphic inscriptions which were 
becoming available by the thousands; that means was a bi- 
linguis, i.e., an inscription written in two languages, namely, 
in the unknown Egyptian tongue, and in the well known 
Greek language of Alexander's time. Strictly speaking, it was 
actually a trilinguis, a text written in three languages— in 
Early Egyptian, written in hieroglyphics, in Heo-Egyptian 
(demotic), in demotic characters, and in Greek, in Greek 
characters. It was found during the construction of entrench.: 
ments at RosettaJ^in the Nile Delta) in i799>However, the 
inscription was not intact; large sections were missing from 
the portion in Early Egyptian, chiefly at its beginning, and 
so were several words at the beginning of the first lines of the 
demotic portion, and the final words of the last lines of the 
Greek portion. (Cf. Fig. 12.) TM Greek text was neverthe- 
Jess almost completely understandable. It contained a reso- 
lution of the Egyptian priests in honor of the young monarch 
Ptolemy Epiphanes upon his ascension to the throne on 
March 27, 196 b.c. He had done so much good for the tem- 
ples and their priests that the priesthood decided to honor 
him as a god and to erect a statue honoring him in every 
temple, with an inscription identical with this one. 

Naturally, the report of this find aroused tremendous in- 
terest and rekindled the hope that the secret of the hiero- 
glyphics would be solved at last. But it was found soon that 
things were not as simple as all that. The almost completely 
intact demotic portion seemed to be more suitable for the 
undertaking than the seriously damaged hieroglyphic text. 
Although a few frequently recurring names in the Greek 
part could be identified with certain groups of signs recurring 
with equal frequency in the demotic part (thus, in 1802, the 

Fjc. 12. The Rosetta Stone. (From Sethe, Vom Bilde zum Buch- 
staben, Table II.) 

Swede Akerblad determined that the group of demotic char- 
acters reproduced in our Fig. 13 was the equivalent of the 





Fig. 13. The name of Ptolemy in demotic 
and hieroglyphic characters. (From Erman, 
Die Hierogiyphen, p. 7.) 

name "Ptolemy"), this cursive script with its many inter- 
fused symbols (ligatures) contained so many unclarities that 
no real progress was achieved. Nobody even dared tackle 
the seriously damaged hieroglyphic text at first, especially 
since hieroglyphics still were being regarded as secret sym- 

earned fame by his wave theory of light, was the firstjoaajilo 
dare .attempt the decipherment of the hieroglyphic text, too, 
and he identified the name of Ptolemy also in that portion, 
within the cartouche already discovered by Zoega. (Cf. Fig. 
13.) His reasoning that at least the Greek names of persons 
could not have possessed that character of secret symbols 
which was still ascribed to hieroglyphics in general, led him 
to dissect this group, as shown in Fig. 14. He interpreted 
another inscription as the name of Berenyce (cf. Fig. 15a), 

Young: Qp c±t Jo] (meaningless; actually aw [for 0!) 
J£^> oh (actually rw for /!) . CZZZ. ma (mi) 
\\i(ti) [os(i) 

Champollion: D P c± * >£) (w) -BaS / (rw) c=Z m (mi) 

1\i\i(M) [*(*) 

Fig. 14. Analysis of the name "Ptolemy," according to Young 
and Champollion. 


which helped in the identification of a few more letters. In 
an article published in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1819, 
he tried to identify also the equivalents of individual Greek 
words in the hieroglyphic portion. But attempts at decipher- 
ment were still hampered by the belief in the symbolic na- 
ture of the hieroglyphics. 

J^^Meroglyphics was the young Frenchman Jean Fran- 
jgois. Champollion (1790-1832) who, uncommonly gifted 

A k (q) ^3,1 (rw) (] e (J) 

fyb(b,) <=> 

***** » f\f\'(i/) 

tlvl (Feminine ending -(a)t 

^P' names of women) 
'$*., a) Berenyce 

' ^ <=* r % a(,) 

(Feminine (Determinative after 
ending) ^ names of women) 

b) Cleopatra 

i'-Jte. i<>. The names Berenyce and Cleopatra, and their analysis. 
Ilpqordmg to Jensen. ) 

*$d mature at a very early age and raised as a prodigy, deter- 
nsiaed as a mere boy of eleven to become the decipherer of 
the hieroglyphics. But he too was unable to rid himself, for 
many long years, of the belief in a symbolism of those signs. 
Biit he prepared himself for his chosen life task by careful 
|?» First of all, he learned Coptic, the language of the 
in Egyptians which is written in Greek characters, 
I; which—as we know today— is quite unsuitable as a bridge 
j^p understanding of the ancient tongue both because of 
fli|uite impoverished vocabulary and its strongly changed 

T ^e Library 
Jkdiaaa diversity 

518 N. D«l a »ar# 



grammatical structure. Then he obtained reproductions of 
every accessible Egyptian inscription and papyrus, and at a 
cost of fifteen years of extremely tedious work, he compiled 
from them all the forms of the hieroglyphic signs, with their 
graphically simplified hieratic and demotic equivalents— but 
he did all this without yet daring proceed to the reading of 
one single character. 

An important achievement was, in 181 3, his reasoning that 
the ancient Egyptian language, like Coptic, must have ex- 
pressed the personal pronouns in certain cases by the end- 
ings -i for I, -Jc for thou (masculine), -f for he, -s for she, -n 
for we, -tin for ye, and -u for they. And he was able to ascer- 
tain at least that the hieroglyphic h^. corresponded to the 
Greek words meaning he and him in the Greek portion of the 
Rosetta Stone. His studies of the history of writing enabled 
him then to recognize at once that the Coptic letter q / (as 
well as some other Coptic characters) was actually that very 
hieroglyphic *^ /. But he was still burdened with the be- 
lief in the symbolic nature of the hieroglyphics. He still 
thought that in the hieroglyphic version of the name of 
Ptolemy, known since Young, the likeness of the lion, 
_g^ (rn> = I) , was to be regarded as a symbol of war— 
p(t)oIemos in Greek— hidden within the name of Ptolemy. 

He did not abandon this erroneous belief until December 
21, 1821. A simple count proved then that the still existing 
hieroglyphic text of the Rosetta Stone contained about three 
times as many signs as there were words in the Greek text. It 
was therefore quite unthinkable that each hieroglyphic rep- 
resented a whole word, and the hieroglyphic inscription was 
sure to have contained a considerable number of phonetic 
symbols as well. And only after arriving at this conclusion 
did he apply to entire names the methods of research into 
the history of writing, formerly applied to individual sym- 
bols only; he converted the demotic equivalents of the Greek 


names appearing on the Rosetta Stone, character by charac- 
ter, into their hieratic and further into their hieroglyphic 
forms, and, for instance, when applying this procedure to the 
name of "Ptolemy," he actually arrived at the same hiero- 
glyphic symbol group which appeared in the cartouche in 
the hieroglyphic portion of the Rosetta Stone (Fig. 13). So 
now he dared proceed to determine the meaning of each 
individual sign, as shown in Fig. 14. Analogously, going back- 
ward from the demotic form, he reconstructed the name 
"Cleopatra" as the series of signs shown in Fig. 15 (b), and 
the identical way of writing that name was actually found in 
an inscription written in hieroglyphics and in Greek, dis- 
covered in January 1822, so that now he had established the 
values of a few more signs. 

The taboo was broken now, and Champollion identified 
other inscriptions as the Greek and Latin names Alexandros, 
Atttofcrafor, Tiberius, Domitianus, Germanicus, Traianus, 
d& (Fig. 16) . But he still held the belief that only foreign, 
n|ii-Egyptian names could be written this way. Only on 

b)-^e*z=^ c )oJj^[|[)(l 


^ Fig, x6. The names Alexandros (a), Autokrator (b), Tiberius 
Me), Domitianus (d), Germanicus (e) and Traianus (f) in hiero- 
glyphic script (according to Erman) . 

gtembe r ; 13 1822, when he immediately recognized in 

ain new hieroglyphic inscriptions the names of the an- 

ty Egyptian rulers Re-mss (R'-m&), i.e., Ramses, and 

iut-ms (Dhwtj-ms), i.e., Thutmosis (Fig. 17), did it 

%4ecome clear to him. t^ 






Fig. 17. The names Ramses (a) and Thutmosis (b) 
in hieroglyphic script. (From Erman, Die Hiero- 
gtyphen, p. 11.) 

used no mystic symbols, butp^ 
This laborious research had rediscovered 
of writing Greek and Roman names. in -Egyptian characters, 
but the^aacient writing itself . On September 27, 1822, he 
wa§ able to notify the Academy of Paris, in his famous Lettie 
a M. Dacier relative a I'alphabet des hieroglyphes phone'- 
tiques,* that he had succeeded in deciphering the Egyptian 

In the further decipherment, Champollion enjoyed the 
benefit of the enormous preliminary work which he had done 
by comparing the individual signs through so many years. In 
1825, he was already able to translate an Early Egyptian in- 
scription of Amenophis III. Further hieroglyphic inscrip- 
tions and hieratic papyri came next. He was able to learn 
also the correct meaning of the great epic poem glorifying 
the victory of Ramses II over the Hittites in the battle of 
Kadesh (cf. p. 4). Let it be emphasized, however, in the 
words of Erman,** that "it was no well organized knowledge 
that he bequeathed to his successors at the time of his prema- 
ture death (1832) . He had ingeniously comprehended prop- 
erly the words and sentences, but he never formulated a clear 
comprehension of the system of the script which he knew 
how to read." A decipherer, who skips over scruples and dif- 

* "Letter to Mr. Dacier, concerning the alphabet of the phonetic hiero- 

** Die Hieroglyphen, p. 12. (Sammlung Goschen, No. 608.) 


figultiesj^ ponders his re- 

gilts cardullya^^^^^^^^ 

different and must not be mistaken for each other. It should 
t^lherefore, no surprise that Champollion's decipherment 
^as by no means universally accepted at first. For three more 
facades, even scientists were not willing to admit anything 
i|toe than the fact that at best a few royal names could be 
inhered, but they insisted that everything else was pure 
iiasy. Only in 1866 did the discovery of another bilingual 
ription, the lengthy Decree oi Canopus, bring scientific 
nation of a whole series of facts which Champollion 
H ingeniously discovered. 

I^The new infant science thus had to mature for several 

les before it eventually built a scientifically guaranteed 

ptian philology on the foundation left by Champollion. 

* details of this development are, at best, of interest to the 

cialist, but certainly not to the general public. For this 

on, I shall mention only a few more principal facts at this 

jfc great and versatile German scientist Richard Lepsius 

iieone who ultimately clarified the Egyptian system of 

^and, by his translation and analysis of the Decree of 

^^us, silenced the doubts of serious scientists, too, as 

(lids the decipherment. Next to him, mention is due to 

1 more careful, sober savants, namely: the English 

_the astute Irishman Hincks, whom we shall meet 

1 when we shall review the decipherment of the cunei- 

v ; writing, and the French de Roug£. Birch and Hincks 

|fo be credited first of all with the correct explanation of 

||fcterminatives. The German Heinrich Brugsch was a 

1'tif a more tempestuous character; he was still an under- 

■Safce in 1848, when he cast further light on the intricate 

ibtic script which Egyptologists are inclined to shun even 



_ /• 

Among the personages of the subsequent period of philo- 
logical development, a few brief words of praise are due to the 
French Chabas and Maspero, and to the English Budge and 
Gardiner. The credit for the really solid lexic^imi^aminati- 
cal foundations belongs above all to German research, and 
primarily to the strict "Berlin School" of Adolf Erman 
(1854-1937) whose thorough studies of writing habits en- 
abled him to distinguish the individual linguistic periods and 
to establish the position of the Neo-Egyptian of the late 
second millennium B.C. as an independent language, rank- 
ing side by side with Early Egyptian. He steered lexical re- 
search and, above all, morphology-still hampered by lack of 
clarity as a result of the vowelless script—onto such firm 
tracks as the state of affairs permitted, and he was the man 
who formulated the now universally accepted view of Egyp- 
tian in phonological respects, too. Whereas some others, 
even in the twentieth century, still reckoned with the possi- 
bility that the Egyptian script partly indicated vowels, next 
to the consonants expressed, Erman consistently advocated 
the view of the purely consonantal nature of the Egyptian 
phonetic symbols. His school has remained authoritative in 
all linguistic investigations of Egyptian antiquity. 

(d) The Meroitic Script and Its Study 
The use of the Egyptian system of writing was limited 
chiefly to Egypt itself, above all because it was so closely 
tailored to the structure of the Egyptian language that it 
would have been difficult to adopt it to another tongue. 
/There is, however, a script which can be recognized to be an 
offshoot of the Egyptian, viz., the script of the so-called 
"Ethiopian" empire of Meroe, situated to the south of Egypt, 
from the 1st century b.c. till the 3rd or 4th century a.d. As 
for the shapes of the characters, the Meroitic script looks 
totally like Egyptian writing, and it even developed two varie- 


ties analogously to the Egyptian script, namely: a monu- 
mental script of a pictographic (hieroglyphic) character, the 
symbols of which partly look like those of the Egyptian hiero- 
glyphic script, and a cursive form (although it is found on 
monuments, too) which resembles the demotic writing of 


JDife^M n £.^l??....P f . the Meroitic scri P t 1S the smal 
' jnunber of its characters; it consists of a mere 23 characters, 
to contrast to the hundreds of Egyptian symbols. This fact 
can be explained most easily by assuming that whereas the 
Meroitic script emulated the appearance of the Egyptian 
script more or less closely, it was essentially an alphabetic 
script (without word-signs, polyconsonantal signs and de- 
jgnninatives). One is all the more justified in thinking of 
the prototype of the Greek script because the Meroitic sys- 
viftm seems to have used also vowel signs, although not con- 

v|| Meroitic inscriptions have been known since about 1820, 
fflfet jthey were regarded as undecipherable and untranslatable 
k LilQBg time, until the English Egyptologist Griffith suc- 
3, between 1910 and 1930, in deciphering them to a 
a extent at least. He started out from the inscription of 
&g4 which is written on the whole in Egyptian, but with 
S names of the king and queen appearing both in Egyptian 
K in Meroitic. Using this inscription as a starting point, a 
^ re or less certain way of reading the symbols was estab- 
ed, whereas the translation of the unknown language of 
pipe, not as yet demonstrable to be related to any known 
iuage, is still a very precarious matter. Fig. 18 shows the 
l&glyphic and demotic alphabets of the Meroitic lan- 
, whereas Fig. 1 9 presents the reproduction of a demotic 
Ditic inscription, with its transliteration and translation 








Value 1 












b \y?] 


























V [M] 

A ■ 































Fig. 18. The Meroitic alphabets. (From Jensen, Die 
Schriit, Fig. 49.) 

;///9w/4*/-/iJrc .74f£. w9 /w/w^/t/ 

: t f4\7^/9 

: west : alereyt : thi^mn : /#* : ^ekrer : *r£*A? : amniterey : ^// 

"Isis (and) Osiris, protect Taktiz-Amon, (the one) begotten (by) 
Zekarer, born (by) Amon-tares" 

Fig. 19. Meroitic inscription. (Jensen, Die Schriit, Fig. 50.) 


2. Cuneiform Writing 

The cuneiform writing of the Near East is far less well 
known to the general public than are the hieroglyphics of 
Jggypt. Even the people of antiquity no longer had any ac- 
hate notion of it, only very ancient Greece had known it 
jg^Assyria grammata, "Assyrian letters." The people of the 
xbodern era found it more difficult to get used to this harsh 
jtpnble of wedges, remotely reminiscent of the Chinese 
Writing, than to the neat pictographic shapes of the old 
IfgVptian script. But the ancient Orient found the cuneiform 
jljjpcters to be by far the more important and practical sys- 
id writing, and their use spread far beyond the bounda- 
\ q&Babylon, their birthplace, and they were employed for 
numerous other Near Eastern languages. Let us, 
however, confine our consideration to the native land of the 
(Speiform script and contemplate Babylonia and Assyria 
S&fjJWiwhat more closely. 

(a) Land and People, History and Civilization 

of Mesopotamia 

ke the civilization in Egypt, the oldest civilization in 

fear East also sprouted forth along rivers, in Mesopo- 

between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers which in 

days still flowed separately into the Persian Gulf. 

i two rivers gave the country its name, for Mesopotamia 

Jge«k for "the land between ■■&& r iY ers -" * n Mesopotamia, 

trer, the arable land was not confined so completely to 

i^iitrips along the rivers, although the alluvial land, criss- 

1 by the many canals of the Euphrates, does constitute 


oldest identifiable inhabitants of the land were the 

ans, an ancient civilized race of undetermined origin. 

#£fdm the early part of the third millennium B.C. on, they 

Jthe land with the Semitic Babylonians who had im- 

•,.& : 


migrated, as a race of nomads, from the Syrian desert, as did 
also the Amoiites about 2000 B.C., the Aramaeans about 1000 
b.c, and the Arabs in the Christian era. 

The political development of the populace was no less 
disuniform than its origin. Insofar as we can see, the Sumeri- 
ans seem to have inhabited the land since time immemorial; 
at any rate, the English excavations in Ur and the German 
ones in Uruk, which unearthed relics of very ancient times, 
predating even the development of any writing at all, failed 
to disclose any indication of any older race. For a long time 
there was no unified government in Mesopotamia. Sumeria 
was a land of many small, independent city states to which 
the designation "Sumeria" is applicable in the racial sense 
only. From about 2500 b.c. on, there was a Semitic popula- 
tion next to the Sumerians, in Akkadia, to the north of Su- 
meria, wherefore most recently the designation Akkadians 
has been adopted and used parallelly with the reference to 
"Babylonians," and we speak now also of an Akkadian, i.e., 
Babylonian-Assyrian language. One of the mightiest rulers 
of early Babylonia was Sargon I (about 2350-2300 b.c.) 
whom later ages regarded as the archetype of great monarchs 
(as did other nations regard Alexander the Great or Charle- 
magne). At the end of the third millennium B.C., the Su- 
merians enjoyed another period of second bloom under 
Gudea of Lagash (about 2050 b.c?) who united most of the 
land for the first time, but the united realm disintegrated 
again into small states later, during the struggle against 
mighty Elam in the east. 

The unification of all of Babylonia was finally accom- 
plished by Hammurabi of Babylon, an Akkadianized Amor- 
ite, the most brilliant monarch in Babylonian history, who 
made decisive the victory of the Semitic race over the Su- 
merians. The exact period when Hammurabi had lived re- 
mained undecided for a long time; the earlier authorities 


hesitated for a long time between 2100 (or even 2300) and 
[about 1900 b.c, and only quite recently was it decided with 
I finality that Hammurabi had lived from 1728 to 1686 B.C., 
a contemporary of the Assyrian king SamSi-Adad I who is 
definitely known to have lived 1749-1717 b.c. From then on 
there was a unified Semitic empire in Mesopotamia, in which 
the Sumerians were gradually absorbed. Hammurabi insti- 
tuted great administrative reforms, recorded in his famous 
Code which was discovered by the French in Susa in 1903. 
Babylon became the capital of the realm known to us from 
that era on as Babylonia. Marduk, the youthful city god of 
^Babylon, became the national deity, and the classical Baby- 
Joniaja language was used as the daily vernacular of the em- 

The empire of Hammurabi did not last long; the alien 
Kassites (or Cossaeans) subdued Babylonia and ruled it for 
a long time. But their rule (about 1600-1200 b.c.) was 
gentle and peaceful. In the meantime, Assyria, in the north 
$|the land on the Tigris, flourished and prospered ever more 
i|id more. Assur, a Babylonian city state, is known to have 
pasted even in a much earlier era, and it had gone through 
Parnate stages of political might and decline. In the 15th 
: ^tury b.c, it was a tributary of Mitanni, the mighty Hur- 
■'^M empire of northwestern Mesopotamia, but after the 
plapse of the latter it became independent and kept gaining 
importance. Salmanassar I dealt a final death blow to 
igalbat, the successor of Mitanni, about 1270 b.c. Tu- 
i-Ninurta I laid siege to Babylon about 1230 b.c, and 
&th-Pileser I was the first ruler of the Near East to push 
rd as far as the Mediterranean, about 1100 b.c. 
||$l0m then on, Assyria was constantly ruled by a drive 
rd which is reflected in the Old Testament, too. Let 
Nbention here the following outstanding personages 
the rulers of the Neo-Assyrian empire: Salmanassar 



III (858-824 b.c.) who fought against Damascus, Tyre and 
Sidon, and also against Yehu of Israel; Tiglath-Pileser III 
(745-727 b.c.) who supported Ahaz of Judah against Pekah 
of Israel, and whose mastery Hoseah of Israel eventually had 
to acknowledge; Sargon II (721-705 b.c.) , victor over mighty 
Urartu, conqueror of Samaria, who took the ten northern 
tribes of Israel into captivity; Sennacherib (704-681 b.c.) 
who made Nineveh his capital and laid an unsuccessful siege 
to Jerusalem; Assarhaddon (680-669 b.c.) who even con- 
quered Egypt for a short while and thus brought the Assyrian 
empire to its largest geographical expansion; and finally, 
Assurbanipal (668-626 b.c), destroyer of the Elamite em- 
pire, but better known for his literary interests and his 
library in Nineveh. 

The Indo-European Medes of Iran joined forces with the 
Babylonians in 606 b.c, and they succeeded in overthrowing 
and destroying the Assyrian empire. That victory made the 
Babylonians arise once again, after the long oppression by 
Assyria, and enjoy a brief second bloom of the Neo-Baby- 
lonian empire, among whose rulers mention is due above all 
to Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 b.c), destroyer of Jerusa- 
lem in 586 b.c, who took the Jews into Babylonian captivity. 
The Persian Cyrus defeated the Babylonian army and ended 
the independence of the country in 539 b.c Babylonia re- 
mained a province, first of the Persian empire, then of Alex- 
ander the Great and his successors, later of Rome and still 
later of the Parthian empire, until the Arabs finally made 
Bagdad the successor of Babylon. 

Nor is it possible to say here more than just a few words 
about the civilization of the Sumerians, Babylonians and 
Assyrians. The reader is referred to Meissner's comprehen- 
sive Babylonien und Assyrien* where he will find detailed 
information on the Sumerian-Babylonian religion with its 

* 2 vols., Heidelberg. 1920, 1925. 


ancient divine triad, Anu (god of the heavens), Enlil (god 
of the air and the earth) and Ea (god of the subterranean 
I watery depths ) , with the goddess Mah or Ninhursag, "Queen 
of the Gods/' as well as the younger triad, Sin (moon god), 
i Shamash (sun god) and Adad (weather god), with the god- 
f dess Ishtar. As Babylon was becoming more powerful, also 
i its own city god, Marduk, gained an important position in 
I the pantheon, as did also Assur, the god of Assyria, when the 
I power of the latter was on the ascent. ._Me^pptamwi_ de- 
veloped a rich mythology and produced a series of epic 
poe ms; let it suffice to mention here merely the Creation 
Epic, in praise of Marduk, and the great Gilgamesh Epic, 
^eldeluge episode of which attracted such great attention 
because of the extent to which it agrees with the Biblical 
report of the Flood. Babylonian architecture did not pro- 
duce quite such impressive creations as those of Egypt, be- 
* cause it worked with a perishable material, clay brick, but 
the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (reconstructed in the Berlin 
■i |luseum) is nevertheless admirable, and so is the plastic 
art of the Neo-Assyrian period for its artistic perfection and 
I Ipae-to-nature details. Among the sciences of Babylonia, 
tention is due above all to mathematics and also to as- 
^_jnomy, jointly with astrology, which exerted a strong in- 
Slience on the West and gave us also the system of dividing 
Ai ie into weeks. The study of the history of Babylonian- 
Syrian law is an important branch of the study of the 
Indent Orient, because of the great codes of laws, among 
fpkich the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and the still 
; : Mier Code of King Bilalama of ESnunna (about 1884- 
;:I|65 B - c -) as we U as the Middle-Assyrian Book of Laws 
■|pe the most outstanding, and also because of the many 
f^pusands of private documents, originating from various 
felons of the Near East, which illustrate the living applica- 
|pDB of the system of laws. 




( b ) The Essential Features of the Cuneiform Writing 

Of the many cultural achievements of Mesopotamia, its 
script and system of writing are those which are of interest 
to us here. A cursory look seems to reveal a profound differ- 
ence between this script and the Egyptian writing. Egypt 
used paper for writing material, for its literary records at 
least, whereas Babylonia used clay tablets. The characters 
were scratched into the soft clay with a wooden stylus, and 
the tablet was then fired to make it durable. Odd and in- 
convenient as this writing material may appear to us, the use 
of the clay tablet spread out from Babylonia, together with 
the cuneiform writing, and was adopted in remote parts of 
the Near East, in Syria and in Asia Minor; in fact, the clay 
tablet was used also for writing the Cretan-Minoan script 
and language in Crete and in prehistoric Greece. 





J§ in. 



Fig. 20. Old Sumerian picto- 
grams and their development into 
cuneiform symbols. (Friedrich, 
Archiv Oiientilni, Vol. 10, Table 

Also the characters of the Babylonian-Assyrian script ap- 
pear to be basically different from the Egyptian symbols. The 
Egyptian writing originally employed clear, plastic, impres- 
sive pictograms which, however, later became simplified in 
(Jaily use; the Babylonian-Assyrian writing looks like a hodge- 
podge of confusing combinations of wedges which remind 
the uninitiated of the writing of China. But at least this dif- 
ference is a secondary one: cuneiform writing also was in- 
vented by the Sumerians originally as a pictographic script, 
as demonstrated by a few examples in Fig. 20, and only the 
practice of writing them with a wooden stylus in soft clay 
jggde the individual pictograms degenerate very soon into 
wedge shapes, in which the old pictographic form can be 
detected in a few instances only. There are spatial and 
temporal differences within cuneiform writing as such, too, 
between the intricate Old Babylonian, Old Assyrian (Cap- 
padocian), Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian Cunei- 
form script, on the one hand, and the simpler Neo-Assyrian 
Mod Neo-Babylonian varieties on the other (see Figs. 21a, 
||ib, and 21c for specimens), but these differences will not 
ipress the laymen as strongly as the differences between 
ie hieroglyphic and the hieratic and, especially, the de- 
laotic scripts. 

I On the other hand, the Egyptian script and the cuneiform 

iting are very similar as to their inner nature and principle, 

gcause the same three kinds of signs which we have observed 

the Egyptian system of writing are present also in the 

leiform script, viz.: word-signs or ideograms, phonetic 

s, and determinatives. Also in the cuneiform writing 

|ny words can be expressed by individual word-signs which 

jote only the concept in question, irrespective of the 

ken sound of the word; the spoken word may sound quite 

erent in Sumerian and in Akkadian, in given cases also in 

jtite, Hurrian, Urartaean or Elamite, but the written sym- 


Fig. 21. Early and late forms of Babylonian cuneiform writ- 
ing, (a) Old Akkadian inscription of King SarganiSaralim, with 
(b) transcription into Neo-Assyrian script (opposite page). 
(Bohl, Akkadian Chiestomathy, I, pp. 40-41.) 


,a o 

-f? ft 


v — ' CO 

•a 6 

^3 CO 



e/j cd 


v 2 

O P 


CO a 



a 1. 



U^ U* CO 

IB 5 

•a c 
T3 w co 

$ *2 

sw g 

*°*S o 

r a 





bol of the concept is identical in all these languages. Thus, 
e.g., »f (originally the picture of a star) was the ideogram 
for the concept "heaven" in every language written in cu- 
neiform characters, and it was pronounced an in Sumerian, 
famu in Akkadian, nepiS in Hittite, etc. But the same sign 
was also the ideogram for the concept "god" and when used 
in that sense, it was pronounced dingii in Sumerian, ilu in 


Hil-m M 

<Hif HUT £- 
IT $-,#*= ,?»#= 

(31) sum-ma a-we-lum (32) namkur Him (33)^ ekallim (34) /£-/•/-/# 
(35) a-we-lum iu-ti (36) id-da-ak (37)// £* iu-ur-ga-am (38) /-** ga-ti-Su 
(39) im-hu-ru (40) id-da-ak 

"If a citizen has stolen a possession of a god or of a temple, such citizen shall be 
killed. Also he who has accepted the stolen goods out of his hands, shall be killed." 

Fig. 21c. Early and late forms of Babylonian cuneiform writing: (c) 
Early Babylonian script (Art. 6 of Hammurabi's Laws) with transcription 
in Neo-Assyrian writing. 


Akkadian, &'uni- in Hittite, eni- in Hurrian, etc. The ideo- 
gram jgggr meant "king" and was pronounced lugal in Su- 
merian, jarru in Akkadian, ha&fu- in Hittite, ivri- in Hurrian, 
ereli- in Urartaean. 

Jjhese w^ by phonetic signs 

or by combinations of an ideographic symbol representing 
the stem of the word and phonetic signs for grammatical end- 
ings (Fig. 22). The noteworthy fact in this connection is 
that unlike the phonetic symbols of the Egyptian script, the 
cuneiform phonetic characters do not represent sometimes 
Jbigger and sometimes smaller consonant clusters without 
jndicating any vowels, but stand for clear-cut syllables, in- 
cluding vowels. These syllables are, to use our classification 

jest- *5f tm-» gw-wtm 






HP ° r ^^Tfl^ 

Sarrani MES » »' 


Samu Samu* 


<^ <^Tm»j>- xT<( 


?|f Fig. 22. Examples of mixed writing (word stem repre- 

!tl sented by ideograms, endings by phonetic characters) . 

l|to sounds, either consonant + vowel (e.g., ba, mi, ru) or 
|||jaQwel + consonant (e.g., ad, ir, uk) or finally (more rarely) 
;S^onsonant + vowel + consonant (e.g., bar, kid, lum) com- 
M|l)inations. Each complex syllable of the last-mentioned type 
S$?an be split into two simple ones, namely one of each of the 

Mi' v 



other two types, because bar could be written also as ba + ar, 
kid as lei + id, lum as lu + urn, etc. But let it be emphasized 
in particular that a single, lone consonant can neyei he ex- 
pressed in cuneiform script 

The unpronounced determinatives play an especially im- 
portant part in the cuneiform writing. They were mostly 
prefixed to the symbol of the word which they were intended 
to qualify, although in certain rarer cases they were placed 
after it. A specific determinative, consisting of a vertical 
wedge, appears before the names of male persons; another 
one, identical with the ideogram meaning "man/' was pre- 
fixed to the designations of professions; a third one, origi- 
nally the likeness of a vulva, appears before the names of 
women and designations of female occupations. The above 
mentioned ideogram for "god" appears as a determinative 
before the names of deities. Other determinatives were used 

d A-nu 



Fig. 23. The names of three gods with determina- 

1. *Ha-am-mu-ra-bi 

2. ^u-up-pi-lu-li-u-ma 

3. T Pu-du-he-pa 

Fig. 24. Two names of men and a wom- 
an's name, with determinatives 


1. matAS-Sur (Assyria) 2. mat Mi'i$-ri (egypt) 
'" 3. * l *Ni-nu-a (nineveh) 4. alu Kar-ga-miS (karkhemish) 

Fig. 25. The names of two countries and two cities, 
with determinatives 



Fig. 26. The name of a tree and of a wooden object, 
with determinative 




\' Fig. 27. The name of a metal and of a metallic ob- 

; ject, with determinative 

before the names of cities, countries, trees and wooden ob- 
jects, metals and metallic objects, etc. (Examples appear in 
• Figs. 23-27.) 

.JLike the ideograms, the determinatives also were identical 
jnjeyery language written with cuneiform characters. Thus, 
; if we happen to find a text written in legible cuneiform script 
>"$tat in some unknown language, the names of men, women, 
;?jfcpds, geographic names, etc. immediately reveal themselves 
v &$ what they are because of their determinatives which are 
^cognizable in that unknown language as well. Unlike our 





scripts, the cuneiform writing thus offers quite a number of 
clues to the reader, and also to the decipherer. 

These facilities of reading or deciphering the cuneiform 
writing notwithstanding, we must not overlook an impor- 
tant difficulty of the reading of cuneiform writing, a diffi- 
culty that is produced by the polyvalence of many a sign. 
This polyvalence may consist in either of the following two 

( 1 ) One and the same sign may be, under certain circum- 
stances, an ideogram or a determinative or a phonetic syllable 
sign. Thus, the above mentioned ~f is in the first place a 
word-sign denoting the Sumerian word an, the Akkadian 
word Samu, both meaning "heaven," as well the Sumerian 
word dingir and the Akkadian word ilu, both meaning "god"; 
secondly, the same sign is a determinative used with 
names of deities, and thirdly, it is a phonetic symbol, repre- 
senting the syllable an. Further examples are given in Fig. 28. 

