The Rosetta Stone, by E.A.W. Budge, , at sacred-texts.com
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THE ROSETTA STONE, inscribed with a decree of the priests of Memphis, offering divine honours on Ptolemy V., Epiphanes, King of Egypt, B.C. 193.
The following remarks upon the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics may be fitly introduced by a description of the remarkable objects of antiquity whose names stand at the head of this chapter.
Finding of the Rosetta Stone.The Rosetta Stone is a slab of black basalt, which is now preserved in the British Museum (Egyptian Gallery, No. 24). It was found by a French artillery officer called Boussard, among the ruins of Fort Saint Julien, near the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, in 1799, but subsequently came into the possession of the British Government at the capitulation of Alexandria. It is inscribed with fragments of 14 lines of hieroglyphics, 32 lines of demotic, and 54 lines of Greek. A portion of the stone has been broken off from the top, and the right-hand bottom corner has also suffered injury. It now measures 3 ft. 9 in. × 2 ft. 4½ in. × 11 in. We may arrive at an idea of the original size of the Rosetta Stone by comparing the number of lines upon it with the number of those upon theStele of Canopus and Rosetta Stone compared Stele of Canopus, which is inscribed in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, measures 7 ft. 2 in. × 2 ft. 7 in. x 1 ft. 2 in., and is inscribed with 36 lines of hieroglyphics, 73 lines of demotic, and 74 lines of Greek. The demotic inscription is on the edge of the stele. This stele was set up at Canopus in the ninth year of the reign of Ptolemy III., Euergetes I. (B.C. 247-222), to record the decree made at Canopus by the priesthood, assembled from all parts of Egypt, in honour of the king. It records the great benefits which he had conferred upon Egypt, and states what festivals are to be celebrated in his honour, and in that of Berenice, etc., and, like the Rosetta Stone, concludes with a resolution ordering that a copy of this inscription in hieroglyphics, Greek and demotic, shall be placed in every large temple in Egypt. Now the Rosetta Stone is inscribed with 32 lines of demotic, and the Stele of Canopus with 73; but as the lines on the Rosetta Stone are rather more than double the length of those on the Stele of Canopus, it is pretty certain that each
document is of about the same length. The Stele of Canopus has 74 lines of Greek to 54 on the Rosetta Stone, but as the letters are longer and wider, it is clear from this also that the Greek versions occupied about the same space. Allowing then for the difference in the size of the hieroglyphic characters, we should expect the hieroglyphic inscription on the Rosetta Stone to occupy 14 or 15 lines. When complete the stele must have been about twelve inches longer than it is now, and the top was probably rounded and inscribed, like that of the Stele of Canopus, with a winged disk, having pendent uræi, that on the right wearing , the crown of Upper Egypt, and that on the left , the crown of Lower Egypt; by the side of each uræus, laid horizontally, would be , and above , ṭā ānch, "giver of life."
Contents of Rosetta Stone.The inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone form a version of a decree of the priesthood assembled at Memphis in honour of Ptolemy V., Epiphanes, King of Egypt, B.C. 195, written in hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek. A facsimile 1 of them was published by the Society of Antiquaries 2 in 1802, and copies were distributed among the scholars who were anxious to undertake the investigation of the texts. Principal works on the Rosetta Stone.The hieroglyphic text has been translated by Brugsch in his Inscriptio Rosettana, Berlin, 1851; by Chabas, L’Inscription hiéroglyphique de Rosette, Paris, 1867; and by Sharpe, The Rosetta Stone in hieroglyphics and Greek, London, 1871, etc. The Demotic text has been studied by M. de Sacy, Lettre à M. Chaptal sur l’inscription égypt. de Rosette, Paris, 1802; by Akerblad, Letter à M. de Sacy sur l’inscription égypt. de Rosette, Paris, 1802; by Young, Hieroglyphics (collected by the Egyptian Society, arranged by Dr. T. Young, 2 vols., fol., 100 plates, 1823-1828), pl. x ff.; by Brugsch, Die Inschrift von Rosette nach ihrem ägyptisch-demotischen Texte sprachlich und sachlich erklärt, Berlin, 1850; Salvolini, Analyse Grammaticale Raisonnée de
différents textes des anciens Egyptiens, Vol. I., Texte hiéroglyphique et démotique de la pierre de Rosette, Paris, 1836. This work was never finished. The Greek text has been edited by Heyne, Commentatio in inscriptionem græcam monumenti trinis titulis insigniti ex Aegypto Londinum apportati, in tom. xv. of Comment. Soc. R. Sc. Gött., pp. 260-280; Ameilhon, Eclaircissements sur l’inscription grecque du monument trouvé à Rosette, Paris, 1803; Drumann, Commentatio in inscriptionem prope Rosettam inventam, Regiomont., 1822; and Drumann, Historisch-antiquarische Untersuchungen über Aegypten, oder die Inschrift von Rosette aus dem Griechischen übersetzt und erläutert, Königsberg, 1823; Lenormant, Essai sur le texte grec de l’inscription de Rosette, Paris, 1842; Letronne, Recueil des inscriptions grecques et latines d’Egypte, Paris, 1842; by Franz in Boeckh, Corpus Inscriptionum Græcarum, t. iii., 1853, p. 334 f, No. 4697, etc.
