Sacred Texts  Egypt  Index  Previous  Next 

The Rosetta Stone, by E.A.W. Budge, [1893], at

Horapollo on hieroglyphics.The next writer of importance on hieroglyphics is Horapollo, who towards the close of the IVth century of our era composed a work called Ἱερογλυφικά; this book was translated into Greek by one Philip, of whom nothing is known. Wiedemann thinks that it was originally written in Coptic, which, in the middle ages, was usually called

p. 124

[paragraph continues] "Egyptian," and not in ancient Egyptian. 1 In this work are given the explanations of a number of ideographs which occur, for the most part, in Ptolemaïc inscriptions; but, like the list of those given by Chaeremon, no phonetic values of the signs are given. Nevertheless the list is of considerable interest. The best edition of Horapollo is that of Conrad Leemans, 2 but the text was edited in a handy form, with an English translation and notes by Samuel Sharpe and Dr. Birch, by J. Cory, in 1840.

Mediaeval writers on hieroglyphics.In more modern times the first writer at any length on hieroglyphics was Athanasius Kircher, the author of some ponderous works 3 in which he pretended to have found the key to the hieroglyphic inscriptions, and to translate them. Though a man of great learning, it must be plainly said that, judged by scholars of to-day, he would be considered an impostor. In his works on Coptic 4 there are, no doubt, many interesting facts, but mixed with them is such an amount of nonsense that Kircher and Jablonski.Jablonski says touching one of his statements, "Verum hic ut in aliis plurimis fucum lectoribus fecit Jesuita ille, et fumum vendidit"; from the same writer also, Kircher's arrogant assertions called forth the remark, "Kircherus, in quo semper plus inest ostentationis, quam solidae eruditionis." 5 It is impossible to understand what grounds Kircher had for his statements and how he arrived at his results; as for his translations, they have nothing correct in them. Here is one taken at random from Oedipus 

p. 125

[paragraph continues] Aegyptiacus, t. III, p. 431, where he gives a translation of an inscription (A) printed on the plate between pp. 428 and 429. The hieroglyphics are written on a Ptaḥ-Seker-Osiris figure and read:—

and his translation runs:—"Vitale providi Numinis dominium, quadruplicem Mundani liquoris substantiam dominio confert Osiridis, cujus unà cum Mendesio foecundi Numinis dominio, benefica virtute influente, omnia quae in Mundo sunt, vegetantur, animantur, conservantur." Other writers on hieroglyphics whose works Kircher consulted were John Peter Bolzanius Valerianus, 1 and Mercati, 2 but no good results followed their investigations. In the year 1770 Joseph de GuignesDe Guignes and Zoëga. determined the existence of groups of characters having determinatives, 3 and four years later he published his Mémoire4 in which he tried to prove that the epistolographic and symbolic characters of the Egyptians were to be found in the Chinese characters, and that the Chinese nation was nothing but an Egyptian colony. In 1797 Zoëga made a step in the right direction, and came to the conclusion 5 that the hieroglyphics were letters and that the cartouches contained royal names. A few years later Silvestre de Sacy and Akerblad.Silvestre de Sacy published a

p. 126

letter on the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone, 1 and the work of this learned man was soon after followed by that of Akerblad who, in a letter to M. de Sacy 2 discussed the demotic inscription on the recently discovered Rosetta Stone, and published an alphabet of the demotic characters, from which a large number were adopted in after times by Young and Champollion. It would seem that Akerblad never gained the credit which was due to him for his really clever work, and it will be seen from the facts quoted in the following pages, how largely the success of Young's labours on the Demotic inscription on the Rosetta Stone depended on those of Akerblad. But side by side with the letters of de Sacy and Akerblad and the learned works of Young and Champollion, there sprang into existence a mass of literature full of absurd statements and theories written by men having no qualifications for expressing opinions on hieroglyphic matters. Absurd theories of the contents of Egyptian texts.Thus the Comte de Pahlin in his De l’étude des Hiéroglyphes3 hesitated not to say that the inscription on one of the porticoes of the Temple at Denderah contained a translation of the hundredth Psalm, composed to invite all people to enter into the house of the Lord. The same author said that to produce the books of the Bible, which were written on papyri, it was only necessary to translate the Psalms of David into Chinese and to write them in the ancient characters of that language. 4 Lenoir considered the Egyptian inscriptions to contain Hebrew compositions, 5 and Lacour thought that they contained Biblical phrases. 6 Worse than all these wild theories was the belief in the works of the Kircher school of investigators, and in the accuracy of the statements made by Warburton's views on an Egyptian alphabet.Warburton, 7 who, it must be confessed,

