The discovery of the Rosetta stone in the late 1700 (circa 1799) was of such import for a number of reasons. While there are different accounts of how the stone was discovered, the stone gave scholars a glimpse into rich Egyptian culture and heritage.
From the Rosetta stone, historians know that Egypt, during Ptolemy V’s reign, was a polyglot of cultures, as the stone was written in two languages and three writing systems—hieroglyphic (sacred text), demotic (native or ordinary, everyday Egyptian language) and Greek. Scholars were able to decipher the texts because they understood Greek and used Greek to translate the other two scripts.
Because scholars could use the Greek inscriptions to decipher the other languages, the discovery of the Rosetta stone led to scholars translating other Egyptian artifacts, which were erroneously translated.
Prior to the stone’s discovery, much of the information that scholars gathered regarding Ancient Egypt was erroneous for a few reasons:
Ultimately, the ability to translate this ancient text allowed scholars to use Greek to recreate the Egyptian alphabet by matching symbols with word meaning. First and foremost, the Rosetta stone is of particular significance for historians because it sheds light on the administrative reception of one of Egypt’s favored pharaohs (god-king)—Ptolemy V.
The part of the Rosetta stone that exists is only a portion of the entire message. Astonishingly, in its own time, this key find was a mere functional piece that probably would have been used for other projects, as it was not a work of art or it was not a part of a larger monument.
The stone is made of granodiorite stela dating back to about 196 BC. The gray and pink inscription on the stone contains three scripts with instructions on how to praise the ruler, Ptolemy V.
Ptolemy was praised for making Egypt prosperous, building and restoring existing temples, releasing former enemies of the state, and reducing, and in some cases, eliminating taxes.
Furthermore, his exploits as a military leader helped him crush enemies and established him as a competent ruler.
He accomplished A LOT!
And for his heroic efforts, Ptolemy V was….
This statement established respect for Ptolemy V and his government. Because democratic or republican ideals were not a part of Egyptian rule, respect for rulers was established in the same way as previously—through their perceived strength. One way a ruler’s might and authority were determined was by the statues built in his/her honor.
More importantly, this stone established pharaoh as a just, wise ruler, and because it was written by priests, this relic conveyed to the public the allegiance priests gave to pharaoh.
The Rosetta stone in its own way functioned as intended and unintended press for the Egyptian hierarchy.
The intended press impressed upon priests and other leaders the import of this leader. The unintended press, however, impressed on average Egyptian citizens and residents an aura of majesty and authority.
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