Aramaic, Syriac or Assyrian?

Arabic

 

 

By:  Henry Bedros Kipha

      Paris/France

 Upon reading the supposedly article ”Aramaic, Syriac or Assyrian?” I was astonished and stunned. Since I am concerned of the history of the Aramean nation, I have repeatedly read this because it contained many big mistakes and falsehoods. I reveal no secret, when I say , that I was pleased when I was asked to submit this mentioned article to scientific scrutiny and review leaving the judgement to the historians, researchers and the educated readers of this magazine ARAM.

It is truly sad to find that the writer’s prime concern in writing this article is to address a “certain group of readers” to “educate” them by disclosing new true facts about the history of the old nations. But, the new and untrue fact apparent in this article is that the writer endeavours, by all means, to prove that the “old Assyrian language” never died, therefore the “old Assyrian people” were never extinct. Especially noticeable is that he denies the existence of an Aramean/Syriac people and an Aramaic/Syriac language. Since the writer is established on this belief, he commits grave mistakes in writing his article about the old (ancient) history.

In his writing he tries to assert the following wrong ideas:

 1-      The name “Syrian” was given to Assyrian people by the Greeks, therefore “the Syrians are Assyrians.”

2-      There is no Aramean people, since he says “the Jews used to call all other peoples Arameans as the Greeks used to call all other peoples “Barbarians”.

3-      There is no Aramaic language in Syria other than the Assyrian language which was spoken by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

4-      What is related about the struggle between the Aramaic and the Assyrian languages and the defeat of the Assyrian language is false.

5-      The so-called “modern Assyrians” and “Chaldeans” i.e. the East and West Syrians, speak the old Assyrian language  with little alteration and this proves that the Assyrian language is not extinct and was never displaced by another language, and that the Syriac language today is only a continuation of the old Assyrian language itself.

6-      The Aramaic/Syriac alphabet was invented by the Assyrians and not by the Phoenicians, as it is suggested by some people.

7-      The Syriac literature should be called Assyrian literature…..

 It is known that many Eastern Syrians abandoned their Syrian name and for many reasons, such as the ignorance which spread in the East during the Ottoman Empire, where the church belonging (church denomination), in that time, was considered as a national belonging according to the Turkish “Millet system”. When the great part of the Syrian Nestorians joined the Catholic Church and were called Chaldeans the did not deny their old Syrian (Suryaye/Suraye) name, while the Syrian Nestorians, and because of ignorance and lack of knowledge, which prevailed in the East, they where easily cheated by the Englishmen, in the nineteenth century to adopt the Assyrian name [1] after it was extinct for about 2500 years. This new falsified name is used now by the propagators of the “Assyrian nationalism” and they try to use it for all the Christians in the Middle East.

For example Joseph Malek [2] in his book “The British betrayal of the Assyrians, printed 1935, says: “in spite of the fact that the Assyrians are one nation and are the heirs of the Assyrian Empire, they are today religiously divided into five groups namely; the Nestorians, Chaldeans, Catholic Syrians, Maronites and Jacobites”. He then goes on to say that one simple trend is enough proof to support this, that is, if the authorities discussed the Jacobites, for instance, they never gave the impression that there is a Jacobite nation”. The problem of the so-called “Assyrian nationalists”, today, is that, inspite of all the scientific advancement in the study of the ancient history, they are pre-determined to falsify the true facts and the history and the history of the Syriac-Aramean nation. Truth is stronger than fiction and true historical facts are stronger than falsified political history. For example the Syrian Maronites never heard that they belong to the Assyrian nation. Likewise, never did the Eastern or Western Syrians hear of such a thing until a part of the Eastern Syrians, namely the Nestorians, were deceived by the British in the last part of the last century, and this does not mean that the rest of the Syrians should be deceived also. If the Jacobite church was not a sign to indicate that the Jacobites were a nation, it is because of a simple reason that the Jacobites were only a part of the Syrian people and the followers the Jacobite Church (Syrian Orthodox Church). The Syrian Orthodox and the Syrian Catholic, recognized, in the past and still recognize, that they are the descendants of the Aramean-Syriac nation, and this is very clear in writings of forefathers. No doubt that some Syrians, deceived by false articles and writings of the so-called “Assyrian nationalists”, have abandoned their old Aramean-Syriac nations name today. Instead of trying to prove his ideas which claim that the “Syrians are Assyrians”, the writer should have acquainted himself with the true history of the ancient Assyrians and Arameans. His faults and falsehoods are the following:

 PART 1 – ABOUT THE SYRIAN NAME.

