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Cyrillic Alphabet

glagolitic, greek, cyril, slavic, latin and monk

.."'CYRILLIC ALPHABET, the story of whose invention by Cyril (820-69), apostle to the Slays, whether true or false, forms an in teresting episode in ecclesiastical annals, is still a debatable form of letters as to its precise origin and history. Its reputed inventor was originally a monk called Constantine, who with his brother Methodius led in Thessalonica an ascetic life, when in 860 he was sent to the Chazars, a Tartar tribe on the northern shores of the Black Sea. His work was to counter act Jewish and Mohammedan influences on the people. After a partial success, he returned to Constantinople, living as before with his brother, until sent by the emperor as a mis sionary among the South Slavic tribes, which had been subjected to Roman and Greek propaganda. In his labors among them he founded a Slavic literature by translating into their language portions of the Scriptures and important liturgical books. For this purpose he is said to have invented a new form of alphabet or to have modified the more ancient Glagolitic, which received the name Cyrillic, and was adopted by most of the Eastern Slays, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Russian, Serbian, etc. It was, however, subsequently modified in various ways in those countries. Succeeding also in Slavic lands outside of the Greek Empire, he and his brother were called to Rome by Nicholas I (868) whose successor approved their work and wished them to or ganize independent new churches in the Slav provinces. But Constantine, assuming the name of Cyril, preferred to remain in Rome as a simple monk and died a year later. Methodius continued his efforts until his death in 885.

In reference to the Cyrillic alphabet, a Bulgarian monk of the next generation in 855 mentions Cyril as author, and gives 38 as the number of its letters which were later in creased to 48. Twenty-four are identical with Greek uncials of the 8th and 9th century.

Additional characters were required to express the many Slavic vowels, sibilants and nasals, whose origin is hard to explain. Cyril incor porated Glagolitic characters, mostly signifying Slavonic words — the Glagolitic (from glagol, a word,) becoming of minor account, while the Cyrillic has developed into one of the three dominant alphabets of the world, to use Isaac Taylor's expression. While the phonetic basis of the language is nearer some Bulgarian dialects, German and Latin words were in cluded in Moravia, which appear to have modi fied the vocabulary. The three alphabets of the Slavonians express their religious depend ence: Latin was adopted for those who held Latin services; Cyrillic, the Greek uncial, was used by orthodox Slays for their liturgy; Glagolitic survives in the Dalmatian liturgy and in Montenegro, the Roman Church per mitting its employment. A modern version of the Cyrillic was made for Russia by Peter the Great. The earliest dated Slavonic writing is a Cyrillic inscription of Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria (996). It is the theory of Bruckner that Cyril invented Cyrillic first, but °degraded* it into Glagolitic to conceal its Greek origin from the Latin clergy, as the entire purpose of his mission was hostility to Rome; in orthodox lands, such caution was not necessary.

Bibliography.— d'Avril, A., 'S. Cyrille et S. Method' (Paris 1885); Bonwertsch, N., und Method.' ( Erlangen 1885 ) ; Bruckner, A., 'Thesen zur Cyrillo-Methodian. Frage' (in Arch. f. sl. Phil. XXVII, 1906) ; Dobrowsky, und Method,' (Prague 1823) ; Franks, J., (in Arch. f. sl. Phil. XXVIII) • Goetz, (Gesch. d. Slavenapostel C. und M.' (Gotha 1907) ; Taylor, Isaac, 'The Alphabet' (II, London 1883).

A. S. Isaacs.