A History of Babylonia and Assyria, Book I: Prolegomena
Robert William Rogers author
GROTEFEND AND RAWLINSON
IT were difficult, if not impossible, to define the qualities of mind which must inhere in the decipherer of a forgotten language. He is not necessarily a great scholar, though great scholars have been successful decipherers. He may know but little of the languages that are cognate with the one whose secrets he is trying to unravel. He may indeed know nothing of them, as has several times been the case. But the patience, the persistence, the power of combination, the divine gift of insight, the historical sense, the feeling for archaeological indications, these must be present, and all these were present in the extraordinary man who now attacked the problem that had baffled so many. On June 9, 1775, Georg Friedrich Grotefend was born at Munden, in Hanover, Germany. He was destined to become a classical philologist, and for this purpose studied first at Ilfeld and later at the University of Gottingen. Here he attracted much attention, not only as a classical scholar of promise, but also as an ingenious man with a passion for the unraveling of difficult and recondite questions. He formed the friendship in Gottingen of Heyne, Tychseu, and Heeren. On the recommendation of the first named, he was appointed in 1797 to an assistant mastership in the Gottingen Gymnasium. Two years later appeared his first work, which brought him reputation and a superior post in the Gymnasium at Frankfort-on-the-Main. Up to this time he had given no attention to the study of oriental languages. But in 1802 his friend, the librarian Fiorillo, drew the attention of Grotefend to the inscriptions horn Persepolis, and placed in his hands all the literature which bad hitherto appeared.
Grotefend was at once enlisted, and, though he had no oriental learning, set himself to the work, probably little dreaming of how many years of his life would be spent upon these little inscriptions or upon the work which grew out of them. His method was exceedingly simple,29 and may be made perfectly clear without the possession of any linguistic knowledge. His fundamental principles and his simplest facts were taken over bodily from his predecessors. He began with the assumption that there were three languages, and that of these the first was ancient Persian, the language of the Achaemenides, who had erected these palaces and caused these inscriptions to be written. For his first attempts at decipherment he chose two of these old Persian inscriptions and laid them side by side. The ones which were chosen were neither too long nor too short; the frequent recurrence of the same signs in them seemed to indicate that their contents were similar, and finally they were clearly and apparently accurately copied by Niebuhr. The inscriptions thus selected were those numbered "B" and "G" by Niebuhr (see plate), which, for the purpose of this exposition, may be designated simply as first and second (I and II). Following Tychsen and Munter, he held that these inscriptions, which accompanied figures of kings, were the titles of these monarchs, and were presumably similar to the inscriptions of Sassanian kings which De Sacy had just deciphered. Grotefend placed these two inscriptions side by side and carefully examined them. In the work of 1vIiinter a word had been pointed out which appeared frequently in these inscriptions, sometimes in a short form and some. times longer, as though in the latter case some grammatical termination had been added to it. In these two inscriptions this word appeared both in the shorter and in the longer form. Grotefend was persuaded that this word meant king, as Minter had discovered, and that when it appeared twice in each of these texts in exactly the same place, first the shorter and then the longer form, the expression meant "king of kings." A glance at the plate will show that in these two inscriptions, in the second line, after the first word divider, appear the two sets of signs exactly alike, thus:
this is followed by the same word, but much increased in length, thus
The supposition was that (a) meant king while (b) was the plural and meant kings, the whole expression signifying king of kings. But further this same word, supposed to be king, occurred again in both inscriptions, namely, in the first line, and in both instances it was followed by the same word, namely:
Here, then, was another expression containing the word king. What could it mean? Grotefend looked over De Sacy’s translations of Sassanian inscriptions and found that the expression "great king" occurred in them, and then made the conjecture that this was the same expression, and that (c) meant "great," hence "king great," that is, great king. All this looked plausible enough, but it was, after all, only conjecture. It must all be supported by definite facts, and these words must each be separated into its alphabetic constituents and these understood, and supported by clear evidence, before anyone would or could believe in the decipherment. To this Grotefend now bent every energy. His method was as simple as be. fore. He had made out to his own satisfaction the titles "great king, king of kings." Now, in the Sassanian inscriptions the first word was always the king’s name, followed immediately by .great king, king of kings;" it, was probably true in this case. But, if true, then these two inscriptions were set up by different kings, for the name in the first was:
while in the other it was:
But to simplify, or to complicate the matter, as one will, this name with which I begins appears in II in the third line, but changed somewhat in its ending, so that it stands thus: From its situation in the two places Grotefend concluded that (d) was the name in the nominative and (f) was the same name in the genitive. Thus I begins "N great king, king of kings," and this same king appears in II thus: "of N." In number II this name was followed by the word for king, and after this another word which might mean .son," so that the whole phrase in If would be "of N king son," that is, .son of N king," the order of words being presumably different from that to which we are accustomed. But this same word, which is supposed to mean son, appears also in I, line five, thus:
