Meroitic Evidence for a
Blemmy Empire in the
Uthman dan Fodio Institute
Controversy surrounds the role of the Blemmyans in the Dodekaschoinos . Torok has argued passionately that the Blemmyes were fairly recent settlers of the Dodekaschoinos. Dafa'alla on the otherhand, using historical records argue that their were two groups of Blemmyes in the area one nomadic and the other urban. Dr. Dafa'alla also believes that these urban Blemmyes may have been the "generals of the river" of the Meroitic and Demotic inscriptions.
a good history of the later period of Blemmyan history
. We learn from Updegraff that the Blemmyes may have been mentioned in a
The Meroitic empire was a major power in
the area comprising the former Meroitic empire that were heavily influenced by the Meroites, e.g., the Ballana phase.
The role of the
Blemmyes in the history of
This has led many
researchers to conclude that the Nobadae formed the successor Meroitic states
after the decline of the Kusa or Kushites of Meroe.
The Blemmyes are recognized as a nomadic people associated with the decline of
Torok believes that the Blemmyes did not
occupy the area around Kalabsha until between the 390's and the middle of the
5th century .
Although this view is held
by many researchers,
the Kalabsha Meroitic inscription (MI 94, REM 094) suggest that the Blemmyes
controlled much of
of the Ethiopians make it clear that after the Ethiopians conquered the
Kushites, the Nobadae were the probable successors of the Kusa in the southern
Meroitic empire. But it would appear that the Blemmyes
were the dominant power in
records make it clear that in the 7th c. B.C. the Blemmyes were entering
sources make it clear that although the Kushites at
worshipped the god Mandulis and probably many of the Meroitic deities as they
became acculturated to Meroitic civilization. Due to the large number of
The Blemmyes were
very powerful by 249-251 A.D., they attacked
The Blemmyes appear to have had very intimate relations with the Meroites. The Blemmyes were recognized by the Meroites as an important "subject" group within the Meroitic empire. This would explain Constantine Eusebius mention of the Meroite and Blemmy envoys visit to the Egyptian court , probably around 336. V. Christides, claims that the Blemmyes gave Ballana crowns to Emperor Constantine.
In the 370's we
begin to hear more about the Blemmyes in Classical sources. In 373, the
Blemmyes attacked the Romans in the Dodekaschoinos. This attack is recorded at
Meroitic and Classical evidence support the early settlement of the Blemmyes in
mentions the Blemmyes in one of his poems. Claudianus was born in
In 404 Claudianus
Epiphanios makes it
clear that by 395/6 the Blemmyes had control of Talmis/Kalabsha. He wrote
that:" Now Beronike, as it is called is contiguous with the districts of
Meroitic inscription support the view that the
Blemmyes controlled much of
The Kalabsha inscription is 34 lines. It was found at the lower part of the Northernmost four column denoting the facade of the Kalabsha temple's pronaos.
The Kalabsha inscription is about King Kharamadoye. The location of the Kalabsha inscription suggest that the inscriptions was written before debris covered much of the temple.
Most researchers accept the fact that Kharamadoye may have been a Blemmy, due to its similarity to Blemmy names in the Gebelen document. In the Gebelen document there are names of several Blemmyes including Kharakhen, and his sons Kharahiet and Kharapathkur dating to the 6th century.
Ll. Griffith deciphered the Meroitic script over 70 years ago. Up until recently the inscriptions could be transliterated, but we were unable to read the Meroitic records in their entirety because we did not know the Meroitic language. In 1984 C.A. Winters was able to find the cognate language of Meroitic: Kushana . As a result of this discovery we can read any Meroitic text.
The Kalabasha inscription is written in Late Meroitic. The grammar of Late Meroitic has been outlined elsewhere .
Below is the transliteration of the Kalabsha text. In this transliteration of Meroitic, the so called Meroitic separator sign ( : ) is given the meaning -ne. The Meroitic sign -ne, means 'good' and is used to change verbs into nouns.
1. hrmdoye ne qor ene ariteń lne mdes ne mni-t kene
2. mk lebne ye re qe-ne q yi-t hl-ne y es bo he-ne q r lebne tro.