1. a) Word-sign (ideogram) for isu (wood) 

b) Determinative used before words denoting trees 
and wooden objects. 

c) Syllabic sign for iz, is, etc. 

2. a) Word-sign (ideogram) for matu (country) and 

fadu (mountain) 

b) Determinative used before names of countries and 

c) Syllabic sign for Jcur, mat, sat, nat, gin, etc. 

Fig. 28. Written symbols which may be used as 
ideograms, determinatives and syllabic signs. 

(2) The second type of polyvalence, which occurs less fre- 
quently in the earlier cuneiform script, but very often in the 
Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian writing, consists in what 

is termed the polyphony of the cuneiform characters, viz., 
that several phonetically different syllables may be repre- 
sented by one and the same sign, as illustrated by the few 
examples shown in Fig. 29. Thus, the sign meaning bar may 
be read also as mas, the sign meaning ud may stand also for 
tarn or par or lah or his, the sign meaning kid may be read also 
as sah or lil, etc. The reader must rely on his knowledge of 
the language and on his familiarity with that particular kind 
of text in order to decide more or less accurately which 
syllabic value is the right one in the given grammatical or 
syntactical situation. 


3. lal, lib, lub, pah, nar 

I. kid, sah, lil. 2. pis, gir 

Fig. 29. Characters representing several different syl- 
lables (polyphony). 

The modern reader is likely to wonder also in connection 
with the cuneiform writing why the Babylonians did not dis- 
card their complicated system of partly polyvalent written 
characters and develop at least a simple and clear syllabic 
writing. The fact is that such attempts were made in the late 
> JNfeo-Babylonian era, and it may well be assumed that the 
Semitic system of alphabetic writing, already known then in 
fBabylonia, too, was taken in consideration as a pattern. But 
i>y that time it was too late— the cuneiform writing was just 
$bout to yield the stage to the more convenient alphabetic 
fcript At any rate, in the heyday of the cuneiform writing, 
^ffcs* users knew no alien script more convenient to handle and 
!$apable of exerting a stimulating influence in this direc- 
i/$$oa, and all the inconveniences notwithstanding, the cunei- 
Iptai script was still relatively the most convenient way of 
gating the Sumerian, Akkadian and other Near Eastern 



languages. The conclusion that it was a fairly convenient way, 
more convenient in any case than the Egyptian writing, is 
demonstrated by the very fact that the cuneiform script, un- 
like the Egyptian system of writing, did not remain confined 
to its native land but was adopted by a number of neighbor- 
ing races for the writing of their quite different languages. 
People of the modern era have therefore not been very wrong 
in referring to the cuneiform writing occasionally as the 
"Roman letters of the ancient Orient/' I shall now present 
a brief summary of these adoptions of the Babylonian cunei- 
form writing by other races, and then I shall say a few words 
about its historical and cultural significance. 

(c) The Spread oi Cnneiioxm Writing to the East 
and to the West 

The influence exerted by the Babylonian civilization and 
script to the east of Babylonia was slight. In those parts, 
Elam, a state in southwestern Iran, was the only nation in 
contact with the Sumerian, later Babylonian, civilization; 
that contact started in the middle of the third millennium 
B.C., and in ancient times the Elamites borrowed not only 
the cuneiform script but also the Akkadian tongue for record- 
ing their documents. Only later did they decide to write 
texts in their own Elamite language, a tongue neither Indo- 
European nor Semitic, using the Babylonian cuneiform char- 
acters. In the first millennium B.C., when after the Medes 
the Indo-European Persians entered Iran from Armenia, 
Elam was their first cultural center. Thus, the Persians re- 
tained at first the Elamite written language along with the 
Elamite government, and only under Darius did they create 
an "Early Persian" script which was composed of wedge 
shapes but was a not quite pure alphabetic writing (cf. also 
pp. 50 et seq.). Their inscriptions in honor of their rulers 


were thereafter composed in three languages; Old Persian, 
^/jSkadian and Elamite. 

The cultural influence of Babylon toward the west was 
Stronger. The Babylonian cuneiform writing was first 
adopted to the west of Babylon, in the early part of the 
3gcpnd millennium B.C., by the Hurrians of northwestern 
Jkfesopotamia. The Hurrians borrowed the cuneiform script 
for writing their language, a tongue neither Semitic nor Indo- 
European, and they soon passed it on to the nations of 
jilicient Asia Minor which were culturally, in particular 
l^gllgiously, strongly dependent on them, and thus first of all 
futile Hittites, the dominant race of Asia Minor, of Indo- 
uropean origin and speakers of an Indo-European language. 
M^^JHittites, in turn, adopted the Babylonian cuneiform 
t to write not only their own language, but also the 
aguages of their likewise Indo-European neighbors, the 
Mwians and Palaians, as well as the non-Indo-European 
;pongue of the Khattians (or Pioto-Hattians) f the ancient 
|||§ce which founded a civilization of its own around the city 
ll^f Khatti (or Hatti), the present-day Bogaz-koy, in the third 
Ipfllennium B.C., and later bequeathed it to the conquering 
ado-European Hittites. Finally, the inhabitants of the land 
Urartu, in the mountains of Armenia, were young collat- 
relatives of the Hurrians. From thfe 9th to 6th century 
|fe, the Urartaeans wrote their own language with the Neo- 
isyrian cuneiform characters, in other words in a script 
iported from Assyria in all likelihood in that late period of 
idx history only. 


(d) Remarks concerning the History and Civilization 
oi the Hunians and Hittites 

|& few remarks concerning the history of the "Western 

seem to be indicated here. The Hunians appear to 

> come forth from the Armenian mountains, to migrate 

4 6 


toward northwestern Mesopotamia about 2000 B.C., and al- 
though they were not an Indo-European race themselves, 
they seem to have been led mostly by an Indo-European 
ruling class, of a specifically Indie character. Their conquests 
took them to Syria and Palestine, and probably also far 
into eastern Asia Minor. It is not clear yet whether there was 
any link between the Hurrians and the empire of the Hyksos 
in Egypt as well. The Hurrians founded small states all over, 
which disappeared quickly again; only the kingdom of 
Mitanni was temporarily more powerful under King Tu§- 
ratta, about 1400 b.c. But TuSratta was defeated by King 
Suppiluliuma of the Hittites about 1375 b.c, and Mitanni 
lost its importance, and soon its political independence, too. 
The ascending state of Assyria conquered the land and 
adopted the traditions of the Hurrians, including their de- 
sire to reach the Mediterranean. 

The Hurrians played an important role in the history of 
the Near East, for in all probability they were the ones who 
imported the horse from southeastern Europe and popular- 
ized its breeding and use in that part of the Orient. In the 
domain of religion, a strong Human influence on the Hittites 
is unmistakable. They must have been the ones who passed 
the Babylonian cuneiform writing, which they had taken 
over from Babylonia, on to the Hittites, and the latter ob- 
tained from the Hurrians also various intellectual assets, 
Hurrian and Babylonian myths and epics, such as the Gilga- 
mesh Epic, along with the script. 

The Hurrians vanished from the stage of history by 1000 
b.c, at the latest, and only in the land of Urartu, in the 
mountains of Armenia, did the racially cognate race of the 
Urartaeans maintain its position as a rival on equal footing 
of the Neo-Assyrian empire from the 10th to the 7th century 
b.c, to be eventually supplanted by the Indo-European 
Armenians in the 6th century b.c. The Urartaeans, who ex- 


celled in the art of the working of metals, conducted military 
campaigns which took them, deep into the Caucasus, too, so 
that inscriptions in the Urartaean tongue, written in the Neo- 
Assyrian cuneiform script, are being discovered not only in 
eastern Anatolia and northwestern Iran, but also in what is 
Soviet territory today. 

In eastern Asia Minor (Cappadocia), the civilization of 
the Khattians (or Proto-Hattians) , a non-Indo-European 
race, developed around the city of Khatti, or Hatti or Hat- 
tuSa, about 2000 b.c, or even earlier. It was taken over by the 
conquering Hittites, an Indo-European race, in the early part 
of the second millennium b.c. The Hittites had migrated to 
Cappadocia from Europe, by some still unknown way, and 
they fused with the Proto-Hattians. The Hittite language, 
an Indo-European tongue, became the dominant vernacular, 
but Proto-Hattian retained its importance as the language of 
the cults of the most important state deities. The Hittites 
were the dominant power of the Near East notably in the 
14th and 1 3th centuries b.c. Their king Suppiluliuma (about 
1380-1350 b.c.) destroyed the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni 
and commanded the respect of Egypt as well. His son, 
MurSili II (about 1 345-1 315 b.c. ) , fought bitter wars against 

V Arzawa and other kingdoms in Asia Minor to defend the 
hegemony won by his father. HattuSili III (about 1282-1250 
B.C.) ended a long war with Egypt by signing the peace treaty 
With Ramses II of Egypt which we mentioned before (p. 4) . 
$he Hittite empire in Asia Minor crumbled under the on- 
slaught of the barbarian "Sea Peoples" (cf. p. 4) about 

|#°o b.c. Only in northern Syria did the so-called "Neo- 

^Ittites" survive until the 8th century b.c, as witnessed by 

eir inscriptions in the so-called "Hittite hieroglyphic" 

ijppt (cf. pp. 69 et seq.), notably in the city of Karkhemish 

|||ne bend of the Euphrates in Syria, but they were even- 

Jpy absorbed in the expanding Assyrian empire. 




(e) Alphabetic Scripts Based on the Cuneiform Writing 
Aside from the outright borrowings of the Babylonian 
cuneiform writing by races speaking other tongues, we know 
of two more cases of the creation in the ancient Orient of 
new scripts utilizing the wedge shape as their basic element. 
In the city of Ugarit on the northern Syrian coast, today the 
heap of ruins called Ras Shamrah, French excavations, begun 
in 1929, have unearthed the center of a small state inhabited 
by a Western Semitic populace. However, Ugarit, as a harbor 
town, was subject also to alien, Hurrian and even Cretan, 
influences. As for the history of Ugarit, not much more is 
known today than the fact that its king became a vassal of 
the Hittite monarch Suppiluliuma, probably after the defeat 
of Tusratta. In the domain of literature, of great significance 
is the discovery of a number of clay tablets in the library of 
a temple, bearing Ugaritic mythological texts, epic poems in 
the Ugaritic language, honoring their deities; these tablets 
date from approximately the 15th or 14th century b.c. These 
texts appear on clay tablets, and also the shape of the script 
resembles the cuneiform writing. But the Ugaritic script is 
an alphabetic system, using only thirty signs (without any 
word-signs or determinatives) , and is the oldest specimen of 
alphabetic writing in the Near East (cf. Fig. 30) . The find- 
ings of the most recent years point to the conclusion that the 
Semitic alphabet of individual letter signs was already known 
to the people of Ugarit, in the same sequence in which it is 
known to us from later times and which influenced the con- 
ventional arrangement of the European alphabets. 

The youngest script based on the wedge shape was in- 
vented by the Persians under the great Darius. The Early 
Persian writing, as used in the Old Persion portions of the 
trilingual inscriptions in honor of the ancient Persian rulers, 
has only one feature in common with the Babylonian cunei- 





























































































Fig. 30. The Ugaritic alpha- 
l bet. ( De Langhe, Les Textes de 

f: Ras Shamra-Ugarit, vol. I, p. 

t 2 43-) 

|im script, viz., the wedge shape which constitutes the 

acipal element of the characters. But this is a mere ex- 

rT J*aI resemblance, because the Early Persian script is an 

|liabetic system, although not quite purely alphabetic. It 

?ists of thirty-six phonetic symbols, and it still shows a 

Elements of the syllabic system of writing (cf. Fig. 31). 

* additionally created ideograms are obviously artificial. 

, t J Semitic alphabetic writing, known to the Persians in 

l^ramaic variant, was indubitably a factor of great influ- 

s on the creation of this script. 



(f ) The Decipherment of the Early Persian 
Cuneiform Script 

We have followed the development of the cuneiform 
writing from its origin as a Sumerian pictographic script, 
throughout its dissemination over the Near East, until its 
second heyday in ancient Persia. In order to describe the 
progress of the decipherment of the cuneiform script and of 
the reconstruction of the languages written by it, we must 










a, a 




b t ba 










r t ra 


u t U 










t before 


u t n& 


I, la 


h before 




m, ma 






d before 


m before 
i, mi 




g before 
u t gti, 


d "before 
U t dH 



u t mti, 


8, fa 


h t ha 











w t iva 




follow the opposite course and contemplate, first of all, the 
Early Persian script which, being an alphabetic system, is 
more readily susceptible to decipherment, and only then are 
we to proceed to unravel the enigma of the other languages 
in the chronological order of their decipherment. 

I must point out, however, before proceeding any further 

that Jhe knowledge of the cuneiform writing was lost much 

jggljer than that of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Even the 

Greeks had no longer any correct notion of it; only Herodotus 

UYj 87) mentions it as 'AMpiu ypa^ar a (Assyria gram- 

Jtgta), "Assyrian characters." Thus only in the modern era, 

beginning roughly in the early 17th century a.d., did Europe 

Jigjin to hear about this "nail-shaped" (as it was first called) 

^ript, through the reports of individual travellers. The first 

jgpprt with a short specimen of the script, consisting of five 

jroups of symbols, was contained in a letter written by 

• Jfetro della Valle from the city of Shiras in Persia to a friend 

in Naples in 1621. The first reproduction of a complete 

Fig. 31. The Early Persian alphabet. (Jensen, Die Schrift, Fig. 69.) 

jEarly* Persian inscription was made public by Chardin in 
^674. The name "Keihchrift" (cuneiform writing) seems to 
||bave been used first by Engelbert Kampfer in the late 17th 
^ J&tury. 

In the course of the 18th century, other explorers reported 
a several inscriptions honoring kings of ancient Persia, in 
^eir complete trilingual form, and in 1762, Count Caylus 
pryen published a report on a quadrilingual (Old Persian, 
K^kmite, Babylonian and Egyptian) alabaster vase of Xerxes, 
It since even the Egyptian writing was still undeciphered 
|those days, a decipherment of the cuneiform characters 
is out of the question. Carsten Niebuhr brought back 
P>ecially reliable copies of trilingual inscriptions from his 
tip to Persepolis in 1765, and he published them in 1788. 
||iebuhr already recognized the three completely different 
™l|?ms of writing in the inscriptions, viz., first, a quite simple 



script (Early Persian) consisting of altogether forty-two 
characters (according to Niebuhr's count) , secondly, a some- 
what more complicated writing (the Elamite script), and 
thirdly, one especially rich in characters (the Babylonian 
cuneiform writing) . 

Following in Niebuhr's footsteps, Olav Gerhard Tychsen, 
the Orientalist from Rostock, made an important discovery 
in 1798: He established the fact that in the first, simplest, 
script a single diagonal wedge served as a sign separating two 
words from each other. Another important accomplishment 
of Tychsen (among several mistaken conclusions) was the 
assumption that the three scripts represented three different 

Another step forward was accomplished by the Danish 
academician Friedrich Munter, by his Veisuch iibei die 
ktilfdimigen Inschriften zu Persepolis,* in 1802. Working 
independently from Tychsen, he also interpreted the single 
diagonal wedge as a separation mark between words, and he 
presented plausible historical arguments to warrant the con- 
clusion that the inscriptions in question originated under the 
Old Persian monarchs of the House of the Achaemenides, 
and that therefore their language should be close to that of 
the Avesta, the sacred book of Persia .[He suspected, further- 
more, that the first portions of the inscriptions were in an 
v alphabetic script, the second portions in a syllabic script, and 
the third portions consisted of ideographic word-signs, He 
reasoned that all the three portions of any given inscription 
were probably identical in content, for multilingual inscrip- 
tions had been a very common custom in the ancient world, 
and also because whenever a word recurred in the first portion 
of an inscription, a corresponding recurrence of symbols 
could be observed every time in the second and third por- 
tions of the same inscription as well. He assumed, quite 

* An Essay on the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Persepolis. 


correctly, that certain repeatedly recurring groups of symbols 
■'• meant "King" and "King of Kings." He was less lucky in his 
/Attempt at determining the phonetic values of the characters; 
•fjpvly by sheer accident did he identify the symbols for a and 
;$f> correctly. 

|; JEJe man who succeeded in making the Early Persian 
;^ipt really legible, beyond such rudimentary findings, how- 
;||yer ? was no trained Orientalist, but a young German high- 
i^ppol teacher, Georg Friedrich Grotefend (1775-1853) of 
gottingen. He was practically ignorant of Oriental lan- 
iges, but he had practiced diligently the decipherment of 
ificially composed secret scripts. His situation was thus 
3tally different from that of Champollion: Champollion 
j^ent fifteen years in painstaking studying and preliminary 
aining, after which he succeeded almost despite expecta- 
is, whereas Grotefend plunged right into the project, 
ithout any great preliminary training, and without a bi- 
|lgual inscription to go by, such as there were available for 
jjje study of Egyptian, and yet it took him a mere few weeks 
$ score quite a considerable success. At any rate, however, 
Iprotefend also had to have certain auxiliary data available, 
no decipherment is feasible without some clues to go 
$ Also Grotefend recognized the separation mark and the 
fee types of writing. And also he deduced that the first 
m of each inscription wa& written uxan alphabetic, not 
ibic, script because there often were as many as ten 
flHtktbols between two successive separation marks, and the 
tence of words of ten syllables was an improbability. 
lis actual decipherment, presented before the Learned 
piety of Gottingen on September 4, 1802, was based on 
^inscriptions reproduced in our Figures 32 and 33. Like 
iter, Grotefend assumed that the inscriptions had been 
iposed by Persian kings of the family of the Achaemen- 
m and he conjectured also that the first portions of the 





inscription were written in Old Persian, the language of the 
reigning dynasty. Also Grotefend studied the inscriptions 
with the purpose of finding the names of the kings with their 
titles and genealogies, already known from other ancient 
sources, and specifically from sources in Iran itself, viz., from 
the inscriptions of the later Sassanian kings. And like 
Miinter, also Grotefend tried to identify the word recurring 
in Fig. 32 under Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6, and in Fig. 33 under Nos. 
2, 4, 5 and 7, as the words meaning "king." He interpreted 
the second inscription, along the Sassanian pattern, tenta- 
tively as follows: "X, the King, the great (?), the King of 
Kings, Ys, the King's, son, the Achaemenide (?)—." The 
translation "Y's, the king's, son" was based on the considera- 

fT m ST Kr HE<i?% \H<W « W K» Kl n Kr 

*TT TTT « HT IgriJT <& VVMf <& TTT !<T IV If KT ^ 

s fg H 3f E ^«W % m if r<Sf i? T<r v«tt <£ m 

KWifK-m ~< m HW V«T¥ « Iff T<r KT ffK^ 

KT if yr m ^\ in nil v\m 1 w m t<t tm it tv* ^ 

*9E y- £ *10/S./ //It -^ MM ?V %? // ft f/^4,11 /t/ 

7tt <?<, Kr Ml £\ in hit v it TT <s -in in rw^» 
m\ 9 fi <n n ^°^< «H m»M ~<W << ft K-v 1 <K 

—z — ~r»=s :n m • .-,-«• *r ^rz sr^ ^u *-_ >„ >»► *»• 7«^ 55 

*r ^ 2 fT »w »W «sM It- £T »M <»m <t <n e< <fi « 

(Transliteration) (1) D(a)-a-r(a)-y(a)-v(a)-u-$(a) (2) x(a)-$(a)-a- 
y(a)-$(a)-i-y(a) (3) v(a)<(,(a) : r(a)-k(a) (4) x(a)~ 
S(a)-a-y(a)-&(a)-i-y(a) (5) x(a)-$(a)-a-y(a)-#(a)-i-y(a)-a-n(a)- 
a-m(a) (6) x(a)-&(a)'a-j(a)-$(a)-i-y(a) (7) d(a)-h(a)-y(a)-u- 
n(a)-a-m(a) (8) Vi-iS(a)-t(a)-a-s(a)-p(a)-b(a)-y(a)-a (9) P(*)- 
u-f(a) (10) H(a)-x(a)-a-m(a)-n(a)-i-s(a)-i-y(a) (11) h(a)-y(a) 
{iz)i-m(a)-m(a) (13) t(a)-£(a)-r(a).-m(a) (14) a-ku-u-n(a)-u-S(a) 

(Pronunciation) Daray&vaul xsayaftiya va^rka xsayaftiya xlayaftiya- 
nam xsayaftiya dahyunam Vistaspahya pufa Haxamaniliya hya imam 
tacaram akunaui* 

* x = ch in German ach; $ = sh in English she; y as in English yes; = 
th in English the; c =ch in English chin; £ as in French ca. 

"Darius, the great king, the king of kings, the king of the lands, Hystaspes' 
son, the Achaemenide, (is the one) who built this palace." 

Fig. 32. Old Persian inscription of Darius. (Messerschmidt, Die 
EntziSeiung der Keilschiiit, Fig. 1.) 

tion that the word "Y" of the second inscription appeared 
at the beginning of the first inscription, thus in all probability 
as the name of a ruler, but it appeared in the second inscrip- 
tion after the title "King of Kings" with an ending aug- 
mented by one sign; Grotefend concluded from this circum- 
^ance that he was looking at a possessive case linked as such 
>!|£th the subsequent word meaning "son." 
||; As the next step, Grotefend went through the list of the 
°\mes of the Persian kings, known from Herodotus, and 
lecked which names seemed to be most likely to be repre- 
!f§|nted by the characters appearing in the inscriptions. Cyrus 
jftid Cambyses seemed to be out of the question because the 
jKfeo names under study did not begin with the same letter, 
pad also because they were not of different lengths, but ap- 
|toximately equal in length. Finally, an important fact was 
It the father of the author of the second inscription, who 
as the author of the first inscription, also bore the title 
ping," whereas the father of the Grst inscription did not All 

T7 — 1. ,*— «?v ~z. -v _^ »»• -v — rrr-^rs — : — : — ?? — : — 5= — 

is ^«fT<cmK- Kt ?f K-^«ff 5 m # to Tf k- m 

:<m hw \ 6 ti m ET # <- <K <n << \K<tt « m * KT 

Tf K-<><K- m ^n <ff t? \H^«tt m HW^r << fffc s 

^Transliteration) -AT^j -i (a) -y (a) -a-r(a) -i (a) -a (2) x ( a) -i ^J -tf- 

p)-&(a)-i-y(a) (3) 9(a)-z(a)-r(a)-k(a) (4) x(a)-i(a)-a-j(a)- 

(a)-i-y(a) (5) x(a)-$(a)-a'y(a)-&(a)-t-y(a)-a-n(a)-a-m(a) (6) 

Wa)-a-r(a)-y(a)-v(a)'h(a)-u-$(a) (7) x(a)-S(a)-a-y(a)-b(a)-i- 

^«)-h(a)-y(a)-a (8) p(a)-t4-$(a) (9) H(a)-x(a)-a-m(a)-n(a)-i- 


pmmciation) XSayarla xlayaftiya vaxrka xSayabiya xlayafttyanam 
fyayavabaul xlayaftiyahya pufa HaxamaniHya 

s, the great king, the king of kings, Darius', the king's, son, the Achae- 


JPG. 33. Old Persian inscription of Xerxes. (Messerschmidt, Die 
pteifferung der Keilschiift, Fig. 2.) 





these facts considered together led to the conclusion that 
the author oi the second insciiption must have been Xeixes 
and the author oi the Erst inscription must have been his 
father, Darius, whose father, Hystaspes, had not been a king. 
The next logical step was to find the Persian forms of these 
three names, which were presumably somewhat different 
from the forms handed down by the Greeks. Grotefend in- 
serted the Avestic forms of the names, and thus he suc- 
ceeded in determining the phonetic values of 15 letters— al- 
though four of those 15 were incorrect because he failed to 
establish the exact forms of the Old Persian variants of the 
names. With the phonetic values thus obtained, he at- 
tempted to read the word meaning "king/' arriving at the 
pronunciation khsheh . . . (instead of the correct sound, 
x&Iyatfiya). The reading and translation of the two inscrip- 
tions deciphered by Grotefend is also shown in Figs. 32 
and 33. 

Grotefend thus succeeded within a very short time, with- 
out any bilingual inscription to help him, in laying the 
foundation of the understanding of texts written in charac- 
ters of totally unknown phonetic values. This accomplish- 
ment was made possible, apart from his genius, by the fact 
that he was familiar with the line of Persian kings from other 
sources, as well as by the fact that the Early Persian script 
consisted of only thirty-nine characters and was constructed 
along principles akin to those underlying our alphabetic 
scripts. In the case of a syllabic writing, using a greater num- 
ber of symbols, the range of possible phonetic values would 
have been much wider, and the prospect of finding the right 
values would have been poorer. 

The fact that Grotefend's later activities no longer pro- 
duced as happy results as his first decipherments is to be 
attributed not solely to his insufficient training as an Orien- 
talist, but above all to the circumstance, emphasized by 

Jrotefend himself, that a decipherer and an interpreter (i.e., 

j philologist) must not be mistaken tor each other. His de- 

ipherment should have been developed and elaborated fur- 
ler by trained, professional Orientalists, but those were the 

|>ery people who failed to give him the credit that was his 

fue. In fact, the scientific journal of Gottingen did not even 
rint the full report of his discovery, but merely a short item 

Mentioning it. Only in 1815 was there published a detailed 
sort in Heeren's Ideen iiber die Politik, den Verkehr und 
\ Handel der vornehmsten Volker der alten Welt.* This 
; how it came about that his decipherment was given little 
tention and interest at first. 

I It was only in 1826 that the Danish professor Rask was 
ile to identify the ending of the genitive plural in the phrase 
ting of kings," and only in 1836 could the phonetic values 

M most of the Early Persian characters in one of the inscrip- 
ots be defined by Burnouf, a French student of the Avesta, 
nd still more completely by the German Christian Lassen, 
jrofessor of Sanskrit in Bonn, on the ground of a list of peo- 

||es. Of particular importance was the further finding of 
issen that in the Early Persian script, similarly to the usage 
: the Indie alphabets, the vowel a was not indicated by any 
|cial sign (but a was indicated by the addition of a), so 
at, e.g., a p may be read as the consonant p or as a sort of 
abic sign for pa. Thus, the ancient Persians wrote xsayOiy 
tk for xSayaOiya vazrka ("the great king"), hxamniSiy for 
ixamanisiya ("the Achaemenid") , daryvuS for DarayavauS 


Ifn the meantime, however, an English investigator went 
ISrk on the decipherment of the Early Persian writing, 

Pependently from Grotefend, and favorable circumstances 
abled him to make substantially greater progress. Henr^ 

i J* "Thoughts on the Politics, Communications and Commerce of the Most 
standing Nations of the Ancient World." 



Rawlinson (1810-1895), a British officer, entered the 
Persian government service as a military adviser in 1835, 
and as such he had the opportunity to undertake extensive 
journeys in the country and to study Early Persian inscrip- 
tions right in the field. Of decisive importance was his dis- 
covery of the big Darius inscription on the cliff of Bisutun 
(referred to mostly, incorrectly, as Behistun), by far the 
longest and most substantial of all Early Persian inscriptions. 
In 1835, h e had only the sketchiest idea of Grotefend's de- 
cipherment; he had not even the opportunity to have the 
relevant publications sent to Persia. Thus, as he stated, he 
undertook the entire decipherment anew, independently on 
his own, along similar considerations. He used two other in- 
scriptions, copied by him in his own hand; those two inscrip- 
tions were likewise records left by Darius and Xerxes, so that 
he reached the same conclusion as Grotefend. His knowl- 
edge of the Behistun inscription, however, permitted him to 
gain a better and more profound insight into the Old Persian 
language than Grotefend's. He soon recognized it as a close 
relative of the Avestic and Old Indie (Sanskrit) languages, 
and therefore he was able to use these languages for the 
interpretation of the Old Persian words and grammatical 
forms. In this case, it was possible also to achieve correct, 
incontestable results with the aid of simple homophones in 
the closely related languages, by what is called the etymolog- 
ical method, which is all too often misleading when the re- 
lationship between the languages under consideration is less 
close, as will be discussed later. J3i£.puMication of the big 
Behistun inscription by Rawlinson in 1846 signified a mile- 
stone along the path of these researcherand studies. Subse- 
quently, the last details of the Early Persian script and the 
Old Persian language as well were cleared up during the 
following decades, by Rawlinson, Hincks (the Irishman 
whom I already mentioned in connection with the Egyptian 



writing, and whom I shall mention again in discussing the 
decipherment of the Babylonian-Assyrian script) and Jules 
Oppert, of Paris. 

7 ( g ) The Decipherment of the Neo-EIamite 

$ Cuneiform Script 

After the unlocking of the secret of Old Persian, the lan- 
fcguage written in an alphabetic script and closely related to 
^yestic and Old Indie, the trilingual inscriptions of the 
lAchaemenids could be regarded as records written in three 
||anguages one of which was known, so that the decipher- 
ment of the other two languages appeared to be easy on the 
||>asis of its knowledge. The second portion of each inscrip- 
tion, evidently written in a syllabic script (the Neo-EIamite 
xsion, as we know today), was logically the next to be de- 
ciphered, because even though this script with its 111 differ- 
ent characters seemed to be more complicated than the 
Iphabetic Early Persian writing, it was still simpler than the 
iting used in the third portion, with its many hundreds 
symbols. The absence of separation marks between words 
rned out to be an obstacle in the attempts at decipherment. 
Iso when trying to decipher the Neo-EIamite portions of 
tie Achaemenide inscriptions, the first step was to identify 
e corresponding names in the Early Persian and Neo- 
ilamite portions, followed by the interpolation of syllabic 
pionetic values in the Neo-EIamite text. The first attempt 
this direction was made by Grotefend in 1837, and he 
tablished the fact that names of male persons were identi- 
d by a vertical wedge (the determinative for the names of 
ale persons, as we put it today) placed before them. A 
:ter progress in this field was feasible only after the publi- 
|tion in 1853 °f the Elamite text of the big Behistun in- 
iption by Prof essor Norris of London, for it resulted in the 
fcrease of the number of proper names from the formerly 





known 40 to 90. The result was that the phonetic values of 
most of the Elamite syllable signs could be determined, and 
on the basis of the Old Persian translation also the individual 
words could be clarified lexically as well as grammatically. 
Nevertheless, during the subsequent decades the study of 
Elamite lagged far behind the study of the other languages 
written in cuneiform characters, and there are still several 
unclarified points in the Elamite grammar. 

( h ) The Decipherment of the Babylonian 
Cuneiform Script 

The investigators turned with far greater interest to the 
study of the third and most complicated portions of the 
Achaemenid inscriptions, the Babylonian-Assyrian {Akka- 
dian) parts. It so happened that it had been established in the 
meantime that the same script had been used on monuments 
as well as on clay tablets, many of which became known by 
the end of the 18th century a.d., to be followed by an un- 
ending series of discoveries of more and more such relics in 
the 19th century. Thus there seemed to exist a whole rich 
literature in that language, in sharp contrast to the conditions 
relative to the Early Persian and Neo-Elamite versions. But 
the world could finally look forward to the revelation of the 
most important historical and cultural data about ancient 
Babylonia and Assyria when the French Consul Botta began, 
in 1843, the excavation of the palace of the Assyrian king 
Sargon in Khorsabad, and again in 1845 when the English- 
man Layard began to excavate the ruins of Nineveh, for both 
excavations unearthed a great many monuments inscribed in 
the same third variant of cuneiform writing. 

The Achaemenid inscriptions had to be used as the point 
of departure also in the endeavor to decipher this most im- 
portant language of the entire literature written in cuneiform 
characters, and the first step had to be once again the attempt 

Uo identify the Akkadian equivalents of the proper names 

^occurring in the Old Persian version and then to use them 

for the determination of the phonetic values of syllable signs. 