where it follows a name which does not possess the title king. From all these facts Grotefend surmised that in these two inscriptions he had the names of three rulers: (1) the grandfather, who had founded a dynasty, but did not possess the title of king; (2) the son, who succeeded him and bore the title of king; and (3) the grandson, who also had the same title. The next thing to do was to search through all the known names of the Achaemenides to find three names which should suit. The first names thought of were Cambyses, Cyrus, and Cambyses. These will, however, not do, because the name of the grandfather and grand. son are exactly alike, whereas on the two inscriptions they are different. The next three to be considered are Hystaspes, Darius, Xerxes. If these be correct, then the seven signs with which I begins must be the name Darius (see d above). The next thing in order was to find the form of the name Darius in ancient Persian. Of course Grotefend did not expect to find it written in that way exactly, for the modern European spelling has come to us from the Greek, and the Greeks were not careful to reproduce exactly the names of other peoples who were, in their view, only barbarians. He ascertained from the Hebrew lexicon that the Hebrews pronounced the word Daryavesh, while Strabo in one passage, in trying to represent as accurately as possible the Persian form, gave it as Dareiaves. Neither of these would work very well into the seven characters, and on a venture Grotefend gave the word the form of Darheush, and so the first word was thus to be set down
That seemed to fit well enough, and as later investigations have shown, it was almost wholly correct, there being only errors in H and E, which did not vitiate the process, nor interfere with carrying it out further. The next task was to make out the name at the beginning of II. This was comparatively easy, for nearly all these same letters were here again used, and only the first was wanting. It was easy to supply this from the Hebrew form of the name and also from the Avestan language so recently deciphered. This name was therefore read thus:
The error in this also was exceedingly slight, when one considers the extreme difficulty of the task and the comparative bluntness of this tool of conjecture or surmise or, to put it boldly, guess. This name was supposed to be the Persian form for Xerxes. The next thing in order was to find the letters for the third name, and that was a much more difficult problem. This was the name which appears in I, line four, last word, thus:
Here were ten signs. Grotefend believed that this word was in the genitive case, and some signs at the end must be cut off as the genitive ending. But how many? That was the question. Perhaps the Avestan language (then called Zend) would help him. To the study of this he now had recourse, and after much doubt decided to cut off the last three as ending, and take what remained as the king’s real name. The name which he was seeking, as we have already seen, was Hystaspes, the late Persian form of which Grotefend followed, and thus made out the name:
In this word, as in the other two, later discovery showed that he bad made a mistake, but this time only in the first two characters. To Grotefend’s own mind the whole case seemed clear and indisputable, for the same characters occurred in all three names, and thus each supported the other. At this time the Persian alphabet was supposed to contain forty-two alphabetic characters, of which Grotefend believed that he bad found thirteen. To this he soon added more, by a simple process of combination, using the word for the name of god in these texts, namely, Aurmazda. He now felt himself able to translate these inscriptions in part, thus: I. Darius, the mighty king, king of kings.. son of Hystaspes. II. Xerxes, the mighty king, king of kings... son of Darius, the king. This was an epoch-making result, and even Grotefend with all his enthusiasm and with all the confidence of genius, did not fully realize it. This much he was anxious to get before the learned world for acceptance, or perhaps for criticism. That should have been easy indeed, but, in fact, it was not easy. The Gottingen Academy of Sciences refused absolutely to believe in his methods or his results, and would not take the risk of disgracing itself by publishing Grotefend’s paper, describing his work, in its transactions.30 He was not an Orientalist at all by training or experience, and the learned men of Gottingen who were orientalists asked whether "any good thing could come out of Nazareth," that is, whether a man who was not an orientalist could possibly offer a contribution of value to oriental learning. The case was a sad one for the patient, plodding decipherer, for it was not easy to see how he could gain any publicity for his work. At this juncture a personal friend, A. H. L. Heeren,. who was about to publish a book on the ancient world,31 offered to give space in the appendix to Grotefend for the purpose of setting forth his theories and discoveries. Grotefend eagerly seized the opportunity, and there appeared his work. It met, on the whole, with a cold reception. Volney denounced it as resting on forms of names which were at least doubtful and might be incorrect, and with him Joined many German voices. On the other hand Anquetil- Duperron, now an aged man, waiting "with calmness the dissolution of his mortal frame," and the immortal De Sacy received it with enthusiasm and hailed it as the beginning of the sure reading of these inscriptions. Those