3. s-ne ariteń net er ek li s-ne d-b li lh ne q r kene
qor ene mnpte.
t h-ń yi-ne qr-ne ariteń li s-ne.
6. th-ń yi-ne arette ne wos sl w-ne h i ret-te ń yi-ne
hr ph ene mk e do.
7. ke li sl w-ne hr ph e ń yi-ne. te ri s nem npte ne
p d ho s-ne tl-o.
8. li s ne k i d kete tene yimeniye ne qor e-l h-ene
yi ti IIII yo to-ne.
9. ptpotekye ne ab-l ene y wi tone s wi d-e-a q to ye- ne. Tep kene ye d ne mk lne te.
10. pk ene y ey k-ne w ye d ne-te pk ene p y k-ne h i w r nea d o-ne w sne phrs ne t o.
11. m ń-ne-a s y ne ke d eb h ek y-ne qor-e ti k-ne d i k-ne pilqe y-te ne-b q ok.
12. lk s-ne sq y-e s-ne nsdoke s-ne tmeyye s-ne nhr e s- ne-b qo b h.
13. simlo k-ne d ik ne pilqe y tene b qo lne pr one d
ol ene pl w-ne penn-ne t.
14. lte-ne br-ne ph i ńl-ne bh em ine ye de tene-b . ye ke lh d ik ne kdi mlo ye-ne.
15. sq kdi-ne pt p ot...yismeniye ne y sb e t ne-b er so wi-ne mte ne w s-ne.
16. a y e ken l-ne yt p-ote ne y-e d ne y-kl ene arohetye ne nl ene do lk.
17. mte l-ne pi ke d el wi-ne y-e d ne ptpotekye ne w kdi wi ke tene mte ws.
18. qorh-ne th-ń y-ene tk lwi-ne y sh e t ne-b er ek-n wi-ne h.
19. r ph ene de te lh l-ne w e ń-ne y-e d ne w-o p ik ene ti-l ye y ki ne.
20. br lebne ke d e-b h ne. kdi lebne-m ro r lebne s s lebne kb b.
tene-m ro r b ene qe.
22. s w-ne-a d er ek ene-m tr-ne w s-ne h r w-ne pilqe kene mt r-ne w s-ne.
23. qor e IIIIIIII hr e s-ne wt e b ne ah ine d e ...
kl ene d e .
24. tene we d ine d h ene mte ne kdi ne aqtoyes II wb qo b.
25. tenen wi d o ne hr e s ye qo ne hresye qo ne wid
yishteteye qo ne b qo.
26. b h ne s ml ene w si ne tk b tene ste ne we s-ne b qo b tene.
27. simlo k-ne d ik ne sl el ey tene-m ho ne temey ne
28. kdi a br ne nhbr e s ne kb h ne-m ho li-ne temey li- ne d k-ne.
29. p ro-ne d ol pl w-ne penn tl tene br-ne ph ol e ne b
h em ine.
30. ye d e tene hr w-ne-a d o ni li kete-ne yir e q w nea.
31. r w-ne tere kete-ne hr w-ne sl el e kene-m tr-ne ws yi r-e.
32. q w nea d lo kene-m tr-ne w s-ne ws-ne. qor ene pt si de ne tm ot-ne .
33. m...es ne...pl-ń pt mk . i d ene tm-o t ne ari tel ene w o.
34. pl e .
Millet did an excellent job in discussing the major points of the Kalabsha inscription, relative to our knowledge about Meroitic in the 1960's. Below is our translation of the Kalabsha inscription now that we can read all the Meroitic words in the text.
