Thursday, November 29, 2012

the Elephantine Papyri


The Elephantine papyri is a body of texts from 5 B.C. mostly written in Imperial Aramaic from Elephantine-a fortress in the Upper Nile in Persian-ruled Egypt.These texts are manuscripts of Jewish soldiers and their community who were settled there by the Persians to defend the borders with Nubia.

The manuscripts number hundreds and most of them are written in the Aramaic language,apparently the mother tongue of the local Jews.Though some of them are in Ancient Egyptian (Demotic and Hieratic) ,Coptic and Greek.These are mostly documents of the local Jewish community concerning many matters such as law,marriage,commerce,religion and politics.Some are letters,like the letter below from the local Jewish community to Persian king Bagoas asking for permission to rebuild a Jewish temple.

"Petition to Bagoas",an Elephantine letter requesting from the Persian King to build a Jewish temple.

The circled word in red is the name Daryawahush-Darius spelled as DRYWHWŠ.The word circled in yellow is malkā -king spelled MLK'.

Jews were not the only peoples that lived there -Aramaens and Greeks were settled there as well and there are some recorded cases of intermarriage of Jews with them.An Elephantine papyrus written in Greek provides insight into how the Jews settled in Egypt.They were invited by king Psammeticus to help him fight against the Nubians.

Darius from the manuscript
The task of the Jewish military garrison in Elephantine ,an island fortess in the Upper Nile,was to defend the frontier against Nubian attacks and secure the undisturbed flow of goods from Egypt to Nubia and vice versa.

Many of the papyri are in excellent condition-the dry climate of Upper Egypt was ideal of the preservation of papyrus.On top of that the owners of the documents kept them in vessels and pots and as a result some documents  were discovered neatly folded and sealed.Nowadays the Elephantine papyri lie in collections around the word.
Darius in modern Imperial Aramaic fonts
DRYWHWŠ MLK'-Darius King.Detail from the manuscript.

Here you can download Elephantive Papyrus Cursive fonts.
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