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date: 28 January 2023



  • J. F. Healey


  • Linguistics
  • Near East

Aramaic, a Semitic language, was used in the ancient near east from early in the 1st millennium bce and through the Roman period. Originating in upper Mesopotamia, it is first known through royal inscriptions from Syria and was used widely by the Assyrian and Persian administrations (note the Elephantine papyri). After the fall of the Persian empire Aramaic continued to be used in the Hellenizing cities (see hellenism) of Palmyra, Edessa, Petra, etc. , as well as in the Parthian east (see hatra). There are many Greek–Aramaic bilingual inscriptions, the best known being the long Palmyrene Tariff. The Edessan dialect of Aramaic, later called Syriac, became the main language of the Christian Church of the middle east. Another late dialect of Aramaic, Mandaic, was used for the sacred writings of the Gnostic pagan sect of the Mandaeans or Sabians in southern Iraq. Modern dialects survive in southeast Turkey/northern Iraq and north of Damascus.


  • K. Beyer, The Aramaic Language: Its Distribution and Subdivisions, trans. J. F. Healey (1986).
  • J. A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays (1979).