who doubted the whole scheme were later to receive a severe setback, and that from an unexpected source. It will be remembered that while the Persepolis inscriptions were still in the copying stage a beautiful vase had come to Paris which contained some Egyptian hieroglyphics, and also some signs like those found at Persepolis. After the publication of Grotefend’s work in Heeren’s book the Abbe Saint-Martin, in Paris, devoted much thought and time to its criticism and study. At this salve time Champollion was engaged in the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. He suggested to the abbe that they should try to decipher together the marks upon the vase. When this was attempted the abbe found that the name on the vase in cuneiform characters should be transliterated thus: CH. S H. A. R. S H. A32 and this was remarkably confirmed by the finding of the same name, according to Champollion, in the Egyptian signs. This was a small matter in some ways, but it increased the faith of many in the method and results of Grotefend. Meanwhile Grotefend himself was continuing his efforts to get beyond these few words and de. cipher a whole inscription. At this stage, how. ever, entirely different traits of mind were needed, and a completely changed mental furnishing. In the preliminary work the type of mind which Grotefend possessed was admirably adapted to the work to be done. The mental training derived from long study of the classics of Greek and Latin was likewise of constant service. He had, however, now reached the point where extensive and definite knowledge of the oriental languages was imperatively necessary. In order to secure words of ancient Persian he must know. words in the related oriental languages or in those other languages which, though not related, had been used in or about the same territory, and so might have borrowed words from old Persian. He must also know the oriental spirit, have a feeling for oriental life, be able to understand in advance just about what an oriental was likely to say. None of these possessions were his. His later work was therefore largely abortive. He tried to translate entire inscriptions, and failed. almost completely, though he devoted much time for all the rest of his life to this matter, without, however, abandoning his real field of classical literature. However unsuccessful the later efforts of Grotefend may have been, nothing can ever dim the luster of his fame as a decipherer. It was he who first learned how to read an ancient Persian word. From this, in due course, came the power to read the words of Babylonian and Assyrian. In other words, through the discoveries of Grotefend the world of ancient Persia was reopened, and men learned to read its ancient inscriptions. By them also the much greater worlds of Assyria and Babylonia were likewise rediscovered. Much of what we know of ancient Persia came from them; almost all that we know of Assyria and Babylonia was derived from them. To very few men, in all time, has it happened to make discoveries of such moment. While he still lived and worked others with better equipment in a knowledge of the oriental languages took up his work. The first of these was a Norwegian by birth, R. Rask. It was his good fortune to discover the plural ending in ancient Persian, which had baffled Grotefend. In the work of decipherment Grotefend never got so far as to determine all the characters in the phrase, king of kings, and this was now achieved by Rask,33 who correctly apportioned the characters. The same ending appears also in another word after the word "king" Rask also for this suggested a very plausible rendering. In the Sassanian inscriptions the phrase is "king of lands;" why might not this be the same? That question would find its answer at a later day. And now appeared a man to grapple with the problem of the inscriptions of Persepolis, who was in learning far better equipped than any who had preceded him. This was the French savant, Eugene Burnouf.34 He had already gained fame as the man who had given the grammar of Avestan a scientific basis. He knew that language in all its intricacies. To this he added a knowledge of Persian life and religion in the period following that to which these inscriptions belonged. All this learning could be brought to bear upon these inscriptions, and Burnouf used it all as a master. He found in one of the little inscriptions which Niebuhr had copied at Naksh-i-Rustam a list of names of countries. To this he gave close study, and by means of it accomplished almost at a stroke several distinct achievements. In the first place he found the equivalent for almost every character in the Persian alphabet. In the next he determined finally that old Persian was not the same language as Avestan, but that it was closely related to it, and that therefore there was good hope that Avestan as well as certain Indo-European languages would contribute important light to the study of old Persian. Before his own discoveries were made in full, and before their publication, Burnouf had called the attention of Lassen to this list of names. Induced by the remarks of Burnouf, Lassen made this same list of names the subject of investigation, and at about the same time as Burnouf published the results of his study, which were almost identical.35 He had, however, made, in one respect at least, very definite progress over Burnout He discovered that, if the system of Grotefend were rigidly followed, and to every letter was given the exact equivalent which Grotefend had assigned, a good many words could not be read at all, while others would be left wholly or almost wholly without vowels. As instances of such words he mentioned CPRD, THTGUS, KTPTUK, FRAISJM. This situation led Lassen to a very important discovery, toward which his knowledge of the Sanskrit alphabet did much to bring him. He came, in one word, to the conclusion that the ancient