 The following question is posed by the writer on the first page of his article: “Was there among the Semitic peoples a group known as the Syrian people?”.

 “Where did this name (Syrian) come from?” He goes on to deny the presence of the Syrian people by quoting from Herodotus of Halicarnassus, “ All the barbarian peoples call this fighting people the “Assyrians”, but we [the Greeks], call them “Syrians”. The name Syrian is, therefore, and according to the writer, just a name given by the Greeks to the Assyrian people. This is the conclusion reached by the writer of the article.

We say that there are several other opinions about the source of this word “Syrian”, but the accepted one is that the name “Syrian was etymologically taken from the word “Assyrian.”

But this fact, definitely, does not mean that the Syrians are Assyrians according to the following reason: It is an established fact to all scholars and researchers that THE ANCIENT SYRIANS WERE CALLED ARAMEANS. The Arameans were, as it is known, mentioned in the ancient history. They controlled the land of “Amurru” (Syria) and “Beth Nahrin” (Mesopotamia), and even many parts of Babylonia. The Assyrian king Tukulti-Apil-Esharra I (Tighlathpileser I) 1116-1076 B.C. stopped the Aramean invasions and left to us inscriptions about his victories over the Arameans. But his successors were weak and the Aramean people were able to build several small states and kingdoms in Mesopotamia and Syria.

In the beginning of the 9th century B.C. the Assyrian kings started to move expand their empire towards the West in order to control communication roads and lay taxes, they faced the small Aramean kingdoms and overcame them one after the other until the last state in Mesopotamia which was the Aramean kingdom of “Beth Adini” in 855 B.C.[3]. This Assyrian expansion worried the Aramean kingdoms in the country “Beyond the River” (‘Abar Nahra” in Aramaic) i.e Syria. This Assyrian expansion motivated the Aramean king of Aram-Damascus, Hadad ‘Adri “God my helper”, formed a military alliance that contained the Aramean and the Phoenician (Canaanite) states and cities to stop the Assyrian expansion and to push them back in the so-called “Battle of Qarqar” [4] in 853 B.C. and the years that followed 849 B.C., 848 B.C., and 845 B.C.

Archaeologists discovered several Aramaic inscriptions written in the middle of the 8th century B.C, in “Sfire” near Aleppo in northern Syria, referring to the mentioned Aramean alliances, in which the terms “Upper Aram” and “Lower Aram” and especially “All Aram” were mentioned [5].

After a strong Aramean resistance the Assyrians prevailed and destroyed the kingdom of Damascus in 732 B.C. and attached it to the Assyrian empire. The Assyrian occupation of Syria lasted about 120 years, because the Assyrian empire fell to the Chaldean-Arameans of Babylonia and the Medes in 612 B.C and 609 B.C. It is noticeable that the Assyrian kings left many documents and inscriptions about this period and none of them mentioned the word “Syria”, this means that the term “Syria” was not given at that time to the “land Aram” (akkadian: mat Aramu/Arumu/Arimu/Arimi), or the land “Amurru” i.e the west, which is the ancient Akkadian name of the area. Instead we read that the Chaldeans (612 B.C-539 B.C)  referred to Syria as “Khatti”[7]. King Nebuchadnezzar (Nabu-kudurri-usur) said:

 “The rulers of Khatti, between the river Euphrates and the country which lies in the side of the sunset, carried the cedar wood from Mount Lebanon to Babylon

 Here we that Nebuchadnezzar used the word “Khatti” meaning Syria[7] a name used in ancient times referring to the Hittite kingdoms in Northern Syria.  After disclosing these important facts I pose the following question: Do I have the right to call the ancient inhabitants of Syria Aramean-Syrians, Hittites?

Most of the documents confirm that the Greeks were the first who used the word “Syria/Suria”, and it is very possible that took this word from the Persians who used the word “Assurstan” to refer to the countries they conquered from the Chaldeans. Here we must distinguish between the old name “Assur” i.e Assyria, which was on the eastern banks of the Tigris  to the border of the Lesser Zab, and the administrative name “Assurstan”, which the Achamenian Persians used 539-332 B.C., to the countries the conquered later in the West which they also called “The fifth satrapy”, which included the countries of : Babylonia, Assyria, Mesopotamia, the country Beyond the River (imperial Aramaic: ‘abar nahra) i.e. Syria, Palestine and Cyprus. We do not deny that the inhabitants of the old “Assur/Ashur” were Assyrians, but we cannot find any historian today [8] who claims that the inhabitants of “Assurstan” were only Assyrians!.