)f course, that was easier said than done. Not only did the 

itmg contain more than 300 different signs, and not only 

jgas there no separation mark at all, but— as today we know— 

kie and the same word was written in one instance by several 

Shonetic syllable signs and in another instance by an ideo- 

jhic word-sign, and the system of ideographic representa- 

extended even to the writing of proper names. Such a 

peculiar system of writing was obviously bound to discour- 

the first investigators who had absolutely no knowledge 

this writing convention. Thus, Rawlinson himself made 

je following admission, in 1850, when he had already been 

ble to interpret a longer historical inscription correctly as 

b its essential points: "I will admit freely that when I had 

jparned the secret of every single Babylonian symbol and 

pery single Babylonian word to which I had found any clue 

all in the trilingual inscriptions, whether by direct evi- 

ice or through a key, when I tried then to apply the key 

lips gained to the interpretation of the Assyrian inscriptions, 

fiWas tempted more than once to give up these studies once 

pS for all, because I was losing all hope for the achievement 

}j9ny satisfactory result." 

|*For the better understanding of the reader, I reproduce 

fate the original text of an inscription, with its transliteration 

|d translation (Fig. 34) ; this text is the Babylonian portion 

pthe Xerxes inscription, the Old Persian text of which is 

pwn in Fig. 33 on page 55. As in the Old Persian text, the 

pWvalent of the word "king" can be recognized to be repre- 

ated by the ideographic word-sign recurring under the 

pinbers 2, 4, 5 and 8. Thus, according to the pattern of the 

|P Persian version, the two symbols appearing under No. 3 

1st mean "great" (read today as rabft*, i.e., rabu, "great" 





with the phonetic complement "u"), whereas the first six 
symbols in the first line must stand for the name of Xerxes 
(read today as *tft-j$->-ar-Ii ) - The vertical wedge at the be- 
ginning of the first line revealed itself as the determinative 
used before the names of male persons, which Grotefend had 
already recognized as such. The same determinative appears 







3 if 





Tg«S 611 


»*T 7? 








►•f- « <t— £p- 

(i) 1 Hi-$i-* -ar-$i (2) S^ra* (3) r*£#* (4) i*r (5) $arrdniM E * (6) ;»#r 
(7) *Da-a-ri-ia-a-mu$ (8) $<«r/ (9) A^ba-ma-an-nil-Si-* 

"Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the son of Darius the king, the 

Fig. 34. Babylonian inscription of Xerxes. (Meissner, Die Keil- 
schrift,Fig. 3.) 

before No. 7 = "Darius" (* Da-a-ri-ia-a- muf)md before No. 
9 = "Achaemmide" (tA-ha-ma-an-M)f-Ji->) . The word mean- 
ing "son" cannot follow the name of Darius in this version, 
as it did in the Old Persian text, but must precede it (as No. 
6) whereas the symbol preceding No. 6 indicates the plural 
of the word "king" (plural sign, MES) . 

The meaning of each individual word was thus ascertained, 
but still regardless of its pronunciation. For the determina- 
tion of the spoken sounds, it was again necessary to use the 
proper names as the point of departure, for the proper names 
could not be represented by ideographic word-signs, but had 
to be in syllable signs, since the name of Xerxes consisted of 
five characters, and the name of Darius consisted of six, not 
counting the determinative. The determination of the pho- 


■ netic values of these syllable signs seemed nevertheless 
difficult, for the Babylonian forms of these names might have 
\ sounded different from the Persian versions. (In fact, as we 
know now, they did actually sound different.) Another diffi- 
culty consisted in the fact that many of the signs appearing 
on the clay tablets from Babylon were different, often sharply 
different, in shape from the forms used in the Achaemenid 
inscriptions; we have already pointed out the sharp differ- 
ences among the Old, Middle and New, Babylonian and 
Assyrian cuneiform scripts (cf. pages 35 et seq.). Thus, the 
investigators of the cuneiform writing faced here a problem 
similar to the one which confronted Champollion as he com- 
pared the hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic characters. 

It is impossible to mention here more than the most im- 
portant points of the widely ramified detail work, of no 
significance for the general public, involved in the decipher- 
ment. In the 1840*8, Grotefend identified the names of 
Darius, Xerxes, Cyrus and Hystaspes in the Babylonian texts, 
and he realized also that a group of symbols appearing on 
bricks found in Babylonia had to represent the name of 
Nebuchadnezzar— only he was unable to read it as yet. (Cf. 
»;J' The Swedish Isidor Lowenstern was the first to advocate 
|tiheview (in 1845) that this was a Semitic language. He was 
Lithe opinion that the phonetic symbols of the Babylonian 
^Cuneiform writing were simple consonant signs, because— he 
Unargued— also the later Semitic alphabetic writings (the 
iHebrew writing, the Arabic writing, etc.) indicated the con- 
sonants only, leaving the vowels unrecorded. In advocating 
lis view, however,, he ma de the peculiar observation that 
Lvery consonant there had existed several, apparently in- 
pscriminately interchangeable signs. Thus, for instance, he 
ibund no less than seven different signs representing r— 
rhich actually are the syllable signs ar, ii, er, ur, ra, xi and ru. 

6 4 


/ The brilliant Edward Hincks^whose name I have men- 
tioned repeatedly on the preceding pages, was the man who 
recognized that these signs did not represent consonants, but 
syllables. In 1850, he was able to state decisively that the 
Babylonian cuneiform writing contained "not one single 
sign standing for a simple consonant, but signs representing 
a consonant preceded or followed by a vowel." Hincks ascer- 
tained also that in addition to the "simple" syllable signs of 
the ab, ir, etc. and da, Id, etc. type, the script contained also 
symbols for the complex consonant + vowel + consonant 
type, such as lean, mur, etc., and that each such complex sign 
could be split into two simple ones (i.e., ka-an, mu-ur, etc.) , 
for these two methods of writing alternated in frequently 
recurring words (cf. Fig. 35). Hincks is the discoverer also 
of the polyvalence of the Babylonian cuneiform symbols; he 
saw that the same sign could be used as a word-sign, a syllable 
sign or determinative, and he recognized also the determina- 
tives of names ofdeities, countries and cities, etc. correctly as 

1. a) 

2. a) 

HIT <T~ir<T 

1. a) Sar 

2. a) gir 

3. a) lum 



= b) la-ar 
= b) ff-ir 
= b) lu-um 

Fig. 35. Alternative compound and simple syl- 
lable symbols. 

CBotta, the excavator of the palace of Sargon in Khorsabad, 
is the man to whom the principal credit is due for the recog- 
nition that one and the same word could be represented in 


one instance by one single ideograph word-sign and in 
another instance by a group of symbols which must be re- 
garded as syllable signs. This conclusion was warranted by the 
fact that among the numerous inscriptions in the palace of 
Sargon there were quite a few which were identical in con- 
tent, and it was a frequent experience to find a group of 
phonetic symbols in one of them at a place where an ideo- 
gram appeared in another. Thus also the spoken words rep- 
resented by ideograms could gradually be determined. 

A final important point of knowledge was discovered by 
Rawlinson who was in the position to work with abundant 
material, and who is fully deserving of the honorary title, 
1V ' "Father of Assyriology," given to him by the British. The 
I; important point to which I refer here is the peculiarity known 
as phonetical polyphony, the fact that the symbol <y , mean- 
v ing ud, can be read also as tarn, par, lafr, or IiiS (cf. page 43) . 
1 He was in the position to state in his publication on the 
I Babylonian text of the Behistun inscription (1851) that, "It 
1 xan be proven beyond all doubt that the very great majority 
pf the Assyrian symbols are polyphonous." The list of 246 
I characters which he included in that publication is on the 
"whole still valid today and is the basis of our current lists 
of characters. 
The reading of the proper names still remained the 
^hardest nut to crack for a long time to come. Thus, the 
J name of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabu-Jcudurri-usur ("O /God/ 
I Nabu, protect my boundary mark"), appeared written as 
| an.ak.Sa.du.§is; 3ulman u-a&rid, Salmanassar, was written as 
I The difficulty was solved only when vocabu- 
laries of the ancient Babylonian savants were discovered in 
»Nineveh, in which such ideographic methods of writing were 
^explained. It was seen then that an.ak was an ideographic 
isymbol for the name of the god d Na-bi-um, sa.du represented 
1 the word Jcudurru (boundary mark) , sis stood for nasaru (to 





protect), the imperative form of which was usur, di was the 
ideographic symbol for Sulmu (welfare) —thus m-ma-nu 
stood for Sulmanu = gift of welcome— and bar represented 
a&ridu (first) . Generally speaking, without the grammatical, 
lexical and graphic lists prepared by the ancient Babylonians 
and Assyrians themselves on their language, the decipher- 
ment of the Babylonian cuneiform writing would probably 
have been a more laborious task than it actually was. 

At any rate, an adequate basis for the reading and transla- 
tion of the Akkadian language was created about the middle 
of the 19th century a.d., and the framework erected merely 
had to be completed by details. Hincks had recognized even 
formerly that two inscriptions, one written in Old Babylo- 
nian script, the other in Neo-Babylonian characters, were du- 
plicates of each other. This discovery enabled him to compare 
a whole series of Old Babylonian signs with their Neo- 
Babylonian equivalents and thus to lay the groundwork for 
-a cuneiform palaeography. 

The subsequent research made very rapid headway, and it 
is truly amazing how little time was needed to achieve a 
complete understanding of the texts. Of course, investigators 
less close to the subject still maintained an attitude of scepti- 
cism about polyphony and ideography, not known to them 
from the more familiar systems of writing, and consequently 
they still distrusted the new science. In order to settle the 
question of the reliability of the decipherment, the Royal 
Asiatic Society of London therefore resorted to a special 
expedient: In 1857, Rawlinson, Hincks, Fox Talbot and 
Oppert happened to be in London at the same time. All the 
four scholars were given a copy of a longer text which had 
just been discovered, with the request that they work on it 
independently from each other. Their letters were then 
opened in a formal meeting, and the Society was able to find 
with satisfaction that all the four solutions agreed in all their 

^!; : Essential points. Thus the L young„sciencejaf Assyriology could 

^ now truly be said to stand on a firm foundation. 

1^ Decipherment was no longer a much discussed subject in 

;f I the further course of the research. In the second half of the 

|ff 19th century and in the early years of the 20th, careful detail 

ffejjirork was the main thing and it eventually built Assyriology 

ItW t0 a full-fledged philological science. The Semitic charac- 

||| ter of the language having been firmly established, wide use 

•||| was made also of the phonetically identical or similar words 

;t|E bi the Hebrew and Arabic languages for the determination 

|5 of the meanings of Akkadian words. And in fact, there were 

I many words found which were totally identical in sound and 

^ in meaning in Akkadian, Hebrew and Arabic, such as, e.g., 

j the Hebrew and Akkadian ki (how); the Akkadian and 

I Arabic la and the Hebrew 16 (not); the Akkadian bltu, the 

J; Arabic baitu and the Hebrew ba/it or bet (house); the 

M: Akkadian and Arabic kalbu and the Hebrew keleb (dog) ; the 

1 I Akkadian Sarapu and the Hebrew Saraf (to burn); the Ak- 

M kadian eberu and the Hebrew 'abar (to transgress) ; etc. Only 

§f occasionally will the meanings differ, as e.g., in the case of 

l '\ the Akkadian amaru (to see) and the Hebrew 'amar (to say) . 

F ^ Thus, the etymological method, the determination of the 

» meanings of words of an unknown language according to 

P^the meanings of phonetically identical or similar words of a 

f^Jcnown related language, was in most instances successful in 

v 4he domain of the Akkadian tongue. 

•; .The German scholar Friedrich Delitzsch, who founded 

J, _a strongly methodistic school in Leipzig, Breslau and Berlin 

$^)jffiji made Germany the center of cuneiform research, was 

I Itbfe chief Assyrian philologist about 1900. That was when also 

% the Americans began to be interested in the new science, 

f v : ; and the first representatives of the now highly developed 

*;/\ American Assyriology were trained then by Delitzsch in 

1 Germany. 





The 20th century learned, above all, to divide the disuni- 
form structure of the Akkadian language spatially and tem- 
porally into distinct Babylonian and Assyrian dialect groups. 
The fruit of this research, encouraged chiefly by Benno 
Landsberger, is the Giundiiss der akkadischen Giammatik* 
a book evidencing amazing diligence and knowledge, by 
Wolfram von Soden, published by the Papal Bible Institute 
in Rome in 1952. A dictionary of modest size, also by Wolf- 
ram von Soden, can be expected to be published within a 
few years. Thus K German science has an honorable share in 
having produced the present broad structure of Assyriology. 

( i ) The Interpretation of Sumerian Records 

Akkadian was the last of the languages of cuneiform litera- 
ture the decipherment of which had to begin with the most 
fundamental details. The translation of Sumerian does not 
mean the decipherment of a new script, but merely the in- 
terpretation of another language, for Sumerian was written 
in the same Babylonian cuneiform script as Akkadian. This 
translation of the Sumerian language was accomplished very 
slowly and gradually. In fact, in the first decades of the his- 
tory of Assyriology it was even doubted that Sumerian had 
been a distinct language at all, rather than just a mystic way 
of writing Akkadian. As late as in the last decade of the 19th 
century, young F. H. Weissbach found it necessary to devote 
a book, Die sumerische Frage** (Leipzig, 1898), to proving 
that Sumerian had been a distinct language. 

But there were many difficulties even about the purely 
linguistic understanding of Sumerian. This peculiar lan- 
guage, heretofore not considered definitely related with any 
known tongue, became extinct as a living vernacular soon 
after Hammurabi's time and continued to be used only by 

* An Outline of Akkadian Grammar. 
** The Sumerian Question. 

if the Babylonian priests as a liturgical language and therefore 

Irtiitvas learned in the religious seminaries as a dead language— 

4 ; a "Church Latin of the ancient Orient," as it were. For this 

;ij\geason, even the Babylonians composed various linguistic 

$* $xds to help the student priests learn this extinct language; 

Jlifchey compiled lists of rare phonetic values occurring in Su- 

|;|if|nerian, also grammatical paradigms and dictionaries, and, 

ilfM*bove all, they recorded numerous religious texts, hymns to 

ities and incantations, with their line-by-line translations 

Babylonian. These study aids were the chief guides of the 

Ittodern scholars to a gradual insight into the structure of this 

difficult and peculiar language, and if it had not been for 

them, we would probably still be completely baffled by the 

ISumerian tongue. Up to World War I, in fact, these bilin- 

|jual texts with their often imperfect, school-boyish Su- 

^taerian were the only understood specimens of that language. 

|0nly the pioneering translation by Thureau-Dangin of the 

^monolingual Old Sumerian royal inscriptions of Gudea and 

'bther such records* and Poebers Sumerian Grammar** did 

gradually pave the road to an understanding of the ancient 

firionolingual texts, too, in the interpretation of which Fal- 

§fcenstein is most outstanding at this time. 

( j ) The Interpretation of Hittite and of Cognate 
Languages of Asia Minor 

&;| The 20th century brought along, in addition to the better 
Comprehension of Sumerian, also the re-discovery of Hittite, 
juguage once spoken in eastern Asia Minor. In 1 906, Hugo 
/pKQnkl^r discovered the state archives of the Hittite kings in 
||ie ruins of Bogazkoy, 94 miles east of Ankara; the records 
ed there were written on clay tablets, in Babylonian 

^ *Die sumerischen und akkadischen Konigsinschriften, Leipzig 1907; 
S S Vorderasiatische Bibliothek, Vol. 1, Part 1. 
s * * * Sumerische Gramma tile. Rostock 1923. 


jcim^prm siting, but only a small part of them were in the 
Akkadian language, for their great majority were in Hittite. 
This find held out the hope for a translation of the Hittite 
language-or rather, of the Hittite language oi cuneiform 
literature, because (as mentioned on page 47 and as it will 
be discussed on pages 71 et seq.) there are inscriptions in 
"Hittite" hieroglyphics, too. 

At the time when World War I broke out, Friedrich 
Hrozny, a Czech scholar then teaching in Vienna, was busily 
preparing copies of the Hittite cuneiform records appearing 
on the clay tablets kept in the museum of Istanbul, com- 
missioned for this work by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaf t, 
and in the course of this activity he succeeded amazingly 
quickly in gaining an insight also into the language which, to 
his greatest amazement, he found to be of an Indo-European 
structure. Also the Hittite records written in cuneiform 
characters presented solely a problem of linguistic interpre- 
tation, but no problem of deciphering the script, and for this 
reason the word "decipherment"— a term that should be re- 
served for the re-discovery of the lost key to forgotten scripts 
—should be avoided when referring to this language, and 
only the expression "translation," or "interpretation," should 
be used. In other words, the Hittite texts were to the cunei- 
form palaeographers as a Hungarian, Finnish or Turkish text 
written in legible but untranslated Latin script would be to 
most Europeans today, and by no means did they represent 
to them the same enigma which a Chinese or Japanese text 
with its alien script and alien language would represent to a 
European layman. 

How was it possible to regain, within relatively so few 
years, the knowledge of this language, dead and lost for mil- 
lennia? At first, there was no bilingual, Hittite and Akkadian, 
text available; only later were a few such texts discovered, and 
then they were merely instrumental in confirming the al- 



ready established translations of a few words. Higher hopes 
were attached at first to a number of fragments oi dictionaries 
also discovered in Bogazkoy, consisting of word lists of the 
type already known from Babylonia, listing Sumerian words 
with their Akkadian equivalents, but completed by the Hit- 
tites by a third column showing the translations in their own 
|ongue. These hopes were only partly realized because these 
dictionaries indicate mostly the meanings of rare words 
^ which occur but seldom in the texts, whereas they are mostly 
"useless with respect to every-day vocables especially neces- 
sary for a first idea. Moreover, the dictionaries furnish very 
|$cant information as to the grammatical structure of the Hit- 
v tite language. 

The principal work was thus to be done by combinatory 
lesearch on continuous, contextually coherent Hittite texts. 
|The most reliable means for building up an understanding 
|bf the contents of such records consisted in the peculiar 
|ftiethod of ideographic writing, quite characteristic of the 
Ipittite language. The Babylonians and Assyrians already had 
written their languages partly phonetically, partly with non- 
jpionetic ideograms, partly also mixing the two classes of 
Symbols, writing the stem of the word by an ideogram and 
e endings phonetically. The Hittites took over this custom, 
id they added also a characteristic feature of their own, 
mely that they interspersed also phonetically written Ak- 
dian words and entire groups of words in the Hittite text. 
Whether these words and groups of words were also pro- 
unced in Akkadian or perhaps in Hittite, is still undecided. 
II any rate, a written Hittite text always contains constituent 
ments taken from three languages: Sumerian ideograms, 
any of them with Hittite (or also Akkadian) flexional end- 
Akkadian words and word groups, and finally phoneti- 
[y written Hittite words. As an illustration, I quote here 
icle 11 of the Hittite laws, transliterated in Latin charac- 





ters, followed by its English translation. The use of lower- 
case italics in the transliteration indicates that the word or 
part of a word appears written phonetically in Hittite, where- 
as roman capitals indicate a Sumerian ideogram, and itali- 
cized capitals an Akkadian word or part of a word: 

tdk-ku Ltf.ULti LU el.lum na-as-ma g\k-su ku-i$-ki tu- 
wa-ar-ni-i^-^i nu-u$-h 20 gin kubabbar pa-a-i. 

"If somebody breaks a free man's hand or leg, he gives 
him (as a penalty) 20 shekels of silver." 

The stem of the word meaning "man" is written here by 
the Sumerian ideogram lu.ulu lu to which the phonetic Hit- 
tite -an ending of the accusative case is added; elxum, 
"free/' is written in Akkadian, and so is, "his 
hand," whereas in the word gir-su, "his leg," the stem is 
written by the Sumerian ideogram cm, and the ending by 
the Akkadian possessive suffix, -Su, "his." The amount of 
the penalty, 20 gin kubabbar, "20 shekels of silver," is writ- 
ten in pure Sumerian, and the words takku ("if"), na&na 
("or"), kui&i ("somebody"), tuwarnizzi ("he breaks"), 
nu-SSe ("now to him") and pai ("he gives") are written 
phonetically in Hittite. 

In observing texts which have been preserved in several 
copies, like the Hittite laws, we find sometimes that a given 
word appears phonetically written in one, while it is repre- 
sented in the other version by an ideogram the meaning of 
which is known and thus helps the interpretation of the 
phonetically written Hittite equivalent. Thus, Article 15 
of the laws appears in one copy as tdk-ku Ltf .uiij LU -tf/ el.lam 
iUa-ma-na-a!-!a-an ku-ii-ki it-kal-la-a-ri 12 gin kubabbar 
pa-a-i> whereas in the duplicate iftamanaSSan is replaced by 
GESTU-an ("ear"), so that the translation is: "If somebody 

gashes a free man's ear, he gives 12 shekels of silver." The 
iwoxd for "not" is written in one copy of the laws in Ak- 
ij&dian, u.ul, whereas In another copy it appears in Hittite, 
ejts na-at-ta. 

' j Occasionally, the ideographic symbols and Akkadian signs 
$nay be so predominant in a sentence that the meaning of 
|he entire sentence can be determined on their basis and also 
ihe lexical meanings and grammatical functions of the Hit- 
Ijjfite forms appearing among them can be ascertained. This is 
Illustrated by the following example, taken from the descrip- 
ion of a religious festivity: 


Bcugal salxugal §u um -su.NU ar-ra-an-y » 

|"Two palace officials extend hand-water to the king [and] 
lueen, king [and] queen wash their hands.") 


Here the ideographic elements, dumu ("palace of- 

fcial/s/"), lugal ("king") and salxugal ("queen"), the 

kkadian words ana ("to," used as the sign of the dative 

ase) and me.e qa.ti ("water of the hand"), as well as the 

lixed ideographic-Akkadian su mes -§ ("their / 

Akkadian/ hands /su MES /") are clear and help also 

the interpretation of the two verbal forms appearing in 

phonetic Hittite characters, pedanzi ("they extend") and 

mnzi ("they wash"), both of which are identified as pres- 

it tense, third person plural, by the ending -anzi. 

The consistent utilization of the semi-ideographic method 

: writing (ideographic word stem and phonetically written 

iding) furnished first of all the possibility to determine 

yhich endings belong to the noun and which to the verb, 

|nd in what functions. lugal-u$ ("the king"), lugal-ud 

'the king," used as direct object), salxugal-h ("to the 

|ueen"), etc., contain declensional endings, whereas the 



'5 , 



endings appearing in GUL-un [GUL-ahhun] ("I struck" ), 
Du-at ("he made"), etc., are conjugational suffixes. The sys- 
tem of ideography was useful above all in the laws which by 
their very division into short sentences of the "if some one 
does such and such a thing, he shall pay such and such a 
penalty" type restricted the range of possible meanings very 
narrowly and often, when they contained a sufficiently great 
number of ideographs, became fully interpretable. This was 
why Hrozny used the laws as the basic texts for working out 
the first grammatical and lexical picture of the Hittite lan- 

One must bear in mind in this connection that while the 
uniform, systematically recurring representation by ideo- 
graphs of the most frequently used words will readily reveal 
the meaning of such a word to the decipherer, it will still 
leave the spoken form of that word a secret, until and unless 
some fortunate accident gives a clue to i£ We are, however, 
still ignorant of the spoken form of just siich common, every- 
day words, many of them important also for comparative 
Indo-European philology, like son, brother, sister, wife, horse, 
dog, etc., for the very reason that they were always written by 

The meanings of a number of Hittite words and the most 
important grammatical functions of the language were thus 
determined relatively quickly by the combinatoiyjoiethod, 
i.e., by logical conclusions based on the relationship of the 
words. jtoJhe jest of the sentence. And as long as Hrozny 
used solely the combinatory method, he obtained indispu- 
table, lasting results. Encouraged, however, by the results 
accomplished in the Akkadian field (cf. p. 58) by the etymo- 
logical method, the interpretation of meanings based on the 
identity or similarity of the spoken forms of words, Hrozny 
then felt that he was justified in applying the same method 
to the Hittite language as well, i.e., in deducing the mean- 

l |pgs of unknown Hittite words from words of identical pro- 
nunciation in other Indo-European tongues. The ease with 
^yhich this method may creep into combinatory research is 
^ell illustrated by the following example: 
', I The sentence nu NiNDA-an e-iz-za-at-te-ni wa-a-tar-ma 
$Jcu-ut-te-ni means "Now you eat bread; water, however, 
Wou drink." 

I , In this sentence, the ideogram ninda, for "bread," was 
^positively identified, and it was logical to assume that the 
||^erb governing "bread" as its direct object meant "to eat," 
Iplthough this judgment might have been influenced subtly 
|pso by the Indo-European etymology with the New High 
erman essen, the Latin edere, etc. Bearing in mind the well 
lown parallelismus membrorum of the ancient Oriental 
§jiguages, Hrozny correctly deduced that the second half of 
ie phrase, linked to the first one by -ma, meant "water, 
Hiowever, you drink"; yet the sound of the noun wa-a-tar, 
pentical with the pronunciation of the Germanic watar, 
Ifwater," another etymologically correct conclusion, is a fac- 
bbr in this instance, too. Now then, the method of judging 
such identical spoken forms, without any objective sub- 
antiation, implies the great danger that the interpreter will 
s misled by false identities of sound once in a while. This is 
itfiat happened repeatedly to Hrozny, too. Thus, he trans- 
ited the verbal root da as "give," because of the spoken 
iund which was identical with the sound of the stem of the 
.jK*tin verb dare, whereas later combinatory research deter- 
mined that its meaning was the very opposite— "take." The 
3>rd appa means "back," but thinking of the Greek apd, he 
islated it as "away"; he translated piran ("in front") as 
ppround" because it sounded like the Greek peri, the noun 
wkuwar ("prayer"), on the analogy of the Latin arcere, as 
!|efense," interpreted nawi ("not yet") as "new," and so 
and so forth. 



Thus, Hrozny's combinatory researches— fundamental as 
such, and also correct in many an instance— do contain many 
an element of uncertainty because of the infiltration of the 
etymological method, and the young discipline of Hittitology 
might have gotten on the wrong track if F. Sommer had not 
pointed, in his monograph entitled Hethitisches* tempera- 
mentally at the impending dangers and had not steered the 
research back onto strongly combinatory paths. The au- 
thority of Sommer, supported by several younger researchers, 
must be given the credit for the fact that the new discipline 
developed into a strict and secure philology within a few 

There is not much that can be said as yet with respect to 
the linguistic neighbors of the Hittite tongue in Asia Minor. 
The non-Indo-European Pwto-Hattian— the language of the 
original inhabitants of Hatti (Khatti), the characteristic 
feature of which is a flexion operating chiefly with prefixes, 
instead of suffixes— was perpetuated by the Hittites as the 
ritual language of the most important state deities, like the 
Sumerian language in Babylonia, and therefore the student 
priests had to learn it in school as a dead language. For this 
reason, the Hittites provided many Proto-Hattian texts with 
Hittite translations, and these bilingual texts offer to modern 
research the opportunity to make a headway, step by step at 
least, into this strange language, while monolingual Proto- 
Hattian texts are still as good as unintelligible to us for the 
time being. In Fig. 36 I quote a few sentences from the best 
known Proto-Hattian-Hittite bilingual text, an adjuration 
spoken at the laying of a new cross-bar in the palace. The 
reader might use these sentences to test his own translating 
ability, but I present here at least a brief summary of the most 
important word equivalents: 

* Leipzig, 1920; BogazkSy Studies, No. 4. 

1 y. 


(II 40) wa-al-ha-ab-ma ei-rvu-ur al-ha-ah-hi-Mr lu-il-wu 

/41) ^^^Ha-at-tu-uS ti~it-ta-ah-zi~l a " at Su-6-wa (42) Ta-ba-ar-na ka-a- 

at-ti ta-ni-wa-al = hittite (43) DINGIR MES KUR MES ma-ni-ia-ah-hi- 

i.jtr da-a-ir-ma-at URU ga-at-tu-si (44) sal-li GI2 Str.A da-a-ir-ma-at nu-za 

ja -ba-ar-na-as LUGAL-ufs e-e§-zi] 

, 'The gods allotted the countries; but for JJattusa they took the great 
throne, but they took it, and Labarna is king/' 

[fkoto-hattian] — 

(III 19) a-an-tu-uh li-e-^u-u-uh Ij-e$-te-ra-ah "b'a-la l[i-e-se- 
'JfhSe~ip] (20) ba-la an-ne-es ka-a-lia-an-wa-$u-id l -du-u-un'=- 1 &iTT\T*E.. 
:|p) da-a-as-ma-as-za TUG™. a kusgAR.TAGS*-* KUg E.SIRHi-A-i a 
W'C* 2 ) na_a s-sa-an da-a-is GI§ DAG-ti 

]} (23) [a-an-tu-uh?] Irt-et-u-da-ta-nu pa-la li-e-iz~Z*~bi-ir 

<fi&4) pa-la [an-ne]-el ka-a-ha-an-wa-su-td-du-un~mTTiTE.(25) [da|-a-a5?- 
|ma-zla GAP.KIN.AG? IM?.ZU}-iz na-at-sa-an da-a-is Gi§DAG-ti 

"But he took the garments, the drapes (?) and the [the shoe]s and 
aced them onto the throne. — But he took cheese (?) and rennet (?) and 
aced it onto the throne." 

proto-hattianj — 

' (40) a-ia-ah ta-a$-te-nu-ti-wa bi-e-wi-il (41) i$-ga-a-ru ta-al- 

W^$~e*ta-nu-ii-wa — hittite. (42) nu-wa-kan i-da-hi-uS an-da? li-e u-iz-zi 
%3) i-da-lu-us-wa-kan UKU-as" Sri an-da li-e u-iz-zi 

^ "And an evil one shall not come in, an evil man shall not come into the 


g (51) ma-al-hi-ib-hu} te-e-ta-ah-Su-u-ul a-la-ah-bi (52) ta-al- 

%jt~u-ta lu-u-la d $u-li-in-kat-ti ka-at-ti (53) ta-ni-wa-al ti-un-hu-bi = 

riTE. (54) na-as-ta a-as-su an-da tar-ni-eS-ki-id-du (55) i-da-lu-ma- 

an-da li-e tar-na-a-i (58) d §u-li-in-kat-ti-is-sa-an LUGAL*u§ 

$r<fo e-e§-zi 

||frhen he shall let in the good one, but the evil one he shall not let in; 
; Sulinkatti is inside." 

IjFic 36. From a bilingual Proto-Hattian-Hittite text. (Keil- 
m xiituikunden aus Boghazkoi, Vol. II, No. 2, column II, lines 40- 
|$ column HI, lines 19-25, 40-44, 51-56. 



washab-ma = Hittite dingir* 1 ** = "gods" 

eswur = Hittite kur me5 = "countries" 

askahhir = Hittite maniiahhir = "they allotted" 

suwa probably = Hittite dair-ma-at = "but they took," but it 

may have another meaning 
titahzilat = Hittite salli GI *gtf.A = "the great throne" 
Icatti (katte) = Hittite lugal-us = "king" 
taniwas = Hittite eszi = "there is" 
antuh = Hittite das-ma-as-za = "he took them (-as) however 

(-ma) to himself (-za)" 
Ie-zuh = Hittite rtiG? UA = "garments" 
Ie-Jterah = Hittite ku5 gar.tAg" ,,a = "drapes (?)" 
bala (pala) = Hittite -ia and nu = "and" 
Ie-sepsep = Hittite kuI e # sir? i - a = "shoes" 
annes = Hittite dais = "he placed" 
ka-hanwaftiiddun = Hittite oi5 dag-// = "onto the chair" 
Ie-udatanu = Hittite = "cheese" 
a-s v ah = Hittite idalus = "evil" 
tas-te-nuwa (tas-te-ta-nuwa) = Hittite ande Ie uizzi = "he shall 

not come in" 
he-uil = Hittite E-ri = "into the house" 
isgaru = Hittite idalus uicu-aS = "an evil man, villain" 
malhib = Hittite assu = "good" 

te-tah-sul = Hittite anda tameskiddu = "he shall always let in" 
a-sah-bi = Hittite idalu-ma = "but the evil" 
tas-tuta sula = Hittite anda Ie tarnai = "he shall not let in" 
unhubi = Hittite anda = "inside"? 

