James Bird.

A discourse on the object and progress of investigation, into the oriental ... online

. (page 18 of 47)
Online LibraryJames BirdA discourse on the object and progress of investigation, into the oriental ... → online text (page 18 of 47)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lar. While the Syrians themselves maintain a doubtful opinion, that, in
the time of Solomon, the Old Testament was translated into this language
for the use of Hiram, king of Tyre, certain it is that our Saviour preach-

* Hodgson's Sketch of Buddhism, Transactions R. A. S. London, Vol : XL
p. 248.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

n2 Amiversury Discourse on Oriental ^LUtral^e. [Jan.

ed in it, and that the New Testameiit» in the time of Abgar King <f
JEdessGf * was translated by Thaddeus into Syriac. An American
Missionary Dr. Perkins, who resided eight years among the the Nestori-
ans, and has published his account of them at Boston 1843, states that
the present written character differs from the western, or JacobiU Sy-
riacy and is. a rounded form of the Estrangelo ; adding that in their ver*>
nacular language there are twenty two cmisonants, united by sev^i vow-
ds which are points, and not the Greek vowels inverted, as in ancient
Syriac f Such would indicate that this form of the Syrian Afyhabet
resemUes, in many respects, the Hamadyaric ehwraeter of Souihem
Arabiay in which some genuine Nettorian letters are found. In con-
nexion with the Syriac dialect and character, it will bean liiterestmg sub-
ject of research to inquire into the origin of the Pabnyrine writing;
with whicb that of the Slassanian inaoE^tions at Hq^'ia&ad and Naksii
Mustanh in Persia, have a close affinity. The inseriptioBS too on the
Ba^jriao coins, at Shah^JSaz Ghariy in the Yeusirf Zai country and
in the Topes of tk€ Pat^b^ seem to have derived their a^shabet from
the same source. To trace tjie gradual developonent of this character and
to follow it into the countries of Bcu^a and Tartary^ where it was
applied to languages of the Indo^ Germanic family ^ will enable us to
wake clear many obscure points botli in Chinese and Indian history. One
more head of this subject deserves the attention of the learned, namdy,
the investigation of the true dates when the Syrian ChristianB settled in
Malabar ; or found their way into China and Tartary, wh^re under the
name of Aigwres^ they gave letters and literature to the people of Jfim-

The settlem^t of the Syrian Christians, on the coast of Malabar, and
the period of its taking place, have been long subjects of conament and
dispute. In number %xl of the Madras Journal of Literature and Science,
published in June last, there are fac-similes of the engraved copper-
plates, possessed by the Jews and Syrian Ckrisiians, who were grant-
ed certain privileges by the Hindu princes of Ckera. Various opinions

* The country of Osrhoene in Mesopotamia, then under the Parthian Go-
vernment, was, about A. D. 114 sold by Arsaccs Pacorus to one named Mgar^
who, according to Suidas, took upon himself the title of king.

f Address to the American Oriental Society ; by John Fickering EsqwCf of
Boston, 1842 p t 30,

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

18^.] Anniversary Discourse on Oriented Literature. 173

have been formed regarding the snppoaed antiquity of these documents,
wliidi are written in ancient TatnuL The Jewish tables, which are the
oldest of them, consist of two copper plates, written on three sides, and
are now in possession of Rabbi Samuel at Cochin, who has also an old
Hebrew translati(»i of the contents. They are dated in the d6th year
against the second cycle, or cyclar period of sixty years, which the Arabs
call Tarikh*Zaki, and Tarikh'^l-Huakma ^ or era of the philosophers;
dated as would appear on the revolutions of the planet Saturn, and com-
mencing its new year from the appearance of the first new moon after
the winter solstice; which was the common mode of reckoning among the
ChaldeanSf Egyptians^ Chinese^ and Indians* The reigning prince
of Malabar, who granted this document and had the title of Peru-tnaly
was named Sri Bhaskara Ravi Varma; and as the document no where
recognizes the ^cistence of the Brahmanical hierarchy ^ the country at
that time seems to have been under sovereigns of the BauddJta faith.
In Asoka's inscription at Grmar^ it U mentioned under the name of
PtVa,f and associated with Choku While some have dated this docu*
ment as early as the 3 1st year of the Christian era, others are disposed
to give it no higher antiquity than A. D. 825.