Persian signs were not entirely alphabetic, but were, partially at least, syllabic, that is, that certain signs were used to represent not merely an alphabetic character like "b," but also a syllable such as .ba," .bi," .bu." He believed that he had successfully demonstrated that the sign for "a" (see second sign in "f," below) was only used at the beginning of a word, or before a consonant, or before another vowel, and that in every other case it was included in the consonant sign. For example, in inscription I the first word of the second line ought to be read thus: while in inscription II the middle word in line three should be so read: This discovery was of tremendous importance, and may be said to have completely revolutionized the study of these long puzzling texts. To it two other scholars made important contributions, the one being Beer, and the other Jacquet, a Parisian savant. This long line of successful decipherment had been carried on with only a small portion of the inscriptions of ancient Persia, that were still in existence. Other and better copies of the inscriptions were even at this time in Europe, but had not been published. In 1811 an English traveler, Claudius James Rich, had visited Persepolis and copied all the texts that were to be found, including those which Niebuhr and his predecessors had copied. These were discovered in the papers of Rich, and in 1839 were published, coming naturally at once into the hands of Lassen, who found in them much new material for the testing of his method and for the extension of the process of decipherment. Still greater and more valuable material was placed in Lassen’s hands through the travels of Westergaard, a Dane, who, in this, imitated worthily his fellow-countryman Niebuhr. Westergaard had again gone over the old ground at Persepolis and bad there recopied and carefully collated all the well-known inscriptions.36 In this he had not done a useless task, for only by oft-repeated copying and comparing could the finally definite and perfect text be attained, without which the decipherment would always be subject to revision. But Westergaard went further than this; he visited at Naksh-i-Rustam the tombs of the Persian kings, and there copied all the tomb inscriptions which were hitherto unknown. On his return this new material was also made accessible to Lassen, who was now fairly the leader in this work of decipherment. Lassen found that the new copies of the old texts were so important that he went over some of the ground afresh and found it useful to reedit some of his work which had before seemed final. The same material called a new worker into the field in the person of Holtzman,37 of Karlsruhe, in Germany, whose work, however, made no very deep impression on the general movement. In the work of decipherment thus far the chief positions had been held by Grotefend and Burnouf, but for the maintaining of its international character the time was calling for workers from other lands. As it happened, at this very time an Englishman was at work on the same task, from a different point of view, and with different materials. It was well that this was so, for the conclusions thus far reached would probably have failed of general acceptance but for the support obtained by the publication of similar results achieved by a man of different nationality and diverse training. The history of all forms of decipherment of unknown languages shows that skepticism concerning them is far more prevalent than either its opposite, credulousness, or the happy mean of a not too ready faith. The man who was thus to rebuke the gainsayer and put the capstone upon the work of the decipherment of the Persian inscriptions was Major, (afterward Sir) Henry Rawlinson, who was born at Chadlington, Oxford, England, on April 11, 1810. While still a boy Rawlinson went out to India in the service of the East India Company. There he learned Persian and several of the Indian vernaculars. This training hardly seemed likely to produce a man for the work of deciphering an unknown language. It was just such training as had produced men like the earlier travelers who had made the first copies of the inscriptions at Persepolis. It was, however, not the kind of education which Grotefend, Burnouf, and Lassen had received. In 1833 the young Rawlinson went to Persia, there to work with other British officers in the reorganization of the Persian army. To Persia his services were of extraordinary value, and met with hearty recognition. It was in Persia, while engaged in the laborious task of whipping semi-barbarous masses of men into the severe discipline of the soldier’s life, that the attention of Rawlinson was attracted by some inscriptions. The first that roused an interest in him were those at Hamadan, which he copied with great care. This was in the year 1835, at a time when a number of European scholars were earnestly trying to decipher the inscriptions from Persepolis. Of all this eager work Rawlinson knew comparatively little. It is impossible now to determine exactly when he first secured knowledge of Grotefend’s work, for Norris, the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, has left us no record of when he first sent copies of Grotefend’s essays to the far-distant decipherer. Whatever was sent in the beginning, it is quite clear that Rawlinson worked largely independently for a considerable time. He had certainly begun his work and adopted his method before he learned of what was going on in Europe.38 Rawlinson’s method was strikingly like that adopted in the first instance by Grotefend. He had copied two trilingual inscriptions. That he had before him three languages, and not merely three styles of writing, he appears to have understood at once. To this ready appreciation of the presence of three languages Rawlinson’s experience of the polyglot character of the East had probably contributed. In 1839 he thus wrote concerning his method of decipherment: "When I proceeded...to compare and interline the two inscriptions (or, rather, the Persian columns of the two inscriptions, for as the compartments exhibiting the inscription in the Persian language occupied the principal place in the tablets, and were engraved in the least complicated of the three classes of cuneiform writing, they