Like Hittite, Luwian and Palaian also are Indo-European 
languages, yet in these instances, too, caution must be exer- 
cised in applying the etymological method. In a few in- 
stances, Hittite parallel texts could be found for certain 
Luwian texts, and thus it was possible to undertake a certain 
combinatory work on the Luwian language. Fig. 37 presents 
a sentence from the best known such bilingual texts, where 
the concordance, by the way, is not quite literal. Luwian texts 


Luwian: (22) *'Sa-an-ta-oS LVGAL-uS *An-na-ru-um-mi-en-?s 
(23) aS-ha-nu-wa-ati-ta ku-in-sj wa-al-la-an-ta-ri (24) *Lu-u-la-hi-in- 
%d-a$-tar hu-u-up-pa-ra-%a ku-in-qg hi-i§-hi-ia-an-ti = hittite. (I 36) 
e-liu d MARDUK kat-ti-ti-ma-at-ta d In-na-ra-u-wa-an-ta-a§ (37) 
li-wa-du e-e§-ha-nu-wa-an-ta ku-e-e§ u-e-e§-§a-an-ta (38) LtT 1 ^ 8 Lu- 
u-la-hi-ia-a§-§a-an hu-up-ru-u§ ku-i-e-e§ i§-hi-ia-an-ti-i§ 

(Translation from the Hittite part) "Come, Marduk (= Luwian "King 
Santa"), but let with you come the 'robust (?) (gods),' don the blood- 
stained (clothes), (also) the Lulafci (gods) who (are) swathed in . . ." 

Fig. 37. From the Luwian-Hittite Quasibilinguis (Keilschriftur- 
Jcunden aus Boghazkoi, Vol. IX, No. 31, col. II, lines 22-24 = col. I, 
lines 36-38). 

without Hittite parallels still remain very difficult to handle. 
"As for Palaian, no real possibility of interpreting this lan- 
guage has even been found as yet. 

|l ( k ) The Interpretation of Human 

X' 1 • 

|j .The only Human records heretofore known are mono- 
lingual texts, written in Babylonian cuneiform characters. 
f jQuite recently, however, a text consisting of a few lines 
^jvritten bilingually in Akkadian and Hurrian was found by 
Ifhe French in Ugarit (Ras Shamrah), and it is expected to 
gjbe made public in the near future. But it is too short to be 
|f likely to help us much, and also the isolated Hurrian words 
l^ppearing here and there in the Akkadian word-list are of not 
fipnuch practical use. Thus, on the whole we still remain de- 
Ipendent on the combinatory method which involves many 
|,]&iore difficulties with respect to the interpretation of Hur- 
|Sian than in the case of Hittite, because the Hurrians used 
|fppiainly a phonetic script and rarely employed ideograms. 
||||While in the Hittite texts the ideograms reveal the meanings 
Imi tibe words, even though they give no clue as to their pro- 
ffptmeiation, the Hurrian records show the spoken form of al- 



most every word, but by doing so, they preclude the possi- 
bility of fathoming its meaning. 

This is why the religious texts written in the Hurrian lan- 
guage, a great many of which are contained in the Hittite 
archives of Bogazkoy, and some specimens of which, in 
vowelless Ugaritic script, appear also in the temple library of 
Ugarit, are still as good as unintelligible, except for the mean- 
ings of a few words which Carl Georg von Brandenstein has 
deduced by the combinatory method. 

A more favorable aspect is presented by the "Mitanni 
Letter" of King TuSratta (cf. p. 46), discovered in the ar- 
chives of El Amarna, Egypt, in 1888. TuSratta sent a number 
of lengthy letters to Egypt, written in Akkadian and contain- 
ing a great many repetitions, and he sent also a very long 
communication, containing more than 400 lines, in his native 
Hurrian tongue. Now then, in any text written in cuneiform 
characters, the proper names, names of deities, geographic 
names, etc. are always clearly identified as such by their de- 
terminatives, even though the language of the record may 
be absolutely unknown to the reader. Since the names oc- 
curring in the Mitanni Letter are the same ones as appear in 
the Akkadian letters of TuSratta, it may well be assumed that 
also the Hurrian letter deals with the same topics as the Ak- 
kadian epistles. Thus, soon tolerably intelligible word com- 
binations can be identified, above all in connection with the 
names, e.g., Wi-im-mu-u-ri-i-aS kur Mi-zMr-ri-e-we-ni-eS iw- 
ri-iS, meaning "Nimmuria (name of the Pharaoh), king 
(iwriS) of Egypt (kur Mizirri) ," or ^r-ta-ta-a-maS am-ma-ti- 
iw-wu-u$, meaning "my grandfather, Artatama" (known as 
such from the Akkadian letters of TuSratta) . Let the follow- 
ing examples be cited here for entire short sentences recur- 
ring in Akkadian as well as in Hurrian: The Hurrian 
dingir m£| e-e-en-na-£u-u£ na-ak-ki-te-en = the Akkadian 
ilani ME s Ii-me-e$-£e-ru-$u = "may the gods will it"; the Hur- 


If'iian i-nu-u-me-e-nM-in d Si-mi-gi tar-Su-an-m'S . . . ta-a-ti-a = 
lithe Akkadian ki-i-me-e a-mi-Iu-u-tum d £amaS i-ra-'a-am-Su = 
l|/<*as mankind loves the sun" [Hurrian inu = Akkadian 
I ij (-me) = "as"; Hurrian tarsuanni- = Akkadian amllutum = 
|f^mankind"; Hurrian tat- = Akkadian ra' amu = "love"]. 
I' !The utilization of such opportunities enabled Jensen and 
lllMesserschmidt in the late 19th century, and recently also 
lather investigators, to make considerable progress with the 
||id of the combinatory method in the understanding of the 
>cabulary and of the quite involved grammatical forms of 
||he outlandish Hurrian language, and to translate at least 
Individual passages of the Mitanni Letter more or less re- 
ibly. Yet, although that text has been explored and analyzed 
>r decades, the clearly or at least fairly intelligible parts still 
llternate with long passages which can be translated with 
reat difficulty only or not at all. 

(1) The Interpretation of Urartaean 

1 The Urartaeans were younger kinfolk of the Hurrians. 

|£hey lived in what later became Armenia and left behind 

item about 180 inscriptions of various lengths (building 

Indications, votive inscriptions, war reports and individual 

jnal passages), dating from the gth-yth centuries B.C., 

itten in the Neo-Assyrian cuneiform script, but mostly in 

ie Urartaean language (which certain research linguists 

dfer to call Chaldaean). The relationship of Hurrian and 

ptartaean is, however, not close enough to permit us to ex- 

ct any result from the etymological method^the Uraitaean 

lage must be interpreted by the combinatory method, 

mt '"outside references. The first assistance is given to us 

|h{& again by the names (of persons, of deities, of geographic 

pita) written in combination with certain determinatives, 

by the short and clear phrasing of most of the inserip- 





tions, as well as by the not too sparing use of ideograms. In 
studying inscriptions of very stereotyped contents, one often 
finds an ideogram in one and phonetic symbols in the cor- 
responding spot in another. Thus many a linguistic fact has 
been deduced from the monolingual inscriptions by the com- 
binatory method alone. There are also two stelae known 
which are inscribed bilingually, in Urartaean and Assyrian, 
viz.: the KeliSin Stela, in the KeliSin Pass on the Iraqi- 
Iranian border, and the nearby Stela of Topzauae. But only 
the first-mentioned one has been reported on satisfactorily; 
it has yielded a number of lexical equivalences as well as a 
few grammatical facts. But no complete, scientifically in- 
contestable representation of the Stela of Topzauae, much 
more difficult to read, has been made available as yet. 

( m ) The Interpretation oi Early Elamite 

A few words are all that can be said about the inscriptions 
left by the early Elamite kings in Babylonian cuneiform 
script, dating probably from the 1 3th and 12th centuries B.C. 
They must be interpreted chiefly without any outside ref- 
erence, for there is only one among them to which there 
exists a very brief Akkadian parallel text The Early Elamite 
cuneiform writing contains determinatives, but few ideo- 
grams. An important lexical help, however, is provided by 
the Neo-Elamite translations of the inscriptions of the Achae- 
menides which reveal the meanings of a number of Elamite 
words, although still not of sufficiently many to clarify com- 
pletely the far richer vocabulary and frequently differing 
grammatical structure of the more ancient language. Elamite 
was long a stepchild of the research into cuneiform literature, 
and only in recent years did Hinz make good beginnings with 
the combinatory interpretation of Early Elamite inscriptions, 

( n ) The Decipherment oi Ugaritic 

JSarly Elamite closes the sizable list of the languages writ- 
jn in Babylonian cuneiform characters, and all there still 
mains to be discussed in this connection is the alphabetic 
iting used by the inhabitants of Ugarit, on the northern 
[yrian coast, in the 15th and 14th centuries B.C. This script 
is written on clay tablets and resembles the cuneiform 
iting in appearance at least. It was discovered by French 
;cavators in Ras Shamrah as recently as 1929 and aroused 
reat interest as a new factor come to light in the otherwise 
iroughly explored territory of Syria. 
The differences between this newly discovered script and 
e already known Babylonian cuneiform writing was im- 
mediately recognized, because this script consisted of a mere 
characters, all very simple in shape, and there were no 
ieterminatives. These features suggested promptly that this 
s no syllabic writing like the Babylonian cuneiform script, 
t an alphabetic system like the Early Persian writing. The 
listinct separation of most individual words by vertical 
pkes seemed to be a help to decipherment, whereas the 
|bsence of bilingual texts had to be regarded as an impedi- 
JL On the whole, however, the prospects for the decipher- 
jftent of an alphabetic script are always favorable, because the 
all number of individual characters restricts the possible 
tterpretations to a much narrower range than the one to 
considered in the case of a syllabic writing which em- 
!oys a hundred or more different symbols. 
The separation of the words was a great help in the study 
the morphology, and since the latter seemed to indicate 
Sat the language was a Semitic one, Hans Bauer, the Semi- 
of Halle, felt justified, in April 1930, in tentatively as- 
ng Semitic consonantal values to the characters con- 
ting the undeciphered words. This attempt at reading 

8 4 




the words as if they belonged to a Semitic language was just 
one of various possibilities, for the newly discovered 
script in itself might have suggested quite different languages 
as well. But Bauer was lucky: The language was actually 
Semitic, and he had interpreted 17 characters correctly. In 
the meantime, also the Frenchmen Dhorme and Virolleaud 
attacked the problem, and by the following year the value of 
each and every character of the Ugaritic alphabet was deter- 
mined correctly, without any bilingual text whatsoever and 
without any outside reference at all, solely on the ground of 
the assumption that the language in question was of a Semitic 
structure. Let it be mentioned that also the inscriptions ap- 
pearing on several bronze axes played a part in Bauer's de- 
cipherment. These inscriptions appeared in a shorter form, 
consisting of only six symbols which Bauer assumed to be 
simply the name of the owner, and in a longer version which 
contained four other symbols before those six. Bauer sus- 
pected that these four symbols represented the word for 
"axe," which in Hebrew is garzen, written by the four con- 
sonants grzn, whereas the corresponding word in the cog- 
nate Ugaritic language is, as it was established later, hrsn 
(cf. Fig. 38). The Ugaritic consonantal alphabet is shown 
in Fig. 30. 

The accuracy of the consonantal values deduced by Bauer, 
Dhorme and Virolleaud was soon corroborated by various 
facts. The first and most immediate one of these confirming 
facts was that the soon published long texts, even though 
still obscure in many particulars, turned out to contain gen- 
erally well intelligible mythological tales in the Ugaritic lan- 
guage, still an unknown tongue and yet related to the Semitic 
languages. Moreover, the assignment of those values to the 
various characters yielded also a number of Hurrian names 
of deities which had not been sought in the texts and yet, 
once identified, formed a closed circle. And finally, later dis- 

coveries of Akkadian and Ugaritic lists of names of cities, 
etc. furnished a further confirmation of the correctness of 
I the consonantal values deduced. These lists are not bilingual, 
they do not contain identical lists in two languages. They are 
monolingual lists, some in Babylonian cuneiform script, 
Lothers in Ugaritic cuneiform characters, enumerating the 
inhabited places of the land of Ugarit in a strongly varying 

Fig. 38. Ugaritic axes with in- 
scriptions. (From Friedrich, Ras 
Schamra, Fig. 4.) 

[order. Thus, even if the name of a town appears in a certain 
I place on a tablet bearing inscriptions in Akkadian, it can- 
Inot be expected to occur in the corresponding place on an 
lUgaritic tablet. They would hardly have offered a point of 
|departure to the first decipherers, but they help us today 
I better to understand the phonetic structure of Ugaritic by 
lequating the Babylonian **h-pt with the Ugaritic Hzp, the 



Babylonian *&*-,**-*/ with the Ugaritic Bq% the Babylonian 
*>*"»t with the Ugaritic Jkn'm, etc. (sig 5 is an ideogram 
for "good/' and also the Ugaritic n'm means "good"). 

I would not want to withhold a proof of the correct read- 
ing and translation of the figures from my readers. A similar 
list enumerates towns and villages and their deliveries of 
wine, indicating the numbers of the jugs delivered, and the 
numbers are written phonetically in Ugaritic. The sum total 
of these numbers is 148, and the list actually ends with the 
expression, written in Akkadian and using numerals, "1 me- 
at 48 dug gestin" = "148 jugs of wine." Thus, we may feel 
absolute confidence in the rapidly accomplished decipher- 
ment of the Ugaritic script, too. 

3. The Hittite Hieroglyphic Writing 

The late 19th century regarded the Hittite hieroglyphic 
writing as the third great problem in the field of ancient Ori- 
ental scripts, ranking as such with the Egyptian hieroglyphics 
and the cuneiform writing. A different view is being taken 
nowadays. The plethora of texts written in cuneiform script 
has revealed to us so much about the races and language of 
eastern Asia Minor and northern Syria that the not very 
numerous Hittite hieroglyphic inscriptions with their not 
too significant contents appear somewhat pallid next to 
them; as a matter of fact, they are just a late, weak offshoot of 
Hittite civilization. But, nevertheless, these inscriptions per- 
mit us to form an ever clearer idea of still another Indo- 
European language beside cuneiform Hittite, Luwian and 
Palaian, and moreover, the problem of the decipherment of 
hieroglyphic Hittite still remains an interesting one. For in 
1930, after six decades of futile efforts, finally a practicable 
method was found to achieve a combinatory decipherment 
without a bilingual text, and the later discovery of a large bi- 
lingual text confirmed and expanded the results obtained 


!|Keviously. Thus, in the case of the Hittite hieroglyphs there 
I exists actually the possibility of checking up on the ability of 
I the decipherer. 

(a) General Facts 

Monuments bearing inscriptions in Hittite hieroglyphics 
have been known since the middle of the 19th century a.d., 
Specially those found in eastern Asia Minor, on and about 
! the! soil of the ancient Hittite empire, as well as in- the ad- 
|kcent part of northern Syria, above all in the important city 
|of Karkhemish at the bend of the Euphrates, The writing 
%sed in these inscriptions is primarily a monumental writ-- 
^^ but it appears also on seals. Monuments bearing inscrip- 
tions in hieroglyphics and seals with cuneiform and hiero- 
glyphic characters are known to us from as early as the era 
Rf the Hittite empire (between 1400 and 1200 b.c.) . On the 
K&her hand, the major part of the North Syrian inscriptions 
Kle of more recent origin; they date from the ioth-8th cen- 
llttries b.c. With the gradual absorption of Syria in the As- 


m 1 




Fa|ra>yjJ 'ffijl 

fffR*T»S*55»' *jMp^yi^Bf€^V 




■BBjj'-WL *'^TilMM^B»nSiil 1 








W ^ fcr-a'^-B 


li\'%iS^8jBa^y^ ; l^l^P^ 

I Fig. 39. Hieroglyphic Hittite inscriptions from Karkhemish. 
Ifrom Friedrich, Entzifferungsgeschichte der hethitischen Hiero- 
* phenschrift, Fig. 2.) 



Fig. 40. Seals with cuneiform-hieroglyphic Hittite inscriptions. 
(From Friedrich, EntziSeiungsgeschichte der hethitischen Hiew- 
glyphenschrift, Fig. 5.) 

(a) Tarkummuwa of Mira. (b) Indilumma. (c) EputabSu of Kizwatna. 
(d) Tabarna of tJatti. (e) Arnuwanda of ftatti. (f) So-called Ziti seal, (g) 
Urbi-TeSup of tjatti. (h) Suppiluliuma of tjatti. (i) tfattusili of tjatti. (/) 
tjattu&li and his wife, Pudubepa. (k) Queen Pudubepa of tjatti. 

Syrian empire, the hieroglyphic writing disappeared about 
700 B.C. A hieroglyphic Hittite inscription, from Karkhe- 
mish, appears in Fig. 39, whereas Fig. 40 shows several cunei- 
form-hieroglyphic seals. 

; A special comment is necessary with respect to the foils 
Of lead found in Assur, probably brought there from some- 
where else, which are inscribed with a very cursive hiero- 
pjbic writing. Contemporary research considers them 
iters; the fact that they were found, rolled up, in the 
|p(dations of a house is probably attributable to a mistake 
the builder who erroneously regarded them as having 
pc powers. Also the cursive form of writing suggests 
pinary, every-day contents. It seems therefore that this 
Siting was used on monuments in an elaborate, pictorial 
(occasionally, however, also with cursive forms) and 
lily life in a strongly cursive variety, analogously to the 
jtion in Egypt where both the hieroglyphic writing of 
^monuments and the cursive hieratic and demotic scripts 
^ordinary daily life remained in use side by side. 
pThe designation "Hittite:* hieroglyphics was introduced 
' the British research philologist Sayce, shortly after 1870. 
3t and Babylonia-Assyria were practically the only two 
itions of the ancient Orient known to the philologists of 
3Se days as two culturally and scripturally clearly distinct 
itities, and the newly discovered script on monuments of a 
bwise distinct art appeared as the legacy of a third civilized 
of the Orient of remote antiquity. Both Egyptian and 
|toeiform records had made reference to a land and people 
led Hatti (or Khatti) in northern Syria, and the Hittites 
£ mentioned occasionally in the Old Testament, too. This 
the reason why Sayce regarded these monuments as 
rks of the Hittites, and he considered them at first a Se- 
tic race. The situation was clarified only by the discovery 
Lihe Hittite archive of Bogazkoy which revealed the Hit- 




Jtite language to be an Indo-European tongue, even though 
written in cuneiform characters. There arose then, however, 
the question as to the closer relationship of cuneiform Hittite 
and hieroglyphic Hittite, which still has not been answered 
completely. The two languages are indubitably closely re- 
lated but by no means identical. In fact, hieroglyphic Hittite 
shows features closely related to Luwian. But when answer- 
ing this question, we must bear in mind that all the lengthier 
hieroglyphic inscriptions date from the last eras of hiero- 
glyphic writing, and that our only relics of the Hittite em- 
pire and cuneiform Hittite still consist merely of a few 
brief and linguistically barren inscriptions. 

(b) The Basic Principles oi the Hieroglyphic Script 
and the Possibility of a Decipherment 

As we know today, the Hittite hieroglyphic writing also 
consists of the same three elements as the Egyptian writing 
and the Babylonian cuneiform script, viz.: word-signs (ideo- 
grams), phonetic symbols, and determinatives, some of the 
latter prefixed and some suffixed to the word which they 
qualify. The important fact is that the phonetic symbols, 
unlike the Egyptian symbols, but analogous to the cunei- 
form characters, represent clearly distinct syllables, indicat- 
ing the vowels. The individual words are often (but unfor- 
tunately, not systematically) separated from each other by 
the separation mark IC. The characteristic features of the 
word-signs consist in their carefully drawn pictorial shapes, 
their relatively rarer occurrence, and their position at the be- 
ginning of the words. Simpler and often cursive symbols 
occur very frequently, chiefly in the second half of a word 
after such pictograms; they may be regarded as the phonetic 
(syllabic) elements. Since in a pictographic script the word- 
signs are mostly directly understandable as pictures, they may 
well be expected to furnish clues as to the meanings of the 


^?prds and the grammatical (nominal or verbal) functions of 
J |he endings. Let it be pointed out, though, that in the Hittite 

hieroglyphics the pictorial character of the symbols often 
(became indistinct as a result of the conventionalization of 

their shapes. Who would expect, for instance, the symbols 

shown in Fig. 41 to stand for "house," "sun" and "god," 

_. Fig. 41. Hittite hieroglyphic symbols for 
0© "House/' "Sun" and "God." 

I^pectively? As in the cuneiform script, also in the Hittite 
pferoglyphic writing, the determinative of names of deities 
j| identical with the pictorially unclear ideogram of "god." 
fen persons are referred to by name on the family relief of 

^rkhemish, and each name is introduced by a small, oblique 
j|roke, the determinative for persons which resembles the 
lertical wedge appearing before the names of male persons 

1 the Babylonian cuneiform writing and seems to have been 

teated in imitation of the latter. 

lyThe direction oi the writing is made evident by two clues: 
prst, the picture of a person pointing at himself, appearing 

|lthe beginning of the inscriptions and meaning "I (am)" 
Fig. 42), and secondly, the unfilled portion of the last 

Fig. 42. The Egyptian and hieroglyphic Hittite picto- 
grams for the pronoun "I." 

JK,.of many an inscription (cf. Fig 39). It is evident also 

pat, as in the Egyptian writing, the heads of all human ani- 

m\ figures are turned as if they were looking toward the 

Iginning of the line, the hands are stretched in that direc- 

bn, and also most of the feet appear to be walking that way. 

Moreover, the writing alternates in direction from line to 

g, in other words its direction is bqustrqphedon (a Greek 

pression which means literally "as the ox turns" and is gen- 


erally used as a technical term to designate this regularly 
alternating direction of writing, as an allusion to the direc- 
tion in which teams of oxen walk when ploughing a field) . 

Particular difficulties were presented by the definition of 
syllabic phonetic values. The first students of the script had 
practically no bilingual texts available to enable them to 
identify names as such; the two cuneiformly-and-hieroglyphi- 
cally inscribed seals of Tarkummuwa and Indilumma (Figs. 
40-a and 43 ) contained so many obscurities even in the cunei- 
form portions that they did more to mislead than to clarify 
matters. The researchers thus were forced to look for other 

Now then, it could be safely assumed on the analogy of 
other inscriptions of the ancient Orient that the royal au- 
thors began also these records by stating their names and 
titles and designating themselves as the king of such and 
such land or city. Sayce had already identified the ideo- 

A ¥* A ")/ AA Taiku-muwa king Me-fra-4 land 

& W ffl 1 1 1 k V S "Tarkummuwa, king of the land of Mera" 

Fig. 43. Text of the Tarkummuwa seal. 

grams for "king" and "land" on the basis of the bilingual 
Tarkummuwa seal (Fig. 43), and these' helped now to ana- 
lyze also the initial portions of other inscriptions into "I 

< d) (] <? a 

(*% or 11 

(a) Kar-lca-me 01 " 

(c) Ku-f-r(a)-J:u-ma CITY 

(b) Tu-wa-nu-wa CITT 
(d) A-ma-tu LAHD 

Fig. 44. Hieroglyphic Hittite writing of the geo- 
aphic names Karkhemish, Tuwanuwa, Gurguma 


and Hamat 


lam/ X (a name written phonetically) , king of the land <U> 
§r of the city [1] /of/ Y." And in fact, in the many inscrip- 
tions found in Karkhemish, for instance, all those places 
inhere names of lands or cities were expected to appear 
bowed always the sequence of symbols shown in Fig. 44, 
pllowed by the determinative A ("city") or M ("land"). 
Tris group of symbols could therefore be suspected of being 
ie name of Karkhemish. The corresponding places in the 
ascriptions from Tyana (Tu-wa-nu-wa in cuneiform Hit- 
pte), Mar'aS (Gur-gu-ma in cuneiform Hittite) and Hamat 
fcrere always occupied by the respective groups of symbols 
iown in Fig. 44. 1 have deliberately selected mutually con- 
latory examples: Tuwanuwa contains the syllable wa 
vice, Gurguma contains gu twice (in the first instance with 
i r) , the syllable tu appears in Tu-wa-nu-wa and in A-ma-tu, 
in A-ma-tu and Gur-gu-ma. This method permits the 
v Jentification of geographic names and, from those, of syllab- 
le signs with a convincing assurance, without any bilingual 
text such as Champollion had, and without the knowledge of 
ay list of monarchs, such as Grotefend had available. 
.Names of the monarchs of the "hieroglyphic Hittites" 
j. .not .as well known to the decipherers as had been the 
ies of Persian rulers to Grotefend, but the Assyrian kings 
fiad recorded the names of a few North Syrian kings in their 
ports in cuneiform script on their military campaigns 
ainst North Syria. If the exact era of such a king was known 
ind a hieroglyphic inscription from his city could be de- 
ermined archaeologically to originate from the same era, 
iiere existed under certain circumstances a certain degree of 
robability of deducing also the correct reading of the names 
"hieroglyphic Hittite" monarchs. This was how a Mu-wa- 
>Ii of Gurguma, an Ux-hi-li-nu of Hamat and a Wa-r-pa- 
a-wa of Tuwanuwa were re-discovered in the inscriptions 



fa) Mu-wa-ta-li^) U+r(a)-bi-ti-tta,(c) Wa+r(a)-pa-la-wa 

Fig. 45. Hieroglyphic Hittite writing of the names of the 
monarchs Muwatali, Urfrilinu and Warpalawa. 

(c) The Progress of the Decipherment 

With my discussion of the possibilities of a decipherment, 
I began, unawares as it were, to report on the course of the 
decipherment itself and have already mentioned some of the 
results of the research. Of course, these results were not ob- 
tained as easily as they seem to be to some one who is in the 
position to survey the whole matter after the conclusion of 
the progress and development. The progress of the research 
was much more complicated and controversial, and the 
earlier investigators in particular did not proceed along the 
lines of sufficiently clear and sharp logical considerations. On 
the other hand, though, they had to work with far fewer in- 
scriptions than the later analysts and our own contempo- 
raries. Thus the interpretation of those very inscriptions was 
a very painstaking process which involved many a blind alley; 
we may say, in fact, that for sixty long years, from 1870 to 
1930, everything in this domain was vague and uncertain. A 
report on all those uncertainties seems to be uncalled for 
today, when we finally stand on a firm foundation. Those 
who wish to know the state of affairs just before the outbreak 
of World War II are referred to the author's Entzifferungsge- 
schichte dei hethitischen Hieroglyphenschrifi.* In the pres- 
ent book, I shall list merely some of the most important 
positive results. 

We owe a debt of gratitude to Sayce, the first ; investigator, 

* "History of the Decipherment of the Hittite Hieroglyphic Writing/' 
(Stuttgart, 1939; special issue No. 3 of Welt aJs Geschichte.) 




;^L±be recognition of the meanings of the ideograms for 

^ng," "city/' "land" and "god/' as well as of the symbol 
as the ending of the nominative case (s) and of >v 
||he ending of the accusative (n) . Observing that all desig- 
nations of deities began with the ideogram for "god," he 
included correctly also that this ideogram was used as a 
f&erminative before names of deities as well. These correct 
||ierpretations ? however, are buried under a vast number of 
Jpciful and wrong decipherments and translations, Menant 
W jthe first man to recognize correctly (about 1890) that 
ie picture of the person pointing at himself which appears 
3he beginning of the inscriptions has the same meaning as 
& Egyptian hieroglyphic depicting a person pointing at 
nself, i.e., I (cf. Fig. 42), and that the first symbols of the 
^jcriptions are to be translated, analogously with many other 
indent Oriental inscriptions, as "I /am/ X." 
ItThe most comprehensive, but at the same time also 
Kf lost difficult and most controversial attempt at a decipher- 
lent and interpretation in the early era of this research was 
indertaken by Jensen in 1894. He identified the name of the 
ity of Karkhemish correctly, but his subsequent determina- 
nt of the phonetic values of many symbols—some of which 
regarded, quite unsystematically, as representing individ- 
7 J consonants and vowels, others as open and closed sylla- 
|es, still others as symbols for more involved groups of 
Kinds or ideograms— was so arbitrary that his findings were 
tsputed even then, not even to mention his opinion that 
te hieroglyphic inscriptions contained the Indo-European 
snenian language in the same form in which it was handed 
(wn to us in the literature dating from the Christian era. 
us, the work oj Jensen actually aroused distrust in the 
Ipherments, and today, when the decipherment finally 
on a firm foundation, we may disregard without com- 

9 6 


The Kings and Queens of the New Empire 

Hieroglyph of Tava- 
nanna. with reference 

Fig. 46. Hieroglyphics representing the names of great Hit- 
tite kings and queens. (From Guterbock, Siegel aus Bogazkoy 
I, p. 61.) 

ment his first attempt in 1 894, as well as his later opinion that 
the inscriptions consisted of mere conglomerations of ideo- 
graphically written royal titles, not only without any histori- 
cal data but even without indicating the name of any person 
or geographic entity. Jensen's attempt at decipherment was, 


Itinfortunately, a useless waste of a great deal of energy. But 
|also Thompson, Cowley and Carl Frank, who attempted a 
Idecipherment just before and shortly after World War I, 
Sailed to achieve any convincing result. 
f' JMeriggi, Gelb, Forrer and Bossert were the ones who 
[brought the whole undertaking onto more solid soil, about 
^1930. The Italian Meriggi succeeded in identifying an ideo- 
ram meaning "son," and thus a genealogy which proved 
foseful in the reading of the names of the monarchs. One of 
Mhe words identified by Gelb was the verb meaning "to 
|make," the correctly transliterated form of which, aia-, be- 
came a factor of importance in the correct classification of 
fgjhe language of the hieroglyphic texts as cognate with 
KLuwian. Forrer's recognition of a formula of imprecation 
fwas fundamental for the analysis of the sentence structure. 
Ifossert discovered the proper reading of the royal name 
P^arpalawa and of the name Kupapa, the name of an often 
mentioned goddess. All the investigators named here operate 
Iwith geographic names and names of persons, as those dis- 
Icussed above. It is difficult to appraise the independent con- 
||xibution of v Hrozny, already known to the reader as the suc- 
cessful first investigator of cuneiform Hittite, who also 
?egan to work on hieroglyphic IJittite in 1932. 
In the years 1933-1937, also the number of cuneiform 
■Hittite seals horn Bogazkoy increased gratifyingly, and the 
Investigators learned from them the hieroglyphic Hittite 
IWritten forms of the names of most great Hittite kings (Fig. 
p6), although most of them in ideographic form, for 
|JMu-ta-Ii = Mu(wa)ttaIIi was the only one written syllab- 
ftcally. But at least the names of the queens Puduljepa and 
franuhepa were written likewise with syllabic signs and 
wielded the phonetic values of a few more syllabic symbols, 
limd they were helpful also in establishing the reading of the 



name of the chief goddess of the Hittite mountain shrine of 
Yazilikaya, tiia-ba-tu = the cuneiform <*£&.£*/ (Fig. 47) . 


Fig. 47. Hieroglyphic Hittite version of the 
name or the goddess Hebat. 

Thus, to sum it all up, at the time when World War II 

broke out, the reading of a great many syllabic signs seemed 

to be certain or very probable, and we had a fair idea about 

the inflexion of hieroglyphic Hittite, too, on the basis of the 

lengthier inscriptions of later dates. The lexical research, 

though, was still encumbered with many uncertainties, above 

all also because of the not all too great number and slight 

variations in text of the hieroglyphic Hittite inscriptions. 

Thus even the translations already supplied by Meriggi and 

Hroznf for most of the inscriptions had to be regarded with 

reservations, and in Hroznfs translations in particular some 

more question marks had to be added to the many already 

appearing in them. The Indo-European character of the 

language was only very vaguely recognizable. 

The fall of 1947 then brought a big, electrifying surprise: 
Bossert found several long inscriptions on the hill called 
Karatepe in eastern Cilicia, which were partly in hieroglyphic 
Hittite and partly in Phoenician and dated from the late part 
of the 8th century b.c. They soon turned out to be bilingual 
records. As of this date, the almost intact Phoenician inscrip- 
tions, totalling about sixty lines, have been published com- 
pletely, but the just fragmentarily preserved hieroglyphic 
Hittite texts only partly, and even so not in their original 
form but as they were schematically copied by Bossert, so 
that there remain a few uncertainties concerning the se- 
quence of the symbols. It is therefore not yet possible to 
reach any conclusive judgment, but the extraordinary signifi- 


"s 5 ? — 






/i° /iy* y>* s$r 









y°l y w * 51 w * 3 







109 , 


»?y/$ c 

)y «a° w* c $ wr 


11& 117 116 115 , 11+ 

%y°? / y y^/w *y/i* y>»r 




eo? u 2o£ , 




m 203 202 201 

w>x* yw?>*/wY 

1 w« 7>*>a* 


216 215 m 213, 


211 ■ 

2K) ^ iv7 

f>s c ft c w yvr ?w<iy c °3? 



