letter written in a character closely resembling that of the Kair Bir’im inscription. Other fragments were published by Steinschneider (perhaps 8th century), and by D. H. Müller and Kaufmann.
Hebrew inscriptions outside Palestine are the cursive graffiti in the catacombs at Venosa (2nd-5th century), the magical texts on Babylonian bowls (7th-8th century), and the numerous tombstones in various parts of Europe, of all periods from the 6th century to the present time.
The few Samaritan inscriptions in existence are neither early nor interesting.
Closely related to the Hebrews, both politically and in language, were the Phoenicians in North Syria. Their monuments in Phoenicia itself are few and not earlier than the Persian period. The oldest yet found, dating probably from the 5th or 4th century B.C., is that of Yeḥaw-milk, king of Gebal (modern Jebel) or Byblus, where it was found. It records at some length the dedication of buildings, &c., to the goddess of Gebal. Of the 3rd century B.C. are the inscriptions on the sarcophagi of Tabnith and his son Eshmun’azar, kings of Sidon, and some records of other members of the same family, Bod-’ashtart and his son Yathan-milk, found in 1902 a short distance north of Sidon.
Outside Phoenicia the inscriptions are numerous and widely scattered round the Mediterranean coasts, following the course of Phoenician trade. The earliest is that on some fragments of three bronze bowls, dedicated to Baal of Lebanon, found in Cyprus. The character is like that of the Moabite Stone, and the date is probably the 8th century B.C., though some scholars would put it nearer to 1000 B.C. In the latter case, the Hiram, king of Sidon, mentioned in the inscriptions would be the same as Hiram, king of Tyre, in Solomon’s time. Similar bowls (of about 700 B.C.) found at Nimrud sometimes bear the maker’s name in Phoenician characters.
Many monumental inscriptions have also been found in Cyprus, at Kition, Idalion, Tamassos, &c. They are chiefly votive, some dated in the 4th century, and some being perhaps as late as the 2nd century B.C., so that they afford valuable evidence as to the succession of the local kings. Several also are bilingual, and it was one of these which supplied George Smith with the clue to the Cypriote syllabic system of writing Greek. Similar memorials of Phoenician settlements were found at Athens (Piraeus), in Egypt, Sardinia, Malta and Gozo. Most interesting of all is the celebrated sacrificial tablet of Marseilles, giving an elaborate tariff of payments at or for the various offerings, and showing some striking analogies with the directions in the book of Leviticus. For the information it gives as to civil and priestly organization, it is the most important Phoenician text in existence. It was probably brought from Carthage, where similar tariffs have been found. On the site of that important colony, and indeed throughout the parts of North Africa once subject to its rule, Punic inscriptions are, as might be expected, very numerous. By far the majority are votive tablets, probably belonging to the period between the 4th and the 2nd centuries B.C., many of them in a wonderfully perfect state of preservation. One of the most interesting, recently discovered, mentions a high-priestess who was head of the college of priests, and whose husband’s family had been suffetes for four generations. Later inscriptions, called neo-Punic, dating from the fall of Carthage to about the 1st century A.D., are written in a debased character and language differing in several respects from the earlier Punic, and presenting many difficulties.
In Aramaic the earliest inscriptions are three found in 1890-1891 at and near Zinjīrlī in North-west Syria, dating from the 8th century B.C. Of these, one was set up by Panammū, king of Ya’dī, in honour of the god Hadad, and is inscribed on a statue of him, the other two were set up by Bar-rekub, son of Panammū, one in honour of his father and on his statue, the second commemorating the erection of his new house. They are remarkable as being engraved in relief, a peculiarity which has been thought to be due to “Hittite” influence. Otherwise the character resembles that of the Moabite Stone. The texts consist of 77 lines (not all legible), giving a good deal of information about an obscure place and period hitherto known only from cuneiform sources. The ornamentation is Assyrian in style, as also is that of the inscriptions of Nerab (near Aleppo), commemorative texts engraved on statues of priests, of about the 7th century.