There are many Persian records that list the names of the satrapies and states that formed the ancient Achamenian Persian Empire, among which the inscriptions of Behistun (Bisitun), Susa and Naqshe Rustam, in which the name “Assurstan”[9] was used to refer to the countries Babylon , Assyria, Ebirnari (Beyond The River), and Mesopotamia. It is apparent that Babylon was later set as a separate satrapy from Assurstan, which prove that the name Assurstan was only administrative which could include more territory or less. But it did not refer to any nation or an ethnic group. We find that the Old Testament kept using the ancient name, the country Beyond the River “‘Abar nahra” (Ezra 4:10) and some of the Persian inscriptions refer to a ruler of the country Beyond the River and Cilicia/Kilikia[10]. The official Persian language in the writings of Susa used the term “Assyrian people” TO MEAN THE INHABITANTS OF SYRIA (THE ARAMEANS), while the Akkadian translation of the text used the term “the inhabitants Beyond the River (Ebir nari)”[11]

It is no secret to conclude that the Greeks took the administrative name “Assurstan” from the Persians and not from the Assyrians, because in the ancient Persian language the prefix (A-) was dropped in the pronunciation before the consonants and according to this “Assurstan” was pronounced “Surstan”[12] The old Arabic texts kept to us this term “Surstan”[13]. In the Armenian language also today the word “Asori” is used to mean the ancient Assyrians and today’s Syrians. The Armenians consider Mar Ephrem “Asori” and they mean Syrian and not Assyrian.

It was natural for Herodotos of Halicarnassos to use the name Syrian, because it was the Persian name of the whole area, and this mislead some Greek historians and caused them to make many errors in their references to the location of the old “Assyria” I am sorry to say that some of the Syrians today consider themselves as descendents of the ancient Assyrian people. They actually try to use the name “Syrian” as a synonym to “Assyrian”, using the excuse that Herodotos wrote that the Greeks named the Assyrian people Syrian. I have presented several proofs that the word “Surstan” was only administrative and has no nationalistic bearings. Those who claim that the name “Assyrian” was the name of all the inhabitants of Babylon, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine are requested to present, at least, one Assyrian reference naming all the ancient inhabitants of the East as “Assyrians”

I will not wait their answer because they will never be able to come out with one, and I will carry on my research in the historic and documents left to us by the old Syrians in ancient times. We can also ask a question and say that if some Syrians today doubt their belonging to the Aramean nation, did their forefathers also have this doubt?

Alexander the Great (Megas Alexandros) conquered the East in 333 B.C. and defeated the Achamenian Persian Empire and kept his advance until he reached India. In the organization of his empire he gave the name Syria to the country which is now modern Syria. And this new step the name Syria became administrative as well as geographic. Now the reader has to distinguish between four names:

 1.      The old country Assyria (Assur/Ashur)

2.      The administrative name SURSTAN during the Persian period 539-332 B.C. which included Iraq, Syria Palestine.

3.      Syria- the state founded by Alexander The Great which after his death became the portion of Seleucus I Nicator who founded the Seleucid kingdom, known as the kings of Syria, When the Romans took over they kept using the name  Syria for modern Syria, Without including the province of Mesopotamia and the coastal district of Phoenicia.

4.      The Assurstan satrapy. It was part of the Persian Empire which was established by the Sassanid family in the 3rd century A.D. replacing the Parthian (Arsacid) kingdom. The area of this state included the middle and the southern part of Iraq.  The inhabitants of this land called themselves ARAMEANS and they called their country “Beth Aramaye” which means “the land of the Arameans”[13].

 Now it is possible for us to notice the difference between the national and geographic names:

  4-The first name i.e. Assyria was nationalistic and belonged to the ancient Assyrians

2-3-4-,That is the second, third and forth were administrative names and did not identify any nationality of any people.

If in the 5th century B.C. the name Syrian meant Assyrian to the Greeks, this became untrue when the Greeks later conquered the East, especially when the name Syria became geographic and national. How can you explain the following quotation from the writings of the famous Greek historian Xenophon[14] in the 5th century B.C., he said: “But when the king of Assyria, after he subdued the SYRIANS who were a respectable nation, before the surrender of........