p. 127

seems to have recognized the existence of alphabetic characters, but who in no way deserves the praise of Bailey, the Cambridge prize essayist, "Vir singulari quodam ingenii acumine praeditus, Warburtonus; qui primus certe recentiorum ad rectam harum rerum cognitionem patefecit viam." 1


124:1 Aegyptische Geschichte, p. 151. The sepulchre of Gordian was inscribed in Egyptian. "Gordiano sepulchrum milites apud Circeium castrum fecerunt in finibus Persidis, titulum hujus modi addentes et Graecis, et Latinis, et Persicis, et Judaicis, et Aegyptiacis literis, ut ab omnibus legeretur." Erasmus, Hist. Rom. Scriptorum, Basle, 1533, p. 312, at the top.

124:2 Horapollinis Niloi Hieroglyphica. edidit, diversorum codicum recenter collatorum, priorumque editionum varias lectiones et versionem latinam subjunxit, adnotationem, item hieroglyphicorum imagines et indices adjecit CḶ. Amstelod, 1835.

124:3 Obeliscus Pamphilius, . . . . . . . Hieroglyphicis involuta Symbolis, detecta e tenebris in lucem asseritur, Rome, 1650, fol. Oedipus Aegyptiacus, hoc est, universalis hieroglyphicae veterum doctrinae, temporum injuria obolitae instauratio. Rome, 1652-54. Tomi I–IV, fol.

124:4 Prodromus Coptus, Rome, 1636. Lingua Aegyptiaca restituta. Rome, 1643.

124:5 Jablonski, Opuscula, t. I. ed. Water, 1804, pp. 157, 211.

125:1 Hieroglyphica, seu de sacris Aegptiorum aliarumque gentium litteris Commentatorium libri VII., duobus aliis ab eruditissimo viro annexis, etc., Basil., 1556.

125:2 Degli Obelischi di Roma, Rome, 1589.

125:3 Essai sur le moyen de parvenir à la lecture et à l’intelligence des Hiéroglyphes égyptiens. (In Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions, t. XXXIV. pp. 1-56.)

125:4 Ibid., t. XXXIX. p. 1 ff.

125:5 De Usu et Origine Obeliscorum, Rome, 1797, fol., p. 465.

126:1 Lettre au Citoyen Chaptal, au sujet de l’Inscription égyptienne du Monument trouvé à Rosette, Paris, 1802.

126:2 Lettre sur l’inscription égyptienne de Rosette, Paris, 1802.

126:3 Published at Paris in 5 vols., 18i2.

126:4 Lettres sur les Hiéroglyphes, Weimar, 1802.

126:5 In Nouvelle explication des Hiéroglyphes, Paris, 1809-10, 4 vols.; and Nouveaux Essais sur les Hiéroglyphes, Paris, 1826, 4 vols.

126:6 See his Essai sur les Hiéroglyphes égyptiens, Bordeaux, 1821.

126:7 In his The Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated, to which is adjoint an Essay on Egyptian Hieroglyphics, London, 1738, 2 vols.

127:1 Hieroglyphicorum Origo et natura, Cambridge, 1816, p. 9.

Next: Young and Champollion