phabet was successively enriched. But this account very much resembles a fiction of the Greek gammarians, very ignorant of the origin of their own language; a fiction adopted afterwards by the Roman authors, and by the greatest number of our modern writers. Many reasons bring me to think thus. The diversity of sentiments, about these pretended inventors of letters which were wanting in the an. cient Greek alphabet “, prove at first sight how very uncertain every thing was they have said of their discoveries. I find afterwards in the Greek language more than fix Phoenician letters which agree with each other both in name and found. Besides, there are numbers of the most common Greek words, the most ancient and the most necef. fary, which are only written by means of the letters which they attribute the invention of to Palamedes, to Simonides, or to Epicharmesy. Lastly, we see that the form of the characters has greatly varied among the Greeks; it has ex. perienced successive changes, similar to those which the writing of all languages has experienced. I obferve, that some of the characters which they pretend to have been newly invented, only appear to be modifications of other letters more ancient . We ought not then to regard what some modern writers have propagated about the pretend ed augmentations made fucceflively to the alphabet of Cadmus by Palamedes, Simonides, and Epicharmes. These facts are nothing less than proofs, that custom alone can have enriched the Greek alphabet with the characters of which it had need,

We see, by all that remains of the monuments of antiqui. ty, that originally the Greeks formed alternately their lines from right to, left, and from left to right, in the same manner that ploughmen draw their furrows. This is what has made them give to this ancient manner of writing the name

" See Hermannus Hugo, de prima fcrib. orig. c. 3.; Fabricius, bibl, Graeg, 1.1. c. 23. 1. 2. t, 1. p. 147. * Seele Clerc, bibl. choil.t.11. p. 39. 40.

y Id. ibid, * See acad. des inscript, t. 23. mem, p. 421. & 421. * Id. ibid. loco cit,


of Boustrophedon, a word literally signifying furrowed wri. . ting *

I doubt further if we ought to look upon the Greeks as the inventors of this manner of writing. I am much inclined to think that the Phoenicians wrote thus originally, and that even at the time of Cadmus. It is in effect more than probable, that the Greeks, on receiving the writing of the Phoenicians, would at first follow the manner in which these people ranged their chara:ters. Even this practice, which now seems to us so odd, yet might be that which shall first have presented itself. In the origin of alphabetic writing, and when they had begun to make use of that invention, it must have appeared very natural to continue the line backwards, and to follow it thus alternatively. I should think, that they must have had some reflection to have determined them, after the first line was finished, to bring back their hand under the first letter of that line, and thus to begin again all the lines in the same way. It is true, that, in the manner of writing in Boustrophedoni, they were obliged at each line to form a part of the same characters in a contrary way. But experience teaches us, that, in making discoveries, we almost always begin with the most difficult processes. Moreover, I presume, that in the early times they only writ with capital letters; and we know that in the Greek alphabet there are many which we may form equally contrarily. We must observe further, that originally they ingraved these characters on hard substances, or at least very firm ones. This practice did not permit to write fast as we do at this time. In this case it would be almost indifferent to ingrave the same characters from right to left, or from left to right.

Writing in Boustrophedon had subsisted a long time in Greece. It was in this manner that the laws of Solon were written 5. This legislator published them about 594 years

I did not think it necessary to give a model of this sort of writing, reflecting that it is found in many works which are in the hands of every body. See among others vol. 23. des inem. de l'acad. des inscriptions. • Suid. in Kerudev yópos, t. 2. p. 674.; Harpocrat. in Kár wey róxos, p. 203


before the Christian æra. They have likewise discovered some inscriptions in Boustrophedon which only ascend be. tween 500 and 460 years before Christ.

The Greeks only knew very lately the inconveniency of forming their lines alternatively from left to right, and from right to left. At last indeed they found, that the method of writing uniformly from left to right was the most natural, because it restrained and fatigued the hand less d. This discovery must have made them insensibly abandon writing in Boustrophedon. An ancient author, whose works have not yet been published, says, according to the report of Fabricius, who cites him in his Bibliotheca Græca, that it was Pronapides who first introduced into Greece the method of wri. ting uniformly from left to right. This Pronapides passed in antiquity for having been the preceptor of Homer . We may then advance, that it was nearly about 900 years before Christ that the Greeks began to write uniformly from left to right. But we had better confess that we can say nothing very satisfactorily on the ages in which this practice has been constantly observed in Greece. We see plainly, by some monuments which afcend to very remote times, that this sort of writing had place among the Greeks very anciently. The Abbé Fourmont has reported in his voyage to the East, inscriptions written from left to right, which appear to have been at the time of the first war between the Lacedæmonians and the Messenians, that is to say, 742 years before Christ s. But we know also, that, near 100 years after that event, writing in Boustrophedon must have still been in use. The manner in which I have just said the laws of Solon 5 were written, and other infcriptions posterior to that legislator, prove it sufficiently. It appears then, that, for some ages, they continued to write indifferently in Boustrophedon, and uniformly from left to right. Further, it does not appear to me possible to determine precisely the time in