Who are the Syrians mentioned in this quotation?

I have spent several months researching and looking for an answer to this important question, because of its importance in my study that I am preparing about the Aramean-Syrian people.

I have come across several proofs that confirm the fact that the name Syrian meant the Aramean people. The well known Greek geographer Strabo in the first century B.C., wrote “Posidonius [of Apamea in Syria] tells us that those people who are called by the Greeks Syrians, call themselves Arameans.....”[15].

We find in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greeks translation of the Old Testament, that the name “The land of Aram” was translated into “The land of Syria” and the Aramean people as the Syrian people and the Aramaic language (Hebrew: Arami) to the Syriac language (Greek: Suristi). Nobody, of course, can claim that “Hadad Edri”, king of Aram, was Assyrian, and nobody can deny that the name “Syrian” became a synonym to the name “Aramean”.

Flavius Josephus, the known historian [16], in his famous book about the history of the Jews, used the name Assyrian to refer to the ancient Assyrian nation and he used the Syrian name to refer to the Aramean nation. He says for example “Shem the son of Noah had five children, Ashur, the second, built the city of Nineveh and called his rich strong people “Assyrians”, and Aram the forth was the father of the Arameans whom the Greeks named Syrians”.

History is truly a unique science standing on its own merits like the other fields of science looking for the truth and nothing but the truth, it does not depend on the Bible division of peoples as an established fact. There is no connection between the Assyrian and Arameans peoples except that they are both Semitic people only. I have presented this proof to assure the reader that the name “Syrian” was a synonym to the name “Aramean”  

Depending on the roots of the proved basis of history I endeavoured to find what the old Syrians said about themselves and about their language. Did they say that they were Syrians, Arameans or Assyrians?

Mar Jacob of Srugh [17], who died in 521 A.D, in his praises to Mar Ephrem said: “Hono Da-hwo klilo L-kulo OROMOYTHO u-be Ethqarbat themte L-shufre ruhonoye hono da-hwo rhitro rabo beth SURYOYE”, that is to say, “"This (Ephrem) who became a crown of glory for all the Arameans, and through him they became near the spiritual splendors. He who became a great orator among the Syrians."

Mar Philoxinos (Akhsnoyo) of Mabbugh[18], died in 523 A.D. said in one of his writings “"The term stir or mix is used in most of the books written by our churchly ancestors regardless of being Arameans or Greeks.". Mar Jacob of Edessa[19], died in 708 A.D. says in one of his homilies “Ho hokuth hnan OROMOYE awkith SURYOYE”, which means “It in the same way also we the ARAMEANS, that is to say the SYRIANS”. Mar Dionysios of Tell Mahre[20], died in the 9th century, said the following:”u-men horko shari bnay Hogor lamsho ‘bed la-bnay OROM b-she ‘bodo Mesroyo”, which means “Since the descendants of Hagar (The Arabs) began to enslave the sons of ARAM (The Arameans) an Egyptian slavery

 The Arabs occupied the Syrian countries in the 7th century A.D. Why did Mar Dionysios of Tell Mahre call the inhabitants of Syria Arameans?  Is I because they were Assyrians or simply Arameans?. One of the best proofs is what the historian Michael the Syrians (also known as the Great) (1126-1199 A.D) wrote in his famous Syriac history as a response to the Greeks who reduculated the Syrians by saying “there arose no king from your people…” Michael the Syrian[21] wrote “Tub yad Aloho kuthbinan ‘al uhdono d-malekwotho da-hway b-zabno ‘atiqo men umtho dilan OROMOYE awkith bnay OROM ethqriw SURYOYE awkith bnay SURIYA”, which means “By the help of God we will present what is said about the ancient kingdoms that were built by our ARAMEAN  nation that is to say the sons (descendants) of ARAM who were called SYRIANS that is to say the sons (inhabitants) of Syria……

I have mentioned previously that the Aramaic inscription found at “Sfire” near Aleppo in Syria, used the following names “Upper Aram” (Aleppo and its environments), “Lower Aram” (Damascus and its environments) and “All Aram” (all the country/city-states/kingdoms of Aram). The Greek historians used to mention “Coele Syria”

This caused a number of other historians [22] to connect the Greek “Coele” to the old Aramaic name “Kool Aram”. These names were mentioned several times in the history of Flavius Josephus in connection with the discussions about the Aramean-Syrians. Josephus wrote “One of Aram’s four children was Uz, the first, who built Damascus between Palestine and Syria which is known as “Coele”[23] Elsewhere he uses the names Lower Syria and Upper Syria[24]. Isn’t this a proof that the name Syria became synonym to Aram?

