Edessa (Urfa) and the origin of the alphabet

The city of Edessa (Urfa) has a sacred significance. First, its museum houses a seal with the image of the Scorpion King with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The seal depicts drawings reminiscent of the images of the Narmer Palette and the top of the Scorpion King’s mace.

When reading the Urfa hieroglyphic inscription, one should use the archaic grabar (“gir” and “bar” in Armenian – “written word” or “word for writing”). Secondly, the history of the Daniilian writings is associated with Edessa – these are ancient Armenian alphabet signs made up of 22 consonants that were forgotten and lost.

Information about them was kept by a Syrian connoisseur of writing named Daniel. Mesrop Mashtots received these signs from him and tried to implement them in practice for almost two years, but unsuccessfully, since a lot of time had passed and the 22 letters did not allow adequately describing all the sounds of the advanced Armenian speech.

In 405, Mashtots created 33 letters of the alphabet. The number of signs for describing the phonetic row of the Armenian language exceeded the number of signs of the Greek, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Persian alphabets.

This testifies to the earlier emergence of speech from the Japhetic source of the Armenian language (N. Marr, 1925), and the existence of alphabetical signs among the Armenians in deep antiquity. Mashtots personally met with Daniel and, finding nothing more from him, visits the library in Edessa where knowledge about ancient scriptures and the principles of their construction were kept. Mashtots, at last, achieves his goal and invents the alphabet.

The Daniilian signs have not been preserved either in Armenia or in Edessa. The question arises, could the Daniilian alphabet be a prototype of the Proto-Sinaitic and Phoenician alphabets? If so, the fact of the loss of Daniilian signs and therefore texts is easy to explain.

The Greek power dominating the world could not allow vassal Armenia to restore the signs of writing, which would testify to the earlier origin of its written culture (literature, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, etc.).

The Armenian scholar of the Middle Ages, A. Shirakatsi (7th century), in his works on mathematics and astronomy, speaks of the rich scientific heritage of the pagan ancestors. He notes that in his works he describes only a small part of what is set forth in ancient manuscripts. N. Marr was genuinely surprised at the fact that during the excavations of the ancient Armenian capital Ani, manuscripts created in this center of religion, science, architecture, and culture, in the center of the country’s spiritual life, were not found in the premises for libraries in churches.

The Greeks dreamed of weakening Armenian-Persian ties by strengthening Armenian-Greek ones. Armenia was divided into two zones of influence – Greek and Persian. Historians emphasize that the Persians did not cause difficulties in the spread of literacy in their sphere of influence, at the same time, the Greeks forbade teaching the Armenian script in the schools of the Greek zone of Armenia.

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

About Mashtots’ stay in Samosata Koryun reports the following: “Then… he went to the city of Samosata, where he was received with honors by the bishop of the city and the church. There, in that same city, he found a certain calligrapher of Greek writing named Ropanos, with whose help he designed and finally drew all the differences in writing (letters) – thin and bold, short and long, separate and double – and began to make translations together with two men, his students…”

They began the translation of the Bible with the proverbs of Solomon, where at the very beginning he (Solomon) offers to know wisdom.” From this story, the purpose of visiting Samosata becomes clear – the newly created letters needed to be given a beautiful appearance according to all the rules of calligraphy.

From the same story, it is known that the first sentence written in the newly created alphabet was the initial sentence of the book of proverbs: “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand sayings”. Having finished their business in Samosata, Mashtots and his students set off on the return journey.

Excerpt from the book by V. Vaganyan: “Unique rock images of natural disasters (Artifacts of the Egyptian Pharaoh Scorpion again lead to ancient Armenia)

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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