were naturally first submitted to examination) I found that the characters coincided throughout, except in certain particular groups, and it was only reasonable to suppose that the groups which were thus brought out and individualized must represent proper names. I further remarked that there were but three of these distinct groups in the two inscriptions; for the group which occupied the second place in one inscription, and which, from its position, suggested the idea of its representing the name of the father of the king who was there commemorated, corresponded with the group which occupied the first place in the other inscription, and thus not only served determinately to connect the two inscriptions together, but, assuming the groups to represent proper names, appeared also to indicate a genealogical succession. The natural inference was that in these three groups of characters I had obtained the proper names belonging to three consecutive generations of the Persian monarchy; and it so happened that the first three names of Hystaspes, Darius, and Xerxes, which I applied at hazard to the three groups, according to the succession, proved to answer in all respects satisfactorily and were, in fact, the true identifications."39 In the autumn of 1836, while at Teheran, Rawlinson first secured an acquaintance with the works of St. Martin and Klaproth, but found in them nothing beyond what he had already attained by his own unaided efforts, and in certain points he felt that he had gone further than they, and with greater probability. Rawlinson’s next work was the copying of the great inscription of Darius on the rocks at Behistun. This was a task of immense difficulty, carried on at the actual risk of his life, from its position high up on the rocks and beneath a blazing sun.40 In 1835, when he first discovered it, Rawlinson was able to study it only by means of a field glass. At this time he could not copy the whole text, but gained more of it in 1837, when he had become more skilled in the strange character. In that year he forwarded to the Royal Asiatic Society of London his translation of the first two paragraphs of this Persian inscription, containing the name, titles, and genealogy of Darius. It must be remembered that Rawlinson had accomplished this without a knowledge of the related languages, except for what he could extract from the researches of Anquetil-Duperron. In the autumn of 1838, however, he came into possession of the works of Burnouf on the Avestan language, which proved of immense value in his work. He also secured at the same time the copies of the Persepolis inscriptions made by Niebuhr, Le Brun, and Porter, and the names of countries in them were of great assistance to him, as they already had been to Burnouf and Lassen. With the advantage of almost all that European scholars had done, Rawlinson was now able to make rapid progress, and in the winter of 1838-1839 his alphabet of ancient Persian was almost complete. He was, however, unwilling to publish his results until he had ransacked every possible source of information which might have any bearing on the matter. In 1839 he was settled in Baghdad, his work in reality finished and written out for publication, but still hesitating and waiting for more light. Here he obtained books from England for the study of Sanskrit, and a letter from Professor Lassen, which greatly pleased him, though from it he was able to obtain only one character which he had not previously known. Here also he received the copies which Mr. Rich had made at Persepolis, and a transcript of an inscription of Xerxes at Van which had been made by M. Eug6ne Bore. In this year (1839) he wrote his preliminary memoir, and expected to publish it in the spring of 1840. Just at this juncture he was suddenly removed from Baghdad and sent to Afghanistan as political agent at Kandahar. In this land, then in a state of war, he spent troublous years until 1843. He was so absorbed in war, in which he won distinction, and in administration as well, that his oriental studies had to be given up entirely. In December, 1843, he was returned to Baghdad, the troubles in Afghanistan being for the time ended, and at once resumed his investigations. Here he obtained the fresh copies and corrections of the Persepolitan inscriptions which Westergaard had made, and later made a journey to Behistun to perfect his copies of those texts which had. formed the basis of his first study. At last, after many delays and discouragements, he published, in 1846, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, his memoir, or series of memoirs, on the ancient Persian inscriptions, in which for the first time he gave a nearly complete translation of the whole Persian text of Behistun. In this Rawlinson attained an imperishable fame in oriental research. His work had been carried on under difficulties, of which the European scholars had never even dreamed, but lie had surpassed them all in the making of an intelligible and connected translation of a long inscription. Remarkable as this was, perhaps the most noteworthy matter in connection with his work was this, that much of it had been done with small assistance from Europe.41 He had, indeed, received from Norris, Grotefend’s results, though not at the very beginning, and he was later supplied with all that other scholars had been able to accomplish. Furthermore, as early as 1837 he was in correspondence with Burnouf and Lassen, from both of whom he gained assistance. When all allowance is made for these