"Lucian makes the Ethiopians to have excelled all other nations in wisdom and literature." And, continues Cummings Antiquities: Heliodorus says, that the Ethiopians had two sorts of letters, the one called regal, the other vulgar; and that the regal resembled the sacerdotal characters of the Egyptians."
We have already treated upon that first branch of their literature, hieroglyphics, under the head of Builders of the Pyramids, and we add here, that according to Lucian, "they invented astronomy and astrology, and communicated those sciences, as well as other branches of learning, to the Egyptians. As their country was very fit for making celestial observations, such a notion seems not entirely groundless, though scarce any particulars of their knowledge had reached us."
We present here, copied from Cummings taken from the great History of Ethiopia by that learned Israelite in Ethiopian literature, Job Ludolphus, the regal letters or Royal Ethiopians Alphabet, which none but the kings, priests, royal family and nobility were expected to learn.
The hieroglyphics were the vulgar or common letters, because representing objects or things to the eye, known and understood at sight by the common people, the compositions or combination of which into sentences, could easily be learned by them. Hence, a hawk, for swiftness, meant dispatch or hasty news; a crocodile, for its meanness, meant malice; a serpent, danger; the open right hand, plenty; the closed left hand, safety or security: a jackal, watchfulness or vigilance; an oxen, patience; a sheep, innocence or harmlessness; a dove, love and innocence; a pigeon, news sent abroad; a swallow, news received; a rat or rabbit, caution, to be aware from their ruining habits; a water jug, thirst; the eye, Divine watchfulness, all seeing; water, to run as a stream; land or territory, a country, representing hills and dales, an owl, always ominous and portentious; a dog, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness and trustworthiness; and a cat, companionship, meekness and constancy; a cock, boast or banter; a horse and chariot, preparation for war; all of which readily address themselves to the senses and comprehension of the common people.
The hieroglyphics are letters forming a literature founded upon the philosophy of nature without alphabet; but that which we shall now present is of much higher order, being artificial characters based on metaphysical philosophy of language.
With our limited knowledge in archaeology, we have always believed that the philosophy and root of alphabetical literature had its origin in Africa, or with the Hamite family. We have gone a step aside from this, and claimed that the first sixteen letters of the Greek alphabet, from alpha A to pi II, originated in Africa, as a part of the sacerdotal alphabet, the Greeks adding eight more from ro to omega .
We call attention to the Ethiopian alphabet presented above, the oldest, we believe, on record, if we discard the extraordinary assertion of Confucius, the Chinese historian, who claims for his race, a civilization and literature fifteen thousands years older than the theological period of creation. But happily for our claim, we believe they have no alphabetical arrangement.
The Origin of Race and Color
by Martin R. Delany
*****To Be More Than Equal
The Many Lives of Martin R. Delany
First Black Field Officer
in the US Army
And Conscience to All *****