Rosetta - Encyclopedia


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ROSETTA (Coptic Rashit, Arabic Rashid), a town situated at the western or "Rosetta" mouth of the Nile on the west bank. It was called Bolbitine by the Greeks, but according to Herodotus the Bolbitine mouth was artificial, and it was evidently of little importance compared with the Canopic, Sebennytic and Pelusiac mouths. When the other branches and the Alexandria canal silted up, Rosetta prospered like its sister port of Damietta on the eastern branch; the main trade of the overland route to India passed through it until Mehemet Ali cut a new canal joining Alexandria to the Nile. Rosetta is now much decayed. Its population in 1907 was 16,810, almost entirely Mussulman. A railway joins it to Alexandria. The celebrated Rosetta Stone which supplied Champollion with the key for the decipherment of the ancient monuments of Egypt was found near Fort St Julien, 4 m. N. of the town, in 1799, by Boussard, a French officer. It is a basalt stele inscribed in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek with a decree of the priests assembled at Memphis in favour of Ptolemy V. Epiphanes. It was ceded to the English at the capitulation of Alexandria (r801) and is now in the British Museum. See EGYPT: II. Ancient Egypt, section D. "Writing." (F. LL. G.)

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