the monarch and chief of the living Ariteń, the great son and patron of Amani ,you (who) revitalizes (man). (2) The lord's voyage of
discovery indeed gives the creation of Good. Act (now Amani) he travels to
support good. Make a good welfare swell (for) the offering of the Chief, (he) desires indeed the restoration of eminence. (3)
The patron of good Ariteń bows in reverence (before Amani) to evoke exalted
nourishment (for) the patrons to leave a grand and exalted legacy to
behold good. (Oh Amani make indeed (a) revitalization (of) the monarch (and)
commander of Great Napata. (4)Prop (up) good (and) glorify the monarch. (Amani)
you give progressively much greatness now (and)the
rebirth of the patrons glorification. Establish his grand eternal wish (for) Good,
(Oh) exalted Ariteń.(5) Glorified he wishes eternal and abundant life at this
moment (as) is the exalted Way. Support (for) him a glorified and abundant
eternal life and
establish much Good and wonder (for) the king and commander. (6) He establishes
the tradition (of) good Harendotes (Horus the Avenger of his father) (Oh)
rebirth to certainly unlock the Ba of the Commander, (Oh) Creator.(22) The supreme king will leave a legacy that produces his bestowal of eminence guided to the patron (of Ariteń) superior prestige (for) Philae's revitalization. Break open indeed Good (and) guide it to the patron.(23) The monarch possesses 8 (times) the repute (of any other man). Vouchsafe the patron (and) place (a) grand boon to the Good Ba, to teach ( mankind as is the) tradition. Indeed give...toler(ance) to the Commander's bequeathal. (24) The rebirth gives escort to the donation (as) is the Way; give the Kha almsgiving (and) unlock Good (for) the good lady Aqtoyesa II (and) guide the Ba to prepare the renewed Ba (for its passage to its new home). (25) Honor the rebirth (of Kharamadoye) to leave a legacy to commence Good and complete dignity (for) the king (on his) journey to restore Good. The honorable and good Khareshaye to leave honor as his legacy. The honorable and good Yiskhateteye desires (its) commence(ment now). (26) The Ba and good Kha props up the spirit of good. Guide satisfying good to set in motion the Ba's rebirth. The good mother (of Kharamadoye) gives escort to the patron's Ba. Restore the Ba.(27) The revitalized Shimalo leaves a legacy of good (in the ) place of sojourn. Consecrate the king's gift (that) favors his rebirth of the good soul. (Oh) good Temeya (people) and Nasadoke (people). (28) The women and good men of the Nakhabara vouchsafes the good king's desire that his good Kha and soul transmit Good. The Temeya transmits the good donation of the Object of (our) Supplication. (29) Pray the unlock(ing of) Good,the grand donation (possesses ) superior righteous(ness) to spread (and) elevate the rebirth. The Carrier (of the rebirth has) the grand intention to vouchsafe good for the Ba and the Kha to direct (this spread of Good as) is the tradition.(30) (Kharamadoye is ) capable (of) leaving a legacy (of) complete rebirth. Superior esteem will leave a legacy to commence exalted shinning to ascent indeed eternally. Act to complete his Stewardship. The ascent (of the boon of Good) cleanses the grant of a boon to make guidance (for all) now! (31) Indeed the Commander erects (and) vouchsafes the elevation of superior esteem to consecrate the (King's) gifts to complete his revitalization. (May) eminence dress him forever indeed. (32) Act to guide now the confer(ence) (of) the offering of his eminent revitalization. Guide the patron. Clothe Good to the monarch's almsgiving. Praise the satisfying bequeathal (of Kharadomoye) to produce Approbation and Good.(33) Measure... the manifestation (of) Good...righteous good to praise God. Go give the almsgiving to open (up) the rebirth. Arrange the affirmation (of) Good to elevate the almsgiving to guide open (34) complete praise".
This inscriptions makes it clear that Kharamadoye was recognized as an important king in Lower Nubia.It would appear from the inscriptions that his father was Patatekaye and his son and successor was Yisameniye or Icemne.
The inscription implies that Patatekaye had been the founder of this Blemmy empire which Kharamadoye inherited (line 9). To illustrate that Kharamadoye was loyal to Patatekaye's trust
Kharamadoye repeats his victory over the Lak, Shaqa,
Nasadoke, Temey and Nakhabara people, and his continued control of
In line 8, we discover that Yismeniye was the son of Kharamadoye. Here the father requested that Yimeniye continue to uphold his honor by maintaining the empire founded by his grandfather Patatekaye. In addition we find that Yisameniye was expected to make the proper offerings to the gods, that would assure Kharamadoye's passage to a blessed hereafter.