influences, his fame is not diminished nor the extent of his services in the decipherment curtailed. His method was settled early and before he knew of Lassen’s work. That two men of such different training and of such opposing types of mind should have lighted upon the same method, and by it have attained the same results, confirmed, in the eyes of many, the decipherment. The whole history of the decipherment of these ancient Persian inscriptions is full of surprises, and another now followed immediately. In January, 1847, the Dublin University Magazine contained an unsigned article with the taking title, "Some Passages of the Life of King Darius," the opening sentences of which were as follows: "In adding this new name to the catalogue of royal authors, we assure our readers that we are perfectly serious. The volume which contains this monarch’s own account of his accession, and of the various rebellions that followed it, is now before us; and unpretending as it is in its appearance, we do not hesitate to say that a more interesting-and on many accounts a more important addition to our library of ancient history has never been made."42 After this introduction the writer proceeds to narrate how Major Rawlinson had copied at Behistun the inscription of Darius and how he had successfully deciphered it. As the paper proceeds, the anonymous writer goes beyond the work of Rawlinson to tell of what bad been done in Europe by Grotefend and others, displaying in every sentence the most exhaustive acquaintance with the whole history of the various attempts at decipherment. Then he falls into courteous and gentle but incisive criticism of some of Major Rawlinson’s readings or translations, and herein displays a mastery of the whole subject which could only be the result of years of study. There was but one man in Ireland who could have written such a paper as that, and he was a quiet country rector at Killyleagh, County Down, the Rev. Edward Hincks!43 He was born at Cork, in 1792, and was therefore the senior of Rawlinson by about eighteen years. After an education at Trinity College, Dublin, that wonderful nursery of distinguished Irishmen, where he took a gold medal in 1811, he was settled in 1825 at Killyleagh, to spend the remainder of his life. His first contributions to human learning appear to have been in mathematics, but he early began to devote himself to oriental languages, publishing in 1832 a Hebrew grammar. He was one of the pioneers of Egyptian decipherment, and his contributions to that great work are acknowledged now to be of the highest rank. ’Unhappily his life has never been worthily written, and it is impossible to determine just when he first began to study the inscriptions of Persepolis. It is, however, clear that, independently of Rawlinson, he arrived at the meaning of a large number of signs, and had among his papers, before Rawlinson’s work appeared, translations of some of the Persepolitan texts. His first published memoir was read before the Royal‘ Irish Academy on dune 6, 1846, having been written in the month of May in that year. In this paper Hincks shows an acquaintance with the efforts at decipherment which had been made by Westergaard and Lassen, but he seems not to have seen the works of the other continental decipherers. He had much surpassed these two without the advantage which they enjoyed of more complete literature. In the work of Hincks the Persepolitan inscriptions had been now for the third time independently deciphered and in part translated. With this Dr. Hincks did not cease his work, but went on to larger conquests, of which we shall hear later in this story. The work of decipherment was now over as far as the ancient Persian inscriptions were concerned. There was, of course, much more to be learned concerning the language and concerning the historical material which the inscriptions had provided. On these and other points investigation would go on even to this hour. But the pure work of the decipherer was ended, the texts were read. A language long dead lived again. Men long silent had spoken again. It seemed a dream; it was a genuine reality, the result of long and painful study through a series of years by scores of men, each contributing his share. Though the work upon Persian was in this advanced stage, very little had yet been done with the other two languages upon these same inscriptions. What might be the result of a similar study of them nobody now knew. It was believed that the columns written in two other languages contained the same facts as those which had been so laboriously extracted from old Persian, and there was, therefore, little incitement to their study. Before the end of this period, however, there were beginning to be hints that these other two languages were important, and that one of them was the representative of a great people who possessed an extensive literature. The proofs that this was indeed true were now slowly beginning to accumulate, and, when enough of them were gathered to make an impression, the men who were gifted with the decipherer’s skill would turn from the Persian to unravel the secrets of the unknown and unnamed languages which the kings of Persia had commanded to be set up by the side of their own Persian words. Great results had already flowed from the Persian studies. New light had been cast upon many an enigmatical passage in Herodotus; a whole kingdom had been permitted to speak, not through its enemies, as before, but for itself. But all this was as nothing compared with the untold, unimagined results which were soon to follow from a study of the third language which existed in all the groups at Persepolis. To this study men were now to be wrought up by the brilliant work of explorers. We have traced one story-the story of decipherment. We turn now to a second story, the story of exploration. EXCURSUS. THE ROMANTIC HISTORY OF FLOWER’S COPIES OF INSCRIPTIONS.