The other documents, in possession of the Syrian Christians^ con-
sist of six eopper-plates, four of which are written in Tamuly followed
by the names of witnesses attesting to the truth of the grants ; and whose
signatures are written in the alphabets of three languages; of which th^
first is Kuficy the second apparently Nestorian Syriacy and the last
Hebrew. The well ascertsdned origin of the Kufic form of Arabic, and
its existence on' these copper-plate grants to the Syrian Christians^ re-
duces the probability of the precieding Jewish grant having been given in
the third century of our era: as both the Jewish and Christian grants
seem nearly of cotemporary origin. The subject however still merits
attention as one not definitely settled.

Arabic. The origin of the Hamaiyarie character, or the writing
called Al'Musnady is a subject still c^n for the investigation of the cu-
rious. Though Fresnel in the Journal Asiatique, | and the Baron Mac

• See Chevalier D6 Paravey, sur V identite des cycles Arabes ; Indiens et
Chinois. applique*8 aux jonrs, aux annees et aux eres di verses.

t Mr. Prinsep's correspondence in page 26 of this volume,
t Troisieme scrie Tome 11, 111 and IV.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

174 Anniversary Discourse on Orienial Literature. [Jan.

Gackin De Slane in his translation oilbn^KkaUikhan^s Biogrophieal Dic-
tionary have usefully combined some of the scattered facts, relative to the
state of the Arabs during the times of Paganism, and of their literature
after the time of Islamism, the subject has not yet received that degree of
attention which it deserves* After the decay of the Roman empire and
the destruction of the Alexandrine library by AmrUj the General of the
Khalif OmuTy the knowledge which the (jreeks and Romans possessed
of Philosophy, Mathematics, Medicine, Natural history, Astronomy and
Geoghiphy was transferred to the Arabs, through the medium of transla-
tions, by the Greeks of Harrafiy and we may hope that the zeal and
learning of European scholars will yet enlighten us relative to these dark
periods of history, and shew how far the Muslims contributed additions to
the two last branches of knowledge.

Busraj Kn/a, and Baghdad attained great pre-eminence for learning ;
and in their several schools the study of Grammar, Philology, Genealogy,
and History was carried out with great exactness. The dialects spoken
by the different Arab tribes of the desert became the special object of m-
vestigation, and served as the ground work of copious dictionaries of the
Arabic language. In arithmetical calculation the Arabs employed cer-
tain letters of the alphabet with a numerical value, but subsequently
adopted the Indian ciphers. The Algebra of Makomed-bin^Musa has
been translated into English by Professor Rosen, who is of opinion that
the author was conversant with Hindu scienccy and though he be the
first Mahomedan who wrote on arithmetic, he was not the inventor of
the art. Before the accession of the Ktialifal Mamun, Mahomed bin-
Ibrahim al Fazari had translated, in Hej : 156, A. D. 773, the woric of
an Indian Astronomer, called the Sindhindy or astronomical tables. Con-
nected with Arabia and its language, an investigation into the compara-
tive Geography of this Peninsula and an account of its Geology and na-
tural history are still desiderata.

Ethiopic, MomD. Abbadie, in the Journal Asiatique of Paris, for
July and August 1843, has enumerated twenty eight dialects of this lan-
guage, which are partly of Semitic and partly of Chamitic origin.* The

* In No. 911 of the Athieneum, for April 1845, the same gentleman has ad-
dressed a letter, to the Rev. G. C. Renouard, foreign secretary of the Royal
(Geographical Society, on the subject of the Ethiopian family of languages, and
as this is one of the undetermined subjects in Ethnography, and of great in-
terest in the history of mankind, the letter will be found extracted in the pre-
sent number of the Journal, under the head of Literary and Scientific notices. -

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

1845.] Afmi>er8arp Discourse on Oriental Literature. 175

Ghiz ia a very pure dialect of the ancient Arabic, and is written, from
left to right, in a modem character of the Hamaiyaric, consisting of
twenty six consonants, varied in sound by seven vowels : to which were
added seven other letters, at the period when the Ahmaric dialect became
incorporated with the more primitive form of this language.