c Muratori, nov. ther. t. 1, col. 48. d See parts. book 2. chap. 6. e Bibl. Graec. f.1.1.1. c. 27. n. 2. & 3. p. 159v f See Diod. I. 4. p. 237. & Acad. des inscript, t.15. p. 397. t. 16. hift. p. 104. k Supra, p. 232. VOL. II.


which the first of these practices had been absolutely abolished. It can only be time, researches, and some happy events which can procure us an explication of all these difficulties. : The Phoenician writing, in passing from Asia into Greece, received a change still more considerable than what I have spoke of. The Phænicians, like most of the eastern people, did not express the vowels in writing ; they contented themfelves with aspirating them in pronunciation. The Greeks, whose language was more soft than that of the Phænicians, had not occasion for fo many aspirations: they converted them then into vowels which they expressed in their writing. This change was very easy: the name of the principal aspirations used in the Phoenician language must naturally have furnished that of the Greek vowels i.

This manner of writing could not certainly have taken place at the beginning when Cadmus instructed Greece in the art of writing. Tliere must have passed some time before they could have thought of making changes in the Phænician writing. It would be difficult to assign the epoch in which the vowels had been introduced into the Greek writing. We may perhaps, after an ancient historian, attribute that innovation to Linus k, the master of Orpheus, of Thamyris, of Hercules, &c. This person so famous in antiquity was of Thebes in Boeotia ', a city founded by Cadmus, and where, of consequence, writing must have been fooner perfected. But, moreover, this is only a conjecture on which I do not pretend to insist.

The Greeks, in their common business, used originally to write on tablets of wood covered with wax m. It was with a style of iron that they drew their characters n. With respect to laws, treaties of alliance or of peace, it was their custom to ingrave them on stone or on brass •. They preserved in

See Bochart, chan. 1. 1. C. 20. p.493. We may nevertheless still believe that anciently the Phoenicians expressed the vowels in their writing. This conjecture is not void of foundation. But it would draw us into too long a discusion. * Dionyf. apud Diodor. 1. 3. p. 236.

! Paus. 1.9.c. 29. 11 Hidor, orig. 1. 6. c. 8. . n Id. ibid. o Pauf. 1.4.C. 26.; Tacit. annal. 1.4.n.26.&43.; Suid. in Axecíndosi t.1, p.89.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the same manner the remembrance of events which interested the nation, and the succession of princès who had governed them p.

Besides, it appears, that it has been anciently with the Greeks the same as with all other people of antiquity, thar is to say, that, in early times, they made very little use of wri. ting. We fee hy Homer, that, in the heroic ages, they did not use it in the most necessary acts of civil life. They de. cided processes and differences by the verbal deposition of some witnesses 9. We have even room to doubt whether treațies of peace were then reduced to writing.

In the lliad, the Greeks, and the Trojans ready, to en. gage, propose to terminate their differences by a single combat between Paris and Menelaus: they stipulate what shall be the conditions on each side according to the event of the battle. Priam and Agamemnon advance to the middle of the two armies. They bring lambs to sacrifice, and wine to make libations : Agamemnon crits the wool from the head of the lambs : the heralds of the Greeks and Trojans divide it between the princes. Agamemnon declares with a loud voice, the conditions of the treaty. They cut the throats of the lambs, they make libations's the treaty is ratified"; and it is not said, that the conditions were couched in writing.

On another occasion, Hectoř challenges to single combat, ihe most valiant of the army of the Greeks. Many princes present themselves, to accept the defiance : they agree, that chance shall determine who shall fight the son of Priam. The manner in which they proceed is remarkable: instead of writing his naine, each of the princes makes a mark which he casts into the helmet of Agamemnon'.

If they were to erect a monument, Homer does not say that they put any inscription upon itt: we see, that they then contented themselves to put on the monuments a column, or some other characteristic mark u. Lastly, there is not

P Acad. des inscript. t. 15. p. 397.

4 Iliad. 1. 18. v.499. &C. 1 Ibid. 1. 3. v. 140.

Ibid. l. 7. V. 175.&C. * Ibid. 1. 23. V. 245.&c. v Iliad, 1. 17. V.431.; Odya. 1. 12. V. 14. & 15.


« ElőzőTovább »