Tag Archives: Rosetta Stone

The Text of the Rosetta Stone

PtolemyvMost people have heard about the Rosetta Stone and how it was used to learn the Egyptian hieroglyphics. What you seldom see is a translation of the stone itself. The stone was most like originally erected in a temple. When the Roman emperors closed all temples that were not Christian, many temples were disassembled and used for construction projects. The translation honoring Ptolemy V follows:

“In the reign of the young one—who has received the royalty from his father—lord of crowns, glorious, who has established Egypt, and is pious towards the gods, superior to his foes, who has restored the civilized life of men, lord of the Thirty Years’ Feasts, even as Hephaistos the Great; a king, like the Sun, the great king of the upper and lower regions; offspring of the Gods Philopatores, one whom Hephaistos has approved, to whom the Sun has given the victory, the living image of Zeus, son of the Sun, Ptolemy living-for ever beloved of Ptah; in the ninth year, when Aëtus, son of Aëtus, was priest of Alexander …;

The chief priests and prophets and those that enter the inner shrine for the robing of the gods, and the feather-bearers and the sacred scribes, and all the other priests … being assembled in the temple in Memphis on this day, declared:

Since king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah, the God Epiphanes Eucharistos, the son of king Ptolemy and queen Arsinoe, Gods Philopatores, has much benefited both the temples and those that dwell in them, as well as all those that are his subjects, being a god sprung from a god and goddess (like Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, who avenged his father Osiris), and being benevolently disposed towards the gods, has dedicated to the temples revenues in money and corn, and has undertaken much outlay to bring Egypt into prosperity, and to establish the temples, and has been generous with all his own means, and of the revenues and taxes which he receives from Egypt some has wholly remitted and others has lightened, in order that the people and all the rest might be in prosperity during his reign …;

It seemed good to the priests of all the temples in the land to increase greatly the existing honours of king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah … And a feast shall be kept for king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah, the God Epiphanes Eucharistos, yearly in all the temples of the land from the first of Thoth for five days; in which they shall wear garlands, and perform sacrifices, and the other usual honours; and the priests shall be called priests of the God Epiphanes Eucharistos in addition to the names of the other gods whom they serve; and his priesthood shall be entered upon all formal documents and private individuals shall also be allowed to keep the feast and set up the aforementioned shrine, and have it in their houses, performing the customary honours at the feasts, both monthly and yearly, in order that it may be known to all that the men of Egypt magnify and honour the God Epiphanes Eucharistos the king, according to the law.”

Tomorrow, This Author’s Pen & Four-Fors.  Rita Bay

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The Rosetta Stone

Ptolemy VThe Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian stone stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V (see bust).  Originally displayed within a temple, the stele was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier  in the French expedition to Egypt. In 1801 when British troops defeated the French in Egypt, the original stone came into British possession. The Rosetta Stone was transported to London and has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802.

Rosetta_StoneAs the first Ancient Egyptian multi-lingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone attracted a lot of  attention because it could be used to decipher the untranslated ancient Egyptian language. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Casts and copies of the text were disseminated widely among European museums and scholars. Comparing the Ancient Greek translation to the unknown Egyptian language provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The translation was completed by Jean -Francois Champollion in 1824.  While other multi-lingual texts have been discovered since, the Rosetta Stone was the essential key to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian literature and civilization. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum. Doubtful that Britain will turn it over to France or Egypt.
Tomorrow, The Ptolemy Pharaohs in Egypt & the Stone.   Rita Bay

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Jean-Francois Champollion & the Rosetta Stone

220px-Leon_Cogniet_-_Jean-Francois_ChampollionJean-François Champollion was a French classical scholar, philologist and orientalist who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.  As the youngest of seven children, his parents couldn’t afford to send him to school. His brother Jacques taught him to read, brought him to the university, and supported him throughout most of his life. He taught history at Grenoble University. He died suddenly on March 4, 1842 at the age of forty-one.

Champollion was a linguistic genius who could speak a dozen languages. When the Rosetta Stone which contained script in three languages including the hieroglyphics that had yet to be translated. Champollion published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone hieroglyphs in 1824 after two years of work.He  demonstrated that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs. His 1824 work Précis du système hiéroglyphique was the beginning of the entire field of modern Egyptology.

Tomorrow, The Rosetta Stone      Rita Bay

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The Invention of Writing

Writing is another invention critical to the development of civilization.  The history of writing is complicated because there is no agreement on what constitutes writing and where and how it developed. For the blog purposes, Sumerian and Egyptian writing will be used as examples. True writing which is an encoded record of a spoken language was preceded by pictographs – pictures representing the object themselves and by proto-writing – a system of ideographs that have expanded beyond referring to only an object.

Egyptian Papyrus

True writing appears in Mesopotamia, specifically Sumer, and Egypt in 3200 BC. Cuneiform script, the original Sumerian writing system, originated from a system of clay tokens used to represent commodities. It evolved into a pictographic system incised into clay tablets with a stylus but by 2600 BC had become a set of syllables representing the Sumerian language.

The Rosetta Stone

Egyptian hieroglyphics followed a similar evolution. While some writing was inscribed on stone, ink and papyrus were also used. The system of hieroglyphics was difficult to learn. Scribes, part of an educated elite who had completed intense training, were used by the temples, pharaohs, and military to maintain records. Jean-Francois Champollion who used the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics accomplished one of the great academic feats of the 19th century.   Tomorrow,  A System of Laws     Rita Bay


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