In both sacred and profane history Ethiopia is frequently mentioned
in conjunction with Egypt, signifying the Thebaid, or Upper Egypt, and
is designated, on the Egyptian monuments, the land of Ctish; under
which title, Isaiah, Ch : XL v. ver : 14, associates it with the country of the
Sabeans, or people of Southern Arabia. The Ethiopians claimed even
superior antiquity to the Egyptians, as their progenitor Cush, the son
of Ham, was elder than Mizraim, from whom were descended the Egyp-
tians. Regarding the ori^n of the Ethiopians, the most probable opinion
now entertained is that the Ethiopians, beyond the parallel of Syene,
or Assuarit were Copts less advanced in civilization than the Egyptians ;
and that under Sabbacon, or the So * of Scripture, who entered into a
treaty with Hosea king of Israel, and reigned from B. C.*769 to 729,
the Arabs, or Cushites, migrated from the kingdom of Midian into the
southern part of Arabia, and western shores of the Red Sea or Ethiopia.
Juba, who wrote the History of Arabia B. C. 30, says that Ethiopia was
then peopled by Arabs, who, under the name of Blemmyce, were led on by
the generals of Candace, queen of Meioe, against the Roman cohorts at
Elephantine, Syene, and Phyloe, during the reign of Augustus Caesar ;
and were driven back, as far as Premmis in Nubia, by an army of Ro-
mans and Greeks commanded by iEliusGallus. The Jews had for a long
time, and in great numbers, been settled among them, and soon after trans-
lated the Holy Scriptures into the Ethiopic, of which the Ghiz has many
words in common with the Arabic spoken by the barbarous inhabitants
of Mahrahi possessing the mountainous district of Southern Arabia near
Hasik, Morbat, and Zafar, This idiom, termed by Monr. Fresnel f the
Ekhhili language, approximates more nearly to the Hebrew and Syriac
than to the Arabic ; and appears to have prevailed in the Islands called
Curia Muria, and in Socotra, Herodotus, in Polymnia 70, makes men-
tion both of the eastern and western Ethiopians, or of the Asiatic and
African ixdoe^ of this people. The former, who were of Arabic origin,

* 2d. Kings, xvii 4.
t Noveau Journal Aslatique I^aris.


Digitized by VjOOQ IC

176 Anniversary Discourse on Oriental LUeratvre. [Jan.

served with the Indians, in the expedition of Xerxes to Greece ; were arm-
ed in all respects like the latter, and had straight hair. They wore on th^
heads, however, the skins of horse's heads, on which the manes and ears
were left; and are without douht the Aswa-Mnchas of the Hindus, or
the horse-faced people of the Haya-wansa, whom Major Rennel has
correctly placed in Kej^Mekran, or the Persian province near the sea,
west of the Indus. They were the people of Haur^ or the OritOR of the
Greeks, and partly of Arabian descent ; of whom the Beltushis and
BrahuiSf are the probable remains, though the languages of these two
tribes now shew a nearer affinity to the Indo- Germanic family than
to the Semitic, while they themselves proudly claim a Syrian or Arabic

The Philological branch of Ethnography, on the subject of the Ethio-
pians, appears to have been pursued with considerable success by Monr. D.'
Abbadie : and as our Society, so early as 1812, obtained comparative lists
of dialects in use on the eastern coast of Africa, namely the SuhaUi,
Sumali, and Galla-tongues, it is my intention to add to these vocabularies
of the Kanuz and Bisharin languages, and to publish them in an early
number of the Society's Journal. Others will no doubt assist us in col-
lecting materials for determining this interesting question relative to the
origin of the Ethiopians : and the Rev. Mr. Isenberg, who is now a
resident amongst us, has already printed a Grammar and Dictionary of the
Ahmara language. He has also compiled and printed a Vocabulary of
the Danakil dialect ; and the Rev. Mr. Krapf has collected a Vocabu-
lary of the Galla tongue, which has been translated from the German, into
English, and published by Mr. Isenberg.

