Hieroglyphics (from ἱερός, sacred, and γλύφω, to carve), the term usually applied to the inscriptions in the so-called sacred or symbolical characters on the Egyptian monuments. SEE EGYPT. "They were either engraved in relief, or sunk below the surface on the public monuments and hard materials suited for the glyptic art, or else traced in outline with a reed pen on papyri, wood, slices of stone, and other objects. The scribe indeed, wrote from a. palette or canon called pes, with pens, kash, from two little ink- holes in the palette, containing a black ink of animal charcoal, and a red mineral ink. The hieroglyphics on the monuments are sometimes sculptured and plain; at others, decorated with colors, either one simple tone for all the hieroglyphs, which are then called monochrome, or else ornamented with a variety of colors, and then called polychrome; and those painted on coffins and other objects are often first traced out, and then colored in detail. On the papyri and some few inferior materials they are simply sketched in outline, and are called linear hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphs are arranged in perpendicular columns, separated by lines, or in horizontal, or distributed in a sporadic manner in the area of the picture to which they refer. Sometimes all these modes of arrangement are found together. One peculiarity is at once discernible, that all the animals and representations face in the same direction when they are combined into a text; and when mixed up with reliefs and scenes, they usually face in the direction of the figures to which they are attached. When thus arranged, the reliefs and hieroglyphs resemble a MS., every letter of which should also be an illumination, and they produce a gay and agreeable impression on the spectator. They are written very square, the spaces are neatly and carefully packed, so as to leave no naked appearance of background.
"The invention of hieroglyphs, called Neter kharu, or 'divine words,' was attributed to the god Thoth, the Egyptian Logos, who is repeatedly called the scribe of the gods and lord of the hieroglyphs. Pliny attributes their invention to Menon. The literature of the Egyptians was in fact called Hermaic or Hermetic, on account of its supposed divine origin, and the knowledge of hieroglyphs was, to a certain extent, a mystery to the uninitiated, although universally employed by the sacerdotal and instructed classes. To foreign nations, the hieroglyphs always remained so, although Moses is supposed to have been versed in the knowledge of them (Philo, vita Moysis); but Joseph is described (Ge 42:23) as conversing with his brethren through interpreters, and does not appear to allude to hieroglyphic writing. The Greeks, who had settled on the coast as early as the 6th century B.C., do not appear to have possessed more than a colloquial knowledge of the language (Diod. Sic. 81, 3, 4); and although Solon, B.C. 538, is said to have studied Egyptian doctrines at Sebennytus and Heliopolis, and the doctrines of Pythagoras are said to have been derived from Egypt, these sages could only have acquired their knowledge from interpretations of hieroglyphic writings. Hecatseus (B.C. 521) and Herodotus (B.C. 456), who visited Egypt in their travels, obtained from similar sources the information they have afforded of the language or monuments of the country (Herod. 2, 36). Democritus of Abdera, indeed, about the same period (B.C. 459), had described both the Ethiopian hieroglyphs and the Babylonian cuneiform, but his work has disappeared. After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, the Greek rulers began to pay attention to the language and history of their subjects, and Eratosthenes, the keeper of the museum at Alexandria, and Manetho, the high-priest of Sebennytus, had drawn up accounts of the national chronology and history from hieroglyphic sources. Under the Roman Empire, in the reign of Augustus, one Chaeremon, the keeper of the library at the Serappeum, had drawn up a dictionary 'of the hieroglyphs; and both Diodorus and Strabo mention them, and describe their nature. Tacitus, later under the empire, gives the account of the monuments of Thebes translated by the Egyptian priests to Germanicus; but after his time, the knowledge of them beyond Egypt itself was exceedingly limited, and does not reappear till the third and subsequent centuries A.D., when they are mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus, who cites the translation of one of the obelisks at Rome by one Hermapion, and by Julius Valerius, the author of the apocryphal life of Alexander, who gives that of another. Heliodorus, a novelist who flourished A.D. 400, describes a hieroglyphic letter written by queen Candace (4, 8). The first positive information on the subject is by Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 211), who mentions the symbolical and phonetic, or, as he calls it, cyriologic nature of hieroglyphics (Strom. 5). Porphyry (A.D. 304) divides them also into coenologic or phonetic, and cenigmatic or symbolic. Horapollo or Horus-Apollus, who is supposed to have flourished about A.D. 500, wrote two books explanatory of the hieroglyphics, a rude, ill-assorted confusion of truth and fiction, in which are given the interpretation of many hieroglyphs, and their esoteric meaning. After this writer, all knowledge of them disappeared till the revival of letters. At the beginning of the 16th century these symbols first attracted attention, and, soon after, Kircher, a learned Jesuit, pretended to interpret them by vague esoteric notions derived from his own fancy, on the supposition that the hieroglyphs were ideographic, a theory which barred all progress, and was held in its full extent by the learned, till Zoega, at the close of the 18th century (De Ornine Obeliscorum, fol. Romans 1797), first enunciated that the duals or cartouches contained royal names, and that the hieroglyphs, or some of them, were used to express sounds" (Chambers, Cyclopedia).