Beneficent acts of Ptolemy V. Epiphanes.The inscriptions upon the Rosetta Stone set forth that Ptolemy V. Epiphanes, while king of Egypt, consecrated revenues of silver and corn to the temples, that he suppressed certain taxes and reduced others, that he granted certain privileges to the priests and soldiers, and that when, in the eighth year of his reign, the Nile rose to a great height and flooded all the plains, he undertook, at great expense, the task of damming it in and directing the overflow of its waters into proper channels, to the great gain and benefit of the agricultural classes. In addition to the remissions of taxes which he made to the people, he gave handsome gifts to the temples, and subscribed to the various ceremonies which were carried on in them. In return for these gracious acts the priesthood assembled at Memphis decreed that a statue of the king should be set up in a conspicuous place in every temple of Egypt, and that each should be inscribed with the name and titles of "Ptolemy, the saviour of Egypt." Royal apparel was to be placed on each statue, and ceremonies were to be performed before each three times a day. It was also decreed that a gilded wooden shrine, containing a gilded wooden statue of the king, should be placed in each temple, and that these were to be carried out with the shrines of the other kings in the great panegyrics. It was also decreed
Festivals in honour of Ptolemy Epiphanes.that ten golden crowns of a peculiar design should be made and laid upon the royal shrine; that the birthday and coronation day of the king should be celebrated each year with great pomp and show; that the first five days of the month of Thoth should each year be set apart for the performance of a festival in honour of the king; and finally that a copy of this decree, engraved upon a tablet of hard stone in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek characters, should be set up in each of the temples of the first, second and third orders, near the statue of the ever-living Ptolemy. The Greek portion of the inscriptions appears to be the original document, and the hieroglyphic and demotic versions merely translations of it.
Although it is nearly certain that, without the aid of the Greek inscription found on the socket of an obelisk at Philæ, and the hieroglyphic inscription found on the obelisk which belonged to that socket, the hieroglyphic alphabet could never have been recovered from the Rosetta StoneRosetta Stone the base of decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics., still it is around this wonderful document that all the interest in the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics clings. For many hundreds of years the interest of the learned of all countries has been excited by the hieroglyphic inscriptions of Egypt, and the theories propounded as to their contents were legion. Speaking broadly, the references to this subject by classical authors 1 are not very satisfactory; still there are some remarkable exceptions which will be referred to presently. Inasmuch as the names of Roman emperors, as late as the time of DeciusLate use of hieroglyphics., were written in hieroglyphics, it follows that the knowledge of this subject must have been possessed by some one, either Greek or Egyptian, in Egypt. "For a hundred and fifty years after the Ptolemies began to reign, the Egyptian hieroglyphics appear to have been commonly used, and the Egyptians were not prohibited from making use, so far as it seemed requisite, according to ritual or otherwise appropriate, of the native language and of its time-hallowed written signs." 2 Little by little, however, the Greek language displaced
the Egyptian, and the writing in common use among the people, called to-day "demotic" or "enchorial," and anciently "epistolographic," completely usurped the place of the "hieratic" or cursive form of hieroglyphic writing. Although the Greeks and Romans appear not to have studied hieroglyphics thoroughly, only repeating, generally, what they were told about certain signs, nevertheless writers like Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Hermapion, Chaeremon, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Horapollo, contribute information on this subject of considerable value.
108:1 A cast of the Rosetta Stone is exhibited in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
109:1 Other facsimiles are given in Lepsius, Auswahl, Bl. 18, and in Arundale and Bonomi, Gallery of Antiquities, pl. 49, p. 114.
109:2 The Greek version of the decree of the Egyptian Priests in honour of Ptolemy the Fifth, surnamed Epiphanes, from the stone inscribed in the sacred and vulgar Egyptian and the Greek characters, taken from the French at the surrender of Alexandria. London, 1802. Nichols.
111:1 See Gutschmid, Scriptorum rerum Aegyptiacarum Series, in Philologus, Bd. X., Göttingen, 1855, ss. 712 ff.
111:2 Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire, Vol. II. p. 243.