There is evidence that Yisameniye was successful in maintaining the Blemmy empire. Most researchers believe that the pidgin Greek inscription in Kalabsha of Icemne, probably is a reference to Yisameniye.
remained the major power in
In conclusion, the relationship between the Blemmyan and Meroite people is very contradictory. It is clear from the Kalabsha text, that by the end of the Meroitic period, Blemmyans were recognized not only as "generals of the river" but also monarchs in their own right.
literature makes it clear that while some Blemmyes were enemies of
The disorders in
The Blemmyes left many inscriptions at Kalabsha. Shimalo may have been the Blemmy name for Kalabsha.
In the Kalabsha inscription Shimalo is described as ik "abode or place of sojourn". This may have been the central city of the Blemmy empire founded by Patatekaye. The hand made pottery of the mid-third century A.D. of Kalabsha may have been made by the acculturated Blemmyes who wrote the Meroitic and pidgin Greek inscriptions found in the temple at Kalabsha.
evidence from Kalabsha rejects the hypothesis of Torok that the Blemmyes were
primarially nomadic warriors in late Meroitic times. The Kalabsha text
discussed above, and the Napatan text make it clear
that after the 5th c. B.C. the Blemmyes were becoming more and more numerous in
The Kalabsha text
supports Dafa'alla's view that many of the Blemmyes were urban dwellers and
that the Blemmy Kings probably had a capital at Shimalo. This is consistent with the view that the
Blemmyes were the dominant Aethiopian group as early as the 1st c. A.D. in
Kalabsha Lexical Items
Below is a list of the Meroitic lexical items found in the Kalabsha (REM 094) inscription. The Meroitic script has 23 signs. The Meroitic script is a syllabic writing system. Each Meroitic consonant except when followed by the vowel sign /i/, /o/ and /e/ represents the consonant sound plus the vowel /a/. In the vocabulary items listed below we did not add the /a/ sound to the transliteration of the Meroitic characters . There are four syllables in Meroitic ne, se, te and to are represented by separate sounds.
The Kalabsha inscription is written in the late Meroitic style. Late Meroitic has the VSO pattern .
The Meroitic language include both prefixes and suffixes, but, suffixes are used extensively in the writing. The popular sentence pattern in late Meroitic inscriptions is -->VP NP or S--> VP NP VP. For example,
wto si lit. to guide you satisfaction
"You guide (me) to satisfaction".
terike lo wi-ne s lit. Fashion dispatch the Awe patron
"Fashion (and) dispatch the Awe of the patron".
Meroitic was probably a lingua franca used by the Meroites to unite the diverse ethnic groups which lived in the Meroitic empire. Although much of the vocabulary of Archaic Meroitic was used to write Late Meroitic text, the Late Meroitic structure is less complicated than Archaic Meroitic.
Many Meroitic words are homophone signs. A homophone sign has the same phonetic value as another. The interchangeable Meroitic homophones include b=/=p, t=/=d, k=/=g, s=/=s and
n=/=ń , e.g., tb / tp 'announce in a lofty voice'.
The Meroitic separator sign (:) has the phonetic value -ne. This sign in the Meroitic script was used to change verbs into nouns, or signify the word "good". The element -ne-, although it is occasionally used in the initial formation of words, the separator sign -ne, was primarially used as a suffix.
a1, intensive prefix 'to'; element used to form the future tense
a2, third person suffix 'he, it, she'.
ah, teach, to learn, to study
ab, ancestor, father
arrette, Harendotes (Horus the Avenger of his father)
Ariteń, name of a god
b, Ba (aspect of Man)
b2, plural element, 'many, much , abundant
bo, all; to swell, to inflate
br1, man men
br2, sustain, bring
bh, mature, ripe
d, give, bequeath; to leave a legacy
db, leave a grand legacy
de, indeed; give the offering
do, donation, offering; consecrate
e1, vouchsafe; give; grant a boon
e2, masculine nominative singular accusative suffix for
e3, complete, complement; register
e-t, vouchsafe the arrangement
ene, Commander, Chief;
em, to teach; to direct
es, welfare, manisfestation
es, welfare, manifestation
h, great; h-ne 'greatness'
h, offer alms
er, produce, evoke
h, offering; grand, great
hr , repute, esteem
ine, tradition, (as) is the Way
ik, place, spot, ; abode, sojourn, place where (one) sojours
k, as is obligatory,k-ne, Object of supplication
kb, to desire
ke, to revitalize; ask permission
kene, origination, revitalization
ki, the order, work
kdi, lady; duty
kl, tolerate, bear; borne
-l, meroitic ending particle;
l, verb "to be" ; lne 'living, existence'
leb, to restore; leb-ne "restoration".