The first characters from Persepolis which were published in England appeared in the Philosophical Transactions for June, 1693, and their history was so peculiar and of such considerable importance that they are here reproduced and the story of their misuse in various forms is set forth. The beginning of the story is found in a letter sent by Francis Aston to the publisher, which, with all its solecisms, runs thus: "Sir, I here send you some Fragments of Papers put into my hands by a very good Friend, relating to antique and obscure Inscriptions, wh were retrieved after the Death of Mr. Flower, Agent in Persia for our East India Company; who while he was a Merchant at Aleppo had taken up a resolution to procure some Draught or Representation of the admired Ruines at  , pursuant to the third Enquiry for Persia, mentioned in the Philosophical Transactions, pag. 420, viz., whether there being already good Descriptions in words of the Excellent Pictures and Basse Relieves that are about Persepolis at Chilmenar yet none very particular, some may not be found sufficiently skilled in those parts, that might be engaged to make a Draught of the Place, & the Stories their [sic] pictured & carved. This Desire of the Royal Society, as I believe, it hinted at a Summary Delineation, wh might be perform’d by a Man qualify’d in a few days, taking his own opportunity for the avoiding much Expence, (wh you know they are never able to bear:) So I cannot but think Mr. Flower
conceived it to be a business much easier to perform then [ ] he found it upon the place, where he spent a good deal of Time and Money, & dying suddainly after, left his Draughts & Papers dispersed in several hands, one part whereof you have here, the rest its hoped may in some wise be recovered, if Sir John Chardin’s exact & accurate Publication of the entire Word do not put a period to all further Curiosity, wh I heartily wish." Accompanying this letter was a lithographed plate of inscriptions from Nocturestand, that is Naksh-i- Rustam, and from Chahelminar, that is, Persepolis. They had been copied by Flower in November, 1667. The first, second, and fourth of these inscriptions are Sassanian and Greek, while the third and sixth are Arabic. The fifth consists of two lines of cuneiform characters as follows:
To these cuneiform characters Mr. Flower had added this explanatory note: .This character, whether it be the ancient writing of the Gawres and Gabres, or a kind of Telesmes is found only at Persepolis, being a part of what is there engraven in white Marble, & is by no man in Persia legible or understood at this Day. A Learned Jesuit Father, who deceased three years since, affirmed this character to be known & used in Egypt." The editor appended to this a note which showed that he was a man of some penetration "it seems written from the Left Hand to the Right, and to consist of Pyramids, diversely posited, but not joined together. As to the Quantity of the Inscriptions, Herbert reckon’d in one large Table Twenty Lines of a prodigious Breadth. Of this sort here are distinct Papers, each of several Lines." Aston appears to have been much interested in these papers of his deceased friend, for he recurs to the matter again to say that in February, 1672, Flower had compared these cuneiform signs with twenty-two characters, .Collected out of the Ancient Sculptures, to be found this day extant in the admired Hills of Canary." It is unfortunate that Flower died without publishing his own copies of inscriptions. If he had lived to give them forth, a curious catalogue of mistakes might have been avoided. Mr. Aston doubtless supposed that the characters formed an inscription either complete or at least connected. These characters, as a matter of fact, were selected by Flower from the three languages at Persepolis, and do not form an inscription at all. As published by Aston they are taken at random from Persian, Susian, and Assyrian, as the following list will show. The first line begins with three Persian characters (a, ra, sa), the next is Assyrian (u), and after it the Persian word-divider. After these come one Persian (th) and three Assyrian (bu, sa, si) syllabic signs; then one Susian (sa), one Assyrian (rad), one Persian (h), and finally one Assyrian (i) character. The second line is equally mixed. It begins with a Persian sign (probably bumi) followed by three Assyrian (a, u, nu), one Susian (ak) and then another Assyrian (kha) sign. These are followed by one Susian (ti), one Persian (kh), one Assyrian (ya), and finally one Susian (ta). The signs were exceedingly well copied, and it is a pity that a man who could copy so well had not been able to issue all his work. It might have hastened the day of the final decipherment. Instead of really contributing to a forward movement in the study of the Persepolis inscriptions, Flower’s copies resulted in actual hindrance to the new study. The history of this retrograde movement is a curious chapter in the history of the science of language. It deserves to be followed step by step if for naught else than for its lessons in the weaknesses of human nature. The cuneiform characters of Flower now began an extraordinary and unexpected career. The first man who appears to have noticed them was Thomas Hyde. Hyde was professor of Hebrew in the University of Oxford, but, like other Hebrew professors in later days, devoted much energy to other oriental study. His great book was on the religion of the Persians,44 in which he discussed many things, without always displaying much willing receptiveness for things that were new. He reproduced in a plate the cuneiform characters of Flower, along with some Sassanian and Palmyrene inscriptions. Over the Sassanian and Palmyrene texts Hyde waxes eloquent of denunciation. He bewails the sad fact that these .wretched scribblings, made perhaps by ignorant soldiers," had been left to vex a later day. Then he comes to a discussion of the cuneiform characters, and gives them that very name ( .)45 Next he quotes Aston’s statement that Herbert had mentioned twenty lines of cuneiform writing at Persepolis. Hyde waves this statement majestically aside, and gives a long argument to show that these signs were not letters, nor intended for letters, but are purely ornamental.46 He attached great importance to the interpunction in Flower’s copy, and