Captain Harris, in his late work on this country, has appended a cata-
logue of extant manuscripts in the Bthiopir and Ahmaric tongues ; ai
which the Sena At hud, or history of the Jews in connexion with the his-
tory of other ancient nations ; and the Kihra Nijashi, or the history of
the Kings of Axum, would repay the labour of translation. The Didas'
kalia, or institutions of the Abyssinian Church, has been already trans-
lated into English and published by the Oriental translation fund.

Pehlvi. This ancient form of the Persian, which is of Chaldaic or
Syriac origin, seems to be an ancient dialect spoken in Khuzistan and
Pars^ the two western provinces of Persia ; which, previous to the rise of
the Medo-Persian kingdom, formed the dominions of the JElamites of
the Bible, who were of Semitic origin » It gained an ascendancy, pro-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

1845.] Anrnversary Discourse on Oriental Literature. 177

bably, during the period of the Parthian dominion, and reign of Artabj^us
III. brother of Vonones II. with whom commenced a new line of Par-
thian kings, descended from the Governors of Media. In AvdalUs his*
tory of Armenia, the then reigning family is divided into two branches of
Pehlavis, namely the Sureni Pehlavisy or western, and the Karani
Pehlavisy or eastern. It appears from Vaillant and Josephus that ilfe-
diay the modem Azerbijan, came to this second dynasty of Parthian
Princes by their father Vonones II. brother in law to Bardanes, who be-
longed to the family of western Pehlavis, According to Tacitus *
Vologeses the I. by consent of his brothers Pacorus and Tiridates, suc-
ceeded to the throne of the Parthian kingdom^ resigning to his bro-
ther Pacorus the chieftainship of Media, which his father Vonones
held in right of his father's brother Artabanus III. The coins found in
Bactria and Kabul, bearing on one side, in Greek, the names of Pali-
risfis and sometimes Palirius, with the inscription Balhara putasa
Dhamiasa Bala Farmasa, published by Wilson and others, belong to
this Pacorus, governor oi Media, and date from the era of the Arsacides
867, A. D. 52.

While it may be shewn that the alphabet of the Bactrian Pali inscrip-
tions, and of the more extensive ones at Shah Baz Ghari, in the Yeusaf
Zai country, are of /S^emt^c origin, and kindred with the Sassanian writing
on the monuments of Elymais, or Persepolis, Professor C. Lassen has
traced with much learning and ingenuity the affinity between the language
of these inscriptions and that of the Prakrit in the Indian dramas.f It
seems highly probable that the Sureni Pehlavis, or western Persians^
spoke in ancient times a dialect of the Syro- Arabian stock; but that the
Karani Pehlavis, or inhabitants of eastern Persia, made use of a lan-
guage that was intermediate between that of the Indians and Persians, and
had a near affinity to the languages spoken in the Kohistan, or Highlands
north of Kabul, of which the Zt^^^mam, Pashai, Kashkari, and Kafari
idioms are the yet existing remains. The Parthians, according to Justin, j:
spoke a mixed language between the Scythian and the Median ; and the
Paropamisadae of the Greeks, and Parthians of a mixed Persian origin^
who had the name of Karani, may have obtained this appellation from
being of a mixed breed : for we are informed, in the travels of Marco

* Tacit Annal, lib : c : 44.

t Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society for 1840 p. 380.