li, exalted; li-ne 'transmittal, transmit,
lh, behold; grand, great
lk, Lak , a tribal name
lw, to have glory; lw-ne, gloriy
m1 ,measure,; great
m2, much, many
m3, third person singular maculine pronoun him , his
mde1, great son mde2, proceed, progressively
mk, lord, god
mni, Amani, a Meroitic god
mt, break open
neb, much good
ne, good; intruth
neh, at this moment
net, bow in reverence
Nsdoke, Nasadoke ( a tribal name)
Nhbr, Nkhabara (tribal name)
ń2, third person personal pronoun 'his, him'
-ne,particle used to change verbs into nouns
o, commence, begin, open ; o-ne, genesis
ot, to esteem; ot-ne 'approbation'
ote, admiration, wonder
p, beg, solicit, pray
penn, span, extend, spread; penn-ne 'everywhere'
pi, go pray
pk, take aim
pl, praise, righteous; pl-ń 'righteous good'
ph, with the intention; to aspire
q, make, form; act; desire
qe creation, qe-ne Creator
qo, honorable, restore
r, indeed, certainly
re, indeed; give indeed
rone, unlocking good
s, son; to protect , to support; s-ne prop up
s, King, patron ; to protect, to support
sne, defeated, destroyed
so, life, to live
sh, to consecrate
sh, spirit body
sq, Shaqa (a tribal group)
t2, third personal pronoun 'he, it, her'
t3, to arrange, to establish
ti, go arrange
tke, set in motion
tk, set in motion
tl, elevate; tl-o 'upstanding'
tm, to produce, to be born; tm-o 'open up the rebirth
Tmey, Tameya ( a tribal group)
tr, to be eminent, tr-o 'emminence';tr-ne "Eminent"
-te, second person pronoun usually used with males 'you, your'
te, to place, to put
tel, to elevate,
tep, to announce in a lofty voice
ter, to erect
-to, second personal feminine suffix 'you, your'
to, light, to initiate, to kindle; to shine; tone vigorous
toh, to establish
w, to guide, to leade, to steer; w-ne "Commander, Steward, Chief;
w-o, 'steering, guiding'
wb, to prepare
we, to give escort
wi, honor; wi-ne "Object of Respect, Awe'; good honor'
wid, leave honor as the legacy
ws, dress, clothe
wt, place, put
y, to make, to form
ye, to be capable
y-ne, form good
yi, to travel, to journey
yi-ne, progressively; eternal
yir, cleanse, purify
yete, it is capable
.L. Torok, Late Antique Nubia, Antaeus,
Communicationes Instituto Archaeologico Academie Scientiarum Hungaricae.
.Samia B. Dafa'alla, The historical role of the Blemmyes in Late Meroitic and Early X-Group periods, Beitrage zur Sudanforschung 2 (1987), pp. 34-40.
.Ibid., p. 38.
. R. T. Updergraff, "The Blemmyes I: The rise of
the Blemmye and the Roman withdrawal from
.Ibid. , p.57.
.David O'Connor, Ancient Nubia: Egypt's Rival in
.Fritze Hintze, "The Meroitic
.Ugo Monneret de Villard, Storia della
.L. Torok, "Summary discussion", Meroitica 10, (1986) pp.365-379.
.E. Bresciani, Grafffiti demotiques du Dodekaschene. Le Claire, 1969.
