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Persian Gulf, where they formed settlements in the marshy country at the mouth of the Euphrates, known to history under the name of Akkad.
The meaning of that name, given to the plains and marshy lands situated to the south of Babylonia, has been, until of late, a puzzle to students of Assyriology; and it still is an enigma to them why a country utterly devoid of mountains should have been called Akkad. Have not the well-known scholars, the late George Smith of Chaldean Genesis fame, Rev. Prof. A. H. Sayce of Oxford in England, and Mr. François Lenormant in France, discovered, by translating one of the bilingual lexicographical tablets found in the royal library of the palace of King Asurbanipal in Nineveh, that in Akkadian language it meant "mountain," "high country," whilst the word for "low country," "plain," was Sumer; and that, by a singular antithesis, the Sumerians inhabited the mountains to the eastward of Babylonia, and the Akkadians the plains watered by the Tigris and the Euphrates and the marshes at the mouth of this river?
The way they try to explain such strange anomaly is by supposing that, in very remote times, the Akkadi dwelt in the mountains, and the Sumeri in the plains; and that at some unknown, unrecorded period, and for some unknown reason, these nations must have migrated en masse, exchanging their abodes, but still preserving the names by which they were known, regardless of the fact that said names were at variance with the character of the localities in which they now dwelt; but they did it both from custom and tradition.1
Shall we say,
"Si non é vero é ben trovato," although this may or may not be the case, there being no record that said
1 François Lenormant, Chaldean Magic and Sorcery, p. 399.
permutation ever took place, and it therefore cannot be authenticated.
The Maya, of which we find so many vestiges in the Akkadian language, affords a most natural, thence rational, etymology of the name Akkad, and in perfect accordance with the character of the country thus named. Akal is a Maya word, the meaning of which is "pond," " "marshy ground; and akil is a marshy ground full of reeds and rushes, such as was and still is lower Mesopotamia and the localities near the mouth of the Euphrates.
As to the name Sumer, its etymology, although it is also very clear according to the Maya, seemed perplexing to the learned Mr. Lenormant, who nevertheless has interpreted it correctly, "the low country." The Akkadian root sum evidently corresponds to the Greek nußos, "bottom," "depression," and to the Maya, kom, a valley. The Sumeri would then be the inhabitants of the valleys, while the Akkari would be those of the marshes.
From this and from what will directly appear let it not be supposed that the ancient Akkadian and ancient Maya are cognate languages. The great number of Maya words found in the Akkadian have been ingrafted on it by the Maya colonists, who in remote times established themselves in Akkad, and became prominent, after a long sojourn in the country, under the name of Kaldi.
Through the efforts of such eminent scholars as Dr. Hincks, Sir Henry Rawlinson, Dr. Oppert, Monsieur Grivel, Professor Sayce, Mr. François Lenormant, and others, the old Akkadian tongue, or much of it, has been recovered, by translating the
1 Sir Henry Layard (Nineveh and Babylon, p. 356) says that the ancient name of the Mediterranean was Akkari.
tablets that composed King Asurbanipal's library. Mr. Lenormant has published an elementary grammar and vocabulary of it. From this I cull the few following words that are pure Maya, with the same signification in both languages. Having but a limited space to devote here to so interesting a subject, my selection I have confined myself to words so unequivocally similar that their identity cannot be questioned.
To place in safety.
Sign of possession; to take.
To take away; to empty.
Expresses the idea of locality; the earth.
Expresses the idea of an internal or external
Place; smooth and level ground.
Toward; in the centre; before; near.
Place; neighborhood; place where one stands.
sign of negation.
Prefixed to verbs, nouns, or adjectives, is the sign of negation. Ma uolel hanal (“I don't wish to eat "). So also it is in Greek. To be.
'Mr. Lenormant, Chaldean Magic and Sorcery, p. 300, in a foot-note remarks: "I do not give the name of number 'four' in this table, because in the Akkadian it seems quite distinct." The Akkadian word San is (in Maya) can. See farther on for the various meanings and the power of that word, which among the Mayas was the title of the dynasty of their kings. It meant "serpent." Mr. Lenormant (p. 232) says that "the serpent with seven heads was invoked by the Akkadians." Was this seven-headed serpent the Ah-ac-chapat, totem of the seven members of the family of King Canchi of Mayach, that no doubt the Nágás worshipped at AngorThom in Cambodia? (See Le Plongeon, Sacred Mysteries, p. 145.) Sir George Rawlinson (The Five Great Monarchies, vol. i., p. 122) says, “The Accadians made the serpent one of the principal attributes, and one of the forms of Hea."
Modern Assyriologists, after translating the tablets on Assyrian and Chaldean magic, written in the Akkadian language, agree with the prophetical books of Scripture in the opinion that the Chaldees descended from the primitive Akkadians, and that those people spoke a language differing from the Semitic tongues. A writer in the British and Foreign Review says: "Babylonia was inhabited at an early period by a race of people entirely different from the Semitic population known in historic times. This people had an abundant literature, and they were the inventors of a system of writing which was at first hieroglyphic. Of the people who
invented this system of writing very little is known with certainty, and even the name is a matter of doubt."
According to Berosus, who was a Chaldean priest, these first inhabitants of Babylonia, whose early abode was in Chaldea, were foreigners of another race (alλoɛ@vεis). He carefully establishes a distinction between them and the Assyrians.
1 British and Foreign Review, No. 102, January, 1870, vol. ii., p. 305. Berosus, Fragments, ¿? 5, 6, 11.