An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"

The Progress of Literature: Ethiopian contribution

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Lucian makes the Ethiopians to have excelled all other nations in wisdom and literature.” And, continues Cummings Antiquities: Heliodorus says, that the Ethiopians had two sorts of letters, the one called regal, the other vulgar; and that the regal resembled the sacerdotal characters of the Egyptians.”

We have already treated upon that first branch of their literature, hieroglyphics, under the head of Builders of the Pyramids, and we add here, that according to Lucian, “they invented astronomy and astrology, and communicated those sciences, as well as other branches of learning, to the Egyptians. As their country was very fit for making celestial observations, such a notion seems not entirely groundless, though scarce any particulars of their knowledge had reached us.”

We present here, copied from Cummings taken from the great History of Ethiopia by that learned Israelite in Ethiopian literature, Job Ludolphus, the regal letters or Royal Ethiopians Alphabet, which none but the kings, priests, royal family and nobility were expected to learn.

The hieroglyphics were the vulgar or common letters, because representing objects or things to the eye, known and understood at sight by the common people, the compositions or combination of which into sentences, could easily be learned by them. Hence, a hawk, for swiftness, meant dispatch or hasty news; a crocodile, for its meanness, meant malice; a serpent, danger; the open right hand, plenty; the closed left hand, safety or security: a jackal, watchfulness or vigilance; an oxen, patience; a sheep, innocence or harmlessness; a dove, love and innocence; a pigeon, news sent abroad; a swallow, news received; a rat or rabbit, caution, to be aware from their ruining habits; a water jug, thirst; the eye, Divine watchfulness, all seeing; water, to run as a stream; land or territory, a country, representing hills and dales, an owl, always ominous and portentious; a dog, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness and trustworthiness; and a cat, companionship, meekness and constancy; a cock, boast or banter; a horse and chariot, preparation for war; all of which readily address themselves to the senses and comprehension of the common people.

The hieroglyphics are letters forming a literature founded upon the philosophy of nature without alphabet; but that which we shall now present is of much higher order, being artificial characters based on metaphysical philosophy of language.

With our limited knowledge in archaeology, we have always believed that the philosophy and root of alphabetical literature had its origin in Africa, or with the Hamite family. We have gone a step aside from this, and claimed that the first sixteen letters of the Greek alphabet, from alpha A to pi II, originated in Africa, as a part of the sacerdotal alphabet, the Greeks adding eight more from ro to omega .

We call attention to the Ethiopian alphabet presented above, the oldest, we believe, on record, if we discard the extraordinary assertion of Confucius, the Chinese historian, who claims for his race, a civilization and literature fifteen thousands years older than the theological period of creation. But happily for our claim, we believe they have no alphabetical arrangement.

The Old Original Ethiopian Alphabet

The second Ethiopian Bet gives the twentieth Greek upsilon small, a little modified, inverted;
the fifth Haut gives the twenty first Greek psi modified;
seventh Zai gives eta the seventh Greek;
the eighth Ethiopian Hbam gives the fourteenth Greek xi modified;
the tenth Lawi gives lambda, the eleventh Greek, modified;
the fifteenth Saat gives pi , the sixteenth Greek modified;
the sixteenth Ain gives delta the fourth Greek, inverted;
the nineteenth Kof gives phi the twenty first Greek;
the twentieth Rees, gives zeta , the sixth Greek;
the twenty first Saut gives small omega the fifteenth Greek;
the twenty fourth Tawi gives tau the nineteenth Greek, modified.

There is a slight modification in several of the letters, but the essential structure of the character is the same in both.

We regard the comparison of much importance in such a work as this, upon a most interesting subject to the whole human family.

And we must here beg to be borne with when we record our conviction tht the literature of the Israelites, both in the science of letters, and government, also religion, was derived from the Africans, as they must have carried with them the civilization of those peoples and that country, in their memorable exodus, as the highest encomium upon Moses in the Scripture is, that he “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Or that their religion and laws, we shall treat to another place.

They “invented Astronomy and Astrology,” says Lucian.

And this important fact, however much it may be doubted by those who have given little or no thought to the subject, is borne out by the arrangement of this department of science, as the constellations beautifully illustrate. We shall designate the principal constellations having a direct bearing upon the subject, according to the legend of astronomical history: Cepheus and Cassiopea, Andromeda and Perseus, Pegassus and Cetus: the horse which carried them (the son in law and daughter) to heaven, and the monster of the sea which approached the shore of Ethiopia to destroy the Princess while taking a surf bath, when she was saved by Perseus, who was watching her, and slew the monster, and escaped to heaven on the winged horse. Orion and Auriga, beautiful constellations, are none other than Nimrod and Rameses II and Sirius is none other than Osiris.

And all these important facts seem to have been lost sight of, or passed unnoticed, by those who dispute so high a civilization as this given to the Ethiopians at so early a day, as being the authors of astronomical science. And do not these facts of those people comport with the living reality of their knowledge of the science of geometry, by the existence of those monuments of mathematical accuracy, the “everlasting Pyramids”?

What power brought to the plains of Egypt, through sand and bog, from no one knows where, shaped, lifted and placed those great cubic rocks of many thousand tons weight, one above the other in regular and symmaterical layers to a given height, decreasing from the first surface layer, finishing by a capstone, large enough for from twenty to forty persons to stand upon, but a knowledge of mathematics? None other whatever.

And doubtless, it was dwelling among and studying, in after ages, the structure of these great monuments, that induced Euclid to pursue his mathematical studies to the discovery of the forty seventh problem, which seems to be the ne plus ultraof termination of problems in that science, as none beyond it has since been discovered.

Written by Tseday

September 19, 2008 at 6:18 pm

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