adds that Herbert and Thevenot had given three lines of the same kind of ornamentation, but as they did not give any interpunction, he pronounces their copies worthless. Just here he made a series of mistakes. In the first place, of course, the interpunction was the invention of Flower, and was, as we now see, merely his way of indicating that he had copied only separate and selected signs. In the next place, Thevenot gives no copies of inscriptions at all. Hyde had evidently seen some copies in some place and was quoting from memory. One wonders whether he had not seen the copies of Mandeslo, and had in memory confused him with Thevenot. The next man who was moved to make use of the characters of Flower was a Dutchman, Witsen, who was gifted with a keen eagerness for the marvelous. He calmly reproduces Flower’s characters, which he had most probably copied from Hyde, and introduces them to his readers in a remarkable narrative. "In the lands beyond Tarku, Boeriah, and Osmin," he says, "is a country where a German medical man, who had traversed it when flying from the anger of Stenko Rasin, has told me he had seen on arches, walls, and mountains sculptured letters of the same form as those found on the ruins of Persepolis, which he had also seen. This writing belonged, it is said, to the language of the ancient Persians, Gabres, Gabres, or worshipers of fire. Two specimens of them are given here, though these characters are now unintelligible. Throughout the whole country, said this medical man, above all at a little distance from Derbent, in the mountains beside which the road passes, one sees sculptured on the rock figures of men dressed in strange fashion like that of the ancient Greeks, or perhaps Romans, and not only solitary figures, but entire scenes and representations of men engaged in the same business, besides broken columns, aqueducts, and arcades for walking over pits and valleys. Among other monuments there is there a chapel built of stone, and reverenced by some Armenian Christians who live in its neighborhood, and on the walls of which were engraved many of the characters of which I have spoken. This chapel had formerly belonged to the pagan Persians who adored a divinity in fire."47 This whole account bears every mark of having been manufactured to fit the inscriptions. No such ruins have been seen by any person in the country described, and no inscriptions have been found there. The cuneiform characters had to be accounted for in some way, and this was Witsen’s method. But more and worse things were still to be invented to account for these same little characters of Flower. In 1723 Derbent and Tarku were visited by Dimitri Cantemir, Prince of Moldavia, who had the patronage of the czar, Peter the Great, in his search for antiquities and inscriptions. He died at Derbent, and the inscriptions he saw are all catalogued by Frahm, and there is no cuneiform inscription among them. The prince’s papers passed into the hands of Th. S. Bayer, who utilized them in a book, De Muro Caucaseo, in which he tried to prove that this wall was built in the time of the Medo-Persian empire. Now, Bayer was acquainted with Witsen’s book, and made references to it, but he evidently did not believe in the marvelous story which Wit en told concerning the cuneiform inscriptions, for he makes no reference to it at all, whereas that would have given the most conclusive proof of the main thesis of his book which could possibly be suggested. Here were inscriptions of the Medo-Persian people, found at the very wall which he desired to prove was Medo-Persian in origin. But the end was not yet concerning the papers of the unfortunate Prince of Moldavia. Professor Guldenstadt planned a trip through the Caucasus in 1766-69, and friends put in his hands certain papers to be used on the journey. Among them was a copy of Flower’s cuneiform characters. It seems probable that he was informed that this copy belonged to Cantemir’s papers, for when Guldenstadt’s papers came into the hands of Klaproth he attached to the Flower characters this note: "Inscriptions de Tarkou, d’apres un Dessin du prince Dimitri Cantemir, qui se trouvait avec les Instructious de Guldenstadt. St. P. 4 Aug., 1807.48 Now here, by a chapter of accidents, mistakes, and deceits, were Flower’s signs localized at Tarku, and of course considered a veritable inscription. In 1826 F. E. Schulz was sent by the French government to the East to search for inscriptions, and he took with him the Flower signs, with Klaproth’s note attached. It was probably his intention to go to Tarku and collate the copy with the original inscription, for of course he bad no doubt that it really existed. Schulz, however, was murdered at Julameih in 1829, and when many of his papers were recovered, here was found among them the same old copy of Flower. Schulz’s copies were published, and the .inscription of Tarku" appears with the rest. The next man to allude to it was Saint Martin, who gravely informs his readers that this inscription was carved above the gate of Tarku,49 thus adding a little definiteness to the tradition. Naturally enough the Flower copy made its way to Grotefend, who was, however, not deceived by it.50 He recognized at once that it really consisted of a number of characters selected from all three languages which were found at Persepolis, though he did not know that Flower was the copyist. This was in 1820, and one might have expected that this would end the wanderings and the fictitious history of Flower’s copies. But not just yet; there was still vigor in the story and the race was not yet over. In 1836 Burnouf got a copy of the same lines and set to work earnestly to decipher them. He found that they contained the name of Arsakes, repeated three times.51 In 1838 Beer discussed the lines, and attached himself to Grotefend’s view, recognizing the fact that they did not form an inscription at all. Burnouf’s translation did not suit the next investigator very well, and he began afresh to decipher and translate. This was A. Holtzmann, who argued learnedly that the lines formed a genuine Persepolitan text of great interest. The inscription was indeed a memorial of Arses, who was murdered in B. C. 336 by Bagoas. Holtzmann thus translated the text "Arses (son) of Artaxerxes, King of Provinces, the Achaemenian, made (this)."