t Justin, lib : 41.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

178 Annivermry Discourse <m Oriental Literature, [Jan.

Polp^* that the Choghtai Tartars of Nikodar Oghlany the wm of Bu-
lakuy mixing with the dark Indian women, produced a race to whom the
appellation of Karaunas was given, signifying in the language of the
country a mixed people. In classifying the dialects of the Persian lan-
guage, there are good grounds for assigning a Semitic origin to the Pehlvi,
or language of the Elymeans ; who were not, according to Straho,f reduced
to ohedience hy the Parthians, until B. C. 162: when Arsaces Mithri-
dates L the cotemporary of the Bactrian £ucradites,*also added Media to
his dominions. This also is the view taken by the learned author of the
FerJiang Jehar^giriy % who enumerates seven dialects of the Persian ;
four of which the Hervi, Segzi, Zaweli, and Soghdi had become obsolete,
or were not used in composing historical and poetical works ; while the
Parsi, Deri, and Pehlvi were the current languages of the country. The
latter was that which was spoken on the Pehlu, or Arabian and Chaldean
border ; and prevailed in Khuzistan, Kermanshah, and Persian Irak, §
while Parsi was a collateral language spoken in the province of Pars, or
Persia Proper.

The family of nations, extending from the Ganges to the British Is-
lands, and speaking languages of a cognate origin, has been called collec-
tively Inda Germanic : but has been divided into several branches, deno-
minated the Ariant German^ Sarmatiany and Sclavonic, The old
Persian words Airya and Airyana have been used to designate the re-
^on to which the Hindus and Greeks extended the appellation of Aria or
Ariana; and Monr. Burnouf explains the name to signify *< T Arie dans
sa plus gmnde etendue, c'esta'dire le pays habit6 par la race des \rya, ou-
des hommes nobles.*' — The ancient Medes, according to Herodotus, call-
ed themselves Arii : and Aryavarta, or the Holy Land of the Brahmins,
before they spread themselves into Southern India, was the country sit-

* Marsden's Edition of Marco Polo, London, p : 87.
t Lib: 16.

X The excellent Persian Dictionary written by Jemal-u-din Husain ibn Fa-
khr-u-din Hasan Anjn.

§ The author of the Ferhang Jehangiri calls it the border line from Isphahan
to Dinavar ; thus including the provinces of Persian Irak and Kirmanshah; in
which latter district are the remarkable Cunei-form Inscriptions of Be-situnt
which have been lately deciphered by Major Rawlinson. These incriptions
are written in three dialects, which must be Parsi, Zend, and Pehlvi, and are
said to contain interesting details relative to the campaigns of Darius Hys-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

1946.] Amhermry Disamrse on Oriental Literature. 179

uated between the Himalaya and Vindhya mountains. The principal
stems therefore of the Arian race consist of the Hindus, or Indians east
of the Indusy and the Medo-Persians, west of this river. The Affghans^
the Brahuis and Beluchis, the Armenians, Kurds, and the Ossetes inhabit-
ing the Caucasus, near the sources of the river Terek, belonged to the latter;
and though the former people be now limited by the Ganges eastward
and the Indus on the west, yet, in the time of Arrian's Periplus and of
Ptolemy the geographer, ♦ their cities Minagara in Sindh, Ozene or Uja-
in in Malwa, Tiagura and Nasica in the Dekhan, were esteemed parts of
Indo Scythia ; while mixed tribes of Indians speaking Prakrits, or dialects of
the Sanskrit language, inhabited the Kohistan and country of Kabul. The
mountainous country, immediately west of the Indus, called by Diodorus
Siculus Cossea, or the Caucasus, obtained its name from the Khasas or
Kas, mentioned in theKernaParvaof the Mahabarat, and by th^ Emperor
Baber in his memoirs. Hindu and Persian tradition concurs in recogniz-
ing the tribes inhabitiug this quarter, and even those towards the sources
of the Oxus, as members of the Indian family ;f while a Philological ex-
amination of the dialects now spoken by them will afford strong Ethno-
logical proof that the aboriginal people of Lughman, Kashker, and Kafer-
istan, belonged to the Indo- Persian stock, though Scythian in their
manners. They are known to the Greeks under the name of the Indo- Scy-
thians, and are called collectively, by the Hindus, Haya-hayas, or individu-
ally Gandharas and Bhalikas: and as many pure Maharatha words are found
in the Lughmani and Pashai dialects, and were primitive parts of these
languages, such seem to establish the correctness of an opinion entertain-
ed by many, that the Maharathas were of a foreign origin and descended
from Naosherwan and the Persians. | This is a subject of much inter-
est, and well worthy of further and more accurate investigation than it has
yet received; and the labour of tracing the History of the Indo-Scythian
tribes, that, under the name o^ Sakas, or SaccBt overturned the Greek
kingdom of Bactria B. C. 126, and pushed their conquests into India,
will be attended with much new light on the subject of Indian History,
and is calculated to dispel much of the darkness which envelopes systems
of Hindu mythology,