"The knowledge of hieroglyphics which we at present possess owes its origin to the Rosetta stone, which is now in the British Museum. This stone was found by the French among the ruins of Fort St. Julien, which is situated near the mouth of the Rosetta branch of the Nile, and was given up to the English in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Alexandria. It is supposed to have been sculptured about B.C. 195, and contains a decree in honor of Ptolemy V (Epiphanes) written in three different characters. One of these is Greek, and a part of it has been explained to state that the decree was ordered to be written in Sacred, Enchorial, and Greek writing. Dr. Young (Archaeologia, 1817) was the first that attempted to decipher this inscription, in which he partially succeeded by counting the recurrence of the more marked characters in the hieroglyphics, and comparing them with those that occurred about the same number of times in the Greek. Champollion and Wilkinson have followed up Dr. Young's discoveries with great ingenuity, and we can now partially read inscriptions which before were wholly unintelligible to us. Among other obstacles, however, this remains in the way, viz. that the Rosetta stone was sculptured about B.C. 195, and in Lower Egypt; while the major part of the inscriptions were written during the twelve previous centuries, and are found in Upper Egypt. Hieroglyphics are written either from left to right or right to left, according to the direction in which they face; though sometimes the columns are so narrow that they may be almost said to be written from top to bottom. They are partly pictorial; thus 'ox,' 'goose,' temple' are represented by pictures or pictorial symbols of an ox, etc. At other times they are phonetic, and written by an alphabet of about 140 letters, of which many are synonymous; some being adapted for writing, others for sculpture; some in use at an earlier period, others at a later. The powers of these letters are determined by the names of the kings in which they are found; but, as this cannot be done very exactly, they are generally arranged under about twelve of our primary letters. We cannot, however, distinguish accurately between the vowels, or P and PH, and other cognate letters. The names of sovereigns are always written within a- ring or cartouche: those of any other person are distinguished by a sitting figure following them: besides these there is nothing to mark the difference between a letter and a pictorial symbol. In some words the meaning is expressed twice; once by a phonetic combination, and again by a pictorial symbol; in others the more important part is symbolical, and the grammatical termination is spelled. Sometimes also we find a species of abbreviation; thus the word ox would be expressed by the first letter of the Coptic word signifying ox.
"But for the purpose of writing, strictly so called, there was a less ornamental and more rapid way of forming the characters, which is always found in the AISS., and which would be the natural consequence of using the pen or stylus. This is called by Strabo and Pliny hieratic writing, the hieroglyphics being, as the name imports, peculiar to sculpture. It is chiefly by means of the hieroglyphics that we are enabled to read the hieratic writing, the latter being, for the most part an abbreviated way of writing the former. The Rosetta stone contained the inscription in yet another set of characters, the denotic or enchorial. It is to Dr. Young that we owe the greater part of our knowledge on this subject. He was greatly assisted by the discovery of two or three papyri written in this character with Greek translations, the earliest of which dates in the reign of Psammeticus, about B.C. 650. An alphabet has been formed from Greek proper names, from which it appears that the few words which we can decipher are Coptic. In this writing the hieroglyphics have almost wholly disappeared, though some still appear scattered here and there." A popular account of the mode in which the Rosetta stone was used as a key for deciphering the hieroglyphics may be found in Dr. Hawks's Egypt and its Monuments (N. Y. 1850, 8vo), and a more critical statement in Osburn's Monumental History of Egypt (London, 1854, 2 vols. 8vo). A complete set of the cartouches of the kings is given by Poole in his Horae Egyptiacae (Lond. 1851, 8vo). Great progress has of late been made in ,the decipherment of these records, another stone having quite recently been discovered with a bilingual inscription (Lepsius, Das bilingue Decret von Kanopus, texts and interlineal translations, etc., Berl. 1867 sq., 4to), and many papyri having been brought to light and read by European Egyptologists, among whom Wilkinson, Lepsins, Dumichen, and Brugsch may be especially named. The annexed view of the hieroglyphical alphabet is taken from Gliddon's Lectures on Egyptian History (N. Y. 1843, imp. 8vo), and will be found sufficient for deciphering most of the royal names. A brief account of the language which these characters represent may be found in Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. 2. A tolerably complete view of the subject and its literature is contained in Appleton's New American Cyclopedia, s.v. The following are some of the latest works of importance on the subject: Sharpe, Egyptian Hieroglyphics (Lond. 1861, 8vo); Parrot, Nouvelle Traduction des Hieroglyphes (Par. 1857, fol.); Tattam, Grammar of the Egyptian Language (London, 1863, 8vo); Brugsch, Hieroglyphisches-Demotisches Wörterbuch (of an extensive character, with a full hieroglyphical grammar, Leips. 1867 sq.). SEE INSCRIPTIONS.