Modern Education Development, Challenges and Current State in Eritrea (1839 to 2016)

Part 2. The flourishing publications in the late of the 19th century and early of the 20th century

Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane  

Pt. 2a A brief history on the origin of Geez script

The establishment of print press in 1863 by the Catholic Mission in Massawa for printing religious books and newsletter made possible for the flourishing of Tigrinya and Tigi printed lliteratures in the late 19th century and thereafter. Before the establishment of print press most of the local people indigenous knowledge were preserved for centuries in the oral form apart from the religious text and some local law inGe’ez script which were written with a red and black ink on parchment paper made from processed animal skin. The ink was preaped from different leaves, grains, and other natural source by the clerics.[source fires and thefts

Early History: Archeological sites in Eritrea have yielded hominid fossils judged to be two million years old. Tools from about 8000 B.C., unearthed in western Eritrea, provide the earliest concrete evidence of human settlement. Rock paintings found throughout the country, dating to at least 2000 B.C., have been assigned to a nomadic cattle-raising people. Between 1000 and 400 B.C., the Sabeans, a Semitic group, crossed the Red Sea into Eritrea and intermingled with the Pygmy, Nilotic, and Kushitic inhabitants known to have earlier migrated from Central Africa and the middle Nile. In the sixth century B.C., Arabs occupied the Eritrean coast, establishing trade with India and Persia, as well as with the pharaonic Egyptians. The ports of Eritrea enjoyed continuous contact with Red Sea traffic and Middle East cultures that fostered a cosmopolitanism unique to the coast. The powerful Axumite kingdom, centered in the present-day Ethiopian province of Tigray, prospered on trade through Eritrea from the first to sixth century A.D. read more

Origin of Geez script : Geez is  the liturgical language of the Orthodx Church  which developed as the language of the Aksumite Empire derived from the merger of the Semitic South Arabian language and one or more Chushtic languages ( Dan conell, 2011). The earliest Ge’ez inscriptions date from mid-second century  at Matara and elsewhere  in Akele Guzai, which may be evidence  that this was the homeland of the Ag.azat people, who gave their name to the language . Connell (2011, 268 p) adds that  the  Agazait (emigrants) were probably  a South Arabian group, who strongly  influenced the Akele Guzai-Shimezana region from as early as the fifth century B.C, and maintained a tributary  relationship with the rulers of Aksum, against whom they unsuccessfully rebelled in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D.

For most centuries BC, the language operated in its written form without vowels. This is evident in the inscriptions of Belew Kelew written without vowels “ዘሐወለተ/ ዘአገበረ/ አገዘ/ ለአበወሀ/ መሐዘተ/ አወጸ/ አለፈነ… Ge’ez language begins with the formation of vowels to its letters from an abjad (consonantal-only) into an abugida (syllabic) around the 3rd century, the most demonstrative fact is the emergence of new forms of Ge’ez that developed its own vowels, contributing to the development of the written form. The credit for the formation of Geez vowels solely goes to Aba Selama who was the first Christian missionary to the land [present Eritrea] and his disciples. Aba Selam was a Syro-Phoenician Greek born in Tyre in the early fourth century, died ca. 383, Eritrea), he was the first Bishop of Aksum (or Axum), and he is credited with bringing Christianity to the Aksumite Kingdom.[1]

Aba Selama

Aba Selama and his followers invented Geez vowels and adopted a new numeric system. With the advent of Christianity in around 3rd century AD in Eritrea, the need for a written form of the language for preaching purposes had escalated. The advent of Christianity and the rise of the Axumite kingdom during the reign of Ezana of Axum became leading reasons for Ge’ez language to have such great literature. [source Sirak Kbrom ].

Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the Gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting. They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge’ez. Source: ancient-origine.com

Before the fifth centuries AD  Geez ( Ethiopic) must have been spoken, without doubt, but it was not written: Greek and Sabean were written instead. At the time of King `Ezana the knowledge of the Sabean language seems to have been very little; but Sabean script was still used. (Thomas Hunter Weir) 

By sixth century Ge’ez had replaced Greek as the literary language of the empire, and as the Aksumites converted to Christianity, it became the literary vechicle of the Church. The Bible was translated  from Greek into Geez   between  the fifth- and seventh centuries, most of the literature produced in Eritrea before the 16th century was written in Ge’ez including the lives of saints and legal document . The local laws(Adkeme Mellega'e) in the district of Logosarda, southern Eritrea, which dates from the 1200 was the first written example. Ge'ez, apparently, ceased to be spoken at the time of the decline of the Axumite Kingdom in the 8th-10th centuries. But it was the only literary language until the 19th century [NLR] . According to Dr. Orville Boyd JenkinsGe’ez is the root language for the three related languages Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre.