In our resort to use so many quotes, to prove the issue, does not mean that we have any doubt in the belonging of the Syrians to the Aramean nation, but it was done to bring these proofs before some of the Syrians who are ignorant of the truth and they call themselves Assyrians. My wish is those people will make sure of the truth and follow it whatever it may be.

I conclude this part of my research by confirming that Herodotus use of the Persian name “Assurstan” was strictly administrative when he said [25]: “This satrapy included all Phoenicia, Syria which is called Palestine, and Cyprus. This was the fifth satrapy”. If the name Syrian meant Assyrian then all the inhabitants of Palestine, Cyprus and Phoenicia would be “Assyrians” also.

 PART 2 – THE EXISTENCE OF THE ARAMEAN-SYRIAN PEOPLE IS DENIED BY THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE.

 The writer of the article says:”The Jews called all other peoples ARAMEANS. Therefore, to the Jews, people are only two kinds, Jews and Arameans, or believers and heathens. Aramean in the Hebrew language means heathen. And the language of the Arameans whatever nation he belongs to is Aramaic which means the language of the heathens”. The writer has forgotten that the Assyrians in their writings have preserved the name ARAM[26]. Did the Assyrians also divide all other peoples into two groups: The Assyrians and the Arameans (meaning the other peoples)?.

I have stated in the first part of this study that the Aramaic writings have preserved the name “ARAM”[26] It is untrue that to the Jews the word Aramean meant heathen, because if that was true  they would have called Egyptians, the Phoenicians and even the Assyrians ARAMEANS. If the Arameans, before Christ, worshipped idols, that does not prove that the Jews considered ever heathen Aramean. The writer aims at denying the presence of an Aramean-Syrian people and therefore there is no Syriac-Aramaic language. He knows very well that the Eastern Syrians have in the past and are still today speaking the eastern Syriac-Aramaic language. He aims to deny the Arameans as a people because he is aware that the historians and scholars in Europe and America, together with Syrian scholars themselves, call the language Syriac-Aramaic. Tens of articles and books about the Aramean people and the Syriac-Aramaic language are being published today by the universities in Europe and America. If this people did not really exist in history, I would be surprised to see these respected educational institutes risking their reputation by writing about them.

 PART 3 – THERE WAS NO ARAMAIC LANGUAGE IN SYRIA OTHER THAN THE LANGUAGE WHICH WAS SPOKEN BY THE ASSYRIANS.

 The writer of the article continues to say that there are no Syrian-Aramean people and there is no Syriac-Aramaic language. This means to him that the Syrians of today speak the Assyrian and Babylonian language. This conclusion drawn by the author is really shameful because it contradicts and violates all historical facts. It is really sad to find out that the so-called “national Assyrians” have believed these fables and they are trying now, by all means possible, to prove that the Syriac language is the same as the Assyrian language.

The Syrians have been lax in defending the name of their Syriac language during the 20th century. This laxness of the Syrians encouraged the “national Assyrians” to pervert the facts concerning the name of the Syriac language, until they called it their own “Assyrian” language, as it appears in their own publications. As a result of these misleading writings, many of the Syrians today, where cheated and really believed that the so called Assyrians speak the “Assyrian language”.

The scholar in the Aramaic language Mar Tuma Odu (Chaldean catholic metropolitan of Urmia in northwestern Iran 1855-1918) wrote in his Syriac dictionary “The treasury of the Syriac language” (Simta D-Lishana Suryaya) printed in Mosul – Iraq 1897 –“

“ARAMAYE=SURYAYE”, that is to say “Arameans=Syrians” and “LISHANA ARAMAYA=LISHANA SURYAYA” i.e. “Aramaic language=Syriac language”

When I searched to find the word “Assyrian” or the term “Assyrian language” it was nowhere to be found, neither in this dictionary of metropolitan Mar Tuma Odu nor in any other Syriac dictionary. It is nowhere to be found because the Assyrian people are extinct and their Assyrian language (the Akkadian), died with them. If the writer wishes to prove to the world that the Assyrian people are not extinct he should find convincing scientific means, and not to rade and steal the Aramaic-Syriac language and to pretend that this is the Assyrian language.

