Syriac Resources Online.

Another great online find:, “An annotated bibliography of Syriac resources online.” From the About page:

Welcome to! This site is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of open-access resources related to the study of Syriac. […]

It was not that long ago that people interested in Syriac studies who did not have the good fortune of living in ancient centers of learning in Europe or close to a handful of great university libraries or research institutions in North America were hamstrung by not having access to important and fundamental works of Syriac scholarship.

Institutions interested in developing new programs in Syriac studies were at a distinct disadvantage, too: while they might be able to purchase new materials in the field of Syriac and Eastern Christianity, older, rarer works were either extremely expensive to purchase or simply not available. A person, for instance, looking to buy Paul Bedjan’s editions of Jacob of Sarugh’s poetry might look long and hard for them and yet still not locate copies available for purchase, no matter how deep his or her pockets.

The advent of digitization initiatives by Google, Microsoft, the Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Brigham Young University, ULB Halle, Beth Mardutho (eBeth Arke), the Goussen Library, and others, have, however, completely revolutionized this situation and had a radically democratizing effect on the study of Syriac. The world, so to speak, is now flat. So long as he or she has access to the internet, a student can now be anywhere in the world and read, enjoy, and make use of the riches of centuries of Syriac scholarship. […]

More information, better resources, and a richer breadth of literature are now readily available to more people, everywhere. One of the happiest results of these developments is that people living in the Middle East and India, the homes of the Syriac Christian tradition, are now able to access texts and study aids which have previously only been found in libraries outside the two regions. The internet has made it possible for these texts to, as it were, return home.

Our goal for these pages is to collect, organize, and annotate as many of the fundamental works of Syriac scholarship that are to be found freely available online.

This kind of thing helps me keep from despairing for my species. Thanks for the link, Paul!


  1. A few years ago I was delighted to discover that the Syriac alphabet bears a resemblance to the Modern Hebrew alphabet; at least if you squint real hard you might see it. (The Modern Hebrew alphabet is derived from an older Aramaic alphabet, so it’s reasonable there’s a resemblance.)

    In Aramaic, the Lord’s Prayer begins with the phrase “Abun d’bashmayo,” which in Hebrew (possibly Biblical, and certainly Talmudic and Modern) is rendered as אבינו בשמים ‘avinu bashamayim’ — Our Father (who art) in Heaven. Cf Abbot: [Middle English abbod, from Old English, from Late Latin abbās, abbāt-, from Greek abbā, abbās, from Aramaic ‘abbā, my father] (4th ed., AHD).

  2. There is a whole family of 22-character West Semitic abjads that look different enough to be mutually unintelligible but are in fact sisters under the skin: Palaeo-Hebrew/Samaritan, Square Hebrew/Aramaic, Imperial Aramaic, Syriac (in several flavors), Pahlavi, Mandaic, Phoenician/Punic, Sogdian, and others.

  3. Well, the traditional Mongolian alphabet is supposed to be related to it too, but it’s very hard to see any resemblance. I think if you look at the intermediate steps (Sogdian, etc.) the connection becomes slightly clearer but it’s still not exactly obvious.

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    The vertical columns reading left to right are the legacy of Syriac: Syriac was actually *written* like that, so that right-handed scribes didn’t smudge their work, and then rotated. Their Central Asian disciples dropped the rotation.


    useful comparison of Arabic and traditional Mongolian scripts.

    Resemblance is there, but not very obvious, yes.

  6. Lars Mathiesen says

    Did any form of writing ever go upwards from the bottom? When you say ‘vertical columns’ it seems to be assumed that they go downwards from the top…

  7. Stu Clayton says

    That is seen in the rhetorical figure of “piling on the words”, when you talk someone into the ground. The pile gets higher and higher from the bottom up.

  8. And then when everyone’s had enough talk, the cry “Bottoms up!” is heard.

  9. PlasticPaddy says
  10. John Cowan says

    Not really. Ogham inscriptions go from bottom to top along the vertical edge of a stone, but if the inscription is long enough, it goes left to right (the manuscript direction) across a horizontal edge and then top to bottom along another vertical edge. As such, it’s not very different from writing any LTR script along an arch.

    How Arabic quotations in traditional Mongolian text work.

  11. Part of the encoding of Arne Saknussemm’s secret message in Journey to the Center of the Earth is that the message runs from bottom to top, albeit in some kind of zigzag that is not explicitly described.

  12. SFReader says

    Etruscan inscriptions run vertically from top to bottom and from bottom to top, horizontally from left to right and from right to left and sometimes they start from left to right then in the middle of the word switch direction to right to left and vice versa.

    Oh, and in some inscriptions, letters are in mirror image (like Я vs R).

  13. David Marjanović says

    switch direction

    Boustrophedon: as the ox turns while ploughing. Very common in early Greek inscriptions.

    letters are in mirror image

    That’s how you can tell which direction each line is in.

  14. January First-of-May says

    Very common in early Greek inscriptions.

    Indeed, though I was still quite surprised when I found it used on a coin from the 3rd century AD.

  15. David Marjanović says

    That’s interesting indeed.

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