Archive for the ‘Inscriptions’ Category

Recently available resources for Nubian studies   Leave a comment

Well over two years ago I wrote a short post on some Old Nubian resources. Giovanni Ruffini has recently announced more work in general Nubian studies. These, three in number, are:

So, even though the corpus of Old Nubian is comparatively small, it’s exciting to see new work appearing widely available in this and related fields. Go have a look.

Aga Khan Museum: Highlights of the highlights   Leave a comment

This week were announced some highlights of the remarkable collection of the newly opened Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. From this long list, I’ve made a short list of my own favorites. You cannot view entire manuscripts, but the individual images presented are of very high quality, so those interested in paleography, codicology, &c. have plenty to feast their eyes and minds on. I’ve included a few non-manuscripts in the list, too.

Books & leaves



Old Georgian phrases and sentences 21: A twelfth-century tomb inscription and its biblical source   Leave a comment

Among the most famous figures in Georgian history is David the Builder (დავით აღმაშენებელი, r. 1089-1125). The epitaph traditionally known as his, however, is almost certainly not, but rather, as shown in a short note by Jost Gippert and Manana Tandashvili, that of his son, Demetre I, who reigned 1125-1154. I cannot add anything to the historical discussion of the epitaph, but it is worth taking the opportunity to look closer at the inscription itself, a photo of the epitaph with a reading of the inscription being easily available here and, in several close photos here, with a reading also given in the short note just mentioned. The inscription provides practice for reading asomt’avruli and learners of the language may appreciate a convenient setting forth of the vocabulary of its simple contents.

As in Georgian manuscripts, the writing in the inscription can be very economic thanks to much abbreviation. I have filled out the abbreviations in the asomt’avruli in parentheses, marked words spreading across lines with a – at line end, and I have not marked less legible letters as such; to judge the latter see the photos pointed out above.

8 ႫႤ

Rendered into mxedruli, with the abbreviations still marked, this is:

ქ(რისტე) ესე არს განსასო(ჳ)ენებელი ჩ(ე)მი ო(ჳ)კ(ოჳნით)ი ო(ჳ)კ(ოჳნისამდ)ე ესე მთნავს აქა დავემკჳდრო მე


  • განსასუენებელი resting place (cf. განსუენება to give rest to, as in Mt 11:28 (all versions) მე განგისუენო თქუენ κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς)
  • უკუნი eternity (უკუნითი უკუნისა-მდე = εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων)
  • თნა to please (as in Mt 14:6 Xanm. and PA ხთნდა ჰეროდეს როკვაჲ იგი მისი ἤρεσεν τῷ Ἡηρῷδῃ [“her dance” in Georgian, but not Greek]); the form here is მ-თნა-ვ-ს
  • დამკჳდრება to stay, reside, dwell (as in Jn 1:14 Ad დაემკჳდრა ჩუენ თანა ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, and Jos. Ant. Iud. 1.6.1 [126] და ესოდენნი ვიდრემე ნათესავნი იაფეთოის ყრმათაგან დაემკჳრებიან καὶ τοσαῦτα μὲν ἔθνη ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰαφέθου παίδων κατοικεῖται); the form here is და-ვ-ე-მკჳდრ-ო

As also noted by Gippert and Tandashvili, the words of the inscription clearly come from Ps 132:14. The A recension of the Psalter in Old Georgian was edited by M. Šaniże (Tbilisi, 1960), online here, and an edition of the Psalter from a Graz manuscript was edited by V. Imnaišvili (Tbilisi, 2004), online here. For this verse (as in Greek, Psalm 131, not 132, in Georgian), they both read:

ესე არს განსასუენებელი ჩემი უკუნისამდე;
ამას დავემკჳდრო, რამეთუ მთნავს ესე. (Graz ms, f. 234r, lines 5-7, available here)

But the text of this verse in the Mc’xet’a Bible (see here), compiled later, matches the tomb inscription even more closely:

ესე არს განსასუენებელი ჩემი უკუნითი უკუნისამდე,
ამას დავემკჳდრო, რამეთუ მთნავს ესე.

The text of the inscription matches that of the biblical text so closely that no additional vocabulary notes are necessary.

With that, until next time, happy reading and memento mori.

Enno Littmann’s work on inscriptions from Ethiopia   2 comments

As vol. 4 of the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition appeared Enno Littmann’s Sabaische, Griechische und Altabessinische Inschriften (Berlin, 1913). Despite the book’s age and importance, I found no copy online, so, thanks to HMML staff, it’s now available at

The frontispiece to The Library of Enno Littmann

Enno Littmann was one of the outstanding scholars of the Semitic languages, those of Ethiopia in particular, in the first half of the twentieth century. (The German Wikipedia article is not very long, and the English one is almost nothing more than a list of a few publications.) Edward Ullendorff, in his obituary for Littmann published in Africa, Oct 1958, p. 364 (and reprinted in his From the Bible to Enrico Cerulli, p. 194), concluded “Among the greatest éthiopisants of the present century, Guidi, Praetorius, Conti Rossini, Marcel Cohen, Cerulli, Enno Littmann’s name occupies a most honored place.” Littmann himself wrote an autobiographical sketch (“An meinem Grabe zu verlesen”), and it is published at the beginning of the catalog of his library: The Library of Enno Littmann, 1875-1958 (Leiden, 1959), with an introduction by his student, Maria Höfner. In addition, pp. 52-57 of Ernst Hammerschmidt’s excellent little book Äthiopistik an deutschen Universitäten (Wiesbaden, 1968) discuss Littmann’s activities and contributions. Incidentally, I have before referred to a brief book inscription by Littmann among HMML’s holdings.

There is a much more recent book that collects early Ethiopian inscriptions (E. Bernard, A. Drewes, and R. Schneider, Recueil des inscriptions de l’Éthiopie des périodes pré-axoumites et axoumites [Paris, 1991]), which is unfortunately not plentifully available, but in any case, Littmann’s work is not to be dismissed. He was an expert philologist and his judgement is always worth consideration. In his presentation of the inscriptions, there are black-and-white photographs, line drawings, transcription into a usual printed type — a presentation in Hebrew letters is included for the South Arabian inscriptions, and the Old Ethiopic material is given in both the South Arabian script and in (now vocalized) Fidäl —, German translation, and commentary. The book is beautifully typeset, something we see too little of these days! Anyone working on the history of Ethiopia in antiquity and late antiquity and anyone likewise interested in epigraphy generally or in the languages used in Ethiopia will find Littmann’s book, now almost a century old, still a worthwhile volume.

From HMML's shelves

From HMML’s shelves

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