The Syrian-Arameans have lost many important aspects of their historic heritage during the last 700 years of back sliding and retardation. They refuse today to lose their “holy language”.

 PART 4 – THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE ASSYRIAN AND ARAMAIC LANGUAGES .

 The writer goes on to say that “the rumor about the struggle between Assyrian and Aramaic languages, resulting in the defeat of the Assyrian language is only imagery”. He even pretends that there was never an Aramaic language. If the Aramaic never did exist, why does he refer to the struggle between the Assyrian and Aramaic languages?. It is known that the Aramaic language began to replace the Akkadian (spoken by the ancient Assyrians) as an official language before the fall of the Assyrian empire. The Chaldeans, followed by the Persians, also used the Aramaic language [27]. Even the Jews used it, and it became the Jewish people’s common language. It was natural to Jesus Christ to speak it. Bardy [28] says about Christ: “He surely spoke the language spoken by his people (the Jews), that is to say the Aramaic language”.

The writer declared that he does not recognize the existence of an Aramean people. Because Aramean, to him, was heathen. In the same time he declares that the “Assyrian were never subjected to the Arameans, but the Arameans, as recognized by all historians, were subjects of the Assyrian empire”. I am surprised and amazed at the shameful contradictions displayed in the statements of the writer when he denies the existence of an Aramean people and recognizes its existence at the same time. The writer first denied the existence of the Aramean people then he declared that the historians admit that the Arameans were subjected to the Assyrians. The historians recognize the existence of the Aramean people but the writer refuses to admit or recognize their existence. The writer knows well that the Christians of the Middle East are all Syrian-Arameans and nothing else at all.

The politicians say: You are “Assyrian”, you speak the “Assyrian” language, and you are the heir of the old Assyrian Empire! But the historic truth says to you that you are SYRIAN-ARAMEAN, you speak the Syriac-Aramaic language, and you are the heir of the ARAMEAN CIVILIZATION! That is why the writer wishes to deny the existence of a whole people by “a scratch from his pen” or by one statement from him. If the Syrians were not acquainted with their history in the past, they are changed today because they are diligently studying their golden history and they are finding the facts. We do not deny that the Syrian-Arameans passed through a period “feebleness” or weakness that lasted for hundreds of years, which is, for many reasons, still weakening the Arameans. While the weakness of the so-called nationalist “Assyrians”, is their lack of understanding the history because they kept repeating the same mistakes for the last decades. Such mistakes as:

 A-    Their instance that the Christians of the East are Assyrians.

B-    Their instance that the language they speak now is “the Assyrian language”.

C-    Their reliance on politics and neglect the truth, believing that history should prove that they are Assyrians, and they speak the Assyrian language.

 They do not believe that history should bring out the truth, such as the statement of the writer when he says: “We conclude from this that the Assyrian language was never extinct and was never replaced by another language….and the Syriac language is only a continuation to the same old Assyrian language”. The Syrian-Arameans know that power void of truth ends nowhere, they insist, therefore, to study their true history as it is, regardless all weakness and mistakes. This giant step by the insistence of the Syrians to search for the “truth”, and not for imaginary political objectives, will give an opportunity in the future to preserve and guard their existence, their language and their civilization.

The writer binds the Assyrian people and the Assyrian language together, then he goes on to say that the Assyrian language was never extinct despite of the fact that the ancient Assyrian language (the Akkadian) has been extinct for more than two thousand years, and this fact is well known to all who study true history. As for those few Assyrians, who have survived, have melted in the huge pot of the multitude Aramean people, and after that there is no mention of the Assyrian people or the Assyrian civilization.

 PART 5 – MODERN ASSYRIANS AND THE CHALDEANS SPEAK THE ANCIENT ASSYRIAN LANGUAGE.

 The writer, as proof of his statement, quotes what “Austen Henry Layard” wrote in his book “Nineveh and its Ruins” when he said “The Chaldeans, Nestorians and the Jacobites live in the villages near Mosul, and those who are living in the rugged mountains of Kurdistan may be the descendants of the ancient Assyrians and the Chaldeans and they are today still speaking the same language that was spoken in Nineveh and Babylon”. Layard’s book was published in 1849. In that time the research about the history of the ancient oriental peoples was primitive. I have no doubt that Austen Henry Layard was wrong when he said that the Chaldeans, Nestorians and Jacobites speak the Akkadian language, because they were in the past and still are speaking the Syriac-Aramaic language which is a Semitic language that has similarities to the Akkadian language. If Layard lived up till now he would reject his thoughts. Some of the Akkadian words, verbs and names, such as the name of the months, were adopted by the Aramaic language. But this is no definite proof that the Aramaic and the Akkadian languages are one language. Austen Henry Layard and the writer of the article did not present at least any satisfactory convincing proof to support their theory.