.See N.B. Millet, Meroitic Nubia, Ph.D
.L. Torok, "The Blemmyes I:Additional
remarks". In Rise and Decline of the Roman World, (Berlin: Walter
de Gruyter, 1988) pp.97-106; and L. Torok, "A contribution to post
Meroitic Chronology: The Blemmyes in
.F. Ll. Griffith, Meroitic Inscriptions II, London, 1912; Updegraff, p.79; Millet , Op Cit.; and Torok, "Late Antique Nubia ".
. Torok, Late Antique Nubia, p.44.
. Stela Cairo JE 48864.
. Dafa'alla, p.36.
.Eratosthenes in Strabon, XVll, 1,2.
. Strabo, Geography 17.1.52-53.
.Pliny, N.H.,Vl, 192.
. Procopius, De Bello Persico, I,19. 27ff.
.Eusebius, V.C.,1V, 7.
.Torok, "Late Antique Nubia, p.31.
.V. Christides, The Image of the Sudanese in Byzantine Souces, Byzantinoslavico, 43 (1982), pp.8-17.
. F. Ll. Griffith, Catalogue of Demotic Graffiti of
. Torok, "Late Antique Nubia" p.46.
. Torok, "The Blemmyes I: Additional remarks", pp. 98-99.
.Torok, Ibid, p.44-46.
.Par. 244, PG XLlll 337; and T. Edide, T. Hagg, and
R.H. Pierce, Greek, Latin and Coptic sources of Nubian
.F. Ll. Griifith, Meroitic
.J. Krall, Beitrage zur Geschichte der Blemyer und Nubier. Wien: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1898.
.Griffth, Op. Cit.
.C.A. Winters, "A Note on Tokharian and Meroitic", Meroitic Newsletter, no.23 (1984), pp.18-21; and C. A. Winters, "Chiekh Anta Diop et le Dechiffrement de l'ecriture Meroitique", Revue Martiniquaise de Sciences Humaines et de Litterature, no.8 (1988),pp.141-153.
.Winters, "Inscriptions of Tanyidamani", passim.
.Winters, "Chiek Anta Diop et le dechiffrement de l'ecriture Meroitique" , Op Cit.
.This -t suffix is used to form the Meroitic adverb 'here', it can also serve as the Meroitic 3rd person singular suffix 'he,she,it'.
.This is use of the Meroitic -t element to form the 3rd person singular 'he'.
.Here we see use of the -t suffix to form the second person singular suffix 'you, your'.
. This -m suffix is sued in Meroitic to form the plural: 'much,many'.
.This is the 3rd person singular suffix 'he,it,she'.
. This -b suffix is used to form the plural in Meroitic.
.This b- prefix is used to form the imperfect in Meroitic.
.Millet believes that this word arette, may relate to Harendotes or Horus the avenger of his father.
.This -o suffix is used to change Meroitic nouns into adjectives, e.g., qo 'act', qo-o 'acting'; w 'to guide',
w-o 'guiding'. The Meroitic adjectives are placed behind the noun.
.The -a- affix has many uses in Meroitic. It can be used to form the preterit e.g., lo 'to dispatch', lo-a 'dispatched'; the plural e.g., Qoshne 'Kushite', Qoshne-a "Kushites'; and also the Meroitic subjunctive or future tense e.g., d e 'leave a legacy',
d-e-a 'will leave a legacy'.
.This -e suffix is used to form the singular nominative accusative in Meroitic.
.The -l element in Meroitic denotes the verb 'to be'.
.This -l, is the Meroitic ending particle.
.This -y is sued as an intensive prefix in Meroitic.
.Millet, Op Cit.
.Torok, "Late Antique Nubia", p.56.
.T. C. Skeat, E.G, Turner, and C.H. Roberts, "A Letter from the King of the Blemmyes to the King of the Nubians", Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 63, (1977) pp.159-170.
.L. Torok, "The Historical Background: Meroe North and South". In Nubian Culture Past and Present, (Ed.) by Tomas Hagg (Stockholm:Almquist and Wisksell International, 1987), pp.139-230.
.Bruce Williams, "A Chronology
of Meroitic Occupation below the Fourth Cataract", Journal of the
American Research Center in
.Eusebius, V.C., IV,7.
.E. Strouhal, Wadi Qitna and
.Winters, " Inscriptions of Tanydamani ", passim.