Demotic script

Demotic is the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Nile Delta, and the stage of the Egyptian language written in this script, 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 "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 developed in Lower Egypt during the later part of the 25th dynasty, particularly found 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.


Demotic script

Demotic script


Middle (Ptolemaic) Demotic

Middle Demotic 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 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. 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, 452 AD, and consists of a graffito on the walls of the temple of Isis on Philae.

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