If the Aramaic language and the Akkadian language were one language with only some variations, every person, then, who speaks Aramaic, should also be able to speak Akkadian. But this is not true. The fact is that the Eastern and Western Syrians, simply, speak the SYRIAC-ARAMAIC language.

 PART 6 – THE ARAMAIC ALPHABET WAS INVENTED BY THE ASSYRIANS.

 The writer is motivated by his nationalistic feelings (and not by scientific research) when he declares that “the alphabet was created by the Assyrians and not by the Phoenicians”. Why doesn’t he claim also that the Assyrians landed on the moon before the Americans did. There is nothing to restrain him from saying these claims because his object was to glorify the greatness of the ancient Assyrians by using an eloquent language away from any proof or any scientific support. The writer is confident that the Phoenicians created the alphabetical system but he still says that it was created by the Assyrians, without presenting any convincing proof to support his claim. It is a fact that the Phoenicians were the first to use the alphabetical letters which were, then, used by the Arameans.

Some inscriptions of the Phoenician (Canaanite) alphabet were discovered in Ugarit (Ras Shamra), Byblos and Tyre (in Phoenicia), some of them date to the 11th century B.C.

Why couldn’t archeologists find these letters within the realms of the Assyrian state?

Some Phoenician inscriptions on pottery were discovered in ancient Babylon but they were Phoenician made. If the Assyrians invented the alphabetical system why did they use the Aramaic writing?. I have previously stated that the Assyrian kings used the Aramaic language, and the oldest Aramaic inscription found in Babylon dated back to the time of the king Tukulti-Apil-Esharra III (Tighlatpileser III) (745-727 B.C).

 PART 7 – THE SYRIAC LITERATURE SHOULD BE CALLED ASSYRIAN LITERATURE.

 This is the “scientific” end attained by the writer. All the false information presented by him is only to attain the object of reviving an Assyrian people that has been extinct for more than two thousand years. He wants to revive a people nowhere to be found on the expense of the SYRIAN-ARAMEAN people which is present and live. All these falsehoods have no effect on the educated person. It is an accepted fact that smart politics today works with possibilities or possible things. Is it possible today to claim that the Syriac literature should be called an “Assyrian literature”?. Is this possible? The European, American and all other scholars in the world call this literature “THE SYRIAC or ARAMAIC LITERATURE”. Even the Eastern and Western Syrian scholars call it “THE SYRIAC ARAMAIC LITERATURE” (Sefroyutho Suryoyto Oromoyto/Seprayuta Suryeyta Aramayta ) such as the book “LITERATUR OF THE ARAMAIC LANGUAGE” by the Chaldean Catholic scholar “Alber Abuna”.

If any Eastern Syrian historian claims that this literature should be called “Assyrian”, he should prove his claim and then the scholars of Europe, America and the world will thank him for this “great discovery”. I have stated repeatedly that the “Assyrian people is extinct. The following are some proofs:

The ancient documents, since the fall of Assyria, have no record of an Assyrian people, especially the ancient Syriac documents. All Eastern and Western Syrians, through their long history, have no nationalistic “Assyrian” feeling, as it is clear in the SYRIAC DICTIONARY of Bar Bahlul the Nestorian (10th century A.D.) were he wrote in page (332) of his mentioned dictionary that “THE WORD ASSYRIAN means ENEMY in the Syriac language”

Athuraya = W’eledwawa (B’eledbaba)” i.e. “Assyrian=enemy”.

Is this not enough proof that the Eastern Syrians were not Assyrians? We should recognize that the Eastern Syrians were and are ARAMEANS. Bar Bahlul even says “Men qdim Suryaye Aramaye methqren waw” i.e. “The Syrians were previously called Arameans”.

I would like to point out that the name Chaldean did not mean Eastern Syrians at that time, because the name Chaldean, to them, meant astrologer, while the same word today means the follower of the Chaldean Catholic Church. The scholars of this church do not deny their Aramean roots, because they know very well that if a plant is separated from its roots it will die.

