Demotic (Egyptian)

Demotic (Egyptian)
Type Abjad augmented by logograms
Languages Demotic (Egyptian language)
Time period c. 650 BC–5th century AD
Parent systems
  • Demotic
Child systems


Old Nubian
ISO 15924 Egyd, 070
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.

Demotic (from Greek: δημοτικός dēmotikós, "popular") refers to either the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta, or the stage of the Egyptian language following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts. By convention, the word "Demotic" is capitalized in order to distinguish it from demotic Greek.



The Demotic script was referred to by the Egyptians as sš n šˤ.t "document writing," which the 2nd century scholar Clement of Alexandria called ἐπιστολογραφική (epistolographikē) "letter writing," while early Western scholars, notably Thomas Young, formerly referred to it as 'Enchorial Egyptian'. The script was used for more than a thousand years, and during that time a number of developmental stages occurred.

Early Demotic

Early Demotic (often referred to by the German term Frühdemotisch) developed in Lower Egypt during the later part of the 25th dynasty, particularly on stelae from the Serapeum at Saqqara. It is generally dated between 650 and 400 BC as most texts written in Early Demotic are dated to the 26th dynasty and the following Persian period (the 27th dynasty). After the reunification of Egypt under Psametik I, Demotic replaced Abnormal Hieratic in Upper Egypt, particularly during the reign of Amasis when it became the official administrative and legal script. During this period, Demotic was used only for administrative, legal, and commercial texts, while hieroglyphs and hieratic were reserved for other texts.

Middle (Ptolemaic) Demotic

Ostracon with Demotic inscription. Ptolemaic dynasty, c. 305-30 BC. Probably from Thebes. It is a prayer to the god Amun to heal a man's blindness.

Middle Demotic (c. 400–30 BC) is the stage of writing used during the Ptolemaic Period. From the 4th century BC onwards, Demotic held a higher status, as may be seen from its increasing use for literary and religious texts. By the end of the 3rd century BC, Greek was more important as it was the administrative language of the country; Demotic contracts lost most of their legal force unless there was a note in Greek of being registered with the authorities.

Late (Roman) Demotic

From the beginning of Roman rule of Egypt, Demotic was progressively less used in public life. There are, however, a number of literary texts written in Late Demotic (c. 30 BC–452 AD), especially from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, though the quantity of all Demotic texts decreased rapidly towards the end of the 2nd century. In contrast to the way Latin eliminated minority languages in the western part of the Empire and the expansion of Greek led to the extinction of Phrygian, Greek did not replace Demotic entirely.[1] After that, Demotic was only used for a few ostraca, subscriptions to Greek texts, mummy labels, and graffiti. The last dated example of the Demotic script is dated to December 11, AD. 452, and consists of a graffito on the walls of the temple of Isis on Philae.


Demotic is a development of Late Egyptian and shares much with the later Coptic phase of the Egyptian language. In the earlier stages of Demotic, such as those texts written in the Early Demotic script, it probably represented the spoken idiom of the time. But, as it was increasingly used for only literary and religious purposes, the written language diverged more and more from the spoken form, giving Late Demotic texts an artificial character, similar to the use of classical Middle Egyptian during the Ptolemaic Period.


Demotic is the second script inscribed on the Rosetta Stone. There are 32 lines of Demotic script on the Rosetta Stone. Demotic was deciphered before the hieroglyphic script, starting with the efforts of Silvestre de Sacy. The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799. It was inscribed in classical Greek and Egyptian (demotic and hieroglyphic). By comparing the Greek words, which could be translated, and the Egyptian hieroglyphs, in addition to their knowledge of Coptic, scholars were able to translate Egyptian glyphs. Egyptologists, linguists and papyrologists specializing in the study of the Demotic script and stage of Egyptian are known as Demotists.

See also


  1. ^ Haywood, John (2000) (in English). Historical atlas of the classical world, 500 BC--AD 600. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 28. ISBN 076071973X. "However, Greek did not take over as completely as Latin did in the west and there remained large communities of Demotic...and Aramaic speakers" 


  • Betrò, Maria Carmela (1996). Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt. New York; Milan: Abbeville Press (English); Arnoldo Mondadori (Italian). pp. 34–239. ISBN 0-7892-0232-8. 
  • Johnson, Janet H. (1986). Thus Wrote 'Onchsheshonqy: An Introductory Grammar of Demotic. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, No. 45. Chicago: The Oriental Institute. 

External links

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См. также в других словарях:

  • demotic egyptian — noun Usage: capitalized E : the stage of the Egyptian language that immediately preceded Coptic and that is known from writings in demotic characters dating approximately from the 8th century B.C. to the 3d century A.D …   Useful english dictionary

  • Demotic — (Greek for of the people or folkish ) may refer to: Demotic Greek, a variety of the Greek language Demotic (Egyptian), a script and stage of the Egyptian language This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian language — Infobox Language name=Egyptian nativename= transl|egy|r n km.t r:Z1 n km m t:O49 region=Ancient Egypt extinct=evolved into Demotic by 600 BC, into Coptic by AD 200, and was extinct (not spoken as a day to day language) by the 17th century. It… …   Wikipedia

  • Demotic Greek — Not to be confused with Demotic (Egyptian). History of the Greek language (see also: Greek alphabet) Proto Greek (c. 3000–1600 BC) Mycenaean …   Wikipedia

  • demotic script —       Egyptian hieroglyphic writing of cursive form that was used in handwritten texts from the early 7th century BC until the 5th century AD. Demotic script derived from the earlier pictographic hieroglyphic inscriptions and the cursive hieratic …   Universalium

  • demotic — [dē mät′ik] adj. [ML demoticus < Gr dēmotikos < dēmotes, one of the people < dēmos: see DEMOCRACY] 1. a) of the people; popular; specif., VERNACULAR (sense 2) b) in or of idiomatic, colloquial, everyday language [a novelist with a good… …   English World dictionary

  • Egyptian script — may mean: * Egyptian hieroglyphs * Egyptian hieratic * Egyptian demotic …   Wikipedia

  • demotic — 1822, from Gk. demotikos of or for the common people, in common use, from demos common people, originally district, from PIE *da mo division, from root *da to divide (see TIDE (Cf. tide)). In contrast to HIERATIC (Cf. hieratic). Originally of the …   Etymology dictionary

  • Egyptian hieroglyphs — A section of the Papyrus of Ani showing cursive hieroglyphs …   Wikipedia

  • Egyptian language — Extinct Afro Asiatic language of the Nile River valley. Its very long history comprises five periods: Old Egyptian (с 3000–с 2200 BC), best exemplified by a corpus of religious inscriptions known as the Pyramid Texts and a group of… …   Universalium

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