Fig. 48. Sentences XIX-XXII and XXXVIII-XL of the bilingual 
|?ct of Karatepe. (Bossert, Archiv Oiientilni XVIII, 3, pp. 24-25* 
ftd Bossert, Jahibuch fiir kleinasiatische Foischung I, p. 272.) 

|nce of the bilingual texts is obvious even so. WgjeeJio our 
jteat satisfaction that the determination by the combinatory 
|ethod of the readings and grammatical forms, as worked 
it by .the above-named investigators in the 1930's, was 
Hrect in every essential point, and also a great many of the 



Hieroglyphic Hittite: 
strS'/xx ^^W-ff'-P 3 -^ "A^ li-mi-ti-S build? tu-mf-Ja (rest de- 

taS^^'^T '" ^° R 7f S ^ NE? t6 - mi - ba XXXIX - wa " tu - ta S-^-l-da-wa- 
M-a-nfujciTY a-ti-ma-i- n ( a ) tu-fca XL. W-pa-wa-mu SEizE-n(u) "a WEATH . 
EK-GOD-tu-I-l. <>DEER-HEAD-M,fc:a "i-ta i-da FORT-Sa stone t6-mii(u) 


y!rwm ^ W . I ¥ fa I-bt "P* XX"- w "' nk ' ztwd *»" tht p'm-i 
4?£2 %^ n f ^ 2 «™ -* *"* *» '-Mr XL. 5 b'i 

Translation of the Phoenician Text: 

*h" X1X ' An V built Stro ?S forts at the Antlers on the spots XX. where 
tL hZ" ,TLT/r g M e "' XXL none of whom had P beL subS to 
^^ly^* 1 ^ ° f Asitawadda )' ™. h* * Asitawadda, laid 

a ^ XX X-" , /^ nd J b . uiIt this <%> XXXIX. *nd I gave (to it) the name 

ScSo^^tr (m gyPhlC Hittit6 ' <Ue Deer - g ° d ' 7 ' SCnt 

Fig 48 Sentences XIX-XXII and XXXVIII-XL of the bi- 
lingual text of Karatepe. (Bossert, Aichiv Orientdlni XVIII, , pp 
24-25, and Bossert, Jahibuch iiii kleinasiatische Forschung I,p.' 

meanings of words ascertained on the ground of the bilingual ' 
texts agree with those accepted prior to the knowledge of 
such texts. A part of the bilingual text of Karatepe is shown 
m Fig. 48. Thus, in the case of hieroglyphic Hittite, too, we 
have the unusual experience that the bilingual text is avail- 
able not at the start of the research, but more or less at its 
close, as a welcome corroborating evidence. This is why it is 
incorrect to liken this bilingual find to the Rosetta Stone 
as one occasionally hears it done. ' 


In the preceding paragraph, I said advisedly that this 
1 bilingual text was found "more or less at the close" of the 
I research, because the investigation of this not quite so simple 
script is still very far from its real conclusion. Namely, the 
1 inscriptions of Karatepe demonstrate absolutely clearly that 
the syllabic signs of the Hittite hieroglyphic writing show 
very many variants which still must be determined individ- 
ually before the reading of the inscriptions can be called ab- 
solutely certain. And naturally only a minor portion of the 
many ideograms of this script appear in the Karatepe records 
I corroborated as to meaning by the Phoenician translation. 
I Also the vocabulary made certain by Karatepe is not all too 
large. Jt is important from the point of view of comparative 
linguistics that the Indo-European character of the language 
I- of the hieroglyphic texts and its close relationship to Luwian 
I is more clearly recognizable now. Thus Karatepe is not only 
""a welcome final confirmation of prewar research, but in 
many respects also a new beginning which warrants the hope 
1 that we may soon be nearer to a complete clarification of this 
problem, of equal interest to grammatologists and to lin- 


i : 





■^r JjmjgseardLQfJli^^ 

three great and, in a certain sen^ 
ment on the Egyptian^w 

jon the Hjto from them the 

most valuable conclusions concerning the linguistic and cul- 
tural history of the ancient Orient. The decipherment of no 
other writing and the translation of no other language can 
quite match the value and significance of these three accom- 
plishments. Yet, also those other decipherments and trans- 
lations have many a feature or element worthy of universal 
attention and interest, and for this reason I shall outline here, 
more briefly, the most important ones. 

In order to present a more comprehensive view, I shall 
classify the following reports in three groups, the first; of 
which will comprise those instances where, analogously with 
the heretofore discussed three outstanding decipherments, 
the task involved both the decipherment oi an unknown 
writing and the interpretation oi an unknown language, the 
second will include the cases where only an unJbiown writing 
had to be deciphered, but the language written by it was a 
known one, and finally the third group will comprise the in- 
terpretations of unknown languages written in some known 
script (as in the case of cuneiform Hittite). But let it be 
stated right here and now that simple and clear-cut as the 
basis of the classification of a language into the first one of 






8 6 




Y >f 








































y ^ S ** 


*¥¥ rr 




v \y yr 


















































Fig. 49. The Lycian and Lydian al- 
phabets. (From Friedrich, Kleinasi- 
atische Sprachdenkmaler, p. 157.) 

aese three groups may seem to be, it is by no means so 
pbvious and unambiguous. Namely, this particular group in- 
Judes alsQj^jan and Lydian, two languages written in dis-^ 
ctly alphabetic scripts which are closely related to the 



Greek alphabet (cf. Fig. 49), so that in these two. instances 
we may speak of "decipherment" of scripts with qualifica- 
tions only. Thus, the unlocking of the secrets of the inscrip- 
tions found in these two languages might be regarded also as 
purely linguistic 'interpretations, which would belong in 
our third group by definition. And the other two decipher- 
ments mentioned in our first group involve, objectively re- 
garded, almost exclusively just a decipherment of the script 
where the translation of the language itself plays no part at 
all or a part of a mere secondary importance, so that these 
two cases might be assigned to our second group as well. 

1. The Decipherment of Other Unknown 
Scripts and Languages 

(a) The Translation oi the Lycian Language 

The language of Lycia, situated on the south western coast 
of Asia Minor, has been preserved in 150 inscriptions M well 
as in brief legends on coins, although the latter consist often 
of abbreviations and in general are of no help in the trans- 
lation of the language.^few mscnption 
since the _earjjrj>art of the 19th century, but most of them 
were published only as a result of Austrian expeditions in 
jilBS^and^iSSgaJSye are indebted to the Austrians also for 
the perfect publication by E. Kalinka of the Lycian inscrip- 
tions under the title Tituli Lyciae lingua Lycia conscripti 
(Tituli Asiae Minoris, Vol. I, Vienna, 1901). JliCLMk of 
the inscriptions are epitaphs, dating from the 5th and 4th 
centuries B.C., which differ from each other but little as to 
contents. Outstanding among the few inscriptions of other 
types is the lengthy text on the Xanthos Stela with its his- 
torical contents, although the language used in it is of such 
an ancient and so strongly dialectal form that our under- 
standing of it is still very imperfect. Another fact to be con- 


m sidered is that^temin^ives, which are such excellent clues 
1 to the meanings of texts in cuneiform characters, are jion- 
|g existent in alphabetic scripts. The epitaphs are an easier prob- 
| Jem because many of them are written bilingually in Lycian 
|V and Greek. The Greek text is, however, often a more or less 
R free rendition of the meaning of the Lycian version. 

I reproduce here two of these bilingual inscriptions, show- 
|/ ; ing the Lycian texts in the customary Latin transliteration. 
lOnly inscription No. 117 of Kalinka's publication contains 
PJiterally identical Greek and Lycian texts (Fig. 50) : 

I (1) ebeija : erawayja : me ti : (z)prnnawat2 : siderija :parm[&]- 
i (3) l ah l : tideimi [hjrppi : etli ehbi se (4) ladi : ehbi : se tideimi : 
\pMt- (5) leje : To (xvYJjxa t68> in- (6) oiy)(jocto SiSapioc Ilap- 
|''|i£vo- (7) vto$ \rM sauTcot xal tyji yuv[a]- (8) ixi xal olffii 



i Fig. 50. Lycian-Greek inscription No. 117. 

%%, (From Kalinka, Tituli Lyciae lingua Lycia con- 


I The meaning of this inscription, according to the Greek 
gfcxt, is: "This monument was made by Sidarios, the son oi 
rnimenon, ior himself and his wife and his son Pybiales" 
le word-for-word translation of the Lycian text is: "This 
|bonuinent, now he who built (it), (is) Siderija, son oi 



Parmena, for the own self and the own wiie and the son 

This yields the following translations of words: ebe = this; 
eiawazija = monument (?); prnnawate = he built; tideimi 
= son; hrppi = for; etli for atli, dative singular of atla- = 
self; ehbi- = own; se = and; Iada = wife. The "me ti" intro- 
ducing a sentence after a prefixed object contains the particle 
me, the meaning of which is more or less "now/' and a 
pronoun, ti, which ought to be regarded as a relative one, 
meaning "who," rather than a demonstrative one, denoting 
"this," respectively "him, it." This me ti (me ti) and the 
alternative expression me ne (me ne) are not translated in 
the Greek text. 
Let us consider now inscription No. 25a (Fig. 51 ) : 
Translation of the Greek text: "Porpax, (son) of Thrypsis, 
nephew oi Pyribates, the Than i.e., a man from the city of 
Tlos, (erected the statues) himself and his wife Tiseusem- 
bra, from Pimia, daughter of Ortakias, niece of Prianobas, 
for Apollo." Translation of the Lycian text: "These statues 
(?), now /he who/ dedicated (them) (is) Kssbeze, son of 
Crupsse and nephew of Purihimete, the Than, the own self 
and the own wife Ticeucepre, the woman from Pille = 
Pinara in Greek, daughter of Urtaqija and niece of Prijen- 

This text adds only two word translations to those already 
known from the preceding inscription, viz.: tuhes = nephew 
or niece; chatra = daughter. The word atru (accusative singu- 
lar) is a phonetic variant of atlu = the self. These two inscrip- 
tions will suffice to show that the word translations that can 
be gained from the bilingual texts are by no means too numer- 
ous. But the differences in the spelling of the names, chiefly 
in the second inscription, demonstrate furthermore that the 
Greeks were obviously not able accurately to represent the 
alien Lycian sounds and combinations of sounds with their 



T©4^j:T A lP3MfchTPo:^+l 

r©<PPAS ©PTf l«^ PYPi 
THfrYI^AlK ATl^It 

an@bX aaea^iaw 


(1) ebeis : tucedris : m[. . .] (2) tuwete : kssbeze : crup[sseh] 
(3) tideimi : se purihime[teh] (4) tuhes : tldnna : atru : ehb[i] 
(5) se ladu : ehbi : ticeucepre (6) pillehni : urtaqijahn : cbatru (7) se 
prijenubehn : tuhesn (8) II6pTOx£ QptStf'Hx; IIupi- (9) (3<xtoo<; &8eX- 
<pi8ou£ (io)TXtoei<; eau-rov xa[l] (11) tvjy yuvatxa Tureo- (12) 
<r£[x|3pav sx Ilivacpciv (13) 'Opxaja'a •9-oYaTsp<a> ITpi- (14) 
avopa aSeXcpiS/jV (15) 'A7t6XXcovt. 

Fig. 51. Lycian-Greek inscription No. 25a. (Kalinka, Tituli 
Lyciae lingua Lycia conscripti.) 

own graphic resources (in one case, of course, the name in 
question is entirely different in the two languages— Kssbeze 
in Lycian, but Porpax in Greek) . And the reader may well 



imagine that the research into the Lycian language en- 
counters not only lexical and grammatical problems, but also 
a whole series of problems of a phonological character. 

This branch of philological research is now over a hundred 
years old, but it has not accomplished too much in all that 
time. This poor record is attributable, insofar as the earlier 
period is concerned, not only to the use of an etymological 
method based without sufficient criticism on Indo-European 
linguistic principles, but also to a lack of sufficient linguistic 
material. It was only after the Austrians had discovered new 
inscriptions that the Frenchmen Six and Imbert and the 
Britisher Arkwright embarked on a perfect, systematic re- 
search in the 1880's. All three of them attempted to 
clarify the difficulties of the Lycian script and phonology. 
Six studied the Lycian coins in particular, which bore also 
Greek and Iranian names. Arkwright made a special study 
of the rendition of Greek names in the Lycian inscriptions 
and the representation of Lycian names in the Greek texts; 
the observed inaccuracies yielded all sorts of conclusions con- 
cerning spelling and pronunciation. 

The study of Lycian obtained a second impetus from the 
work of the Scandinavian savants Bugge, Torp, Vilhelm 
Thomsen and Holger Pedersen, about the turn of the cen- 
tury. Laudatory mention is due above all to Thomsen's 
Etudes Iyciennes (Copenhagen, 1899), a strongly combi- 
natory analysis of the particles me ne (me ne) and me ti 
(me ti) which were used in Lycian to introduce sentences. 
The second standstill of the flourishing study of Lycian, soon 
after 1900, was caused by the lack of new, illustrative linguis- 
tic material, for not many new facts can be learned from the 
monotonous epitaphs. 

Also the new departures made since 1928, after the prog- 
ress in Hittitology, by Meriggi and by the old and yet still 


vigorously active Holger Pedersen, have not resulted in any 
permanent enlivenment. But they have at least definitely 
clarified the question of the linguistic affinities of Lycian. 
The opinions of linguists differed strongly even in the 20th 
century whether Lycian was to be considered a radically 
changed Indo-European language or some completely alien, 
^possibly Caucasian tongue. In the course of the past two 
decades, the scales have tipped very strongly in favor of the 
Indo-European character of Lycian, and Pedersen set forth 
L convincing arguments in his LyMsch und Hittitisch* for a 
closer affinity of Lycian and the Indo-European languages of 
ancient Asia Minor, and specifically to Hittite, the best 
known of those languages. 

(b) The Translation of the Lydian Language 

Whereas more than a hundred years of study of Lycian 
have not netted more than a mere few painstakingly gained 
I results, the study of Lydian has grown almost effortlessly put 
jof nothing since World War I. A look into P. Kretschmer's 
Einleitung in die Geschichte dei giiechischen Sprache* * will 
show what vague and insufficient notions people still had 
about this language in the last years of the 19th century. How- 
ever, the scant number and monotonous nature of the 
linguistic records preclude very far-reaching results in this 
case, too. 

The language of Lydia, situated on the western coast of 

Asia Minor, has been preserved in over 50 inscriptions, found 

chiefly in the course of American excavations at Sardes, the 

.Lydian capital, in 1910-1913. Unfortunately, also in this 

* "Lycian and Hittite."— Det Kgl Danske Videnskabemes Sdskab, hist- 
£hl. Meddelelser XXX 4, 1945. 

** "Introduction to the History of the Greek Language/'— Gottingen, 
1896. — Cf.pp. 384-391. 





case, most of the inscriptions are epitaphs dating from the 
4th century B.C., and considerably similar in content, and 
only a few votive inscriptions and other texts deviate from 
the general pattern. The inscriptions were published in Vol. 
VI, Part II, of the encyclopedic work Sardis (Leiden, 1924) . 
A quick insight into the principles of this formerly com- 
pletely unknown script and language was made possible by 
three bilingual texts. Two of these, two quite short inscrip- 
tions in Lydian and Greek (Fig. 52), though, would prob- 
ably have been of very little help, but the third bilingual text, 
written in Lydian and Aramaic (Fig. 53), presented eight 
well legible lines in each version and thus promised a good 

T11IHA TI1A1MA8 1A11A1 

11** A *t1AT *1i 


Fig. 52. The two Lydian-and-Greek bilingual texts. (From 
Sardis, Vol. VI: Lydian Inscriptions, Part II, Nos. 20 and 40.) 

result. Aramaic, a Semitic language, was the language used 
by the various races of the Persian empire in their mutual 
dealings, and as such it was known in Lydia as well. 

Let the two bilingual texts be quoted here word for word, 
for the sake of clarity (quoting the Lydian and Aramaic 
words transliterated in Latin characters). The first Lydian- 
and-Greek inscription (Sardis No. 20) reads: 

nannai bakivalis artimuXN&vw.c, Aiovu<rtxX£o<; 'ApxIfxiSi. 

Translation: "Nannas, {son) of Dionysikles (dedicates 
this statue) to Artemis." 

The name Nannas is identical in both languages; the Greek 
dative Artemidi is translated in Lydian by the oblique case 

rtimuA. (nominative: ArtimuS). The name of the father, 
ionysikles in the Greek sentence, a derivate from the name 
the god Dionysos, is rendered in Lydian as Bakiva-, cer- 
tainly derived from the Lydian name of the same god, viz., 
Bakchos. Whereas the Greek uses the genitive case of the 
name, the Lydian text shows as adjective, Bakiva-Ii, meaning 
literally "the one of Bakiva." 

Fig. 53. The bilingual text written in Lydian and Aramaic. 
(From Sardis, Vol. VI: Lydian Inscriptions, Part II, Plate I.) 

Whereas the two short texts correspond to each other 
vord for word, the Lydian version of the second inscription 
|( Sardis No. 40) is more explicit than the Greek wording: 

I (1) esv taiev asvil(i)bartaras t atit($) IlapTapac; (4) , A<fhr)VodY)t. 



Translation of the Greek text: "Partaras (dedicates this 
pillar) to Athene." 

In the Lydian portion, the Greek nominative Pariaras is 
equalled by the Lydian form, of the same pronunciation, 
BartaraS, and the Greek dative case Athenaei by the Lydian 
oblique case Asvil (-I = -A in Aitimuty. It has been con- 
cluded by the combinatory method that esv ta§ev (contain- 
ing the demonstrative pronoun es-, "this," known from the 
third bilingual text) must mean "this pillar (?)"; f atit, the 
phonetic value of the first character of which is uncertain, is 
presumably a verbal form, meaning, "erect(ed)" or "dedi- 
cate (d)" or something similar. Accordingly, the Lydian 
version means presumably, u This pillar (?) dedicates (or 
dedicated) Bartaras to Athene." 

Far more information can be derived from the longer text 
written bilingually in Lydian and Aramaic, which reads, 
transliterated in Latin characters, as follows: 

[lydian]— [(i *) borlX X artaksassaX paXmXuX dciv\ (i) foJraX 
islX bakillX est mrud eUk [vanas] (2) laprisak pelak kudkit ist esX 
van[aX] (3) bXtarvod akad manelid kumlilid silukalid akit n[3pis] 
(4) esX mruX buk esX vanaX buk esvav (5) lapirisav bukit hid ist esX 
vanaX bXtarvo[d] (6) aktin napis pelXk fensXifid fakmX artimus 
(7) ibsimsis artimuk kulumsis aaraX biraXk (8) kXidaX kofuXk piraX 
pelXkbilX vHapent. 

/translation/— /(1*) In the year 10 of Artaxerxes the 
king ... in the/ (1) month (?)-on the fifth (??)-Bakillis. 
This stele and this /cavern/ and the wall (??) and the plot 
of land (?) and where (?) at this cavern (3) (there is) the 
antechamber, now this (is) belonging to Mane, the Kumli- 
son, the Siluka. Now who /soever/ (4) this stele or this 
cavern or this (5) wall (??) or where (?) at this cavern (is) 
the antechamber, (6) now who ever damages (?) whatso- 



ever, now to him Artemis (7) the Ephesian and Artemis the 
Koloean courtyard and house, (8) earth and water, (real) 
property and whatsoever (is) his, shall scatter (?). 

[aramaic]- (1) b V l-tnrkm tet X 'rtMfsf mite (2) bsprd bjr? 
%nb stwr? w-m'r? rdhr (3) , /r/ > n>~prbr 37 V sprb %nh prbrh y ir 
(4) KJ mn J hr twlj srwkj (?)> w-mn %j </ stivri* i&b- 'w (5) m*r? "a> 
l-rdh? l-qbl & prbr l-m<rP (6) %nh y hr mn ^Jjbbl >wjprk mnd'm *hr 

(7) y rtmw %jhdw w- y pHj trbsh bjth (%)qnjnh tjn w-mjn w-mnd'mtb 
jbdrpnb w-jptb. 

/translation/— (1) On the fifth of (the month of) 
MarkheSwan, year 10 of Artaxerxes the king, (2) in Sardes, 
the fortress. This stele and the cavern, the wall (??), (3) the 
plot of land (?) and the antechamber which at this sepulchral 
chamber (?) (is) the antechamber thereof, now (4) (this 
is) of Mane, the son of Kumli, the Siluka (?). And whoso- 
ever on this stele or (5) the cavern or on the wall (??), 
insofar as the antechamber at (6) this cavern (is), now 
whosoever destroys or mutilates whatsoever, now (7) Ar- 
temis of Kobe and of Ephesus shall his courtyard, his house, 

(8) his real property, earth and water, and whatsoever (is) 
his, to him scatter and to him break up." 

The beginning of the Lydian version of this text is 
damaged, but it can be restored with certainty on the pattern 
of similar epitaphs. The Aramaic version contains a few 
words which are difficult problems even for Semitists, but 
it is clear on the whole nevertheless. Thus we obtain a reliable 
I translation of the Lydian inscription, too, which in turn 
proves valuable in the translation of monolingual Lydian 
epitaphs, worded mostly along the same pattern. And, al- 
though this cannot be elucidated here in further particulars, 
we obtain a glimpse into a small section of the grammar and 
lexicon of the Lydian language, a glimpse which does give 



some notion of the language as a whole. Many scholars have 
tried to clarify the text written bilingually in Lydian and 
Aramaic, but particular laudatory mention is due to the 
thorough treatment given to it by Kahle, the Semitist, and 
Sommer, the Indo-European and Hittite specialist. 

A certain difficulty was presented by the determination of 
the phonetic values of those Lydian characters which were 
not identical with the letters of the Greek alphabet. Even 
the names occurring in the bilingual inscription have not 
helped fully to establish the values of the still disputed 
characters, and there are a few rarely occurring symbols the 
phonetic values of which are still not known with any cer- 
tainty. More disturbing still was the uncertainty about the 
frequently appearing symbols + andr ; the + was at first read 
as h, but now is read as p, whereas y was at first regarded to 
mean u, but is now read as A. The currently accepted reading 
of these characters is influenced by the Lydian word meaning 
"king/' which appears in the inscriptions as ^y^A* (read 
from right to left) and has been recorded by Greek authors 
as palmys. We may therefore transliterate the Lydian word 
as paAmAu-, where A, the Greek lambda, designates a variant 
of I. Thus^classical Greek literature is co-instrumental in this 
case in the deciphering of the Lydian alphabet. 

The question of the affinities of the Lydian language has 
not been fully clarified as yet. Formerly, Herbig advocated 
the theory of a closer relationship with Etruscan, because 
according to Herodotus (1, 94) , the Etruscans were supposed 
to have immigrated to Italy from Lydia. Nowadays, more 
credence is given to the opinion of Meriggi, that Lydian, like 
Lycian, is an Indo-European language, although strongly 
changed by alien linguistic influences. This view is based 
on similarities of the morphological systems, notably of the 
inflection of verbs, on similarities of certain pronouns, e.g., 
amu = J or to me (dative), pis = who, pid = what (cf. 


I Oscan pis and pid, Latin quis and quid) , napis = whosoever, 
-ad = it (cf. Hittite -at = it), kud = where, as well as on 
certain individual words, such as bira- = house, the Hittite 
equivalent of which is pir—not to mention uncertain ety- 
mologies. In this case, too, the paucity of linguistic material 
prevents the formation of a comprehensive view. 

( c ) On the Translation oi the Language oi Side 

We are told by the Greek historian Arrian (cf. Anabasis 
I, 26:4) thatjhe city of Side, in Pamphylia, on the southern 
jcoast of Asia Minor, had a language of its own in the days of 
classical Greece. Specimens of this language, in an unde- 
|i cipherable script, were known even in the 19th century a.d.; 
they were inscriptions on coins dating from the 4th and 5th 
centuries b.c, but they were so brief that they defied the 
most concentrated efforts of Waddington (1861), Fried- 
Jgnder (1877 and 1883) and Six (1897) who were unat> l e 
to decipher them. 

A short inscription in Greek and Sidetic was found by the 
Italian excavators Paribeni and Romanelli in Side in 1914 
(Fig. 54). But also that text was too short to enable the 
investigators to decipher it, especially since also the Greek 
portion of it was not legible clearly and unambiguously. Only 



Fig. 54. The Artemon inscription, written 
in Greek and Sidetic. (From Bossert, Belleten 
14, Fig. 2.) 



in 1949, in the course of new excavations in Side, did Bosch 
find another, somewhat longer and well legible inscription, 
written bilingually in Sidetic and Greek, which enabled 
Bossert to make a certain headway in the decipherment of 
the Sidetic script. (See Fig. 55.) 

for? tASNK isymtM* ia$vU mhk$* § 

VA|frSTAAJl^loYXlSEe«1rEN ~ "' 
ONA^THN^EAYiVoeeUrr ' 



Fig. 55. The Apollonios inscription, written bilingually in Sidetic 
and Greek. (From Bossert, Belleten 14, Fig. 4.) 

I quote here first the Greek text of the second bilingual 

(1) [*A]7CoXX^vto<; ^TtoXXoSripoo (2) [t]ou 'ArcoXXcavtoo 
&v£&Y]xev (3) [st]x6voc r/jvS* Iocutoo £eoi$ nfai. 

The translation of this Greek sentence is: "Apollonios, 
(son) of Apollodoios, (the son) of Apollonios, erected this 
image of himseli ioi all gods." 

In this instance, both the dedicator and his grandfather 
are called Apollonios, and also the name of the father, 
Apollodoros, is derived from the name of the god Apollo. 
These consistencies must recur in the Sidetic portion. And 
the first and third words of that text do actually appear to 




have the same identical stem, even though their flexional 
(declensional) endings differ, and at least the initial portion 
of the second word is similar. On the ground of this observa- 
tion, Bossert transliterated the Sidetic text tentatively as 
follows: p-u-I-u-n-i?-o?? p-u-r-d-u-r-s?? p-u-I-u-n-i?-o??-a-s?? 

m-a-£?-a-r-a?-e?-o??-[ ]. 

The results thus obtained encouraged him to re-examine 
the older bilingual text once again, and he decided that it 
had to be read as follows: 

'A*ijva[ ] 'Ap'.^osv >AJh)\licm>u (?) x«purc4pia ? . i? . a ». a .„. d ? a . r . t . m . H . n $. a . n . 

%j p-i?-o??-s?? to-a-?-s??-o??-a-?-a-s?t 

The translation of the Greek part is: u Athena Arte- 

jh, mon, (son) of Athenippos, (dedicates) thank-offering" 

The determination of the phonetic values of a number of 

U characters represents the entire progress that we have been 

I;, able to accomplish in the domain of the Sidetic inscriptions 

to this date. New results, above all with respect to the lin- 

I guistic forms and linguistic affinities, may be expected only 

after the discovery of new inscriptions. 

( d ) The Decipherment of the Numidian Script 

I Another script and language, the translation of which is 

deserving of being mentioned here, are the products of quite 

another part of the Old World; they are the script and lan- 

Ijjuage of ancient Numidia, which once occupied what is 

today Algeria and Tunisia^ in .North Africa. 

The Numidians, members of the Berber race, were at first 

economically, culturally, and also politically dependent on 

JCarthage; during the second Punic war (218-201 b.c.) , with 

|| Roman backing, they became an independent, unified nation 

under Masinissa, and in the 2nd century b.c. they built a 

mighty empire in North Africa which expanded at the ex- 



pense of the constantly more and more subdued Carthagin- 
ian state, until it became a tributary of Rome. 

The political and cultural independence of the Numidians 
manifested itself also in th^creation of an alphabetic, or 
rather purely consonantal, script which has been preserved to 
our days in more than a thousand inscriptions, most of them 
brief and often casually written epitaphs. Thugga, the mod- 
ern Dougga in Tunisia, is the only place where also a few 
official building inscriptions in the Numidian language have 
been preserved. A variant of this script is still being used 
today by the desert tribes of the Tuareg, although with such 
individually and independently developed forms that the 
modern script cannot be used for the decipherment of the 
ancient writing. 

Fortunately, though, there are quite a few bilingual in- 
scriptions available and helpful in the decipherment of the 
Numidian alphabet (Fig. 56). The Numidians wrote their 
inscriptions not only in their own language but frequently 
in Punic or Latin as well, and by this date nine epitaphs 
written bilingually in Punic and Numidian and about fifteen 
in Latin and Numidian are known. Their value must, how- 
ever, not be overestimated because it is a peculiarity of both 
the monolingual and multilingual Numidian inscriptions 
that they are limited to the naming of names and are not 
concerned about stating other facts. Building inscriptions 
list conscientiously the names of all craftsmen who had any- 
thing at all to do with the construction. These many names 
appearing in the bilingual Numidian inscriptions are a wel- 
come aid to help us determine the phonetic values of the 
characters of the Numidian alphabet with absolute clarity 
at least. 

As an example of bilingual texts written in Numidian and 
Punic, I reproduce here the big inscription discovered on a 









U } 



















s 2 




— -£- 


g (y) 





































Fig. 56. The Numidian alphabet. (From Jensen, 
Die Schrift, Fig. 102.) 

I temple of Masinissa in 1904 (Fig. 57). I indicate here also 
the transliteration of both texts, in Latin characters, as well 
as a translation, as follows: 

[PUNIC]— (1) / mqdi z bn * b ' l> Th ^i l-Msnsn h-mmlkt bn G'jj 
h-mmlkt bn Zllsn h-fft b-Jft <sr $-[mlk] (2) Mkwsn b-It Sft h-mmlkt bn 
'fin h-mmlkt rbt m*t Snk bn Bnj w-Sft bn Ngm bn Tnkw (3) msskwj 
Mgn bn Jrstn bn Sdjln w-g^bj Mgn bn Sft rb m't bn *bd'fmn h-m[ml]kt 
(4) gldgjml Zmr'bn Msnfbn <bd>Imn h-*d[r] hm$m h->s Mql> bn ^jn 
h-mmlkt bn Mgn h-mm![kt] (5) Mm H h+mlkt % 'Xjn bn >nkkn bn 
Ptlw-'rJfbn Sftbn Snk 



[numidian] — (6) sk[n] . Tbgg . bnjfi? . Msnsn . gldt . w-Gjj . gldt . 
w-Zllsn . Jfft (7) sb'sndh . gldt . sjsh . gld . Mkwsn (8) Sft . gldt . 
w-F$n . gldt . mwsnh . Snk . w-Bnj . w-Snk . d-Sft . w-M[gn?] 
(9) w-Tnkw . msskw. Mgn . w-Jrftn . w-Sdjln . gzb . Mgn . w-Sft . 
mw[snh] (10) w-Smn . gldt . gldgmjl . Zmr • w-Msnf . w-Smn . 
gldmsk . M[ql>?] (11) w-Sjn . gldt « w~Mgn . gldt . tnjn . Sjn . 
w-Nkkn . w-Pti . d-R[I] (12) <w->Sft . w-Snk (funic) w-b-b#m 
Ht? bn JtnbH bn HnbH w-Nftsn bn Sft 

/translation of the punic version/— (1) This temple 
/accusative case/ there built the citizens of Thugga for 
King Masinissa, son of King Gaja, son of the Suffete Zllsn, 
in the tenth year of the reign (2) of Micipsa, in the year of 
King Sft, son of King 'fSn. Commanders of the one hundred 
/were/ Snk, son of Bnj, and Sft, son of Ngm /Magon?/, son 
of Tnkw. (3) Msskwj /an official title/ /was/ Magon, son 
of JrStn, son of Sdjln. And gzbj /another title/ /was/ 
Magon, son of Sft, of the commander of the one hundred, 
of the son of King 'AbdeSmun. (4) Gldgjml /another title/ 
/was/ Zmr, son of Msnf, son of 'AbdeSmun. Leader (?) of 
the fifty men /was/ Mql', son of King '§jn, son of King 
Magon. (5) In charge of this work /were/ 'Sjn, son of 'nkkn, 

son of PtS, and Ari§, son of Sft, son of Snk (12) And 

the architects /were/ Hanno, son of Jatanbaal, son of Han- 
nibal, and Nftsn, son of Sft 

Fig. 58 shows two epitaphs as examples of the scantier 
Latin- and Numidian inscriptions. These two specimens 
show at the same time also the customary directionjrfjhe 
Numidian script which ran from the bottom to tfiejtop (the 
only exceptions being the inscriptions of Thugga in which 
this convention yielded to the Punic custom of writing from 
right to left). As it can be seen, the Latin versions of both 
inscriptions indicate also the ages of the deceased, 75 years 
in the first and 70 years in the second one, whereas these 


so h- 00 cs O »■« 

s^ V *** 

< ^ $ 

** <^ £ 

^ < < 

iv *3- •»-* 

5l «C <N 

< «> ^ 

<: *> y 

*- ^ ^ 

«r^ 2\ *s 

<T t!> X 

^* r o 

I Jh 

O >f^ — 

^ i: E 

C ** IBI 

8 K 

c ^ 

111 t= 

o c 

c I s1 

151 II 

* L 

fc in 


•f"^ •'** «r^ ^* <\ II ^ M 


?• c 

£. 11 
< L 

5i r 
^ < M 






^ 2J Sv kr 

^ ^ *> < 

5i ^ 5T L 

V- ^ iT ^ 

5 -^ 1^ <V 








2 c 

± IHI 

41^ L 



M •< 


t it 

Q ^ 

rj!? r Z 




11 ^2 







^^ ^ ... ^> 

2^ rs 



!?: .s 

O 3 



co OJ 

.5 cr 

<U co 

O S 

fe CO 




numbers seem to be missing from the Numidian portions. 
The words msw and mnJcd are Numidian titles. 