Of shorter inscriptions there is a long series from about the 8th century B.C., on bronze weights found at Nineveh (generally accompanied by an Assyrian version), and as “dockets” to cuneiform contract-tablets, giving a brief indication of the contents. Aramaic, being the commercial language of the East, was naturally used for this purpose in business documents. For the same reason it is found in the 6th-4th centuries B.C. sporadically in various regions, as in Cilicia, in Lycia (with a Greek version), at Abydos (on a weight). At Taimā also, in North Arabia, an important trading centre, besides shorter texts, a very interesting inscription of twenty-three lines was found, recording the foundation and endowment of a new temple, probably in the 5th century B.C. But by far the most extensive collection of early Aramaic texts comes from Egypt, where the language was used not only for trade purposes, as elsewhere, but also officially under the Persian rule. From Memphis there is a funeral inscription dated in the fourth year of Xerxes (482 B.C.), and a dedication on a bowl of about the same date. A stele recently published by de Vogüé is dated 458 B.C. Another which is now at Carpentras in France (place of origin unknown) is probably not much later. At Elephantine and Assuān in Upper Egypt, a number of ostraka have been dug up, dating from the 5th century B.C. and onward, all difficult to read and explain, but interesting for the popular character of their contents, style and writing. There was a Jewish (or Israelitish) settlement there in the 5th century from which emanated most, if not all, of the papyrus documents edited in the C.I.S. Since the appearance of this part of the Corpus, more papyri have come to light. One published by Euting is dated 411 B.C. and is of historical interest, eleven others, containing legal documents, mostly dated, were written between 471 and 411 B.C.; another (408 B.C.) is a petition to the governor of Jerusalem. The fragments in the C.I.S. are in the same character and clearly belong to the same period. The language continued to be used in Egypt even in Ptolemaic times, as shown by a papyrus (accounts) and ostrakon containing Greek names, and belonging, to judge from the style of the writing, to the 3rd century B.C. The latest fragments are of the 6th-8th century A.D., written in a fully developed square character. They are Jewish private letters, and do not prove anything as to the use of Aramaic in Egypt at that time.
Nabataean inscriptions are very numerous. They are written in a peculiar, somewhat cursive character, derived from the square, and date from the 2nd century B.C. The earliest dated is of the year 40 B.C., the latest dated is of A.D. 95. The Nabataean kingdom proper had its centre at Petra ( = Sela in 2 Kings xiv. 7), which attained great importance as the emporium on the trade route between Arabia and the Persian Gulf on the
- Published with other fragments in the Jew. Quart. Review, xvi. 1.
- Zeitsch. f. Aegypt. Spr. (1879). These were the first specimens found. See also Erman and Krebs, Aus den Papyrus d. kgl. Mus. p. 290 (Berlin, 1899).
- Mittheilungen . . . Rainer, i. 38 (Wien, 1886).
- Those in France were collected by Schwab in Nouvelles archives, xii. 3. See also Chwolson, Corpus Inscr. Hebr. (St Petersburg, 1882).
- These have been collected by J. H. Stevenson, Babyl. and Assyr. Contracts (New York, 1902). A more complete collection has been prepared by Professor A. T. Clay.
- For the literature see Kalinka, Tituli Lyciae, No. 152 (Vienna, 1901).
- Répertoire d’épigr. sém., No. 438.
- So Bacher in J. Q. R. xix. 441.
- In Mém. Acad. inscr. 1re sér. xi. 297. See also Rép. d’épigr. sém., for some smaller fragments, Nos. 244-248.
- Sayce and Cowley, Aramaic Papyri (London, 1906).
- Sachau, “Drei aram. Papyrusurkunden” Abh. d. kgl. Preuss. Akad. (Berlin, 1907).
- See P.S.B.A. (1907), p. 260.
- See Lidzbarski, Ephemeris, ii. 247.
- J.Q.R. xvi. 7.