Thursday, April 1, 2021

Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS)

I just got word today that my Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS) article has now been published online:

Thanks again to all who contributed, and especially Eugenia Sokolinski for all her help getting it ready and online.

The article stems from several observations of parallels between different scripts in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, which I then developed in greater detail. This is my attempt to explain many of the most prominent stylistic developments in the Hebrew/Aramaic scripts, whose causes have to my mind never been sufficiently elucidated. I hope to build this into a larger comparative manuscript studies project.

Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS): Script Interactions and Hebrew/Aramaic Writing Culture

Longacre, Drew

    Writing is an expression of culture and is subject to intercultural influences. In this comparative study, I argue that Egyptian and Judean Hebrew/Aramaic scripts from 400 BCE–400 CE were heavily influenced by Greek and later Latin writing cultures, which explains many previously inexplicable phenomena. Jewish writers in the third century BCE adopted the Greek split-nibbed reed pen, which dramatically changed the appearance of Hebrew/Aramaic scripts. At the same time, the normal size for Hebrew/ Aramaic scripts shrank considerably, the pen strokes became mostly monotone and unshaded, and the scripts became more rectilinear, angular, bilinear, and square.
    Each of these features appears to be due to direct imitation of contemporary Greek formal writing. Beginning in the first century BCE, Hebrew/Aramaic writers began to decorate their formal scripts with separate ornamental strokes like those of contemporary Greek and Latin calligraphic scripts. And from the second or third century CE, Hebrew/Aramaic calligraphic scripts seem to be increasingly characterized by horizontal shading, parallel to the contemporary rise of Greek and Latin shaded scripts. Furthermore, in the late Roman period, the traditional Hieratic-derived Aramaic numeral system was replaced by an alphabetic numeral system under the influence of the Greek Milesian alphabetic numerals.

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