3 5 O I X 

tt II 2 O X 



a)** CILVIII17317. 

h h h h 

d h b n t 

k w j r s 

n s [b] s w a 


□ = c 

U vs II * 
w + X I 

- II u u u 

b) = CIL VIII 5220 and 17395. 


1 h 

t r b h d 

t m j w k 

m m n 


1 2 

t s n 
w m m m 

Fig. 58. Two bilingual (Latin and Numidian) inscriptions. 
(From Chabot, Recueil des insciiptions Libyques, Nos. 85 and 

It is comparatively easy to decipher the Numidian script 
on the strength of the bilingual inscriptions. Although these 
inscriptions, because of the very nature of the texts, give but 
quite incomplete information concerning the Numidian 
language, they justify certain conclusions in that respect as 
well. Thus, the Masinissa inscription permits us to recognize 
gld (as well as its derivative, gldt) as the Numidian word for 
"king." In every inscription, wherever the father of somebody 
is named, there occurs the short word -w, for "son"; a heavily 


damaged inscription, written bilingually in Numidian and 
Punic, not illustrated in this book, makes evident the mean- 
ing of two designations of occupations, viz.: nbb-n n §qr' 
means "wood-cutters," and nbt-n n zY means "iron-founders" 
(both plural). Rossler recognized the verbal form eskan 
("they built") in the first word of the Masinissa inscription, 
written as sk[n]. Even this meager linguistic material makes 
it evident that, insofar as the vowelless consonantal skeleton 
of the language justifies a conclusion, the Numidian language 
Hof antiquity is identical with the Berber spoken, as a second- 
ary language to Arabic, in North Africa today, or in other 
words, that the Berber language has practically not changed 
^gt all in the course of two thousand years. This is a valuable 
conclusion, reached despite the scantiness of the linguistic 
material available. 

2. The Decipherment of Other Unknown Scripts 
The actual translation of a language played a part of minor 
importance even in the decipherment of the Sidetic and 
Numidian records, but the two cases which we shall discuss 
next go even further and can truly be regarded as cases of 
pure decipherment, because it could be presupposed in each 
case that the language of the inscriptions was a known one. 

I There is a case which I even omit altogether, although it 
would belong in this chapter, namely the decipherment by 

, Vilhelm Thomsen of the Early Turkish (Turki) runic writ- 
ing (appearing in inscriptions dating from the 8th century 
a.d., found in various parts of Siberia and Mongolia) because 
this script is not of the ancient Near East and thus lies both 

I temporally and spatially beyond the range of the present 
book, and also because its decipherment offers hardly any- 
thing new technically. It resembles the decipherment of the 

5 Ugaritic writing (p. 84 et seq.), in that the decipherer as- 


sumed beforehand that the inscriptions were in a certain 
specific language, and he determined the phonetic values of 
the unknown characters, without any bilingual text to help 
him, but assisted by the knowledge of the structure of the 
language, the way a cryptographer decodes a modern, arti- 
ficial secret writing. 

(a) The Decipherment of the Cypriote Script 

■O 1 ^ 9 reelcs 9 f Cyprus,, whose ancestors had settled on the 
island about the turn of the 2nd millennium b.c. to the first, 
did not use the same script as_allihe other Greeks in later 
historic times,, but employed a peculiar syllabic writing, 
written from right to left, which knows syllables only of the 
consonant + vowel type and is very poorly suited to the 


*{* t) 






T A 








U X 






















« X 
















S Ft 













1 (T) 


A (A)* 






















Fig. 59. The Cypriote syllabary. (From 
Thumb, Handbuch der griechischen Dia- 
lekte, p. VII.) 


Greek language. In other words, the Greeks of Cyprus had 
I left the mother country on the continent before the intro- 
duction of the alphabetic writing and adopted in Cyprus 
the principles of writing of an entirely different race. 

Since Greek looks very strange when written with the 
characters of the Cypriote syllabary (Fig. 59), a few com- 
ments are indicated concerning the writing conventions of 
the Greeks of Cyprus. In writing syllables containing plo- 
sives, the user of this syllabary cannot distinguish lemis, 
fortis and aspirates, i.e., d, t and G, or b, p and ph, or g, k and 
x, but can write only t, p and k, in other words ta for da, ta 

f and Ga, pi for hi, pi and phi, etc. This script does not distin- 
guish, as does the Greek writing in the cases of e and 0, be- 
tween long and short vowels, so that, e.g., o-ne4e-ke is written 
for dvedrjKe (onetheke) = "he erected" (Attic: dri^e). 
Nasals are not indicated when preceding a consonant, e.g.: 
pa-ta for wdvra (panta) = "everything." Consonants occur- 
ring at the end of a syllable are written with an unpronounced 
auxiliary vowel, mostly e: ka-re for ybp (gar) = "for, thus"; 
te^i-se for tfcols (theols) = "to the gods"; to-ko-10-ne for 
rd(v) x*Po v {to/n/ choion) = "the room" (accusative). The 
occurrence of two or more adjacent consonants at the be- 
ginning or in the middle of a syllable is likewise prevented by 
the interpolation of an unpronounced vowel between the 
consonants; when the group of consonants would occur in 
the initial position, the first syllable symbol contains the 

! same vowel as the second one, e. g., Sa-ta-si-ka-ra-te-se for 

. Zracwcp&Tris (Stasikiates, a name), but in a medial position 

f the vowel contents of the two syllable symbols are identical 

only if the group can occur in an initial position, too, e.g., 

; A'po-io-ti-ta-i for 'AcppodLrai (Aphroditai) = "of Aphrodite," 
but otherwise the interpolated vowel will be identical with 
the vowel immediately preceding the consonant group, e.g., 

a-ra-ku-ro for A PT 6 PW (argy>o) = "of the silver." Since Cypri- 
ote Greek shows many a deviation from standard Greek lin- 
guistically, too, it is easily understandable that in many in- 
stances no certain reading can be established at all. Thus a 
word written as a-to-ro-po-se can be read as wtpuw* (£ n - 
tnropos) = "man," but also as &r povos (itropos) = "immu- 
table," as &TPOVO* (atrophos) = "not (well) fed," and finally 
also as &So P iros (adorpos) = "not dined." 

inscriptions, coins and medals from Cyprus bearing this 
script began to be known about 1850. It could not be sus- 
pected at first that they were written in the Greek language 
but m an alien script. The scholars of those days did not yet 
know the several bilingual records, in Cypriote and Phoeni- 
cian as well as in Cypriote and standard Greek, which we 
know today, so that the new domain of research remained a 
playground of fantastic hypotheses until 1870 or so. 

R. H. Lang, a Britisher, published the first Phoenician-and- 
Cypnote bilingual inscription in 1872; that was the inscrip- 
tion which was published by the Semitists in the Corpus 
Inscriprionum Semiticarum I 89, and by the Hellenists in 
Colhtz-Bechtels Sammhng der griechischen Dialekt-In- 
jctaften (Gottingen, 1883-19x5) as No. 59 (Schwyzer, 
Dialectorum Graecarum exempla epigraphica potiora, Leip- 
zig, 192 3 No. 680) , and which is reproduced in this book as 
Fig 60. It is a votive inscription addressed by a Phoenician 
nob eman by the name of Baalrom to Apollo of Amyklai in 
the fourthyear of thereign of thePhoenician king Milkjaton 
of Idalion and Kition, i.e., in 388 b.c. The Phoenician portion 
is strongly damaged, but it can be completed easily accord- 
ing to similarly worded inscriptions originating from the 
time of the same monarch. The names in the inscription thus 
furnished the fundamental clues for the decipherment and 
the use of a point for separation mark between words facili- 


felted the task. Since the word "king" occurred in the in- 
f scription twice, Lang already suspected that a certain group 
IP/of symbols represented the name and title of King Milkjaton. 
I?; , i'Ceorge Smith ingeniously carried the decipherment a long 
\l step forward almost at the same time. He, too, concentrated 
,'j ; at first on the names Milkjaton, Idalion and Kition. The great 
n ^number of characters (about 55) suggested to Smith from 
I itiie very start that the Cypriote script was not alphabetic but 
fe^llabic. This opinion was corroborated in his mind by the 
v feet that the geographic names Idalion and Kition did not 
i'end, as could be expected in view of the Greek form, in the 
| 'same vowel, -i; thus, the -i in the ending of both geographic 
i! names had to be contained already in the syllabic symbol 
(the Cypriote forms are, reading from right to left, T£ = Ke- 
|rti-, and ^ = E-da-Ii-). On the other hand, he encoun- 
tered the 1 of Milkjaton (more precisely, that is, the syllabic 
' sign £ /li/ of Mi-li-ki-ja-to-ne) in the word Idalion. 
I Also Smith recognized the word which Lang had already 
assumed to mean "king." It occurs in two places, with a dif- 
flerent ending in each, but Smith reasoned that the reason 
I was that it was used in two different declensional cases, first 
pin the genitive and then— as Smith assumed, erroneously— 
|,in the nominative. The question as to what language other 
l.;than the Cypriote changed the penultimate phoneme of the 
|word meaning "king" in the course of its declension, led 
|Smith to the Greek word for "king," basileus (genitive singu- 
lar: basiUos) and he concluded— rather superficially, and yet, 
las we know today, correctly— that the Cypriote inscriptions 
|vere written in the Greek language. This conclusion decided 
^he direction of the further work of decipherment. 

With the aid of the names and of the word basileus, Smith 

letermined the phonetic values of eighteen syllable signs 

ith a certain degree of probability. With their aid he tried 

then to make headway in reading the brief inscriptions on 


•4t^x r hr ±1 ±^» -M-o ^ttr-r i- hit'/" •) ^f *< ^ •/• f^ ^ 


(3) /* 

"(l) /On the xth day of the month of y/ in the year 4 of King 

Milkjaton, /king/ 
"(2) /of Kition and Idalion./ This (is) /the image/ which gave 

and erected our Lord B'alrom, 
"(3) /the son of 'Abdimilk, for/ his /god/ ReSef of Mkl, for he 

listened to his voice. He bless(ed?) (him.) " 


(a) In the syllabic script of the original: 

(1) ft to-i I te?-ta?-ra?-to?-i? \ ve-te-i] \ pa-si-le-vo-se \ mi-ti-ki- 
ja-to-no-se \ ke-ti-o-ne \ ka-te?-ta-li-o-ne \ pa-si-Ie-u- 

(2) [-o?-to?-se? I ta-ne e-pa-ko] -me-na-ne \ to pe-pa-me-ro-ne \ 
ne-vo~so-ta-ta-se \ to-na-ti-ri-ja-ta-ne \ to-te ka-te~se-ta~se | 
va-na-xe | 

(3) [Pa?-a?-la?-ro?-mo?-se? \] A-pi-ti-mi-li-ko-ne \ to A-po- 
lo-ni I to A-mu-ko? -lo-i \ a-po-i vo-i \ ta-se e-u-ko~la?'Se 

(4) [e]'pe-tu-ke i tu-ka-i j a-%a?-ta~i \ 


(b) Modem Greek transliteration: 

(1) [t(v) "to 1 I TerixpToi? I /ctsi] | paaiXlfoc I MiXxijA&ovoe I 
KstJov I xax (?) 'ESaXSv | paatXeii- ( 

(z) [o(v)tos> I xav 4Tcavo][J.evav to 7rs((x)Ttanepov vefoaTOCTas | 
tov I a(v)8ptjd(v)Tav | t6(v)Sb xartexaoe | 6 /ova? I 

(?) [BaaXpo^os ? | ] o 'ApSuxlXxov | toi 'A7r6X(X)ovi | 'AfwxXot | 

r _ 

(4) [4]7t£TUxe- t(v) Tiixai | ^a»at. 

"(1) /In the fourth year when/ King Milkjaton over Kition and 

Edalion rule — . , 

"(2) /-d/, on the last day of the five-day period of the /intercalary/ 

days, did this statue erect the Prince 
"(3) /Ba'alrom,/ the (son?) of 'Abdimilk, for Apollo of Amyklai, 

after he for himself the desire 
" (4) had accomplished; in good luck!" 

Fig. 60. Phoenician-and-Cypriote bilingual inscription of 
Idalion. (From R. H. Lang, Transactions of the Society of Bibli- 
cal Archaeology I, 1872, Table following p. 128.) 

the medals which presumably contained nothing but names 
—Greek names, as Smith now assumed. He identified in 
them, for instance, the male names Euagoras, Euelthon, 
StasioiJcos, Pythagoras (rather PhilokyprosJ), Stasiagoras 
(rather Stasikypros/) etc. 

The failure of Smith to continue his decipherment, which 
he had begun quite correctly on the whole, must be attributa- 
ble to his scant knowledge of the Greek language. Thus 
|£ Birch, the Egyptologist, published the much -needed explicit 
proof to the effect that the Cypriote language, according to 
"the evidence of its linguistic structure, could not be any 
I Semitic or Egyptian tongue, but only a variant of Greek, The 
"Greek of the inscriptions, as Birch read them, seemed still to 
be remarkably barbaric and corrupt. This impression was due 
partly to the incorrect way in which several syllabic signs were 
still being read-a syllabic writing represents always a more 
difficult problem for the decipherer than an alphabetic script, 
just because of the greater number of individual signs in a 



syllabary-and partly also to the ignorance of the decipherers 
as regards the peculiarities, now being gradually clarified, of 
the quite odd Cypriote Greek dialect. 

Johannes Brandis, the German numismatist who regret- 
tably cded at such an early age, identified the word meaning 
and, and by this important discovery he made a better 
analysis also of the monolingual inscriptions possible. Ac- 
cording to the Greek lexicographer Hesychos, the Cypriote 
word for and" was kas, instead of the kai of standard Greek, 
and Brandis found this kas in the inscriptions. He deter- 
mined also the phonetic values of further syllabic signs. Since 
the Greek character of the language was already an estab- 
lished fact, the decipherers were no longer restricted to using 
solely the few and scant bilingual inscriptions in their work 
and they were free to determine the phonetic values of the 
still questionable syllabic signs from the tolerably intelligible 
sentences and phrases found in monolingual inscriptions, on 
thebasis of their knowledge of the Greek language. 

The long monolingual bronze inscription of Idalion, pub- 
lished by Moriz Schmidt, a Hellenist of Jena, in 1 874, proved 
to be particularly important. Schmidt succeeded with the 
aid of this text in establishing the phonetic values of a great 
number of further syllabic signs, by the combinatory method 
and also in definitely determining the basic features and 
principles of the Cypriote writing, viz., that it consists solely 
ot syllabic signs which may represent a single vowel or a con- 
sonant followed by a vowel, but no other combination. 

Deecke and Siegismund brought the decipherment essen- 
tially to its conclusion. Their important accomplishment 
consisted in the elimination of the last difficulties in the 
reading of the Cypriote script, by establishing the phonetic 
v f Iues of s y 1Iabic "gns denoting syllables beginning with the 
phonemes /// or fwf. The subsequent linguistic study of 
details need not concern us here any further. 


The somewhat perfunctory conclusion of George Smith 
that the Cypriote inscriptions were written in Greek proved 
to be no less correct than the likewise hasty conclusion of 
Hans Bauer concerning the West Semitic character of the 
Ugaritic language. Moreover, also those scholars are being 
proven right who claimed that this script, so unsuited to the 
Greek language, had been borrowed from another race. A 
few inscriptions from Cyprus which have been known since 
191 0, are written in the same Cypriote script, but in a non- 
Greek language which is being regarded, with full justifica- 
tion, as the still unknown language of the non-Indo-Euro- 
pean autochthonous population of Cyprus. We know even 
an inscription written bilingually in that unknown language 
and in the Attic Greek of the 4th century b.c. This inscrip- 
tion still appears to be untranslatable, despite an attempt by 
Bork, because of the shortness of the Greek portion in par- 
ticular. But the names of persons can be identified, even 
though showing certain discrepancies, in the two versions, 
and they prove that the phonetic values of the syllabic sym- 
bols are the same in the alien language as in the Cypriote- 
Greek inscriptions. 

(b) On the Decipherment oi the Pioto-Byblic Script 

I still have to discuss here the decipherment of the ancient 
inscriptions from Byblos, a city on the northern Phoenician 
coast. They are written in a peculiar script, partly resembling 
pictograms and partly cursive in shape; the French Dhorme, 
one of the scholars who deciphered the Ugaritic writing (cf. 
p. 84) attempted its decipherment in 1946, but his efforts 
have still not produced any clear and definite results. 

Byblos was one of the oldest cultural centers of Phoenicia; 
its close relationship with Egypt originated as far back as 
the beginning of the 3rd millennium b.c. and was still main- 
tained in the 2nd millennium b.c. The oldest known inscrip- 



tions of Byblos written in the Phoenician alphabetic script 
date from about 1000 b.c, but written records had been 
made in that city, obviously, prior to that date, too. Egyptian 
inscriptions appear on sarcophagi from the early 2nd mil- 

Fig. 61. Stone inscription in the Proto-Byblic script. (From 
Dunand, Byblia Grammata, Fig. 26.) 

lennium; according to the evidence found in the archives 
of El-Amarna, Egypt (cf. p. 3), Byblos used the Babylonian 
cuneiform script and the Akkadian language for international 
communications. In addition to these alien, and perhaps 
just occasionally used, systems of writing, the special script 
to be discussed here can be observed on two well preserved 
bronze tablets, a damaged stone tablet and three fragments 
of stone tablets, as well as four bronze spatulae, all of which 
are to be regarded on archaeological grounds as dating from 
the early part of the 2nd, if not the late part of the 3rd mil- 



lennium BX. r and which for that very reason I would like to 
name Pwto-Byblic, i.e., Early Byblos script. All the inscrip- 
tions were published by M. Dunand in his book, Byblia 
Grammata (Beyrouth, 1945), on pages 71-135. (Cf. Figs. 
61 and 62.) 

n X A i> ¥ 1* Y * 


Fig. 62. Proto-Byblic bronze tablet c. (From Dunand, Byblia 
Grammata, Fig. 28.) 

The prospects of a successful decipherment are not very 
favorable, for the following reasons: There exist no bilingual 
texts or similar references. The number of the texts is not 
high. Only one of the two undamaged bronze tablets runs as 
long as 41 lines, the other one is only 1 5 lines long, the spatu- 



lae bear very short texts, and even the biggest one of the 
damaged stone tablets bears only 10 lines of writing. Only on 
one of the four spatulae are the words separated by vertical 
strokes, in the other inscriptions the words aie not separated. 
Moreover, the number oi symbols is quite high; 1 14 different 
symbols have been distinguished to this date. This circum- 
stance very soon warranted the conclusion that this was a 
syllabic, and not an alphabetic, script. And as I have stated 
repeatedly in the present book, a syllabic system of writing 
always confronts the decipherer with greater difficulties than 
an alphabetic script, even when the circumstances are more 
favorable than in this particular case. 

Nevertheless, Dhorme proceeded confidently to decipher 
the script soon after the publication of the Byblia Giammata. 
He started out from the premise that the language of the in- 
scriptions must be a Semitic tongue-Phoenician, to be ex- 
act. This hypothesis is by all means a very plausible one, for 
we cannot find one single non-Semitic element in the thor- 
oughly known history of Byblos. 

For the decipherment proper, Dhorme proceeded from 
the end of Tablet c shown in Fig. 62, where the seven times 
repeated sign seemed to represent the numeral 7. He con- 
cluded that a date was indicated there, and he read the entire 
15th line tentatively as b-$nt 7, "in the year 7," "in the 7th 
year/' The reason for which Dhorme transliterates vowelless 
Semitic words in the style of the later Semitic alphabetic 
writing, is not that he considers the Proto-Byblic script a 
consonantal system of writing. In view of the high number 
of characters, he is convinced that this is a syllabic writing 
with specific signs for the syllables ba, bi, bu, 5a, Si, Su (pos- 
sibly also for ab, ib, ub, etc. ) . But he wanted to be content at 
first with obtaining the consonantal "skeleton" which is al- 
ways the foundation of all understanding in the Semitic lan- 
guages. Since in following this method, he is bound to come 


across several signs for the same consonant sound, he trans- 
literates for the time being mi, m 2 , m 3 , ni, n 2 , n 3 , m, etc., 
hoping to be able some time in the future to replace these no- 
tations by ma, mi, mu, na, ni, nu, an, in, un, or similar syl- 

Using the letter values b, S, n and t, obtained from the 
group of signs presumed to represent a date, Dhorme found 
the group n.S (the delimitation of which as a separate word, 
however, in either direction is by no means certain!) in the 
first line of the same inscription, and he believed that it repre- 
sented the word nhs, "metal, copper," since the text ap- 
peared on a copper tablet. With the aid of the knowledge of 
the sign for h, he was able to read the word mzbh, "altar," in 
lines 6 and 10, and the knowledge of the m in turn enabled 
him to read, in line 14, before the designation of the year, 
the designation of a month, viz., btmzi, "in (the month of) 
Tammuz," containing a second sign for z, which he trans- 
literates as Zi. The designations of the month and year can 
logically be*expected to be preceded by the designation of 
the day oi the month, written by a numeral. The si is now 
completed to SdS, "six(th)," and the signs following it 
turned out to be jm-m, "day" (with two new signs for ml), 
so that the full date reads: MdS jm-m b-tmzi b-$nt 7 = "on 
the sixth day in (the month of) Tammuz in the year 7." 

Untiring work and a constant revision of his findings en- 
abled Dhorme finally to obtain a result which he could pre- 
sent to the Academy of Paris on August 2, 1946. He pointed 
out that he had searched neither for the name of Byblos nor 
for the words for "god" or "king," nor for any narrative of 
conquests or pious deeds, and that the report of an engraver 
on what he and his co-workers did in decorating the temple 
had revealed itself to him unbidden. Also the long Tablet d 
revealed a similar content to Dhorme. 

Dhorme thus obtained a transliteration of the Proto-Byb- 

i 3 6 


lie inscriptions, or rather of the consonantal "skeletons" of 
the words. The missing vowels must still be determined to 
make the decipherment complete. That should not be a very 
difficult task, for we are passably familiar with the diachronic 
picture of the Phoenician vowel system, in word-stems and 
flexional endings alike. Thus, e.g., a substantive the last con- 
sonant of which is m, would have to end in mu in the nomi- 
native singular, in mi in the genitive singular, and in ma in 
the accusative singular, etc. For the time being, I am still 
not sure to what degree or extent it is possible to substitute, 
as mentioned above, more accurate syllabic values for 
Dhorme's transliterations, and for this very reason I shall not 
express any judgment concerning the correctness of his de- 
cipherment as yet. Let it remain an open question also 
whether or not Dhorme's separation of the individual words 
is correct. At any rate, Dhorme can always support his views 
by pointing out the fact that his transliterations yield texts 
that make sense (their graphical, lexical and grammatical 
features may, of course, still be in need of rectification) as 
well as the fact that in particular the transliteration of the 
date of Tablet c which served as his point of departure is 
corroborated reciprocally by various arguments. Dhorme's 
decipherment of the Proto-Byblic script is certainly more 
likely to gain universal recognition than the attempt of 
Grimme to decipher the Sinaitic writing, which for that very 
reason I shall discuss later only, among the undeciphered 
scripts (pp. i59etseq.). 

3. The Translation of Other Unknown 

For consideration of space, only a few typical examples 
will be discussed in this section, in order to cast light on the 
problem as such. 


(a) On the Translation oi Etruscan 
The facts that Etruscan h as been in the focus of more in- 
tense interest than many another language discussed in this 
book, and that more effort has been expended on its decipher- 
ment than on that of the other languages, are indubitably the 
result of its geographic location in the center of Italy, home- 
land of an ancient civilization. That land, of such impor- 
tance in the development of European civilization, seems to 
have been so strongly under the influence of the Etruscans in 
the early epoch of its history that a study of the Etruscan 
language always appeared to be desirable and attractive. The 

I results are, however, by no means commensurate with the 
efforts devoted to this task; despite the existence of an im- 
mense literature dealing with the translation of Etruscan, 

\ this author still finds it difficult to state even today whether 
"or not the translation of the language may now be said to 
Jhave been successfully accomplished. Considerations of 

I space make it absolutely impossible to discuss with any 
semblance of thoroughness all that has been undertaken in 
order to unlock the secrets of Etruscan, and the most I can 
do in this book is to give an outline of a few principal features. 

; ^ The Etruscan inscriptions known to exist number more 

( than 8,000, the oldest ones of which date back to prior to 600 

! J3.c. Most of them are, however, quite brief, some no more 
lan mere fragments, and chiefly epitaphs, consisting usu- 

fLally simply of the name of the deceased and perhaps a brief 
indication of his age or the public offices held by him. Only 

\a few sarcophagi, such as the sarcophagus of Pulena and that 

I of Alethna, bear longer inscriptions, and only a few inscrip- 
tions can be called really long, such as the tile from S. Maria 

I di Capua, belonging to the 5th century, with about 300 
words on it, and the more recent Cippus Peiusinus (Perugia 

I cippus), with about 120 words. The texts different from the 
epitaphs are strongly in the minority as for contents, too; let 

i 3 8 


there be mentioned the two leaden tablets r beating impreca- 
tions of Volterra and Campiglia Maritima, furthermore the 
bionze livei oi Piacenza which once was an instrument of 
fortune-telling, and also two dice on which the numerals 
from one to six are written out in words. In addition to the 
"epigraphic" monuments, there are the linen wrappings in- 
scribed with a religious text which were found on an Et- 
ruscan mummy in the museum of Zagreb in 1892 and have 
been known to scholars as the "Zagreb mummy wrappings." 
The more than 1500 words appearing on them constitute 
the longest Etruscan text known. The small number of 
longer and thus linguistically more informative Etruscan 
texts is one of the reasons for the meagerness of the results 
heretofore achieved by the attempts at the translation of 
this language. 

The texts themselves offer the linguists very little to go by. 
The known bilingual insciiptions consist of just a few quite 
short and uninformative epitaphs in Latin and Etruscan. 
For instance, Inscription 378 of the Corpus Insciiptionum x 
Etruscarum (= XI 1855 of the Corpus Insciiptionum Lati- 
naium) consists of the Etruscan text "V. Cazi C. clan" and 
of the Latin phrase "C. Cassius C. f. Saturninus," the latter 
meaning "G(aius) Cassius, G(aius') s(on), Saturninus"; 
hence, the Etruscan word clan in the Etruscan portion, in 
which the name Saturninus 1 is missing, means "son," and this 
meaning is confirmed by other inscriptions. Also isolated 
translations of Etruscan words occurring in Latin literature, 
e.g., aisai for "god," furnish only minor help. 

The Etruscan glosses accompanying pictorial representa- 
tions of subjects horn the Greek mythology, however, do 
show the Etruscan forms of a number of mythological names, 
some in an Etruscanized Greek form, as e.g., Apulu (Apol- 
lo), NeOuns (Neptune), Heicle (Hercules), Axmemrun 
(Agamemnon), Alcsentre and other variants (Alexander), 


Pecse (Pegasus), $ersipnei (Persephone), etc., others in 
Etruscan "translation," as Tinia or TinS (Zeus, Jupiter), 
Turan (Venus), Fufluns (Dionysos), Tuims (Mercury), 
etc. While the first one of these two groups in particular 
supplies many data concerning Etruscan phonology, these 
names are hardly of any use to one who tries to gain an in- 
sight into the language as a whole. 

Thus tihe only practicable way of translating the inscrip- 
tions remains, in the main, to proceed from the inscriptions 
themselves. Now then, the co-existent use of two distinct 
methods becomes even more strongly evident in the field of 
Etruscan than in the translation of other languages, viz.: the 
combinatory method, which seeks to clarify the meaning of 
the texts on the basis of clues contained in those texts them- 
selves, and the etymological method which tries to accom- 
plish the purpose on the strength of phonetic similarities 
between the language studied and some known language. 
The possibilities of learning the secrets of Etruscan by the 
combinatory method are very scant, though. It is under- 
standable therefore whyjthe etymological method has again 
and again been advocated by various scholars in the study of 
1 Etruscan in particular, and why attempts have been made at 
interpreting this language on the strength of phonetic simi- 
larities to the most different languages, such as Basque and 
Caucasian, Proto-Germanic, Greek and Proto-Indo-Euro- 
pean in general, and even Sumerian, to name just a few of 
the languages selected for this comparison. Above all, indi- 
vidual research linguists would again and again consider 
Etruscan an Italic language and most closely cognate with 
Latin and Osco-Umbrian, and they would try to translate it 
on the ground of its phonetic similarities to these languages, 
obviously misled by a number of unquestionably Italic loan- 
words in Etruscan. All these attempts at a translation, often 
published in bombastic terms, are entirely worthless and 



tend only to make laymen skeptical about meritorious inter- 
pretations of other languages as well. 

In the study of Etruscan, the scantiness of the clues makes 
it especially difficult to make any headway by the combina- 
tory method, which can grope its way forward step by slow 
step only. It compares, for instance, the bronze liver of 
Piacenza with similar fortune-telling "livers" of clay used by 
the Babylonians and the Hittites, and on the strength of this 
comparison it determines what names of deities appear on 
the Etruscan liver, which include also usil, "sun," and tiv, 
"moon," two appellatives the knowledge of which helps in 
the clarification of other connections. Thus, the epitaphs 
often indicate not only the name of the deceased, but also 
his age in numerals. Therefore, if we find the expression avils 
x tivis y, we may safely assume that tiv meant not only 
"moon," but also "month," and consequently, avil must 
obviously have meant "year." 

Inscriptions appearing on implements and beginning with 
the word mi, followed by names, e.g., mi ©ancvilus Fulnfal, 
have pointed at the conclusion, based on the analogy of Italic 
inscriptions on such objects, that mi must have meant "this" 
(possibly also "I") and is to be translated as this (is) —re- 
spectively I (am)— Tanaquil Fulnia's. The circumstance 
that a woman's name followed by puia frequently appears 
after names of men in the epitaphs, suggests that puia must 
mean "wife." Therefore, Vel Sefae puia-c is translated as 
"Vel Sethre and (-c) wife," and ©anxil Ruvfi puia Arn0al 
AleOnas as "Tanaquil Rufia, wife of Arnth Alethna." The 
words lupuce or svalce in the statement concerning the age 
of the deceased are considered as verbal forms meaning "(he 
or she) lived" or "(he or she) died," and avils LX lupuce is 
translated consequently as "he lived 60 years" or "he died 
(with) 60 years," svalce avil LXVT as "he lived 66 years," 
etc. Accordingly, also the frequently occurring word amce 


(showing the same ending, -ce) is regarded as a verbal form 
and translated as "(he or she) was"; thus, RamOa Matulnei 
sex Marces Matulnal puia-m amce SeOies Ceisinies is taken 
to mean "Ramtha Matulnei was (amce) the daughter (sex) 
of Marcus Matulna, but (-m) the wife of Sethre Ceisinie," 
etc. These few examples demonstrate at least how the com- 
binatory method is able to extract not only lexical meanings 
but also grammatical rules from the inscriptions. 

