Edessa and the Origins of Armenian Letters

Edessa and the Origins of Armenian LettersThe city of Edessa (Urfa) has a sacral significance. Firstly, in its museum, there is a seal with the image of King Scorpio with hieroglyphic inscriptions. It depicts drawings reminiscent of the Narmer’s pallet images and the pommel of King Scorpio’s maces.

When reading the Urfan hieroglyphic inscriptions, one should use the archaic grabar (“gir” and “bar” in Armenian – “written word” or “word for writing”, otherwise known as Classical Armenian). Secondly, there is a story of the connection of Edessa to Daniel’s letters, an ancient Armenian alphabet with 22 consonants, which were forgotten and lost.

Information about them was stored by a Syrian expert Daniel. Mesrop Mashtots received the letters from him and tried to put them into practice for almost two years. He did not succeed since it took a long time, and 22 letters did not adequately describe all the Armenian advanced sounds.

In 405, Mashtots created the 33 letters of the Armenian alphabet. The number of signs for the description of the sound spectrum of the Armenian speech surpassed the number of signs of the Greek, Aramaic, Phoenician and Persian alphabets.

This testifies to the earlier appearance of speech in the Japhetic source of the Armenian language (N. Marr, 1925) and the existence of alphabetic signs among Armenians in ancient times.

Mashtots personally met Daniel, and not having discovered anything new, visited the library in Edessa keeping the knowledge of the ancient writings and the principles of their construction. Mashtots finally reached his goal and invented the Armenian alphabet.

Daniel’s letters (Դանիելյան նշանագրեր) were preserved neither in Armenia nor Edessa. A question arises – can Daniel’s letters be a prototype of the proto-Sinai and Phoenician alphabets? If so, the fact of the loss of Daniel’s letters and the corresponding texts is easy to explain.

The dominant Greek authority in the world could not allow the vassal Armenia to restore the letters that would indicate the earlier origin of its written culture (literature, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, etc.).

In his works on mathematics and astronomy, an Armenian scientist of the Middle Ages Anania Shirakatsi (7th century) spoke of the rich scientific heritage of the pagan ancestors. He noted that he had described only a small part of what had been written in ancient manuscripts. N. Marr was genuinely surprised that during the excavations of the ancient Armenian capital of Ani, no Ani manuscripts were discovered in the center of religion, science, architecture, culture, and the spiritual life of the country,

The Greeks dreamed of weakening the Armenian-Persian relations by strengthening the Armenian-Greek relations. Armenia was divided into two zones of influence, Greek and Persian. Historians emphasize that the Persians did not prevent the spread of the Armenian written language in their zone of influence. At the same time, the Greeks banned the teaching of Armenian letters in the schools of the Greek zone of Armenia.

According to Koryun, after completing his main mission in Edessa, Mashtots went to another Syrian city of Samosata, where he had sent some of his students to master the Greek sciences.

Koryun wrote the following about Mashtots’ stay in Samosata: “He went to the city of Samosata, where he was accepted with honors by the bishop of the city and the church. In the same city, he met a Greek calligrapher Ropanos. With his help, Mashtots designed and finally inscribed all the differences of letters – thin and fatty, short and long, individual and double – and proceeded to translations together with two of his disciples…

They began the translation of the Bible with the parable of Solomon, where at the very beginning, Solomon offered wisdom.”

The purpose of visiting Samosata becomes clear. Mashtots needed to work on the calligraphy of the newly restored alphabet.

From the same story, it is known that the first words written with the newly created alphabet were the initial sentence of the parables: “To learn wisdom and instruction, to understand the sayings.” Having completed his affairs in Samosata, Mashtots and his disciples set out on their return journey.

An excerpt from the book of V. Vahanyan “Unique rock carvings of natural disasters (Artifacts of the Egyptian King Scorpio again lead to old Armenia)”

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