The attempts of the writer to make every Syrian an Assyrian is destined to fail. It is impossible, for example, that Mar Jacob of Serugh, died 521 A.D. who was born in the town “Batnan”, between the rivers Euphrates and Balikh, to be an Assyrian, because he was born in “Beth Nahrin” Mesopotamia and he glorified the ARAMEAN NATION (OROMOYUTHO).

I repeat the parable saying “every building built on sand is destined to crumble against the first strong storm that blows”. Therefore, we advise the writer to build his writing on a solid ground and not on mere fables.

I will end this research of min by repeating what announced and written in the year 1952,

By patriarch Mar Ignatius Afrem I Barsoum in his book “THE NAME OF THE SYRIAN NATION” in which he counter attacked the attempts to falsify and change the facts about the Syrian people and the Syriac language. He wrote in page (44) “THE USE OF THE NAME ASSYRIAN TO OUR LANGUAGE AND PEOPLE IS CONTRARY TO:

 1-      HISTORIC TRUTH.

2-      THE ANCIENT TRADITIONS AND PRACTICES AGREED BY OUR SCHOLARS.

3-      THE GENERAL NAME OF OUR PEOPLE AS KNOWN AMONG THE OTHER NATIONS.

4-      WHAT IS ACCEPTED AND AGREED BY ALL WESTERN SCHOLARS: FRENCH, BRITISH, GERMANS, ITALIANS AND AMERICANS.

 Finally I like to repeat the famous logical saying: “You can deceive people some of the time, but you can never deceive all the people all the time”.

  REFERENCES:

 1-  Fiey Jean Maurice. Assyriens ou Arameéns ? P. 152.

2يوسف ملك ، الخيانة البريطانية للآشوريين، ترجمة يونان ايليا يونان سنة 1981 ص 13 - 

3- Sader , H. Les états Araméens ou Syrie depuis leur fondation jusqi å ieur transformation en provinces Assyriennes. P.  98

4-Unger ,M.F., Israel and the Arameans of Damascus,P.6

5-Dupont-Sommer,Andre.. Les inscriptions Araméennes de Sefire. PP.17-18

6-Longdon,S., Die new Babylonischen konigsinschriften,P.148.

7-Gadd, .C.J The Harran inscription of Nabunidus .in Anatolian Studies J.S, 1956.P.60.

8-Honigmann, E. et Maricq A, Recherches sur les Res Gestae divi saporis, dans

9 –Rainev  A.F. The satrapy Beyond the River. in Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology. T.1,1969, P.54.

10-Memoires de l,cademte Royale de Belgique.T.47,19S3,P.41.

 10-Cooke.G A,  A Text Book of North Semltic lnscriptions.P.346

11-Rainey, The Satrapy ,P.54.

12Honigmann et Maicq, Recherches,P.42.

13-lbid. P.42,Note No.2.

14-Xenophon,Cyropédte,1 ,(5),2.

15-Strabon,Geographie, 1, (2), 34.

16-Flavius Josephe.Histoire anclenne des Juids 1 .(61),

 المطران يعقوب أوجين منا، مقدمة قاموس كلداني-  عربي ص 15 (قاموس آرامي عربي) دليل الراغيين في لغة الآراميين-17

18-Philoxene de Maboug, Memra contre HABIB dans Patrologie Orientalis,T.13,P.692.

19-Jacques des Edesse, Scolie, dans Patrologie Orientalis.T.29,1960 P.196.          

20-Chabot,Jean.Baptiste., Quatriéme Partie de la Chronique Syriaque de Denys de Tell Mahré Texte Syrlaque.P.11.

21-Chabot.Jean.Baptiste.,La Chronique Syriaque de Michel  le Syrien,T.3, P.442.

22-Mazar,Benjamin ,The Aramean Empire and its Relations with Israel” in: “ The Biblical Archeologist,T.25, 1962, P.119.

23-Flavius Josephe,1,Ch. 6.

24-lbid.Lime viii, Ch.2.

25-Herodotus, Histoires, Lime 3, 92.

26-Brinkman,John .A. , A Political History of Post Kassite Babylonia. 158-722 B.C. P.267.

27-Bowman,A.R,.  Arameans, Aramaic and the Bible, in-.Joumal of Near Eastem Studies T.7, 1948,P.78

28-Bardy, G., La question des langues I Eglise Anciene,p.2.

 

This article is taken from Aram magazine no.5 summer 1993 p. 40-50.