Demotic Definition


Demotic is an ancient Egyptian script meaning "popular script."  Demotic script derived from the earlier pictographic hieroglyphic inscriptions and the cursive hieratic script, and it began to replace hieratic writing during the reign of Psamtik I. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts. 

The stage of the Egyptian language written in this script, following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. By the Hellenistic period of the Ptolemies, demotic was the only native script in general daily use. It is a very cursive script derived directly from hieratic, making it difficult to read and almost impossible to transcribe into any hieroglyphic counterpart.

Demotic script

Ancient Egyptian Writing Hieroglyphic ,Hieratic and Demotic

By the 5th century bce, demotic script—which the Egyptians called sekh shat, meaning “writing for documents”—had come into use everywhere in Egypt for business and literary purposes, although hieratic remained in use for religious texts.Demotic texts were generally administrative, legal and commercial, though there are a few literary compositions and scientific and religious texts. The Rosetta Stone contains a section inscribed in demotic along with hieroglyphic and Greek.


When most people think of ancient Egyptian texts, they immediately think of hieroglyphs, the pictorial text that has fascinated non-Egyptians for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians created this "pictorial writing" in the Predynastic period. The earliest known examples were found in the elite chamber of Abydos, the Tomb yo ji, dating from about 3200 BC. Besides these famous hieroglyphs, Egyptian scribes also created a more cursive method - hieratic writing. 

 This style adapted the basics of hieroglyphs but was intended for writing more quickly in ink on surfaces such as pottery, especially papyrus. Initially, hieroglyphs and hieratics were mostly used to write individual words, including the names of people, places, or goods. By the Third Dynasty, the writing skills and traditions of the hieroglyphic script were fully developed, allowing for complete and continuous prose. 


 Ancient Egyptian Writing Hieroglyphic ,Hieratic and Demotic


The literary tradition was born in Egypt and soon produced religious works such as the Pyramids texts, the Sarcophagus texts, and the Book of the Dead. Great fairy tales such as the story of the Middle Kingdom of Sinuhi; Important biographies, such as those of Weni and Harkhuf in the Sixth Dynasty and Ahmose, the son of Abana, in the eighteenth century, and more.

These literary traditions continued until about 650 B.C. when hieratic began a rapid development that resulted in two new texts: the short-lived "unnatural hieratic" of Upper Egypt and the more enduring "demotic" of Lower Egypt. It wasn't long before Demotic became the dominant text in everyday business in Egypt - it didn't completely replace hieroglyphs and hieratics. 

 Still, over time it transferred those ancient texts into religious, ceremonial, or symbolic functions. In Egyptology, the Demotic was traditionally a poor stepson of ancient texts, attracting only a handful of scholars. Champollion himself never really mastered it. The first expert to unravel the mysteries of Demotic was the German Heinrich Karl Brugsch, who published the first systematic grammar of demotic in Egyptology in 1848—a generation after Champollion's breakthrough of 1822 in deciphering hieroglyphic translations. 

 Demotic had a reputation for being very difficult to learn, which discouraged students from treating it. Demotic also suffered from its association with the long centuries of Egyptian "degeneration," which arose about 400 years after the end of the great New Kingdom. The new script only flourished when Egypt found itself under the control of foreign empires: the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

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