An entire literature has been written about the six num- 
bers, 0u, zal, ci, £a, max, huO, appearing on the dice, since they 
indubitably represent the spoken forms of the numerals from 
1 to 6. The only difficult, still not finally solved question is 
their proper sequence. They were probably arranged simi- 
larly to the system used on most ancient dice, so that two 
opposite numbers always totaled seven, but which of the 
numbers should be taken to mean "one"? It so happens that 
also the indications of the age of the deceased in the epi- 
taphs contain numbers written out in letters, namely those 
mentioned above as well as three more simple numbers, 
cezp, sem<l> and nur<£ (which must mean "seven," "eight" 
and "nine") as well as their derivatives, i.e., tens as zaOium 
(from zal), cialx (from ci) 7 muvalx (from max?), &alx 
(from £a), cezpalx (from cezp), sem<t>alx (from sem<l>) . The 
frequency of the occurrence of the tens seems to warrant 
conclusions as to their numerical values: We may expect 60 
and 70 to occur often, but 80 and especially 90 but seldom. 
However, since the scholars are, as stated before, still not in 
agreement as to the various details, a mention of this in- 
teresting problem must suffice at this place. 

Naturally, the "Zagreb mummy wrappings," the longest 
relic of the Etruscan language, attracted most of the investi- 
gators, especially since in 1932 infrared irradiation revealed 
and permitted to be read also the completely faded portions 
which had been assumed to be totally illegible. The fre- 



quent occurrence of the names of deities indicates that the 
text is of a religious character, but it differs strongly from 
the inscriptions both in vocabulary and in phraseology and 
confronts the combinatory method of research with insur- 
mountable obstacles. Yet, Olzscha succeeded in advancing 
these studies considerably in 1934-1936. He found that the 
wrappings had originally constituted a single scroll, several 
meters in length, and the text had been written on it in 
columns from right to left. The gaps in the preserved text 
could be partly filled in because long passages are repeated 
in the text. This grouping oi the text was an essential pre- 
liminary to Olzscha's conclusions. He established, further- 
more, that these analogous portions of the text could be 
divided into a number of verse-like, units oi identical 
structure, the arrangement of wMch recurs regularly in 
the individual sections. This finding opens up a compre- 
hensive vista of a long, coherent text, whereas formerly only 
arbitrarily detached pieces could be viewed. The appearance 
of the name of a deity introducing each verse makes one 
think of prayers. The prayers are separated from each other 
by short sections which, on the strength of the vocables 
occurring in them, Olzscha considers ritual directions con- 
cerning sacrifices. Directions for sacrifices and prayers are 
found to alternate similarly on the Iguvine Tables, the long- 
est document extant in the Umbrian language, and similar 
Roman prayers are contained finally in Cato's treatise de 
re rustica. Although the Umbrian and Roman prayers do 
not exactly blend with the Etruscan ones so as to form what 
we could consider a "bilingual record/' they still constitute 
close parallels to them and can be used, with proper caution, 
in the translation of the Etruscan text of the mummy wrap- 
pings. At any rate, they encouraged Olzscha to undertake a 
new, complete translation of this peculiar literary relic of 
the Etruscan language. I do not propose to claim that he 


found the right answer in each and every particular, yet his 
I work seems to have opened up a new inroad into this hereto- 
fore so unyielding language. 

Let us hope that future research will be able to solve also 
the enigma of the linguistic affinities of this language which 
today still stands isolated. Recent discoveries disprove Her- 
big's theory of a close affinity between Etruscan and Lydian.* 
In the opinion of this author, though, also Olzscha is mis- 
taken in considering Etruscan a cognate language of Urar- 

(b) On the Translation oi Other Languages oi 
Ancient Italy 

After the preceding discussion of Etruscan, a short glance 
at the translation of ancient Italic languages in general does 
not seem to be out of place. 

The credit for the translation of Osco-Umbrian, the closest 
^relative of Latin among the Indo-European languages of 
ancient Italy, is due chiefly to the linguistic science of the 
19th century. This is a domain where the etymological 
method appears to be not only permissible, but in fact the 
only one that can be expected to produce a result. The reason 
is that Osco-Umbrian is almost as close to Latin as Dutch is 
to German; not only have the two languages very many 
words and grammatical features in common, but with a simi- 
larity of all phases of communal and private life, also the 
style and phraseology of the inscriptions parallel each other 
completely. Let this be demonstrated by the following speci- 
men of an Oscan inscription from Pompeii which I accom- 
pany here also by its Latin translation in order to make 
especially evident the close parallel of the two languages: 

*Cf.p. 109. 



[oscan]— (1) V. Aadirans V. eitiuvam paam (2) vereii ai 
Pumpaiianai tristaa- (3) mentud deded eisak eitiuvad (4) 
V. Viinikiis Mr. kvaisstur Primp- (5) aiians triibum ekak 
kumben- (6) nieis tanginud upsannam (7) deded isidum 

[latin translation]-(i) V. Adiranus V. (filius) pecu- 
niary quam (2) iuventuti Pompeianae testa- (3) mento 
dedit, ea pecunia (4) V. Vinicius Mr. (filius) quaestor 
Pom- (5) peianus domum hanc conven- (6) tus sententia 
faciendam (7) dedit, idem probavit. 

[english translation]-(i) Which money V(ibius) 
Adiranus (son of) V(ibius), (2) to the youth of Pompeii by 
testa- (3) ment did give, from that money (4) did V(ibius) 
Vinicius, (son of) M(ara), quaestor of Pompeii, (5) this 
house according to the meet- (6) ing's decision to be built 
(7) caused; he approved (it) . 

Whereas Latin and Osco-Umbrian are close linguistic 
relatives and their speakers shared the same culture, the 
situations quite different with respect to the language of 
Itojenetiof northeastern Italy. Venetic is not just an Italic 
dialect, but perhaps a separate branch of Indo-European 
wjiich does have features in common with Italic, but also 
with Celtic, Germanic and Illyrian. A clear insight into the 
Venetic language is impeded by the fact that the entire 
linguistic legacy of the Veneti consists of a number of brief 
inscriptions on utensils and tools which follow more or less 
the same pattern, viz., "I (am) X's (tool)" or "X presented 
me to Y." 

In the course of the translation of the Venetic inscription 
exo Voltixeneh veso&, the meaning of exo is determined, of 
course, etymologically on the basis of its phonetic similarity 
to the Latin ego, etc. ("I"); this conclusion, however, is in- 
fluenced not only by that phonetic similarity but also by the 


objective, combinatory consideration that inscriptions on 
tools found also in other regions of Italy and the Old World 
usually begin with "I" and are phrased as if the tool itself 
were speaking. The same objective consideration applies 
when the Venetic inscription mexo Vhuxiia zonasto 
Rehtiiah is translated etymologically as "me (mexo) pre- 
sented (zonasto) Vhuxia to Rehtia." The words exo and 
mexo remind the translator of the German ich and mich (I 
and me), rather than of the Latin ego and me; the word 
zonasto is a Greek-style s-aorist of the verbal stem zona- = 
Latin donate, "to present/' In these cases, therefore, the 
Jtranslation is not obtained by the method of phonetic 
analogy alone, but by the etymological method, supported 
by objective, combinatory considerations. 

Whereas this sort of etymological interpretation still 
moves more or less on firm soil, the following example leads 
one easily onto the territory of hypotheses. Ancient Calabria 
in the extreme southeast of Italy (between Brindisi and 
Taranto— not identical with modern Calabria opposite 
Sicily) —was inhabited once by the Messapians who spoke an 
Indo-European language, cognate perhaps with Illyrian, pre- 
served in a number of brief inscriptions as well as two 
longer ones. One of them, found in the city of Basta, begins 
with the words Ootoria marta pido vastei basta veinan aran, 
which Krahe translates as "Tutoria Marta /a woman's name/ 
handed over /= sold?; pido/ to the city (vastei) /of/ Basta 
her (veinan) field (aran)." He considers vastei the dative 
singular of a word cognate with the Greek astu, "city"; he 
looks at pido as a verbal form, taken to be a root aorist, 
*(e)pi-do-t, "gave over," from the Indo-European root * do- 
in the Greek di-do-mi, "I give"; he regards ara- as a substan- 
tive belonging to the Latin arare ("to plough") and mean- 
ing "field" (like the Latvian ara for "field") , whereas he sees 
veina- as a possessive pronoun, "his," derived from the Indo- 



European *sueino- and identified with the Gothic seina- 
and the German sein. The impression gained here by an un- 
biased observer is that the translation of the words is based 
on the phonetic similarities alone, without sufficient objec- 
tive clues, and that this translation may but not necessarily 
must be right. For instance, von Blumenthal translated the 
same phrase, breaking it into words somewhat differently, 
Ootoria marta pidova steihasta veinan aran, as "The dead 
(marta) Tutoria bequeathed her field by a testament" /con- 
sidering pidova the instrumental of *(e)pi-dova-, "surren- 
der/' and steihasta an s-aorist of a verb analogous with the 
Latin stipulari, "to have something stipulated." This ex- 
ample demonstrates how the etymological method can lead 
to different results by different interpretations, and how both 
results and interpretations can still claim a certain degree of 
plausibility. But only one of them can be right at best, and 
all of them may be wrong. This uncertainty is all the more 
unpleasant because Krahe makes use of this very interpreta- 
tion for a foundation on which to build such important com- 
parative-linguistic conclusions as the analogy of the forma- 
tion of the pronouns my, your, his in Messapian and the 
Germanic languages. It should be very understandable that 
this author cannot conceal his scruples about such a far- 
reaching etymological interpretation. 

(c) On the Translation of Phrygian 

In contrast to the linguistic disunity of ancient Italy where 
a number of closely related Italic and more remotely cognate 
Indo-European languages as well as the non-Indo-European 
Etruscan were spoken, Greece was a closed linguistic unit, 
for even though its inhabitants spoke several distinct dialects, 
those were still dialects of one and the same language. We 
find no parallel in the Greek speech area, above all, to the 
relationship between Latin and Osco-Umbrian. But there is 


at least one language which investigators have considered 
more closely related to Greek and to a certain extent also 
interpreted etymologically on the basis of Greek, viz.: the 
language of the Phrygians who lived in the interior of Asia 
Minor. The Phrygian language has been preserved in about 

j twenty-five Old Phrygian inscriptions, written about the 7th- 
6th centuries B.C., with a slightly modified variant of the 

I Greek alphabet, and in nearly 100 Neo-Phrygian inscriptions, 
originating from the era of the Roman Empire and written 
in standard Greek characters. But Neo-Phrygian was only 

|; occasionally used as the language of an entire inscription; 
generally, the inscription is written in Greek, with an im- 
precatory formula added to it in Neo-Phrygian. 

This imprecatory formula is also the only Phrygian text 
which we understand with any degreee of certainty. In this 
connection, we might even speak of a kind of bilingual rec- 
ord, inasmuch as the average wording of the Neo-Phrygian 
imprecatory formula, ios ni semoun knoumanei kakoun 
addaket etittetikmenos eitou corresponds to the occasionally 
encountered Greek formula, rfe 81 tclvtyil tfaXd/i*"' kclkov to<t- 
ToirjaeucaTrifiankvosfiTQ), i.e., "but whoever will inflict evil to 
this sepulchral chamber, shall be accursed." Accord- 
ingly, the Phrygian words can be interpreted as follows: 
ios = a relative pronoun (Indo-European *io-s, Greek hos); 
ni = an emphatic particle added to that pronoun; semou (n) 
= dative singular of the masculine and neuter form of the 
demonstrative pronoun meaning "this" (Indo-European 
*ki- and *ko-, Slavic si- with the masculine-neuter dative 
singular semu, etc.) ; knouman = "grave" or "monument on 
a grave"; kakoun = "evil" (loan-word from the Greek kakds, 

\ "evil," or originally cognate with this word, unknown in 
other Indo-European languages?); ad<laket = "he inflicts" 
(ad = Latin ad, "to"; daket = "he places, puts," cf . Greek 
ti-the-mi, "I lay, place," aorist £the-ka); eti-ttetikmenos = 



"accursed" (passive perfect participle ending in -menos as in 
Greek, in which connection again it is an open question 
whether this identical ending is to be ascribed to linguistic 
borrowing or to original cognateness); eitou = "he shall be" 
(Greek esto) or "he shall go" (Greek ito)? 

The interpretation of the imprecatory formula is feasible 
also without the etymological method. Also the Old Phrygian 
inscription ates | arkiaevais | akenanolavos | midai | lavaltaei | 
vanaktei | edaes, written clearly and with the words separated 
from each other, appears to be more or less clearly under- 
standable as "Ates, (son) of Arkiaevis (?) placed 

(it) for Midas Lavaltas, the prince," but the etymological 
method is still not completely eliminated in the translation 
of vanaktei, "to the prince" /Greek (v)anax, "prince"/ and 
of the verbal form edaes, "he placed" /s-aorist of the root 
*dhe- in the Greek ti-the-mi, "I place"; Hittite daiS, "he 

The combinatory method is all too often compelled to 
admit its own incompetency when it is applied to longer in- 
scriptions, more ancient or more recent ones alike, espe- 
cially when the words are run together without any indica- 
tion of where one word ends and another one begins, which 
is the method usually observed in the Neo-Phrygian texts,and 
encountered in some Old Phrygian inscriptions as well. In 
such cases, the etymological interpretation based on phonetic 
and morphological analogies with other Indo-European lan- 
guages has become more or less the standard procedure. The 
investigators who apply it can cite precedents, viz., the trans- 
lation by the etymological method of Old Persian on the 
basis of the cognate Sanskrit language, or that of the Osco- 
Umbrian inscriptions with the aid of the knowledge of 
Latin. As to details, though, opinions diverge no less widely 
than in the instance of the Messapian inscription cited as an 
example on page 145. For instance, the word-group attiadei- 


tou appearing in the Neo-Phrygian phrase etittetikmenos 
attiadeitou (in which the word etittetikmenos is known, as 
explained above, to mean "accursed") is broken up by some 
linguists as Atti ad-eitou, "he shall hurry to (the god) Attis" 
(ad-eitou = Latin ad-ito = "he shall hurry to"), but by 
others as at Tiad eitou, "he shall go to Zeus" (at = Latin 
ad = "to"; Tiad for *Tian-de = "to Zeus"), so that the 
former translate the phrase as "accursed, he shall hurry to 
Attis," but the latter as "accursed, he shall go to Zeus." As a 
tsecond example, I mention the Neo-Phrygian word group 
otuvoivetei which R. Meister breaks into the two words 
otuvoi vetei and translates as "in the eighth year," assuming 
I that vetei = the Greek (v)6tos = "y^" and otuvoi = the 
Latin octavus = "eighth" (with a change of the <t- by as- 
similation to -t(t)- 9 analogously to the Italian otto < Latin 
jocto, "eight"). But O. Haas breaks the same group into 
[three words, Otu voi vetei, and he translates them as "Otys 
(to his (voi) relatives (Greek 6tes). 9 ' 

R. Meister, in particular, went to extremes in translating 
J Phrygian on the basis of Greek analogies. He evidently re- 
garded the Phrygian language as a strongly altered dialect of 
I Greek. Let his method be illustrated on two sentences from 
[the Old Phrygian inscriptions appearing on the tomb of 
lArezastis: zostututa?i? | a?e?mnoz? | akenanolavos, trans- 
Hated as "who is begotten from the blood of Akenanolas," 
Iviz.: zos = a relative pronoun (= Greek hos); tututai (?) 
Ifor *t6tuktai from the Greek teucho, "I create"; aemnoz 
](?) = genitive for ablative singular from the Greek haima, 
I" blood." The second sentence is the artist's note (?) appear- 
llng at the end: ataniz en | kurzanezon | tane Iertoz, "Atanis 
|chiselled this in the Gordian's (territory)," viz.: leitoz = 
''he chiselled," on the analogy of the Greek *(e)I6rtose; 
ane = "this" (Greek ta-de); Kuizanezon = genitive plural 



of an adjective of citizenship derived from the name of the 
city of Gordion. 

But also the other investigators have not yet succeeded in 
achieving any unambiguous and convincing explanation of 
the -Phrygian inscriptions. While O. Haas does not follow 
one-sidedly the method of translating on the basis of Greek 
analogies, even he proceeds very arbitrarily in the separation 
of words and in his etymological interpretations, and in most 
cases he fails to produce proof of the latter. Thus, diounsin 
is interpreted, without any objective proof, as "the living 
one and traced back to the Indo-European *gui-iont-si-n 
but at the same time also augoi is translated as "living" and 

«l? »rtf S 3 d< f Vative ° f *^ oi ( from 0] d Indie ayu-, 
life ) . The word argousi is called a loan form of the Greek 
archousi (at) the archons," and the word isgeilcet a loan 
form of the Greek eischeke, "he has received." This ought to 
suffice to demonstrate thatjhe translation of Phrygian is 
still very much m its infancy, and that the general public 
will still be wise to regard it with a little skepticism 




: Now that we have become acquainted with quite a number 
I of decipherments, we are in the position to derive from them 
fa series of basic principles relative to the decipherment of 
I unknown scripts and languages in general. These basic con- 
1 fl^"™ could ha ve been presented at the beginning of 
I this book as well, but if the uninitiated layman had met them 
there, they might easily have impressed him as somewhat 
dry and abstract, whereas given here, they represent a practi- 
cal summary of the facts elucidated on the preceding pages, 
and thus they might not be entirely without value for future 
decipherments either. 

Y To begin with, I must state once again the fact, self-evP 
dent and trite as it may be, that the decipherment of any un- 
known script or language presupposes the availability of 
some clue or reference; nothing can be deciphered out of 
^otning. In those cases where one has absolutely no possi- 
Bikty available to link the unknown to something known the 
j amateur can give free rein to his imagination, but no real or 
; lasting result can be accomplished. 

Furthermore, we must distinguish three different types of 
decipherment, which at the same time represent three dif- 
ferent degrees of difficulty. The task at hand may comprise 
_ the translation of an unknown language written in a known 
script, as in the cases of cuneiform Hittite and Etruscan, or 
. the language may be a known one but written in an unknown 




script, like Cypriote Qreek, and finally, there are cases in- 
volving an unknown language written in a likewise unknown 
script. The last variant of the problem is, of course, the most 
difficult one. This is why, for instance, the translation of 
cuneiform Hittite cannot be considered being on the same 
level with the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics 
or of cuneiform writing in general. 

When some unknown script is to be deciphered, a number 
of preliminary questions of fundamental importance can be 
clarified in most cases even before the real work is begun. The 
direction of the writing can be recognized in most instances 
by the position of the blank end of the last line of the in- 
scription (cf. the Hittite hieroglyphic inscription shown in 
Fig. 39 and the inscription written bilingually in Phoenician 
and Cypriote, shown in Fig. 60) .The decipherer can decide 
whether or not the words are separated by systematically re- 
curring strokes, periods, colons, or other similar signs, and 
he can draw conclusions as to the difficulty of the decipher- 
ment accordingly. 

Above all, the number of the written symbols usually war- 
rants a conclusion as to whether the script is alphabetic, a 
pure syllabary (as in the Cypriote) or a mixture of ideo- 
graphic word-signs and syllabic signs (like the cuneiform 
writing or the Hittite hieroglyphic script). A script consist- 
ing of less than thirty signs will presumably turn out to be 
alphabetic; the probability of its decipherment is higher 
than that of a more complicated system. Scripts containing 
fifty, a hundred, or even several hundred different symbols 
may justifiably be regarded beforehand as more or less com- 
plicated syllabic systems of writing, perhaps employing also 
word-signs, and their decipherment can be expected to in- 
volve more considerable difficulties. It was decided rather 
accurately, even before the decipherment of one single cunei- 
form character, that the trilingual inscriptions of the early 


Persian kings consisted of three parallel versions, one (the 
Old Persian text) written in an alphabetic script, a second 
one (the Neo-Elamite version) couched in syllabic symbols, 
and a third (the Akkadian) one presumably written with 
ideographic word-signs. 

The decipherment proper is facilitated most by a bilingual 
text ("bilinguis") , i.e., an ^ inscription in which the text 
written in the unknown language or script is followed or 
preceded by its translation in some known language or script. 
The preceding discussions of the various decipherments 
demonstrate that such bilingual texts (in fact, even some 
trilingual texts, i.e., trilinguis) are fortunately available often 
enough. Neither the Egyptian hieroglyphics nor the Baby- 
lonian cuneiform writing could have been deciphered with- 
out a bilingual text, and the Hittite hieroglyphic writing is 
the sole instance where the unknown script, and partly also 
the language, was deciphered without the aid of a bilingual 
text and the decipherment was later confirmed by a subse- 
quently discovered bilingual text. 
^Regardless of which of the three types of decipherment is 

.involved, the decipherer will first be on the lookout for 
names of persons, cities, countries, etc. in the known portion 

»of theJbiJingual text and then try to find their equivalents in 
the unknown part. A prerequisite of this procedure is that 
the names actually be identical or similar in the two versions, 
and in most instances they are, too. The rare case that some 
name is entirely different in the two versions (cf. Italian 
Ragusa = Croatian Dubrovnik) occurs also in the languages 
of the ancient Orient, for instance, the Urartaean city Ardini 
was called Musasir in Akkadian. The decipherer finds cor- 
roborative evidence of the correctness of his way of reading 
the written symbols in particular in the favorable case when 
the same written symbol occurs more than once in the same 
name or in more than one name; I mentioned the hiero- 



glyphic Hittite names Tuwanuwa, Gurguma and Amatu (cf. 
pp. 92 et seq.)u_ Names are the most important, often the 
only means of gaining the first foothold in the field of the 
reading of an unknown script; but they are important also 
when the problem at hand is purely one of linguistic inter- 
pretation, because they are instrumental in the grouping of 
the words which in turn is valuable with respect to the trans- 
lation of words and the determination of their grammatical 
functions. Besides the names, the titles are important, as in 
phrases like, e.g., "X, king of the land of Y," etc. 

In the absence of bilingual texts, the decipherers look for 
other media of help. I mentioned above (p. 53) how 
Grotefend had made good use of his knowledge of the names 
of the Early Persian kings as recorded by Herodotus to open 
up a way to the understanding of the Early Persian royal 
inscriptions, and what an important part was played in that 
connection by the fact that Hystaspes, the father of Darius, 
had been no king. And the mention of the names of North 
Syrian cities and their rulers in the war reports of Assyrian 
kings was helpful in the first groping attempts at the reading 
of Hittite hieroglyphic inscriptions. Legends on tools, sus- 
pected to mean "(Ax of) Y" or "This is the tool of Y," were 
valuable in the decipherment of the Ugaritic script as well 
as in the translation of Etruscan. The clues which permit one 
to make headway in the unravelling of the secrets of ex- 
tinct languages and scripts are quite varied and cannot be 
classified under rigid, inflexible rules. The detection and ex- 
ploitation of these possibilities depends chiefly on the indi- 
vidual skill of the decipherer, and every project of decipher- 
ment may present new surprises in this respect. It may, 
however, happen also that no point of attack can be found 
at all and all the efforts of the decipherer are in vain. 

When the problem at hand is to translate an unknown lan- 
guage written in the cuneiform characters deciphered about 


a century ago, the investigator is in a particularly favorable 
position because cuneiform writing itself paves the way to 
its understanding by making use of a combination of differ- 
ent scriptural elements, i.e., ideograms, syllabic symbols and 
determinatives. If an Assyriologist who knows only Akkadian 
looks at a cuneiform Hittite or Urartaean text, he will im- 
mediately recognize a number of familiar elements, chiefly in 
the ideograms and determinatives. _The determinatives will 
enable him, even without knowing the language of the in- 
scription, immediately to classify certain words as names of 
men or women, of gods or goddesses, geographical names, 
names of professions, etc.; the ideograms will enable him to 
recognize inflectional (declensional or conjugational, as the 
case may be) endings, from which he can draw conclusions 
to help him both in the translation of an individual inscrip- 
tion and in the recognition of general grammatical facts. The 
great extent of the aid rendered by the ideograms and de- 
terminatives in cuneiform writing can be properly appreci- 
ated only by one who has personally attempted to contribute 
to the understanding of a language written in cuneiform 
characters as well as of another language written in a differ- 
ent script, say Lydian or Etruscan. In the language written in 
cuneiform characters, a number of linguistic facts become 
immediately evident; on the other hand, uncertainty con- 
tinues to prevail even about the most simple questions, such 
as whether a given word is a proper name or a common noun. 
Also the Lycian text on the Stela of Xanthos (cf. p. 104) 
would be easier to translate if the script had included de- 
terminatives, etc., to facilitate its understanding by the 

One must always try to interpret an unknown language, 
whether written in cuneiform script or by some other system 
of writing, by the combinatory method, i.e., on the ground of 
objective clues and conclusions. This is, of course, often a 



difficult undertaking when the unknown language is not 
written with cuneiform characters, especially when the num- 
ber of available inscriptions and records of the language is 
small, or when the texts are particularly brief and uninforma- 
tive. It is therefore psychologically comprehensible, and yet 
methodologically wrong, that, e.g., Etruscologists were all 
too willing to be guided by phonetical coincidences and at- 
tempted to translate unknown words etymologically accord- 
ing to the meaning of similarly sounding words in known 
languages. I can never warn my readers too often or too em- 
phatically against this procedure, for its basic principle is as 
if one wanted to translate the Latin laus, "praise," on the 
ground of its assonance with the German Laus or the Eng- 
lish louse, or the Central American Mayan word catz, "poul- 
try," on the analogy of the English cats, or the modern 
Greek nay, "yes," on the analogy of the English dialectal 
nay (meaning no). The ^etymological method is permissible 
to a certain extent when applied to closely related languages, 
but even in those cases it must go hand in hand with objec- 
tive considerations. And phonetic similarity plays tricks even 
in the cases of closely related languages: The German Gift 
means "poison," and the German verb bekommen does not 
mean "to become," but "to receive." In any case, the ex- 
plorer of an unknown language must never declare flatly that 
''Words that sound alike 01 similar in two languages, mean 
the same thing in both," but he must endeavor to present 
objective arguments at least to support any such conclusion 
based on a phonetic similarity. 

It is, of course, especially difficult, and in many cases prac- 
tically impossible, to decipher an unknown script without the 
aid of a bilingual text containing names. Many a failure to 
accomplish the decipherment of some writing is directly 
attributable to the lack of bilingual inscriptions or other ref- 
erences. But the possibility of deciphering a script without 


bilingual texts, too, is demonstrated by the example of the 
Hittite hieroglyphic writing. Thus, it might be more prudent 
to say When discussing a script which has defied all attempts 
to decipher it, that science has not yet been fortunate enough 
to discover a suitable point of departure for the decipher- 
ment. This principle is another conclusion warranted by a 
study of the earlier and later stages of the decipherment of 
the Hittite hieroglyphics. 

Combinatory methods are the proper procedure in the 
decipherment of scripts, too, but this is another instance 
where the proper procedure has not always been duly fol- 
lowed. As the amateur is all too prone to declare in the 
translation of a language that "Whatever sounds alike or 
similar, also means the same thing," in the decipherment oi 
a script people are likely to commit the methodological error 
of stating that "Whatever looks similar in two scripts, means 
the same thing." Thus, Hrozny committed a fundamental 
error in his attempts to decipher the Cretan-Minoan writing 
(cf. p. 165) as well as when trying to decipher the Indus Val- 
ley script (cf. p. 170), viz., he tried to determine the mean- 
ings or values of the unknown characters on the ground of 
indiscriminately applied analogies with symbols of similar 
(and occasionally not even similar) appearance of the Hittite 
hieroglyphic script, but also of the South Arabian and other 
scripts. This is the same amateurish method which is applied 
by a layman completely ignorant of Russian writing who 
looks for the first time at a Russian text and sees in it a num- 
ber of familiar characters, fully identical with the correspond- 
ing letters of the Roman alphabet, such as A, K, M, O, etc., 
and is therefore convinced that also the Russian P (read as 
our R) stands for the Roman P, the Russian C (read as our 
S) for the Roman C, the Russian H (read as our N) for the 
Roman H, etc. This error is pardonable in a layman, but it 
should not be committed by a scholarly investigator. The 

i 5 8 


fundamental question whether the Indus Valley script is an 
alphabetic, syllabic or ideographic writing, is not raised by 
Hrozny at all. Future decipherers ought by all means to guard 
against such basic errors. 


i I have stated (p. 157) that many a failure to decipher a 
given script is attributable to the simple fact that the investi- 
j gators have not yet discovered the suitable point of depar- 
ts ture. In conclusion of the present book, I shall present a few 
examples of such unsuccessful attempts to decipher un- 
r known scripts, but these are merely examples, without any 
1 claim to completeness. Occasionally I shall be in the position 
1 also to point out a few facts which may explain why it has 
f been impossible to accomplish the decipherment as yet. 

1. The Sinaitic Script 

Jhinclude the so-called Sinaitic script, even at the risk of 
t exposing myself to contradiction, among those writings the 
|decipherment of which still has not been accomplished. This 
p^ipt has been preserved in a few brief inscriptions, dis- 
tgovered by Flinders Petrie, an archeologist, in the ancient 
popper and malachite mines of Mount Sinai, particularly 
pear the ruins of a temple of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, in 
Ithe winter of 1904-1905; Petrie determined, on archeologi- 
Ical grounds, that the inscriptions had been made about 1500 
3.c. The very carelessly and disuniformly written signs look 
partly like Egyptian hieroglyphics, but there are not more 
"lan thirty-two distinguishable individual signs, so that it is 
juite logical to suspect that they are the symbols of an alpha- 
betic system. We are, however, still so uncertain about the 




shapes of the individual symbols that it is often doubtful 
whether two signs of very similar appearance are to be re- 
garded as two different signs or as variants of one and the 
same character. After all, we do know an alphabetic script 
consisting of characters closely resembling those of the Egyp- 
tian writing, viz., the Meroitic script (cf. pp. 26 et seq.), 
although it is true that the Meroitic characters originated 
much later, in the Roman era. 

The British Egyptologist Gardiner worked on these in- 
scriptions during World War I. Since it was impossible to 
read them on the basis of Egyptian ideographic and phonetic 
signs, and because a few signs resembled early Semitic let- 
ters, Gardiner assumed that this script might represent a 
preliminary stage to Semitic alphabetic writing, more exactly 
a link between Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Semitic al- 
phabetic system. In other words, he fell into the error men- 
tioned above (cf. p. 159) of letting himself be guided by 
similarities in shape and appearance, and despite the muti- 
lated state of the inscriptions, he felt justified in reading the 
group of symbols shown in Fig. 63 as the Semitic b'lt, "lady," 
and interpreting it as a Semitic designation of the Egyptian 




Fig. 63. Alleged Ba'alat in Si- 
naitic script. (From Jensen, Die 
Schriit, Fig. 183.) 

goddess Hathor. Gardiner's theory was that the creators of 
this script had proceeded as follows: They took over the 
Egyptian symbol [-] (pr = house) in the shape of [— |, but 
since the Semitic word for "house" was baith (beth), they 





















































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9-t ^ 





















































% D^> 

: ^. 

1 «s 










































? 3 



.'I 55 


























? 3 


4 § 











'i ? 

$5 K5 

























































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1 ^ 

4 * 




Fig. 64. Table of the signs of the Sinaitic script. (From Jensen, 
Die Schrift, Fig. 187.) 



used it as a phonetic symbol of the letter b (the Semitic 
beth); likewise, they used the Egyptian ^ (jit = eye) to 
represent the Semitic 'ayin = eye, as well as the letter ' (the 
Semitic 'ayin), etc. 

Gardiner's hypothesis was welcomed enthusiastically by 
many scholars, because the missing link between the Egyp- 
tian and Semitic scripts had been the target of a long search. 
Also many a book on the history of our alphabet discussed 
the Sinaitic script, rashly and without scruples, right at the 
beginning, as an early stage of that history and development. 
This view was, however, opposed by renowned investigators, 
among them Hans Bauer, whose name I mentioned in con- 
nection with the Ugaritic records, and who devoted a great 
deal of effort also to the study of the origin of the Semitic 
alphabetic system of writing. But the theory of Gardiner was 
advocated all the more decidedly by H. Grimme. He not 
only compiled the complete table of signs shown in Fig. 64, 
based on newly discovered inscriptions and better photo- 
graphs of those already known/ but he also proceeded to 
transliterate the inscriptions (originally written without 
separation of the individual words) into Semitic characters 
and thus to translate them. 

