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The population of Egypt was, in 1897, 9,7 34,405 persons, of whom 8,978,775 were Muhammadans, 25,200 Jews, and 730,162 Christians. The last census was taken on the 29th April, 1907, and the entire population of the country consisted of 11,272,000 persons, or nearly 16 per cent. more than in 1897.
The Egyptian Language is not Semitic, although it possesses many characteristics which resemble those of the Semitic languages, but in a less developed form. Of all the views on the subject which have been held in recent years, the most plausible one is that which makes Egyptian belong to the group of Proto-Semitic languages. The Egyptian and the Semitic languages appear to have sprung from a common stock, from which they separated before their grammars and vocabularies were consolidated. The Egyptian language developed rapidly under circumstances of which nothing is known, and then, apparently, became crystallized ; the Semitic language developed less rapidly, but continued to develope for centuries after the growth of the Egyptian language was arrested. To the period when Egyptian separated itself from the parent stock no date can be assigned, but it must have taken place some thousands of years before Christ. Later, under the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties, B.C. 1550 to 1300, a large number of Semitic words were introduced into the language, and in such compositions as the “Travels of an Egyptian” (see page 70) a great many are transcribed into Egyptian characters.
The Egyptian language as known to us appears in four divisions, viz. :
1. The Egyptian of the Early Empire, which was studied and employed for literary purposes from about B.C. 4400 to about A.D. 200.
2. The Egyptian used in the ordinary business of life and for conversation, from about B.C. 2600 to 650.
3. The popular speech of the country, from about 600 or 500 B.C. to the end of the Roman Period.
4. The ordinary language of the country, after Christianity was introduced into it; this is called Coptic. It ceased to be used in Egypt as a spoken language, probably about the twelfth century, but the Holy Scriptures and the Services are in several places in Egypt read in Copticon Sundays and Festivals, although very few people understand what is being read. Four dialects of Coptic are distinguished: (1) That of Upper Egypt, called “Sahidic." (2) That of Lower Egypt, called “Boheiric.” (3) The dialect of Sûhâk and its neighbourhood. (4) The
dialect of the district of the Fayyûm. It is a noteworthy fact that, from the beginning of the second century of our era to the twelfth, the language of ancient Egypt was preserved, in a modified form, chiefly through the translations of the Holy Scriptures, which were made from Greek into Coptic.
Egyptian Writing was of three kinds, which are called “Hieroglyphic,” “ Hieratic," and “ Demotic." The oldest form is the hieroglyphic (i.e., sacred engraved writing), or purely pictorial, which was employed in inscriptions upon temples, tombs, statues, sepulchral tablets, etc., and for monumental
purposes generally. At a very early period it was found that the hieroglyphic form of writing was cumbrous, and that in cases where it was important to write quickly on papyrus, the pictorial characters were inconvenient. The scribes, therefore, began first to modify, and secondly to abbreviate the pictorial characters, and at length the form of writing called hieratic (i.e., the priests' writing) was developed. Hieratic was a style of cursive writing much used by the priests in copying literary compositions on papyrus from the IVth or Vth dynasty to the XXVIth dynasty. This form of writing is well illustrated by the above reproduction of a page from the Great Harris Papyrus in the British Museum (No. 9999), which was written about B.C. 1200. The text is read from right to left, and the following is a transcript into hieroglyphic characters of the first two lines :
home here cofa pel
2. Todo TlI91
KH. AT9J30113side ham quvoSKAITA
knownalled demotic disappearediat had beent characterisystem
Between the end of the X IInd and the beginning of the XXVIth dynasty the scribes, wishing to simplify hieratic still further, constructed from it a purely conventional system of signs from which most of the prominent characteristics of the hieroglyphic, or pictures, that had been preserved in the hieratic characters, disappeared. This new form of writing was called demotic (i.6., the people's writing), but it was known among some of the early Egyptologists as enchorial (i.e., native writing, or writing of the country). On the Rosetta Stone (Egyptian Gallery, No. 960) the visitor will see an example of the hieroglyphic and demotic forms of writing placed one above the other, and in the text we find that the hieroglyphic portion is called “the writing of the divine words,” or letter
and the demotic " the writing of books," i.e., rolls of papyrus, f 11 . The invention of the art of writing was assigned to the god Thoth, who was the great scribe of the gods, and who is frequently represented holding a writing palette and a reed pen, and the hieroglyphics, or picture signs, were, therefore, called “divine, sacred, or holy.” Hieroglyphics were used for monumental purposes until about the end of the third
century A.D., but it is tolerably certain that very few people could read them or understand them.
During the Ptolemaïc Period, though Greek was the language of the kings and the upper classes of the country, the temples were covered with inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and the Ptolemies and the Romans adopted old Egyptian titles, and had their names transcribed into hieroglyphics and cut in cartouches like the Pharaohs. In the reigns of Euergetes 1 (B.C. 267 to 222) and Epiphanes (B.C. 205 to 181) the priests promulgated decrees in honour of their kings which were cut on slabs of basalt in the hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek characters, but on the sepulchral tablets of the period the inscriptions are usually in hieroglyphics alone, because the natives throughout the country clung to these characters, which had, from time immemorial, been associated with their religious beliefs and ceremonies. In the Southern Egyptian Gallery, however, are exhibited several tablets which are inscribed in demotic as well as in hieroglyphics, and of these may be noted the tablet of Tut-i-em-hetep (No. 1028, Bay 25), who died B.C. 118; the tablet of Khā-em-hrá (No. 997, Bay 25); and the tablet of Petā Bast (No. 1030, Bay 27). In the Roman Period we find that the use of demotic sometimes superseded that of hieroglyphics in public documents, and as an example of this may be mentioned the fine sandstone tablet inscribed, wholly in demotic, with a decree recording the dedication of certain properties to the gods who were worshipped at Karnak (Thebes) in the first century of our era (No. 993, Bay 27). This tablet was found at Karnak, in the Hall of Columns, where, no doubt, it was set up originally, and its inscription was cut in demotic, because, at that period, that form of writing was better understood than hieroglyphics. In the Roman Period hieroglyphic inscriptions were sometimes accompanied by renderings into Greek and Latin, 1.8., No. 257, Third Egyptian Room, Wall-case No. 109. This is a portion of a statue of a priest bearing a shrine of Osiris. On the back of the plinth is an inscription in hieroglyphics containing an address to Osiris by a priest of the "fourth order,” and on one side of the plinth are cut in Latin and Greek “priest bearing Osiris.”
Coptic is written with the letters of the Greek alphabet, and seven signs (cy, 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, ) derived from demotic characters, the phonetic values of which could not be expressed by Greek letters. A fine collection of sepulchral tablets inscribed in Coptic is exhibited in the Southern Egyptian Gallery (Bay 32), and a long and most instructive