The Himyaritic Language -- By: Edward E. Salisbury

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 002:6 (May 1845)
Article: The Himyaritic Language
Author: Edward E. Salisbury


The Himyaritic Language

By Edward E. Salisbury

Forster’s Pretended Discovery Of A Key To The Himyaritic Inscriptions

Arab historians and geographers inform us of an alphabetical character anciently in use in Yemen, which they call the Himyaritic, from the name of an ancient dynasty of southern Arabia. The first European who sought to verify this information by the discovery of existing monuments, was Carsten Niebuhr. His inquiries, however, though not altogether fruitless, brought no inscription to light. Forty years later, about the year 1810, Seetzen, following a hint of Niebuhr, had the good fortune to discover several inscriptions. But he made no attempt to decipher them, and the copies of some of them which he published in the Fundgruben des Orients, remained an unexplored mine.1 About a quarter of a century after this, in the year 1834, the number of discovered inscriptions was greatly increased by researches, in connection with the coast-survey of the British along the southern shores of the Arabian peninsula; and the attention of some of the most distinguished philologians of Germany began to be directed to finding a key to the unknown character, which was now regarded as undoubtedly the Himyaritic of the Arab authors. In 1837 Roediger of Halle published some observations, preparatory to a deciphering of the inscriptions, in the Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes.2 Next appeared an essay by Gesenius in the Allgemeine Literatur- Zeitung for July, 1841, which first gave results of deciphering, in certain readings. This was followed in the same year by a pamphlet from Roediger, entitled Versuch über die Himjaritischen Schriftmonumente; and in 1842 Roediger published a Himyaritic alphabet, with an Excurs über die Himjaritischen Inschriften, proposing interpretations of his own, as an appendix to a German translation of the travels of the first British discoverer of the inscriptions, Capt. Wellsted.3

It is not our present design to discuss the merits of these German works. We propose to examine the ground taken by a British author, the Rev. Charles Forster, who has lately astonished his countrymen with an interpretation, quite original, of one of the longest inscriptions as yet found, which is not without plausibility, to a superficial observer, and has therefore deluded many, who either have not been competent, or have not taken the trouble, to investigate the matter. It forms the subject of an appendix to The Historical Geography of Arabia by the same author.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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