This author not only regards these translations as pre- 
mature, but also the decipherment of the signs as fully un- 
founded. We do not even know what symbols represent 
variants of the same letter, and thus we are not at all sure of 
the very number of the characters, nor are the phonetic 
values assigned to the symbols based on any safe foundation. 
A firmer soil will conceivably be reached eventually, but for 
the time being it seems to be advisable to be skeptical about 
the decipherment as such, as well as about its application in 
drawing grammatological conclusions of far-reaching im- 

2. The Cretan-Minoan Script 
No success has been accomplished as yet in the decipher- 
ment of the different systems of writing discovered on the 
island of Crete as witnesses to its pre-Greek culture.*. The 
^overall view of the development of writing in Crete is com- 
1 jplicated in that we know a Cretan pictographic writing used 
i": on stone seals in a primitive and in a more advanced stage 
I j[about 2000-1600 B.c.)^ consisting of about 140 signs (cf. 
Fig. 65), and two IineaLScripts 7 preserved on clay tablets and 
seals, designated Linear Class A and Linear Class B, respec- 
tively. Linear Class A, consisting of 8 ^ signs (cf. Fig. 66), is 


Fig. 65. Cretan pictographic writing. 
(From Jensen, Die Schiiit, Fig. 75.) 

Fig. 66. Cretan "Linear Class A. 5 
(From Jensen, Die Schiiit, Fig. 79.) 

* For the latest developments, see Appendix, p. 175. 



not restricted to any specific part of the island, whereas 
Linear Class B (cf. Fig. 67), the symbols of which number 
73, is found only in one part of Crete, viz., in Knossos, but 
inscriptions in Linear Class B have been found also in Pylos, 
on the Greek mainland WeLknow vessels found in Thebes, 

Fig. 67. Two inscriptions, from Pylos, in Cretan- 
Minoan Linear Script B. (From Peruzzi, Aportaciones 
a la inteipietacidn de los textos minoicos, p. 80.) 

Orchomenos, Eleusis and Tiryns, inscribed with symbols of 
special forms which may well be called Linear Class C. Since 
pictographic symbols are of a minor importance in attempts 
at decipherment, the term "Cretan script" is generally used 
to designate Linear Classes A or B, unless expressly stated 

The decipherment of these inscriptions is still in its initial 
stage. I shall mention here by name imlylwo ^especially 
capable scholars specializing in this field: The indefatigable 
Johannes Sundwall of Finland, and the American Alice 
Kober who unfortunately died so very young. They painstak- 
ingly collected the different signs, investigated their occur- 


rence individually or in groups, and then they made careful 
attempts to determine their character, whether ideograms or 
syllabic signs, but still without trying to read them, for the 
time is still not ripe for taking that important step. 

The more impetuous investigators are not satisfied by 
this progress. In particularJHrozny, who had successfully 
laid the foundations for cuneiform Hittite research and then 
worked, even though with questionable success, on the hiero- 
glyphic Hittite records, felt qualified for reading the Cretan 
jscript, too. Unfortunately, he resorted to a method which 
I decried as amateurish (cf. p. 157), viz., he compared the 
Cretan symbols to Hittite hieroglyphics of similar appear- 
ance and simply assigned the Hittite phonetic values to the 
Cretan characters. In addition to the Hittite hieroglyphics, 
he made use, to a lesser extent, also of the Egyptian hiero- 
glyphics as well as of the South Arabian and other scripts to 
determine the phonetic values of the Cretan symbols. Un- 
fortunately, all these efforts, undertaken at such great ex- 
penditure on reproducing Cretan symbols in print, etc., are 
I mere flights of fancy which are devoid of all objective founda- 
tion. Not only all the readings of geographic names and 
names of deities are to be regarded as fictitious, but so are 
also all the conclusions concerning linguistic features com- 
mon to Cretan and hieroglyphic Hittite. 
I ^^itti^sX^cipherment of the oldest syllabic writing of 
JSurope" is based on more serious and objective considera- 
|; tions than the work of Hrozny. Sittig investigates the struc- 
I ture of the language statistically and compares, above all, 
the initial and final sounds of Cretan words with those of 
I the non-Greek Cypriote language, for the two languages and 
I scripts were suspected in the past to be related. Sittig reasons 
I that if a Cretan symbol is used structurally exactly like a 
I graphically similar symbol of the Cypriote script (i.e., if both 
| appear, for instance, only at the beginning of a word or never 



as the final symbol of a word, etc.), he is justified to regard 
the two symbols as representing the same sound, too. Thus, 
after laborious preliminary studies, he finally ends up once 
again with the comparison of the external shapes of signs, 
which is a very deceptive foundation. In his attempts at read- 
ing entire texts, he does not use Cretan tablets, but inscrip- 
tions from Greece, in which he tries to identify the Greek 
language. Whatever he thus reads out of— or into— the in- 
scriptions, is partly Etruscan (Tyrrhenian) and partly Greek, 
but the latter language does by no means always appear in 
the form to be expected according to the teachings of dia- 
chronic linguistics. But aside from these facts, the salient 
point is in my opinion that it is wrong and misleading simply 
to take the attitude that graphically similar Cretan and 
Cypriote signs represent the same sound, disregarding 
weighty statistical data. This author is therefore justified in 
calling also Sittig's attempt at a decipherment unsuccessful. 
Among the scriptorial relics of Crete mention must be 
made, finally, of the Phaistos Disk, a clay tablet found in the 
fortress of Phaistos in 1908. It is covered with pictographic 
symbols which are arranged in distinctly separated groups 
and are unlike any symbols known from Crete or anywhere 
else. A frequently occurring character is the likeness of a 
human head with a plumed head-dress which reminds the 
observer of Asia Minor, so that it has been conjectured that 
this isolated relic (Fig. 68) was imported from southwestern 
Asia Minor. Also this isolated and relatively brief text can- 
not be deciphered without points of reference. Nevertheless, 
the decipherment has been attempted several times in this 
case, too, but always unsuccessfully, even though some at- 
tempts—like the most recent one by E. Schertel— donned the 
scientific trappings of a mathematical method, operating 
with frequency curves for the various symbols. Schertel 
claims that the inscription on the disc is in an Indo-European 


Fig. 68. The Phaistos Disk. (From Diringer, The Alphabet. Fig 40. 

language closely cognate with Latin, written in a mixture of 
syllabic and alphabetic writing, and that the text is a double 
hymn to Zeus and the Minotaur. These numerous positive 
findings are in striking (and for that very reason suspicious) 
contrast to the meager results gained from the Cretan texts 
by Johannes Sundwall and Alice Kober. At any rate, how- 
ever, those meager results are the more trustworthy ones. 

3. The Carian Script 

The script and language of ancient Caria (a province in 
southwestern Asia Minor, between Lydia and Lycia) are 

I another enigma that still continues to baffle investigators. 

I The known Carian inscriptions now number almost one 
hundred, but most of them are quite short. For a long time, 
only very few texts found in Caria itself were known, and the 
bulk of the known Carian records consisted of short scrawls 
left in Egypt by Carian mercenaries, often very unclearly 
scribbled and also not always faithfully reproduced in the 
publications. More recently, however, the number of in- 
scriptions discovered in Caria proper has been increasing; in 
fact, three of them contain Carian and Greek texts and were 




expected at first to turn out to be the bilingual inscriptions 
needed for the decipherment of Carian. But closer study 
destroyed this hope; in these inscriptions (cf. Fig. 69) either 
the Carian or the Greek text or both are so badly damaged 

Fig. 69. Inscription in Greek and Cari- 
an. (From Robert Hellenica VIII, Table 

that it has still been impossible to identify the Carian equiva- 
lents of the names appearing in the Greek texts. Thus, even 
if these bilingual inscriptions did consist of Carian and Greek 
versions of the same text, they still remain useless for the 
decipherment of Carian for the time being. 

Nor are there any other clues available now to permit any 
progress in the decipherment. The uncertainty is increased 
by the circumstance that there is often nothing to indicate 
where a word ends and another word begins, even in the 
only longer inscription extant, that of Kaunos (Fig. 70) . We 
are not even sure about the nature of the Carian script as 
yet. Bork held that it was mixture of an alphabetic (Greek) 


l xA pHA + OXMrKP.AFfroAAtt«rx] 

j+ YCFMAxerfciAfrMAr^frFMr ' 

thrt *AfrpvovoFX*n*HA**frl 


ISLA^F Y +X Y£j3it±P- Te+ + Mr ^ 

Fig. 70. Carian inscription of Kaunos. (From 
Bossert, Jahibuch fur kieinasiatische Forschung, 
I,p.3 3 i.) 

and a syllabic (Cypriote?) writing, but nowadays Bossert is 
more inclined to call it a purely alphabetic system, not much 
more different from the Greek script than are the Lycian or 
Lydian alphabets. 

So Carian still leaves an unknown quantity in Asia Minor, 
an area so rich in discoveries and positive results in the field 
of decipherments. Let us hope that it will not remain un- 
known forever. 

4. The Indus Valley Script 

Another system of writing about which we are still com- 
pletely in the dark is the script appearing on a large number 
of seals and small copper plates found in Harappa (in the 
Punjab region of India) and lately in particular in Mohanjo- 
Daro in the Indus Delta. A few isolated specimens of this 
Pioto-Indic script, customarily referred to as Indus Valley 
script or simply as Indus script, reached even Babylon, obvi- 



ously in the course of trading, and Babylonian archeology 
succeeded in dating these inscriptions as originating about 
H^JB^dle of the third century b.c. 

There seems to exist no possibility of deciphering this 
script either. The extreme brevity of the many inscriptions 
is a further obstacle. One of the hypotheses formulated is 
that these inscribed objects were brief seals or stamps used 
for administrative purposes (cf. Fig. 71). Nor is there any 
agreement concerning the number of the symbols; some 
scholars count as many as 400 different symbols, others not 
more than 150. Most investigators are of the opinion that 
this script is a mixture of ideograms and phonetic charac- 
ters, perhaps syllabic signs. 

The only serious work preparatory to a decipherment has 
been done by Meriggi; while he tries to interpret the alleged 
ideograms pictographically, he does not postulate any pho- 
netic values. A more daring course was taken by Hrozny" who 
tried to apply the same method to the Indus Valley script as 
to the Cretan writing, i.e., to decipher it on the ground of 
graphic similarities to the Hittite hieroglyphic writing. In 
this manner he claimed to deduce a great many phonetic 
values, which, however, as well as the conclusions he drew 
from them concerning a kinship of the Proto-Indians with 
the historically far younger "Hieroglyphic Hittites," are to 
be regarded as mere flights of fancy. 

And one must regard likewise as a flight of fancy the at- 
tempt of Hevesy to establish links between this Proto-Indic 
script and the writing discovered on Easter Island, on the 
extreme eastern fringe of the Polynesian archipelago, basing 
his reasoning on the indubitably striking similarities in the 
shapes of characters of the very ancient Indus Valley script 
and those of the Easter Island wilting, known merely from 
the last centuries, or rather from our very own era. 
The Easter Island writing has been preserved on a number 


E*-'ff *~ "-' ; ' " "'■ -i " » X ' ^ ' 'J-*~* — "F^T! 


?'"♦ £.. "' , _ '■' iiir " • . ~, " \ r' ■ - , •' ' 


Fig. 71. Proto-Indic seals. (From Diringer, 
The Alphabet. Figs. 41 and 43.) 

of wooden tablets, discovered on that island in and after 
1870. Unfortunately, by that time none of the natives was 
able to read them, so that here we have an instance of an 
"undeciphered script of our own era," The pictographic syn> 
^bols number about 500. They are so arranged on the tablets 
that the symbols in the alternate rows are always in inverted 
positions with respect to the symbols in both immediately 
adjacent rows, so that the reader had to turn the tablet up- 

Lside down every time he finished reading a line (cf. Fig. 72) . 

I As a matter of fact, it is very doubtful even to what extent 
: the use of the words "reader" and "reading" is justified here, 

; i.e., to what extent, if at all, these tablets are written records, 



ideographically or phonetically written, of historical events, 
religious hymns, etc. It is possible that they were simply 


Fig. 72. The writing of Easter 
Island. (From Jensen, Die Schiiit, 
Fig. 275.) 

mnemonic devices in which each individual symbol was to 
remind the reader of an entire phrase, verse or section of a 
song, incantation, etc., like those employed by other primi- 
tive races. In any case, there is very little reason for hoping 
that we shall ever be able to reveal the meaning of these 
tablets of Easter Island. 

To try to compare this almost totally unknown quantity 
of our own era with the Indus Valley script, separated from 
it by such a vast distance in space and above all in time, is in 
my opinion altogether too rash an attempt. The mere out- 
ward resemblance of the symbols, undeniable as it is (Fig. 
73) , is still no clue to their meanings or values, nor to the lan- 
guage and the contents of the texts written with them.VHe 
who does not believe in supernatural connections had better 
ascribe the outward similarity of the two scripts to mere co- 

Our survey thus concludes, seemingly unsatisfactorily, 
with a series of unanswered questions and fanciful conjec- 
tures. In my opinion, however, it would not have been right 



































#$0 #- $? u u cc ik 

^i^^U t) J i 
*>#» fc & tf < (I 

*i* mm U U8 « 

Fig. 73. The resemblance of the sym- 
bols of the Indus Valley script and of 
the Easter Island writing. (From Jen- 
sen, Die Schiiit, Fig. 277.) 

for me to present only the great accomplishments of de- 
cipherment and to disregard the still unsolved problems. It is 
always good to see not only the seemingly momentous 
achievements, but also the limitations of knowledge. After 
all, there still remains the hope that one day also these 
limitations will be overcome and the solution of the seem- 
ingly insoluble problems will be achieved. 


While the original German edition of this book was on the 
press, a very important accomplishment was made in the 
study of the writing of ancient Crete. Unless all appearances 
are deceptive, Michael Ven tris, a young British architect, 
succeeded in deciphering the Cretan script known as Linear 
J9^ ss ..?•_. ( cf - P- l( H)- We have learned, to our great sur- 
prise, that the language of these texts is an archaic form of 
the Achaean dialect of the Greek language, which thus was 
used not only in Pylos and Mycenae in Greece proper in the 
1 3th century b.c., but also in Knossos, on the island of Crete, 
as far back as about 1400 b.c. Although the details of the 
study are still very far from being positively settled and the 
syllabary shown in Fig. 74, based on the latest accepted find- 
ings, is still likely to be changed further in the course of the 
next few years, the essential facts and general principles ap- 
pear to be quite clearly established. 

It can therefore be stated now that Linear Class B is com- 
posed of approximately 88 phonetic symbols, the phonetic 
value of almost all of which has been exactly established, and 
each and every one has been found to be a syllabic symbol 
representing an open syllable, i.e., a consonant followed by 
a vowel; furthermore, there are also a number of strongly 
pictographic word-signs, for "man/' "woman/' "horse," "war 
chariot," "tripod," etc., which may be regarded to a certain 
extent also as determinatives. The progress of the decipher- 
ment is impeded by the lack of bilingual texts, but is facili- 
tated by the consistent separation of the individual words by 





Table of Pharetic Symbols 

a 1* 

e A 

i Y 

a tf 

«, /l- 

a 1" 

/* B 

/• * 

> * 


wa. FH 

we Z 

HTl ^T 

»w ^V 

pa. f* 

pe 1 

pt A 

pr f 

P* /rf 

to ? 

da h 

rfe X 

.. TIT 

<£r f 

rftt trt 


u C 

U ¥ 

H /i\ 

<r T 

fcl tf 




A» V 


ku ^T 

qe © 

<7t T 


w ¥ 

me ^ 

mi V 


wa T 

ne *P 

ni Y 

n<r A J 

«U M 

n«i ? a 

ra li 
5a Y 

re Y 

se r 

H £ 
si A 

nr t 
5(r P) 

ra 1* 
m B 

r<fi $ 

z* % 

z* f 

** «l 

More Frequent Still Undeciphered Symbols 

1*fzif)l & "1 25 f* Z9 Y & $ 35 )> 

5b ft 82 ^ S5pu?; p* 

Fig. 74. Chart of the phonetic symbols of the Cretan Linear Class B script. 
(Meriggi in Glotta 34, 1954, P- 1 7-) 



Ventris followed the example set by his predecessors, 
Sundwall, Kober and Sittig, in choosing the structure of 
the written words as the starting point for his decipherment, 
a method in general use also for breaking diplomatic codes 
and decoding secret writings. His conclusion that this was a 
syllabic script was reached on the ground of the number of 
the phonetic symbols, and of the analogy of the Cypriote 
syllabic writing. His immediate aim then was to arrange all 
the syllabic signs in a chess-board-like chart, in which every 
syllable beginning with the same consonant would appear 
in the same horizontal row, and all those ending in the same 
vowel in the same vertical column. 

A very important task preliminary and preparatory to es- 
tablishing definite syllabic values consisted in the exact de- 
termination of the various inflectional forms of the individual 
words; Alice Kober had done a great deal of painstaking de- 
tail work in that respect. She had recognized the fact that 
certain words, substantives according to the pictographic 
word-signs appearing next to them, appeared in three differ- 
ent case forms, but with their stems graphically unaltered. 
Likewise, the appended word-signs for "man" or "woman" 
made it possible to distinguish certain masculine words from 
the corresponding feminine ones by the different endings 
added to the unchanged stems. This is as though we distin- 
guished the Italian bam-bi-NO ("boy") from bam-bi-NA 
("girl") or tut-TO ("air-masculine singular) from tut-TA 
("all"— feminine singular) by different syllabic endings 
added to the same identical stem. In such a case, no and na 
would appear in the same horizontal row of the chess-board- 
like chart, to and ta would be in another horizontal row, 
whereas no and to would be found in one vertical column, 
and na and ta in another vertical column. The arranging of 
the syllable signs in the chart with maximum accuracy prior 
to the determination of their phonetic values was one of the 



most difficult tasks, but also one of those most important 
for the further progress of the research. 

In establishing the phonetic values of the syllabic signs of 
Linear Class B, Ventris proceeded differently from the in- 
vestigators before him, in that he completely disregarded the 
resemblance of the Cretan symbols to the signs of the well 
known Cypriote syllabary. He rather concentrated on recog- 
nizing names which would be good subjects for phonetic 
analysis. Male names could be recognized by the ideogram 
for "man" appended to them. Ventris assumed that certain 
groups of signs which occurred frequently suffixed to names 
of persons, were designations of origin and had to contain 
names of localities on Crete. Quite a few such place names 
weraknown, and judging by the number of the syllabic signs, 
a shorter, very frequently occurring group could be the name 
Knossos, a longer group the name Amnisos, etc. Making the 
best use of the chess-board-like chart, after wearisome ex- 
periments, Ventris then arrived at the chart of syllabic pho- 
netic values shown, in its present state, in Fig. 74. The find- 
ing that in addition to the Cretan geographic names also 
Greek names of persons, as well as Greek names of deities, 
and even Greek words and inflectional forms were identified 
in the texts, was at first a surprise to the decipherer himself. 

Of course, the Greek words are rendered in these texts in 
an oddly awkward manner, which goes far beyond the cus- 
tom current in the Cypriote syllabic writing and appears to 
be an outright mutilation of the actual spoken forms. Since 
every sign stands for a syllable consisting of a consonant plus 
a vowel, and of no other pattern, difficulties arose first of all 
in the representation of two or more adjacent consonants. 
These difficulties were obviated either by the graphic interpo- 
lation of mute vowels (writing ko-no-so for Knossos, a-mi- 
ni-so for Amnisos) or by writing only one of two adjacent 
consonants (e.g., pa-i-to for Phaistos). In syllables ending 



in I, m, n, r or s, the script did not indicate these final sounds 
at all, nor did it indicate the i of any i-diphthong. In other 
words, the users of this script wrote po-me for poimin 
("shepherd"), i-yo-te for idntes ("those who go"), ka-ke-u 
for khalkeus ("blacksmith"), and the nominative singular 
kdrvos ("young man"), the accusative singular korvon as 
well as the nominative plural koivoi fused in writing in the 
single form ko-vo. Thus, a given written word or phrase can 
be read and of course also translated in very different ways. 
Consequently, a considerable degree of uncertainty will have 
to be taken into account with reference to all future trans- 
lations of texts written in the Linear Class B script. 

It seems, however, to be indicated to present a few argu- 
ments to demonstrate that the decipherment progresses on 
the right path and the uncertainties are to be attributed 
primarily to the imperfection of the script. The Greek 
tripus ( "tripod" ) occurs in one text first in the singular form, 
ti-ri-po = tripus, and is accompanied by the picture of a 
tripod, as a word-sign or determinative, and the figure 1, 
whereas in another place it appears in the dual, ti-ri-po-de = 
tripode = "two tripods," accompanied by the same picto- 
gram and the numeral 2. The same text contains also the 
word d6pas ("goblet") with various qualifiers: In one in- 
stance, we see di-pa me-vi-yo ti-ri-yo-ve = dipas mevion tri- 
<5ves = "a smaller, three-eared (three-handled) goblet," with 
the picture of a three-handled goblet and the numeral 1; we 
find also di-pa me-vi-yo qe-to-ro-ve = dipas mevion qetr-oves 
= "a smaller, four-eared goblet," with the picture of a four- 
handled goblet and the numeral 1; there occurs the phrase 

\ di-pa-e me-zo-e ti-ri-o-ve-e = dipae mezoe tri-dvee = "two 
larger, three-eared goblets," with the picture of a three- 
handled goblet and the numeral 2; and finally, there is the 

I particularly pretty di-pa me-vi-yo a-no-ve = dipas mevion an- 
6ves = "a smaller, earless goblet," with the picture of a gob- 


let without handle and the numeral i. In my opinion, all 
these findings are striking arguments for the correctness of 
the decipherment of Ventris. 

Whereas Linear Class B is thus revealed as Greek, Linear 
Class A seems to be non-Greek and, like the Cretan picto- 
graphic writing, defies all attempts at decipherment for the 
time being. 


Ahaz, 32 
Akerblad, 19 

Akkadian cuneiform writing (Babylonian- 
Assyrian), 3, 4, 29-44, 45, 48, 51. 5a, 59, 
60-68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 
05» 86, 90, 91, 132, 153, 155 
Alexander the Great, 2, 4, 18, 30, 32 
Alexandrinus, Clemens, 5 
Amasis, 4 
Amenemhet III, 2 
Amenophis III, 3, 24 
Amenophis IV, 3 
Amosis, 3 

Arabic writing, 63, 67, 123 
Aramaic language, 49, izo-114 
Arkwright, 108 
Armenian language, 95 
Arrian, 115 
Assarhaddon, 32 
Assurbanipal, 32 
Avestic language, 56, 58, 59 
Babylonion-Assyrian language, see Akkadian 
Basque language, 139 
Bauer, Hans, 83-84, 131, 162 
Behistun Inscription, 58-59, 65 
: Berber language, 123 
Bilalama, 33 
Birch, 25, 129 
Blumenthal, von, 146 
Bork, 130, 168 
Bosch, 116 

Bossert, 97, 98-99, 116-117, 169 
Botta, 60, 64 

Brandenstein, Carl Georg von, 80 
Brandis, Johannes, 130 
Brugsch, Heinrich, 25 
Budge, 26 
Bugge, 108 
Burnouf, 57 
Cambyses, 55 
Carian script, 167-169 
Caucasian languages, 109, 139 
Caylus, Count, 51 
Celtic language, 144 
Chabas, 26 
Champollion, Jean Francois, 17, 19-25, 53, 63, 

Chardin, 51 
Charlemagne, 30 
Chefren, 2 
Cheops, 2 

Chinese writing, 8, 16. 20. «. 70 
Collitz-Bechtel. 126 
Coptic language, xi, 21, 22 
Cowley, 97 
Cretan-Minoan script, 34, 157, 163-167, 170, 

178, 180 
Cypriote-Greek writing, 124-131, 165-166, 177, 

Cyrus, 32, 55, 63 

Darius, 44, 48, 54, 56, 58, 62, 63, 154 
Deecke, 130 

Delitzsch, Friedrich, 67 
Delia Valle, Pietro, 51 
Dhorme, 84, 131, 134-136 
: Dunand, M., 133 
Dutch language, 143 
Early Egyptian, 18, 24, 26 
Early Persian writing, 44, 48, 49, 50-59, 60, 
83, 154 

Early Turkish runic writing, 123 

Easter Island writing, 170-173 

Egyptian demotic writing, 7, 18 

Egyptian hieratic writing, 5-6 

Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, x, xi, 1-29, 34, 

35, 39, 44, 51, 86, 90, 91, 95, I02 , 132, 152, 

*53, 159, 160, 162, 165 
Elamnc language, 35, 44 , 52 , 82-83 
Jbnglish words, 12 156 
Epiphancs, Ptolemy, 18 
Erman, Adolph, 24, 26 
Erman-Ranke, 4 

Et ™5 Ca i56 an i^ agC ' U4 ' I37 ~ 143 ' I46 » I5I » J 54, 
Falkenstein, 69 
Finnish language, 70 
Forrer, 97 
Frank, Carl, 97 
Friedlander, 115 
Gardiner, 26, 160-162 
Gelb, 97 

German language, 143, 144, 145, I4 6, 156 
Gothic language, 146 
Greek alphabet, 11, 21, 27, 104, 147 
Greek language, x, 18-24, 75, 91, 105-117, 124- 
131, 139, 145, 146-150, 166, 167, 169, 174- 
180 '* 

Greek language, modern, 156 
Griffith, 27 

Grimme, H., 136, 162 
Grotefend, Georg Friedrich, 53-59, 62, 63, 93, 

Gudea of Lagash, 30 
Haas, O., 149, 150 
Hammurabi, 30, 31, 33, 68 
Hattusili III, 4, 47 
Hebrew language, x, 63, 67 
Heeren, 57 
Herbig, 114, 143 
Herodotus, 51, 55, 114, 154 
Hesychos, 130 
Hevesy, 170 

Hincks, Edward, 25, 58, 64, 66 
Hinz, 82 

Hittite cuneiform writing, 35, 38, 39, 45-47, 
69-79, 86, 90, 93, 97, 102, 109, 115, 151-152, 
155, 165 
Hittite hieroglyphic writing, xi, 47, 70, 71, 86- 

101, 102, 152, 153-154, 157, 170 
Homer, x 
Horapollon, 17 
Hoseah, 32 
Hrozny, Friedrich, 70, 74, 75, 76, 97, 98, 157- 

158, 165, 170 
Hungarian Language, 70 
Hurrian Language, 35, 45, 46, 79-81, 84 
Hystaspes, 56, 63, 154 
Illyrian Language, 144, 145 
Imbert, 108 
Indilumma, 92 

Indo-European Languages, ix, 44, 45, 46, 47, 
70, 74, 75, 78, 86, 90, 95, 101, 108, 109, 114, 
143, 144, 146, 147, 148, 150, 166 
Indus Valley script, 157, 158, 169-173 
Italic Languages, 139, 140, 143, 144, 146, 149 
Japanese writing, 16, 70 
Jensen, 81, 95-97 
Kahle, 114 
Kalinka, E., 104-105 
Kampfer, Engelbert, 51 




KeliSin Stela, 82 

Kircher, Athanasius, 17 

Kober, Alice, 164, 167,177 

Krahe, 145, 146 

Kretschmer, P., 109 

Landsbcrger, Bcnno, 68 

Lang, R. H., 126-127 

Lassen, Christian, 57 

Latin alphabet, 16, 70, 105, 112, 115, 119 

Latin Language, x, 23, 75, 105, 112, 115, 118, 
120, 122, 138, 139, 143-149, 156, 167 

Latvian Language, 145 

Layard, 60 

Lepsius, Richard, 25 

Lowenstern, Isidor, 63 

Luwian Language, 45, 78-79, B6 t 90 97, 101 

Lycian language, 103-109, 114, 155, 169 

Lydian Language, 103, 109-U5, 143, 155, 169 

Manetho, 2 

Masinissa, 117, 119, 121, 122, 123 

Maspero, 26 

Mayan Language, 156 

Meissner, 32 

Meister, R., 149 

Menant, 95 

Menes, 2 

Meriggi, 97, 98, 108, 114, 170 

Meroitic script, 26-28, 160 

Messapian Language, 145-146, 148 

Messerschmidt, 81 

Middle Assyrian cuneiform writing, 35 

Middle Babylonian cuneiform writing, 35, 63 

Milkjaton, 126,127 

Mitanni Letter, 80-81 

Munter, Fricdrich, 52-54 

Mursili II, 47 

Mycerinus, 2 

Napoleon, 17 

Nebuchadnezzar II, 32, 63, 65 

Necho, 4 

Neo-Assyrian cuneiform writing, 35, 37-38, 42- 
43, 45, 47, 81 

Neo-Babylonian cuneiform writing, 35, 37-38, 
42-43, 66 

Neo-Egyptian writing, 18, 26 

Neo-Elamite cuneiform writing, 59-60, 82, 153 

Neo-Phrygian Language, 147-149 
New High German, 75 
Niebuhr, Carsten, 51-52 
Norris, 59 

Numidian Language, 11 7-123 
Old Assyrian (Cappadocian) cuneiform writ- 
ing, 35 
Old Babylonian cuneiform writing, 35, 38, 

63, 66 
Old Indie Language, see Sanskrit 
Old Persian Language, 45, 48, 50-59, 60, 61, 

148, 153 
Old Phrygian Language, 147-149 
Olzscha, 142, 143 
Oppert, Jules, 59, 66 
Osco-Umbrian Language, 139, 142, 143-144, 

146, 148 
Palaian Language, 45, 78-79, 86 
Papyrus Ebers, 16 
Paribeni, 115 

Pedersen, Holgcr, 108, 109 
Pekah, 32 

Petrie, Flinders, 159 
Phoenician language, 98-101, 126, 128. 129, 

132, 134, 136, 152 
Phrygian language, 146-150 
Poebel, 69 

Proto-Byblic writing, 131-136 
Proto-Germanic language, 139 
Proto-Hattian language, 45, 47, 76, 77 

Psammetichus I, 4 

Punic language, 11 8-1 23 

Ramses I, 3 

Ramses II, 3-4, 24, 47 

Ramses III, 4 

Rask, 57 

Rawlinson, Henry, 58, 61 , 65, 66 

Roman alphabet, 157 

Roman names, 12, 24 

Romanelli, 115 

Rosetta Stone, 18-25, 100 

Rossler, 123 

Rouge, de, 25 

Russian alphabet, 157 

Salmanassar I, 31 

Salmanassar III, 32 

Samsi-Adad I, 31 

Sanherib, 32 

Sanskrit language, 58, 59, 148 

Sargon I, 30 

Sargon II, 32 

Sayce, 89, 92, 94-95 

Schertel, E., 166-167 

Schmidt, Moriz, 130 

Semitic languages, 2, 3, 43, 44f 45, 48, 49, 63, 

67, 83, 84, 89, no, 134, 160, 161 
Sesostris II, 2 
Sheshonk, 4 

Sidetic language, 115-117, 123 
Siegismund, 130 
Sinaitic writing, 136, 159-162 
Sittig, 165-166, 177 
Six, 108, 115 
Slavic languages, 147 
Smith, George, 127-131 
Soden, Wolfram von, 68 
Sommer, F., 76, 114 
South Arabian writing, 157, 165 
Sumerian language, 35, 38, 39, 42, 43, 44, 68- 

69, 7*-72, 76, 139 
Sundwall, Johannes, 164, 167, 177 
Suppiluliuma, 46, 47, 48 
Taharka, 4 
Talbot, Fox, 66 
Tarkummuwa, 92 
Thomsen, Vilhelm, 108, 123 
Thompson, 97 
Thureau-Dangin, 69 
Thutmosis I, 3 
Thutmosis III, 3 
Tiglath-Pileser I, 31 
Tiglath-Pilescr III, 32 
Topzauae Stela, 82 
Torp, 108 

Tukulti-Ninurta I, 31 
Turkish language, 70 
Tusratta, 46, 48, 80 
Tychsen, Olav Gerhard, 52 
Ugaritic language, 48, 49, 80, 83-86, 123, 131. 

154, 162 
Urartaean language, 35, 39, 45, 47 , 81-82, 143, 

Urartu, 32 

Venetic language, 144-145 

Ventris, Michael, 175-180 

Virolleaud, 84 

Waddington, 115 

Weissbach, F. H., 68 

Winckelmann, ix 

Winkler, Hugo, 69 

Yehu, 32 

Xanthos Stela, 104, 155 

Xerxes, 51, 55, 56, 58, 61, 62, 63 

Young, Thomas, 20-22 

Zoega, 17, 20 



{INDIANAPOLIS. IN 46202-519$ 


3 OOOO 048 570 067 


JAN 99