♦ PtolemoBi Geographic ; Lib : vii.
t See Wilson's Ariana Antiqua, p : 125.
t Wilford's Essay on Vicramaditya and Salivahana, in Asiatic Researches ;
Vol : IX p : 234. Quart : edition.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

180 Armiversary Discourse on Oriental Literature. [Jabt.

The Sacae, according to Ptolemy, were a great people, situated between
Casia or Kashkar and Bylta or Little Tibet ; but the name was a gene-
ral term used, in ancient J^ersia, for all Scythians situated eastward of the
Caspian Sea. The Asii, Tochari, Pasiani, and Sacarauli, who overturn-
ed the Greek kingdom of Bactria B. C- 126, were but branches of the
same stem ; and by Ma-twan-lin and other Chinese authors, who have
written on the subject of India, are called the Great Yue-che or Indo-Scy-
thians. Procopius calls them Euthalites; and Cosmas Indicopleustes,
visiting India A. D* 535, notices them under the name of Hunni. Ara-
bic geographers and historians name them Hayathelites, or Hayatelas ;
and place them, at the sources of the Oxus, in the districts of Khutlan and
Cheganian. — During the quarrels of Firuz and Hormuz sons of Behram
VI. the Hayathelites assisted the former in recovering his right to the
Persian throne ; and not long after the period when they are mentioned,
by Cosmas Indicopleustes, under the appellations of White Huns,
their country was conquered by Naosherwan the Great, of Persia, who
put to death their king Akhshawan, and carried into Persia the Kalila
Damna, which was soon after translated into Pehlvi from the original
Sanskrit of the Pancha Tantra. This is given on the authority of the
Arabic author Masudi ; who in his account of the Sassanian kings, states
that the Haiyatelas were the same with the Soghdi, living between Bokha-
ra and Samarkand.*

Persian, The country named from this language, which was ori^-
nally the dialect of Pars, or Persia Proper, extends from the banks of the
river Jihun, or Oxus on the east, to the Euphrates westward, and from
Bab-al-Abwab, or Derband, on the north, to the sea of Oma.n or the Per-
sian Gulf, on the south. Several tribes however, whose primitive tongue
appears to have been Persian, are situated beyond these limits, and Elap-
roth f has shewn that while the Nomadic tribes of Bokhara, Khoten, and
Khiva must be reckoned as branches of the Turkish stem, the inhabitants
of towns, called Sarti^ or Tajiksy are of Persian origin. The Parthians
and Arsacides, who had the national denomination of Dahi or Dajik, and
were partly of Scythian origin, imparted this name to their Persian sub-
jects ; and, though it was disavowed by the Persian people, it was afterwards
applied to them, in the sense of barbarian, by all the tribes of Upper

* See Masudi's Meadows of gold and Mines of jewels, written in Arabic and
begun in A. D. 943 ; also Histoire Generale des Huns, par M. Deguignes
Tome Premier, seconde partie, p : 325.

t Journal Asiatique ; No. 9.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

1845.] Afmiversary Discourse on Oriental Literalwe. 161

A^ia^ that subsequently overran Persia. The extablishment of the Ta*
jika in Sogdiana> and other countries on the borders of Persia, where the
original Nomadic population belonged to the Sacce, or eastern Scythians,
appears to have been effected during the reigns of several Persian kings ;
who were probably anxious to form agricultural colonies, in these countries,

Online LibraryJames BirdA discourse on the object and progress of investigation, into the oriental ... → online text (page 18 of 47)