Calo, Conti Rosiniእተባህለ ውሩይ ኢጣልያዊ ናይ ታርኽ ተመራማ ሪኣብ'ቲ “ኤል ዳ. ሊዮኒሳ ብእተባህለ ደራሲ ዝተዳለወ ወይ“Gramatica analitica DellaLingua Tigray “ኣብ ዝብል መጽሓፍ መእተዊ ከም ዝገለጾትግርኛ ካብ መበል13 ዘመን ጀሚሩ ናይ ስነ ጽሑፍ ቋንቋ ከም ዝነበረ ይገልጽ። እዞም ክልተ ተመራመርቲ ዝሃብዎ ሓሳብ እንተ ተመልከትና ትግርኛ ኣብ መበል  13ክፍለ ዘመን ኣብ ምዕቡል ደረጃ በጺሑ ከም ዝነበረ ይሕብር። እንተኾነ እቶም በቲ ግዜ'ቲ ዝተጻሕፉ መጻሕፍቲ ብዝሖምን ዝርዝሮምን ኣይገለጹን። Carlo Conti Rossini ኣብ “Lingua Tigrgna”ኣብ ዝብል መጽሐፍ ብከም'ዚ ይገልጾ፡ትግርኛ ዝ ዝረብ ቋንቋ ዳአምበር ጥንታዊ ስነ ጽሑፍ ዘይብሉ ቋንቋ እዩ ይብል። ቀጺሉ አብ Ricordo di un  soggiorno in Eritrea(ኣብ ኤርትራ ናይ ዝተቐመጥኩለን መዓልታት መዘከርታ)
ብዝብል አርእስቲ ን1903 ዓ.ም ዝተሓትመ መጽሐፍ ከኣ ሕጊ ሎጎ ሳርዳብመበል 16 ክፍለ ዘመን ብኢድ ተጻሒፉ ከም ዝነበረ ናይ ሓዳ ገጽ ቅዳሕ " መሬት ሎጎ ግብሪ ዝብል ይርከብ። ኣብቲ ግዜ'ቲ እቲ ስነ ጽሑፍ ከመይ ከም ዝነበረ ንምፍላጥን ንምርግጋጽን ምእንቲ ኽ ከኣል ብመልክዕሐበረታ (source Abraham Negash)

ጆመትራ ገብረእየሱስ ኣባይ ዝደረሶ "መሰረት ዓሌት ሕዝቢ መረብ ምላሽ"እትብል መጽሓፉ ኣብ መእተዊ ገጽ ብዙሓት መጽሕፍቲ ብወጻእተኛታት ናብ ወጻኢ ሃገር ከም ዝተወስዱ ሓቢሩ ኣሎ። ካብ ኣቶም ኣብ ዓዲ እንግሊዝ ብ1770ዓ.ም.ግ ጀምስ ብሩስ ዝተባህለ ብዙሕ ናይ ብራና መጻሕፍቲ ኣኪቡ ናብ ዓዱ ወሲዱ ኣብቲ ቤተ መጻሕፍቲ( Bodleian Library Oxford )ይርከብ። ከም' ኡውን ኣብ ዓዲ ፈረንሳ ብሙሴ ሮሺ በዴርኩር ዝተባህለ በዓይነቱ ከበድቲ መጻሕፍቲ ክሳብ  237 ዝኽውን ናብ ፓሪስ ከም ዝወሰደ ይሕብር። ካልእእውን ኣብ ዓዲ ጀርመን ብሂኣብ ሎድልፍን ሚስተር ፍላድ ኮሚ ፒትሪስን ብሚስተር ቴዎድሮስን ብሚስተር ሊትማንን በብዝነበርዎ እዋን ካብ 68 -80 ዝኸውን መጻሕፍቲ ኣብ በርሊን ከተማ ተቀሚጡ ከም ዝርካብ ዝጥቀስ ኮይኑ ኣብ ሃገር ኢጣልያ ሮማ ካብ 1800-1838 ዓ.ም.ግ ጆሴፔ ሳፔቶ ዝተባህለ ሚስዮናዊ 20 ዝኾኑ  መጻሕፍቲ ካብ ኣድባራት ኣኪቡ ናብ ኢጣልያ ከም ዝወሰደ ይሕብር። ብተወሳኺ ኮናስል ዝተባህለ ዝወሰዶ ኣብ ችታ ቫቲካኖ ማለት ኣብ ቫቲካን ይርከብ። ኮንትሮሲንን ቸሩሊን ከኣ ነናብ ቤተ መጻሕፍቶም ወሲዶም ይብል


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